Transcript for "Autobiography of Mary Manerva Dart Judd," 3, 6-9.
In the spring of 1850, my father [John Dart] sold the farm for cattle to complete our outfit for Salt Lake Valley, then the objective point of the wandering Saints.
When on our journey about two days, the wagon which my Uncle Julian Roberts had made for my father in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and which father had supposed would last for years, got so dry that the wheels began to give way. We succeeded in trading it for a larger and better one. We gathered with the saints at the general campground, at the mouth of the Platte River.
This was a beautiful place, with groups of wagons here and there among the groves of large trees. I had never before seen so large a collection of wagons. It was the place appointed for the Saints to rendezvous for the purpose of organizing into companies and receiving instructions before starting out on the Plains.
They were first organized into tens, comprising ten wagons or families, with a captain. Five of these ten's constituted a fifty with a captain over them. These were supposed to be strong enough to take care of themselves in the ordinary emergencies of travel. Two of these fifties were expected to travel near enough to each other to consolidate under a captain of one hundred in times of danger from Indians. Every family was expected to be prepared to live for six months, and to have bread for one year. After we had organized and crossed the Platte River, we considered that we were fairly well started on our journey across the Great Plains.
It would be one thousand miles of travel where we should find only savage Indians and not much less savage mountaineers. During the first days of travel, we found that the pestilence was keeping us company.
A number of children were running along on foot. We saw a boy, about 12 years old, lying by the road side under a tree. At first we supposed that he was asleep. My father stopped his team, and going to the boy found that he was so nearly dead that he spoke with difficulty. We gave him some prepared brandy and pepper which we carried with us. This revived him. He said his father's name was Rollins. He had a large family, and for that reason, had perhaps, not missed his son. He was in Captain [William] Wall's company just ahead of us. We took him to his father who was camped with two or three companies on a rise of ground.
That night the rain descended in torrents. Our company traveled on the South of the Platte River, the route usually traveled by the overland migration to California. The Saints were counseled to travel on the north side of the river, following the track first made by the pioneers to Salt Lake Valley. We had considerable difficulty in getting through a mirey piece of ground which resulted in breaking our wagon tongue.
While stopping to repair damages, my mother [Lucy Ann], my sister, Harriet, and my brother, George, were taken with the cholera. When repairs were completed, we started on. Soon after, George said, "Father, I want to get out." Father took him out a short time, and he laid him back into the wagon. He was dead. In this sorrowful condition we traveled on to the camp, about four miles distant. After arriving there and turning out the team, father laid the remains of my brother under the wagon. It was nearly dark. I was very sorrowful. After walking around a little I came back to the wagon and found the body of my brother had been taken away. At a little distance I saw a light and started towards it. I was met by my father and asked, "Where is my brother?" He replied, "He is alright now he is buried." It grieved me very much that they had carried him off without my seeing him. It was perhaps wise to not permit my young mind to be impressed with the rude, uncoffined way in which they were obliged to put his remains into the earth. Fortunately for the young, the keen edge of grief soon wears off.
About four o'clock in the morning, my sister left us to keep company with our departed brother. In the morning we buried her on a small rise of ground away from human habitation, among the howling bea[s]ts of the plains. They died about twelve hours apart. My mother was quite sick but we indulged hope of her recovery. Arriving near Ft. Laramie, we camped for the night on a beautiful plat of grass. Here, about midnight, our sorrows culminated in the death of my mother.
For some time we had been so absorbed in our own toils, watchings and sorrows that we had no time to sympathize with our fellow travelers in theirs. A number of families had suffered. Perhaps the most grievous case was that of Mr. Rollins whose little boy my father had picked up nearly dead by the roadside. Twelve out of fifteen in his family had passed away.
Passing Laramie, we camped in a beautiful place by a springs for a week, to rest and clean up our wagons and clothing. Here a gentleman died, and as some doubted his being dead, he was put into a grave and it was left open for some time, hoping he might come to life. I think the fear of death gave the pestilence a greater hold on some persons than it otherwise would have had.
The cholera had swept off many of the California emigrants who had preceded us on the route south of the Platte. We saw places where it was evident companies had camped and buried many of their number. In some places clothing had been spread out on the bushes and left near the remains of their owners, the living having no use for these infected mementos of those they had buried. We saw where some bodies had been dug up by wild beasts; other places we saw a foot or hand projecting out of the grave, etc. These reminiscences and scenes of horror I hope humanity seldom witnesses again.
It is a testimony of the Lord's care of this people that those who traveled on the north side of the Platte as counseled to do, had no problem with cholera, they did not even lose an ox.
As we approached the mountains we felt more vigorous and healthy. As we approached the buffalo range we saw immense heards [herds] of them. When we encountered one on the move, our captain would order a halt in order to take better care of our animals and prevent them from stampeding with the buffalo, of which there was considerable danger. We dried considerable quantities of buffalo meat to last us into Salt Lake Valley.
We heard about a salaratus lake and then gathered large quantities with others of the company to take with us to be used in bread making and also soap manufacturing. We also found wild currants and a yellow fruit which we named buffalo berries in honor of the noble animal.
We crossed several streams where we had to raise wagon boxes to keep the goods inside from getting wet. The passing of Fort Bridger the crossing of Bear River and other streams indicated that we were approaching the object of our tedious journey. For three months we had been traveling away from a civilization which had cast out the Saints, to build up a better one in the desert. After long desert travel, Salt Lake City was beautiful to us with its streams of crystal water running along the streets. There were not many houses, but there were enough to give it an air of civilization and comfort.
We left our home in Bridgeport, Connecticut in April, 1849, and arrived in Salt Lake City in September, 1850. We had traveled about 3,000 miles and passed through many changes and vicis[s]itudes, some of them of a very trying nature. Three of our dear ones had passed through the gateway of death, we trust, to a better life beyond. They ended their work; we still live on to accomplish ours. . .
We sold all the grain we had and bought a team and wagon and started for the mountains. When we got onto the bottoms the cholera overtook us about four o’clock in the afternoon. My brother George died within an hour (June 28, 1850) after taking the disease. My sister Harriet died the next morning about four o’clock. We buried them there away from any human habitation on a little hill on the flat.
We traveled on until within four miles of Fort Laramie where my mother died. Three out of our family since we had crossed the river.
At the mouth of the Platt[e] river that night there was a stampede. a mule came from the Fort with a chain on or something of the kind and the cattle became frightened and stampeded. We used the broken chairs for a cover over our mother. She died July 6, 1850, having been baptized before she died. At her funeral was sung, “And if We Die Before Our Journeys Through, All Is Well.” There were elders from the mountains met us there and administered to her before she died. Brother [Otis] Terry and sister Levi [Leva] Judd were the only ones that dared to help us as the others were afraid of the cholers [cholera].
Our family was the first that took the cholera in our camp, but there was some fifteen that died in our camp. Soon after we came into the buffalo country my father took quite sick and thought he might die. Elder Blodget and others told him if he got baptized it would heal him, so he was baptized and was healed and came on to the Valley. . .