These are great stories for long periods of waiting, or at night. I could read one or two of these to my kids before they got too bored 🙂
Jen (thanks Jen for sharing these with us)
Kona, Hawaii Stake
Agnes Caldwell, wille handcart co. age 9: On the twenty-eighth day of June, 1856, under the company leader of James G. Willie, we landed in the United States of America. Then began the noted tramp across the desert waste. Mother had one boy fifteen years of age, upon whom she was depending for the greater share of the pulling; when only a day or two out he was attempting to lasso a wild cow to be milked, his foot became tangled in the rope. He was thrown on his shoulder and dragged quite a distance, sustaining a broken shoulder. This of course threw the heavy pulling upon Mother.
Although only tender years of age, I can yet close my eyes and see everything in panoramic precision before me-the ceaseless walking, walking, ever to remain in my memory. Many times I would become so tired and, childlike, would hang on the cart, only to be gently pushed away. Then I would throw myself by the side of the road and cry. Then realizing they were all passing me by, I would jump to my feet and make an extra run to catch up.
Of the long cold journey, the suffering, and hardships, enough has been told and written, of that terrible night when fifteen were frozen and buried in one grave. My sister Elizabeth Caldwell had her foot frozen. Two of her toes were amputated upon our arrival in the Salt Lake Valley.
I have often marveled of the wonderful integrity of character of my mother’s planning and successfully completing such a journey where more able-bodied and stronger-yes, even men-failed miserably.
Winter came in October with eighteen inches of snow, but in spite of this we did not suffer from hunger, due to Mother’s careful and frugal planning. In Iowa City Mother sold a quilt and a bedspread for the sum of twenty-four cents. With this she bought food. She had a way with Indians: she traded trinkets for dried meat, which proved to be of great help to us on the journey. Frequently it would be stormy so that a fire could not be built; then mother would allow each of us to have a piece of dried meat on a piece of bread. As food became more and more scarce and the weather colder, she would stew a little of this meat and make a delicious gravy over it. I guess the reason it tasted so good is that we were allowed only a small portion at each meal.
One very cold night, some young men were on guard. Mother prepared some meat broth, thickened with flour, and a little salt; she gave each one of the young men a half pint. They often declared it saved their lives and never before or since had anything tasted so good.
One day we came to a section inhabited by rattlesnakes. Two of us, my friend Mary Hurren and I, would hold hands and jump. It seemed to me we were jumping for more than a mile. Due to the protecting hand of the Lord, we were not harmed.
The 30th of September we stopped at a station in Laramie, Wyoming. Mother, in company with her fifteen-year- old boy and a young lady, Christena McNeil, who was making the trip under Mother’s care, visited one of the generals in command at the fort to obtain permission to trade some trinkets and silver spoons for flour and meat. The officer said he himself could not use any of the things but to leave the young lady in his office while mother went to another station, where he assured her she would be able to obtain the things she desired. He seemed very kind, and not wishing to arouse any feeling of ill will, she left Christena and Thomas. During her absence the officer used the time in trying to persuade Christena to stay there, proposing to her and showing her the gold he had, telling her what a fine lady he would make of her. Then he tried discouraging her, pointing out to her how the handcart company would never reach Utah, because of the severe cold,
and that they would die of cold and hunger and exposure. Like all noble girls, and true to the cause for which she had left her native Scotland, her family, home, and friends just to be in Utah, she told him in plain language she would take her chances with the others even though it might mean death. She was greatly relieved to have Mother return. The officer, however, seemed to admire her very much for her loyalty to her faith and gave her a large cured ham and wished her well in her chosen adventure.
Just before we crossed the mountains, relief wagons reached us, and it certainly was a relief. The infirm and aged were allowed to ride, all able-bodied continuing to walk. When the wagons started out, a number of us children decided to see how long we could keep up with the wagons, in hopes of being asked to ride. At least that is what my great hope was. One by one they all fell out, until I was the last one remaining, so determined was I that I should get a ride. After what seemed the longest run I ever made before or since, the driver, who was Heber [William Henry] Kimball, called to me, “Say, sissy, would you like a ride?” I answered in my very best manner, “Yes sir.” At this he reached over, taking my hand, clucking to his horses to make me run, with legs that seemed to me could run no farther. On we went, to what to me seemed miles. What went through my head at that time was that he was the meanest man that ever lived or that I had ever heard of,
and other things that would not be a credit nor would it look well coming from one so young. Just at what seemed the breaking point, he stopped. Taking a blanket, he wrapped me up and lay me in the bottom of the wagon, warm and comfortable. Here I had time to change my mind, as I surely did, knowing full well by doing this he saved me from freezing when taken into the wagon. Agnes Caldwell and her family arrived safely in the Great Salt Lake Valley November 9, 1856
Christian Lyngaa Christensen, age 5: We encountered many of the Sioux Indians traveling parallel with us. On the 26th of August, while thus traveling, they stole a Danish maid, thirty-five years old, who was behind the wagon train driving an old lame cow. She had a young lad along to help her. A young, robust warrior took hold of her and carried her off on a white horse. She fought him desperately, so she managed to dismount often, and he had to drag her back again. But it delayed his travel, so the lad had time to run and get some help. The eighty wagons were circled into a corral as usual when we camped, and five men with guns in hand went to the rescue of the stolen woman. When they got back to the cow, the Indian was still in sight. Nephi Johnson, who was an unusual Indian interpreter, got an old Indian to go and bring the woman back, which he did. For this friendly act they gave him the old cow. Father was one of the five men. It was quite a
formidable army amongst 1800 Sioux Indians. The woman hid for several days in the wagon under a feather bed. She had been terribly frightened.
