Transcript for Arthur P. Welchman reminiscences, 1903, 69-77

Our company assembled again in full force, and preparations were made for a fresh start. One of our number, Brother Jack Goslin, was a pretty fair blacksmith, and handy with tools generally. He mended the broken chains, set the tires of wheels that needed it, and did other necessary work in iron. There were others too, who could repair a wheel, or other parts of a wagon. there were many small, yet important, details to be looked after; -—horses to shoe, some new yokes to make, bows, and keys for them, etc. The women were bussy too. The wagon-covers and tents must be overhauled, and repaired; clothing likewise. In some cases, certain provisions needed to be replenished.

A new captain had been chosen; a Brother Preston Thomas, a returning missionary, who had been laboring among the Texas people. This change was not out of any disrespect to Brother Baron [Alexander Franklin Barron], nor because he had failed to give satisfaction, so far, as our leader; but we were about to enter upon the comparatively trackless plains of the La Platte river, we were liable to encounter with hostile Indians; and as Brother Thomas was somewhat familiar with the way, and with the dificulties likely to be met, he was deemed better fitted for the occasion.

We say plenty of Indians en route; and at one time quite a large band of Pawnees came suddenly upon us, and frightened us not a little; but we had no battle; thanks to a protecting God, and the continued vigilance of our captain.

The order of travel was on this wise.-—Call at day break, cattle immediately turned out to graze, under guard. Breakfast preparations, greasing of wagons, and otherwise putting all things in order for the days drive. Call to prayers. After prayers, breakfast, then relief of guard. Soon after a detail of men sent for the work--cattle, loose--stock and horses (always armed). These were driven into the circle of wagons forming a corral, yoked, each team couppled together with its chains, and then hitched to their respective wagons. Those first completing this work then assisted the teamsters who, as guard, were late in getting their breakfast. Others as soon as at liberty from their teams, helped the women who were stowing the remnants of the breakfast, if any, together with dishes, etc., in the wagon; also bedding. Water kegs, and canteens, too, had to be filled, and secured in their places.

The captain generally stayed untill he saw a prospect of all being soon in thorough rediness for starting, over--looking everything pertaining to progress, comfort and safety; then he would go on a head to select our next camping ground. He was always well armed; and, if deemed necessary, had such escort as could be spared from the train.

When traveling the train was kept in close line, and fire--arms were always kept within ready reach. The men very seldom rode. The women and children <did> whenever they chose to do so. Those who felt able, however, walked a good deal.

The selecting of camping grounds was an important item, and required good judgment.—-The condition of the roads, and of the teams had to be considered; water, fuel, grass, and fuel must be found if practicable; certanily the two first requisites; and yet the distance should not be to short, and must not be too long (if avoidable) between halts. And then an eye must constantly be kept to the protection of the camp from hostile surprises, and the site of a camping ground was important in this connection.

At first our captain went on foot, being an excellent walker, built for it. But it soon became apparent that, for many reasons, this was not advisable. So he was furnished with a mule and saddle. And many was were the laughs, and jokes, the camp indulged in at his comical appearance.

The mule was small, the captain tall;
And when on saddle mounted
His down-turned toes touched level ground;—
He couldn’t be dismounted.
We judged him safe from Indians, quite;
With if arms but stretched widely out
From him they’d turn, and run with fright,
And yield to him the right of route.

Usually, at noon we would stop from one to two hours, but the cattle were not unyoked, at least not all of them; our nooning time depended largely upon circumstances.

When camping, at anytime, the wagons were at once driven so as to form a corall nearly circular, and open at each end. This was accomplished as follows;—-the head team would circle around to the right, the second to the left, third right, fourth left, and so on until all wagons were in position. At night, or in danger of an attack, when the animals were all in, the two gaps were closed with chains.

The very first thing to do on camping at evening was to get the cattle on feed; in fact, at all times the traveler considers that the teams should be his chief care. feed and water for them are the two things needful; the humans can, as a rule, take care of themselves; they are free, and can fore--calculate, and provide accordingly. the brutes are in bondage to man, and are therefore rightfully dependent upon him, and he under obligations to them; besides, it is imperative to his own interest, for although I have just written that he is free, there is an inter--dependence. Then, there may be, at times, a season of leisure to some; as there sometimes is during noonings also. But some of the men obtain wood, and water, and make a fire.

But wood is not always to be had; or is at times very scarce. A substitute, however, is found for it, frequently, in the use of buffalochips, this being the name that travelers on the great American plains have given to the cakes (the association if ideas suggested by this last word may not be pleasing to some, but these dried droppings of the bison have much the shape of a cake) of manure, whether of the bison or of the domestic animal. And, owing to the great number of emmigrant trains that had traveled up, and down, the Platte, on both sides, it was remarkable how plentiful they often were. With plenty of them, two, fires of good heat could be made; but it was advisable to becareful not to let the smoke mingle with the viutals [vitals] that might be cooking over the fire.

When fuel, of all kinds, was scarce various devices were resorted to to economise it. For instance, a narrow excavation was dug in the ground, about 6 in. wide, as long as required, and 6 in. or more, in depth. It was usually dug so that it would extend lengthwise in the direction of the wind. A fire was built over this little trench, and, when full of live coals, the kettles rested on either bank of it. Fire was then built around them, or poked, in the trench, under them; sometimes excess of draft was shut off by means of flat rocks. This contrivance formed, practically, a sort of an improvised stove. The favorite fuel of the plains was dry sage-brush; this not only kindled quickly, by means of bark and fine twigs, but it blazed well at night, and it quickly made a hot fire, and furnished a bed of lively enduring coals. I have seen sage brush 6 ft. or more in h[e]ight, with a stem 6 ins. through; but it is usually from 1 in. to 2 or three ins. in diameter.

