Transcript for Farnes, Ebenezer, Reminiscences [ca. 1910], 10-14

In the fall of '63 I was asked at a minutes notice if I would take a pony team and go back on the plains alone and meet all of the companies and ask them if they would need any tents and transact other business. I told them I was ready to start that day, so they started me off without any provisions or cook. I took twelve tents, some oats for the horses, some flour and some bacon. I tried to buy some bread but could not get it. I traveled about forty miles a day, rather lonesome, but then I should see my father, mother and my sisters on the way. I met several of the companies of the saints and delivered my instructions to them and left tents for those that wanted tents and got provisions for myself.

One evening I camped at the Pacific Spring. At the South pass at this place there are two springs not forty yards apart, one of them running into the Pacific Ocean and the other empties into the Atlantic Ocean. It is the divide and a cold place at any time. The night I camped there it was colder than usual and I took a cold chill. There I lay in my wagon, shaking and rattling the wagon so bad that I wonder that there was a bolt left in it. The wind blew and the wild animals howled. My horses were restless and I was sick and lonesome indeed. The next morning was welcome to me so I started on again having had no supper or breakfast. In traveling along the side of the road I saw a parcel wrapped in a newspaper and on picking it up, to my surprise, I found a large loaf of warm bread. Who had left it there? I looked for the track of a horse or wagon but could not see the first sign of any. The ground was soft and the small grass and weeds had covered the track of the last team that had gone over the road, but whoever left it there I was very thankful to them for it an after traveling about twenty miles that day I met a man named Rhodes from Weber and he was very good to me. He thought we were on the wrong road as there had been considerable rain and the road had grown green with grass, and it looked as if it had not been traveled since the year before. After leaving the Big Sandy River, about ten miles east, my team became restless and wanted to run.

I was surprised and thought perhaps some of the harnesses were loose. In looking behind me I saw a band of Indians all in their war paint. They rode up on each side of my team and made signs for me to stop, which I did as soon as I could get control of my team, at which time one of the Indians spoke to me in his language, which of course I could not understand, then he spoke in fair English and asked me what was in my wagon and I told him. He asked me who sent me and I told him Brigham Young, and he opened my shirt to see if I had garments on. I had not, so he said: "You chump, you lie". After considerable talk I persuaded them that I had told the truth and after giving them about one third of the provisions I had, they turned back and were soon out of sight.

In 1863 the Indians were on the war path and killed many private companies crossing the plains, but they did not molest the Latter-day Saints, and I found afterward that the eighty Indians who stopped me were Paumese [Pawnees] Indians and were after a band of Sioux Indians to fight them.

I traveled rather nervously afterward, knowing that the Indians were bad and perhaps the next time would not let me off so easily, but I did not meet any more. The next day I expected to meet my folks, but about noon I met two men on horseback. I asked them how far Captain McArthur's train was behind, and they told me about three miles. I asked if a family named Farnes was in the train, to which they replied: "Yes, your father died yesterday", and rode on. The blunt way in which he told me was almost more than I could stand. The contrast between my feelings before and after he answered me is too great to imagine. The joy I hoped to experience upon meeting my father and mother and loved ones soon was dispelled by the knowledge that my father had died the night I cam[p]ed at the South Pass. It broke me down. I stopped my team and could go no further, as I felt my heart would break at meeting the train. I lay beside the road weeping tears from the heart if there is such a thing. After awhile the train came in sight and they passed me, but I could not muster courage enough to meet my mother. After a time I drew myself together, Knowing that they would camp soon, I hitched up my team and turned back and overtook the company, just as they were making camp. I found the wagon they were in and after awhile went there and found my mother in a burning fever; the mountain fever, we call it Typhoid fever. My mother did not know me. She thought it was M. H. and called me her Matthew. My sister Matilda was just getting over the fever while the others, Jane, John S. Farnes and Mary Ann French, were worn out with sickness and the death of father. Father had walked from early morning until 11:00 p.m. and while putting up a tent for the girls, fell down three times and was dead in less than an hour. He died at 12:00 p.m. and was buried at daylight with the dead sweat all over his body, and all this hurry because Captain Andrew McArthur of St. George, wanted to make a record of making the best time and bringing his cattle in the best shape across the plains.

Well, he did it, but how many human beings were caused to suffer for his record? After staying at the camp until the ox teams were ready to continue the journey, I bid good-bye to my mother and sisters, never expecting to see them again, especially my mother. It was hard for me to turn my back on them and go three hundred miles east. A young man volunteered to go back with me and show me the way and where my father was buried. My intentions were to dig up the grave and see if he was dead when they buried him, as one of the men who helped to put him away told me he did not think father was dead, as his shoulders were warm with sweat.

The next day we saw one of the sights of the desert. Near the crossing of the Sweet Water River there had been a large number of cattle die at one time, and they were lying in the center of the road and there were seventy-five or eighty large prairie wolves eating the carcasses, and about one hundred coyotes waiting until the wolves were satisfied.

These wolves were large ones and could easily have eaten my team and both of us in less than an hour. I did not feel afraid of them as they had plenty to eat and they will only attack a man when they are hungry or wounded. Well it was a sight to see with their long hair and bushy tails shining in the sun, with their red mouths open and their teeth snarling at us as we passed through them, some of them not more than twenty-five feet from our team. It was quite a relief when we got passed them and out of sight. Few men have seen such a large number of grey wolves at one time.

