Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » In His Own Words: Alfred George Pollard: How I Reached Zion, 1892

In His Own Words: Alfred George Pollard: How I Reached Zion, 1892

By: Ardis E. Parshall - March 23, 2011

Alfred George Pollard was born 5 October 1872 in Brighton, England, and died 20 November 1967 in Brigham City, Utah. He was baptized on 1 January 1889, in England. He married twice, first to Caroline Granat, in 1897, with whom he had seven children, and late in life to Anna Marie Krauss.

His genealogical facts are all that I’ve been able to find about him – that and the following story, which suggests the possibility of a remarkable life.

How I Reached Zion

The first thing that anyone wants to do when he joins the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is to gather to Zion. I partook of the same spirit, and felt that I would like to go there, too.

When I received the Gospel, I was sixteen years of age. Being under age, and my parents being prejudiced toward the Mormon people, they would not let me be baptized, and the Elders would not baptize me without their consent. however, I was baptized about six months after receiving the truth. I was the only one in my family who joined the Church.

when I had been in the church about a year, emigration money was sent for me to go to Arizona, but my father and mother would not consent to my leaving them. I tried to persuade them to give me their consent, but it was all in vain. I prayed to the Lord to soften their hearts, but I suppose that he withheld that privilege from me for some wise purpose. the Elders wrote to the president of the London conference, asking him if it would be right to send me; he replied that I was not to go without my parents’ consent.

About three years after this, I again felt that I would like to gather to Zion; so I started to save my pocket-money, which amounted to about five shillings per week, and saved about £1 17s 6d.

I heard of a society that were helping poor people to get to Canada. I thought that if I could get across the water, I might be able to work my way to Salt lake City. I went to the office and told them that I wanted to emigrate to Canada, but I never told them where I was going to make my home, as that would have spoilt any chance of help from them. however, I received £2 10s from them, and had to make up the balance of the £4, which was £1 10s, besides an extra three shillings and sixpence for utensils and a bed on board the steamer.

One reason why I wished to get to Zion so soon was that I wanted to be there at the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple; the news that reached us being to the effect that the people wanted it finished one year after the laying of the capstone.

After paying the money over to the society who bought my ticket, I had four shillings besides my pocket money for that week. I had not paid my tithing, and I told one of the sisters that I did not see how I could pay it, having so little to carry me across the great country of America. She told me that I had better pay it, so I took her advice.

One night before I left home, I went to see a friend. When I said good-bye to him, he gave me one sovereign. I did not ask him for it, nor did I in the least expect it. It was a testimony to me of the truth of the words of the Prophet Malachi (iii; 7-11).

I went and said farewell to my former master, and he gave me a little to help me on my journey, and wished me success. He asked me where I was going. I told him that I was going to Canada. He said that he understood I was going to Utah. I then told him that I was going to Canada first, and then to Utah, by working my way there.

On the 7th of July, 1892, I said goodbye to my father and mother, brothers and sisters, and it was very hard for me to leave them; my mother was nearly broken-hearted and told me not to go, for fear that she and my father would never see me again. (My father died a year and a half after I left home.)

I started on my journey to Liverpool, from where I was to start on the eighth of July, for Canada, en route to Salt Lake City, Utah.

On the eighth I went to the docks, where the Numidian, which was the name of the ship on which I had passage, was being loaded ready for another trip. When she was ready, the emigrants went on board and about five o’clock in the evening the vessel steamed down the Mersey and out into the Irish Sea.

My sea-sickness lasted a little more than two days, after which I thoroughly enjoyed my trip upon the water. Although I was not traveling with Saints, as I had desired, yet, I had a very good time, there being a good many young people from England on the ship.

After a trip of about thirteen days we landed at Montreal. When I landed in that town I had about seven dollars in my pocket, and a few thousand miles to go before I reached my destination.

A card was given me by an immigration agent. These men go on board as soon as a ship from the old countries arrive, and profess to be able to find work for the immigrants who are new to the country and its ways. When you get work from them, it is generally at the lowest wages. I got a position in a boarding house at very low wages; but I knew I could not get to Zion on the amount received, so I got another place. I worked after that at a place called Abbott’s Corner, upon a farm, and worked there three weeks, when I received two dollars and sixty-one cents. From the farm I went to Richford, Franklin County, Vermont, where I tried to get work; but it seemed that work was very hard to find. At last, tired of walking around, I was going to get something to eat, when I heard someone shouting. I looked back, and the man beckoned to me and said: “Yes, you come here.”

