Monthly Archives: March 2014

Simply Nature

Photo of cresote bushes at sunset in early spring in the Mojave Desert

Creosote at Sunset

It is simple, really; the wind storms bring dusk early to the high desert. The airborne dust hastens the sunset, and the sunset goes deep and passionately purple. the wind rests and the day is over.  Equilibrium.
The desert wind has played its joke.

Move forward into the forever blue of the “Everything.”

A long night to hunt or be hunted.
By the time the sun has raced around the earth and rises, the game has changed ever so slightly, and some desert creatures will be dead, and some will be fed.

~ W.Feller.

Cyrena Dustin Merrill – Part V

Continued from Part IV

The Call for 500 Men

During 1845, although we were preparing to leave Nauvoo for the Rocky Mountains, they were pushing the work on the Temple and on May 24 the walls were finished and the Apostles administered to hundreds of the people — the services often continuing all day and all night. We received our endowments in the last of December going through the Temple at night.

photo of the Mormon Battalion flag

Mormon Battalion flag – note the spelling of the word “Battalion.”

Now as the mob it said “we will still drive all the Mormons into Nauvoo and all Nauvoo into the Mississippi,” preparations were made immediately evacuating the city and on February 6, 1846, my husband left with the first K guards to guard the records across the river, and went on to Garden Grove, leaving me with my little ones in Nauvoo. When he came back near the last of April with a team, our second daughter Lucy Cyrena, was three weeks old — she, having been born on April 7 — and taking only our bedding and clothing — leaving everything else in the house we went by wagon to Mount Pisgah.

Authorities held counsel and concluded to move on, after putting up some huts which could be used by those coming later.

When within a few miles of Council Bluffs we were met by an United States officer to enlist men for the Mexican War. Coming to a halt Brother Brigham called for 500 volunteers. On July 16 the troops were mustered, my husband being among the number, thus we were left without our natural protectors and as this took our stoutest and best the way much hard work was thrown on the women and the aged. I had only one week’s provisions on hand.– But our faith was strong and Brother Brigham would lead us on. After they had been gone three days some men returned from the Battalion and started to the camps that Capt. Alan had sent them to gather up 50 families of the Battalion Boys, and they could travel with their husbands to California as the government would pay all expenses.

At first I did not wish to go but being over persuaded, I joined the company to follow my husband. My driver was Monroe Frick, a boy of 14 who was such a good kind boy. I arrived at Fort Leavenworth about August 1, 1846.

The joy of once more meeting my husband was of short duration for he could not consent to me traveling with them with my little children and the young babe; so after putting up a wagon with 18 months provisions and to yoke of oxen, Monroe and I started back over that lonely road of 200 miles to the camp of Israel. This was done by the advice and counsel of Brother P. P. Pratt.

Philemon went a day’s journey with us and when he left us in the morning was the hardest of all my trials — we had to travel through Missouri whose swamps were full of malaria, and several times we came to places where the rain had washed out the road and we had to unload our flour and provisions, get the wagon across, then carried the things over and reload. It seems a miracle that we ever succeeded in reaching Winter Quarters, but in God was my trust and he protected us and cared for us.

— continued —


Interesting how a zigzag of light against a shadow will catch your eye while you look away from the low sun. Anticipation, is paramount; the shadows roll over the mountain canyons and ridges quickly. Observe it then. Blank everything else out and don’t look away. What you will see will never be the same again. Don’t miss your moment!

photo of Mojave yucca at sunset, Apple Valley, CA.

A zigzag of light

Beyond the Black Butte

Ten miles from the base of the mountains, beyond the black butte where the plains roll like swells in the ocean, there is a small, dusty, little shack. Inside this shelter there is a broom,Abandoned cabin in the Mojave Desert a chair and a table with a dog-eared pad of paper and a stubbed pencil lying on it. The air is so clean it is tiring; at least so it seems. Sitting there in the quiet there is no way to gauge the time. There is sunrise, noon, and sunset. There is night too. and unless there is a moon, it is the blackest night with countless upon countless stars. If there is a sound it is only the wind humming through the creosote. This is the place to contemplate infinity, and eternity, and the wind humming through the creosote…

Cyrena Dustin Merrill – Part IV

continued from – Part III

Cyrena’s New Family

Again joining Brother Stanley’s company in the spring of 1839 I traveled to Quincy, Illinois. My health was very good and I walked every step of the way; sometimes with my skirts wet to my knees and at night we slept only the canopy of the heavens for a roof and it rained every night thus soaking our bedding through before morning. We often cheered ourselves on our march by singing the songs of Zion and we kept our health.

