If you were forging a trail across unfamiliar territory in a covered wagon, what would you bring with you? How would you carry it?
This case carried Brigham Young’s personal belongings on his first journey to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. It is durably made and well suited for a trip across the plains. The wood is roughly cut, and the joints are butted together and secured by square nails and metal plates. The iron handles are hand forged. Pig hide, including the bristles, covers the wood frame. The case has been decorated with brass studs forming Brigham Young’s initials.
Because of its size, it probably contained smaller items, such as socks or handkerchiefs. It also probably held the precious commodities of writing paper, pens, and ink. Brigham Young wrote letters while on the trail, only a few of which survive today. Some were general epistles to Church members at Winter Quarters, and others were to members of the Quorum of the Twelve. This letter to Elder Amasa Lyman, written July 8, 1847, offers encouragement to those returning from the Mormon Battalion:
“We cannot tell you how glad we were to meet a few of the Battalion boys last Sunday, neither can we tell you how glad we shall be to meet the remainder, but tell them to come and see—tell them to cheer up their hearts, and not be over anxious about any thing: the clouds are frequently very heavy just before Sunrise, and we see that day is beginning to dawn.”
But his most personal letters were to his family. This letter, dated April 20, 1847, was written with tenderness to his wife Mary:
“I thank you a thousand times for your kind letters to me more especially for your kind acts and still more for your kind heart. I pray for you and the children continually and for all our family. I do think the Lord has blest me with one of the best families that any man ever had on the Earth. I do hope the children will be good and mind their mother when I am gone.”
Of all the things Brigham carried with him on his journey, this case and the writing materials it held may have the most lasting legacy.