Transcript for Crook, John, [Autobiography], in "Utah Pioneer Biographies," 44 vols., 7:252-56
It was understood that a company of saints would be organized about the first of June. An Elder Cunningham from Salt Lake City had charge of the Church affairs in the Bluffs. So the Giles's folks, some four wagon of them and myself gathered in a ravine south of the city called Hang Hollow, making up and preparing our necessary outfit.
About the first of June 1856, we left Hang Hollow for Florence, Nebraska. The gathering place was about six miles from Bluff City across the Missouri River. We crossed our wagons on a ferry boat about the second day of June. The first company of saints to cross the plains was organized about the fourth of June under the direction of Philo [Philemon C.] Merrill as captain who had crossed the plains nine times before. The company consisted of some fifty wagons, divided in companies of ten with a sub captain.
The Giles and myself were in E.B. Tripp's company. Elder E.B. Tripp was returning from a mission to the Eastern states, he had two wagons of his own. The first day's drive was about six miles and the next day to Elk Horn river ferry, a trying time to all who were green hands with cattle. In going down the hill, which was very steep to the ferry, my two wild yoke of cattle started to run, and ran the wagon into a deep gully washed out by rains in the road. Result a broken axle. A grove of hard wood close by supplied a new one and a few spare ones to take along. The end of one stick which was a little long I made into a maul, which I have to this day, 1893. this axle was put into Fat[h]er [William] Giles' wagon on big Sandy and Green River. After completing all repairs and crossing the river we were thouroughly organized with camp and cattle guards. Being then in an Indian country it required a thourough system of watchfulness.
All went along very peacefully until one night camping on Wood River, something was seen to crawl in among the cattle and the cattle stampeded, overturning some wagons in their pelmell rush. It was supposed the stampeded was caused by some roughs, who followed us from Council Bluffs with that intention. Cattle when crossing the plains in Indian countries also are very easily stampeded. Here we had to stay three days gathering up cattle, some never being found, having got mixed with the buffalo. Father Giles lost two good cows in the buffalo herds. This season buffalo were very thick on the plains, herds of thousands were seen every day. We sometimes had to stop the train while the herds went past to water. One day while nooning on Wood River, a big herd came charging on us from the hills. All hands were called out with guns and fired into them to turn them off. Another time while traveling buffalo charged our train and stampeded our whole train, causing some accidents, some ladies I believe got badly bruised, being thrown out of the wagons.
Most of the emigrant trains traveled on the south side of the Platte River up to old Fort Laramie. But we traveled all the way on the North side. Captain Merrill said we would find the best feed on the north side of the river. In going over the Black hills to Sweet Water creek we had to camp one night without water, a drive of about 35 miles between water. At Independence Rock the train was halted for one hour, giving the people a chance to gather saleratus. The country is a vast plain here with saleratus swamps and stretches of sage brush intervening. I gathered about one bushel in big chunks. This article was much sought after when arriving in the valleys. But I held onto mine which I found to my benefit in after years. This article in the crude state is pure if not so nice looking as the imported, which had to be hauled in wagons as other merchandise one thousand miles.
After leaving the Platte river and traveling through the Black hill country. It was thought best to divide the train into three divisions as feed was in smaller patches and more scattered than on the great Platte meadows. Dr. Peter Clinton was appointed over one division and E[noch].B[artlett]. Tripp another one. Both these gentlemen were of Salt Lake City and well known. Captain Merrill kept the larger division. And thus we traveled about one half day's drive apart until we reached the Big Mountain. In going over this mountain we had the first view of the Salt Lake valley at a distance which made all rejoice, realizing that our journey's end was near.
On the 14th. of August we nooned in a little valley between what is called Big and Little mountains. This valley is at the head of Parley's canyon. No road down there, travel went over Little Mountain and down Emigration canyon. While nooning here a small train of wagons under the charge of Mr. Parrish came along in a rush. They had left Florence about the same time as our train, and we had encountered them once or twice on the Platte bottoms. They had bragged of beating us into Salt Lake City by two weeks or more, as their company was small and would have the advantage of feed etc. Teams they said would be in better condition. But when they undertook to climb the hill the roads being slippery with the showers, their teams gave out and had to double and tripple in some cases. Well, we had quite a time also in getting over the mountains. So we had to camp in Emigration canyon that night. Early next morning we hitched up and about four miles down the canyon the road passed over what is termed a Hogs back, a road cut through a hill. And then you had a full view of Salt Lake City and valley. There was the blue water of the Salt Lake in the far west and the beautiful settlements in the foreground. Enchanting to the eye. There was the scene before us that we had long looked for, and read and sung about, the city of the Saints. Oh what a joy filled each bosom at the sight. About noon the 15th of August we rolled into Salt Lake City and went into camp on Emigration square.
[Variant versions also in Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Collection, 1828-1963, reel 12, item 6, 8-10 and Reminiscences and diary [ca. 1861-1864], 2-3 in Church Archives. Also published in Utah Historical Quarterly, Apr. 1933, 55-56 and Treasures of Pioneer History, 6 vols. [1952-57], 6:61-63.]