The Trek


Emma James

Journal Entry: Iowa City: 1856

Concerning the council meeting that was called after the companies had been a Camp Iowa for six weeks, Emma James recalled: "It was now six weeks since the companies had arrived at Camp Iowa, Emma James remembers. [Concerning the council meeting which was called, she says,]

We were called together in a meeting one evening and there was quite a bit of guessing as to the reason for it. It was a large group that gathered, circling the leader. The meeting was called to order, one of the brethren offered prayer, then we were told for the reason for the counseling. We were told it was 300 miles to Council Bluff which was the actual place for starting the trek and that was just a mile to what we had to go to reach the valley. We would have carts, such as they were, but the season was late and bad weather could prove dangerous to us if we were in the mountains. Even if we had no trouble, we would be late getting to Utah. There had been much talk of these dangers by experienced men in camp, but I think that the thing which I will remember for the rest of my life and wish that we had heeded was said by a Brother Savage.

With tears streaming down his cheeks he pleaded with the people, "Brothers and sisters, wait until Spring to make this journey. Some of the strong may get through in case of bad weather, but the bones of the weak and old will strew the way." I can remember that when he finished there was a long time of silence I was frightened. Father looked pale and sick. I turned to mother to see what she was thinking, and all that I saw was her old determined look. She was ready to go on tomorrow. There were many others like her. We really didn't have much choice. There was no work here for us to keep ourselves through the winter, and our family had to live. "We must always put our trust in the Lord", said Mother, and that was that.

"'There was nearly one hundred people of the companies who decided to winter over and come in the spring. The majority voted to go on as soon as everything was ready. July 15th, under the direction of Captain Willy, with 500 people, 120 carts and four or five wagons we left Camp Iowa for an outfitting station at Council Bluffs. It was great fun pulling empty carts and imitating the wagon drivers with their 'eeh' and 'hah''" (Stewart E. Glazier and Robert S. Clark, ed., Journal of the Trail [1997], 30–31).

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