Transcript for Edgar Session sketch based on notes from the Sessions family ledger, circa 1895-1910
[Introductory paragraph written by Edgar Sessions' daughter, Louise S. Huntzinger.]
The eleventh day of May 1864 they sold the farm in Wayne Co Illinois and started West one week later on the 18th of May. They had two wagons, ox teams, a cow, and a horse for riding. Traveling were Thomas, his wife Sarah, six sons ranging from 7 to 21 years of age, (the other son was away at war), and two little daughters, 1 and 5 years old. They crossed the Missouri River at Omaha, July 3rd. Five families—ten wagons, but were held [at] Fort Kearney by U.S. troops because their company was not large enough to protect itself from Indian attack. After waiting ten days they joined the first wagon train that [came] along, a company of about 500 Danish converts to the LDS church. Now they had 52 wagons under Captain William B. Preston.
Our Danish immigrants had acquaired the habit of starting before the train was ready to move because all who could walk, had to walk, and they made no exceptions on this morning. But, strung out along the road, about five hundred of them, and after traveling all day and nearly all night, and seeing no sign of the coming wagons, some turned back and began to meet them before we stopped for camp. They kept coming in small squads all night long. Others simply made dry camp beside the road a[n]d sat down to wait. It was noon the next day before we came to the last of them.
It would be useless to try to portray the suffering they endured for aside from tiredness and aching limbs, the endurance of hunger and thirst must have been very acute. So will not attempt it.
After traveling three or four days we came to what is known as Mountain Meadows. It was a beautiful place, rolling hills covered abundantly with grass, and clear running water in nearly every hollow between the hills, and no mountain in sight in any direction. Our little independent train was ordered to join the big train in forming the wagon corral, and turn our stock in with the big herd. “For” said Captain, “If those fellows back there at the station have planned to commit any depredation against us before reaching Bridger, they will do it here.”
They set 32 teamsters out with the herd, besides the regular night watch of sixteen to stand guard until midnight, when they would be relieved by the other sixteen.
Everything was conducted strictly according to military rule. Countersign and all. In placing the guard, Captain Hill told me to get in the center of a small round bunch of willows and not make any noise. He ordered, “If you see a man coming up or down the ca√±on halt him, and if he don’t say “ca√±on”, our countersign, by the time you have halted him the third time, fix it so it won’t be necessary for him to answer. But if you should see a man coming down the slope of that hill to the East, don’t say anything, but let your rifle do the ta[l]king Do you understand?” “I think I do,” I responded.
Everything was a quiet as silence could be until about eleven o’clock. I heard a man coming down the ca√±on afoot, and I sung out, ‘Halt!” But he didn’t halt. I have the second challenge, and still no halt. Don’t try to imagine my feelings, for the man was close, but the night being dark I could not see him. I thought it was Captain Hill. I [was] almost sure I could recognize his walk. But I was on duty and had my orders. So, before giving the third challenge, I cocked my rifle. I didn’t give the third challenge for he sang out “ca√±on” before I had time.
Captain Hill was asked, “Aren’t you rather reckless?” “Not when I have a man on guard that understands his orders” was his reply.
We didn’t usually have to stand guard all around camp, but one night they had a line of sentinels all around camp, and the countersign was “Brigham”. It so happened our friend Hall was an inveterate Mormon hater, and all the teamsters knew it. So, the sentinel on either side of him planned to be at the end of the beat and challenge who comes there? And, of course he had to say “Brigham” and of course he was furious by the time he was relieved and sent off duty. But otherwise, everything was quiet, no disturbance whatever.