Transcript

Transcript for Roskelley, Samuel, "Grandpa Roskelley Looks at Life," Roskelley Organ 1, no. 1 (1 June 1951): 10-13

Our company being organized--Appleton M. Harmon was appointed Captain and we set out to cross the state of Iowa, but no pen can describe the starting. Thirteen or fourteen of the teams were composed of young wild steers with perhaps one yoke of partly broke cattle to each wagon. Teamsters composed of men fresh from cotton factories and work shops-many of whom had never seen two animals with a yoke on their necks before arriving at the camp ground at Keokuk. They knew as much about Gee and Haw as the unbroken steers in the team. In using a whip, such teamsters would as frequently strike themselves as the animal they were aiming at. Plank roads were frequent and sometimes of considerable length, bridging large and deep sloughs and ponds of stagnant water. While passing over these roads, herders would be placed each side of the teams. This in many instances would do more to frighten than keep the team straight consequently, many of the teams made a wild run for the sloughs to gain freedom, running over their herders and into water and mud half day [way] up their sides, tipping over wagons, breaking bows, boxes, tongues and ruining the contents of the wagons with mud and water while the united yelling of woa from the teamsters and herders frightened the cattle until they would get so badly tangled up with turned yokes and the chains around their legs and horns that an axe in the hand of an experienced man would have to be used to cut the bows and free the cattle from death by drowning. Then acusations from teamsters or herders or both, would follow in quick succession and while wading from knee deep to half way up to the armpits in mud and sluch would be forgotten for the time being and war of words unbecoming Saints-indulged in. Thus on our road to Zion we had the privilege of learning the art of self government if we would improve it. As night came on, Camp was formed on as dry place as could be found near a creek and the cattle unchained from each other, would be turned out to feed after a colored string of some sort had been tied around the horses or the yoke by the green teamsters so he might know his cattle when driven up in the morning. Wood and water brought to Camp and the skill of a green factory girl as also the English house wife would be tested in frying bacon and slapjacks for the mess. (usually of 10 persons) Burnt fingers, scorched hair, tired limbs and more tired throats of the men who lay around the fire stretched upon the ground to get a little ease for their aching limbs or drying their clothes after wading through the sloughs and mud, closed the days labors after prayer and the setting of the guard for the night. Mattes improved day by day as the teamsters and cattle knew each other better.

Becomes Teamster in Stewarts Freight Company
Arriving at Council Bluffs 4 July 1853, we crossed the Missippi river in a ferry boat and wended our way toward the setting sun. Nothing of particular interest occurred with me until a little over 2 weeks before arriving at Fort Laramie. Our train overtook a Freight train of goods under Captain Andrew Jackson Stewart, of Springville, Utah. He was crippled for lack of teamsters and asked our captain for help, promising liberal wages to those who would then engage to drive teams for him to Utah. A few were selected-myself among the number to help drive these teams. Captain Harmon's train passed forward leaving Captain Stewart to follow. I remained with his train until it passed Fort Laramie. When looking in my satchel I discovered to my dismay that the best of my clothing was gone. I supposed by some of the teamsters who left the train at Laramie because of the abuse from Captain Stewart. The train becoming short handed through these teamsters leaving the train at Laramie, greater burdens were placed upon those remaining until it became almost unbearable and I hold [told] the Captain I could not stand it. He answered I'd have to stand it or leave the train, which latter alternative he thought I had not the courage to do. But waiting until morning I put a little bread in my pockets, my carpet sack in my blankets and told him I wanted something for my services rendered. He was (non plussed). He thought to dissuade me from leaving his train and said he could not pay me till he got to Utah. But I had made up my mind that I might as well die in an attempt to overtake Captain Harmon's Company as to be killed by overwork and buried, li[k]e a dog, by Captain Stewart and his train hands. Being an Englishman, those claiming American birth, took every opportunity to impose upon me and I was tired of it.

Alone On the Vast Plains
I had on idea of the road or how far Captain Harmon's train was in advance of me but had idea I could probably reach it in about a days forced travel. I set out with my pack over my shoulder as best I could with a light heart as I considered I was exchanging oppression for freedom. As the sun became warmer I began to walk slower, for my pack became heavier each mile I traveled. The train behind me was soon lost sight of and my lonliness aided my anxiety to reach the train I desired. Crossing a stream of water or coming to the bank of the Platte river I would sit down on my pack, wish it was lighter, soak my hard bread in the water, kneel down and ask the Father to guide my footsteps aright, then with tired limbs press forward on my journey. I watched the sun in its decline in the West, eagerly straining every nerve of my eyes to discover, if possible, the curling smoke of a camp fire or some signs of life on those vast plains, but my efforts were fruitless. Occassionally on the road I had picked up a buffalo skull or shoulder blade that the beating storms of years had bleached white, with something like the following written upon it in pencil. "Captain H.C. Wheelock's company passed here at ......o'clock A.M. on the ...day of August 1853". "All well." "Captain Appleton Harmon's company camped three miles East of this point last night and buried 2 emigrants...day of August, 1853." But these sign boards were of little value to me as I did not know the day of the month. For in the train I had been with, Sunday was unknown. I scarcely knew for certain what day of the week it was.

