Transcript

Transcript for Johnson, Christianna Maria, Reminiscences, in Rufus David Johnson, J.E.J. Trail to Sundown [1961], 353-55

On August 1 st Joseph wrote that they would "start tomorrow," but he used editorial license in the "tomorrow." He had previously instructed Eliza to write to him at Wood River until the middle of August, but we believe he canceled this and that the hegira began during the first week of the month. Christi's account does not give the starting date, but she tells us that the men, women, and children in JEJ's part of the train numbered 27 souls. He and his immediate family would have totaled 11. Probably Almera and two daughters, also William D[erby Johnson]. and wife Jane and the faithful "Vant" were along, which makes 17 that we are practically sure of. We can but speculate as to the indentity [identity] of the remaining ten. Doubtless Mr. Adams, the compositor, and his bride could have got into the train as Joseph hoped. There would need to be several teamsters and the others were no doubt friends whom JEJ brought out to Zion as an accommodation.

Christie's narrative begins by giving her name, birth, parentage and the names of all her immediate family. Her story is valuable for the later intimate history of the tribe and it furnishes many details of the struggle for survival in the pioneer days of southern Utah. We shall quote excerpts as we go along. She gives a short autobiography of her father which he wrote in 1882, then proceeds:

"We lived in a comfortable home in Council Bluffs, Iowa. We were considered quite well to do, as related to me by my mother. Our smoke house was filled with meat, our cellars packed with provisions of all kinds, and when we left our home to come west it was as though we were going to return the next day. (Another indication of a 'moonlight flit'?)...I have but a dim recollection of our first day's travel. Everything seemed so strange. Camping on the prairie was a new adventure. Nothing to be seen but a treeless tract of land and no mountains in the distance. To sleep out in the open air with the stars overhead gave one a feeling of awe and reverence, also a feeling of safety and freedom, for even little children felt the hand of persecution. Now we were on our way to the west, hundreds of miles ahead lay the land God has chosen for his saints. There was danger ahead of us because of Indians and wild animals. Each night guards were posted at definite stations to guard our camp and the animals....

"To make the wagons more roomy and comfortable, extensions were put on the wagon boxes. The wagon covers were made handy by having a section of pockets sewed on them which held combs, brushes, pins, needles, buttons and many other articles which were needed on the way. Barrels were fastened on the sides of the wagons to carry water for our needs, as there were times when we had to camp before we could reach water. Our dogs, cats and chickens were kept in pens and coops which were fastened to the backs of the wagons. We had cows along and after they were milked the milk was strained into a churn, and the job of the wagon would churn it into butter.

"When we camped all hands were busy, as each had his definite work to perform. Some of the men took care of the animals, gathered wood or buffalo chips where wood was scarce, and some of them helped the women with the cooking. Mother mixed all the bread, others cooked it, and others had their special duties in the preparation of the meal. Before leaving the states, the women had prepared dried food, such as peaches, corn and beans. Apples and squash were strung on strings and hung on the bows to dry. Most of these foods could be cooked overnight in skillets, which were placed on the hot coals before retiring.

"Some of the women and girls dressed very appropriately for the journey, wearing short skirts over long bloomers that came to the shoe tops and were gathered into bands fastened around the ankle. This garment was very handy when getting in and out of wagons. All the women wore high top shoes and sunbonnets.

"Sometimes we found wild fruits close to the bank of the river. One of these was the buffalo berry. They were red and about the size of strawberries. Finding these meant a real treat for all of us. I well remember the first time I ever saw a herd of buffaloes. We were rounding a hill and there in full sight were these huge animals. Our train was halted to let them cross our path, as it would have been dangerous to pass through the herd. A couple of them were killed, which supplied our company with fresh meat. The hides were made into robes and were very useful.

"When camp was made, chores attended to and supper over, we sang, danced and played games for recreation, then prayers were said and all retired except those on guard, and all was well in the camp of Zion.

"At times we made slow progress due to bad roads and steep hills. Often it took all day for the train to get over a mountain or steep incline because two or more teams had to be hitched to each wagon. This was quite a feat to accomplish successfully. On these occasions, if running water was nearby there was a general wash day for the ladies."

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