Brother Stanley had managed to procure some flour before leaving Far West, and we had plenty of squash pies — not made with eggs and sugar and milk as it is generally made — but just squash boiled and put in between two crusts, and oh, how good it tasted. Anything eaten with God’s blessing on it and with thankful hearts is sweet and good.

At Quincy was residing a brother of my father’s who had joined the Church, and there I lived for a few weeks but his wife persecuted him and made it so unpleasant for me that I could not stand it but went out to work; while here oue goods and clothing came which we had sent by water from New Portage — coming back from St. Louis where they had been stopped — nothing traveled fast in those days.

I now wrote to the home folks and they were glad to hear from me, particularly about my good health, but they wanted me to come home and not have to endure any more of such privations; they would send me the money and if I did not want to return alone, one of my brothers would gladly come for me — but I answered “I would live and die with the Latter Day Saints.”

I worked out all summer for two dollars a week and was always treated well and my health was good.

In December or late in the fall of this year I went to Nauvoo with Brother Tarletan Lewis and family. They were such good people and so very kind to me.

At Nauvoo we found nearly everyone sick with chills and fever so I went to nursing sick folks. I went to nurse at Stephen Markham’s, for they were all down sick and while there — their daughter — a lovely girl about my age — and her parents would not hear of me leaving them, so I made my home with them from that time.

Sometime in February 1840, Philemon C. Merrill was passing through Nauvoo from Fort Madison to Carthage and had stopped to see his friend, Brother Markham, who brought him home to dinner and I waited on the table. After dinner he asked Brother Markham “Who that young lady was” and when told, he remarked, “I’ll be back here someday, where she will be my wife.” Brother Markham laugh at him and also some at me, but so it proved, or on September 30 we were married, and went to housekeeping in Nauvoo.

Nauvoo Temple in the 1840s

Nauvoo Temple in the 1840s

On August 21, 1841, a daughter, Sabrina Lodena, came to gladden our home. While my husband worked on the Temple which the Saints had begun to build in our beautiful city on the Mississippi River — a son, Philemon Alisandre, was born to us to cheer us and bind our hearts together. His birthday was November 18, 1843, and oh, how happy and contented I was with my loving husband and little daughter and son — the clouds were gathering around our beloved Prophet, and everyone knows the terrible times of the next year — the assassination of Joseph and Hyrum and how we obeyed the voice of the twelve when they told us to be peaceable, quiet citizens and blessed would be those who held out faithful to the end.


Cyrena Dustin Merrill – Part III

continued from – Part II

It rained a little during the night and our bedding was soaked through and not being used to exposure of any kind of course I took a severe cold, which with the long walk and the worry of leaving home under such trying circumstances brought on a fever and a nervous prostration.

I shall ever remember how kind and good to sisters and brethren were to me during that long ride from New Portage, Ohio to the Missouri River; they gave me every attention that I could be given under the circumstances; many times sacrificing their own comfort for mine.

As day by day went by and I still remain so very low, albeit Brother Stanley sadly concluded that I could not recover — and several times I was taken from the wagon and laid down by the roadside while they all gathered round expecting me to breathe my last — but I had great faith, for my blessing said I should go to Zion and I clung to that, (and so did Brother Stanley) and I felt as if that must be true. Sometimes as we were traveling along, people would come to our camp and talk to us and they would say “Why do you drag that sick girl with you? Can’t you stop long enough to let her die in peace? It looks inhuman to take her over these rough roads.” And when told it was prophesied that she should go to Zion, they would shake their heads and say, “She’ll never lived to get there anyway.” We were stopped several times by mobs who were determined we should not go on, but we were strong in faith and continually prayed to the Lord to deliver us from these people and so we finally overcame all difficulties and arrived at the Far West. I had been getting some better before the end of the journey — and oh, how we rejoice that are long tiresome traveling was ended and we could meet and have sweet concourse with the Saints here. But our rest and comfort was soon broken, for in a few days Far West was surrounded to our enemies and I saw Joseph’s aged father and mother weeping over their son as he was taken away a prisoner. During the winter our fate which tried to the utmost — in a strange country – our beloved leader was torn from us — and our food and clothing very scarce — at times we had nothing to eat but parched corn with a little squash.

