Inventory of the William Young Empey Papers, 1847-1890, bulk 1853-1854

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Manuscripts Department
The Huntington Library
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2203
Fax: (626) 449-5720
© 2000
The Huntington Library. All rights reserved.

Inventory of the William Young Empey Papers, 1847-1890, bulk 1853-1854

The Huntington Library

San Marino, California

Contact Information

  • Manuscripts Department
  • The Huntington Library
  • 1151 Oxford Road
  • San Marino, California 91108
  • Phone: (626) 405-2203
  • Fax: (626) 449-5720
  • Email:
  • URL:
Processed by:
The Huntington Library staff
Date Completed:
March 1988
© 2000 The Huntington Library. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: William Young Empey Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1847-1890, bulk 1853-1854
Creator: Empey, William Young
Extent: 307 pieces
Repository: The Huntington Library
San Marino, California 91108
Language: English.

Administrative Information


Purchased from Mrs. Ida Terry Empey, 1945


Collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information please go to following URL .

Publication Rights

In order to quote from, publish, or reproduce any of the manuscripts or visual materials, researchers must obtain formal permission from the office of the Library Director. In most instances, permission is given by the Huntington as owner of the physical property rights only, and researchers must also obtain permission from the holder of the literary rights. In some instances, the Huntington owns the literary rights, as well as the physical property rights. Researchers may contact the appropriate curator for further information.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], William Young Empey Papers, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


When the Utah territorial legislature incorporated the Perpetual Emigrating Company, more commonly known as the Perpetual Emigration Fund, in 1850, the Mormon "gathering of Zion" entered a new phase. Although Mormon converts had often been encouraged to migrate from their present locations to join the main body of believers, little institutional support had been provided for them. With the establishment of the PEF, however, the Church committed itself to financing in part or in full the emigration of impoverished Saints converted by its increasingly successful overseas missions. Drawing in large measure upon the contributions of the members of the Church already settled in Utah, the PEF assisted nearly 10,000 Saints in emigrating to Zion just between 1852 and 1855. PEF agents, in cooperation with representatives of the Church's British Mission, organized companies of emigrants early each year, funneling them through the English port of Liverpool and across the Atlantic on chartered steamers to New Orleans. From there, river steamers carried the emigrants and their supplies up the Mississippi to St. Louis and then up the Missouri to frontier communities such as Westport, the precursor of modern Kansas City, Missouri which served as the jumping-off points for overland wagon trains destined for the Great Salt Lake Valley. Other PEF agents in New Orleans, St. Louis and the Missouri frontier towns received these human cargos, ministered to their needs and forwarded them on to their next stop. These agents dealt with steamship lines, freighters and merchants throughout the Mississippi and Missouri river valleys, hiring transportation to carry their charges to the edge of the settlements and purchasing the enormous quantities of provisions and equipment necessary to outfit each overland party.
From 1852 through 1854, William Young Empey played an important role in the operations of the PEF. Born July 4, 1808 in modern-day Ontario Province, Canada, William Adam Empey returned to the United States, the birthplace of his parents and grandparents, sometime before the year 1844. Although the date and place of his conversion to Mormonism is not known, he became involved in the Mormon Church before the exodus from Nauvoo and was "sealed" to Brigham Young as an "adopted son". From this point on, he abandoned his first middle name and used "Young" quite frequently. In 1847, he participated in Brigham Young's pioneer expedition to the Great Salt Lake Valley. He never reached the Valley, however, for Young selected Empey and eight other members of the party to operate the first Mormon ferry at Upper Crossing on the North Platte River. After arriving in the Valley with a later emigrant party, he served on the Iron County Mission which settled Parowan in southern Utah. Then, in 1852, he was called to a mission in England. During his two-year stint, while still preaching the Church's gospel abroad, he was ordered home to America and appointed to oversee all preparations of the overland parties in Missouri during the 1853-54 travel season. The bulk of Empey's papers document the many tasks that duty entailed. Among these papers, which concentrate primarily upon the years 1853 and 1854, are lists of PEF passengers on emigrant vessels from Liverpool, bills of lading and receipts for the purchase and shipment of a great many goods to equip the emigrant parties, and receipts and promissory notes from the emigrants themselves for wagons and teams or supplies purchased by the PEF's agent for them. These various documents illuminate many phases of the emigration process and the Church's careful, businesslike organization of all its details.

Subject Matter

Mormon missionary work in Great Britain and the operation of the Perpetual Emigration Fund

Interesting or Important Items

William Empey's incomplete diary account of the pioneer expedition to the Salt Lake Valley and the operation of the North Platte ferry (HM 52586), Empey's account book including accounts kept for the PEF (HM 52587), an 1853 list of Danish Mormons who had provided money for the purchase of cattle, wagons and other material (HM 52599), lists of P. E. Fund passengers on board various ships sailing for the United States in 1854 (HM 52603, 52605-07 and 52610-11), and two letters from Samuel W. Richards to Empey discussing Mormon missionary work in Great Britain and emigration of the Saints to the United States (HM 52593 and 52597).


All items are filed chronologically and the collection occupies two boxes.


Empey's 1847 diary has been edited by Dale Morgan and published in Annals of Wyoming, Vol. 21, nos. 2-3 (July-Oct. 1949). The operation of the P. E. Fund and the process of Mormon emigration is described in Frederick Piercey, Route from Liverpool to Great Salt Lake Valley (Liverpool and London, 1855), edited by James Linforth.

Related Items

The Huntington also possesses a photostatic copy of Empey's diary covering the period of his English mission (1852-1854), catalogued as
Identifier/Call Number: FAC 517
in the Mormon File.