Transcript for George Washington Hill collection in Cache Valley Historical Material, circa 1955, reel 4, item 57, 18-31
We remained in this place until about the middle of February when I concluded to move over into Winter Quarters and get to work preparing the journey the following summer. We were now busy fitting up the pioneers. I now tried to get my oldest brother-in-law to remain and bring on his mother and brothers and sisters and let me go on with the pioneers, but he absolutely refused, said he would have nothing to do with bringing that great family of children into the wilderness to starve to death, but offered to go with the pioneers himself if I would remain and bring on the family. To this I finally gave my consent and went to work and fitted my own team and wagon. In company with my wife’s uncle, William Stewart, we got our team and outfit fitted up according to requirement and started them off with the pioneers about the middle of April, 1847.
I now turned my attention to getting ready for following with the families. This involved another trip to Missouri, a distance of one hundred and twenty-five miles and back, making some two hundred and fifty miles. With ox teams that had to travel over one thousand miles with heavy loads and without roads to travel on, there was only one thing that made the venture to start from the Missouri River in 1847, and that was the health of my wife [Cynthia Utley Stewart]. She had taken the scurvy in the winter superinduced by our living as we did without vegetables. And as soon as the weather began to get warmer in the spring, she got worse instead of better and came very near dying. In fact, I had no hopes for her but to get on the road traveling as soon as possible, thinking a change of scenery, a change of air, and a change of water might be beneficial to her. I was determined to try it, let the consequences be what they might. I knew that we did not have money enough to get a decent outfit to go with, but I would have preferred to have started with my gun only and to have taken my chance as an Indian rather than to have remained in that inhospitable region with the scurvy taking the people off by the hundreds as it was doing.
Accordingly, I took what money we had, and taking G[eorge]. R[ufus]. Stewart with me to drive one of the teams, away we went to Missouri to get an outfit which consisted of three hundred and fifty pounds of corn to each one in the family. This was to do us some eighteen months and would leave us at least one thousand miles from where we could procure fresh supplies in case we did not raise anything the next year. You may think this was a very hazardous undertaking; well, we thought so too, but the stakes were terrible we had to play.
Shortly after my return I was baptized by Br. Benjamin S. Clapp at Winter Quarters, now Florence; this was in the fore part of June. We now hastened our departure from winter quarters, glad to get away from that inhospitable place with life even, for we did not think we should have had even that if we had remained much longer. We made our way as best we could to the Elkhorn River to the place where we could be organized for the journey. Here we had to make a raft of logs to ferry ourselves across the river. I assissted to ferry the whole of the companies, consisting of some five hundred and fifty wagons, over this river on a log raft, accomplishing this feat without accident of any note. We were here organized into A[braham]. O[wen]. Smoot’s hundred, Major Russel’s fifty, and Samuel Turnbow’s ten.
I had now got fairly started on the journey. It was amusing to see us with our oxen, cows and two-year-olds all yoked up, and in some instances the yearlings, as we thought that even yearlings could pull something, following the tracks the pioneers had made through the illimitable prairie, going we knew not where, but determined to seek an asylum where Christian charity would never come, notwithstanding our destitute condition. We left, indeed, without a regret. For some five hundred miles we traveled in one body as much as possible for the protection against Indians that swarmed in thousands over the plains. As soon as we had got fairly under way I was appointed hunter for the company. This increased my labors a great deal, for whenever we were in camp I was off with my gun trying to obtain meat for the fifty. And sometimes while traveling I would leave my wife, although she was hardly able to set up, to drive the team of four yoke of cattle, and take my gun and travel for miles away from the track to procure meat. In this way I have killed deer and hung them on my shoulders and carried them for as much as four miles without laying them down. And always, as soon as camp was formed in the evening, in the place of resting myself from the labors of the day, I would take my gun and go and try for meat. In this way I managed to keep meat for the family all the way and for the company the most of the time.
