Photo from Karl G. Maeser, School and Fireside,
Provo: Skelton, Maeser & Co., 1898, p. 219
(See Journal B, 22 Jun 1895).
Josiah E. Hickman in 1895.
Josiah Hickman: A Student Defends the Faith
by Martin B. Hickman
There is perhaps no more poignant experience for a Mormon raised in the shadow of the temple than to go away to school. Even more than a mission call it creates a sharpened sense of identity, a more acute awareness of being different from the world. If this is true, as it certainly is in 1970, it was even truer a century ago. In 1892 Josiah E. Hickman left Utah for Ann Arbor; he was one of a number of Utah students who found a welcome at the University of Michigan and who represented the vanguard of Mormons who would eventually "go East" for an education. Josiah Hickman also was among the vanguard of Mormons who would devote their lives to the Church educational system. He was graduated from the Brigham Young Academy in 1883 and always insisted that Karl G. Maeser "had laid the foundation of the grandest educational system the world has ever seen"He was principal of the Millard Stake Academy in Fillmore from 1887 until 1892 when he "went East" to the University of Michigan. Following his graduation from the University of Michigan he accepted a teaching position at Brigham Young College in Logan. He later received a master's degree in psychology from Columbia. He also taught at BYU during his academic career.
His journal for the years at Michigan is not only a personal account of his academic progress but reveals in vivid detail a pilgrim's progress through a strange new world. Interwoven in his account of his studies is the ever present awareness of being a Mormon. He is "active" in the Branch and becomes the branch president; he is interested in the origin of the Pearl of Great Price and takes a copy of the hieroglyphics to one of his teachers who is reputed to know Egyptian; he visits the other churches in Ann Arbor and compares their teachings with his understanding of the gospel; he asks the "golden questions" of friends and professors; he relates the new knowledge he is acquiring to the gospel and struggles with the ever-present problem of finding enough money to continue his education and feed his family. It is of course a personal story; but it is a story with which countless Mormons who have gone away to school can identify.
Perhaps no incident in Josiah Hickman's account of life in Ann Arbor more nearly captures his vigorous sense of being a Mormon than his participation in the annual oratorical contest at the university. In the passages which follow he relates his hopes and fears as he approached the contest and his disappointment yet ultimate triumph at its outcome.
Dec. 29, 1894--This week just past has been a vacation but I have been working all the week upon my oration. I have read more than half of O. Whitney's History of Utah and also most of Bancroft's history of Utah. Read Webster's oration and Pilgrim Fathers. I have only written part of the oration. It seems impossible for me to express my thoughts. I am much discouraged in my writing. I feel the want of power of the English language more keenly now than ever before. It is natural for a person to desire to excel; but I have a double cause. I would not have entered the contest only for the purpose of presenting to the world the true history of our people--their drivings and pilgrimages for the truth's sake. Several have tried to discourage me from taking such an unpopular subject, among the number Prof. Trueblood, was one who said not to take the subject but some other, I told him that I would not have entered were it not for presenting this subject. I would rather successfully present this subject than win on any other subject not pertaining to our people. Father, strengthen me that I may accomplish that for which I have entered the contest. Rec'd letter from Ella. She and children are very well for which I am truly thankful.
Jan. 27, 1895--I went to Prof. K N. Scott, again yesterday with my oration and he helped me on it considerably. He told me he knew of no subject in all the range of the orations that had been given here for years that was equal to mine; but said my language was not as good as it might be.
Feb. 17, 1895--Bro. Talmage lectured here on the story of Mormonism. His lecture was sublime and was well rec'd. He is having great honors heaped upon him. I am working hard on my oration. I know it and have taken 3 lessons from Prof. Trueblood; will take one more. He has made some very good comments to others about my oration. I trust they are well founded remarks. Bro. Talmage is to speak to us today. (Have written to Ella and Mrs. Daniels.) Meeting over and Bro. Talmage, delivered a sublime sermon and stirred our very souls. His advice was excellent. The comments of the papers and public were extravagant in praise of him. He is considered a great orator. His defence of our people was excellent.
