Transcript for Howard Egan, Pioneering the West, 1846 to 1878, edited and compiled by William M. Egan (1917), 140-45
On the 24th of May, 1848, the First Presidency organized the main body of the Saints on the Elk Horn, preparatory to the second journey to the Rocky mountains. The camp consisted of over six hundred wagons, the largest company that had yet set out to cross the plains, and were under the care and supervision of Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball. We have no Family Diary of this trip, but Howard R. writes from memory as follows:
I recollect getting in the covered wagon that took us away from Winter Quarters, but don’t remember of seeing Father till later. We had arrived at the Horn River and crossed the ferry and camped for the night about two hundred yards from it. That evening there was much excitement in camp, as a report had come in from the herders that a band of Indians were running off all the stock. The next morning we heard that the men had saved the stock, but a couple of our men had been wounded. Before noon, as I was sitting in the front of the wagon. I saw two men holding Father up and leading him towards our wagon from the ferry. His arms were hanging down and his chin was on his breast. I heard the men say that the Indians had shot him through the wrist, He had swum the Horn River that way, and had lost so much blood he could not do it again, so they had to bring him around by the ferry. I now could see him every day and watch Dr. [John Milton] Bernhisel dress the wound and trim the ends of the cords with a pair of scissors where they stuck out of the flesh. Father had been shot in the wrist of his right hand, and the bullet cut every cord of the thumb and fingers in the course, but broke no bones. It was here that Thomas Ricks was shot in the back with buckshot, but not killed.
14.– SCENES BY THE WAY.
We left the Horn River, and the next I remember was seeing Fort Laramie. We were on the opposite side of the Platte River from the fort. We saw it for the most of two days, first in the west and then in the east.
Buffalo Stampede.–The next thing I remember was one day we had camped for noon. I was playing near the end of the wagon tongue. Our wagon was the first on that wing of the corral. Mother caught her boys, and before I knew anything more we landed in the wagon, and she followed, and just in time, for a stampeded herd of buffalos was coming straight for the camp. They divided just a little way from the camp, some passing the back, some the front of the corral. Some of them passed over the end of our wagon tongue, doing no damage, but the part that passed the back end struck and broke a hind wheel of the last wagon in our wing. We staid there to repair damages till next day.
Prairie Dogs.–I remember the first colony of prairie dogs we passed through. The whole earth seemed to be covered with little mounds, on which we could see the dogs sitting sometimes. There was a warning given out that if anyone shot one of these dogs and the body fell into a hole, not to reach for it with the naked hand, as the rattlesnakes lived in the same holes as the dogs did.
When a dog was shot, while standing on one end on top of a mound, it always fell into the hole, and it was dangerous to try to get it, other than with a stick. These dog colonies would cover acres, but the colonies would be miles apart. It seems to me now that we could see dozens of the dogs at a time all sitting upright and watching our train, and if a person started towards them there would be a general barking chorus and instantly every dog would disappear and not appear again till the intruder had left to a safe distance.
Antelope.–One day as our train was passing the open part of a bend in the river, I was sitting in the front end of the wagon, when Father, who was driving, ran to the side of the wagon and said, “Mother, quick, my gun,” Mother was as quick as she could be, but before she could pass the gun out Father said, “too late.” There had been an antelope in the bend and as the train reached from one point to another he could not pass out only by running between the river and the train, in doing this it brought him within five or six rods of us, and all the train back of us. I saw the animal and Father told us it was an antelope, and, if he could have got his gun quick enough we could have had some nice meat. Mother said it was a shame to kill such a pretty animal as that. We heard a number of shots but I did not know till suppertime that someone had killed it, when Mother said. “This is some of that pretty antelope you saw when Father wanted his gun.”
One afternoon we camped close to the river bank. There was a large island at this place separated from our bank of the river by a slough or small stream of very clear and deep water and about three rods wide. The men wanted to see if the grass was better on the island. It was very poor everywhere else, having been grazed off by the large herds of buffalo and other grass eating animals.
The bank of the river here from the water to the top was higher than a man’s head. I was standing on this bank when one of the men volunteered to swim over and see how it was on the island. I saw him go down to the water edge. There was just enough room for him to stand between the bank and the water. He took all his clothes off and slipped into the water. That was the first time I ever saw every motion a person makes while swimming. I saw him get out on the other side and disappear in the timber, but remember no more about this affair.
One day our wagon was the last in the train and Mother, who was driving the team, let me get out and walk behind the wagon. I took my time and gradually fell back till I could hardly see the wagon, when I noticed this it scared me so I ran at my fastest speed, but soon was out of wind and went very slow again to gain my breath, and took another run, but I was getting farther behind all the time. As the train was nearing rolling country, where I couldn’t be seen, Mother got George Redding to come back and get me.
