17 Manners, Leadership, Landscapes and Lee - Winter Quarters 1847

                                                           William Warner Major


Jill C. Major, Author

Lesson on Manners from a British Gentleman

During February in 1847, a meeting was convened in which William Warner Major and Brigham Young were the main speakers. What was on this British gentleman’s mind? Willard Richards was so impressed with the unusual lesson on proper "London" behaviour that he reported it in his journal.  People were living in tents, log homes with dirt floors, or dug outs that leaked mud through sod roofs, and Major wanted "the young sisters to keep themselves clean and their clothes clean and their houses clean, and when they make bread, make bread, and when they serve up butter, butter on one plate, and the wings (birds), hair (rabbits, beef) etc, on another plate." One can imagine the Major family’s horror when meat and butter where served on one plate, obviously something that didn’t happen in a cultured London home.

Major continued and "Told how to shake hands." He was brought up in an era where etiquette was of supreme importance. The following is advice was given on proper behavior out-of-doors in The London Journal in1845:

When you meet a friend in the street, do not shout out his name, so that everyone who is passing may know who he is.

You ought to take off your right glove to shake hands with a lady; but do not do so if your glove be so tight, or the weather is so warm, because it takes a long time to remove; because you would in this case keep her standing in an embarrassing position with her hand extended.

You need not take off your glove to a gentleman unless he has his glove off at the time, or takes it off expressly to shake hands with you...Ladies are never expected to take off their glove to shake hands (G.W.M. Reynolds, The London Journal, for the week ending June 14, 1845.)  You need not take off your glove to a gentleman.The London Journal: Behaviour Out of Doors














                                    Shaking hands in London ca.1845?


One can imagine either an audience enraptured by Major’s speech pronounced in his cultured accent, or throughly confused at detailed rules for shaking hands or both.

William W. Major also instructed, "The brethren must be kind to their wives, and the women make their bread and attend to their affairs" (Willard Richards journal, holograph, Vol 17, LDS Archives, February 16,1847).

Landscapes and profiles

The first priority of each family was to build a home to keep out the freezing winter gales. Brigham Young described the Winter Quarter houses, observing that they "were generally of logs from 12 to 18 feet long, a few were split, and made from lynn and cottonwood timber...Many cabins had no floors; there were a few dugouts on the sidehills...The doors were made of shakes, with wooden hinges and string latches; the inside of the log houses was daubed with clay; a few had stoves."1

The Major family decorated their home with William's paintings. Robert Lang Campbell visited the Major home in the Spring of 1847 where he "saw some beautiful landscapes, also several profiles."2 This brief journal entry alerts us to carefully scrutinize landscapes of England, Nauvoo, Nebraska, and/or Winter Quarters which may be housed in museums or private collections. If currently the artist is unknown, it would be well to compare them with Major's other sceneries.

Leadership Responsibilities

"In Winter Quarters William W. Major was appointed a member of the High Council "3 This was a very important position of trust in which he acted under the personal direction of the Brigham Young, who was at that time the President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. "Brigham Young (after an exhortation by Br. Major who opened meeting) addressed the members of his ward..." on January 24, 1847, John D. Lee reported.4

Williard Richard’s recorded that on "Sunday, 21 March 1847, Municipal High Council met at 6:00 p.m. (See Wm Major’s remarks taken for H’s [History?] )"  (Willard Richards Journal, 28 January 1847, LDS Archives). Isaac Morley, president of the Kanesville High Council, explained that the High Council’s duties were to "oversee and guard the conduct of the saints, and counsel them that the laws of God and good order are not infringed..." (Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 3:150).

As a member of the council, Major helped preside over church affairs and spiritual matters, but he also sat in council meetings which made decisions about the civil government as well. For this reason the high council at Winter Quarters was called the "municipal high council." For example it was recorded on January 28, 1847 that "Wm Major spent the evening in the octogon with Dr.[Willard] Richards who was engaged in writing a continuation of the letter to the Saints at Punea[] closed at midnight."5


Visiting with John D. Lee

Major’s kind and tender disposition is demonstrated by his visits to John D. Lee during an illness. "Sund., Feb. 7, ‘47...Bro. Wm. Major came about 7, the same that was in about noon, and brought me a letter from P.A. Sarpy, merchant at the Point with a fifty dollar note enclosed in the same which I redeemed. He conversed with me till near 10 at night. My strength increased beyond expectation."6

 John D. Lee

John D. Lee, Utah Territorial Legislature, 1858