On the first of September, 1860, after crossing the North Platte River, we camped for noon on Horse Shoe Creek. Father came up to our wagon, and Mother announced that the pancakes were ready. He answered that he did not care to eat and said to Mother, “I understand there are many sage hens on the creek, and as we have many sick folks in the train, I will go and try for some fresh meat for them.” He picked up his double-barreled shotgun and passed over to the East side, where he fell in with S. M. Lovendahl, a Swedish friend.
The two had not been gone long when a shot was heard, and Mr. Lovendahl came running into camp for help. He had shot Father. Nephi Johnson and others grabbed some bedding and ran to the wounded man’s assistance. Mother and I got there as they were laying him on some bedding. He said but little, but it was all for the welfare of his widow and two small boys, one 5 1/2 years old and the other 3 1/2, and the prospect of another soon to be. It appears that Mr. Lovendahl had seen some sage hens, and they had dodged out of his sight, and while he yet had his gun cocked, he fell over some obstacle and shot Father in the bowels. About one-half of the shot hit the stock of Father’s gun, but enough hit Father so he died sometime during the night.
Next morning before sunrise he was buried by the wayside in an unknown grave. His coffin was burlap sacks; and his gravestone, a buffalo skull. It was wonderful to see the sympathy and pity and weeping for Mother by large, husky women of the Great Sioux Nation, who had befriended us out in the wilderness on the plains of Nebraska. An old German gentleman took me by the hand, and each day we walked ahead of the train as far as the pilot would let us. We had a chance often to sit down and rest. He provided me with lunch each day, and I never shall forget the many times he would say, “Du haf ein gut fadder.” (You have a good father.) I walked all the way from where Father died to Salt Lake City, where we arrived November 23, 1860.
Sarah Fish Smith: About 1852 (I think) Grandma Smith took a little Navajo Indian girl into her home. This is the story as told me by Barbara M. Adams.
“One night in the early 50’s, a group of Indians came into the fort and made camp in the street close to President John Calvin Lazelle Smith’s home, just east of the George A. Smith home. They made a campfire and ate their supper, then they began to quarrel and make quite a noise. Sarah Fish Smith listened to them for a while, then decided to go out to see what the trouble was about. Sister Smith said she had never known what was to fear, so she went out to try and pacify them. They were quarreling over a little Indian girl, that they had stolen from a Navajo tribe. (one report said one Indian had her by both feet ready to mash her head against a tree). Sarah asked to let her have the little girl. They wanted to know what she would give them for her. She offered them a blanket, then a horse but they refused both of them, so she went into the house and took one of Calvin”s (her husband) guns and offered it to them. The Chief or leader agreed to the trade,
so she took the poor girl into her home and raised her as one of her own.”
Horace Fish: The family procured a poor team here and continued their journey until they reached the DesMonies River, about four miles from Farmington, Iowa, where they remained for one year. Grandfather was an expert woodsman and spent part of his time in cutting cord wood and also worked in a mill. The people in this neighborhood were very bitter towards the Latter Day Saints. Some were hung and others whipped until they were nearly dead and one man was shot and killed. The family thought they would make some maple sugar to add to their depleted larder and, accordingly, made troughs and other equipment for the syrup. This was all destroyed and grandfather, with his son-in-law, JCL Smith, sat up many nights with their guns, expecting to be attacked by the mob.
As would be expected, they were short of clothing and eatables and at one time lived on nothing but green corn for three weeks. Later, they were able to procure some game and raise more garden stuff. They built a log house, fenced some land and put in crops. Grandfather spent his evenings making axe handles, which he sold for ten cents each.
Here the Sweetwater had cut a channel several hundred feet through a ridge, and the walls were almost perpendicular on either side. A number of Burned wagons were found here, having been left by the immigrants to the gold fields of California. In their mad rush they had been obliged to leave their wagons and rather than have them fall into the hands of the Mormons or others, They had burned them. They now found wild grass pretty plentiful and saw herds of buffalo nearly every day. Green River was reached on the 18th of August but notwithstanding this season of the year there was a cold rain with considerable snow on the mountains. It had been rather a strenuous trip up to this point and they were now left with just one-half of the draft animals with which they had started. No serious accidents had befallen them, though the little daughter Anna Maria one day fell under the wagon and one wheel ran directly over her head. Grandmother had cautioned the
children to be very careful for if this heavy wagon should run over them it would kill them. Anna maria jumped up and immediately asked if she were dead. She soon made a complete recovery.
Fanny Fry, age 16: I recollect one day the captain put me to a cart with six people’s luggage on and only three to pull it-a woman, a lad of sixteen, and I, seventeen-and there was nine days’ bread. All grown people were allowed twenty pounds of luggage apiece and their cooking utensils besides. That made quite a load for us. I know it was the hardest day’s work I ever remember doing in all my life before or since. We had to pull up quite a long hill, and part of it was steep. In climbing we got behind one of the teams for the oxen to help us, for it was all we could do to keep it moving. Captain Rowley came up and called us lazy, and that I did not consider we were at all.
While pulling this heavy load, I looked and acted strange. The first thing my friend Emmie knew I had fallen under the cart, and before they could stop it, the cart had passed over me, and I lay at the back of it on the ground.
When my companions got to me, I seemed perfectly dead. Emmie could not find any pulse at all, and there was not a soul around. They were, she thought, all ahead, so she stood thinking what to do when Captain Rowley came up to us. “What have you got there, Emmie?” he said. “Oh my, Fanny is dead,” she said. It frightened him, so he got off his horse and examined me closely but could not find any life at all. He asked Emmie to stay with me and he would go and stop the company and send a cart back for me, which he did.
When I came to myself, my grave was dug two feet deep, and I was in a tent. The sisters had sewed me up to the waist in my blanket, ready for burial. I opened my eyes and looked at them.