Feb. 24, 1895--The oratorical contest for the '95 students took place last Fri. night. There were 7 of us. Lautner and myself stood no. 1 and were a tie. We were both chosen to enter the final contest to be held Mar. 15. I have heard many excellent comments from students and Prof. on my oration. One thought (said), I put him in mind of Daniel Webester. Though I mention this I do it with humility as I acknowledge the hand of the Lord in my success and He shall receive the honor. Our colony is highly elated over our success. I feel it (subject presented) will be a benefit to our people.
Mar. 3, 1895--I am getting stared fairly well in my studies of this semester. I have made a few changes in my oration by aid of Profs. Scott and Trueblood, since delivering it. I have it copied again at the cost of $1.50 for 4 Copies. The Judges of the final contest are: Prof. Murray, Princeton, Univ. On thought and comp. D. Heinmann, Detroit lawyer. Dr. R. Boon, Princ. of Ypsi College. Prof, Fulton, Ohio. On delivery, Regent Cocked Adrian, Mich. and Regent Barber, Mich.
Mar. 17, 1895--The contest came off last Friday night. I received third place. Mays and Ingraham rec'd first and second prizes respectfully. First prize, medal and $75. Second Prize $50. Mays beat me four points out of 530. Ingraham beat me 2 out of 530 or less than 1%. Judges in composition marked me 1, 3, 2. Dr. Boon gave me first place in thought and composition. On the whole I received the highest % in thought and composition. I rec'd 9% more than best of them. The Judges on delivery marked me 3, 3, and 5. Prof. Fulton marked me No. 5. It is the general cry by Prof. and students that it was a rank injustice and that he was prejudiced or went against his own judgment. Our colony is very much exercised over the unjustice. I feel all right and feel that the Lord willed it so and hence am thankful over the turn of affairs. Prof. Trueblood, has come to [Richard R.] Lyman and enquired if any one had said that he influenced Fulton so that he marked me down. He says he did not. He said though that Fulton last year when acting as judge asked him what young men he wanted to be chosen, or were best to rep. the Univ., but Trueblood, said he would say nothing about which were the most suitable. He said: Now Mr. Lyman, as the contest is over I will say that if Hickman, had got first place there would have been trouble and would have met opposition as the dean of Scientific Dept (D'Ooge) was opposed. It seemed evident to me that it was a concocked affair.) He told Lyman also that it was not in any fault of my delivery for I was good but on account of unpopular subject. Prof. Fulton, said also, after the contest that I and Ingraham were the only two that got complete hold of the hears of the audience. Thought I rec'd faint applause when I arose I had not been speaking but about 3 minutes when I had the audience. It was the warm in the building and many fans and hats were being fanned but by the time I was half through every fan and handkerchief had stopped and death silence reigned. It was the general comment that they had never heard such silence before in their lives, women were seen to weep. One man told me that if he knew that he could produce such silence and deep effect as I did that he would be willing to enter though he knew he would lose, for he considered that the greatest of all honors to sway an audience as I did. General comments: I should at least have had second place in delivery was said by nearly all; some said 1st place. "That man has more oratory in him than all the other orators put together. His oratory Was a new style from any they had heard before. A man of riper years said this. A lady said to Lyman, that my oration was grander and surpassed Dr. Talmadges' oration. Mr. Gorr (assistant to Prof. Scott) said, that it was the grandest oration he had ever heard from a student. Prof. Scott complimented me very highly on the oration. The two that carried off the prizes were excellent orators. The one that beat me 4 points is said to be the greatest orator the Univ., had ever had among the students . As my oration received the highest marks in thought and composition, it is to be published among the honored ones. I feel that I have done my duty and am very thankful that the Lord has blessed me with nearly everything I asked him for. I believe that it is for the best the way that it turned out. I acknowledge His hand in it all and give Him the praise for all aid and all honor and success rec'd.
