Transcript

Transcript for Joseph F. Smith, "Recollections," printed in serial format, Juvenile Instructor

 

RECOLLECTIONS

 

It is said, "calms succeed storms," "one extreme follows another," &c Certainly joy followed closely on the heels of grief more than once this day, for when Joseph and Thomas reached home, to their surprise and unspeakable joy, they found all their cattle safely corraled in their yards where they had been all the afternoon. Alden, it seems, reached the herd ground just after Joseph had left. He found the cattle straggling off in the wrong direction unherded, he could find no trace of the boys or horses, although he discovered the dinner pails at the spring as usual. When he had thoroughly satisfied himself by observations that all was not right, and perhaps something very serious was the matter, he came to the conclusion to take the dinner pails, gather up the cattle and go home, which he did by the lower road, reaching home some time after the company had left by the upper road in search of them. He of course learned the particulars of the whole affair, and must have felt thankful that he had escaped. A messenger was sent to notify the company of the safety of the cattle, but for some reason he did not overtake them.

In the Spring of 1847, George Mills was fitted out with a team and went in the company of President Young as one of the Pioneers to the Valley; and soon after, a portion of the family, in the care of Brother James Lawson, emigrated from "Winter Quarters," arriving in the Valley that fall.

In the Spring of 1848, a tremendous effort was made by the Saints to immigrate to the Valley on a grand scale. No one was more anxious than Widow Smith; but to accomplish it seemed an impossibility. She still had a large and, comparatively, helpless family. Her two sons, John and Joseph, mere boys, being her only support; the men folks, as they were called, Brothers J. Lawson and G. Mills being in the valley with the teams they had taken. Without teams sufficient to draw the number of wagons necessary to haul provisions and outfit for the family, and without means to purchase, or friends who were in circumstances to assist, she determined to make the attempt, and trust in the Lord for the issue. Accordingly every nerve was strained, and every available object brought into requisition. "Jackie" was traded off for provisions, cows and calves were yoked up, two wagons lashed together, and team barely sufficient to draw one was hitched on to them, and in the manner they rolled out from Winter Quarters some time in May. After a series of the most amusing and trying circumstances, such as sticking in the mud, doubling teams up all the little hills and crashing at ungovernable speed down the opposite sides, breaking wagon tongues and reaches upsetting, and vainly endeavoring to control wild steers, heifers and unbroken cows they finally succeeded in reaching the Elk Horn, where the companies were being organized for the plains.

Here, widow Smith reported herself to President Kimball, as having "started for the Valley." Meantime, she had left no stone unturned or problem untried, which promised assistance in effecting the necessary preparations for the journey. She had done to her utmost, and still the way looked dark and impossible.

President Kimball consigned her to Captain-'s fifty. The Captain was present; said he,

"Widow Smith, how many wagons have you?"

"Seven."

"How many yokes of oxen have you?"

"Four," and so many cows and calves."

"Well," says the captain, "Widow Smith, it is folly for you to start in this manner; you never can make the journey, and if you try it, you will be a burden upon the company the whole way. My advice to you is, go back to Winter Quarters and wait till you can get help."

This speech aroused the indignation of Joseph, who stood by and heard it; he thought it was poor consolation to his mother who was struggling so hard, even against hope as it were, for her deliverance; and if he had been a little older it is possible that he would have said some very harsh things to the Captain; but as it was, he busied himself with his thoughts and bit his lips.

Widow Smith calmly replied, "Father-" (he was an aged man,) "I will beat you to the Valley and will ask no help from you either!"

This seemed to nettle the old gentleman, for he was high metal. It is possible that he never forgot this prediction, and that it influenced his conduct towards her more or less from that time forth as long as he lived, and especially during the journey.