Alone-Night and the Howling Wolves
Night drew nigh apace, I was tired, very tired, footsore and my poor shoulders ached beyond measure carrying my pack. What should I do? Travel as long as I could drag a foot, or lie down and take a rest till the morning? Prudence suggested that I rest somewhere--I looked around. All seemed cheerless. I saw about 1/2 mile distant, a ledge of rocks on a little rising bluff, and resolved to get there if possible, which I accomplished just as it became dark. I found a projecting ledge of rock and mechanically unrolled my bundle and laid [down]. not knowing whether I should ever rise again. Entirely alone--many miles from any human being that I knew of. I queried to myself, is this what I left parents, kindred and friends for to die alone on these almost trackless plains-and be eaten by wolves and wild beasts who may gather around my carcess and fight over the possession of a fragment of my remains? This thought was intensified by hearing the howling wolves not far from me. The picture of my once pleasant home and its inmates around the festive board gave my almost famished stomach and gnawing vitals but little comfort. The recollection of most of the acts of my life came before me in quick succession and I seemingly was in the presence of God. The last I knew I was praying to be preserved that I might go to Zion and live with the Saints of God. I must have slept an hour or two and when I awoke I felt much refreshed although my bed was a ledge of rock and not as comfortable as some beds. I turned over many times before morning-my cogitations and peculiar situation kept me awake but I had the satisfaction of hearing the howling of the wolves farther away than when I lay down to rest. I resolved to proceed on my journey as soon as I could see my way in the morning, for I felt that the Lord would grant me my desires and the desires of the Elders before leaving England would be realized--Viz: "I should go to the land of Zion."

Sundown-Sights Capt. Harmon's Co.
I arose with the dawn of day and gathered up my bundle and hobbled along as best I could, wondering what would be the results of the coming day. When I came to the water I sat down, soaked my remaining crust, ate thankfully--washed my feet and proceeded on my way, praying and hoping that deliverance would come and give me the opportunity of again mingling with Saints and friends. When near sun--down, with hopes and fears comingled after a long and tiresome days' travel. With blistered feet and aching limbs, I came upon the camp nestled on the bank of the Platte River. My friends were surprised to see me and asked many questions, which I postponed answering until I got something to eat, which was forthcoming. The Captain, learning I was in camp, came to see me and asked me how I got along with Captain Stewart and why I came back to his camp? I told him how I had been treated during my stay and of my adventure in returning to his camp and what I had passed through coming from one camp to the other, afoot and alone. He seemed pleased I had courage enough to do as I had done, and told me he was glad I had got back again--but the strain, physically and mentally had been too much for me. I had overdone myself and had sown the germs of sickness in my system, for when I went to my quarters to rest, I seemed on fire throughout my entire system and the fever seemed to be eating me up.

Next morning I started with the camp, assisting in whatever I was called upon to do by the Captain of 10, but it seemed the trail traveled too fast for it halted at noon and the cattle were turned out to graze before I caught up with it. But as I staggered into the camp it happened I sat down or rather fell down on the tongue of Captain Harmon's wagon and there fainted from nervous prostration. Sister Hulda Barnes (Captain Harmon's sister) came to me with others and applied such restoratives as were at hand but I was too sick to realize much. She however nursed me tenderly as a son and after a few days I was able to be around again, feeling very thankful for the kindness I had received at the hands of so good a woman-for she seemed to spare me no pains to give me every comfort in her power.

As we got into Black Hills the weather became cooler and my health better. The scenery along the road became more varied the farther west we traveled and consequently the more pleasure I took. I have neglected to mention Bro. George Taylor from Nottingham Conference, England whom I first met in the Bachelors Hall on board ship. A friendship grew up between us of a lasting character. We spent many hours on the ship and crossing the plains, walking, singing and discoursing together, and whenever we could be--were bed fellows.

Short Rations
After leaving the sweetwater river, our provisions got short and we were put on short allowance until we met some teams with provisions from Utah and the nearer we approached the Valleys, the more teams they were expecting to meet in the emigrant trains. With what pleasure I have looked upon seeing the reunion of husbands, wives and children and bosom friends, meeting each other on those dreary plains after having been absent from each other in many cases for years--but under those sun burned faces and necks--those ragged clothes--those rough exteriors, beat hearts that had courage to forsake father and mother, house and lands, husbands, wives, children and friends for the gospel sake and surmount trials of the most severe character to build up a Zion under the direction of a living priesthood, guided by Him who shapes the destinies of all who trust in Him. Green River, Fort Bridger past, all were getting anxious to see the far famed valleys of Utah and many were the speculations indulged in relation to the future.

Bird's Eye View of Salt Lake Valley
The summits of the big and little mountains reached, the "bird's eye view" of the Western side of Salt Lake Valley looked lovely beyond description. The captain told us we might get into the city the next day if no accidents occurred.

Arrived in Zion Sunday October 16, 1853
In crossing the bench from the mouth of Emigration canyon to the Bluff east of the city, our eyes were feasted with the sublime sight we had desired so long to see and we caught a view of the City the throbbing of our hearts increased and our anticipations were realized-the promise of the Elders at Devonpart fulfilled--"I had come to Zion." We camped on the 16th ward square Salt Lake City--Sunday, 16 October, 1853, a little west of the place where now stands the Deseret University. Friends met friends and took them from the camp ground to their homes. By night over half the company was gone.

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