Transcript for Kirkham, James, [Autobiography], in E. Kay Kirkham, George (Wm.) Kirkham: His Ancestors and Descendants to the Third Generation [1973], 66-67

We Start for Zion

At last everything was in readiness for our journey across the plains, a distance of a thousand miles. Our company was composed of saints with sixty wagons. Each wagonwas drawn by two yoke of oxen beside some cows. Besides our captain we had a chaplain and some night riders [herders]. My father [George William] used to stand guard in his turn around the camp and the cattle. Some times our chaplain [James Bond] would call the camp to prayers and if they did not attend he would stand on a wagon and look at the people. On our journey we had many difficulties to put up with and narrow escapes.

Prairie Fire and Stampede

At one time we were surrounded by a prairie fire but escaped without injury. We also had a stampeed and some twenty persons were injured. One man was killed and onewoman very badly hurt. One day we encountered a great herd of buffalo which stopped our train for some time and several were killed for meat for the company. We also came in contact with many tribes of Indians.


In order that we might travel in peace with them we had to feed them and sometimes give them presents. While journeying on our way we had to wade many streams,sometimes rivers and while walking barefoot in the hot sand I got my feet badly burnt. One was so bad that I could not wear my shoe.

When we arrived at what is known as the Big Mountain it was late in the afternoon as my father had to be helped up the mountain, he was the last of the train. The two hindwheels of our wagon was locked with chains and one yoke of cattle was to take the wagon down. Just as we started down the mountain the sun set in the horizon and in the distance huge dark clouds were to be seen and soon the heavens became black.

The Storm

The lightning flashed and the heaven artillery roared, clap after clap came the thunder and soon the rain descended in torrents. My mother [Mary Ann Astington] had arrived early in camp at the foot of the mountain in the afternoon but I was left with my father and as it was not safe for me to ride I had to walk. I had no coat or hat on and soon became very wet with the rain and in the darkness of the night I soon got lost and wandered alone sometimes in the ditch by the side of the road up to my waist in water.

When the lightning came I was able to see where the road was and by listening to the sound of a cow bell that was on the end of some wagon in the distance, by the time the storm abated I was able to overtake the wagon and was picked up and taken into camp about two o'clock in the morning.

When I arrived in camp I was wet and sore and very frightened. My father had got to camp about one o'clock and with the camp was very muc[h] excited over my absence but had prayed for my safety.

We Arrived at Salt Lake

On September 18th 1859 we arrived all well in the valleys of the Great Salt Lake and camp on what was known then as Emigration Square. The day was beautiful and the sun shone in all his splendor. Our train was led into the city by a two wheel covered cartdrawn by one small white ox. The animal was covered with garlands of wild flowers andon the sides of the vehicle was this motto in large letters: HAIL COLUMBIA, THIS BEATS THE HAND CARTS.