I walked back to where he was sitting, and he said to me, “Are you looking for work?”

“Yes, sir,” I said.

He then eyed me over and said: “How long have you been over?”

“I told him that I had reached Bedford about three weeks before. He asked me what I could do. I told him that I was willing to do anything. after a little talk he hired me to work in the foundry.

I had worked there for a good while and had saved a little more than enough to take me to Chicago, when I wanted to go west, so as to get a little nearer to my destination. I bought a ticket, after which I had four or five dollars left.

I arrived at Chicago in the middle of the night and stayed in the depot till morning. I then bought a paper to look over the advertisements, and I read about an employment agency finding work for men. I went to one in Canal Street, opposite the Union depot, Chicago, and was charged one dollar for information about work. He sent me to a grading contractor at La Grange, Ills. When I arrived at that place I was told that they did not want any more men. I got work as a laborer, however, on a stone church in course of erection there. La Grange is a nice little town, there being no saloon in the town when I got there. It has a fine park and the streets are kept very clean.

I left there and went to Aurora, Ills. Not being able to find employment of any kind, I left that place also, and went to Plano, Ills. I tried to find work there, too, but could get none.

I left Plano that morning for Chicago. When I arrived there I went to another employment office. The men who run the agency told me that they wanted men to go to Wyoming and that if I paid $2.50 I could go too. I had $2.01 in my pocket at the time and an empty stomach, as I had had no breakfast that morning. I told the man that I had only $2 left. He said that if I gave him that I could go, which I did.

I then began to hunt around to see where I could get a dinner for one cent. While walking down Canal street I saw two men looking in a store window and as I was passing one of them looked hard at me. I stopped and he said: “Excuse me, but isn’t your name Pollard?”

I said, “Yes; isn’t your name W—?”

He introduced me to his companion and told me he was going home. He also told me that he was surprised to see me there.

He was one of the traveling Elders in the London conference. He asked me what I was doing in Chicago? I then told him that I was journeying to Zion. I showed him the ticket I had given to me at the employment office and told him I was trying to get there in time for the dedication of the Temple and that it was the cheapest way that I knew of. I showed him all the money I had left (one cent) to last me two days. He informed me that he had been quarantined at the harbor for a good many days.

We walked around the city and soon came back to the depot from where they were to start that afternoon. I felt rather blue when they left me and thought of my own long journey in a strange land.

I left Chicago about 5 o’clock that day, en route to Sheridan, Wyo. I had a pleasant journey through the States, through fields of maize and wheat, past beautiful houses, gardens and orchards. At that period of the year everything looked nice and good.

When going through Nebraska the train would pass through fields of maize for miles, and it seemed in some places that all the available land was planted with this kind of grain.

Arriving at Crawford, Neb., I found that I was not to go to Sheridan, Wyo., but was told to go to Hill City, South Dakota, and work on the grade there.

I arrived at Hill City, South Dakota, about 5 o’clock that day, in company with some more men, and very glad I was to get there as I had not had anything to eat that day except a glass of ice water or two.

However, I got a good meal at the grading camp that night and started to work next morning. then I got my first experience with the pick and shovel. It was very hard on me at first, but I got used to it as I had at everything else I had done.

Next day I was put at a fresh job. I had to help the teamster dump the rocks. The reason I was changed was because the man was new at the work and had to have help. The day before he had turned the cart over a large pole that had been laid at the top of the dump, which was about twenty feet high, and also the mule, so that both mule and cart went over and over down the dump, until the cart, striking a large rock, stopped and left the poor old mule back downwards upon the dump.

I worked a while there and then it seemed as if I wanted to keep traveling towards Zion. Another reason why I wanted to be going was because the company I was in at the time was not very agreeable to me.

I left there one morning, with a young German for a companion, who was going to San Francisco. We walked sixty-five miles, to a place named Buffalo Gap, and arrived there very tired and hungry. We hunted for a bakery, but there was no such place in the whole town; but we found that we could get bread at a certain house about half a mile from the town. When we had got the bread and some meat, we went and sat down behind a fence and ate a hearty supper.

