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I was awakened by my companions to enjoy the weird picturesqueness of a fire kindled by camping emigrants, and flashing its spectral light upon a fine perpendicular precipice of white granite, just as we broke through the western face of the Wahsatch, and came to the head of the foot-hills from which the vast basin of the Lake is for the first time visible, with the embowered City of the Saints sleeping at the bottom of its vast cradle.
Under a vague mysterious moonlight we whirled of a sudden among the adobe houses and the shadowy streets of Brigham's capital. Going at once to the only hotel of the town, in fifteen minutes, and with our piles of Eastern letters unread, we were, for the first time in six days and nights, as soundly asleep as Epimenides.
THE NEW JERUSALEM.
The original sense in which I use the title to this chapter will be defended as I proceed. I certainly do not bestow the name of New Jerusalem upon the Mormon capital because of its bearing any resemblance to the city of the disembodied saints.
Among the many courtesies extended our party by Mr. Holladay and others connected with the Overland road was a letter from Mr. Center, commending us to the attention of Mr. Rumfield, representative of the Wells-Fargo interest at Salt Lake City. Through this gentleman we made the acquaintance of Mr. Stein, then Mr. Holladay's agent at the same place, and since occupying an important position as manager of one of that great stage-man's new lines, for which he is eminently fitted by a grade of business talents and indefatigable industry seldom met with at the East or West.
These gentlemen formed the capital of acquaintanceship upon which we began business in Utah. To them we owe innumerable and peculiar facilities for the study of Salt Lake City, its scenery, its people, and its usages, though they are responsible for none of my opinions.
The Salt Lake Hotel, where we stopped, is the only one frequented by Gentiles; indeed, the only one which claims any position corresponding to the hotels at the East. It is a good-sized house of two stories in height,
with broad verandas on its faqade. Our rooms opened upon the upper one, and thence we had a fine view of the principal street.
The peculiarities of Mormonism are not external; and a traveller merely seeing the city in transitu, must be disappointed of the keen, fresh sensatifln which people expect in visiting the centre of the most remarkable social system in Christendom.
The hotel we found to differ in no important respect from the well kept, homely tavern of any quiet Eastern village. Tourists fortunate enough to have received their first impressions of Green Mountain scenery before Vermont began to be crossed by its net-work of iron rails, used to see a very similar tavern on their way over the magnificent stage road from Troy to Rutland, when they halted for dinner the first day out at " Love's," in Bennington. Townsend, who keeps the -Salt Lake Hotel, is a gruff but obliging man, between fifty and sixty. It never occurred to me that he was a Saint until Heber Kimball called him " hrother;" and the unobtrusiveness of polygamy at its very head-quarters may be inferred from the fact that a week elapsed before it occurred to me that the industrious old lady who gave us such nice little dishes of hot scrambled eggs, and made us fresh coffee when we came down late to breakfast was one Mrs. Townsend, and a younger woman who took such good care of our rooms was another.
The only peculiarity of the hotel was its lack of a bar-room; and with this few people obliged to make any protracted stay at a Western hotel will be disposed to quarrel. The deficiency was a guarantee of quiet nights and orderly days. From sunrise till sunset the long line of tie-posts in front of Townsend's was studded with hardy little mustangs, whose sunbrowned riders were refreshing themselves within, or transacting business without; and until a late hour of the night (always till the Overland stage arrived from the East), the verandas were occupied by gentlemen smoking and chatting in their easy-chairs; but never was the seemly order of the establishment broken by any approach to a row, or even by vociferous discussion.
The dining-room was lively and bustling for a couple of hours from the bell-ringing of each meal, fresh relays of guests occupying vacated seats as fast as one battalion of dishes could be cleared from the field, and a fresh one brought into position. Townsend was largely patronized by both ladies and gentlemen; but neither among permanent nor transient guests was there anything to suggest the existence of peculiar social customs, had we not already been aware of it .
The main street, which ran in front of the hotel, was splendidly broad, — in this respect not surpassed by the widest portion of Pennsylvania Avenue. Its architecture was nothing to boast of, being that of a town whose citizens are still in the first stage of doing, and have not yet reached the second one of considering how to do. The shops were consistent with the hotel, and like it might have been transported from the principal street of any prosperous Eastern village. There were some brick, some wooden, and numerous adobe houses, generally two stories in height, and without decoration. The commercial fronts displayed their wares through no ambitious plates of French glass, but announced them on shingles or handbills, and by the still more straightforward method of samples at the door-way. All the ordinary trades were represented, but there seemed to be the usual country fondness for miscellaneous traffic within one inclosure; the house-furnishing business, inclusive of groceries, shoes, hardware, all, indeed, that one would look for in the "country store " par excellence, being a favorite and well patronized kind of commerce. The milliner and dressmaker had their separate sanctuaries, as one finds all over the civilized world, but possessed no such prominence as they might naturally be supposed to occupy in Utah. It was evident that polygamy and gynocracy are terms by no means convertible. The vast scale of shopping prevalent in Gentile communities is the grand guarantee and safeguard of monogamy. Brigham Young is undoubtedly the richest man in the Western Hemisphere, even richer perhaps than any single member of the Rothschild family; but were his milliner's and mantua-maker's bills to be calculated on the basis of a single-wived establishment at the East, even his exchequer might be excused for coming to bankruptcy. From my observation of Mormon sumptuary habits, I should suppose that the budget of a polygamic household was made up on the principle of dividing one normal and Eastern wife's allowance among a multitude, instead of multiplying it by the number of the harem. The philosopher acquainted with the underlying motive of most marriages in society will find no insuperable difficulty in understanding how a given number of wives can consent to receive the fraction of a man apiece; but when it comes to dividing the pin-money, he beholds an eternal obstacle to the spread of polygamic ideas among the higher classes of society.