Transcript for Orson H. Elliott reminiscences in the life of Orson Hyde Elliott, 1899, 210-216
After crossing the river all the Mormons were assembled together and then organized into companies of one hundred wagons each. As fast as they were organized they were started out on the road, across the plains. We had not been out more than a week when I ran away, intending to go back to my Aunt Laura. William came back after me, and when he overtook me I had taken off my shoes, tied them together, slung them across my shoulder, and was “humping it” for the Missouri river. How I was to get across when I got there, or how I was to reach Aunt Laura through a country of which I knew nothing, with no money in my pocket, was a problem I had not then taken into consideration. “Bill” had made enquiry from the emigrants whom he met on the road, and they had seen me and were able to describe me, and could tell him about where he ought to overtake me.
At that time I did not think I was of sufficient importance that father would ever take the trouble to send for me. I looked down the road and saw William coming on horseback, galloping at full speed. I dodged into the brush and hid. He rode up and called out to me, saying if I would come back with him father would not whip me. I then crawled out of my hiding place, climbed up behind William, and he took me back to camp.
I found father in great distress of mind. He had that morning received news from Salt Lake that my brother Bradford was dead. He asked me why I wanted to run away and leave him, saying he first lost Nancy by her getting married and staying behind, the Peter had run away and gone back to Mount Pleasant, Edward was in California, and now Bradford was dead. If I ran away, would he have any children left in his old age?
This affair seemed to worry him greatly, and he could not understand how his own flesh and blood should prefer someone else to him. He did not remember the promise he made my mother on her deathbed that he would give me to her sister, my Aunt Laura; and when my stepmother would punish me, Nancy and Peter would say in my presence: “Had pa given you to Aunt Laura, as he promised momma, you would not be abused by a woman who is not your mother, and one we all heartily detest.”
Of course those remarks kept the fire constantly burning in my breast, and when father took me to Aunt Laura all that warmth of affection I had for my mother was centered upon my aunt. I also remembered how kind Aunt Laura was when she lived with mother at Springfield. So when father took me away from my aunt to the stepmother, the kicks and cuffs, the slaps and lickings, began again as they had been at Mount Pleasant. Then as a matter of course I had no desire to remain with father.
The grass was growing everywhere, and as our means of transportation consisted of one wagon with three yoke of oxen and one team of horses, the necessity for pushing forward was apparent. Sister Sarah and her family with father and his family occupied the ox wagon, while William and wife occupied the spring wagon in which they came from Mount Pleasant. We had brought from our old home the faithful house dog, “Cuff”, who was a great favorite with all the children. We had a large tent with us, and father and his family occupied that in camp. Sister Sarah and her children slept in the wagon. There was constant friction between stepmother and Sarah. Stepmother wanted for herself the front part of the wagon during the daytime, and father was obliged to put a board dividing it in half; but even this did not restore harmony, and the wrangling kept up all the way to Salt Lake.
The principal feature in the landscape to my eye was the boundless prairie, the abundance of all kinds of wild game, and the Indians. There were times when we would see as many as ten thousand buffalo in one drove. I remember one day we had to stop the wagon train to let them pass, and it took them two hours and a half to cross the road, so numerous were they. All this time we could do nothing but stand still and let them go, for all were afraid to attack them, lest they might stampede our cattle.
At another time there were five hundred Sioux Indian families, consisting of more than a thousand persons all told, who passed, and again we were obliged to stop our train and let them cross the road. The cholera broke out among the emigrants that year, but we were spared the affliction.
One night we were camped in a creek bottom, when a terrible rainstorm came up, and the wind blew down every tent in the camp. We were all obliged to pile into the wagon with Sarah and her family, and it was only a few moments before the whole creek bottom was flooded. The water came up almost to the wagon bed, and this taught father a lesson, not to camp again in any of the low creek bottoms.
At another time, while traveling one Sunday afternoon a violent hailstorm came up, and before we could all get our teams unhitched, the storm was on us in such fury that many of the teams ran away and jumped into the Platte river. Hailstones as large as hen’s eggs fell, and people were obliged to cover up their heads with quilts and blankets for protection against the frightful pelting. Some took refuge under the wagons until the storm passed. Some of the wagons were overturned and many persons were hurt. The singular part of it was that half a mile up the road there was not enough rain to lay the dust. The storm was local, and did not extend more than half or three-quarters of a mile in every direction. In more recent years these local storms have been know as “cloud-bursts.”
As soon as the storm was over, the leading Mormons called the people together and then told them the Lord wanted to punish them for traveling on Sunday. There had been considerable complaining against the leaders of the party, and this gave them an opportunity to come back at the fault finders. They were told the Lord was angry with them for finding fault with the Lord’s anointed, and the storm was only a drop in the bucket to what they might expect if they did not cease. If any misfortune overtook them, the leaders always took advantage to it, and made what capital out of it they could.
The grass dried up as the summer advanced, and it was discovered that our company of one hundred wagons and a thousand cattle and horses was entirely too big to travel together with comfort. An Englishman named T[homas]. D. Brown, who had former been a merchant at Council Bluffs, was traveling with us. Besides his family he had a large stock of merchandise, consisting of dry goods, groceries and whisky. Those in authority, as soon as some of the Twelve Apostles came along, called a meeting and decided to divide up the train. Before dividing up, some of the brethren lacking in the spirit of God, thought they would make up the difference by tapping old Brown’s whisky barrels. One night they did so, and not having the proper tools to carry out their plans successfully, they bored into the hind end of a wagon into the barrel. Not having a faucet, most of the whisky was lost on the ground. Whisky was worth a dollar a pint, so they caught as much as they could in pails, but only a small portion was thus saved.
In due time Brother Brown discovered the theft, and he straightway called a council of war. A day or two afterwards the presiding elders and some of the Twelve Apostles arrived, when a meeting was called and an investigation was ordered. As they were unable to discover the culprits, they were obliged to content themselves by putting on trial those who were on guard that night. However, they were not able to fasten the guilt upon anyone in particular. The Twelve Apostles, or those in charge, tried to satisfy Brother Brown by denouncing the parties who had been mean enough to steal his whisky, and there they rested. But Brown was not to be so pacified. He refused to travel with such an ungodly set, withdrew from the company, and when he got to Salt Lake he apostatized.
Our company got into all sorts of dissensions. The spirit of God did not seem to abide with them after they stole Brown’s whisky, so they broke up in a row. It was “every fellow for himself, and the devil take the hindmost.”
A Mrs. [Elizabeth] McKinley, a widow lady whom we knew at Burlington, with her two sons, was with us, and they stuck to our party all the way through. They afterwards came to California, settling at Clear Lake, Lake county.
When we arrived at the Black Hills we were all worn out. Our cattle were footsore, and the horses having no grain, were weak and tired. Our provisions began to run low, and things looked decidedly squally. It was getting late in the season, and father was fearful we might get caught in a snowstorm in the mountains, when all might perish with cold and hunger. In September, 1852, we arrived at Fort Bridger, Green River, which was, as I remember, about one hundred miles from Salt Lake, Wade came out from Salt Lake City and met us at this point, and he brought with him some onions, potatoes, and other vegetables. He had an excellent pair of horses, so he took his family into his wagon and went on ahead. William and the McKinley family accompanied him, leaving father and his family to come on at a slower pace, as our ox team was feetsore and not able to go far in a day. A week later we reached our journey’s end, and were all rejoiced that it was over.