Transcript for James Holt autobiographical sketch, 1881, 13-14
Iowa was a very unhealthy place, my family was sick a great deal, and I myself was greatly afflicted with the ague. I don’t think that I could have survived much longer had I continued to stop there, but the Lord saw fit to bring upon me those afflictions in order that I might be gathered with the Saints. We started about middle of July and went on to Keg Creek about eight miles. I left some of my stock, including a yoke of steers and my three oldest children, who were to stop and see to things until the next morning. I was calculating to go back after them, but somehow felt a presentiment that something would happen to them and I couldn’t rest, so I took my team and started back about dark and I got back before day, and I learned that William Alma, the youngest of the three, had got his arm broken. Those steers, before mentioned, were yoked together and left in the corral, and while his sister [Mary Ann Pain Holt] was milking the cows, William got to climbing around upon their backs (they being of very gentle disposition). He was thrown off; his arm was broken between the wrist and elbow. His wrist and elbow were both put out of joint; the joints had both been set and the arm splintered by those who had bought the place.
I now started back to Keg Creek taking my children and all my affects which I could take where I arrived before night. The next day I got an old lady to attend to my son’s arm. In a day or two I started again, and got as far as Mosquito where I stopped about one week waiting for Dr. William Smith to get ready to accompany me. This Smith was not a Mormon; he was going to California and wished to cross the plains with as small a company as possible on account of sickness, as it was a very bad year for cholera. We were also joined by a brother Levi, who was going to the Salt Lake Valley. We now, being all ready, started on our long and tedious journey of over one thousand miles across the great plains where there was no civilization, in a country that was infested by savages. There were only three families of us nearly the whole of the journey.
We crossed the Missouri River on the 27th of July. We got to Ash Hollow in two days having traveled all night the second night, as there was a camp of Indians on the South Fork. The doctor thought it wiser to travel in the night in order to get as far from them as possible. The next day we traveled only seven miles, and on the next morning which was the 31st, my son Franklin O. was born, and on the next day, August 1st, we continued our journey. Most of our traveling this year was on the North side of the Platte, so we took the south, thinking it would be the most healthful as there was a great deal of cholera on the North Route. We had no sickness to amount to anything during the whole trip, although a great many of them ahead and behind us were dying of cholera, but it was more serious on the other route, and we had no trouble with the Indians.
One morning after we had got under traveling way, there was an alarm of Indians, and looking to the left on a hill, we beheld a large company of Indians. When we arrived opposite them, they came down ahead of us blocking the road, There were about 500 of them, and many of the people began to fear that this was their last day, and I expect the doctor began to see, in imagination, his scalp dangling in the belt of some dusky savage, for he was a natural born coward, but his scalp was safe for the present because the Indians seeing our small number, thought we were brave and they have always got a great respect for a brave person. Therefore they spread down their blankets and we gave them a little flour, sugar, and coffee, and a little of such things as we could spare. They then opened the road for us to pass. Some of them went with us for a day or two and helped us drive our cattle, and treated us with great respect.
There was another alarm of Indians when we were in a very unsafe place as the Indians in that part of the country were a very bloodthirsty set. It occurred on us one evening as we had camped. In the distance we saw a lone horseman making his way toward us. We soon found it to be an Indian so the doctor thought he would use a little strategy to frighten him away for he had no doubt but what he was sent for a spy. There was a boy in the camp, one of brother Lewis’s sons, who had a very freckled face. The doctor had him get in the wagon as quickly as possible, he then put a little flour on the boy's face, and put him in bed between two sheets. He looked almost like a corpse. The Indian came up and the doctor told him we had small pox in that wagon. The Indian took one look at the boy and struck out for the plains for dear life. He thought sure the boy has small pox, and they were afraid to death of the disease. The doctor gained his point and we never saw the Indian after that for two or three weeks. We never had trouble with Indians while we were upon our journey. We had nothing serious occur any further but it was a serious journey. Many times we had to travel way into the night and sometimes all night to reach water.
We finally arrived in Salt Lake Valley and went about 45 miles north of Salt Lake City, to the bend of the Weber River, in Weber county, where Simpson Emmett lived. We arrived there on the 27th of Oct., being just three months on the way.
[Text also in Our Pioneer Heritage, 20 vols. (1958-77), 13:480-81]