I well remember the day that I saw the first antelope and the first buffalo. We had just got started when the wagon G[eorge]. R[ufus]. Stewart was driving broke and the company had to stop and put the blacksmith shop to repair it. The Captain came to me and said we would not get started any more that day and wanted me to go hunting. There were several that wanted to go, as we expected to go a good ways. It was decided that we should go horseback; I rode a mule belonging to my wife’s uncle, William Stewart. Well, when we had got a good ways out we found an antelope, and some of the boys, having heard that to raise a red handkerchief that they would come to you, accordingly Albert Dewey pulled out his ramrod and tied his handkerchief on it and went riding around on the smooth prairie trying to coax the antelope up to him, when in reality if he had seen the antelope before it saw him and had secreted himself where the antelope would not have seen him and then have hoisted something, the antelope might have come nigh enough to him to see what it was to enable him to have shot it, but as it was, his riding around on the smooth prairie in plain sight, only made the antelope run so much the faster away from him. But as he ran from Br. Dewey, he did not notice well enough where I was, for he came running by me at full speed within about one hundred and fifty yards of me. Now this was entirely too nigh me for an animal to attempt to pass me in safety. I brought up my gun and knocked him down at once.
Just at this time we saw two buffalos come over a hill some two miles away with General Charles C. Rich and Doctor Richardson in full chase after them. So I hastened and reloaded my gun and left my antelope lying where he fell and joined in the chase after the buffalos, but my mule would not run worth a cent. I continued to urge him, and it seemed like the more I urged him the farther I got behind. We had taken up a small hollow, thinking to intercept the buffalos at the crossing of this hollow, as their course was quartering towards us. Well, in about one mile running I was left at least one hundred yards behind. I had begun to think that mules were not much on the run, but as the buffalos were crossing the hollow, the foremost of the horsemen were within about one hundred yards of them and when the mule saw the buffalo come bounding down the hill he became wonderfully excited, and now it was that he showed us what a mule could do at running, and although he had fell so much behind while I was whipping and spurring him with all my might, when he saw the buffalo he let out at such a rate that I do not think we went more than two hundred yards until he brought me alongside of the horses, jumping it seemed to me as high as my head, every jump, and so stiff-legged that just as I was passing the first horseman, one stirrup broke. This bothered me considerably, but just as I was nearing Doctor Richardson he fired on the buffalo. His horse fetched a skip to one side and he lit flat on his back. Seeing the Doctor shoot and fall almost by his side excited him still the more, and he jumped so furiously that my other stirrup strap broke. This almost unhorsed me, and seeing where my stirrup fell I thought to stop and get it, but he carried me so far before I could get him stopped that I could not find it, so I straddled him and joined in the chase. But I had hindered so much time looking for my stirrup that they had both of the buffalos down before I got to them. The boys loaded their horses with the meat of the buffalo, but I preferred antelope, so I went to where I had killed the antelope and put him on my mule and started for camp. I also killed the largest and fattest badger that I almost ever saw and carried him to camp, thinking that he was good to eat. Now we had got so far from camp that it was just midnight when we got to camp. This was my first day with buffalo and antelope and the first badger I had ever seen.
In about two or three more days’ travel we got into the buffalo country where we could see them by the thousands. We would now see them all around us as far as the eye could reach, as thick as you would generally see a cow herd. We had now to guard against their stampeding our stock.
We continued our journey in this way on the north side of Platte River until we got opposite what is now called Ofalon’s Bluffs on South Platte. Here Jedediah Grant’s cattle got stampeded and he lost about sixty head. We stopped here a few days trying to find his stock. I went over to South Platte in company with A.O. Smoot, Samuel Turnbow, George B. Wallace and Peter Nebeker, hunting for the stock belonging to Br. Grant’s company.
In running the buffalo along the Sough [South] Platte there was a buffalo cow, in jumping down the bank broke one of her forelegs. This crippled her, so that we concluded to drive her to camp and butcher her, but when we went into the river to drive her out she only drove at us. We continued driving until she drove us clear across the river which was about two miles wide, but when she got to the bank she refused to go up, so we threw two lariats on her and undertook to pull her up, but she was too good at holding back. I then went into the river and took my butcher knife and would prod her in the rump, thinking to make her go up that way, but it was no go. Finally, Br. Smoot took a bit of a run and jumped straddle of her, thinking to ride her up the bank, but she kicked so when I was prodding her that she was just as wet as water would make her, which made her so slick he never made any stop on her, but landed head foremost in the river. But she concluded that she had rather go up the bank alone than to be rode up, so up she went charging.
