On 20 May 1863 Eliza, her father John Brown, and her brother George left their village of West Lavington to begin their trip to Utah. It took about two weeks to get to London and make preparations for their journey. Their ship, The Amazon, was anchored in the Thames River and a group of 882 Saints went on board.
Emigrant ships full of travelers going to America were not an uncommon sight at the docks. However, this ship caught the interest of the English writer, Charles Dickens, and he went aboard the ship before it sailed. He was curious to know why and where such a large group of emigrants was going and to find out what was the motivation behind their travel. Family history reports that among those Dickens interviewed were Eliza and George and their father. His impressions of his visit that day of June 4, 1863 appeared in his book, “The Uncommercial Traveler.” (And whether or not it really is our Eliza who is featured, the link is to an excerpt from the book that is very interesting and worth at least a quick read.)
The following excerpt is the conversation as Dickens published in his book.
“But nobody is in an ill–temper, nobody is the worse for drink, nobody swears an oath or uses a coarse word, nobody appears depressed, nobody is weeping, and down upon the deck in every corner where it is possible to find a few square feet to kneel, crouch, or lie in, people, in every unsuitable attitude for writing, are writing letters.
“Now, I have seen emigrant ships before this day in June. And these people are so strikingly different from all other people in like circumstances whom I have ever seen, that I wonder aloud, “What would a stranger suppose these emigrants to be!“
The vigilant bright face of the weather–browned captain of the”Amazon” is at my shoulder, and he says, ‘What, indeed! The most of these came aboard yesterday evening. They came from various parts of England in small parties that had never seen one another before. Yet they had not been a couple of hours on board, when they established their own police, made their own regulations, and set their own watches at all the hatchways. Before nine o‘clock, the ship was as orderly and as quiet as a man–of–war.’
“Similarly on this same head, the Uncommercial underwent discomfiture from a Wiltshire laborer: a simple fresh colored farm laborer, of eight–and–thirty, [Eliza’s father, John] who at one time stood beside him looking on at new arrivals, and with whom he held this dialogue:
“UNCOMMERCIAL: Would you mind my asking you what part of the country you come from?
WILTSHIRE: Not a bit. Theer [there]! (Exultingly) I‘ve worked all my life o‘ Salisbury Plain, right under the shadder o‘ Stonehenge. You mightn‘t think it, but I haive [have].
UNCOMMERCIAL: And a pleasant country too.
WILTSHIRE: Ah! ‘Tis a pleasant country.
UNCOMMERCIAL: Have you any family on board?
WILTSHIRE: Two children, boy and gal. I am a widderer [widower], I am, and I‘m going out alonger my boy and gal. That‘s my gal, and she‘s a fine gal o‘ sixteen (pointing out the girl who is writing by the boat). I‘ll go and fetch my boy. I‘d like to show you my boy. (Here Wiltshire disappears, and presently comes back with a big shy boy of twelve, in a superabundance of boots, who is not at all glad to be presented.) He is a fine boy too, and a boy fur [for] to work! (Boy having undutifully bolted,Wiltshire drops him.)
UNCOMMERCIAL: It must cost you a great deal of money to go so far, three strong.
WILTSHIRE: A power of money. Theer [There]! Eight shillen a week, eight shillen a week, eight shillen a week, put by out of the week‘s wages for ever so long.
UNCOMMERCIAL: I wonder how you did it.
WILTSHIRE:( recognising [recognizing] in this a kindred spirit). See there now! I wonder how I done it! But what with a bit o‘ subscription heer [here], and what with a bit o‘ help theer [there], it were done at last, though I don‘t hardly know how. Then [p. 227] it were unfort‘net for us, you see, as we got kep‘ in Bristol so long––nigh a fortnight, it were––on accounts of a mistake wi‘ Brother Halliday. Swaller‘d up money, it did, when we might have come straight on.
UNCOMMERCIAL:(delicately approaching Joe Smith). You are of the Mormon religion, of course?
WILTSHIRE: (confidently). O yes, I‘m a Mormon. (Then reflectively). I‘m a Mormon. (Then, looking round the ship, feigns to descry a particular friend in an empty spot, and evaded the Uncommercial forevermore.)”
Maybe we really are published!