Transcript for A. N. Macfarlane, "From Dundee to Utah," Millennial Star, 26 December 1868, 817-19, 823
The following extracts are taken from a letter written by Mr. A. N. Macfarlane, who left Dundee with is family in June this year for the Mormon settlement at Salt Lake. The letter is dated Salt Lake City, Utah, October 19, 1868. After describing the journey from Dundee to Liverpool and the voyage across the Atlantic, the writer proceeds:—Dundee Adv.
After spending a few hours in Castle Gardens, we were conducted per steam-boat to the station of the Hudson River Railroad. Here we met with considerable delay, as all our luggage had to be weighed and carefully label-ed “Mormon Luggage.” Our business at the booking office was next attended to, and was not finished till long past midnight. At an early hour next morning we started on our rail-way journey of nearly 3000 miles, and continued to travel day and night for ten days. During the past summer the heat has been very excessive in America, deaths from sunstroke being of daily and hourly occurrence. We passed through some small towns where from ten to fourteen had been struck down in a single day, out of a population of a few thousand. During our railway travelling, six persons belonging to our company fell victims to this distressing malady, all the deaths taking place in the carriages while the train was in motion. In the course of our railway journey we passed through part of Canada. In Canada we found the “greenbacks” everywhere spoken against, and those who had no shillings found themselves losers in every transaction. In course of time we arrived at Council Bluffs, which a short time since was the most western point to which railway travelling could be had. At Council Bluffs we cross the Missouri river to Omaha, at which place we enter upon the Great Union Pacific Railroad, now being constructed from that point to the Pacific coast, so that very soon the whole breadth of the American continent may be traversed by railway. The U.P.R.R. is decidedly the finest railroad over which we passed. Its carriages are really magnificent, and by far surpassing the finest first-class carriages in our own country. The trains on this line of railway ran so smoothly that when I passed over it I could, with the great-est ease, take my shorthand notes of all that was going on around me. We rode on this railway for over 600 miles without ever changing carriages, and at Laramie city the railway portion of our journey was completed—the remaining part, over 500 miles, to be performed by a slower mode of loco-motion—namely, that of mule teams. The camp at Laramie was all in a stir. The teams had been waiting for us for sixteen days, and during this time the mules had had lots of feed, and the teamsters lots of fun. Here we stayed for two days, getting our company reorganized and ready for the journey. Camp life was altogether new to most of us, but we found it to be an agreeable mode of travelling. The male portion of the camp were supposed to walk a considerable part of the way, while the women and children enjoyed the luxury of being jolted over hill and dale. The night guard woke up the camp every morning by four o’clock, and by five all was bustle in cooking and eating breakfast. Some-times cooking was no easy matter, es-pecially when we camped where wood and water were scarce. At half-past five the bugle was sounded for prayers, which duty was punctually attended to by our camp chaplain, who was a retuning missionary.
Our captain was a jolly fellow, warm hearted and kind, who very soon proved himself to be everybody’s friend. Captain [Chester] Loveland was in every respect a loveable man. Large in stature, and having a voice corresponding to his size, he could when he spoke make himself distinctly heard in every corner of the corral, which was formed by the wagons being drawn up so as to form a large circle. In such a mode of travelling there is, of course, less or more of monotony, but with us this was greatly enlivened by the happy, cheerful spirit which prevailed in our midst. I think I before stated that mine was the only Scotch family in our company, and this, of course, prevent-ed us from enjoying that which in a foreign land is most enjoyed—namely, a conversation in our mother tongue. You can, therefore, imagine our surprise when, one evening after supper was over, while the musical portion of our company had gathered round an immense fire to enjoy themselves in a concert, we heard the well-known sounds of a Scotch tongue reciting in masterly style the well-known and touching lines of “Watty and Meg.” The reciter was a Scotch lady who had joined our company after we got to America. She had resided for several years in the States, but never had allowed herself to forget the “braid Scottish tongue.” Few around that camp fire in the middle of that wild Indian country could comprehend one-half of what the lady said. There was, however, one family who could both understand and enjoy it well.
