Transcript for Fishburn, Robert Leeming, "Pioneer Autobiographies," in Chronicles of Courage, 8 vols. [1990-97], 2:204-8
We camped on the outskirts of the city [Iowa City, Iowa]; and during our sojourn there, we had people from the surrounding country come to our camp to see and to talk with us. They were curious to inquire what there could be in our religion that would cause us to emigrate in such numbers from our native countries to go to a barren wilderness as Utah was represented to be, and that we could start with handcarts on a journey of over thirteen hundred miles through a desert country inhabited only by the savage Indians and wild beasts of the forest, and yet be so cheerful, for we were cheerful, happy, and contented, though we had a long and arduous journey before us. We felt that the Lord would preserve us and would give us strength and power of endurance sufficient to enable us to go through.
After waiting here three weeks, our handcarts were ready. The company was provided with tents, cooking utensils, and three or four mule teams and wagons to haul them and our surplus provisions in. We were organized with Israel Evans as captain of the company and Benjamin Ashby to assist him. When we left Iowa City, we had in the company between four and five hundred men, women, and children, the strength of the company being divided out to the best advantage, the single young men being used where they were most needed so as to help those who were not so strong. The rest of the brethren and sisters who came with us from Liverpool to Iowa started a day or two after us with ox teams and wagons, Edward Martin being the captain of that company. The two companies traveled together nearly all the way through.
After traveling from Iowa City to Florence, or Winter Quarters, which was situated on the Missouri River, a distance of three hundred miles from Iowa City, we were joined by a company of Saints from St. Louis, there being about one hundred of them. We there rested several days until such time as all of the supplies were ready and loaded for our journey across the great American desert of a thousand miles which now lay before us. All being ready, we started again on our journey the latter part of the month of June. I do not remember the exact date.
We traveled along as best we could until the evening of the third of July when we reached a small settlement of our people, called Genoa, about one hundred miles from Winter Quarters. Sometime during that night Apostles John Taylor and Erastus Snow and also James Gembel came into our camp, bringing the intelligence of the assassination of Parley P. Pratt, which intelligence cast quite a gloom over the entire company. These brethren were fleeing to the Rocky Mountains as fast as they could for safety, but remained with us until the morning of the fifth, when they bade us a kind farewell.
We left Genoa on the morning of the fifth and proceeded once more on our arduous journey, which we found was indeed hard before we got through having to wade streams of water and pull our loads through mud holes and swamps, uphill and downhill, and over the sand hills, which was the hardest labor we had on the entire journey, as we had to call on the entire strength of the company to haul the carts, pulling them a short distance, and then going back for the others, and after doing this we would have to go back to help the teams up. However, we got along first rate, all things considered, for we were both cheerful and happy and were disposed to make the best of everything, which tended very materially to lessen our burdens.
We enjoyed ourselves in various ways around our camp fires at night, after having had supper. Groups would be gathered around the fires and would entertain themselves in recounting the incidents of the day, singing and reciting; and very frequently, when not too tired, we would have a dance. I had a violin I brought with me, and being the only one in the company who could play, the duty of making music for the brethren and sisters devolved upon me. Myself and three young ladies did considerable singing, their names being Eliza P. Noble, Elizabeth Walker, and Sarah Pollard. They also came from Bradford at the same time I did, came on the same vessel across the Atlantic, traveled together on the cars to Iowa, and from there pulled at the same handcart with me to Salt Lake City. While traveling on the road, we sang for miles, which used to make the time slide along pleasantly and would also make our burdens seem lighter. It not only made us feel more cheerful and happy, but it had the same good effect upon all the company.
The only circumstance I can remember occurring that cast a feeling of gloom over the whole company was when we had nearly reached Laramie. Our provisions were almost exhausted, and we had not the slightest idea where we were going to procure any. This gave us some uneasiness when we realized that we still had five hundred miles to travel before reaching our destination. However, before we had consumed all the provisions, we learned that President Brigham Young had sent out a large quantity of flour, causing it to be stored at different points on the road for the express purpose of relieving the emigrants as they came along.
One night when camped a few miles this side of Laramie, we finished up everything we had in the company in the shape of provisions. After supper we held a meeting which was rather a solemn one. The captain of the company informed us that there would be no necessity of us starving for the want of flour between this point and Salt Lake City, but that we should be compelled to travel the next day fourteen miles without breakfast to a place called Horseshoe Creek where we should find flour. He then asked us how we felt about handing over our outfits, which consisted of our handcarts, teams and wagons, tents, cooking utensils, etc., to the Church when we arrived in Salt Lake City, if we were provided with provisions through the remainder of our journey, for these things belonged to the company, having been bought with their money and not with Church funds. We very willingly agreed to hand them over rather than starve; and while we could not help but feel that somebody was at fault for the scanty supply of provisions furnished us, we could not do otherwise than acknowledge the hand of a kind and over-ruling Providence in blessing his servant Brigham with wisdom and foresight sufficient to cause such an abundance of provisions to be sent out and stored at different points expressly for the relief of any and all emigrants who might need such relief. Had such relief not been afforded to us, we certainly must have perished on the way.
