Transcript

Transcript for Mc., "Incidents of Life on the Plains," Juvenile Instructor, 1 Jan. 1885, 12-13

In the early part of July, 1849, a company of Saints, numbering one hundred and fifty, were busy for several days ferrying their goods and families across the Mississippi river from Illinois into Iowa. The men did not linger in this work of transportation of their wives and children, for the menaces of enemies in the former State assured them that for the lingering "Mormon" pilgrim no mercy would be felt. So, from necessity, the vigilant workers rested neither day nor night until the last of the pilgrim band had set his foot on the opposite shore, where the revilings and threatenings of their enemies could not be heard. Several companies of Saints had already started that year for the mountains, but as the season was now far advanced doubts were expressed that this lingering band of exiles would reach the valleys before the Winter snows made the mountain roads impassable.

"Shall we not remain where we are until another Spring opens, rather than risk the danger of being locked in by the snow in some of the mountain passes?" was the question they asked themselves. Then comes the message and encouraging words from their heroic and beloved leader in the valley, "Come on and be true and faithful, and God will lead you."

The persecuting spirit that harassed them in Illinois reached them where they now were and their crossing the river had not afforded them a protection from suffering. They therefore hailed their leader's message with joy and prepared to move on towards the valley, for they felt they would rather meet the rigid severity of the late Winter's march, which they probably might have to make, than remain and endure the persecution of their wicked opponents.

On the 14th of July the second of the the three organized companies of fifty started from Winter Quarters under the leadership of Elder B------. They had been commanded to travel in companies of not less than fifty to insure their safety against attacks from the Indians, some tribes of whom at that time were hostile. Those who are accustomed to traveling only by the railway and stage cannot imagine half the trials and hardships attendant upon a journey across the then almost trackless plains with ox teams and wooden wagons. But the Saints saw nothing to discourage them in their situation. The thought of the hundreds of weary miles to be traversed by them did not dampen their courage any, and at the end of each weary day's travel the song of mirth and happiness was heard among them, unmixed with a murmur or complaint. Disease found its way among them, first, measles, and then the whooping-cough; but through the prayer of faith they were saved and none of them were left to sleep by the way-side.

After a slow, tiresome march of five or six weeks in the wilderness they were met by two men traveling east from the valley. One of them, a Mr. Babbit, explained to them something of the nature of the early Winter storms, which he said the company would be sure to meet if they continued to travel at their then slow rate, and suggested to several men of the company that they divide their camp and travel in companies of ten instead of fifty, that they might make greater speed. The Saints were assured that there could be no danger from the Indians as he had learned that the tribes of that region had removed five hundred miles distant. This proposal caught like a flame in the minds of the more fearful of the company and continued to spread until nearly half of the entire camp became possessed with a fear that they would not reach the valley in safety. At length they besought their captain to make a division of their number and reorganize them into smaller companies.

With patience and humility their captain reasoned with them rehearsing to them the promises God had made to guard them safely through if they were faithful, and faithful they were not if they disregarded the command of His servants, which was to travel as they were then organized. But the more he reasoned the more fearful their hearts became, and at length a feeling of enmity, jealousy and dissatisfaction crept in. They ascribed the perverseness (as they called it) of their leader to selfish motives. The inability of Elder B---- to dispel this spirit of discontent from his hitherto peaceful and happy company weighed heavily upon his heart, and when he had exhausted every means in his power to do so he withdrew himself from the camp and in prayer commended his people to the care of God and besought Him to open their eyes to their folly. He came back to his tent feeling comforted and satisfied that God would not suffer these few of His children to be led away in their fear and blindness.

His prayer was answered, for the next morning revealed, not far from their camp, the tents of about five hundred Indian warriors. The teams were immediately yoked and the wagons soon under way. The Indians mounted their horses and road up to the train. The captain gave instructions to the men to make no answer to their demands for traffic, instructions they were now willing to obey. After much difficulty the Indians were got rid of without their interfering seriously with any of the company; and the men clamored no more from that time for a division of their ranks.

After a few weeks more of weary dragging over the road in the scorching sun the majority of their number grew tired and wanted to rest; they saw their teams begin to lag, and themselves, their wives and children were tired and foot-sore from their long march. Surely, they thought, they were so near to the valley now they could afford a few days for a little rest and to let their teams recruit. Not a cloud was seen in the sky from day to day, and the long, hot September days betokened in their appearance no near approach of Winter. Their leader looked upon his tired people and in his heart felt great pity for the worn-out mothers of the young babes which had so lately come to them, and he longed to give them their much-needed rest. But he cheered them with kindly words and urged upon them the necessity of strictly obeying the command of President Young to not lose a day on the road, but push on without delay to the valley; but endeavors to banish weariness and inspire them with energy to continue their journey without a rest were vain. They held their council until a late hour on the third night of their discussion on the matter, when each of the rebellious ones (who comprised nearly half the company) retired with the determination to remain in camp the next day; the rest also retired, all except Elder B., who sought a thicket by the roadside to once more commend his people to God and ask His interposition in their behalf, that they might not be permitted to commit this act of disobedience and thereby endanger their wives and little ones.

As on the former occasion he found relief and consolation in prayer, and retired to rest with an assurance that his prayer would be answered.

During the latter part of the night a fearful storm arose; the wind blew a terrible gale, and when morning came some of the wagons had drifted against them a bank of snow eight feet in depth. Those who had not intended to remain in camp suffered less than those who had, for they had everything packed together ready for an early start in the morning, while those who intended to remain had their things lying carelessly about, and many of them lost their cooking utensils and other necessary articles. The storm continued for three days in all its fury, and when on the fourth day the elements permitted them to yoke up their teams and move on, none of them expressed a wish to remain longer, and from that time each one was filled with a desire to push on as rapidly as possible.

They were assailed by many hard storms before they reached their destination and suffered a great deal; but they all got in, not one of them was left behind. Their noble and energetic leader never faltered in his arduous labors for the flock under his charge. During stormy or bad weather he usually remained in his saddle from morning till night, assisting in driving the loose stock and encouraging drivers and teams, so anxious was he to reach the valley before the Winter snows commenced in earnest. He arrived with all his company in Salt Lake City on the 22nd of October, after suffering innumerable hardships; but all felt then, as do their children now, that God was to them in their travels as He was to the children of Israel anciently—a shield and protection.

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