That evening we got to the place where father was buried. The grave was all that anyone could ask for under the circumstances. After a few hours rest we journeyed east and soon met another emigrant train, where we stayed all night, left some tents, delivered our message and started on again. At length we met the last company with Captain White, on the Platt[e] River, and we set our faces to the West, traveled with that company a few days and then left to catch up with the next company ahead, which we did, and stayed two days. This company was under Captain [Rosel] Hyde, in which a woman committed suicide, as hereafter related. After being with this company an hour, a sister came up to me and asked to go to a poor Welch woman and try to get her to take something to eat, as she had not been out of the wagon for two days. She and her husband had been quarreling two days before and she was sulky. I went to the wagon and spoke to the woman, but received no answer. I looked closer and could see part of her legs, her body being covered. I put my hand on her and asked her to get up as there was a brother from Salt Lake City who wanted to talk with her, and again received no answer. I told her if she did not get out I would pull her out by the feet. No answer came, so I started to pull her by the ankle and found she was dead. It did not take me long to drag the bed clothes from her and then found that she had smothered to death. Her face was on the bottom of the wagon box and the rest of her body about two feet and a half higher. Her face and neck were black and mortifying. She evidently had put her head at the bottom and pulled the clothes over her body and the teamster not knowing, had thrown his bed clothes on top of her and had been sitting on her head for two days.

We made an investigation to see if there had been any foul play, but could not find anyone to blame but herself, so we dug a grave, wrapped the body in the bed clothes she died in, and put her in the hole, which was deep and the men who buried her had to drop the body the last foot or so and the sound of the thump as the body struck the ground is still sounding in my ears. When we threw the soil on the corps[e] I had to go away as I could not stand the sound. I thought of my poor father and his burial in a similar manner.

Well, we traveled with that company that day and then went ahead again, traveling about thirty miles when we came to the last crossing of the Sweet Water, where we found a small company of United States Soldiers camped. As we drew up the soldiers were lined up on each side of the road and appeared to be drilling, so we turned out to go around them.

They threw out a flank and headed me off, so I went to go around the other way, but they surrounded me and took me a prisoner of war, it being during the rebellion between the North and South. These one hundred and fifty soldiers were sent back on the plains to search the Saints' companies crossing the plains to see if they had any gunpowder, and if so to confiscate it.

There was a company of "Mormon" boys following up on horseback, and as all the Saints had been notified of the soldiers being on the road, they had disposed of all their gunpowder and these boys by a round about way brought the powder to Salt Lake City, Utah. These boys did not travel by the road, but kept in the background so that when the soldiers searched the wagons they did not find any powder. Thinking that I must have been the means of their not getting any powder, they stopped my team as I was coming back home, while they searched the last companies. When the commander told me they would have to hold me a prisoner I told him all right, so long as he fed me and my team and he assured me that I should fare just the same as the rest of the company, and not to feel myself under any restraint and consider myself his guest until his return from searching the last two trains. Soon after the captain left the camp with one hundred of his men, leaving thirteen to guard me, one of the soldiers took the hay from my horses and swore at me for feeding the hay to my horses as there was not enough for their own. So I had to turn my team out to shift for themselves. There not being any feed near by, my horses crossed the river. The next morning as I was crossing the river to feed my horses some oats, one of the guards called to me to turn or he would shoot. As I was on a log covered with ice and near the middle of the stream, this was not an easy task, however I turned and went back but did not fall in the river as he had expected I would do. I admit I was a little nervous. After going back they sent one of the men with me, but he would not cross, so remained until I came back with the horses and told me he would not cross on that log for the whole United States.

That afternoon one of the soldiers that had been left behind his company because he was sick, a small skinny cur, commenced to abuse the Mormons and called them all the blasphemous names he could think of. My patience gave way and I drew my arm back and knocked him down when he slipped back into the cook room and told the cook that he had scared that Mormon. The cook, who had seen and heard all that was going on, replied: "I think that Mormon scared you", and when the men came into supper, the cook told them how things stood and from that time on I was a jolly good fellow with them all. We played all kinds of games, running, jumping, wrestling and had all sorts of fun, and I could hold my own with the best of them, being a pretty good athlete myself.

After staying there four days the rest of the men returned and the Captain told me I could go, and to travel that day until I caught up to the last emigrant train, and to stay with them until we got to Salt Lake, and if I did not I would be arrested and kept a prisoner all winter.

He gave me provisions enough to last me three or four days, as the men at the camp had stolen everything I had that was loose. I started out about noon to make forty miles that day, but I had only gone five miles when my best horse gave out and I could not go any faster than a walk, so I had to tie him back and pull the wagon with one horse. I got to the emigrants about two o'clock in the morning, with one of the horses almost given out. Next morning I borrowed a mule from a doctor who had been traveling with the emigrant train for a few days. Finally the doctor went ahead and my sick horse not being able to go as fast as he did, I remained with the company and at last had to leave my sick horse and wagon near Park City and came to the city on my well horse.