Transcript for Sabin, Mary Powell, Autobiography 1926, 10-14

From Florence, Nebraska, began our real journey across the plains. All our other experiences had not been a foretaste of what lay ahead of us. There were two hundred and seven souls in our company.

Our first day’s march commenced about noon. We went through acres of hazel brush covered with hazel nuts in the mill. I began gathering nuts, other[s] joined me, and we ate a good many.

That night we camped by a stream. The next day we traveled out into the prairies and didn’t see any houses at all. One afternoon Father noticed Bro. [William Daniel] Jones Pull away and halt by the side of the road. “What is the matter, Bro. Jones?” asked Father.

I see danger ahead, “said Brother Jones, “I promised [Elizabeth] Ann’s father I wouldn’t lead her into suffering. I see danger ahead.”

Bro Jones and his wife remained behind in Omaha. Bro. Jones being a butcher by trade, likely secured good work. Father said we should give him due credit for keeping his word to Ann’s father.

Now we halted preparing the crossing of a stream on a ferry. The dark green forest was all around us. I grabbed a bucket and ran into the woods and picked it full of black berries. I took some little girls with me. Someone in camp began worrying about us. Bro. [John] Oakley said, “Don’t worry, she’ll come back, she always does.”

When I came out with my blackberries they all cheered. As often as I could I ran into the woods. I loved the hills, woods, moss, and hanging grape vines and wild flowers. There were so many birds. Their joy notes swelling in the woods brought a flood of rapture into my soul.

The fifth day out we reached a little trading post. The men here sold tobacco to the Indians, also trinkets of various kinds.

Each morning at day break the bugle sounded. Up we rose and assembled for prayer. We then ate a scanty breakfast of dough cakes fried in the frying pan. Once in a while we had a few stewed apples. Then we were ready for our march. At ten o’clock we rested one half hour. Then we traveled until we came to water. At the next meal we would eat what was left over from breakfast. At night we often went to bed without supper. There was very little food to cook and we were too tired to cook it.

There were twenty one persons in Father’s big round tent which we pitched every night. We spread down quilts and blankets and went to sleep.

One day three men went to shoot a buffalo. The buffalo attacked a horse and ripped its sides. We didn’t get any meat that day. Later a crowd of boys went out and shot a steer. That day we had beef.

Our bake kettle now came in handy. We put twenty pieces of meat (each piece about fifty cents worth of beef) into our bake kettle. In this way we cooked for about twenty families. There being no wood we gathered buffalo chips and built a hot fire under the kettle.

One night a brother made us a present of a piece of steak. The hour was real late, but Mother was anxious to get it partly baked in order that it might not spoil. I undertook to do the baking all by myself. The fire was quite a distance from the tent. I sat by it watching the kettle until I fell fast asleep. The night guard came and tapped me on the shoulder.

“Are you Bro. [John] Powell’s girl?”


“You go to bed, I’ll finish your meat for you,” he said.

“But I’ve promised Mother to do it. I cannot break my word.” said I.

“You are too tired little girl.” said he. “Run along, I’ll bake your meat.”

“But there are a couple of dogs in camp. I’m afraid they’ll get it after it is baked.” I said.

“Never worry, I’ll put it in a safe enough place,” said he. “Don’t worry, go to bed.”

Trusting his promise I crept inside of Father’s tent. I must have gone to sleep the moment I touched the pillow.

In the morning I was awakened by Father’s heavy laughter. Bro. [Cyrus] Card’s wagon tongue was propped into a perpendicular position. On the end of the wagon tongue hung our bake-kettle. The sight of it way up in the air made a great round of laughter as we came outside the tent to take the morning air.

It was my habit to get up early and sit outside of Father’s tent to drink in the cool morning breeze. It rested me for the remainder of the day.

Some days we traveled more than thirty miles to reach water. Often we would come to a place where the springs had dried down. It might be near midnight. Then little children would form a circle of eager watchers while the men dug down several feet to water. At last when they saw the chunks of wet mud they would lay it on their face and hands. Some of them would suck the water from the mud. When the water burst forth it was usually very thick. The children drank heartily, straining it through their teeth. The next morning it looked quite clear.

We saw water for miles and miles before we reached the Platte river. The distance was very deceiving. The water seemed much nearer to me that it really was. Mother was getting faint with thirst. There was a selfish old man in camp that did not offer her a swallow from the water in his canteen. It made me quite vexed. That day I walked more than ten miles extra to get Mother a drink. I ran part of the way but secured drinking water for her.

Traveling in the Platte Valley was very pleasing. My little sister, aged four, usually walked beside the Captain. “Come my little partner,” said he, “let us begin our journey.” Some days she walked eighteen miles.

During those days the thought upper most in the minds of every man, woman and child was “Oh! to reach the Platte.” We could see the milky looking waters far in the distance. How long it took before we reached it.

