Transcript for Mary Jane Mount Tanner reminiscences and diary, 1872-1884, 20-29
No doubt her heart failed her on that long weary day as she sat in the bright spring sunshine watching the shadows and thinking of all she was leaving behind and wondering what the future held in store for her.
At length the teams were hitched in and we traveled on to a camping place. We traveled along until we reached the Ham River which had to be ferried. This caused considerable delay; but at length the companies were fully organized and made a final start.
The companies were organized in tens, fifties and hundreds, with there respective captains. My father was captain of ten, from which he was called for a long time captain [Joseph] Mount. They traveled with two teams abreast as the roads had been laid out by the pioneers. In camping the waggons were drawn up, each line forming a semicircle. The two semicircles met and formed a coral with a gate at each end, where the men took turns standing at night to watch the stock and guard against accidents. The campfires were made outside the coral where the women prepared the evening meal, while the men sat around the fire or attended to rougher duties; and many a family altar was formed, and many a prayer went up from those lonely plains.
Where the wild cayota's howling
Or the screech of evil bird;
In the lonely midnight darkness,
Were the only sounds they heard.
They rested on the Sabath day and held meetings; also stopping frequently for a few days to recruit the stock and wash their clothing. The general health was good. There was no sickness or death in the camps, but several children were born on the way.
Many weary days we traveled over the hot dusty plains. In some places the sand was so deep as to make the traveling slow and dificult. The poor cattle would often give out, frequently falling in the road as they traveled along. An occasion of this kind would stop the whole company, as they could not move on and leave a companion in distress. A family whose ox had given out was thrown into the greatest consternation. The men would gather round, and by coaxing and whipping, or bringing a little grass or water if possible to get it, to the perishing animal it was induced sometimes to get up and travel on, but was frequently dragged out of the road dead or dying. An ox or a cow was brought from the loose herd and yoked in its place and the company traveled on.
They traveled in fifties and a little distance apart to prevent confusion. Captain Grant's company had the misfortune to have their cattle stampede, that is, take fright and run away. They scattered among the Black Hills and were difficult to recover, Some of them probably never were recovered, although the other companies assisted in the search. My father went to their assistance, and was gone eight days, leaving my mother and the little boy he had brought to assist him, to drive his two teams. During his absence one of the oxen belonging to the light waggon which my mother [Elizabeth Bessac Mount] and I rode in gave out, and after all the usual recourcis were applied, it was left to die and a span of horses from the loose herd was harnessed to our waggon; and as my mother could not drive them, Mr. [Stillman] Pond left his own team for his daughter [Louisa Lorenza Alcina Pond] to drive and drove my mother's team until my father came back. After that we sometimes had a cow and sometimes an ox from the loose herd yoked with our odd ox as we continued our journey.
I used to see other children running along barefooted, and thought it would be nice to take my shoes off too. But my feet were not accustomed to such rough usage, and I was generaly glad to put them on again. One day, while trying the experiment, I wandered a little way from the road, and getting among a bed of prickly pears; was obliged to sit down and take care of my feet while some of the children went to the waggon for my shoes. As the waggons kept traveling on, this threw me some distance behind our team, and I was considerably fatigued by the time I caught up. I think this must have cured me of the desire to go barefooted.
These were a great many ant hills along the road raised to a considerable height where we often found beads which were, no doubt lost by the Indians and collected by those indefagitable little workers along with the gravel of which their mounds were composed. If we were hardy enough to risk a bite now and then we found much amusement in searching for the beads to string into neclaces.
Another favorite pasttime consisted of walking far enough ahead of the train to get a little time to play; when we would drive the huge crickets, large unwieldly insects, if they could be called such, that abounded in some sections of the country and build corals of sand or rock to put them in calling them our cattle.
Another inducement to keep ahead of the waggons was our fear of riding across the creeks and bad places in the road, as the waggons were sometimes upset. In keeping ahead we managed to get across if possible before the teams came up. If the rivers were not too deep we pulled off our shoes and stockings and waded through.
One day we saw some trees and bushes in the distance and were told it was the banks of Green River, and I in company with some others of the young people took buckets and started out in quest of possible berries. After walking some time we reached the trees and found berries growing there called mountain currants. They were very good, and we were enjoying them very much when we found ourselves in a dilema. The river was wide and deep and of a dark green collar flowing swiftly. What if the waggons were to go over and leave us, how should we make our way to the camp. The question was being discussed, and some of the older ones thought they could wade it, which made us little ones look dubious and wonder what would become of us. Presently we heard a call which was cheerfully answered and a man from the camp joined us to say that the waggons were waiting at the ford and he had been sent to search for us. We followed him some distance down the river until we came to the ford. A few teams were waiting for us and the rest had traveled on to find a camping ground. It was dark when we reached them, and found our parents very anxious about us. We were forbidden to go so far from the train any more.
When about half way of our journey we had met the pioneers, and the little boy wishing to go back to his friends at Winter quarters, and my mother proffered to drive the team the rest of the way if my father would let him go. He finaly consented and my mother drove the team the rest of the way, yoking and unyoking in addition to her other duties.
As we reached the mountains the roads were very rough and she often had to spring from the waggon to guide the cattle and keep it from being upset. One of her oxen would never learn to hold back, and, when going down hill she had to hold his horn with one hand and pound his nose with the other to keep him from running into the waggons ahead of him. A feat which would astonish some of our belles of the present day, and yet she was reared as tenderly and was as little accustomed to hardship as any of them. Many times the bushes caught her dress in the waggon wheels and she had no choice but to rush on, leaving it in peices behind her.
She would never, in after life, recall the hardships of that dreadful journey without a sigh, and she felt that she could never, under any circumstances undertake such another.
At length, as the autumn advanced, we began to have cold storms in the mountains, and the nights grew chilly.
Our road led us over a very high mountain, and after climbing a day or two we reached the summit and the train stopped to look around and rest the teams before beginning the decent which was very steep and rocky. Our position commanded a fine view of the country; if rocks and hills, trees and bushes could be called country: and in the distance could be seen a hollow, it seemed little more, which we were told was the valley of the Great Salt Lake, and our future destination. How many weary feet have stood on that mountain since and tried to look into the valley, wondering what it held for them. I believe, with us; the one thought was rest, and thankfullness that our journey was nearly over. I wonder as we near the end of our life's journey if we shall gaze into the valley of peace and feel to rejoice that we are nearly there.
As we gazed down the yawning chasm that lay before us; the narrow road with rocks and bushes on each side, and leading, we could not see where, was a sight to make the strongest heart falter. My mother felt that she was not equal to the task of guiding her oxen down that fearful road, and my father tried to get a man to drive the team down for her. They were all fully occupied with their own teams, and she had to go down the best she could; hanging to the horns of her cattle, and leaving her dress as usal on the bushes to mark her way. I wonder if those coming after knew what those tattered rags meant.
Three days later we arrived in Salt Lake valley. It was in Oct. We had been five months on our journey and traveled over thirteen hundred miles.