I was weak for some time after. I did not fully recover during the rest of the journey. Through it all I found I had a great many friends in the company.
Soon, the handcart company began running out of food. They made some soup that made everyone ill, and the entire company was in a very desperate condition. They decided to stop and camp until they could obtain more food.
On the morning of the fourth day after camping, one of the brethren related a dream he had that night. He told us that the Church teams would come that day, and just before we could see them we would hear a gun fired and they would come in sight. I think it was in the afternoon that we heard a gun shot, and in a minute the teams came in sight, six in number.
Oh, I will never forget that time, especially the next few minutes; they seem so plain to me even now. I think that some of the faces of the men are stamped on my memory forever. The teams came trotting down the hill. The wagon master decided he would have some fun with us, so he told the boys to shout “Hurrah for Pikes Peak” and then drive on past us. They did so. Oh, how our hearts failed us! We had all got out to the road to meet them and had made an opening in the circle of carts for them to drive in. Men and women threw themselves on the ground, begging for a crust for their last meal. It was a sight that none who witnessed it will ever forget. The wagon master, poor fellow, was melted to tears.
“Boys! he said, “I can’t stand this; drive in.” They drove in, and then we began to scramble into the wagons. “Stand back, brethren and sisters, until we can get the horses away, and then we will give you all you can eat.” The teamster told us when that was gone to come and get more and to eat plenty-that if they had not brought enough they could send to Salt Lake City and get more. We were to have all we could eat, and we did from that time to the end of the journey.
The day we were going over Big Mountain, I was learning to ride horseback, and a nice picture I looked, I can assure you: an old sunbonnet on my head all torn, an old jacket, and my petticoat tattered, and my feet dressed in rags. That was my costume. I was riding in advance of the entire company. I saw a wagon coming towards me; I rode on, and the wagon was passing all right. When about past, I saw some well-dressed ladies sitting in the wagon, and one of them cried, “There goes my sister.” The next thing I knew I was in the wagon in my darling sister’s arms. Oh the rapture of that moment! It was blessed to me, I will say. Sarah had arrived in Salt Lake City sometime since and got rested, and now Brother and Sister Eddington were coming with her to meet me and the handcart company. They had heard that the company would camp in the canyon that night, and they had come prepared to stay all night with us and fetch some of us. They brought with them a
quarter of young beef, half a lamb, pies and cakes that I was to divide among my friends.
Henry Gale: When we arrived at Santa Barbara the ship anchored for the passengers to go to the city for supplies. My Father got into the boat and Matthew Walker was going down the side of the ship. The tide was low and the ladder did not reach the water. Walker went to the lower end and was holding onto the Ladder. The men in the boat said “Hold fast until we get the boat closer to the ship.” He let go all holts and went straight down into the sea. I was looking over the side of the ship. A man by the name of Evens threw off his coat and dived in after Walker and brought him up. Both were nearly drowned.
On the second day out, we camped at the Coco Mungo ranch to prepare dinner. One of the women took we children out in the desert to gather wild flowers and rest us from the tedious journey. Other ladies took care of the tiny babies and cooked the noon meal. It was a lovely place with heavy brush and timbers, we were enjoying ourselves. I told the woman I was going back to the wagon and left the group. Then I saw another bunch of flowers that I wanted, and even though I heard them start calling for dinner, I decided to get them.
The others returned to camp, but I missed the trail, and couldn’t find my way back. This was the first time in my life to be alone away from a city street. When the group returned from their flower hunt they ate their dinner, which was spread out on the ground. Every one ate together and helped themselves. In their hurry to pack up and go on their way, they overlooked the fact that I was not with them. After everyone was ready to start and were climbing in the wagons, mother said “Where is Jim?”. They searched in all the wagons and to their great dismay I was not there. They were a long distance from water and knew they must go on, they unhooked their teams and started their search up the wash and around where they had been gathering flowers, but no trace of me could be found. They searched with lanterns and torches all night. Prayer circles were held in my behalf. The search was continued until about ten the next morning, but still they didn’t find me.
They decided i might have been eaten by wild animals or perished with fatigue. They made ready to go on their way without me because they were unable to find any trace of me and the water supply was getting very low. Mother held back and said she wouldn’t go on without me. Trying to persuade her to go on, they unloaded her trunk with a small baby in her arms. After going a short distance they looked back and saw her kneeling in prayer by the trunk. They turned and went back to try to persuade her to come on and that it was no use to hunt longer. She arose with faith and confidence that if they would go up the wash a short distance and search again they would find me. With an unwilling attitude, the group went again in the direction she told them and they met me coming toward them. They ordered me to stand still. I was trying to get across a deep hollow. I saw two men coming and hollered. It was my father and another man. I must have been quite a
picture, Just a small boy of six, dirty, tear-stained and sunburned, and with travel worn bare feet. In my hand was still the wilted bunch of flowers. They soon had me by each hand and was hurrying me to camp. Here we all knelt in a prayer of thanksgiving. I told them how i had wandered around looking for camp until evening. I remember getting upon a large rock, eight or ten feet wide and about five feet from the ground, to see if I could see the camp, but it was useless. It was about sundown so I lay down, tired and hungry, and cried myself to sleep. Next morning I awoke with the sun shining in my face, got down and wandered around until I met the men. I took them back to the rock where I spent the night and they found footprints of the men who had searched for me in the night. We returned to camp, loaded up mother’s trunk and went on our way rejoicing.