One day we saw a speck like a cloud of dust miles behind us. The cloud kept moving toward us and increasing. Within two hours an immense herd of buffalo passed us. They did not seem to notice us in the least but moved right along solid and dumb in one great mass. They passed us with a steady trot and not one soul was harmed.

The next night we saw a few buffalo off alone. The men went out and killed one, again we had meat.

At last we reached the Platte. There was a trading post near by. Our captain asked the men at the post how much they would charge to ferry us across. The price they asked was more money than we had in camp.

The river was between two and three blocks wide. First the men took the handcarts across, then the women and girls followed wading. The water kept getting deeper and deeper. In the middle of the river it was under my chin. When we reached the opposite side we went right on in our wet clothes. We traveled thirteen miles more that day.

We crossed the Platte in several places. At Fort Laramie it was over my head. I started down stream. Bro. Oakley pulled me back. At Fort Laramie there was an encampment of sixteen thousand Indians, they were holding a treaty. They were camped for a distance of thirty miles up the river. We camped near the river that night but without a fire.

The next morning we met five hundred Indians on the road. They were on their way to the treaty. Father presented some of them with beautiful peacock feathers. This pleased them very much. They stopped and looked at our handcarts. “Little wagons, little wagons.” said they. How the squaws laughed.

When we struck the mountain region the paths became more rugged to our feet. I picked up pretty little rocks and put them in my apron. By the time my pocket was filled I found other rocks still prettier. I threw away these and took them instead. I wish I could have saved some of the pretty rocks I gathered.

I was captivated by the place called “Deer Creek’s” beauty. It was so charmingly sylvan with little groves here and there and a bright clear creek lined with timber. Said I to Father, “Let’s build a little log house and stay in this place always.” “What would we do for food?[”] asked Father.

“Do as we’re doing now,” said I, “Go without.[”]

A little farther on I wanted to go down into a certain green cove. The captain forbade and called me back. Just then three bears came out and ascended the flat.

In the mountains we lost an old man. He had lain himself down and fallen asleep. We had to stop four days to find him. The delay alarmed our captain. He was anxious to keep ahead of the [Daniel D.] McArthur company.

Once in a while we stopped half a day to wash clothes. While the clothes were drying the men mended handcarts.

One night the McArthur company overtook us in the mountains. However, they had to wait for some cause or other. We therefore continued to move on ahead.

It was easy to make our way over Green River for the crossing had already been prepared. It did us good to view Green River valley. It was almost like taking a rest.

At Fort Bridger we stopped all night. The men killed a beef. This was our first meat since leaving the buffalo on the prairies. At Fort Bridger we met Bro. Parley P. Pratt. He was then starting on his last mission.

When within one day’s journey of Salt Lake City we ran out of provisions. Two men who had joined us at the fort were on their way to Salt Lake City.

“What word shall we take from you?” said they to the Captain.

“Tell them we haven’t a bite of food left in camp.” said Captain Ellsworth.

A relief party met us with food before we arrived in Salt Lake City. How enchanting it was to enter Echo Canyon to call and have the echo answer.

The night we were encamped on Little Mountain the McArthur company again overtook us. There was general rejoicing in all hearts. Early the next morning bread, beef and coffee arrived from Salt Lake City.

That very morning we passed a wagon company that had said goodbye to us in Iowa. I had acquaintances in this company who had said “We will beat you into Salt Lake City.” I now had the pleasure of passing them. The men took off their hats and cheered.

There was a lazy man in camp who had a wife and a baby. For the sake of the wife and child, I had often helped pull his cart. Now we were nearing our journeys end and I made up my mind to let him do his own pulling. We were passing down a slope, he was on the bottom so I simply let his cart go rolling down the slope. “Catch it! Catch it!” I cried. He sprang forward and caught it in the nick of time. Everybody laughed.

That afternoon the same man climbed into a wagon of soap to ride awhile. We had been better provided with soap than food it seems. Coming down a rough place the wagon partly tipped over. Our friend was almost buried in soap to the amusement of the rest of us.

When we arrived in Immigration canyon we were met by Pres. Young and several members of the quorum of the twelve apostles. They arrived in wagons drawn by oxen and mules. We halted, they served us melons. Pres. Young told us to eat moderately of the mellon, to eat the pink, not to eat into the green. Father said he was quite sensible.

My little sister, Annie, age four, had been promised a big piece of bread and butter when she should reach the valley. Just as we were lined up to hear a few words from Bro. Brigham Young, a lady held up a large piece of bread. Annie ran toward her. “That’s my piece of bread and butter,” she cried joyously. At the sight of this Pres. Young wept, “God bless the child,” said he. There were tears in the eyes of the people from the valley but there were only dry eyes among us who had just arrived. Pres. Young said he could defer his remarks until a little later.

That afternoon we went down into Salt Lake Valley. We camped on the square in the sixteenth ward, remaining there from Friday night until Monday morning. Bro. Brigham Young came and spoke to us. He told us that we had fulfilled a prophecy. He also said that although we had endured privations and hunger on the plains we should never again feel the pangs of starvation if we would do right and live right.