Transcript for Historical Department journal history of the Church, 1896-2001, 4 September 1859, 4-8

Elder Frederick A. Cooper, a resident of West Jordan, Utah, who (in 1913) who crossed the plaines in Capt. Rowley's Handcart Company gives the following account of eventful journey:

"We started on our long thousand mile journey across the plaines June 9, 1859. Our party consisted of about 265 235 persons with only 6 ox teams and wagons, but with 60 or 70 handcarts, four persons being assigned to each cart. e Each person in the company was allowed 17 lbs. of luggage, cook{ing} utensil{s}, etc. The wagons were intended to carry the sick and inform, as well as our provisions and baggage. We started off with good cheer and traveled about 3 three miles the first day; but we increased our rate of travel, , day by day, until we averaged 15 or 20 miles a day where the roads were good. As the conditions of the roads varred we were sometimes able to travel only a few miles a day. At first we were allowed one pound of flour daily and two pounds of bacon per week, and some coffee, and this constituted our diet, with the exception of a few beans which we had on the first part of the journey. The first settlement we came to was a small place called Genoa, where there was we had a very large stream to cross it being the only stream that we did not have to ford on the entire journey. There were quite a few Indians around Winter Quarters, but not many after until we came to Sioux Indian Country. They were a fine lot of warriors and quite weel ll to do in their costumes. They were very friendly with us at first they killed a buffalo for us and cut it up ; but one of them wanted one of our girls; would give a fine pony for her and finally offered two ponies . By some accident one of the brethrens guns was discharged and I can tell you we expected trouble. We started off ver early the next morning without breakfast, because during the night they were holding War Dances and giving some terrific yells. in order to frighten us, but We found afterwards that it was nothing more than to simply frighten us, for their own amusement. Apparently There was a great deal of travel across the plaines that year, pioneers were going to California and Pike's Peak, Colo. These trains ahead of us would occasionally kill a buffalo, and after using all they enough they would leave a ticket with the balance of its carcass, giving the dates when it was killed, so when we came to it we would know whether or not we could use it for food. During our journey we saw a number of herds of buffalo, but we were never fortunate enough to be able to ever butcher one. As we journeyed on, we we met a number of small companies of apostates who were returning to the East, just after the Johnston army had arrived in Utah. They were very poor, and had all kinds of excusses for returning and gave us some very discouraging reports both of the country that we were undergoing such a hardship to reach of course and all manner of fault to find with the authorities . Their reports had some effect in discouraging a few of the weakest of us; but they didn't succeed in getting any of our company to return with them. We traveled one day after day, until when we were in a very poor part of the country {(} somewhere in Wyoming{)} or provisions begin to grow short. We {H}ere encountered some Indians who were very poor. Our Captain had bought a horse from the Indians during the first part of our journey with flour, and upon reaching these Indians, he was obliged to trade again with these for another horse and give more flour to boot. The pretended to very friendly but they stoled everything they could get their hands on. When we arrived at Devil's Gate, our provisions were found to be very low that they were obligated to devided what was left equally . and started us on for life of death. There were but three pounds of flour for each and nothing else, and we had to leave some of the wagons behind to rest the oxen. We stayed at Devils Gate two days to recouperate before goin on. Devils Gate was Government M mail S station on Wyoming and was so called by the formation of two perpendicular shaped rocks between which the . There was a great number o of Indians here. They had just had a A great battle between two tribes . The victorious tribe were parading around with scalps suspended on sticks which they held high in the air. They had a number of prisoners, they invited a number of {we strikeout} boys to go to their camp that night to witness them torture to death their prisoners . However We respectfully declined the invitation. We had some sickness during our journey and burried three members of our company on the road. We used the side-boards of the wagons to make their coffins. We would frequently pass little mounds along the roadside which marked a grave of pioneers who had gone before us. The grave markers were inscribed with the name of the buried cut on with a pocket knife. These inscriptions were eagerly read, as number{s} of our ompany had relatives and friends who had proceded them and of ten they would find a famil{I}ar name on the board, which would tell a story that I can learve only we had to bury her . She left a husband and