Transcript for Robert Sweeten Family Reunion Committee, "Robert Sweeten family reunion held in the mission home in Salt Lake on May 5, 1961" (1961
On June 21, 1847, they started for the west in Bishop Hunter’s company. Elder John Taylor, then a member of the Twelve, traveled in the same company. They went through all the privations of that westward trek, reaching the Salt Lake Valley on October 1, 1847. Twenty-four Gardners had left Canada in the spring of 1846. Three died and one was born during the journey to the west, making twenty-one who arrived in Salt Lake Valley.
"The following spring (1847) the different companies began leaving for Salt Lake, which was to them an unknown country. The first company reached Salt Lake on July 24, 1847, and we arrived in either August or September of the same year. (The record says October 1, 1847.) Although I was but six years old and it being 86 years ago, yet I remember a few things about the trip I would like to tell. My first sight of Brigham Young was when we met him at Green River, when he was on his way back to get his family and assist more Saints across the plains. Our only means of crossing rivers that were too deep to wade was to chop down trees, chain them together and make a raft upon which we would pull one wagon across at a time. We were crossing a narrow deep stream one time and most of the wagons were across, and they were just starting to take ours across when mother [Mary Gardner Luckham] shouted for them to let the children out before crossing. We got out and when the wagon was half way across it flopped bottom side up in the stream. Everything we owned was in the wagon, and everything got soaking wet. Mother jumped in the water with her clothes on to save what few things she could. She had to sleep in wet clothes that night and she caught a cold, which ultimately caused her death in 1857 at Spanish Fork, during our move south to escape the Johnston Army.
"Every night, I remember, the children would play around the wagons and camp fires; after supper the older folks would get out the fiddles and have dances around the fires, some of them dancing in bare feet, as they had no shoes. Every week we would have religious services.
"I walked most of the way across the plains, with but an occasional ride. One time while I was driving two yoke of oxen so my stepfather could ride a while and rest, I stepped on a prickly pear, and being barefooted the needles ran into my feet, and mother had to pull them out. Every night we would pull the wagons in a large circle and form a corral for protection against the Indians and to form an enclosure for the animals. I believe I could take a hundred wagons right now and form a corral as we did then.
"While following the Platte River we saw many buffalo, sometimes in herds so large we had to stop the company and let them go past. One day I became lame from walking so much and fell behind the company. Suddenly I heard a strange noise, and looking up I saw a large buffalo bull intently watching me. His fierce snorting frightened me into screaming. The driver on the last wagon heard me and shouted for me to run, but I was too frightened to move. Some men came back and were going to shoot the animal, but the captain stopped them saying that Brigham Young’s orders were to shoot only those animals that were to be used for food.
"During our stay at Fort Bridger, Jim Bridger told us he saw the captain of Brigham Young’s company riding quite a way ahead of the rest. We learned there was no such a man riding ahead of the company, but he was believed to be one of the Three Nephites guarding the company and leading it to the proper place.
"As we reached the top of Big Mountain we could see the lights of another camp ahead of us, so we came down the mountain at the head of Emigation Canyon in the dark. The Canadian wagons were lower than the American wagons and they struck stumps the others would pass over, so we had to chop the tops off all the stumps our wagons struck. We finally reached the company ahead and camped with them for the remainder of the night and traveled together the next day. During the day the call was passed down the train, ‘There is the Great Salt Lake.’ We reached Salt Lake that night and camped with Brigham Young’s company. The children played ‘I Spy’ in the grass and sage."