Transcript for Crane, James. Journal: Part 2

In the spring of 1859, Brother Joseph W. Young, Bishop [Frederick] Kesler and Orten [Horton] Haight came to the frontiers to bring a freight train through for the Church. They wanted teamsters to work their passage through for the church, and Brother Kesler came to Iowa City and found eight teamsters there.

I was one of them. He bought two yoke of oxen and a wagon to take us to Florence, or Winter Quarters, three hundred miles from Iowa City, I had charge of this small company. We left Iowa City April 3, 1859, just as winter was breaking up. The roads were terrible and it being the first time any of us had ever started out on a trip of this kind, we did not know too much. It was intended for us to meet Brother Joseph W. Young and Orton Haight at Fort Desmoines [Des Moines] as they were buying cattle, through that region of country, to take the train across the plains. Day after day we had rain, mud, and slush to wade through and many days we could not travel more than four miles. We had a great time at Skunk River. When we got there the river had over flowed its banks and filled the bottom for two miles across. We arrived there about nine o'clock in the morning. We stood and looked wishfully at the situation, wishing we were on the other side. While looking, two men came up to us and asked us which way we were traveling. "To Utah", we replied. "So are we," said they, "We have only lately arrived from Utah and are now returning, and if you will join us we will show you how to cross this river, as we have crossed many of them." I looked upon it as a blessing from the Lord and we arranged to unload our wagon and theirs, then lash the two wagon boxes together, caulk them tight and ferry over. Where the water was shallow, we waded and pushed the boxes before us, but where it was deep we used poles and worked our passage over. Some of my little company objected to our crossing in this way. I could see no other way than this. I called on those that were willing to join me, and those that were not could take their own course. The unwilling ones, seeing that they were about to be left behind, finally joined in without any bad feelings. We had to cross this stream three times until we were all used up pretty badly and the last trip it snowed on us all the way. One of the boys went several miles around the riffle in the water with the oxen and running gears, and we on our third trip across arrived at the landing as soon as he did. We were so numbed with the cold that we hardly knew what to do. There was a house close by where we hired a room and stove for the night, and in half an hour we were merry, singing, and chatting one with the other as though we had a splendid time.

When we arrived at Fort Desmoines, the company had left with word for us to follow as quickly as possible, which we did, and the next day we over took them just as it was getting dark. Old Brother [Joseph] Beecroft from London had charge of the camp and those that were driving the oxen that the brethren were buying. They all felt very blue in camp and down-hearted. I began to wonder if it was a Mormon camp or not, being there was no life in it, so I asked them if they were Mormons. "Oh yes," said they, "Then what is the matter with you?" said I. "Why we have been driving cattle all day and have had no supper nor likely to get any," they answered. I said, "Have you no provisions in camp?" They answered they had flour, bacon,-tea coffee, and molasses but had no time to cook it. "What, and hungry?" said I. "Have-you got a camp kettle?" I asked. They had, so I told them to bring it along with some flour, and in ten or fifteen minutes I made a kettle of mush that made their eyes sparkle, .and with molasses to put on it, they all had a good supper. This drove the blues out of the camp and we sang and talked until midnight. The next morning, the old man told me to take charge of the camp for he would starve them to death with the wagon loaded with provisions. I refused, saying I would not take charge but I would help him all I could. From this time on we got on well until our arrival at the Missouri River. We stopped on the Missouri about six weeks until the oxen that had been poorly, got fat. We had four hundred head of oxen. I was put in charge of the herd until we left. When the train started on the plains, I was made captain of ten. There were seventy-four wagons in all and Brother Haight was captain of the company, Brother Kesler commissary and in charge of all the freight. We were three months in crossing the plains. It was very laborous on the oxen and after passing through the sand hills of Laramie, the oxen began to die and continued to do so until we arrived within two hundred miles of Salt Lake City. We could scarcely move the train and had to get help, from Salt Lake City. Considering the length of the journey, we had a good time, plenty of provisions, once in a while short of water and an occasional quarrel with the unruly teamsters, but nothing only what might be expected on such long hard journeys. All were inexperienced in the business, men and boys. All had been brought up to different business to this. Artisans of every trade. Many that had never seen an oxen before, much less yoking them up and driving them. When the Salt Lake City boys met us with fresh oxen to help us, we felt delighted. But when we heard the way those boys could curse and swear, we did not feel so delighted. I felt bad and could not account for it. We were going to Zion and they came from Zion to help us. Many of the camp felt badly and expressed themselves so, but I always kept those kind of feelings to myself, and prayed to the Lord for an explanation. The spirit of the Lord told me, to take care when I arrived in the land of Zion that I did not fall into the same snare. I am sorry to say that every one of those boys came to a bad end. Many of them were shot for thieving and I soon learned that they were playing the part of the wicked and not the righteous. We arrived in Salt Lake City on the 1st of Sept., 1859, and when we came out of Emigration Canyon and saw Salt Lake City, oh how thankful we did feel to the Lord. And none but those that experience it can tell the heavenly feeling that possess a Latter-day-saint when they first see the city of the saints. The tears of joy coursed down my cheeks and I thanked the Lord that I had been preserved thus far to receive of his blessings. We drove our teams into President Young's yard and his family made supper for the whole company.