We started by way of the Canyon Bix Pass. My what a time we had. All of us were green drivers who had never done any driving. The horses seemed to know our lack of horsemanship and we thought them quite “giddy” as father used to say for balky. We got along by lifting on the wheels and sometimes pushing the wagon onto the horses until we got to the summit of the hill. Going down they would have to move. Many times they refused to be pushed up the hill, then father would say, “Well Mother, we will have to unload the wagon and carry every thing up the hill and pack it up on old Giney” (the name of the mare). It was dark by this time, but go we must, so we all carried things, and the old mare packed up the hill of half a mile. The horse could gallop with the empty wagon. One time we got the last load on the mare and got half way up the hill when the mare took fright, and down the hill she went scattering everything, especially mother’s dried corn and peaches
out of a sack. Father chased her for five miles before he finally caught her. We gathered up and repacked things which took nearly all night.
The Indians gathered in the camp and begged for food. They were almost naked. The Captain called for donations of flour, cornmeal, shorts (a coarse grind of wheat) or anything that would make mush for the hungry Indians. A large iron pot was set on the fire, the water and the donations gathered up were put in to cook. Before it was done, the Indians dipped their fingers into the boiling pot and into their mouths. The crowded around the fire so that the hindmost ones could not get any and they threw up the sand over the fire ,pot and all. It all made mush. The next morning an old poor work ox got into the mud. The Indians wanted it so the Captain gave it to them. They killed it in the mud, drank the blood ant cut it in strips and ate it raw, intestines and all. We thought it was awful.
Mary Goble: When we were in the Iowa campground, there came up a thunderstorm that blew down our shelter, made with handcarts and some quilts. We sat there in the rain, thunderstorm and lightning. My sister Fanny got wet and died the 19th of July 1856. She would have been 2 years old on the 23rd. [She had broken out with the measles on the ship, and was thus in a weakened position.] The day we started our journey, we visited her grave. We felt very bad to leave our little sister there.
We traveled through the States until we came to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Then we started on our journey of one thousand miles over the plains. It was about the first of September. We traveled fifteen to twenty-five miles a day. We used to stop one day in the week to wash. On Sunday we would hold our meetings and rest. Every morning and night we were called to prayers by the bugle.
We traveled on till we got to the Platte River. That was the last walk I ever had with my mother. We caught up with handcart companies that day. We watched them cross the river. There were great lumps of ice floating down the river. It was bitter cold. The next morning there were fourteen dead in camp through the cold. We went back to camp and went to prayers. They sang, “Come, Come, Ye Saints, No Toil Nor Labor Fear.” I wondered what made my mother cry. That night my mother took sick, and the next morning my little sister was born. It was the 23rd of September. We named her Edith, and she lived six weeks and died for want of nourishment.
We had been without fresh water for several days, just drinking snow water. The captain said there was a spring of fresh water just a few miles away. It was snowing hard, but my mother begged me to go and get her a drink. Another lady went with me. We were about halfway to the spring when we found an old man who had fallen in the snow. He was so stiff we could not lift him, so the lady told me where to go, and I would go back for help, for we knew he would soon be frozen if we left him. When I had gone, I began to think of the Indians and began looking in all directions. I became confused and forgot the way I should go. I waded around in the snow up to my knees and became lost. Later when I did not return to camp, the men started out after me. It was 11:00 o’clock before they found me. My feet and legs were frozen. They carried me to camp and rubbed me with snow. They put my feet in a bucket of water. The pain was terrible. The frost came out of my legs
and feet but not out of my toes.
After arriving in Salt Lake City, the doctor came to tend us. The doctor wanted to cut my feet off at the ankle, but President Young said, “No, just cut off the toes, and I promise you that you will never have to take them off any farther.” The doctor amputated my toes, using a saw and a butcher knife. The sisters were dressing mother for her grave. Oh how did we stand it? That afternoon she was buried.
Instead of my feet getting better, they got worse until the following July. I went to Dr. Wiseman’s. But it was no use-he could do no more for me unless I would consent to have them cut off at the ankle. I told him what Brigham Young had promised me. He said, “All right, sit there and rot. I will do nothing more until you come to your senses.”
One day, I sat there crying, my feet were hurting so, when a little old woman knocked at the door. She said she had felt that someone needed her there. I told her the promise that Brigham Young had made me. She made a poultice and put it on my feet, and every day she would come and change the poultice. At the end of three months my feet were well.
One day Dr. Wiseman said, “Well, Mary, I must say you have grit. I suppose your feet have rotted to the knees by this time.” I said, “Oh, no, my feet are well.” He said, “I know better, it could never be.” So I took off my stockings and showed him my feet. He said that was surely a miracle.
We traveled in the snow from the last crossing of the Platte River. We had orders not to pass the handcart companies. We had to keep close to them so as to help them if we could. We began to get short of food; our cattle gave out. We could only travel a few miles a day. When we started out of camp in the morning, the brethren would shovel snow to make a track for our cattle. They were weak for the want of food as the buffaloes were in large herds by the roads and ate all the grass.
When we arrived at Devil’s Gate, it was bitter cold. We left lots of our things there. There were two or three log houses there. We left our wagon and joined teams with a man named James Barman. We stayed there two or three days. While there an ox fell on the ice and the brethren killed it, and the beef was given out to the camp. My brother James ate a hearty supper and was as well as he ever was when he went to bed. In the morning he was dead
George Sudbury Humpfreys: I was talking to the assistant wagon master and driving the lead team, when we heard a terrible yell. We looked up the road and saw a large band of Indians coming towards us.
They were very modest in their request, for they demanded 10 yoke of oxen, 1000 lbs. of flour, 300 lbs. sugar, 100 lbs. coffee, and 100 lbs. bacon. If we wouldn’t give it to them, we would have to fight and they would take what they wanted. There was between three and four hundred Indians. Some of the men wanted to fight it out with them, but our wagon master, Mr. James Clayton, would not hear of that if there was any other way to get along with them. He told us to prepare for the worst, for we may have to fight, but he would do all he could to avoid it.