That night I had my first experience of what is known to the “tourist” as the “side-door Pullman,” or another very common name, “Blue Line sleeper.” We had not much money, and were very tired, as we were not used to walking, and our feet were also blistered very badly, although we had had a “tie-pass.” We got into the box car and had only got half way to Chadron, a place about sixty miles from Buffalo Gap, South Dakota, when somebody else got into the car, and after a while they struck a match, and we found that it was two men that had started from Hill City about the same time we did.

The freight train arrived at Chadron, Neb., about 12 o’clock that night, and before we could get out a man came along with a lantern and set it down in the car and commenced writing on a tablet, and there were four of us trying to hold our breath and stand as close to the side of the car as possible.

We stayed in the waiting room that night. Next morning it was raining hard and did not look as if it would quit very soon. It did, however, about dark.

I was getting tired of staying in a waiting room, and told my companion that we had better move on and try and get some work; but with this he did not agree. He wanted to beat his way to San Francisco, but I told him that I would sooner work and pay my fare if I could. So I shared up even with him and left. I had a dollar and five cents for my share. The morning was dark and gloomy and looked as if there was some more rain coming, but nevertheless I started out with a light heart and a nearly empty pocket, determined to find work if it was to be found.

I had walked about ten miles, asking for work once between there and Chadron; when it began to rain, I then had eleven miles to go to reach the next station; the walking was very bad and I very often found myself floundering from one side of the track to the other in my vain attempts to walk between the rails, the rain making it bad for walking. Just before reaching the next station, Whitney, the rain came down in torrents, and although I had a thick overcoat on, I got wet through before I reached Whitney. My blanket which I was carrying also got wet through.

I reached the station all right, however, except for a good wetting, and sat for some time by the waiting room fire. The station agent was very kind to me; he gave me a pitcher of milk instead of water which I asked for, for which I was very thankful, as I had nothing to eat or drink since I had left Chadron in the morning, and this was about five o’clock. He told me that he was not allowed to let anyone sleep in the waiting room all night, so that night I slept in an empty box car that was standing on the side track.

Never shall I forget the cold of that night. My blanket, my overcoat and my clothes were damp. My coat I had for a pillow, and my blanket for a covering. I could not sleep for the cold. I shivered all night and the wind howled and whistled through the door and through cracks in the floor of the car. I wonder that I did not freeze to death.

The next morning I went to the office and sat by the stove. I was very thankful to be able to get somewhere that I could get warm.

A friend of the agent’s asked me if I had had breakfast. I told him I had not. He told me to go to the hotel and get it, which I did. When I had eaten breakfast I went down to the depot, and when I arrived the train was just coming in from Chadron, Nebraska. I was expecting to walk from Chadron to Crawford; but my friend, the agent, gave me a ticket to that place. The man that gave me the breakfast promised to get me some work there. He kept his promise, and I went to work for the chief livery barn in Crawford.

I then worked for the Crawford Tribune, a paper published by a man named Ketchum, and owing to the election not going his way, he could not afford to hire me any longer than the week. So I had to put my money together, as there was no more work in that town, and make my way toward Zion as best I could.

I paid twelve dollars to go to Cheyenne, Wyo., having only one dollar left with which to buy food and shelter. I arrived in Cheyenne about twelve o’clock at night, and stayed at the depot till morning.

In the morning I bought some breakfast, after which I started out to see if there was any work in that place, but it seemed as if I was not to stay there. Very nearly every place I went they asked me if I was a Union man, and when I replied that I was not, they would not give me work. I wandered around Cheyenne for some time, when I found that it was no good staying there to starve. I then started on my journey afoot, with sixty-five cents in my pocket, thinking that I could catch a train outside of Cheyenne, and so ride some distance. I will here state that there were hardly any tramps at Cheyenne, as they say it is a “hard town.” And another thing a genuine tramp does, and that is, they rarely walk above five miles at a time. Some will not walk, but stay around a water tank for days, till they catch a train, claiming that they can go further in one night, even if they get put off before they reach the next division, than they could in four or five days’ walking.

After walking about five miles I came to what had been a depot, but was used now only for a telegraph station. I here struck a section boss for work, but was told that he had enough men. I was very hungry and asked him for something toe at. He told me that he would sell me some. But as I did not have very much money, I told him that I would do work for it.

Before the section “boss” had come out I had chopped the pump man some wood. The man told him and he said to me, “Can you chop wood?”

“Yes, sir,” I replied, “I can do anything.”

“Well,” said he, “if you will chop one tie for me I will give you your supper.” But instead of giving me one tie he gave me two, which I did not mind.

