[Apostle Wilford Woodruff Journal] 19th Note I recieved the New York Weekly Herald, filled with News. Also the Morning Papers say that half of the business part of the city of St Louis Mo is now lying in ruins by fire. Five banking houses evry insurance office & twenty seven steem Boats, together with the Telegraph office are among the vast property destroyed. Also several terrible ship wrecks & loss of life. Watertown New York is also burnt up. The Herald has the full particulars of the dredful riot & Bloodshed in New York. Also the Continued wars of Europe And the sweeping progress of the Cholera in America Esspecially in the western states. It says that 21 deaths occurred by Cholera on a ship loaded with Latter Day Saints, or Mormons. Pestilence is raging among the 25,000 gold seekers gatherd in Mo to go to the gold digings By the way of the Salt Lake. All the Earth seems to be in Confusion & Commotion with war savord, plague pestilence fire earthquakes & storms. The Bible Doctrin & Covenants, & Book Mormon are truly being fulfilled.
Among other interesting News the Herald contains An account of A visit of the Engeneers of the Panama rail road Expedition to the People lately discoverd Called the Mandingo Indians at the Man-dingo Bay which contains 113 Islands which are held in the sole possession of the Mandingo Indians who do not permit the residence therein of any Human being not of their own tribe & linage. They will not as yet communicate to any but their own tribe any knowledge of their records or History.
They live by themselves some occupying the Islands some the main land but all firmly united as a band obeying one chief or Old man (A Patriarch) who is believed to be Endowed by God with all wisdom might And power. The Government is Patriarchal. The Old man (or Patriarch) is the spiritual Adviser as well as Chief Judge of all temporal affairs. He is powerful in mind & body And all his faculties are evergreen. God endows him with peculiar health. He is Acknowledged & regarded as the vicegerent [sic] of God And all his orders Are obeyed. He is also the great Medicine or Cure all in Cases of sickness or infirmity. They apply to him And whether relief is obtained or not the applicants are contented.
Col Hughes propounded the question upon whom does the office of old man (Patriarch) descend At the decease of the present "old man." The reply was to the next oldest man of the tribe. Suppose the successor should not be Endowed with the same qualities of intelligence? Reply that cannot be for when the mantle to descends the Great spirit imbues that mind with all knowledge. x x
The main land is seldom if ever Approached by foreigners & nothing is known of it. The Islands produce the Cocoa nut tree. x x x
Before reaching the entrance of the Mandingo Bay some 20 miles from land we discoverd A fleet of canoes under sail managed with a skill that Equals the best water hall boatman & on bearing down found them to contain Mandingo Indians upon fishing Excursions. x x x
The men are short & stumpy not over 4 feet 6 inch on the Average. Thick & square built And are Capable of Enduring great fatigue. Their heads are remarkable large & round features prominent with all the physiognomy of the Jew.
They have A plurality of wives according to their means. They permit No Communication with foreigners & wom[ea?]n so offending is stoned to death. It is A part of their religious creeb to keep their race pure & unadulterated.
They profess to have A restorative for the organs of production the Effect of which upon one Administration will last for Eight years. Our surgeon obtained some of the remedy which has been pronounced part & parcel of the body of the turtle.
A question Arose As to whether this people be not descendants of one the lost tribes of Israel. Col Hughes Avowed the purpose of his visit viz to make A Journey overland to the [ ]. He was refered to the "old man" who alone Could give a reply. He was sent for. In three days made his appearance.
They are careful in answering questions in regard to their Country And are jealeous of All foreigners. They have never submitted to any foreign Government. Although they are within the bounds of the New Granadian Government they pay no tribute nor Admit of Any Allegiance whatever.
In trying to get some clue of their Early History the question was Asked who lived here 400 or 500 years ago? The reply was "Tires Father." We asked A man [who] looked about 60 years of Age how old He was. He replyed 121 years
The following Conversaton took place between the "Old man" (or Patriarch) & Col Hughes: Old man of America has much land far off on the pacific. Two much days to ketch um by land. Too much days to catch um by water round Cape Horn. Wants to make A road nearer. Catch em quick. Wants old man to send some faithful indians to escort him over the land to the Pacific.
Old Man "Land not good. Cant catch em there. Better catch em by Cape Horn. No make A road in Mandingo Country. God Almighty get vexed." Huoo, Huoo Huoo, Huoo, repeated in groans by the Indians.
Huges Will you allow us to go across?
Old Man No. Huoo, Huoo, Huoo, responded the Indians & the Council broake up.
The foregoing is the account which the visiters give of the interview with those Indians. It is truly interesting. Many new things are about to be brought to light truly.
I took Cars. Rode to Fall River & spent the night with Br Low. 50 m.
[source: Wilford Woodruff's Journal: 1833-1898 Typescript, Volumes 1-9, Edited by Scott G. Kenney, Signature Books 1993, http://amzn.to/newmormonstudies]