About the 15th of September, 1854, we met in the capacity of a Conference at Castlemaine. Brother Charles Hardy and I were ordained to preach in the Bendigo Gold Mines and build up the saints scattered over the country. Brother Cook raised up quite a large branch in the Golden Gully and Bendigo. Brother Charles Hardy was appointed President of said Branch. I held the office of Priest. Brother W. Cooke was called to go to New Zealand. It was a sore trial for me to part with him; poor Clement cried and sobbed as if his heart would break. I felt as if I had bade farewell to the only friend I ever had. We parted not knowing when or where we would meet again.
Brother Hardy instead of starting on his Mission with me, went down to Melbourne, trading in hogs and chickens; consequently, I had to start off alone. It was thought best for Clement to stay at Castlemaine and work with brothers MacKnight, William, Wilford, Bird, and others. As I stated before I started alone and after a lonely, weary march of thirty miles I arrived at Golden Gully Bendigo.
The Brothers and Sisters were all very glad to see me, they inquired where Brother Hardy was. I told them that he had business to attend to in Melbourne at present, but I expected to see him in the course of a few weeks. I felt determined to do my best though I had never preached before. While at conference we were counseled to get the Saints together Sunday and Wednesday evenings. Wednesday evenings were to be devoted to prayer or social meetings. Well, the first time I got the Saints together I opened the meeting with prayer, but could not muster up courage enough to address the saints, consequently I read a portion of the Millennial Star, and as I did not speak myself I felt ashamed to call upon anyone else. I felt real miserable for I felt I was not doing my duty. Sunday came and we had quite a congregation, but I felt worse than I did on the Wednesday evening previous although I had prayed and fasted. The very thought of preaching made me loath the sight of food, it took away my appetite entirely.
Before going to meeting I would resolve in my own mind to try and speak, but as soon as the second hymn was sung I would be seized with a trembling fit, all ideas would flee from my mind and I would have to take up the Star or some other book and read. However, on Wednesday while at work I got in conversation with a man and preached to him about the Gospel. While talking with him I told him if he would come up to meeting that evening he would hear an Elder preach on the first principles of the Gospel. He promised me he would come. After he had left me I began to reflect on what I had told him respecting the meeting. I turned sick at the idea. I could not eat my supper but I washed myself and went down hoping the man would not be there, but all my hopes were turned to slopes, for there the man sat as large as life. I cannot describe my feelings at this time, but after saluting him I went into the woods alone and besought the Lord to have compassion and assist me. After doing so I felt relieved and returned. We opened the meeting and in spite of all hell I arose to my feet, opened to the 3rd chapter of St. John's Gospel, and after reading a few verses my tongue was loosened and before I was aware of it I was preaching. I never have spoken more freely in my life, and it was a strong testimony to me of the truth of Mormonism, and I felt thankful beyond measure and with my whole heart I praised my maker. The Brethren and sisters were very much astonished but not more so than myself. After this I was not troubled very much.
I strove to improve my mind day after day both by searching the scriptures and by reading Mormon Books. I labored with all diligence till Brother Hardy arrived near two months after Conference. He returned on a Sunday at the close of our morning meeting with a wagon load of hogs and chickens. He refused to hold meeting in the afternoon and evening, saying he was too busy. I soon ascertained he had lost the spirit of his mission and thought more of dollars and cents than of preaching or performing his duties as a missionary. It was in vain I talked and pleaded with him. He said he was the head and had a right to do as he liked.
We did not hold meeting until the following Wednesday evening, and then he refused but told me if I wanted to hold meeting I had that right so go ahead. I went, first prevailing upon him to accompany me. I spoke on the divine authority of Joseph Smith. He afterwards got up and made a few remarks. I believe we could have done a good work if we had been united, but when the head is wrong, the whole body is sick, (I speak from bitter experiences). The saints became careless and some took to drinking again, the devil got into the branch. Some of the brothers and sisters went off to new diggings, in fact, Brother Hardy took it into his head to go also and open a butcher shop down by the seventh White Hill. I tried to persuade him not to go but he said the people in Golden Gully had had preaching enough, and besides he said, he was counseled to open up new fields.