I had chopped one tie and had started on the other, when the foreman’s wife called to me to come and get my supper. I assure you that I did justice to the supper and it was a good thing I did, as I got nothing for two days after that, not even a drink of water.

I had started to work on the other tie and had got some of it cut up, when I saw the smoke of a locomotive over the hill. I left the tie and got my blanket and overcoat, which I had left at the pump house.

When the engine took water at the tank, I got behind the tank. One of the section men seeing me standing there beckoned me to come. I then went up to him, and he helped me into an empty box car.

It was very strange for me to do this kind of work and I did not care much about doing it. But I had hardly any money, could get no work and was out of civilization. What was I to do? I had paid my way all I could and so I thought that the best thing that I could do was to face the music.

It was a bitter cold night. I laid down and tried to sleep and found that I was in an empty coal car, upon the floor of which there was lots of coal dust. I got up and walked around to keep myself warm.

When the train got to Laramie, Wyo., two men were examining the train, when one of them on one side of the car said:

“This car is sealed on this side.”

“Oh, it is all right,” answered the other, “there is nothing in it.”

The man put his lantern down inside of the car and took the number of the car. he stood writing for some time, and he either did not see me or did not want to see me. I stood as close up to the side of the car as I could.

The train had got about sixty miles from Laramie, to a place called Carbon. I had counted the stops, as I thought. I supposed we were nearing Rawlins, the next division from Laramie. Instead of that, it was the mining camp of Carbon. Not wanting to be put into the “jug,” I thought that I would get out before I got to Rawlins, and so got myself ready to jump out as the train was going at half speed. I threw my blanket out and then started to jump after it. I put my legs out and held on to the car for a while and then let go. You should have seen me. I rolled and stopped close to the end of the ties. It was a wonder that I did not go under the wheels, and I did not dare move until the train passed. I was stunned for the moment; my face was scratched and peeled, and my wrist was sprained. As I got up the conductor told me to look out for the train in the rear, and I had just got off the track when another train came along.

I saw one of the brakemen of the other train and asked him if I could ride to Rawlins.

“Have you got any ‘stuff’?” he asked me, meaning money. I told him I had a little but not much. so I gave some to him, and he put me into a car loaded with lumber. After a while another one came and asked me for some “stuff,” and I had to give him some, and because I had not got enough I gave him my pocket knife.

After a while I found a place just large enough to sit in, between the side of the car and some lumber. When I had settled down I pulled some lumber over the top of me and again tried to sleep; but it was so bitter cold that I utterly failed, and had all I could do to keep myself warm. This was the beginning of my second day without anything to eat or drink. My hands and feet began to swell and get blue, and I was so hungry and thirsty I did not know what to do.

When I thought I was at Rock Springs I got out, but I was surprised to find that I had again missed my guess. This time I was farther than I intended to be, and I was at Green River, Wyo.

I got a nickel for holding a man’s horse, making in all about fifteen cents that I had. I got water, and permission to lie down near an engine fire. I was nearly frozen on one side, while the other was roasting before that fire. There was a bitter cold wind that night, which blew from the northeast.

The next morning I started to walk to Rock Springs. I had not gone far out of town when I met the “track walker” from a little station about twelve miles from Green River. I asked him if he knew of any work I could get. He told me I could get work at Wilkins. I arrived at Wilkins tired, hungry and thirsty, and got work. I could scarcely speak for want of water. I worked until twelve o’clock before I got anything to eat. But strange to say I could not eat much at dinner time.

I worked on this section as long as I was permitted to do so. The men knew before I had worked there long that I was a Mormon. Some began to jeer me, but I stood up for the Church and people, and most of them liked me better after that. I have always found that when you stand up for what you believe and stay by it, and try to practice what you preach the people like you the better for it. There is nothing of which to be ashamed in the Gospel; there is more to be proud of. We are the only people who have the Gospel in its fullness, and “woe unto them who teach not the Gospel.” “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation.”

Another thing I always did on my journey was to attend to my prayers, and generally got direct answers to them. As an example I will relate an incident.

When the roadmaster laid me off, I had not long started to work, as I had been laid up with a frozen foot, and was not able to work. On most of the railroads when they lay a man or men off, they give them what is called a “cent a mile” rate. All the other men had tried to get that rate; but as they wanted them to go to work at Rock Springs, they would not give it to them. I did not see much chance of my getting the rate; but I prayed to the Lord earnestly to help me to get that rate.

