Transcript for Evan Stephens, "Evan Bach," Children's Friend, August 1919, 298-301
One day a dim outline of a cliff came dimly to view-"Chimney Rock," it was called. Very, very slowly it seemed to draw nearer. After days and days of hard walking, about twenty miles per day, a cross cut made over some rolling hills brought them to the River Platt which formed a broad ribbon about a mile wide in the bottom of a valley about twice its own width. The sight of this stream of water was an interesting change from the apparently never ending prairie. It was a dangerous looking scramble getting down with the wagons into that valley from the hills.
Evan's sister had come down with what was termed the "Mountain Fever" and was so ill that Mother had to remain in the wagon. Evan clung closely fearing that the wagon might tip over and hurt or even kill his dear mother and sister. However the clever teamsters helped one another and all were landed safely at the river's side.
Here some very attractive bushes in a little ravine were discovered by Brother David and soon the two boys were reveling in picking and eating some fine "Choke-Cherries" which, even today, seem to have been the sweetest he ever tasted. The little scene was also beautiful for vines and wild grapes grew over the sturdier bushes and made perfect bowers of them.
But, hark! A cry of alarm was raised and the boys were told to rush for camp, that a band of Indians in war paint and feathers were riding right toward camp!
Out of breath and full of terror they were inside the circle in no time and then they saw for the first time in their lives the wild red men of America as they rode into the camp in great show and pomp. They were met with friendly greeting by the Captain and his staff, while every teamster made sure that his revolver was safely in its place on his hip.
The Indians descended from their ponies, a peace pipe was lighted and soon all were seated on the ground in the center of the camp space. Then formally, in turn, a red man and a white man took a whiff at the pipe of peace and thus pledged each other to friendliness. Gifts of flour and other eatables were presented to the visitors and they departed in peace after making a very fine impression on their white friends and doing much to allay their fears for the safety of the camp, which proved to be justified for his camp. But the next camp that followed them but a few days later was robbed of half of their oxen and so crippled in their speed of traveling that many suffered much and some died from cold and hunger before they could get help from or reach Salt Lake City. Perhaps it was the same band of Indians who did it or perhaps another.
However from this hillside afar down the river could be seen the harbinger of another day and other conditions-it was a large body of men laying the railroad track that was to cross the continent and make it unnecessary for ox-teams to ever cross the plains again to bring the Saints to Zion. The very next year teams were sent only as far as Laramie, about half way to the Missouri. And two years later they came all the way by train. A great saving in expense, trials and labor, but a truly great loss in a wonderful experience to the travelers.
The Indians had departed but there were other troubles close at hand. There was that wide river to cross, it had been carefully examined and tested by the advance scouts and the safest and shallowest crossings carefully selected, but it was so muddy that one could not pick a bottom at sight, and the fine gravel that formed its bed was constantly on the move and if a wagon, team or man had to stand long in one place the quick-sands would be gathering or setting them down a little deeper every minute. It was so shallow that it was deemed safe for the grown-up men to wade it, but they were warned to keep on the upper side so that if washed down the stream the men with the teams could come to their rescue and then, too, the caravan would be between them and down the river.
Evan was put into the wagon, rather against his dignity, as he felt sure he was an experienced walker by this time. David was, however, wading it, and either, because he did not realize danger, or purposely through overconfidence he got on the lower side of the wagon and soon he was getting into deep water and had to be rescued.
A few days after this, sister Mary was apparently at death's door for the fever had reached its climax. One noon her husband and mother were sorely weeping at the prospect of losing the loved one in death and they dreaded so to have that terribly hard experience of burying her by the wayside "on the plains" it would be almost, if not quite as hard to bear as the burial at sea. However, through determined faith and prayer they had the joy of seeing her change for the better, and she, at this writing is still alive and hearty, the mother of ten living children with a host of grandchildren and greatgrandchildren.
Then at last! at last! something tangible seemed to form afar off in the west, could they be clouds? or some dark irregular steaks against the sky? No. A wild shout from the teamster boys told it all at once, they were the mountains of their hearts love-the mountains in whose vastnesses they had left all their loved ones for safe-keeping while they came out a two thousand mile ride (or walk rather) to help their fellow-worshipers, entire strangers to them, save that they were of that same faith and brotherhood, that needed no personal acquaintance to endear them to true men and believers.
Their dear old mountains again! And soon all the camp was ringing with songs sung in several tongues but all expressing the same thought:
"O ye mountains high,
Where the clear blue sky,
Arches over the vales of the free."
The next day and the next they traveled on towards the wonderful mountains, each day their beauties increased and in a week or more they seemed to have grown to greater heights while here and there glistened the snow and ice that lay at the bases of jagged peaks like mantels of silver shining in the sun. Ah! no human--or few wise ones only--at that time realized the store of shining metals that lay concealed under that mock silver, really more precious than the others of earth earthy, the "Sweet Water" of the Rockies. The Sweet Waters that would like magic bring forth towns, villages, and farms all over this then wild and barren country.
So they journeyed on and on 'till they were well among the peaks and canyons of the mountains. The "Rockies" first, then the "Uintas" and last of all the Wasatch range.
A dangerous bit of work was the fording of the swift and deep Green River. The danger seemed greater because of its nearness, comparatively speaking, to the end of the journey. Like the sea travelers and Evan's unfortunate uncle finding the danger spot almost at his dear mother's door. On the sea there is comparately little danger when far from land, but when the rocky coast is near they are like hungry wolves ready to devour whatever the winds and waves drift to their hungry maws. So here Little Evan's second river ride on the plains seemed to be a risky one. One or two of the wagons were carried down stream some distance but finally rescued. A snow storm next came on and the company was made to realize in a small way what that unfortunate company of Saints had suffered who had pulled or pushed handcarts across the plains, many of whom froze to death in this vicinity before rescuers from the "Valley" reached them with aid.
Upon reaching the Bear River a party was met who were looking for relatives in the camp. This made the end of the journey seem very close.
After traveling miles and miles between great walls of mountains a thousand feet high, called Echo Canyon, we passed the first little town seen this side of the Missouri River. In this little town called "Coalville" the emigrants saw something they hardly imagined could be true-a bishop carrying a sack of flour on his back, his clothing all white with it, wearing neither coat or vest. Old country people as they were they never before had seen a toiling, manual laboring, bishop, coatless and vestless, and they wondered what sort of a bishop a "Mormon" bishop must be to be so "human like" and democratic.
Another day and we began the last downward climb towards the valley of our dreams. Steeper and grander became the towering cliffs. The lower we got the higher they towered over us, and billows of them still seemed to hide the view, and almost the sky, ahead until finally we made our last camp at "Mountain Dell" just a few miles away from the goal we had started for-Great Salt Lake City.
The "Valleys of the Mountains"--who could tell all the love-tales and emotional dramas taking place in that camp on this last eventful night of their journey. Surging eagerness of some hearts to meet loved ones they had followed here, would they find them unchanged or enthralled in new loves? Others, perhaps, with a new found love in their hearts dreading the parting that was so near. Others wholly at sea as to their immediate future even, relying only in faith that as the Lord had at their pleading and work opened the way for them to come this far, He would not now desert them and all would, shortly, be well.
The teamster boys, were filled with delight at being in a sense home again, but shared the mingled feelings of all the rest at what might have happened during the several months of absence from loved ones. Have they, among this new company, found a new love and is she dearer than the one they thought they loved and left entirely unpledged? If there was little sleep there was doubtless much and intense dreaming of homes left and homes soon to be reached, where the excitement permitted of sleep or dreams at all.