The boys now spread apart with their lariats and held her while I came up the bank and got my gun and shot her as a beef. While we were dressing her, there came the most singular looking animal that we had seen. Br. Smoot requested me to kill it. I took my gun and just as it came to the river and commenced to drink, I shot him. When he dropped dead into the river he sank like a rock, and with all the hunting we could do we could not find him, so that we never knew what he was. He looked like a wolf with long, shaggy hair and was white, but what he was we never knew.
While some of the boys were dressing our buffalo, the rest of us were chasing the buffalo and found a steer that had been left by the Oregon emigrants, I suppose on account of lameness, as he was quite lame. But we drove him to camp with us and brought him to the valley with us, but we got none of the lost cattle. After searching for the stampeded stock until it was considered in vain to search longer, we continued our journey.
We arrived opposite Scott’s Bluffs (now Scottsbluff) on Saturday night, and as we always laid by on Sunday to let our animals rest, some of us boys concluded to cross the river and ascent the bluffs. Accordingly several of us went over and ascended them to the top and rambled all over the top, finding some mountain sheep on the top of the bluffs. We chased them, thinking that we could make them jump off of the cliffs and kill themselves, but we found out that they could ascent or descend precipitous rocks better than we could. In fact, they would skip up and down cliffs that seemed to be almost perpendicular.
On coming down off of these bluffs, I was coming skipping along from one projection to another, I came suddenly on Parley P. Pratt paralyzed on a cliff. While ascending this precipice, he had happened to look down, and seeing the distance so great below him, he became ex[c]ited and had stuck his fingers in a crack of the rock and held on for dear life, continuing to look below him. He could not control his nerves, but was trembling like an aspen leaf when I got to him. And seeing the condition he was in, I took him in my arms and carried him by force to a place of safety, thus saving him from falling several hundred feet and dashing himself to peices. I then remained with him until he arrived safely at the bottom of the bluffs.
We continued our journey on the north side of the river until we came to the mouth of Laramie, for here we crossed over on the south side near old Fort John, near where Fort Laramie now stands. About five miles above here at a grove of white ash, we camped and laid by for about a week to burn tar, there being plenty of pitch pine here. We also needed rest. From here we went on to Horse Shoe, about forty miles. Here we laid by one day for the women to wash.
We were now fairly well into the Black Hills and in full view of Laramie Peak. This was such a novel sight to me that proposed to Captain Turnbow that we should go to the top of the pack and kill some mountain sheep, which were supposed to abound there. He accepted the proposal, and away we went, supposing it to be about ten or twelve miles when in reality it was about forty miles. We went about twelve miles and the peak looked just as far off as it did. We got discouraged about going to it and returned the same day as we thought when we started.
Here we came across an old buffalo bull, and Turnbow proposed that I should crawl as close to him as I could and shoot, and we would load ourselves with meat and return. So I crawled up within about three rods of him, as he was feeding away from me, but he would not turn around so as to give me a fair shot at him. So I peeled away at his flank, ranging forward. At the crack of the gun he jumped and kicked and ran; in a short distance he entered the brush out of sight. Turnbow come up laughing and we followed his track a little ways in the brush when I saw him walking along with his head down, very sick, so I shot him again. He ran off a very little ways and stopped and laid down, too sick to go farther.
Turnbow now proposed to shoot him in the head, saying he had heard it said that a bullet would not penetrate a buffalo bull’s head and he was going to try it and see for himself. So he went up within about one rod of the old bull, as he was lying there with his tongue out, and raised his gun, when the old bull began to struggle to get up. Turnbow thought he was gone sure; he jerked off his had [hat] and ran as hard as I ever saw a man run until he got to some cottonwood trees about forty yards off before he looked behind him, thinking the old bull was right at his heels, while I was laughing almost fit to split my sides to see him run, as there was no danger, for the old bull hardly got to his feet when he fell dead, before Turnbow was half way to the trees. When he saw the old bull was dead he came back laughing, saying he was going to have his shot anyhow. So he went up about to where he was before and pealed away, the bullet going into his head just the same as any other beef.
