24 Majors befriend John Hudson, Forty-Niner


Jill C. Major, Author

John Hudson, Forty-Niner

A sketch by John Hudson, a dear friend of the Major family. This is what the small house of William and Sarah Major looked like in Salt Lake City when John Hudson stayed with them in 1849.  We know that the Major's liked dogs, so perhaps the little dog chasing the boy (bottom-right) is young William Jr. or Joseph Smith Major, Jr.  The Major's lived on the South side of the street (right).



 The Forty-Niners in Salt Lake

During terrible trials in the Great Salt Lake Valley some Pioneers decided they had endured enough. In the spring, they packed their wagons, many leaving for California. William and Sarah remained faithful, heeding the prophetic words of President Heber C. Kimball when he said, "Never mind, boys, in less than one year there will be plenty of clothes and everything that we shall want sold at less than St. Louis prices."1

In a very short time this prophecy was fulfilled as 15,000 gold seeks passed through Salt Lake City on their way to California in 1849 and 1850. Merchants, hoping to make it rich in California, brought all kinds of supplies across the plains. When they heard that their competitors had beat them to the market by taking the quicker route by ship, they sold their merchandise at discounted rates to the Saints. Also, those infected with gold fever were afraid that they wouldn't get to the gold fields in time, so they threw away many valuable items along the route to lighten their loads and hurry faster. The Pioneers went out shopping with empty wagons. Pioneer John D. Lee needed a new stove. He "found one to his liking, a fine large Premium Range No. 3 which would have cost more than fifty dollars to purchase. On the way back he started loading up with powder and lead, cooking utensils, tobacco, nails, tools, bacon, coffee, sugar, trunks of clothing, axes and harness."2 The Lord rewarded the Saints for their faithfulness and opened the "windows of heaven," blessing them in their new home in the desert.

John Hudson, rescued by William and Sarah

Sometime during the late summer of early fall of 1849 a young, disheartened artist straggled into Utah.  John Hudson was an Englishman, born in Birmingham on February 20, 1826.  He departed from his homeland in August of 1848.  While sightseeing in New York, he heard news of the discovery of gold in California.  Eagerly John's uncle offered to finance a journey to the gold fields.  Joining the Colony Guard Company, John headed west.  A severe bout of illness perhaps "moutain fever," forced the adventurer to winter at Great Salt Lake City.  John wrote to his father about his meeting with William Warner Major on October 6, 1849:

As our wagons entered the beautiful valley with the long absent comforts of home in prospect, I experienced a consierable change for the better & when to my surprise & joy I met a kind pious & intelligent artist & a Countryman to boot, who took me emaciated sick & dirty to his humble home, my happiness seemed Completed (A Forty-niner to Utah:  Letters and Journal of John Hudson ed. Madison, 67-68). 


William Warner Major's missionary companions would later say,  "His kindly disposition won for him many friends.  Indeed he had few or no enemies" (Kimball and marsden, Millennial Star, 16, 4 November 1854, no.44).  Sarah and William cared for the desperately sick adventurer for several months.  Part of that time, he was delirious, yet they treated the 23 year-old man as a son.  William Warner Major would later write to John's father, "He used to say he felt as if I was Like a father to him & my wife he often used to call Mother"  (See letter from W.W. Major, A Forty-Niner in Utah, 109). 


John was hired as a draughtsman in a Stansbury expedition to survey the Great Salt Lake.  Some of his sketches from this trip were preserved.  According the letter W.W. Major later wrote to John Hudson's father, William, Sarah, and John spent a lot of time together. "We would talk for hours about you all and how happy he would feel if we could be all together"(See letter, A Forty-Niner in Utah, 109).Their friendship was bound together by their love of England, art, and the gospel. 


In the fall of 1850 John decided to venture with 100 other people to travel to Manti, a trip of about 122 miles south of Salt lake.  There they joined with other Church members to strengthen the Sanpete County settlement.  The young man's health was always precarious, and on December 14, 1850, John Hudson died of pneumonia. 

Letter to Benjamin Hudson, father of John Hudson

Sarah and Willliam grieved.  William wrote two letters to John's family, but didn't received a response for over a year.  Finally in March 1852 John's father, Benjamin Hudson, answered William's two letters.  William sat down immediately and penned a reply (A Forty-niner to Utah:  Letters and Journal of John Hudson ed. Madison, 106-109)