Transcript for Nelson Wheeler Whipple, "Journal of a Pioneer," Instructor 82 no. 3 (March 1947): 121-124
During the spring of '50 I was fully employed gunsmithing and earning some money, but had nothing towards an outfit for a journey of a thousand miles and did not think of going to the Valley that season, but to my surprise, Alonzo P[earis]. Rament [Raymond], who was a brother indeed, asked me if I was going to the Valley that summer. I told him that I had no team or anything else towards an outfit. As he passed on in a hurry he said that he would let me have one good yoke of oxen if that would do me any good.
I went into the house and told my wife and we made preparations from that hour to go that summer.
A large company of immigrants came early in the spring and camped near my house and I did a good deal of repairing for them and made some axel trees by which I got a good deal of money.
It was quite remarkable that there was but very little corn that spring that would grow. A good many after planting their corn two or three times found it would not grow so tried to sprout it, but it would not sprout. In consequence of the early emigration that depended on corn to feed their horses on the plains the corn became scarce and rose to two dollars and a half per bushel and the common price was fifty cents.
Soon after the Mormons went to Kanesville Brother O[rson]. Hyde came up and brought type and press and commenced publishing a paper which he called the Frontier Guardian. He edited this himself and in my opinion it was a very excellent paper.
Having made the best arrangements I could for the trip; made my wagon, laid in my flour, meal, bacon, candles, sugar, coffee, tea, clothing etc. and on the 9th day of June 1850, we set out for Great Salt Lake Valley, the place we had long desired to see.
My team was one yoke of good milch [milk] oxen, loaned me by my friend, Alonzo P[earis]. Rament [Raymond], and one good yoke of cows, a light wagon and a very good fitout for the journey. My cows had never been yoked before and did not go very well, of course, but they soon learned so I could drive them without leading.
The first night we stopped at Brother Tiffany's, four miles from where we started. The next morning we bid goodbye to our friends who were going back and went on down the river to a place called Bethleham [Bethlehem] and camped to await the arrival of others and to organize for traveling, etc. Brother Tiffany went a long way with us and when he turned to go back our feelings were such that we could not bid him goodbye, but he knew our feelings for he felt the same.
In a few days Brother O[rson]. Hyde and Brother Joseph Young and some others came down and examined our wagons and our fitout; organized us into 10's, 50's, 100's, appointed captains, etc. Brother David Evans was captain of the first 50 and John Bair of the second 50. There were 105 wagons in all. We crossed the river very well without accident except an old cow that was fool enough to jump over board and came near upsetting the boat and caused us to drift down stream a long ways below the landing, but we toed up and got ashore.
The Omaha Indians were about there very plentiful and some were afraid of them but they manifested no disposition to do anybody any harm or harm their property.
We went six miles from the river and camped on a small creek where mosquitoes were so thick they nearly ran us all crazy.
On that night the cholera appeared among us. One Joe [Joseph] Millet who was with the Hatch boys was taken sick about dark and was very bad through the night but nobody seemed to take much notice of him and did not know what ailed him. The next day he got pretty near over it and we went on for several days.
We had not gone far before we saw a grave with the name of Charlotte Thornton on the head board. We had all been acquainted with this young woman. We soon came to a camp where two or three had died, one the wife of D.B. Dilly. At this many were much alarmed but this did no good for we had to face the cholera if we turned back and if we went on we could run away from it. After traveling a day or two we came to the old Paunee [Pawnee] Village on the south side of the Platte river. Here we stopped early in the afternoon and Samuel Williams and his brother and myself went to examine the village and get some wood for the night.
The wigwams or houses were built quite substantial of cedar wood which they had floated down the Platte from Grand Island a good many miles above. There was no timber in sight of the village. There were pieces of ground that the Indians had cultivated and raised much corn on but there were no fences. Large holes like wells had been dug into the sandy soil where the corn had been deposited. The Indians were all gone having been driven away by the Sioux.
While we were looking about I began to feel cold and deathly. I got two small sticks of wood and started for camp, a distance of perhaps forty or fifty rods, but before I got there I dropped my wood and made my way the best I could for the wagon and when there I told my wife that something ailed me and I thought it was the cholera. She was alarmed at this, of course, and thought she should be left a widow in short order. She asked if she could do anything for me. We had a wooden match box full of some kind of pills and I told her to give me some of them. She handed me the box and I took one half of them at once, and I had Father Williams come and administer to me, and for a few hours I suffered much but after that I seemed to feel a little better and told my wife I would take the balance of those pills and did so.
In the morning I was comfortable again. Through the night I was so restless that I could not lie in one position a single minute but rolled and tumbled in the wagon, so finally that was not big enough so I got out upon the ground and rolled there for hours.
