Book review: 'Divine Providence' shares story of shipwrecked Australian Mormon pioneers

By Valerie Steimle

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, June 22 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

"DIVINE PROVIDENCE: The Wreck and Rescue of the Julia Ann," by Fred E. Woods, Cedar Fort, $24.99 (with DVD), 288 pages (nf)

Pioneer stories have always provided a fascinating narrative of the early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In "Divine Providence: The Wreck and Rescue of the Julia Ann,” Fred E. Woods shares a collection of journal entries, letters, pictures, maps and awe-inspiring stories of the sacrifice and endurance of the early Australian pioneers heeding the call to gather to Salt Lake City during the 1850s.

After the first successful voyage of the Julia Ann to San Bernardino, California, a second group of 28 Mormons from across Australia left Sept. 7, 1855. The Julia Ann, bound for San Bernardino on a route that took it past the French Polynesian Islands to resupply, met up with strong winds and broken sea. The ship crashed into a coral reef, leaving the survivors in lifeboats to row ashore.

The courage it took for those traveling on this ship is amazing. The story contains no graphic descriptions and is appropriate for anyone interested in better understanding the voyages of the early Saints.

Journal entries kept by Mormons during the early days of the LDS Church when missionaries arrived to preach the gospel reflect on the untrusting shyness of the Australian people, the author noted.

A major gold rush and vast unsettled plains were noted similarities between U.S. history and Australian history, as well as the lifestyles of both societies in the 1850s. The courage of those early Saints is a beacon to the posterity of those families now living in Utah.

Woods includes information of a better traveling route for those who were bound on ships for long distances across the sea where they were to dock in California. They then traveled through checkpoints to Salt Lake City for a much shorter and easier journey. San Bernardino then became of great worth to the sailing Saints, as it started what was known at the “Mormon Corridor to Salt Lake City.”

Along with the story of the wreck of the Julia Ann, the author includes the autobiography of Capt. Benjamin F. Pond, crew and passenger lists with a biographical register of all those listed, and extracts of interviews about the Julia Ann, which make this an invaluable and exhaustive collection of history, especially to those searching for pioneer determination.

Valerie Steimle is the mother of nine children who lives happily on the Gulf Coast of Alabama. She is the author of five books, all about strengthening the family, including "Thoughts from the Heart." Email: valeriesteimle@yahoo.com

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