Transcript for Gilbert Belnap autobiography, 1856
About the middle of may 1850 I bid adue to Fremont Country Iowa a
On the fifteenth of June we left the banks of the Missouri[.] We had not been traveling long when old man Gidcomes [John Tidcomb’s] daughter of about ten years of age was run over by one of the waggons and her thigh bone broken. I set the broken limb which was the[n] my first experience in the sergical line. It was perhaps through good luch [luck] more than good manegement that the bone mended very well.
On the third day after we left the River we were visited by one of the most distressing plagues that ever befell the human family. The first to be afflicted with the disease was Alfred Brown who departed this life about two hours after he was taken with the dreaded disease. The next morning after attending to his intermant the camp moved on. During the day three more were afflicted. One of them died while we were traveling, and the two others died while we were camped for the night. The same night my younger child was taken sick with the same affliction and died in the latter part of the same night and was burried the next morning.
I think I never saw so exciting a time and a people so completely frightened out of their sences as the people comprising my ten for the sickness was confined principly to the ten under my charge. The first company of ten started on their journey in the morning wlile [while] we were burying the dead. During the time of yoking and hitching up seven others were taken which rendered it very difficult for us to move. Only by some of the men driving two and three teams was it made possible for us to cross Salt Creek.
After two or three efforts to receive help from the foremost portion of the company I must confess I was somewhat irritated and went myself. Although surrounded by the dead and dying I clamored upon a waggon wheel and there in plainess rebuked them for their cowardice and inhuman treatment of their brethren. As a result Wm. Hall, Chester Loveland, and Thomas Robinson volunteered to assist in taking care of the dead and dying and driving of the teams. After burying one person by the way we overtook the main body of the company about two-o’clock.
We continued our journey through sickness and death untill we passed through Fort Carny [Kearney]. After this time attacks of the prevailing epidemic were not so prevelant nor dangerous. Some days we passed from fifteen to twenty-five <graves> of emigrants going from Missouri and Illinois to California, all bearing nearly the same date. In many cases it was a disgreeable task to pass the decomposing bodies of which had been removed from their shallow covering by the wolves. In one place I saw the mangled bodies of twenty-three human beings. Some were without the appearance of a burial. The nearer we approached the mountenous region the less sickness we had.
When within twelve miles of Fort Larney [Laramie] we were, if such a thing were possible, threatened with a still worse contageon than we had previously been afflicted with. The Siox Indians were camped on either side of the Platt[e] River and by the score were dying daily with the small-pox. Some were piled in heaps by the side of the road while others were sunk with rocks in the river. Very fortunately for us we escaped without receiving harm from this contageon.
While in camp a few miles above Larney we come very near loosing a very useful member of our company, a man by the name of of Spafford, who came nearly being drowned. He had lost his mother three sisters and one brother the result of the colora [cholera]. Through the infatiguable energy of Thomas Robinson and John Chitesten [Chidester] he was saved from a watery grave.
From here we slowly persued our way through the mountains sustaining none other than the loss of a few cattle by reason of which we were ocompelled [compelled] to leave on a waggon at Devils Gate of the Sweet River. And on the seventeenth of September we entered the Great Salt Lake which at first sight had the appearance of a dreary waste or a vast desert whose dry and parched soil seemed to bid defiance to the husbandmen to bring forth from its bosom the comforts of life. By means of irregation however it was found to produce equal to any other country of the same latitude.