At the time I was the worst Robert G. Williams was lying in the wagon next ours. He had the cholera and died. I heard him breathe his last but it did not alarm me at all as to my situation, and I do not know that I thought of dying while I was sick. In the morning I was able to letter a tomb board of cedar that Brother [Phineas] Pettigrew had shaved out in good style for that purpose. There were some five or six died in our camp of this disease.
As we passed along the great number of new graves was astonishing. We met scattering remnants of companies going back as so many had died. The few who were left had turned back for home thinking they had had quite enough of gold hunting. Many of the bodies of those gentiles were dug up and eaten by the wolves, which were most numerous in the Platte country. Their bones lay to bleach on the desert. This was the literal fulfillment of some of the predictions of the Prophet Joseph [Smith]. Very many were men who had driven the Saints from Missouri and murdered and plundered them there. The names of these were on the boards at the heads of their graves.
After I had the cholera we passed on day after day and saw many graves of the California emigrants and of many of our people who had started before us. Nothing of note occurred until we got near the south fork of the Platt where one of the oxen of Brother A[lonzo]. P[earis]. Rament's [Raymond's] that I had lay down while traveling and died in a few minutes. This left us in a bad situation as there were very few spare cattle in the company.
For a few days Brother Rament [Raymond] put on another yoke of his oxen but soon found his load too heavy to spare any team and the captain took a cow of Ethen [Ethan] Burrows [Barrows] that was able to work and let me have her to work with the ox for quite a long distance. When we reached Scott's Bluff I was on guard one night and an ox came limping into our camp. I took him and tied him up and in the morning examined him but could see nothing the matter with his foot but he walked quite lame.
Captain Evans told me to take him along to a trading post that was a short distance ahead and trade him for a cow or something that would help out for a team. I did so and traded for a cow which I put into the yoke and worked her for about 300 miles. Her feet got very sore and I put her into the loose herd and Brother Evans let me have a two year old heifer until we got to the Valley. All the cows' feet got very bad. I used to throw mine down and clean out the dirt and gravel and cloth and tar and nail on sheet iron shoes. These would stay on about a week when I would have to do the same thing again.
I had been told of the vast herds of buffaloes along the Platte so thick that the teams could hardly get along for them, but we did not see anything of the kind. Some few were seen along the road and one or two killed but they were very wild and hard to catch.
We experienced some of the most terrible storms along the Platte that I had ever known in any country, but we received no particular damage by them. Very few cattle died and the health of the people was good after we got away from the cholera which was about 200 miles from the Missouri river. We generally had peace in the camp and very little difficulty or contentions between the brethren. After we passed the South Pass, as it is called, the captain told his company that if they felt like dancing to dance and enjoy themselves as he felt as though we were delivered from under the hands of our enemies who would not have power to abuse us as they had before done.
The destruction of property on the plains this year was immense in consequence of the much sickness and so many starting out who did not know anything what they needed on such a trip, or how they could get along best. I am speaking of the gentiles. Wagons, wagon irons, axes, guns, chains, beds, shirts, quilts, pants, tools of almost every description, kegs, barrels, etc. etc., were strewn along in great abundance. I saw twelve rifle barrels in one place that had been broken and bent and the stocks knocked off to prevent the Mormons from being benefited by them.
We were just three months on our journey across the plains, a long tedious time of it as everyone well knows that have crossed them with ox teams or hand carts as many have done. Our provisions held out well and our cows gave a little milk all the way, and we got along very well I suppose but it was the hardest three months of my life up to that time.
While we were on the Sweet Water [Sweetwater] we met Ansen [Anson] Call and others who told us to take the new road that was called the Golden Pass which turned up the Weber river from the mouth of Echo Canyon and over into Parley's Park and down Parley's Canyon. What object his was in telling us to go that way I do not know but the road was almost impassable, much worse we were told than the other way but notwithstanding we got over, and on the night of the 13th of September, 1850 came down Parley's Canyon into the Valley or near it camped.
I was Wet to my hips as I had to lead the heifers on the lead and wade at every crossing which was not a few. After we had camped, late in the night, they got up a dance and those who felt like dancing joined in but I did not but went to bed anxious for morning to come that I might see what was before me. In the morning I walked up the bluff on the bank at the mouth of the canyon to look about. The first thing I noticed was a good lot of snow on the vast mountains on the east of the Valley. I next began to look for Great Salt Lake City, as I was told I could see it from that point. I discovered something at a distance of about one mile to the north, that looked like a few low huts or cabins which I supposed must be the city or a portion of it. I saw a small part of the Great Salt Lake and the islands in it, which all looked barren, dreary and desolate and the whole view had the most lonely and isolated appearance that could be.
My feelings were the most singular that I ever had when I reflected for a moment on the condition of a handfull of people here located at least one thousand miles from all civilization in this sterile and desolate region of the Rocky mountains, to sustain themselves and become an independent nation, which I knew they had to do somewhere in these mountains.