a large family to mourn her loss. I can tell you The camp felt very gloomy and sorrowful we came to a small station in a small bend and were just a weighing som flour where we which we were borrowing from the station when the Valley teams came galloping down the hill. And I came to tell you what rejoicing we had. They gave us for rations one pound of flour each to make pan cakes with and started us off again. I was very lucky, one of the teamsters had a box of nic nacs and told me to help myself which I did. We traveled a long day to a good camping place as the teams which were about give hout nee a well earned rest. Our brethren, the teamsters, who were sent by Pres. Brigham Young to mett us had heard of our destitute condition, and had traveled day and night until they reached us. when our company were traveling along the Platte River we had some very hard pulling through the sand and hilly country. tried to cross the Platte with the carts, but the women and children and older ones could Consequently had we had to put up with the very rough country. at one time we lost one of our brethren, and stopped the train for dwy days hunting for him. We lighted fires on the hills and mountains around, to let him know our location, but all in vain. Our search was discontinued and we finally went on. and Upon arrival at Pacific Springs, we found him with the Indians, who had taken good care of him, although he could not speak English, he told the Norwegian brethren that when he found he was lost from the company he would throw his hat down ahead of him at night, and when he woke in the morning he would follow his hat. The captain of our company was George Rowley who was a good man, but inexperienced as a captain. We also had a sub-captain for the wagons and one for every ten hand-carts, who would take it in turns in leading the company. At night we would arrange the hand-carts in horshoe shape to make a defence against the Indians and to thus form a corral for the oxen. The captain would call the entire company together night and morning to give us council and instructions. And also to have prayer. Then were some The tents which the company carried and at night they would be pitched inside the horseshoe shape corral for the benefit of the women and children. Once we lost an aged sisters together on the road and stopped the whole train for three days, sending men out in all directions but she could not be found. We were counseled to keep together as much as possible on account of the danger of wholves Indians, etc. When we arrived at Yellow Creek, which is now Evanston, Wyo, we were met by Pres. John Taylor and Franklin D. Richards and they sent two or three of the Valley men {(}who were with them back to find the condition of all companys following . The found the remains of our aged sister {Mary Jane} Shanks. She Who had been torn to pieces by the wolves. She was burried where they found her, and just as this news reached us, her husband died and was burried on Yellow Creek.... Our company enterd the valley through Echo canyon, where we had the fist news about the brethren and Johnston army etc We followed the trail of the Johnston Army for awhile and saw what was left of the wagons, etc., after they had been burned {by lot="" smith's="" company=""}. As afcrosaid Our captain was inexperienced, and for this reason was not a capable man to entrust the lives of so many people. He had been over the trail but once before, and we had to depend mainly on very incomplete guides and maps, as we were able to get hold of, and had to suffer many times as a result. At one time we left a good camping place where there was water at 4 p.m. one hot July day and traveled on and failed to find any more water until afternoon of the next day, after traveling for life and death, as it were, most of the night. The women and children were almost perished of thirst before we got relief. When we prepared to take up our journey again, two young men of the company refused to go farther and risk their lives, fearing they would again be famished for water, even when the captain sent two others back after them the next day. They kept their rations and waited for the next company. We came in through Echo Canyon, camped at a place now known as Henifer, in Weber Valley. pulled our carts over the Big and little Mountains and came down through Emigration canyon. When we arrived at the mouth of Emigration canyon, we camped and cleaned up as best we could the day was Sunday, September 4th. Upon hearing of our arrival, Pres. Young, stopped all services at the Tabernacle, and it seemed as if one half of Salt Lake City came up to greet us to our new home. They were accompanied with bands of music, etc. On our march through the City, we passed the residences of Pres. Young, (the Lion House), where {there was strikeout} Pres. Young and his counselors, Heber C. Kimball and Daniel H. Wells all on the varinda waving a greeting to us as we passed on to the university Square which was as bare as the road with the exception of loads of produce which had been gathered from the several wards for our benefit. By and by some of the brethren came along with some stewed beef etc which I can assure you I did full justice too ."