Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847–1868
Source of Trail Excerpt:
West, Charles Henry John, Reminiscences [ca. 1900], 7-9.
Read Trail Excerpt:
We stayed at Florence a few days before starting across the plains. We were 10
weeks on the plains and arrived in Salt Lake City the 4th day of October 1863,
just in time for Conference.
In giving a description of our journey across the plains I must trust to memory
as I was not in a position to take notes. The brethren from Salt Lake were there
at Florence to take charge of them, they had been there some time waiting, they
had brought from the valley a goodly number of wagons loaded down with
Dixie cotton. After getting their cotton disposed of they had then to fix up for
the Saints, besides merchandise, there were in all about 60 wagons in our
company and so many Saints and their families allowed to each wagon with
their luggage and provisions, with a captain over all. When all was in readiness
some of the young men, being appointed teamsters, we had three and four yoke
of oxen to each wagon. We started for a thousand mile trip, all able-bodied men
and women and young women and children that could walk, had to do so.
The first day to me the walking behind the slow gait of the oxen was fun. When
we got to a place where there was good grass for the cattle we could stop and
cook our dinner or supper as the case may be. My wife not being used to the
way of mixing our flour for bread got too much salaratus in, so we had some
nice looking yellow bread for biscuits, one of the boys told my wife what
proportion to put in, so afterwards we had some good bread. Our captain
looked after the teamsters and saw that they (the oxen) all done their duty in
pulling. He had a long black snake whip, when that came down on the cattle
they had to get. In the evening we camped they would form a circle with the
wagons, and had night herders to watch the cattle. We then had to build our
fires of any dry sticks we could find near the water's edge. If we had to camp
where there was no wood, we would on our journey pick up and carry Buffalo
Chips and make a fire with that. It was the dry dung of oxen. Before going to
bed a few would gather together in the dance, but we always had prayers each
evening. Sometimes we would come across some greens good for food, my wife
would make many a good meal so we faired very well.
We had made up our minds to enjoy the trip without grumbling and found it
the best way, we had a few grumblers in the camp. We had to wade up to our
breasts some rivers we had to go through, if the current was very strong we
would hold hands. I would sometimes have a child in one arm and holding on to
another. If we got wet would let our clothes dry on so we would not take cold.
We would average in traveling 20 to 30 miles each day. Sometimes we had
travel by night in order to get to good camping ground.
One day towards evening our Captain told us to prepare for a big wind storm,
had all the fires put out and the wagons all in a circle, the wheels of each wagon
fastened together with heavy log chains, and the cattle all inside of the
enclosure. We had barely got ready when the storm came, such a piercing and
stormy wind, that it seemed to almost take our breath away. We had to hold on
to the wagons less we be blown away. After it was over I don't think there was
one wagon cover left all had been blown to pieces.
Our little daughter, Mary Ann Young, she was sick more or less while crossing
the plains, her appetite failing her, I thought I would go to the river side (being
near one) and get a fish. I know it would do her good. The river being very low
and leaving small puddles of water I would try and chase the fish by my hands
into shallow water, so catch one. I did not exceed in getting any. I then and
there prayed to God that I might get some if it was only one. I was about leaving
to catch up to the train, when a man came along with a string of fish and
offered me one, my prayers being answered, I went along rejoicing.
Our son Jabez William he got hurt through being run over by one of the
wagons, and was badly hurt. I did not know whether it was broke or not it
swelled up to a great size. I was recommended by one of the teamsters to catch
the drippings of the oxen and apply it as a poultice. I done so several times, and
the swelling went down and he soon got the use of his leg again.
We continued our journey day after day about the same routine, one continuous
stretch of country no houses to be seen on the journey. We would come across
some of our young brethren, who were left to look after the provisions for the
Saints, when we got to these different places, they being alone so long, when
they saw our train, they would jump for joy and make quite a demonstration
with their frying pans clapping them together. After loading up all the
provisions they had for the camp, they would turn in and follow. We were in all
10 weeks on the plains, when we arrived at Salt Lake City on the camping
grounds in the 8th Ward square. The friends and relations of different ones
would come and take them away to their homes.