Tuesday, July 23, 2013

True, But Still A Story.

So yesterday Ken was spouting off about his Mormon Pioneer Ancestry, and I had the same thought as you..."Oh, Game ON!!!"

My Great Great Great Great Grandfather was (or is) named James Campbell Livingston.  One day I asked his Great Great Great Granddaughter (my Grandmother) to tell me the story of my Mormon ancestors and being the head of the Livingstons...she did not disappoint.

"He had a hook for a hand!"  She lead with a shocking but true fact to really reel me in (pun intended).

"A HOOK!"  I cried.  "Was he born with it?" She looked at me disgusted.  "You aren't born with a hook you nit wit, you get a hook. Something happens and they have to give you one. Now sit down and I'll tell you the story."

And so she did.

"He was from Scotland and he dumped his family to cross the ocean and then most of America to get himself to Utah where those Mormons were building a huge stone temple in the middle of the desert. Turns out they wanted to make it out of the granite from the huge mountain next to the lake of salt and, it turns out, my Great Great Great Great Grandfather was a stone cutter back in Scotland. So they put him to work and soon he was the foreman over the whole quarry."

"Yes, I know all this, G-ma.  Everyone does. And then one day while he was using dynamite to blow granite out of the mountain, he blew his arm off."

"Well, if you knew that then you knew he had a freakin' hook!"

It was true.  The whole family knows he had a hook.  And also that he was a polygamist and married his wife's uglier sister cause no one else would.

"Well..."She said, and in true Livingston fashion and not wanting to be outdone she told me this story...which is true so don't bother looking it up.

"Once, while the Mormons were building their temple out of rock from a mountain in the middle of a desert next to a lake of salt, an army showed up to check in on them...it was the US army to be exact and they were led by a guy named Johnston, whom President James Buchanan sent to "restore order and forcibly install a new governor to replace Brigham Young." Well, Brigham Young, was super into being the governor and so he called a meeting for all the Mormon men to meet...you know, a meeting.  He told them all that he wanted to send someone up to check out this fresh army camped out on the mountain.  Several men volunteered, and your (GGGG) Grandfather, in true Livingston fashion, was not one of them.  But eventually, Brigham Young stood behind James Campbell and rested his hands on his shoulder and said, "The right man has not volunteered." Well, we may be a lot of things, but we know how to take a hint, so James volunteered to go check out the army."

"Hold on, Grandma, where are you getting your information?"

"It's from his own journals!  He was a very faithful writer in his journal and he wrote all this down, the army, the shoulders, the whole thing! Now stop interrupting, I can't remember where I left off when you keep interrupting...SEE!"

"He had just volunteered to go check out the army."

"RIGHT! Be quite! SO, he hatches a scheme, and in true Livingston fashion, it's a dream of a scheme and it goes like this; he whips up a barrel of brandy...now this was back when Mormons were only encouraged not to drink, not like now where they get all up in your grill over a Diet Coke, so he must have had a barrel full of Brandy that he was being encouraged not to drink...and I suppose he hadn't or it would have just been an empty barrel...or maybe it was the neighbors, who knows, he doesn't specify, but he takes this barrel of Brandy and puts it on the back of his wagon...it might have been two barrels, yes, I think it was two, in which case I'm sure they would have been the neighbors.  So, he drives his wagon up the mountain straight toward the hostel US army.  Then, in true Livingston fashion, he avoids conflict and dumps the two barrels right next to the army and then heads on up the mountain.  Well!  You know what happens next..."


"The army snatches the barrels, drinks the brandy until they are good and drunk and then your (GGGG) Grandfather comes back down the mountain snatches some soldier and takes him back to the secret meeting of Mormon men!"


"It's true. Then they steal the soldier's uniform, pay him off and send him into the night (that part's a bit  dodgy but she forever sticks to it) and then your Grandfather puts on the uniform and heads back to camp.  The next morning the army, all hung over and idiots to begin with, don't notice that Private Sanchez is now got a deep Scottish brogue."

"Are you kidding?"

"Only about the name of the soldier.  We don't know his name but we do know that your Grandfather took his place in the army."


"Well, to SPY! Keep up!"

"Ah yes."

"AND, he does such a good job that Johnston makes him his personal messenger. Which means that he is handed every message from General Johnston and President Buchanan who was waiting to hear if the Mormons were building temples in the desert. So he took every letter to Brigham Young first and then on to the President."

"Which they were."

"Where what?"

"Building temples in the desert."

"Not then they weren't!  They covered the temple's foundation with dirt so the army would think they were just building a field with no crops in the middle of the city."

"So what happened?"

"Well, it worked.  The army rode into town and saw that the Mormons were ready to burn the whole city to the ground and for what?! An empty field with nothing growing in it.  Also, President Buchanan was getting guff back in Washington for deploying an Army without doing a little research first, turns out, that was as popular then as it is now!  BLAM-O! Look how political I've become in my waning years!"

Okay, so she didn't say that last part, but every other part she told me. And then to top it all off she whipped out my Great Great Great Great Grandfathers journals and there it all was.  Just like she told it, the barrels of whiskey, the soldier swapping, the letters to the President, all of it.  It was true. And I was so proud. And I am proud today to write it all down for you. You see, it's in my blood. I come from a long line of ancestors who really, really love to tell a good story.

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