After talking to them for some time, he thought of the man in our group with smallpox. He told the chief to go with him to the wagon where the sick man lay. A number of the Indians followed their chief, thinking they were going to get all they asked for.
But when they got within twenty-five yards of the wagon, Mr. Clayton called to the sick man to look out of the wagon for he wanted to see him. He arose and looked out. The scales were just falling off his face. The chief gave a look and said, “Smallpox!” He turned his horse and yelled for his men to follow, and they did so. It was almost two miles to the Platte River, and they rode as fast as they could till they got there. Then they crossed and looked around for a few minutes, then rode off again. Mr. Clayton was watching them through a large glass.
We could not get sight of an Indian for three weeks after that. We had to conclude that smallpox was a very good thing to have close by.
Margeret Mcneil, age 13: On April 27, 1856, we left Liverpool, England, for America. There was a large company leaving. My mother was not well and was taken on board ship before the time of sailing, while the sailors were still disinfecting and renovating the ship. Here my brother Charles was born, with only one woman on board to attend to my mother.
When the captain and doctor came on board the ship and found that a baby had been born, they were delighted and thought it would bring good luck to the company. They asked the privilege of naming him. Brother James G. Willie, president of the company, thought it best to let the captain name him as there were three hundred passengers and nearly all of them were Mormons, so he was named Charles Collins Thornton McNeil, after the ship Thornton and Captain Charles Collins.
The company had gone ahead, and my mother was anxious to have me go with them; so she strapped my little brother, James, on my back with a shawl. He was only four years old and was still quite sick with the measles. Mother had all she could do to care for the other children, so I hurried on and caught up with the company.
I traveled with them all day, and that night a kind lady helped me take my brother off my back. I sat up and held him in my lap with a shawl wrapped around him, alone all night. We traveled this way for about a week, my brother and I not seeing our mother during this time. Each morning one of the men would write a note and put it in the slit of a willow stuck in the ground to tell how we were getting along. The people in the camp were very good to us and gave us a little fried bacon and some bread for breakfast. Soon our family was reunited and began our trek across the plains in 1859. While crossing the plains, my mother’s health was very poor, so I tried to assist her as much as I could. Every morning I would rise early and get breakfast for the family and milk my cow so that I could hurry and drive her on ahead of the company. Then I would let her eat in all the grassy places until the company had passed on ahead, when I would hurry and catch up with
them. The cow furnished us with milk, our chief source of food, and it was very important to see that she was fed as well as circumstances would permit. Had it not been for the milk, we would have starved.
Being alone much of the time, I had to get across the rivers the best I could. Our cow was a Jersey and had a long tail. When it was necessary to cross a river, I would wind the end of the cow’s tail around my hand and swim across with her. At the end of each day’s journey I would milk her and help prepare our supper and then would be glad to go to sleep wherever my bed happened to be. Our food gave out, and we had nothing but milk and wild rose berries to eat. However, we had a good team and could travel fast.
One night our cow ran away from camp, and I was sent to bring her back. I was not watching where I was going and was barefooted. All of a sudden I began to feel I was walking on something soft. I looked down to see what it could be, and to my horror found that I was standing in a bed of snakes, large ones and small ones. At the sight of them I became so weak I could scarcely move; all I could think of was to pray, and in some way I jumped out of them. The Lord blessed and cared for me.
Mary Jane Mount, age 10: The oxen were detached from the wagons and feeding lazily among the green grass, knowing nothing of the future that lay before them, or that before many months their bones would, many of them, whiten on the desert sands. My childish heart knew as little as they of the hardship that lay before us. My pale, delicate mother watched the teams while my father busied himself assisting or counseling those who were starting out. No doubt her heart failed her on that long weary day as she sat in the bright spring sunshine, watching the shadows and thinking of all she was leaving behind and wondering what the future held in store for her.
Edwin Alfred Pettit, age 13: In February, 1846, the people began leaving Nauvoo for the West, and my sister and her husband decided to go with them. I was given to understand that if I wished to go West, there would be a way provided for me. I wanted to go with my sister, but the rest of the children opposed my going, as did also my guardian.
A man was sent from the Mormon camp to pilot me to the camp of my sister, which was some miles away. This young man took me to the camp; but my guardian and brothers followed me and took me back on horseback. I didn’t get to see my sister as they overtook me before I reached her.
In a short time there was another man who made his appearance in the neighborhood on the same errand, a man that I was acquainted with. We made an appointment to meet at a certain place and make our escape if possible. I got up very early in the morning and went downstairs with my shoes in my hands. My guardian was dozing in his chair as I slipped out unknown to him, and put my shoes on outside. I soon fell in with my friend, and we tramped all day without anything to eat to reach the spot where I was to join my sister. Instead of going into camp, I lay out in the prairie all night alone. The captain of this company called the people together and told them if there was anybody inquiring for a boy to tell them there was no such boy in camp-I was not in the camp at this time; I was staying out in the prairie. The parties came hunting for me again but failed to find me.
Disguised as a girl, and in company with four or five girls, I crossed the Des Moines River on a flat boat, the boatman being none the wiser, supposing I was a girl with the rest. I was wearing side combs in my hair, and false curls covered my head. I was also wearing a sunbonnet in order to make my disguise more complete.
On landing on the opposite side of the river, I met an old friend on horseback, and he took me on behind him. As is well-known, girls are supposed to ride sidewise, especially where there are a great many people to observe them, and I also took that precaution. In going along the road, the people would sometimes holler out, “Old man, that girl will fall-she’s asleep,” because I was trying to hide my face. He turned around and said, “Mary Ann, wake up. You’ll fall off and break your neck.” I at last reached my sister’s camp, near a place called Indian Creek.