My health continued to improve daily and Father Smith obtained a place for me to work at Little  Platte (about 20 miles from Far West), with an aged couple who treated me like a daughter but thought I ought to return to my parents. They begged me to go home to my mother who must be so lonely without me, even offering to pay my fare back to Ohio and send their son with me for company — but my faith in the Gospel was strong and I never had any desire to give up our religion or leave the Saints.

To my great joy I found (while living here) Brother and Sister Horn living near, although I had no idea that there was a Latter Day Saint within miles of me — the us is the Lord cheered my heart at all times when I most needed consolation. These new friends told me that the Saints were moving to Quincy, Illinois. After staying with these good folks three months I went with brother and sister Horn to Far West, to again cast in my lot with the Saints although the lady where I had been working went over me and wish me to stay with her or return home to my parents, but I now felt that the Saints’ home was mine.


Pilot Rock – San Bernardino Mountain Range

Pilot Rock, Pilot Knob–I’m certain there is some kind of argument going on for what the proper name is; but the operative word is ‘Pilot.’ I’ve seen this peak from the highlands way out in the desert, however, it comes plainly into view along the Mojave River southwest of Barstow. Pioneers along the Old Spanish Trail, and later, the Mormon Road to California, would use this point to guide them from the low riverbed to the top of the Cajon Pass to begin the descent to their hard-earned destination.

Pilot Knob, Pilot Rock, San Bernardino Mountains

Pilot Knob, San Bernardino National Forest

Death Valley Scotty …

Better than True Stories of the Mojave Desert:

Death Valley Scotty preferred mules over horses. “Mules were smart, horses were stupid,” he’d openly claim. To illustrate his point he told of one very hot summer day when he was riding a horse next to a cornfield. He’d say, “It was so hot the corn began to pop. Well, that horse was so stupid he thought it was snowing and froze to death.”

~ True Story!

Cyrena Dustin Merrill – Part II

continued from – Part I

Accordingly, I left home and went to reside in the family of elder Alexander Stanley, who was an old acquaintance and neighbor. He was like a father to me and there I lived until I gathered with the Saints in Missouri.

A few nights before we started for Missouri, I went to my father’s house and I talked with all of them. My father and mother cried and begged me not to go, even until late into the night; when they found pleading was of no avail, they tried hiring me to stay, and when that also failed, father said he would follow me and have me arrested and brought back by a process of the law. We all then retired and in the morning early father went away for he could not say goodbye.

As I was leaving the house, I turned back at the door and bore a papal testimony to the truth of the gospel; and that was the last time I ever saw any of my father’s family (except Sylvenus who passed through Utah on his way to Montana in 18__).

I was strongly impressed that my going was not only for my own salvation before that of the family also; yet at that time I little realized in just what manner this might occur, and in fact never did thoroughly understand, until the work for the dead was revealed. It was a source of great satisfaction to me to know that I stood in a position to do a work for them which would give them the privilege of accepting in the Spirit world, the gospel which was neglected in this. In April, before starting to Psion, I, with Brother Stanley’s family, went to a Blessing meeting held at the house of brother Sears, in Randolph, Ohio, a few miles from where we then lived, and received a Patriarchal Blessing under the hands of Joseph Smith Sen. (the first one who held the office of Priesthood and Patriarch in this dispensation.)

My blessing has been a great comfort to me in the trials which I have had to pass through and it also assisted to give me the necessary faith, courage and fortitude to make this sacrifice of leaving home and friends and to start out alone in the world to fight the battle of life among strangers. I went forth trusting in the Lord, in full faith that he would give me grace sufficient to overcome all obstacles and difficulties which might be thrown in my way, and that I might endure to the end.

In September following we left our homes and commenced our wearisome journey – with Alexander Stanley as leader. His family, his father and family, three of his brothers in law – Sam Kent, Brother Sears and Brother Ellsworth – and their families and myself; all in one wagon.

