Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Leek and an early Mormon connection

On this 4th of July I thought that I would shed light on a local man Thomas Bullock who achieved a significant position in the Church of the Later Day Saints better known as the Mormons. They are of some topicality as the Republican Party nominee for the Presidential election next autumn Mitt Romney is one.

Mormons were one of those faith groups that arose in early America. Its founder a ploughman called Joseph Smith produced a book allegedly following a vision. He set up a community of followers in Nauvoo in Illinois. Smith’s messianic self-belief often led to clashes with neighbours. One of the early supporters of Smith was Thomas Bullock whose ability with the pen led to him becoming Smith’s Secretary.

Thomas Bullock was born in Leek in December 1816. He became an Excise Officer. He married a Leek girl Henrietta Rushton in 1838 and three years later joined the Mormons. In 1843 Bullock and a number of Leek people set sail for America. On arrival in New Orleans they took a steamboat up river arriving in Nauvoo on the 31st May 1843.

In June 1844 the tensions between Smith and others exploded into violence. An armed mob stormed a local jail where Smith was held and he was murdered.

Throughout this period Bullock kept a diary, which chronicled events from the assassination of Smith to the decision to set up a community further west. He recorded the hardships of the exodus as many crossed several states to reach Utah.

18th April 1847

“At 5 a.m. the horn should be blown & every man then arise & pray, attend to their cattle, & have every thing done, in order that all may start by seven o'clock. That each extra man should travel on the off side of his team, with his gun loaded over his Shoulder; that each driver shall have his gun so placed that he can lay his hand on it in a moment, that every gun shall have a piece of leather over the nipple, or in the pan of his gun, having their caps, & Powder Flasks ready for a moment's warning”.

Bullock made it and followed the Mormon practice of polygamy. He fathered 23 children, 13 of whom survived to adulthood.