While the companies were lying at Elk Horn, Widow Smith sent back to Winter Quarters, and by the blessing of God, succeeded in buying on credit, and hiring for the journey, several yokes of oxen from brethren who were not able to emigrate that year, (among these brethren one Brother Rogers was ever gratefully remembered by the family.) When the companies were ready to start, Widow Smith and her family were somewhat better prepared for the journey and rolled out with lighter hearts and better prospects than favored their egress from Winter Quarters. But Joseph often wished that his mother had been consigned to some other company, for although everything seemed to move along pleasantly, his ears were frequently saluted with expressions which seemed to be prompted by feelings of disappointment and regret at this mother's prosperity and success-expression which, it seemed to him, were made expressly for his ear. To this, however, he paid as little regard as it was possible for a boy of his temperament to do. One cause for annoyance was the fact that his mother would not permit him to stand guard of nights the same as a man or his older brother John, when the Captain required it. She was willing for him to herd in the day time and do his duty in everything that seemed to her in reason could be required of him; but, as he was only ten years of age, she did not consider him old enough to do guard duty of nights to protect the camp from Indians, stampedes, &c, therefore, when the Captain required him to stand guard, Widow Smith objected. He was, therefore, frequently sneered at as being "petted by his mother," which was a sore trial to him.

One day the company overtook President Kimball's company, which was traveling ahead of them; this was somewhere near the north fork of the Platte river. Jane Wilson, who has been mentioned as being a member of the family of Widow Smith, and as being troubled with fits, &c, and withal very fond of snuff, started ahead to overtake her mother, who was in the family of Bishop N.K. Whitney, President Kimball's company, supposing both companies would camp together, and she could easily return to her own camp in the evening. But, early in the afternoon, our Captain [Cornelius Peter Lott] ordered a halt, and camped for that night and the next day. This move, unfortunately, compelled poor Jane to continue on with her mother in the preceding company.

Towards evening the Captain took a position in the centre of the corral formed by the wagons, and called the company together, and then cried out:

"Is all right in the camp?" "Is all right in the camp?"

Not supposing for a moment that anything was wrong, no one replied. He repeated the question again and again, each time increasing his vehemence, until some began to feel alarmed. Old "Uncle Tommie” Harrington replied in good English style, "nout's the matter wi me" "nout's the matter wi me;" and one after another replied, "Nothing is the matter with me," until it came to Widow Smith, at which, in a towering rage, the Captain exclaimed, "All's right in the camp, and a poor woman lost!"

Widow Smith replied, "she is not lost; she is with her mother, and as safe as I am."

At which the Captain lost all control of his temper, and fairly screamed out, "I rebuke you, Widow Smith, in the name of the Lord!" pouring forth a tirade of abuse upon her. Nothing would pacify him till she proposed to send her son John ahead to find Jane. It was almost dark, and he would doubtless have to travel until nearly midnight before he would overtake the company; but he started, alone and unarmed, in an unknown region, an Indian country, infested by hordes of hungry wolves, ravenous for the dead cattle strewn here and there along the road, which drew them in such numbers that their howlings awakened the echoes of the night, making it hideous and disturbing the slumbers of the camps.

That night was spent by Widow Smith in prayer and anguish for the safety of her son; but the next day John returned all safe, and reported that he had found Jane all right with their mother. Widow Smith's fears for his safety, although perhaps unnecessary, were not groundless, as his account of his night's trip proved. The wolves growled and glared at him as he passed along, not caring even to get out of the road for him; their eyes gleaming like balls of fire through the darkness on every hand; but they did not molest him; still, the task was one that would have made a timid person shudder and shrink from its performance.

Another circumstance occurred, while camped at this place, which had a wonderful influence, some time afterwards, upon Captain -------- 's mind. There was a party of the brethren started out on a hunting expedition, for the day. A boy, that was driving team for Widow Smith, but little larger than Joseph, although several years his senior, accompanied them, riding with the captain in his carriage, which they took along to carry their game in. This boy—(he is now a man, and no doubt a good Latter-day Saint) was a very great favorite of the Captain's; and was often cited by him as a worthy example for Joseph, as he stood guard, and was very obliging and obedient to him. During the day the Captain [Lott] left him in charge of his carriage and team, while he went some distance away in search of game, charging W-------- not to leave the spot until he returned. Soon after the Captain got out of sight, W-------- drove off in pursuit of some of the brethren in another direction, and when he overtook them, strange to say, he told a most foolish and flimsy story, which aroused their suspicion. They charged him with falsehood, but he unwisely stuck to his story. It was this: "Captain--------- had sent him to tell them to drive the game down to a certain point, so that he (the Captain) might have a shot as well as they." Having done this, he started back to his post, expecting to get there, of course, before the Captain returned. But unfortunately for his good reputation with the Captain, he was too late. The Captain had returned, but the carriage was gone, not knowing the reason he doubtless became alarmed, as he immediately started in search, instead of waiting to see if it would return. He missed connection, and was subjected to a tedious tramp and great anxiety, until he fell in with those brethren, who related the strange interview they had had with W------- and the mystery was explained. Returning again, there he found the carriage and W--------- all right, looking innocent and dutiful, little suspecting that the Captain knew all, and the storm that was about to burst upon his devoted head. But like a thunder-clap the storm came. At first W--------affected bewilderment, putting on an air of injured innocence, but soon gave way before the avalanche of wrath hurled upon him. Poor fellow! He had destroyed the Captain's confidence in him, and would he ever regain it? The reader can readily imagine, this would be a difficult matter. Sometime after this, the Captain went out from camp with his carriage to gather saleratus, and on the way overtook Joseph on foot. To Joseph's utter astonishment, the Captain stopped and invited him to ride. There was another brother in the carriage with him. As they went along, the Captain told this story, and concluded by saying, "Now, Joseph, since W------- has betrayed my confidence, so that I dare not trust him any more, you shall take his place. I don't believe you will deceive me." Joseph in the best manner he possibly could, declined the honor proffered to him.