We now went to work and skinned a part of him and cut off about one hundred and fifty pounds of the meat. I objected to taking so much, telling him he would give out and we would have to leave it after carrying it a good way, but he declared he knew he could carry it to camp. So we strung it on a pole between us and started for camp, but he soon got tired and we would have to lay it down and rest, then we would start on again with the whole of it in place of throwing a part of it away so as to make it light enough so that we could carry it. In this way we continued carrying and resting until we got about half-way to camp when he declared he could not carry it any farther. So he proposed we should hang it up in a tree and go to camp and come after it in the morning with horses. Finally I agreed, so I climbed a tree and hung it up and went to camp.
That night the Indians stole every horse in camp but seven head. We knew it was folly to pursue them on foot, so we gave them up and proceeded on our journey. Having had experience enough the day before in carrying on foot, we left our meat to hand [hang] and dry and did not go for it so that we had our tramp to Laramie Peak for nothing.
In this way we traveled until we had come down out of the hills onto the Platte again. As we were coming along one evening just before camping time we saw three bears on the other side of the river near by a thicket of brush. Smoot, the captain, called to me to get ready and go with him and kill them. Accordingly I got my gun which was empty and loaded it with a double charge, as I knew it would stand it, and took my pistol—a single barrel—in case I got into a close fight, and went with him. By the time we got started there were three more boys who had got ready also and went with us. Their names were Charles Chipman, George Peacock, and Lorin Roundy.
Well, by the time we got across the river the bear had gone into the brush so that we could not see them, but we had three large dogs with us which we put on their tracks and into the brush they ran, but when they got to the bear they were so astonished they would not even bark at them. When we got pretty well up to the brush, Smoot charged right up, thinking, I suppose, to get the first shot, but when he saw the bear he was about like the dogs. He was so excited he forgot he had any gun but hollowed [hollered], “Here she is boys, come and shoot her quick.” Accordingly we ran as fast as we could right up to the brush, but when we there got [got there] the brush was high enough that we could not see them on foot. Just at this time the old bear noticed Smoot on his horse and she paid no more attention to the dogs, but came from them to us with a vengeance. This excited Smoot the more, and he hollowed, “Take care, boys, run—here she comes. She is a fifteen hundreder,” and turning his horse he laid whip and away he went with a vengeance.
This so alarmed the boys that they all turned and ran as fast as they could, leaving the bear and me to settle our little difficulties as best we could. In the moment of their running by me and leaving me to fight it out alone, I thought of Daniel Boone’s companions running and leaving him alone in like circumstances when attacked by a panther. But I thought I was equal to the emergency and knowing my gun and myself also, I brought my gun to my face and ran backwards from the brush to try and get far enough from the brush to give me a chance to shoot. The old bear, in the meantime was not fooling away her time, for I had not got more than twenty feet from the brush until she made her appearance. When she saw me she was filled with rage and she came for me with all the vengeance that she had in her, blowing and whistling so that you might have heard her a half a mile at least. But there was no time to lose, so quick as thought I brought my gun on her and fired, striking her in the sticking place and coming out through her kidney, knocking her a complete somersault with her head from me.
I immediately reloaded, turning the powder into my gun out of the powder horn while I was getting a bullet out of my mouth where I had placed them to be ready to load quick, for I expected to fight. I had not started from camp after them calculating to run from them when I saw them.
After I had killed this one, which proved to be an old she-grizzly with her teeth all worn off, I looked to see what had become of my companions. They were just turning around some large trees about fifty yards from me; when they saw the bear down and that I was master of the field they came running back about as fast as they had run away, but I was reloaded and ready for another before they got back to me.
