In October 1872, Eliza embarked on the kind of expedition that even today most people can only dream of. It was the longest journey of her life, covering twenty-five thousand miles and lasting almost nine months. During that time, with her brother Lorenzo and a small group of Church leaders she would visit London, Paris, Amsterdam, Florence, Rome, Venice, Vienna, Berlin, and many other cities. They would also travel to the Middle East, including Palestine, the Holy Land. Decades earlier, the Prophet Joseph had told her, “You will yet visit Jerusalem,” but the possibility of such a visit had seemed so unlikely that the “strange prediction had entirely gone from my memory,” she wrote later, “even when invited to join the Tourist party, although the anticipation of standing on the sacredly celebrated Mount of Olives inspired me with a feeling no language can describe; Joseph Smith’s prediction did not occur to me until within a very few days of the time set for starting, when a friend brought it to my recollection. . . . While on the tour, the knowledge of that prediction inspired me with strength and fortitude.”
The travelers were, as Eliza said, a “Tourist party,” sometimes called “the Palestine Tourists,” but they were also an official Church delegation with the assignment to report on missionary work overseas and on the possibility of opening new missions. Most important, they were to dedicate the land of Palestine for the return of the Jews. The official head of the delegation was George A. Smith, first counselor to Brigham Young. Other travelers included Paul Augustus Schettler, a multilingual native of Prussia who served as the group’s translator; Feramorz Little, a Salt Lake businessman (later elected mayor), and his eighteen-year-old daughter, Clara, who was Eliza’s roommate for most of the trip; and other missionaries and Church leaders who joined them at various points on their extended journey. Elder Albert Carrington, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles then serving as president of the European Mission, joined them in Europe. Eliza’s travel was largely funded by donations of Latter-day Saint women through their ward Relief Societies. She wrote a poem thanking the women for their “beneficence unsought” and for “every kindness shown.” As a way of sharing her travels with these generous sisters, she wrote numerous letters and poems for publication in the Woman’s Exponent. Her brother Lorenzo, George A. Smith, and Paul Schettler also wrote as they traveled. After her return, Eliza edited these writings as a 386-page book, Correspondence of Palestine Tourists, made up of selected letters, poems, and reminiscences, which was published by the Deseret News Press in 1875.
Eliza was sixty-eight years old when she left on the trip, the oldest of the group by ten years. She was a hardy traveler, however—Orson Whitney even noted upon her return the next year that she was “invigorated mentally and physically”25—and she handled the strains of travel wonderfully. In a letter to her mother, young Clara Little described a scene in their steamship cabin during the sea voyage to Liverpool:
“Aunt Eliza and I nearly wore out the carpet, sliding around. We were thrown out of our berths to the floor, and every time we attempted to stand, the ship would give a terrible lurch, and the waves would dash against it, and down we came; finally I got to the sofa and as soon as I could speak, I asked Aunt Eliza if she had found herself yet? She replied,’“Yes, but I am not able to find the bed.’ So out I got, as bold as a lion, to try to help her, when, all of a sudden, she scaled by under the bed and went against the door. I . . . was bruised from head to foot, but was nearly dying to laugh. I imagine how comical we must have looked. Presently, she slides out from under the bed and we get right side up with care, and had a good laugh.”
(Jill Mulvay Derr and Karen Lynn Davidson, Eliza: The Life and Faith of Eliza R. Snow [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2013], 118-20.)