Passing over from the Platte to the Sweetwater, the cattle suffered extremely from the heat, the drought, and the scarcity of feed, being compelled to browse on dry rabbit brush, sage brush, weeds and such feed as they could find, all of which had been well picked over by the preceding companies. Captain ---------'s company being one of the last, still keeping along, frequently in sight of, and sometimes camping with President Kimball's company which was very large. One day as they were moving along slowly through the hot sand and dust, the sun pouring down with excessive heat, toward noon one of Widow Smith's best oxen laid down in the yoke, rolled over on to his side, and stiffened out his legs spasmodically, evidently in the throes of death. The unanimous opinion was, that he was poisoned. All the hindmost teams of course stopped, the people coming forward to know what was the matter. In a short time the Captain, who was in advance of the company, perceiving that something was wrong, came to the spot.

Perhaps no one supposed for a moment that the ox would ever recover. The Captain's first words on seeing him, were:

"He is dead, there is no use working with him; we'll have to fix up some way to take the Widow along, I told her she would be a burden upon the company."

Meantime Widow Smith had been searching for a bottle of consecrated oil in one of the wagons, and now came forward with it, and asked her brother, Joseph Fielding, and the other brethren, to administer to the ox, thinking the Lord would raise him up. They did so, pouring a portion of oil on the top of his head, between and back of the horns, and all laid hands upon him, and one prayed, administering the ordinance as they would have done to a human being that was sick. Can you guess the result? In a moment he gathered his legs under him, and at the first word arose to his feet, and traveled right off as well as ever. He was not even unyoked from his mate. The Captain, it may well be supposed, now heartily regretted his hasty conclusions and unhappy expressions. They had not gone very far when another and an exactly similar circumstance occurred. This time also it was one of her best oxen, the loss of either would have effectually crippled one team, as they had no cattle to spare. But the Lord mercifully heard their prayers, and recognized the holy ordinance of anointing and prayer, and the authority of the Priesthood when applied in behalf of even a poor dumb brute! Sincere gratitude from more than one heart in that family, went up unto the Lord that day for His visible interposition in their behalf. At or near a place called Rattlesnake Bend, on the Sweetwater, one of Widow Smith's oxen died of sheer old age, and consequent poverty. He had been comparatively useless for some time, merely carrying his end of the yoke without being of any further service in the team, he was therefore no great loss.

At the last crossing of Sweetwater, Widow Smith was met by James Lawson, with a span of horses and a wagon, from the Valley. This enabled her to unload one wagon, and send it, with the best team, back to Winter Quarters to assist another family the next season, Elder Joel Terry returned with the team. At this place the Captain was very unfortunate, several of his best cattle and a valuable mule laid down and died, supposed to have been caused by eating poisonous weeds. There was no one in the camp who did not feel a lively sympathy for the Captain, he took it to heart very much. He was under the necessity of obtaining help, and Widow Smith was the first to offer it to him, but he refused to accept of it from her hands. Joseph sympathized with him, and would gladly have done anything in his power to aid him; but here again, it is painful to say, he repulsed his sympathy and chilled his heart and feelings more and more by insinuating to others, in his presence, that Widow Smith had poisoned his cattle! Saying, "why should my cattle, and nobody's else, die in this manner? There is more than a chance about this. It was well planned," &c, expressly for his ear. This last thrust was the severing blow. Joseph resolved, some day, to demand satisfaction not only for this, but for every other indignity he had heaped upon his mother.

