Monday, January 30, 2017

Evolution of Land of Promise Geography – Part III

Continuing with the understanding of the paper on which Frederick G. Williams wrote that Lehi landed along the Chilean west coast at 30º South Latitude. It should be noted that theorists who champion other sites, such as Mesoamerica and the Heartland or Great Lakes, take issue with the Williams’ note, though they have no explanation what prompted it and why it was circulated about the early Church. 
   As these theorists conclude, “Therefore, the proposed Chilean landing site may have simply come about when those who were studying out the directions given in 1 Nephi attempted to follow the journey from the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula eastward to a plausible landing site in the new world.”
Top: What would have appeared to those in the frontier lands of New England in 1830 as a most direct course to take to the Western Hemisphere; Bottom: In picking Chile, this would have appeared to be the most direct courser; however, with the “Direct” course more appealing, why would they have even considered going further south to “Chile”?

    Response: In the 1830s, there is no way anyone in the United States, especially anyone not connected to international sailing endeavors, could possibly have believed that winds and current would have taken a ship from Arabia to South America. This would especially be true of Frederick G. Williams, who himself had been a pilot on a schooner on Lake Erie in 1815, and would have understood the principle of currents and wind driving sailing ships. He was, after all, smart enough regarding such matters as to have been picked by Admiral Oliver Perry to pilot his flagship during the war with Britain in 1812 along the lake, which he knew well.
    However, in the 1830s, winds and currents coming off the Arabian Peninsula in the Indian Ocean would have been unknown in the United States to an average person, and, in fact to anyone who hadn’t been there, and maritime sailors lived and associated around the ports they frequented, not inland hundreds of miles on what was then called the frontier, near Indian lands.
    In the area of what became Cleveland, that Williams would have known, and the area where the Irish were heavily entering, looking for work along the docks of Lake Erie, ports and landmarks along the west coast of South America would have been particularly unknown.
    This area at the time was reacting to a economic boom that hit in 1830, initiating a full decade of prosperity that was blemished only by the Panic of 1837.
In 1836 gas lighting was installed in Montreal streets, and the port along the lake, hence the docks, bustled, providing more jobs for the men with the brogues. Other laboring jobs opened up also, as the business district, which still fronted on the river, became a thriving center of forwarding and commission warehouses, in addition to the ship chandler's storehouses that seemed to be everywhere. It was menial work, but it also meant that more Irishmen had a chance at stability. As the 1830's progressed, some Irishmen even made it up the hill to the city proper, where they found jobs in the building trades, usually excavating foundations or carrying materials.
    The 1830's saw the Irish firmly entrench themselves in Cleveland. They began to occupy both sides of the Cuyahoga River, from the mouth of the river up to and a little beyond what is now Detroit Avenue. They also began careers as businessmen. Patrick Malone opened a butcher shop and John Murphy petitioned for a license to operate a public house.
    Not to be outdone, Thomas Maher opened a greengrocers shop. No tycoons in the lot, but upwardly mobile men, to be sure. This was the attitude and people that made up the area where Frederick G. Williams spent some of his young adulthood following the War of 1812 when he piloted ships across the Lake from Montreal to Detroit and Cleveland.
    As for Detroit, by 1821, the fur trade was still a key export, but it was starting to decline due to over hunting. The Erie Canal was completed in 1825, and a wave of German immigration to Detroit was beginning. Between 1825 and 1830, the population of Detroit increased by 50% to 2,222. Irish immigration also hit Detroit, settling in an area they called Corktown. During 1832 a cholera epidemic devastated Detroit, and by 1836, a stage coach line opened between Detroit and Chicago.
    Across the Lake, Montreal was incorporated as a city in 1832, and its growth was spurred by opening of the Lachine Canal, which brought shiploads of people and goods south along the St. Lawrence River, opening up the city as a major distribution center rather than a mere trading post. The area thrived on the shipment of wool from the various flocks, which were shipped to France, as well as huge lots of fur brought in by fur trades in the area. 80,000 natives (Indians) lived within a short area of Montreal and came to the town for trade and other economic activity, especially the annual fur trade where they could get better prices than from the outlying traders (voyageurs).
Port of Montreal in 1830, where Williams had served as a pilot in a run from Montreal to Detroit and Cleveland

    Montreal had a large number of Scottish immigrants, as well as ones from Italy and Eastern Europe, and  by 1852 was a city of some size, and entered its Golden Age in 1861 to 1930.
    It was in 1830 that Williams joined the Church, along with his wife, Rebecca. He had given up his life on the sea in 1815 after marrying Rebecca Swain, in favor of homesteading, which he later gave up in favor of medicine, teaching himself to be a doctor. By 1825, ten years and four children later, Williams was practicing medicine and doing quite well. When the Erie Canal was finished, guns from Admiral Perry’s gunship were strung along the route every ten miles and Williams was asked to fire one of them in a repetitious salute its entire length in honor of  opening the Canal its entire length.
    The point of all of this is to show the fine, upstanding, hard-working and intelligent character of Frederick G. Williams. At no time was he given to wasting time or “doodling” away his life. Whatever he put his mind to, he worked hard to achieve and eventually did, whether as a ship’s pilot, farmer, or doctor. He was very well respected, and when he moved to Kirtland, Ohio, in 1826—a town of a thousand residents at the time—he quickly became a beloved doctor, friend and confidant to Joseph Smith, and four years later joined the Church. Three years after that, he was called into the First Presidency, where he served as Second Counselor, as well as secretary and personal scribe and physician to Joseph Smith. In fact, Joseph and Emma named their sixth child Frederick Granger Smith in honor of Williams.
    Those in discussion on the matter of his note believe Williams, and the others, evidently settled on Chile as a landing site; however, as stated earlier, in doing so, he just happened to hit the one spot along the South American coast that so happened to have all the ingredients of matching the scripture—a fact that simply would have been nothing other than an extremely lucky guess, a one in a million chance.
    Undaunted, or probably not even aware of the connection, the theorists claim this destination simply caught hold and lasted for generations. One can only wonder why that occurred since very few, if any members at the time would have known anything about South America at all, and until 1844, when Stephens and Catherwood’s book, Incidents in Travel, showing drawings of the ruins in Central America (Mesoamerica) reached Joseph Smith, they knew nothing of any ruins anywhere in the Western Hemisphere that dated to the Nephite era.
The idea that it was mere chance that Williams wrote down 30º south Latitude along the Chilean coast is not only remarkable in its matching of events, but that anyone in the Church at the time gave it much credence (no one would have known anything about the area). Still time has proven that it was not only a brilliant choice, but one that matches the scriptural record perfectly.
(See the next post, “Evolution of Land of Promise Geography – Part IV,” for more information regarding how the Book of Mormon Land of Promise geography came about).

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