Brigham Henry Roberts age 10: Soon the lack of preparation for my sister and me became manifest. Of course our clothing was sparse and by now worn and not suitable to the journey. Our mother, in distant Utah, had sent with a young teamster who came from the settlement in which she lived-Bountiful, Davis County-gloves and a shawl and stout walking shoes for Mary, with heavy quilts, homemade, for bedding and a little money, such as she could manage to scrape together. But all these comforts that would have been well-nigh invaluable for us never reached our hands. The teamster to whom our things were entrusted claimed that he could never find us in the Missouri encampments on the journey.
The only night covering I had was a petticoat that my sister Mary slipped to me after retiring into the wagon. This night covering I caught with eager hands, and I curled up under the wagon and generally shivered through the night.
On one occasion, I and a boy about my own age had become interested in some ripening yellow currants along one of the banks of the stream and lingered until the train had passed over a distant hill. Before we realized it, we were breaking camp regulations, but still we lingered to fill our hats with the luscious currants we had discovered. The caps at last filled, we started to catch the wagon train and were further behind it than we realized.
Coming to the summit of a swale in which the wagon road passed, we saw to our horror three Indians on horseback just beginning to come up out of the swale and along the road. Our contact with the Indians around the Wyoming encampment had not been sufficient to do away with the fear in which the red men were held by us, and it could be well imagined that the hair on our heads raised as we saw an inevitable meeting with these savages.
Nevertheless, we moved one to the right and the other to the left with the hope that we could go around these Indians, but nothing doing. As soon as we separated to go around, the Indians also separated-the one to the right, the other to the left, and the third straight forward. There was trembling and fear that we were going to be captured. It was, therefore, with magnificent terror that we kept on slowly towards these Indians whose faces remained immobile and solemn with no indication of friendliness given out at all.
I approached my savage, knowing not what to do, but as I reached about the head of the horse, I gave one wild yell, the Scotch cap full of currants was dropped, and I made a wild dash to get by-and did-whereupon there was a peal of laughter from the three Indians. They say Indians never laugh, but I learned differently. As the race for the train continued with an occasional glance over the shoulder to see what the Indians were doing, I saw they were bending double over their horses with their screams of laughter.
The running continued until each of us had found his proper place beside the wagon to which he was assigned. The fright was thought of for several days, at least by strict adherence to camp rules about staying with your wagon.
One morning, Harry heard the company was going to cross the Platte River (probably near Ft. Kearney, Nebraska) for the first time to pick up the Mormon Trail of 1847. He wanted to be the first in the company to arrive at the crossing, so he walked on ahead of the rest of his group.
Up the stream, probably one quarter of a mile where a side stream dipped into the Platte, clumps of willows grew, and as the sun by now was burning hot, I thought of the grateful shade that could be reached by going that far above the point where the road dipped into the river. I went on and soon found a comfortable place where I could recline and dropped into a sound slumber that had been denied me the night before on account of the cold.
I slept on and on, and not all the shouting of the teamsters and emigrants nor the lunging of the wagons into the river awoke me. In fact, when I did awake, the last wagon of the train was just pulling up the opposite bank of the river, where the road led into the cottonwoods and other river trees, and was winding up the opposite bank of the turbid stream. Shouting at the top of my voice and rushing down to where the road met the river, I attracted the attention of Captain Chipman, who sat upon his horse on the opposite bank, watching the last wagon as it was drawn from the river bed by its long line of yoked teams. Cupping his hands the captain shouted to know if I could swim and was answered in the affirmative.
I was directed to “come on then.” With this, my old clogs [wooden shoes] from England were shuffled off blistered feet and left on the sand bar. Slipping off my coat-made as will be remembered from an old suit of a policeman, thick and heavy-with only shirt and barn-door trousers left, I plunged through one stream after another between the sandbars until I came to the main stream, which surged to the north side of the Platte above which on the bank sat Captain Chipman. Without hesitation I plunged into this last stream, to be carried down very rapidly. Apparently Captain Chipman felt uneasy and drove his horse, well practiced, into the stream and came swimming to where I was struggling for the further shore. The captain slipped his foot from the stirrup and bade me take hold of it, and the horse without being turned upstream swam down until a suitable landing place was reached, and all three of us came up from the river together. The Captain held in his
hand a light horse whip, and as I let go of the stirrup and scampered up the bank to reach the road, the captain felt it evidently not unjust to give several sharp cuts cross my pants, which stung sharply, but no cry was uttered, and I felt that I was well out of a bad scrape.
“During another crossing of the Platte River, Harry and a young lady in the camp secretly rode in the back of a wagon that became stuck in quicksand midway across the river. After several attempts were made to free the wagon, the team of horses was unhitched and taken to the other side of the river until another, stronger team could be brought in. Meanwhile, the following incident took place while Harry and the young girl waited for help:”
A team did not return until the next morning, and all through the night the vibrations of the wagon in the sand were continued until the water reached and seeped into the bed of the wagon and soaked the sugar bags. Hunger, of course, asserted itself, and how to satisfy it for the time was the question. But I was carrying as my most precious possession a four-bladed pen knife, a gift for my mother, which had been purchased with money coming into my hands in England. In addition to the four blades there were a pair of pinchers, a nail file, and some other contrivances that made it an amateur tool chest. The knife was used to slit a hole in one of the sacks of sugar; one of the pieces of side bacon was uncovered in the same way, and pieces of raw bacon or ham were hacked off. Upon these the young lady and I feasted.
While cutting the bacon, the knife slipped and dropped into the turbid water of the Platte River and was never found, and the treasure which had been bought for my mother, who was remembered to be a seamstress and to whom the complex knife and other implements would have been useful, was gone forever.