When I crossed the plains the first time, there were vast herds of buffalo. We encamped so close to a large herd upon one occasion, that the noise of their bellowings was like the muffled rumbling of mighty thunders; a sound calculated in its nature to inspire the human heart with fear.

Then there is supper to get; and the guards to be set out for the first half of the night; and the arrangements made for their relief. The herd is allowed to stay out as long as is practicable, and is then brought into the corral. When, however, it was thought perfectly safe to do so they remained on the range all night, in care of a sufficient guard.

Now, until bed time, a good fire is usually made, and all but those on duty gather around it and have a good time,-—ta[l]king over the homes they have left, the experiences of the past, and the plans, and hopes, of the future; or perhaps cracking jokes, spinning yarns, singing songs, and even occasionally joining in a prairie dance, for there are sure to be some instruments of music in the company, and of course players of them too.

The labor of journeying, though, is too fatiguing to allow of late hours at night; so, about nine O’clock, the captains voice is heard calling to prayers; I must mention that we had prayers before breakfast also, and likewise that blessings were asked on the three meals of the day. After evening prayers the couches are sought, where the tired emmigrants, as a rule, sleep soundly until the voice of Captain Thomas once more arouse them to the duties of a new day. This then was the common order of each succeeding day; though, of course circumstances varied it, more or less.

Sometimes we laid over on Sundays the entire day; but at other times we would travel from four to six miles, to get a fresh pasture for the animals. And, occasionally, we laid over during a weekday, for washing, mending, and general repairs.

Almost invariably, however, divine services were held upon the Sabbath day in the evenings if not during the forenoon or afternoon. Brother Barron then officiated as a presiding elder.

We frequently had fish, and small game, to vary the ordinary diet of wheat bread, corn cake, bacon and grease, coffee and tea, and sugar. We also had molasses, and some dried and preserved fruits, pickles, etc.

At times our hunters would bring in a deer, an elk, or an antelope.

But on one occasion we had a grand buffalo hunt. All Who had suitable fire--arms, and horses with equipments, and were expert in the use of them joined in this exciting sport. So many writers, abler than I, have described these scenes that I will not undertake to do so. An ample supply of meat was obtained as a result of the chase.

But, under our conditions, and the hot weather then prevailing, we could not carry fresh meat any length of time. Those who did not participate in the hunt, therefore, with the assistance of the sisters, prepared to jerk <tnearly> all of the better portions of the animals that had been killed. Willows, as long and straight as could be got, were brought into camp; four crotched up-rights were driven in the ground, about four feet apart, their positions forming a square, two stout cross sticks each rested in the crotches of one pair of the uprights, the willows, cut in length of six-feet were then laid, close to-gether across the cross-sticks, thus forming a 4 X 6 ft. open platform, upon which the meat was to be placed, and a slow, smoky fire, made of selected wood.

As many of these platforms were made as would required to hold all the meat we might wish to jerk. Before the meat was laid on the platforms it was cut in thin, evenly- cut slices; and these were spread out <in> single layers, but as close together as was practicable. Thus arranged, with the heat and smoke beneath, and the sun beating upon it from above, and generally aided by more or less of a breeze, the meat would soon dry sufficiently to be put, loosely, in saks; where it would not spoil, but would continue to dry until it was thoroughly jerked.

We found that we could eat without stint of buffalo meat, whereas if we had indulged to a like extent in beef most of us would have been subject to bowel complaint. This jerked meat has a large per. centage of nutriment in proportion to its weight. We could eat it without having it cooked, if we wished, and we relished it.

All our company were Mormons with the exception of one man whose name I have forgotton. He was a German I think, about fifty years of age, and all alone. He joined us for company, and protection; and was probably going out to select a location for a homestead somewhere in this boundless west. His outfit consisted of a single wagon, drawn by one yoke of oxen; together with his bedding, clothing, provisions, and etceteras. His oxen had each his name, which each knew perfectly well. They were not only the old man’s servants, but his companions also.

He talked to them as he would have done had they been men, in the German language; and when he wished to bring them into the corral he would approach them, while they were off on the range, until he was near enough to them to be heard by them; Then he would commence calling them by their names. And, as he invariably had an ear of corn for each one, or a licking of salt, they would always come to meet him. He had the least trouble of any man in the company. He seemed to be a well disposed old gentleman.

Of course we had our share of an emmigrants difficulties. There was hot weather, cold weather, rainy weather, snowy weather and windy weather; There were rough rockey roads, muddy roads, heavy sandy roads; and there was some traveling through snow; we had long, and sometimes steep, hills to climb, and to descend; we had swift and treacherous rivers to ford.

We also had a stampede, but no serious damage was done. At one time a wagon was turned completely over, while crossing a mean little muddy stream. It was driven by a brother John Ostler, from England, who had his wife with him. Sister Ostler was imceremoneously buried beneath her earthly posessions; and her grave was a watery one too. But by energetically putting works with faith we soon resurrected her. And her little husband had the satisfaction of finding that she was more scared than hurt.

At length, however, with joy we sighted Pike’s Peak, a blue summit in the hazy distance. This was a notable indication that we were approaching our “Happy, happy, happy land of Caanan”. And, in a comparatively short time, we enter the Valley of the great Salt Lake; and—the City of the Saints.