In due time the Rocky Mountains came in sight—the great ridge which is said to be the backbone of the American Continent. There are few persons in the present day who have not read or heard descriptions of this rocky chain, and it is truly interesting to be insight of that which is spoken of all the world over; but to be on a journey and your destination lying beyond these mountains is quite another thing. It is wonderful how the well-trained mountain mules can wend their way over such barriers. By the time we reached the South Pass we were over 8000 feet above the sea level. This was our highest point, after which we had more descending than ascending to perform. In the course of our journey we had several rivers to cross, most of which had to be forded. The Platte River is at times much swollen, and when we crossed it it was pretty big. The women and children were allowed to remain inside their wagons, but the men had the choice given them of wading the river or crossing it on horseback. With some others, I chose the former mode, and so, taking my position at the back of a wagon, soon found myself on the western bank. After passing the South Pass in the Rocky Mountain rage, the course of all running streams is changed, and they take their course of the Pacific Ocean. When we had performed about half our journey across the plains, an incident occurred which must not be overlooked. One day at noon, when we had stopped to rest and eat our dinner, the cry was raised that the Indians were among our ani-mals. The herd was grazing at a little distance from the camp, and the order had been given to “gather up the mules” for the afternoon drive. The “boys” had just gone to obey the Captain’s orders, but had their atten-tion taken up with a poor mule which had unfortunately “stuck in the mud” in a portion of the creek where the animals had been watering. Two In-dians, who had been lurking in a neighboring mountain, seeing how matters stood, thought proper to intercept the herd, and succeeded in driving off about fifty head. The discovery was made from the camp, and the alarm given accordingly. About thirty of our best and bravest men were armed and in pursuit of the red rascals in a very short space of time. The Indians drove the mules though a narrow gullet in the mountain, called a “kanyon,” but the “boys” still gave chase. At the distance of twelve miles from camp, they succeeded in turning all the mules but five or six, and all the “boys” except some six or eight returned with the recovered animals. These still pursued the thieving Indi-ans, and two of them overtook them at a distance of twenty-five miles from camp. These two, of course, got into close quarters with the Indians, who turned and fired upon the “boys” several times, but our fellows also knew the use of arms, and in this case used them to advantage, the result of which was that both of the Indians fell, while our brave fellows never lost a drop of blood. Every one of our stolen animals were secured, and, as a trophy of their bravery, the “boys” also brought to camp the horses of the vanquished Indians.
For several days and nights after this occurrence there was an anxiety in our camp, as the likelihood was that so soon as the death of the Indians was discovered by their friends, they might give us further annoyance.
Nothing further happened to us, however, nor were any of the succeeding emigrant trains troubled in the least with Indians.
On these high mountains the nights were, even in the heat of summer, very cold, and water left exposed at night was in the morning found a so-lid lump of ice. The days were as warm as the nights were cold, and we had to travel with as little covering as possible. Some of us kept our um-brellas up, but we soon found that the strength of the sun soon burned them to tinder. As we neared the territory of Utah, the country got to be still more mountainous. We would sometimes march for many miles over a rugged path, where the mountains on either side of us seemed a sold mass of skilfully-erected masonry, so much did they seem the work of well-skilled workmen. Green river crossing is a dangerous one. At this same place five teamsters of another train were drowned while on their outward jour-ney to meet this season’s emigrants. The accident happened from the up-setting of the ferry boat, which had on board as many wagons, oxen, and men as could be carried across at one time. Oxen are very apt to shift their positions, and did so in this case, the consequence being as already stated. We crossed here in perfect safety, the biggest portion of our mules swimming across, and thus saving their passage on the ferry boat.
We were now in the territory of Utah, and very soon signs of vegeta-tion began to be manifest in various places as we moved along. Our path now lay through Echo Kanyon, which is ninety miles in length, and which, to my thinking, is by far the most ro-mantic part of all the journey. In the bottom runs a stream of water of con-siderable size, near to which is the road traversed by emigrants, and also by the mail stages. The rocks on each side rise high up among the clouds, and are formed by Nature into huge structures resembling great palaces, or, when seen between the beholder and the sky, assuming the shape of lions and other animals of tremendous size. President Young’s contract for the construction of the United Pacific Railroad was being prosecuted in this kanyon with the greatest vigour as we come along. Here we saw many la-bour-saving appliances at work, which makes railway labour much easier to perform than it is at home.
At short distances along this kanyon we met with small settlements of work-men, and at night, while camping there, we had many visitors, who took a lively part in our concerts and camp meetings. These workmen were all of the Salt Lake country, and among the number were many Scotchmen, who in all cases were directed to me when they made inquiries for their countrymen.
At present the cities of Utah are half-deserted, as thousands of the male citizens are “off on the railroad.” After leaving Echo Kanyon, Mormon settlements were met with daily, and individuals would drop off from our company as they were met by anxious friends in the various towns we passed. The Wasatch range of mountains yet lay between us and Salt Lake Valley, their summits towering far up into the heavens, and clad with everlasting snow.
It seemed altogether an impossibility for human beings to find a path through these mountains, which form the eastern boundary of Salt Lake Valley, which on the west is bounded by a si-milar chain, although scarcely of such height. Our guides had, however, often traversed the path before, and after a severe ascent, we entered Parley’s Kanyon, which is a rugged and dangerous road to travel. While about the middle of this kanyon we were met by my old friend Brown, who, true to a promise of many years’ standing, had come some seven or eight miles to meet us with a team. Here we left the good old waggon, which had been our home for nearly four weeks, and took our quarters in the light un-loaded waggon of our friend. Emerg-ing from this kanyon, our escort took a different road from that taken by the emigrant trains, and, being along the base of the mountains, gave us a splendid opportunity of beholding Salt Lake City, the capital of Utah.