Mar. 24, 1895--I have rec'd this week some most gratifying compliments on my oration. Prof. Scott, told me that he was very pleased to learn that I rec'd first place in thought and composition, for I deserved it. He also said that there was not justice done me by Judges in delivery [in marking] for the audience awarded me first place. Though the Judges did not, it was almost the universal opinion that I surpassed all in delivery. He said Mr. Hickman, I thought your delivery was sublime and could not have been bettered. Oratory is your fort and I should advise that you continue in that line, though you will have trouble with your language you will overcome that and I will expect to hear of you in 8 or 10 years being among the foremost orators of the land. You do not need any more days of elocution. I quote here what Heinman, one of the critics on thought and comp., a lawyer from Detroit said; "All the papers were very gratifying and I think the Univ., will be splendidly represented. A good, clear, ernest, almost fervid, paper was the Banishment of the Mormon People. Unfortunately the almost historical nature of the topic cut in on the originality of thought. If the author can handle all subjects as well he ought to be extremely clear cut and effective before an audience." I have his letter. It was written to Dr. Trueblood. These comments with others are double testimonies to me that the Lord aided me and inspired Judges, and audiences with the deep and earnest thought that I had in my composition. Father I lay all at thy feet, turn it to my good and to good of others and take the honor to Thy self. May I ever be so blessed of Thee and be humble in the same. May these truths take root and grow in the hearts of the hearers. I learn with satisfaction that my oration with other prize orations of the last 5 years are to be published in a bound volume. Johnny McClellan has written up our contest and sent with a glowing tribute to me. More than I deserve, to our home papers, Deseret News and Dispatch. Also the oration which they are to publish. It was also published in eastern papers.
--BYU Studies, Vol. 11 No 1, Fall 1970, pp. 99-102
(Martin B. Hickman (1925-1991) was a grandson of Josiah and dean of
the College of Social Science at Brigham Young University, and past
director of the BYU Jerusalem Center for Middle Eastern Studies)
The Banishment of the Mormon People
by Josiah E. Hickman
Josiah Hickman's oration was sent to the Deseret News and published on April 15, 1895. According to the News, he did not expect to win the oratorical contest, but declared "If I can only get into University Hall with my speech and vindicate my people from the wrongs which have been heaped upon them, I shall be satisfied." I t is clear that Hickman had studied all the important writings of Mormon history, and his historical understanding reflects the best information available to him at the time. More significant here, however, is the fact that a young student made this his way of presenting the Mormon story in his academic environment. The pathos and emotion which fills every paragraph undoubtedly reflects quite accurately his deep empathy for his Mormon forebearers. With this emotional involvement in his subject, plus long hours of training and practice in the art of delivery, Josiah Hickman's appearance in University Hall must have been impressive indeed.
(The above introduction was written by James B. Allen)
My subject is a most unpopular one. It was chosen not to herald an unpopular faith, but to defend the cause of civil and religious liberty against unwarranted prejudice; not to advocate the tenents of any religion; but defend the cause of virtue and order against the enemies of all divine and human laws. I keenly realize the disadvantage at which I am placed in defending this much misunderstood people. And I am not ignorant of the prejudice existing upon this subject. Therefore, I ask you do not judge until their history is held up to the light of reason.
Though this people originated in New York, I will not speak of their history until we find them in the western part of Missouri, where they had gone and built themselves comfortable homes with the view of worshipping God according to the dictates of their conscience. But as their religion was different from the accepted belief of the day, they soon began to be ridiculed, then to be persecuted; finally organized mobs assembled, and burning their homes, tarred, feathered and whipped many of their people. In their extreme suffering, they applied for protection to judge, priest, and governor, but received none. They even petitioned President Van Buren, who replied: "Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you." Bancroft, the great American historian, says that banded mobs went from settlement to settlement of the Mormons, burning their homes, killing or driving the un-offending inhabitants into exile. In one place, they murdered every man, woman and child. And among the number killed was an old Revolutionary war veteran, who had fought for our independence. Says the historian: "Never in savage or other warfare was there an act more dastardly or brutal." The Missourians in order that they might have a mantle to cover their cruelty, drew up resolutions. They said that the Mormons believed in prophets, etc., in Revelation, and that they were superstitious; that, being mostly from the New England States, they believed in freeing the slaves; and finally, they were poor.