He took hold of my hand and tried to make me run the whole distance to the train, but finding I was about all in he swung me on his back and tried to rattle my teeth out by running at a dog trot, stamping his feet as hard as he could to give me a good jolting, and something to remember him by, which this proves I do, for I never got very far from the wagon again.
I remember of helping Mother gather “buffalo chips” for fire material, as there was nothing else and they made a good fire. When we camped where there was plenty of them we would collect a couple of sacks full and carry them to the next camp, for sometimes they would be very scarce.
Now this is what I heard at the time, but did not see: Some one in the camp had lost part of a sack of beans. Some one had stolen them. Part of them were found in the feed box of a certain man, where he had placed them for his team to eat, thinking it was corn. He had stolen them after dark and by his mistaking beans for corn was detected. I could mention the man’s name, but think it best not to.
I recollect seeing Chimney rock. It was on the opposite side of the river, but quite plainly seen from our side. Some of the men went across to get a close view of it.
One day we camped a little ways from a dry Salaratus Lake. Mother took me along with her to get some. it was very hard and smooth and we had only table knives to dig it out, but I remember we got as much as Mother could carry to the wagon. It lasted for a number of years after we arrived in the valley. This place is not far east of Independence Rock, which I remember very well. The road passes around the southern end of the rock and only a couple of rods from it. To me it appeared to be the shape of the Salt Lake Tabernacle, only very much larger. There was hundreds of names of people written on it. Some in large letters and far out of the reach of anyone standing on the ground. The men had been warned about climbing on top, as there were a number of large cracks running crossways that were very deep and to fall in one of them was sure death and probably the body could never be found.
Next we came to the Sweet Water [Sweetwater], that runs through the Devil’s Gate. Traveling up this stream, which was very crooked, Mother was driving when the next wagon ahead of ours turned over into a creek or bog hole. The driver (a man named Holt, I believe), did not swing out far enough to strike the bridge fair, so two wheels missed the bridge. There were two children in the wagon sitting on top of boxes and bales, but in a twinkling this was reversed, children under and only the wagon cover to keep them from drowning. The man called for help and soon the men came running from both ways. The children had not been severly hurt and all was on the move again soon after.
Devil’s Gate, we could see as we climbed the bluffs to the west. The very deep and narrow cut through which the water ran, it seemed to me, was over a hundred feet deep, with almost perpendicular walls and about twenty-five to forty feet apart at the top.
Fort Bridger is the next place remembered, with its low dirt covered houses near the bank of the river. Indians and white men all dressed in buckin [buckskin] clothes, and more dogs, halfbred wolf, than you could shake a stick at. It was here that Father traded for the same pistol he had held in his hand and dropped, when shot, in the fight at the Horn River. It had passed from Indian to Indian and arrived at Bridger long before we did.
I remember Echo Canyon, the high perpendicular rocks on the off side of the road most of the way through. We could hear the men calling and dogs barking from one cliff to another, although the ones starting the sound was far ahead of us, it went bounding from cliff to cliff, repeating the sound perfectly.
Mother has related the following many times about Echo Canyon: At the head or summit, before entering Echo Canyon, Father was called to assist in some repairs that were necessary on Heber C. Kimball’s wagon, which made it necessary for Mother to drive the team until he should catch up, which he expected would not be long.
She had two yoke of cattle and a yoke of cows, which she drove down that canyon, and she missed more stumps and rocks than any other driver, so it was said, crossing the stream twenty-seven times. Some times she would be ahead of the team, some times between the cattle and wagon, to pass brush, trees and rocks.
Her son Erastus was in the wagon, having been run over. It seems he was being lifted into the wagon, but slipped in some way and fell under the tongue and would have escaped all right, only on account of a pig that was tied under the back of the wagon. In trying to get out of the way of the pig his foot got under the wheel.
Those of the family who could walk were on ahead and Mother’s was the lead team. Those ahead would hollar out, “Here is another creek,” and Mother would say, “D—n the creeks!” This she used to tell many times. Howard R. further states:
Then we came to Weber River and when we left the camp here Father said we had to climb a mountain for seven miles, and I thought before we did get to the top we had come seven hundred miles, for he had us walk up every step of it, and not only that, but down the other side, where it was awful steep, and everthing loose in the wagon was liable to attempt to pass the team. The ne[x]t day we were on the little mountain, where Father took us to one side of the road and pointed out the place where we would live in the great Salt Lake Valley. It was two more days when Father drove the team and landed the wagon near to the door of a house, near the middle of the south side of the north fort, where we lived for a couple of years.