The next morning teams were brought to the relief of the freight wagons, of which there were several, which had been left in the river bed from the day before. It was always a matter of regret that the young lady’s name was either never learned or else not remembered.
On one occasion a night drive was necessary, and a young man was entrusted with the freight wagon team. The young teamster was unusually devoted to helping the young ladies, especially on this night, so I ran in behind the ox on the near side and climbed up on the seat that had been arranged in the front of the wagon by the regular teamsters. This seat consisted of a broad plank placed across the open head of a large barrel. The day had been hot and the hours of the journey long, and I was decidedly tired, nearly unto exhaustion. Fearing that my riding, which was “agin” the law, would be discovered, I slipped the broad board from the barrel head and conceived the idea of dropping down in the barrel, secure from the eyes of those who might oust me from my seat in the wagon if I were found. To my surprise, if not amazement, I discovered when I let myself down in the barrel that my feet went into about three or four inches of a sticky liquid substance which
turned out to be molasses. The smarting of my chapped feet almost made me scream with pain, but I stifled it. Too tired to attempt to climb out, I remained and gradually slipped down and went to sleep doubled up in the bottom of the barrel, with such results as can well be imagined. It was daylight when I woke up, and there began to be the usual camp noises of teamsters shouting to each other to be prepared to receive the incoming team driven from the prairie by night herdsmen. As I crawled out of the uncomfortable position, and with molasses dripping from my trousers, I was greeted with yells and laughter by some of the teamsters and emigrants who caught sight of me. I crept away as fast as I could to scrape off the syrup, which added to the weight and thickness of shirt and trousers, for there was no change of clothing for me, and so bedaubed I had to pass on until dusk and drying somewhat obliterated the discomfort.
The lads in the train were always in search of swimming holes, so they scampered down through the willows in search of bathing places. I and a comrade more venturesome than the rest went some distance down the stream until we found a swimming hole that was admirable. The water had washed out a hole on the west side of the creek with quite a deep clear collection of water under the banks held up by the willow roots. Here we began our bath. Cattle were on both sides of the streams when suddenly a strange rattling sound was heard, followed by intense hissing and hissing. Looking out of the swimming hole, we observed three Indians riding up the bank of the stream. One of them had a dry piece of rawhide in his hand, which by shaking produced the rattling noise. All three, following the rattling of the rawhide, hissed intensely. As they did so, the cattle with loud bawling rushed out of the willows to the open prairie, which rolled off in successive hills.
Pretty soon it seemed as if the whole herd, whose thundering hoofs could be heard, were stampeded, their mad race accompanied with bawlings. The thundering of their hoofs would have waked the dead.
As soon as the Indians and cattle had reached the creek bottom, we, naked as when born, ran for camp full speed. We found Captain Chipman seated on the tongue of his wagon and made our report of the Indians among the cattle, apparently stampeding them. The captain laughed at us and advised that we had better find our clothes before we went into camp. While saying this, he climbed upon the tongue of his wagon and opened the lid to his bread box in front, making an improvised seat of it. As he did this, it enabled the captain to see over a line of willows, and he beheld the whole herd under stampede, followed by the three Indians. All at once a cry arose from the encampment, a number of whom now saw the cattle under stampede. Then there were attempts of mounting in hot haste and seizure of firearms and a rush made to follow the marauders. Captain Chipman, however, stood at the west entrance of the encampment and commanded all to remain where they were
until he could give his orders. We two boys, meantime, wended our way back to the swimming hole, where we obtained our clothing.
Captain Chipman here proved himself a real plainsman captain, and the thought nearest his heart was care for the emigrants bound on their way to Zion. He ordered the men to roll up the wagons into solid corral formation, namely by pushing the wagons together in such manner as to have the forewheel pushed up and interlocked with the hind wheels of the wagon before it. The corral became an improvised fort, with the men and the women of the camp and such stock as remained huddled on the inside. After this the three remaining horses of the encampment were brought out and saddled, and three men mounted and went after the Indians to bring back as many of the herd as would be possible.
“As a result of this incident, the company lost over one hundred head of their strongest and best cattle and six or eight riding horses. The men were able to bring home only a very few of the herd.”
Before dark, I had gathered my quantum of such fuel. Then the train was drawn up in such formation as the usual corral. I wandered outside the corral a bit until I found two boulder stones, which I rolled together. Between the two I lighted my fire, carrying a blazing buffalo chip from another fire with which to ignite this fire. After it had burned down a little, I curled myself about the two stones with the fire between, and in the warmth sleep soon overcame me. In the early morning when I awoke, to my amazement I was covered with an inch or two of snow which had fallen through the night and which had covered me and my now dead fire, as with a white blanket. Shaking off the snow, I made my way to look for breakfast, grateful for this long night of pleasant and apparently warm covering until the sharpness of the morning hour made me shiver again with cold
Before long, we approached Chimney Rock, Nebraska, which had a peculiar attraction to Mary and me because it was at this point that our baby brother, Thomas, who had been carried from the Missouri River in the arms of our mother, had died and was buried. To us it was, in a way, his monument. The child had been afflicted from its birth with water on the brain, and the head had grown large with the progress of the disease. He was peevish and during the whole journey did not permit anyone to touch him but his mother, and here this burden had ended.