Poverty, superstition, unpopular doctrines--these were the crimes. For such crimes, fourteen thousand inhabitants were driven from their homes in mid-winter. In the Middle Ages? No; in the nineteenth century. In Russia? No; in America, fourteen thousand inhabitants driven from their homes in the dead of winter! The sick were torn from their beds and thrust out into the midnight air, and compelled to seek safety in some bleak forest. There were shivering little children, there were infants, homeless but for a mother's arms, couchless but for a mother's breast. In such distress, pursued by merciless oppressors, they left the tracks of their bleeding feet upon the snows of their pathway. Homeless, shivering, heartbroken and plundered, they sought shelter in the uninhabited plains of Illinois.
In this bleak wilderness, far from the inhumanity of man, the fugitives did for a time find peace and rest. During the six years which they were permitted to remain in Illinois they built several villages, besides Navoo, a city of twenty thousand inhabitants. They established schools, founded a university and built a magnificent temple. "It must be admitted," says Bancroft, "that the Mormons in Missouri and Illinois were more honest, temperate, hard-working, self-denying and thrifty people than those by whom they were surrounded." Whatever was the cause that led to their expulsion from Illinois, it was not due to any crimes of theirs, unless it was an offense to profess a different creed and worship at a different shrine. But Governor Ford said that all manner of trumped up charges were brought against them; and those charges were without foundation, for the Mormons had committed no such offenses. On a pretended charge Joseph Smith and others were arrested and taken to Carthage under the sworn protection of the Governor. It is said that Joseph Smith had a premonition of his terrible fate and said: "I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am as calm as a summer morning. I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I shall die innocent, and it yet will be said of me, 'He was murdered in cold blood.'" The next day after this prediction he and his brother were killed in Carthage Jail. Again mob law reigned and men lost their reason. The Mormons were ordered from the state; their homes were robbed and laid in ashes. The scenes of Missouri were being repeated. Scarce had the lights of their burning homes died out, when with scanty hoard, they crossed the Mississippi. On the first night of their Exodus, February 4th, 1844, nine wives became mothers. How those innocent babes, sick and delicate mothers, were cased for under such conditions is left to the imagination of the sensitive heater. Was it in Russia, Tartary or Hindoostan. that people had to flee for opinion's sake? As those exiles departed, at the top of every hill they could be seen looking back. like banished Moors on their abandoned homes, and their distant temple with its glittering spires.
Let me observe here that there were many honest souls in Missouri and Illinois who cried out against such injustices; as is too often the case, they were in the minority. After choice of the people, organized and led them into the wilds of America. And while Missouri was dividing the property of fourteen thousand inhabitants whom she had recently expelled, while Illinois was trying to cover up the blood of the murdered Prophets; while all the United States looked on with silent indifference, one of the most persecuted and that history records were marching down-trodden people westward beyond the pale of civilization.
And now comes an episode in the history of the Mormons which I should not dare to relate were it not part of the official records of the government. Otherwise it would be incredible. While in the wilderness on their westward march for the Rocky Mountains, war was declared between our government and Mexico. Strange as it may seem, the President sent a messenger to Brigham Young to ask for five hundred volunteers to enter the army and march against Mexico. Remember that two states of the nation had thrust this people from their borders, had permitted mobs to plunder them, too them of their homes, murder their prophets, and drive them into exile. Remember that their appeals in their sore afflictions, though made to governors, Judges, and to the President, were invariably ignored or denied. Remember finally that they were marching through a country unparalleled for dangers, that they were enduring hardships which, at times, threatened their very existence. Had they not sufficient cause for refusing to listen to the president's appeal? And yet it was their country calling--that country to which their pilgrim ancestors had fled; for which their patriot sires had fought and suffered; whose deeds of heroism were among their highest and noblest traditions. It was enough. Brigham Young said: "Colonel Allen, you shall have your men. If there are not enough young men, I will call upon the old men; and then, if not enough, I will call upon the women." When the call was made those sacrificing pilgrims forgot their wrongs, kissed the rod that smote them, and, with one accord, answered their country's call. Ransack the records of history, ancient and modern, and match if you can, this example of patriotism!