Accordingly, the following week we moved down, built a shop or bowery and bought some sheep ready dressed and a large quantity of beer and lemonade, etc. The weather was extremely hot and times exceedingly dull, consequently very few customers. By sundown the meat began to turn green, and smell very disagreeable, besides being covered with not a few maggots. Fortunately after dark a man came and I got him to take the whole lot off our hands for considerable less than half cost. I can assure the reader I was glad to get that. That evening I told Brother Hardy he might continue alone in the business for I was not willing to throw what little money away that I had, and furthermore, as he did not hold meetings or even tell what his business was for fear it would hinder him in making money I had made up my mind to go back to Golden Gully. When he found I was determined he decided to go also. Accordingly we moved back.
Altho' we had been absent for the short period of one week we found the branch in great confusion. After seeing the state of affairs, I retired to a secret spot and prayed that the Lord would pardon us and that the spirit of our mission might rest upon us again.
We called the Saints together again and at Elder Hardy's request I addressed them. The Spirit of the Lord rested upon me in a marvelous manner. I tried to get the Saints to understand the condition they were in. Indeed I talked exceedingly plain. I told them that we were not sent among them to tickle their ears with fine language, but to preach the Gospel of Jesus, in simpleness and plainness. Brother Hardy then addressed them briefly but to the point. As a general thing the Saints expressed their sorrow for what they had done and promised to do better. I wrote to President Burr Frost, and MacKnight giving them a faithful report of the branch and our movements, and in a few days Elder Wilford paid us a visit, said I had done perfectly right, but told Elder Hardy that he had lost the spirit of his mission and unless he repented of the course he was pursuing it would finally lead him to apostasy. He stayed a few days and then left, and sent President James MacKnight. He talked in the same spirit that Elder Wilford had.
Shortly after he left us, I started alone, according to council, for the Anaco mines about one hundred seventy-five miles distance. I passed through Castlemaine, saw Clement. He had made about two hundred dollars since September, not counting what he had given the mission, which amounted to considerable. I was truly glad to see him; I stayed several days.
On Sunday I was called on to speak in the chapel to quite a large congregation; the first time I ever spoke in a pulpit. I must digress a little in order to explain how the brethren had obtained a chapel to preach in. One fine warm day about noon, a gentleman called at the tent for subscriptions toward defraying the expenses of the Church of Christ. Elder Frost, who was then present asked him what he believed in, also his name. He replied: "My name is John Baptist, I was born in Venice in the North of Austria, Gentlemen. I cannot speak very good English, as you will readily perceive, but I believe the Bible to be the word of God." Brother Frost told him that he was in search of the truth and would like to have him talk some. Mr. Baptist then told them he had been brought up a Roman Catholic from his youth but he saw so much error in it he concluded to join the Church of England, thinking they might be right. But he got sick of them and joined the Methodists and was advocating their principles.
After he had talked a while Brother Frost told him that most, or all, of the men in the tent were preachers, and then went on at some length explaining scriptures and the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Baptism, etc.
Mr. Baptist got in quite an ecstasy and called out: "I will become baby, I will become baby, I want to be baptized."
Brother Frost told him not to be in a hurry. He had better think about the matter for a while.
"No, no, no," he replied, "I want to be baptized." So he was baptized, straight away after which he requested Elders Frost and MacKnight to accompany him home.
He took them downtown (Castlemaine) and showed them a nice chapel about 60 by 30 or 40 feet, wooden frame work covered with the best of material, also well supplied with good seats, chandeliers, and a pulpit. "There," said he, "Beloved Brethren, you shall have that to preach in. It is my own property, I have built it with my own hands and at my own expense. I have had one end of the meeting house partitioned off to live in." He also informed them that he had been in the habit of holding meeting every Sunday, etc.
But to return to my subject again -- I took for my text the following from Timothy: "Ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth" and spoke with considerable freedom. I found quite a different spirit among the saints at Castlemaine. They all seemed to be truly sincere in living their religion.
The following day I left for, and arrived at, diggings 35 miles from Castlemaine, stayed at Brother and Sister West's. Preached by moonlight on the subject of "The Restoration of the Gospel".