The foreman of the gang knew that I wanted to go to Salt Lake City, as I had told him so.

The morning we were to leave I made up my bundle and started out to work to Green River. I had not gone far when the section foreman and two men overtook me with their car. At this moment a train came along and thee foreman asked me to help them off with the car, which I did. When the train had gone by I helped them put it on again and was allowed to ride with them to Green River.

When we got to Green River the section foreman went to the superintendent and asked him if he would give me a cent a mile rate. The superintendent asked him if he was the “boss” at Wilkins? upon which he answered, “Yes, sir.” The superintendent told him that he would give me the rate if he would write out the requisition for it.

That foreman had told me he could not get me a cent a mile rate, but the Lord answered my prayer to the very letter.

I thanked him fro his kindness, and that night I arrived in Ogden. Next morning bout 4 o’clock I arrived in Salt lake City, upon the 24th day of December, and had a good time that night, and a good Christmas dinner among the Saints of God.

I am not sorry that I had that experience, but thank God for giving me health and strength enough to reach Zion. I pray that I may always remain true to the Gospel which I have embraced.

A.G. Pollard



  1. I enjoyed this. Anybody that’s lived in Wyoming can certainly appreciate that mid-November in damp clothes is an invitation to freeze to death.

    Comment by Clark — March 23, 2011 @ 9:48 am

  2. Wow. What a story. That is amazing.

    Here’s his World War I draft record. After this experience, he became a rural mail carrier. Looks like he didn’t mind his time on the road all that much!

    Comment by Researcher — March 23, 2011 @ 10:14 am

  3. What a gem! Ardis, where is volume II?

    Comment by Steve — March 23, 2011 @ 10:23 am

  4. Remarkable story. I find it interesting that the railroad employees accepted the reality of so many individuals trying to ride the freight trains for free, and were actually quite tolerant of it, even helping Pollard get on empty box cars. I don’t think the railroads are near that hospitable these days.

    Comment by kevinf — March 23, 2011 @ 10:32 am

  5. Awesome, that is determination with faith! Thanks Ardis.

    Comment by Cliff — March 23, 2011 @ 10:42 am

  6. Yeah, Steve, I probably shoulda broken that into two or ten chunks, huh?

    Glad you enjoyed it, all, after wading through it. There’s something that seems so genuine about his words, like some of the other “in their own words” posted — he just tells his story without feeling the need to point out that what he does is in any way extraordinary.

    Thanks for that added document, Researcher. It was hard enough just figuring out what his initials stood for, and I wasn’t able to go hunting for anything more. Trust you to find something, though.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — March 23, 2011 @ 10:54 am

  7. Terrific story! Adding to Clark’s comment about Wyoming, I can say that anyone who has been there, in any month, can appreciate Bro. Pollard’s comment that he “was out of civilization”!

    Comment by Mark B. — March 23, 2011 @ 11:17 am

  8. I liked this very much. Thank you.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — March 23, 2011 @ 12:31 pm

  9. This is an inspiring story. He never seems to doubt that he will get to Salt Lake. Apparently, he stayed in contact with his family in England, as he knew that his father had died.

    Comment by Maurine Ward — March 23, 2011 @ 9:13 pm

  10. This was fun to read partly because of the sincerity and determination of this young man, and partly since I used to work across the street from Union Station (Depot) in Chicago and spent the first three years of my married life in LaGrange, Illinois. :-)

    Comment by ellen — March 23, 2011 @ 10:46 pm

  11. Excellent. I have not checked in to your blog for a while, but was so pleased to read this account. thanks again, peter

    Comment by peter Fagg — March 30, 2011 @ 1:44 pm

  12. Thank you for posting this. Alfred is my husband’s grandfather and he enjoyed reading it and learning about his grandfather. Where did you find this information? Sure wish there was more to read!

    Comment by Barbara Pollard — November 19, 2011 @ 8:49 pm

  13. It’s always a pleasure to hear that family members of some of these long-ago Saints have discovered something new here! Thanks for letting me know, Barbara.

    I’ll send you the citation for your family records via the email address you’ve left.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — November 19, 2011 @ 8:54 pm

  14. Clark, don’t they freeze fast enough that they then start insulated?

    Comment by Clark — November 19, 2011 @ 9:23 pm