On the 22nd of September, 1848, Captain ---------'s fifty crossed over the "Big Mountain," when they had the first glimpse of Salt Lake Valley. It was a beautiful day. Fleecy clouds hung round over the summits of the highest mountains, casting their shadows down the valley beneath, hightening, by contrast, the golden hue of the sun's rays which fell through the openings upon the dry bunch-grass and sage-bush plains, gilding them with fairy brightness, and making the arid desert to seem like an enchanted spot. Every heart rejoiced, and with lingering fondness, wistfully gazed from the summit of the mountain upon the western side of the valley revealed to view, the goal of their wearisome journey. The ascent from the east was gradual, but long and fatiguing for the teams, it was in the afternoon, therefore, when they reached the top. The descent to the west was far more precipitous and abrupt. They were obliged to rough-lock the hind wheels of the wagons, and, as they were not needed, the forward cattle were turned loose to be driven to the foot of the mountain or to camp, the "wheelers" only being retained on the wagon. Desirous of shortening the next day's journey as much as possible—as that was to bring them into the Valley—they drove on till a late hour in the night, over very rough roads much of the way, and skirted with oak brush and groves of trees. They finally camped near the eastern foot of the "Little Mountain." During this night's drive several of Widow Smith's cows—that had been turned loose from the teams—were lost in the brush. Early next morning John returned on horse-back to hunt for them, their service in the teams being necessary to proceed.

At an earlier hour than usual the Captain gave orders for the company to start,--knowing well the circumstances of the Widow, and that she would be obliged to remain till John returned with the lost cattle—accordingly the company rolled out, leaving her and her family alone.

It was fortunate that Brother James Lawson was with them, for he knew the road, and, if necessary, could pilot them down the kanyon [canyon] in the night. Joseph thought of his mother's prediction at Elk Horn, and so did the Captain, and he was determined that he would win this point, although he had lost all the others, and prove her prediction false. "I will beat you to the Valley, and ask no help from you either," rang in Joseph's ears; he could not reconcile these words with possibility, though he knew his mother always told the truth, but how could this come true? Hours, to him, seemed like days as they waited, hour after hour, for John to return. All this time the company was slowly tugging away up the mountain, lifting at the wheels, geeing and hawing, twisting along a few steps, then blocking the wheels for the cattle to rest and take breath, now doubling a team, and now a crowd rushing to stop a wagon, too heavy for the exhausted team, and prevent its rolling backward down the hill, dragging the cattle along with it, while in this condition, to highten the distress and balk the teams, a cloud—as it were—burst over their heads, sending down the rain in torrents, as it seldom rains in this country, throwing the company into utter confusion. The cattle refused to pull, would not face the beating storm, and to save the wagons from crashing down the mountain, upsetting, &c, they were obliged to unhitch them, and block all the wheels. While the teamsters sought shelter, the storm drove the cattle in every direction through the brush and into the ravines, and into every nook they could find, so that when it subsided it was a day's work to find them, and get them together. Meantime Widow Smith's cattle—except those lost—were tied to the wagons, and were safe. In a few moments after the storm, John brought up those which had been lost, and they hitched up, making as early a start as they usually did in the mornings, rolled up the mountain, passing the company in their confused situation, and feeling that every tie had been sundered that bound them to the Captain, continued on to the Valley, and arrived at "Old Fort," about ten o'clock on the night of the 23rd of September, all well and thankful.

The next morning was Sabbath, the whole family went to the bowery to meeting. Presidents Young and Kimball preached. This was the first time that Joseph had ever heard them, to this recollection, in public and he exclaimed to himself; "these are the men of God, who are gathering the saints to the Valley." This was a meeting long to be remembered by those present. President Young, spoke as though he felt: "Now, God's people are free," and the way of their deliverance had been wrought out. That evening Captain --------and his company arrived, dusty and weary, too late for the excellent meetings and the day of sweet rest enjoyed by the Widow and her family. Once more, in silver tones, rang through Joseph's ears. "Father---------, I will beat you to the Valley, and will ask no help from you either!"

J.F.S.

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