Transcript for Cropper, Thomas Waters, "History of Thomas Waters Cropper," in Robert L. Ashby, ed., The Robert L. Ashby and Hannah Cropper Family Book of Their Descendants and Ancestors, Book 4, , 9-11
In the Spring of 1856, we decided to go to Utah. We started in April with 150 head of cattle, some horses, three wagons, and a buggy. William Hawley, having married my half-sister, Nancy, a wagon was fitted out for them. Isaac Hawley, husband of my sister Amelia, drove one wagon and Sam Bertice drove the other wagon.
Jacob Croft drove the buggy and Stephen Duggins drove his wagon. George and John Hawley each had a wagon. James Slade and his family had three wagons. [Enoch]Hack Shaw [Hackshaw] had an outfit as did also Robert Lloyd.
The company started with about 200 head of cattle. Leigh [Richmond Cropper], George and I helped to drive them. The roads to Kansas City were bad. When we arrived there, fitted out with supplies to cross the plains. We traded some twenty-five head of cattle for the supplies.
In May we left Kansas City on our journey to the "Valleys of the Mountains". We crossed the Big Blue River; then on to the Little Blue. The country was very sparsely settled.
Whenever a cow had a calf, we gave it to some rancher, and thus brought on ourselves considerable trouble with the cows breaking back. To overcome this, we took to killing the calves and taking their skins along in some conspicuous place. The cow would follow the skin. We were soon out into the wild Indian country.
One day we were traveling along when we saw several Indians pass our train. The captain became suspicious that we might be attacked and our cattle stolen. That night we put our cattle in a stockade made of logs about eight feet high which was large enough to hold our cattle.
The cattle were uneasy and would not settle down. Four or five of us on horseback rode around and around the stockade trying to quiet them before we left them for the night. Finally they all laid down and we were at the point of leaving them when like a clap of thunder they were on their feet running and trampling each other until they went over the top of the fence and broke the pickets off, making a hole big enough for them to get out.
Away they went with us in front of them letting our horses out as fast as they could go, swinging our hats and hollering at them to try to stop them.
This race continued for about a mile when they stopped as suddenly as they started. We drove them back to the stockade and repaired the fence. This performance was repeated three times during the night. When we counted next morning, nine head of our best beeves were missing. We reported this to the Indian Agent and he paid for the cattle at $20.00 per head.
Every few days a band of savages, all painted up, would ride into our camp. They would form a line across the road and demand toll in the form of salt, beans, flour, etc. before they would let us pass. At one time an Indian Agent at one point brought us a fine horse that the Indians had stolen from us the year before.
To lessen the danger of attack, we never camped twice on the same campground. We traveled every day an average of fifteen to twenty miles, except on Saturdays and Sundays. Saturday was washday and we traveled only half a day. Sunday we held services and traveled half a day. We always traveled a little every day, no matter what the conditions.
Finally we reached the Platte River, near which we came across a very large camp of savages—mostly women and children. The men were hunting buffalo. The women came into our camp with all sorts of indian finery—moccasins, shawls embroidered with beads and porcupine quills. They wanted to trade for salt, bright colored cloth or flour. They would give about fifty cents in moccasins for a pint of salt or ten cents worth of glass beads.
As we followed along the Platte River the buffalo were very numerous. They surrounded our train on all sides. One day they bolted right through our train and tipped over three wagons. The wagon bows were broken and the contents of the wagons spilled around on the ground, but no one was injured and no serious damage was done.
On one occasion, I was riding my horse "Tobe", which had been trained by the Indians to run buffalo. There was a herd of buffalo nearby. "Tobe" was champing at the bits and acting like he wanted to give chase, so I decided to run up to one of them. After about a quarter of a mile run I got up to one. Then I had a difficult time turning the horse away and back to the train.
We killed a number of buffalo and selected the choicest parts, cut them up, and hung them out to dry on lines along the sides of our wagons. We had plenty of dried meat for our journey, and some left, which we ate after we reached Utah. I never lost my appetite for "Jerked" meat
We followed the south bank of the Platte River for two hundred miles and came to a bridge where we crossed to the other side. Near was Fort Kearny where a garrison of soldiers were stationed. Here, Sam Bertice, our teamster joined the soldiers and I was taken from the cattle herding to drive his team.
I was thirteen and I continued with this job into Utah and on down to Fillmore. We came to the Sweet Water River, a small stream which we crossed twenty-six times in twelve miles, We were now on the old Mormon Trail, and saw as many as twenty graves a day where people had been buried along the route.
There was one Hand Cart Company ahead of us and one behind us. A four mule team from the one in front waited for us and asked for donations for their company. We gave them a ton of flour, a beef and some other provisions. We expected to catch up with them any day, but we lost a number of our work oxen and had to break more, so they beat us to Salt Lake City by two days.
We finally crossed the Great Divide where the streams ran west instead of east. Then we reached Bear River and went down Echo Canyon, crossing the stream 46 times. There were no bridges at that time. We came up over Little Mountain, also Big Mountain and down Immigration Canyon to Salt Lake City and camped on Immigration Square, where the City and County Building now stands. This was on the eleventh of October, 1856.