Heroine mothers, while their husbands and sons were at the front, defending the country that had driven them into exile, drove their own teams twelve hundred miles over those trackless plains. Hundreds of them had neither wagons nor teams. Handcarts were made, and in them they placed their scanty hoard. Men and women pulled those carts across the desert wastes of America. Could not this destitute and exiled people receive aid? They were offered peace if they would relinquish their religion and all allegiance to their faith. But to relinquish their religion for peace, to them, it was treason. Such an act would have made a mockery of their high profession, which had been written in blood and tears. During that dreary much, hunger, sickness, and death followed in their wake. Many times death was a welcome visitor to those weary and foot-sore pilgrims. Many, lying down with their burdens for pillows, never woke, and tonight rest in unmarked graves.
From the lips of aged veterans, I have been told that when they were exhausted and could go no farther, bareheaded, bare-footed and in their tattered clothing, they knelt upon those trackless plains and importuned their Father, my God and your God, for strength. Upon arising their weariness was gone. You may not believe in miracles, but it is true that even, as with the ancient Israelites in the wilderness, the quails came by the thousands to feed those starving pilgrims. My own wife's widowed mother, peace be to her memory, walked and carried her babe from the Missouri River to the Rocky Mountains. Picture, if you can, that banished people on those plains almost destitute of food and clothing; mothers stripping off their scanty clothing to protect their little ones from the cold winds that swept across the bleak prairies. In their extreme hunger, they were obliged to eat roots and thistles; yea, more, they were forced to cook and eat old rawhides. The history of the sufferings of that people, though often attempted, is yet unwritten.
As the pioneers reached the heights of the Rockies, for the first time they saw their destined home. And as Moses stood on Pisgah's heights and viewed the promised land, so they, from those silent peaks, viewed their asylum of rest. Around them silence and desolation--a desolation of centuries. Rugged mountains with huge spurs decorated with towers and pinnacles, raising their towering summits into the domain of the clouds, rich with the aspiring forms of Gothic type. Far below they saw the blue waters of the Dead Sea of America, glittering in the summer sun light like a silver shield; and as far as the eye could reach stretched the arid desert, miles on miles of sagebrush and snow-white alkali. Eternal desolation! yet, to them, it was home, and at the sight of it their hearts were glad. They descended into the valley to pitch their tents and rest in peace. There was now no fear of molestation from vandal hordes. How sweet must have been that sleep as upon the earth, parched and seared through untold centuries, they slumbered beneath the friendly skies amidst eternal solitude! Though that country to which they had gone was then under Mexican rule, they unfurled the stars and stripes on Ensign Peak. And, in solemn assembly, they voted to revere the Constitution and its principles as a divinely inspired document. They also decreed that this land should be a home for the oppressed; they forgave all men that had injured them, and lifted an ensign of peace to every nation under heaven.,
My friends, I have couched in simple language the pathetic story of the Exodus of this people. I have kept back striking events, pitiable sufferings, and terrible wrongs. The words that I should speak burn within me and tremble on my lips. But I shall not utter them. It is enough. I am willing to leave the judgment to future generations. When the clouds of hatred and mistrust which hang like a pall over the genius of that people are disspelled, the history of their living martyrdom will make the heart of the nation ache with pity and remorse.
--BYU Studies, Vol. 11 No. 3, Spring 1970, pp. 311-316
To learn more about Josiah E. Hickman, click here. To return to the Hickman Family index page, click here.