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Abraham O. Smoot Company (1856)

On 1856 August 10
Departed From
Mormon Grove, Kansas
On 1856 November 9
Vehicle Type
Company Type
Church Train
Company Direction

About 97 individuals and about 34 wagons were in the company when it began its journey from the outfitting post at Mormon Grove (near Atchison).

When the Abraham Owen Smoot company left Mormon Grove, Kansas Territory, August 10, 1856, it consisted of 33 wagons and 1 carriage. The carriage and six of the wagons belonged to Smoot himself; three wagons belonged to B. H. Young, and there were single wagons belonging to Erastus Snow, Heber C. Kimball, Ira Eldridge, and John Taylor. In addition, there was a chuck wagon and 22 Church-owned wagons. The latter carried, among other things, books and dry goods from England. This party had 375 oxen and 12 horses and mules. Because there were not enough drivers, only part of the train could move; teamsters and teams then had to backtrack and bring up the rest. This situation persisted until August 12 when Franklin Benjamin Woolley caught up with the train. He had been on a recruiting mission to Florence, Nebraska Territory. There, he had persuaded a number of Mormon emigrants and their families to join the Smoot train. These brought the company total to 76 individuals, (including 19 Danes, 26 Americans, and 31 English). Some members of the party were not Mormon. The men had to be trained as teamsters. Therefore, for several days the train did not move before noon; it took that long to get the oxen yoked up.

At the Little Muddy Fork of the Grasshopper, the train added six more wagons, four loaded with unspecified machinery, one carrying a thrashing machine, and one bearing a steamboat boiler. Pushing onward, the train reached the Big Blue on August 20. Here, the men unloaded one wagon, distributing its machinery among the Church wagons (now lighter because provisions had been used). Freight stored at Big Blue the previous year was then loaded into the now empty wagon and into two others just acquired. All the vehicles were overloaded, and the teams would be overworked. The train left Big Blue August 22. Three days later, as the company camped between Big Sandy and Little Blue, a Scandinavian man left camp "in a fit of insanity." A search failed to locate him (he reportedly made his way back to the eastern states). On the 29th, one of the wagons ran over a young Englishman, who soon died. That same day, Smoot's company caught up with the merchant train of Gilbert & Gerrish (17 wagons and 18 or 20 men). Probably it was then that the merchants attached themselves to the Church train because of Indian hostility.

On September 1 the travelers reached Fort Kearny, where they learned that some Cheyenne Indians had attacked and killed Almon W. Babbitt, Territorial Secretary for Utah along with other members of his party. Orrin Porter Rockwell, with four of Babbitt's wagons, joined the Smoot train on September 3. The next day, the company passed the Willie handcart train that were north of the Platte River, with Smoot's wagons on the south side. West of Cottonwood Springs, the wagon company discovered remains of three California-bound travelers and their vehicles. Again this appeared to be the work of the Cheyenne. September 11, Smoot reached the South Platte. There the wagons had a difficult time crossing, even though the water was very low. Once across, the train swiftly and safely negotiated a hill and then camped on the North Platte. Later, it paused at the mouth of Ash Hollow. From here, Porter Rockwell pushed on ahead with the Babbitt wagons. Soon, Smoot's men had to double-team their wagons to get over some sand ridges. The train now had 285 oxen, 6 cows, and 15 mules and horses, and it was short on drivers as only 33 men were fit for duty.

On the 15th the emigrants learned that Cheyenne had attacked other travelers (Thomas Margett's and party), resulting in more deaths. After this, Captain Smoot increased the rate of travel. The company stopped for a day at Robidoux's abandoned trading post west of Scotts Bluff. By September 23, it was at Fort Laramie, where it encountered a group of eastward-bound Mormon apostates. The train spent the 26th at Horse Shoe Creek. On the 29th it met Parley P. Pratt and a group of outward-bound missionaries. After crossing the North Platte for the last time on October 2, the travelers encountered a relief wagon and from it obtained a new flour supply. Earlier, the captain had written to Brigham Young requesting one ton of flour, 40 yoke of cattle, 20 good teamsters, 304 beeves, and 6 good wagons. The train passed Independence Rock and Devil's Gate on October 6. The following day, it caught up with Porter Rockwell but, again, his little party quickly moved on ahead. By October 9, the travelers were at Three Crossings on the Sweetwater. Because provisions were running low, Captain Smoot now left Ira Eldridge in charge of the train and forged ahead seeking relief. The wagons crossed Rocky Ridge on October 12, reached South Pass two days later, and arrived at Little Sandy on the 16th. Here Captain Smoot met them with more flour and news that a relief train was waiting at Big Sandy. From the relief wagons the travelers secured much-needed beef, flour, and vegetables, plus 19 men, several span of horses and mules, and 6 wagons.

On October 20, the train reached Baptiste's station on the Green River. It had been snowing hard for two days and the temperature had dropped to zero. On the 23, the company arrived at Fort Bridger. Here it left 100 head of cattle and much freight. October 27, the women and children boarded some horse-drawn wagons and sprinted forward toward Salt Lake, arriving in the city November 2. With eight wagons and a little freight, the men left Fort Bridger on October 30. On November 3, when they were in Echo Canyon, the captain received an express from Brigham Young instructing him to retrieve the goods and cattle from Fort Bridger and bring them on to the Salt Lake Valley. The messengers from Salt Lake, Franklin B. Woolley and Orris Newell, took on this task. November 4, Smoot crossed the Weber. On the night of the 5th and again on the 6th a foot of snow fell. Nevertheless, the train moved slowly forward, reaching the eastern slope of Big Mountain before camping. The air was bitterly cold. On the 7th, by double-teaming, the men got their wagons to the summit. Here the snow was two feet deep. As the wagons descended the slippery slope, two of them overturned but were soon recovered and repaired. That night, the company camped near Hatch's. Here they found two loads of corn and a quarter of beef waiting for them. The next night, the travelers stopped at Willow Springs, in Emigration Canyon. On November 9, they entered Salt Lake City, just ahead of the Willie handcart company.

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