We then got the dogs after the young ones; the dogs would fight these. They all three turned loose on one but they could not stop him. He would travel along as fast as a man could walk with all three dogs doing their best on him. I went up to him while the dogs and he were fighting and ran my knife through him, killing him instantly. The other one fled and got across the river and almost the whole company ran after him. Of all the dogs in camp there was but one that would fight him, and he could not do much with him. Then a man by the name of [John Christopher] Armstrong got to him and putting his gun close to the bear’s head, he fired, missing him. He then turned the butt of his gun and struck the bear over the head, breaking his gun into two pieces but not hurting the bear any. This brought him to his senses. There was another fellow that ran up to the bear and did the same way and missed him. Not taking time to bring any ammunition with them and not having any more guns, they had no other resource but to throw rocks at him. Finally Mayor Russel, the captain of the fifty, hit him on the nose with a rock and knocked him down and he laid there until he ran up and cut his throat. Thus ended the first bear fight I was ever in.
We now proceeded slowly. Our teams were getting worn out with heavy loads and no roads. We traveled slowly until we got to the Pacific Springs. Here we met the First Presidency returning from Salt Lake Valley. Here our hearts were made glad by their rehearsing to us that they had found a good country at Salt Lake Valley, counseled us on our arrival in Salt Lake Valley to weigh out our provisions and ration ourselves so as to make it hold out until time for harvest.
From here to Fort Bridger gave was scarce; but little could be got while traveling. At the Springs, six miles west of Bridger, I left the wagons and went on foot and along to Bear River to try and kill some meat to do us into the valley. I made Bear River a little after dark, and the next morning started on a hunt in the hills, hoping to kill several antelope that day, as I expected the wagons to get there that night. I soon had a very fat antelope down and another large buck came running up to see what noise that was. I blazed away at him, thinking I had him sure, but the tube and cylinder blew out of my gun and I do not suppose the bullet went half way to him. My hunt was now played out. After my leaving my wife to drive two days, I got but one antelope. Still, I thought I would not give it up, so I took another gun to try it the next day while the train was on the move.
I started out in the morning, but I had not gone more than two or three miles before I came on a mule and mare that had been left there by the Battallion boys a couple of months before. They were as wild as if they had never seen anybody in their lives. I tried a good while to get the better of them, to catch them, but finding my efforts unavailing, I undertook to craze the mare, thinking by so doing I should get both of them. So I blazed away and down came the mare. I ran up to her and slipped a bridle on her, taking the bridle off the horse I was riding and letting it go on the prarie. The one I rode ran off with the wild mule. I gave the bridle to Br. Chipman who was with me to hold, telling him to get something and stop up the bullet hole so as to stop up the blood while I went after the one that had run away. It took me a good while to catch my horse; I was gone over an hour. In the meantime, Chipman thought the mare bled so fast that she would bleed to death anyhow, so he took the bridle off her and turned her loose. She got up and went off down by the train just as I was getting back and fell down dead. I then gave up the mule and came ahead.
When we got over into Echo Canyon we met James W[esley]. Stewart with my oxen that I had sent out with the pioneers to help us over the mountains. This was timely help, and it enabled us to cross the mountains a great deal easier than we could otherwise have done.
In East Canyon I came very near having an accident that would have been quite serious. My oxen refused to take the crossing straight; they crowded me onto the haw side and ran the wagon up on the bank so far they came very near upsetting my wagon. I was obliged to run around to the off side and take the wagon on my back and hold it until we could drive down into the creek. My wagon was loaded with provisions which, if it had tipped over in the creek, would almost have ruined us, but we got over safely and arrived where Salt Lake City now stands, on the eighteenth day of September 1847.
We had now got to our journey’s end. As soon as we could after we had got to our camping ground so that we could do it, we went to work and weighed out our provisions. We found that we had a little over three-fourths of a pound of corn a day to the head.
Having accomplished all I had agreed to do, and that was to see my wife’s mother to her journey’s end in safety, we now separated and each went to ourselves. It had occupied my time and had caused me a great deal of hard work in taking the oversight of her family and bringing them through, but once having given my word I was determined to accomplish it and although I was as tough as men ever get to be, I was well nigh worn out. In fact, I had been judged to be forty-five years old before I got to the valley, although I was but twenty-five.