The next morning we got up bright and early, packed up, and were soon on the way without breakfast; but we were cheered in the thought that it was only a matter of a few hours' travel before we should be able to satisfy our hungry appetites. We traveled the fourteen miles and reached Horseshoe Creek. There was a small company of brethren here from Salt Lake City taking care of the place and the supplies, which fact made it the more pleasant for us. Flour was soon served out, and as quickly as possible made into bread and baked, and then eaten with a good relish until all were satisfied. Though we had nothing else to eat, we counted this very sweet and were very thankful to get it. We remained here and rested the balance of the day. Had a splendid time, enjoying ourselves first rate, and at night after supper we had a dance. The contrast in the countenances and feelings of the brethren and sisters on this occasion was indeed quite marked as compared with those of the evening previous. I may here remark that a few of the brethren were detailed for guard service each night, being called out in their turn, so that each did his share of this labor, which made it satisfactory to all parties concerned.
The next morning we were busy in loading up with flour sufficient to last us to a place called Deer Creek. This being done and breakfast over, we soon had our tents taken down and loaded into the wagons, and proceeded once more on our journey. All went along as smoothly as it were possible under the circumstances, and in a few days we reached Deer Creek, where we found a larger number of brethren from Salt Lake City than were at Horseshoe Creek. I don't know the exact number; but so far as my memory now serves me, there must have been not less than forty or fifty, under the direction of N. O. Jones. They were busy building log houses in such a shape as to form a fort when built, with the view of being the better prepared to protect themselves from Indian depredations. Here we received a hearty welcome from Brother Jones and the brethren who were with him, and found an abundant supply of flour.
In a consultation between Brother Jones and our captain and his assistants, Brothers Evans and Ashby, it was deemed advisable for us to remain there two or three days in order that we could have a good rest and recruit up a little, as we were by this time getting somewhat worn down, having traveled with our carts since leaving Iowa City, about nine hundred miles. This, when announced to the brethren and sisters, was quite satisfactory with them. The next day Brother Jones caused a beef to be killed, which was distributed among the company. It was quite a treat, as it was the first fresh meat we had seen since leaving the City of Iowa, and proved to be too much for the stomachs of a great many.
During our stay here, we had a most enjoyable time. Indeed, I can scarcely believe it would be possible to find a company of people under the same conditions and circumstances who could be more happy and contented and enjoy themselves better than did our company while at Deer Creek. After five days, and being supplied with flour to last us until we reached Devils Gate, we once more resumed our travels, feeling considerably better for the rest and also for the general good time it had been our privilege to enjoy. We left here with the hearty good wishes of all the brethren for our welfare and safe arrival in Salt Lake City.
Being thus so nicely recruited, we traveled cheerfully along, realizing that each day brought us nearer to our destination. In due time we reached Devils Gate, remaining there overnight. Next morning we received more supplies of flour, and continued our journey, nothing of any importance occurring until we arrived at Fort Bridger, where we halted to get more supplies.
Sometime during the night there was a wagon load of potatoes brought into camp from a place that was then known as Fort Supply, which was settled by our people. I happened to be one of the guards that night; and being informed of the contents of the wagon and that the potatoes were brought in expressly for the brethren and sisters of our company, I asked permission to take a few, which was cheerfully granted. Having a fire in the camp to warm at while on duty, I took these potatoes and baked them; and when baked I divided them out among my traveling companions, those who pulled at the same cart with me, reserving one for myself. I don't know that I ever enjoyed anything more than I did that potato, for we had not seen one since we left the ship at Boston, being a period of about five months. The next day they were served out among the brethren and sisters, and with some beef that was also distributed were considered to be a rich treat by all who participated.
On receiving the information that we were now only about one hundred miles from Salt Lake City, we were quite jubilant, knowing that it was now only a matter of a few days' travel before we should reach our destination; and strange as it may appear, though we had then traveled with our carts upwards of twelve hundred miles, we made the last hundred miles in four days and arrived in Salt Lake City on the eleventh day of September, being only a few days less than six months since I left my home in England.
Although our journey was long and tedious, and we had to endure many hardships, more particularly that part of the journey from Iowa City to Salt Lake city, a distance of over thirteen hundred miles, with men, women, and children pulling handcarts over every kind of road, wading rivers and streams, yet we were indeed abundantly blessed of the Lord. He gave us strength and the power of endurance sufficient to enable us to go through. There was but one death, and that was one of the brethren belonging to the St. Louis company, who was very ill when we joined them at Florence, and died three days after we left that place. The brethren and sisters of our company who had traveled all the way from Liverpool together came safely through, not one being left on the way, which to my mind was something marvelous, and exhibited in no small degree the mercies and blessings of an all-wise and overruling Providence in thus caring for and preserving us from sickness and death, and in permitting us all to reach our destination. (1857).