There was a pathetic painful incident in his burial. Morton B. Haight was the captain of the company in which my mother made the journey, in the year 1862. The grave for the baby was dug between Chimney Rock and the Platte River, and the babe wrapped in a blanket, a bed sheet, and lowered into the grave. Then came the dropping of the dirt upon the body. This was too much for my mother, and with a groan she sank beside the grave in a dead faint, as she heard the clods of dirt fall upon her baby’s body. “Hold on,” said the captain, beginning to feel the grief, “this is too much for me.” He went to his wagon and took out the bread box in the front end of it and came back with it to the grave. Then the body was taken up and comfortably placed in the bread box and in this improvised coffin was again lowered to the bottom of the grave, which was then filled in and covered with cobblestones gathered from the surrounding hills to afford protection. Ever after,
of course, the name of Captain Haight was an enshrined memory in the Roberts house
In the morning everybody seemed to be up with the first streaks of the light of day over the eastern mountains, and in great haste in preparation to take up the journey. Breakfast seemed to be neglected, and there was not much to eat anyway. Before the sun rose, the train, falling into its old line, swung down the low foothills until they struck a well-defined road leading into the city.
This entrance proved to be via Third South-then and long afterwards known as “Emigration Street,” now Broadway. When Captain Chipman’s ox team swung around the corner of Third South into Main Street, I found myself at the head of the lead yoke in that team, walking up the principal street of the city, the rest of the train following. Here the people had turned out to welcome the plains-worn emigrants and were standing on the street sides to greet them. Some horsemen dashed up the street swinging their cowboy hats, the customary cowboy handkerchiefs around their necks as if they were in from the ranges.
Along the road, perhaps nearly halfway from the mouth of Parley’s Canyon to the city, as I strode on ahead of Captain Chipman’s team, I saw a bright-colored, dainty, charming little girl approaching me in the middle of the street. It was a strange meeting, we two. My hair had grown out somewhat. But three months’ journey over the plains and through the mountains without hat or coat or shoes for most of the way had wrought havoc with my appearance. My hair stuck out in all directions; the freckles seemed deeper and more plentiful and the features less attractive than when the journey began. Shirt and trousers barely clung to my sturdy form, and my feet were black and cracked but now covered by the shoes I had taken from the feet of a dead man at a burnt station. These I was wearing in compliment to my entrance into “Zion.” Also my face had been more carefully washed that morning. But try as I would, the shock of hair was unmanageable, and so no wonder the
dainty little lady was somewhat timid in approaching me. She had on her arm a basket of luscious fruit, peaches, plums, and grapes. These she extended to me, the “ugly duckling” of a boy from the plains, and asked me if I would have some peaches. The answer was to gather up several which I strung along in the crook of my arm, and as soon as I had obtained what I supposed a reasonable portion, I wondered how I could get this fruit so wonderful back to Mary and at the same time retain my place in the march up Main Street. Pondering this question, of course unknown to the young girl who had brought me such a treasure, I finally turned back as best I could to the wagon where Mary was concealed under the wagon cover because of her being a little ashamed of her appearance. Running behind the wheel ox and climbing up on the tongue of the wagon, I called to my sister, handed to her the fruit, and then scrambled back to the ground and ran for my place at the
head of the train and marched on until the head of Main Street was reached.
Mary and I seemed to be so little part of this excitement and joy, because nobody seemed to come for us. Mary remained concealed under the wagon cover, and I, lonesome and heartsick, sat upon the tongue of Captain Chipman’s wagon, my chin in my hands and elbows upon my knees, thinking “Zion” was not so much after all, if this was all of it. The spirit of sadness, if it was not forlornness, settled upon me.
Presently, however, approaching from the west gate, I saw a woman in a red and white plaid shawl slowly moving among the hillocks of fertilizer that had been raked from the sheds and the yard. She seemed to be daintily picking her way, and there was something in the movement of her head as she looked to the right and to the left that seemed familiar to me. The woman was moving in my direction, and the closer she came the stronger the conviction grew upon me that there was my mother. I would have known her from the dainty cleanliness of everything about her.
I stood until she came nearly parallel to where I sat; then sliding from the tongue of the wagon, I said, “Hey Mother,” and she looked down upon my upturned face. Without moving she gazed upon me for some time and at last said, “Is this you, Harry? Where is Mary?” Of course Mary was in the wagon, and I led my mother to where she was hiding, and when mother and daughter met, there was a flood of tears on both sides. At last I joined them, making the trio of the united family. It seemed difficult for our mother to realize that we at last were her children after more than four years of separation, but once in a while, a smile would break through the tears and she seemed to be extremely happy.
There was one thing remembered in this reunion, and that was on my part. I felt that I had arrived, that I belonged to somebody, that somebody had an interest in me, and these were the thoughts that were in my mind as I sat in the wagon on the drive home to Bountiful.
Jon Stettler Stucki, age 9: My dear mother had a little baby to nurse, and only having half enough to eat and to pull on the handcart all day long, day after day, she soon got so weak and worn out that she could not help Father anymore. Nor was she able to keep up with the Company. Sometimes when we camped, she was so far behind the Company we could not see anything of her for quite a while, so that I was afraid she might not be able to get to the camp.
I have never forgotten how when I, a nine-year-old boy, would be so tired that I would wish I could sit down for just a few minutes. How much good it would do to me. But instead of that, my dear, nearly worn-out father would ask me if I could not push a little more on the handcart.
When one of the teamsters, seeing two buffaloes near the oxen, shot one of them, the meat was divided among the whole handcart company. My parents also got a small piece, which my father put in the back end of the handcart. That was in the fore part of the week. Father said we would save it for our dinner next Sunday. I was so very hungry all the time, and the meat smelled so good to me while pushing at the handcart, and having a little pocketknife, I could not resist but had to cut off a piece or two each half day. Although I was afraid of getting a severe whipping after cutting a little the first few times, I could not resist taking a little each half day. I would chew it so long it got tasteless.
When father went to get the meat on Sunday noon, he asked me if I had been cutting off some of it. I said, “Yes, I was so hungry that I could not let it alone.” Then, instead of giving me the severe scolding or whipping, he did not say a word but started to wipe the tears from his eyes.