We started early in the morning and were fearful that father would stop us, for we had to pass his house, but as we neared home we saw the hand of the Lord in causing a dense fog to envelope the house until after we had passed; we could not see even the signboard at the street door.

We traveled on unmolested until noon — when they stopped to rest the horses. I, being fearful of fathers overtaking us, walked on with Sister Kent, but in her haste and anxiety we got on the wrong road; after walking some distance, we inquired and found the right one — but now our minds were more anxious than ever, being afraid we would miss our friends altogether as from fresh tracks in the road we knew that they were ahead of us. We walked as fast as we could but my strength was failing and finally the worry and exertion proved too much for me, and I laid down by the roadside completely exhausted and frightened lest father would still overtake us. Sister Kent sat by me, encouraging me and comforting me and together we pray that someone might return for us, for we dreaded passing the night by ourselves.

While we were resting the company had gone on to New Portage and unloading goods to go by water; then not finding us there, they brought back the wagon to meet us. With renewed faith because our prayers were answered we got into the wagon and went on to New Portage where we made our camp and I slept out of doors for the first time in my life.


Cyrena Dustin Merrill – Part I

A Sketch in the Life of Cyrena  Dustin Merrill as Given by Herself
(Courtesy of the descendants of Cyrena Dustin Merrill)

I, the daughter of Seth Dustin and Betsy Redfield, was born January 6, 1817, in Genesee County, New York. My father, with his family, moved into Ohio, portage County when I was a bout a year old, where you lived until after I left home. I never had good health and was never expected to do anything around the house but all the family waited on me. I first heard the gospel when about 19 years old and believed and embraced it later, going into the waters of baptism in March 1837 – Elder James Emmett officiating.

I am the only one of my father’s family that ever embraced the gospel; yet I know that my father believed, and had it not been for some unwise conduct in one of the Elders who my father had befriended and assisted, he probably would have been baptized at the same time I was. My brothers and sisters were greatly mortified at my joining the church and as long as I lived at home I had to endure their persecutions.

Sometimes during the summer of 1837, I visited Kirkland and viewed the temple; the first one reared by command and under the direction of the living God in this generation. It would be difficult to describe my feelings while going through that edifice where the Savior and holy Angels had appeared to the servants of God. Truly I felt like thanking God that my mind had been enlightened and that I had been permitted to embraced the gospel and partake of its blessings.

I remained at home during the coming winter, but the spirit of gathering seem to come upon the Saints about that time and I felt I could not be left behind and so determined to go with them to Missouri. This was a severe blow to my father, who had sympathize with me from the beginning, and when he found that I was determined to go he requested me to leave home immediately, that he might become reconciled to the separation before I left entirely; his real motive was a hope that I might become so homesick that I would give up the idea of going with the Saints and return home to stay.


Dirty, Thirsty and Half-Baked Hiker Conquers Death Valley

July, 1966

Dirty, bearded and nearly done to a turn, Jean-Pierre Marquant staggered yesterday to the end of what you might call a cooked tour — a 102 mile hike through boiling Death Valley.

Hiker conquers Death Valley


“I’m happy it’s over,” said the footsore and weary Frenchman.

He was taken to Death Valley National Monument headquarters at Furnace Creek and left shortly thereafter for Los Angeles.

Friends who met him as he finished said he appeared in good physical condition, except for swollen, blistered feet and a mighty thirst.

The 28th-year-old former paratrooper began his walk last Wednesday, announcing he still wanted “to show there is still adventure in the States.”

But he lost his cool during a week of air temperatures that shimmered between 115 and 135° and ground temperatures as high as 190–so hot his shoes burned off.

Uncounted dozens of men have died in the long, salt-bottomed Valley — the lowest, hottest, driest spot in the U.S. – since white men first found it in 1849.

Marquant carried an umbrella and wore a 10 gallon hat. He also wore three T-shirts and three pairs of socks to preserve body moisture as much as possible, and kept his mouth filled with damp gauze to prevent it from becoming parched.

His hiking ensemble also included blue-tinted glasses, gloves, short pants and tennis shoes, which were burned to shreds by the searing sand and rocks. He was forced to protect his feet with socks and gauze.

Marquant was met daily by a support truck that furnished him with water, watermelon, soft drinks and clothing.