The next day I passed Daisy Hill; lost my way between Daisy Hill and Anaco mines. The hot winds in addition to the heat of the sun made the heat almost unbearable. I searched in vain for water, my tongue swelled, my mouth and throat parched and burning. In fact it seemed an unquenchable fire burned through my whole system. I suffered agony. At last I found a road going due west and followed it. I was fearful of losing my reason. This is all I can remember until I came to myself and to my astonishment found I was lying in the road, I presume I must have traveled along till I actually fainted. However, when I came to, I looked around and found I was in some kind of an old road in an open plain. It seemed as if I had wandered into some place uninhabited either by man or beast for I could see neither. My face, especially around my mouth was covered with foam or lather. I have not the least doubt that if I had been found near some civilized city or town I would have been a fit subject for a Lunatic Asylum.
While trying to collect my thoughts a voice said distinctly: "If you are faithful you shall yet see Zion of the last days." I cannot describe how I felt. The voice pierced through my whole system. I started, looked around but saw nothing save the barren waste stretched as far as the eye could see. I knelt down and prayed. I seemed to realize I was not alone, but that my guarding angel was near me to cheer and comfort and strengthen me. I arose from my knees greatly strengthened and refreshed. I walked rapidly for several miles when to my surprise and delight I saw five large Australian Ostriches. As soon as they saw me they started off at race horse speed. I was within one hundred yards of them before they discovered me. They were in a little hollow, probably trying to shelter themselves from the scorching winds.
I had not proceeded much farther when two mounted policemen rode up, stated they were out hunting. On inquiry I learned I was at least ten miles from the main road to Anaco, also eight or ten miles from the nearest water. They directed me to keep to the road I was then traveling till I got to the river, then turn to the left and follow it up, but that means I could not miss my way.
After receiving the above information I redoubled my efforts and arrived at the bank of a large water hole at about sundown. The water was covered with green slime and when I skimmed that off the water was quite thick and full of bloodsuckers and beecher frogs. In fact, every kind of slicky, slimy reptiles, as Patty said in respect to the egg. It was meat and drink too, but bad as it was I was truly thankful for it. I feared to commence, for many have lost their lives through drinking immoderately when overheated. At last I ventured to the edge of the water more like a frightened Kitten than anything I can think of. First I washed my face, then washed my mouth out. The water was as warm as the atmosphere. I then drank a few mouthfuls and lay down, but Oh! how I suffered; as I before stated, a fire seemed to consume the very marrow in my bones. I rested until the shades of evening warned me to proceed on my journey. The more water I drank the more I wanted.
At last, after walking four or five miles up what in Winter might be a river, I arrived at Brother Evan's house or tent. He was not at home, but was working at Daisy Hill. However, Sister Evans received me very kindly.
The next day I worked with Brother Symons. In the evening I preached in a frame chapel covered with canvas that was built by Brother Evans. We experienced a very heavy thunderstorm while there. I stayed for two or three days and then returned to Bendigo. Shortly after I returned we received instructions to move to Castlemaine. We all moved about the end of December, 1854. I also received instructions to go to work and get a fit out, and as Brother Baptist was in need of a partner I went to work with him on New Year's Day. We made an ounce of gold the first day, and did exceedingly well generally, clearing over one thousand dollars ($1,000) the first six weeks.
About the first of April we met in conference capacity. We paid Tithing and Subscription to a considerable amount, also paid our passage money to Brother Frost. Clement paid £900 before my face.
About the 15th of April, 1855 we started for Melbourne, that is most of the branch did. Brother Spencer was left in charge of the rest, with Brother Alonzo Colton, who had just been baptized and ordained, to assist him. On the 25th of April we weighed anchor and started for San Pedro. After being out five weeks we put into Tahiti, one of the Society Islands. We found about three hundred native Saints. Elder Hawkins was in charge. We made them a large feast on board, after which some of them spoke their feelings, Brother Hawkins acting as interpreter. They brought us quantities of fruit of all kinds. They also made us a feast about three miles in the country. After lying in port about six days we put to sea again.
I almost forgot to state that Brother Hardy was cut off from the Church just before we got into Tahiti.
Well, after five weeks of indescribable kind of times we put in in distress at the Sandwich Islands, the vessel so leaky she could hardly swim.