Transcript

Transcript for Sangiovanni, G.G.R., "Overland Trips Across the American Desert," Young Woman's Journal, May 1912, 244-46

In the spring of 1848 we crossed the river to the Iowa side and stopped at Council Bluffs. It was Kanesville then—the Mormons named it after Colonel Kane. Times were hard as well as the winter following. Then came the great spring of '49 never to be forgotten. As soon as spring opened, here they came—all colors and sizes. They were generally well equipped for the journey, only too heavily laden, and well armed for those days. The percussion cap had just come in, consequently many of the old-time flint locks were to be seen. "Pepper-box" revolvers were stuck in belts alongside of a long butcher knife. The Colt's revolver was not in use yet. Guns were muzzle loaders. With the great rush came an uncle of mine, who loaded us in his wagon and took us to his home in Iowa, where we remained until the spring of 1851 when we came to the Des Moines river. Its water was high to cross, so we lay over till spring and made another start. We crossed the Missouri river the second of June, 1852. The first day out we camped on the Big Pappilion [Papillion] creek. Almon W. Babbitt passed us here on his way from Washington, D. C. In 1854, while crossing the plains, he was killed by the Indians. Our next camp was on the Elkhorn river. The next morning three Pawnee Indians stampeded our horses and mules, but grandfather and one of the teamsters were on the alert, and catching two horses that had ropes on, mounted them and started for camp. The other animals followed, the Indians making no resistance. The next day buffaloes by the hundreds were in sight—many times by the roadside. There were many California immigrants—besides many Mormons. Grass was fine. We had plenty of buffalo meat as long as they were in sight. One hot afternoon an immense herd came down from the north (we were on the north side of the Platte river) after water. Then we did have fun. When a buffalo is thirsty he doesn't stop for anything—just like some men—prohibition won't stop them. Our train came very near a stampede. We had to hold our teams about half an hour until the immense herd passed. Men that were loose-handed fired many shots among them, and three bucks were killed. After a week or two the cattle and horses got accustomed to them so they were not afraid. One time, when one of the big Mormon trains (700 European converts) was in camp an immense herd of buffalo ran straight through the camp breaking one woman's leg and another's shoulder. Several wagons were damaged. Great herds of antelope were continually in sight. There is no finer meat in the world than fat antelope.

Great features of the plains, after one got about 200 miles west of the Missouri river, were trading posts kept by "squaw men." These were Canadian French. Previous to the great immigration crossing the plains to Utah, California, and Oregon, they followed trapping. After the trail was established, many of them would camp alongside of the road where there was good water and grass. Anon came the gold seeker with an ox or a cow—feet worn out. It was a "ground-hog" case. If the man had any money he would give his tender-footed ox and $100.00 for a fresh animal. The "squaw man" would doctor the tender feet; turn the animal to grass, and in about a week's time it could walk without limping. Filled full of wet grass and water it was ready for another swap. By the time it had crossed a rocky piece of road it would be as lame as ever. Then his new owner having, probably no more loose change, would be forced to leave him by the wayside.

Then comes the blacksmith shop, "prices moderate." Shoeing one yoke oxen, $50; shoeing horse, $15; set one wagon tire, $10. If you wanted to buy a sack of flour--$50 a hundredweight. Whiskey at home was 15c a gallon, on the plains, $2 a pint. On July 3rd we camped three miles below Fort Laramie. We remained over the Fourth to celebrate America's greatest day. Our journey was just half completed. We counted over one hundred immigrant camps in sight. Large herds of buffaloes and antelope could be seen in the distance.

Leaving here the road begins to get rough—we are nearing the "Rockies." When we arrive at Devil's Gate we find another "squaw man" camp. Many people don't know what a squaw man is like. He may have sprung from a [-] family—but my! how he has fallen. His costume consists of a greasy slouch hat, long hair and beard—"a la Buffalo Bill," an old dirty over-shirt and buckskin pants, a butcher knife and revolver in his belt, and moccasins on his feet. Then here's the handsome bride—red lady of the forest, with a herd of red headed papooses running around without any fig leaves on. The squaw is robed in a dirty old buckskin gown, with perhaps a few beads worked on it. All stand in front of their skin lodge gazing at the passer-by. A little farther up the river we find another old Canuck squaw man by the name of La Fontaine Thomas. He was an invalid sixty-seven years old. Twenty years previous, when on a buffalo hunt his horse fell, hurting his spine. He never recovered. He always lay in a reclining position. When traveling he was drawn on a litter made of two poles, which trailed on the ground, the other end being fastened one on each side of a pony. We began meeting Mormons returning from Salt Lake to help expected friends. It was not long until we left the Sweet Water river, and found ourselves going up an easy rising smooth grade. Pretty soon we met a four-horse team loaded with provisions. My grandfather asked the driver, "Will you please tell me how far it is to the South Pass? The answer came suddenly: "You be right hon 'im."

One hundred thirteen miles from Salt Lake City was the home of Jim Bridger, another addition to the squaw man band. There was quite a den of them there: Jack Robinson, Ryan, McDonald, Beauvier, Big Bill who was killed by the sheriff's posse from Salt Lake County while resisting arrest, Mariana, John Bigler, and several others. This was a fine fur country. All the canyons from the eastern side of the Rockies to the Wasatch range, and north and south put forth a fine variety; beaver, otter, mink, pine marten, etc., besides several fine varieties of wolves and fox.

Twenty-five miles from Salt Lake City (August 12) we met two of my uncles with a treat for us; new potatoes, cabbages, green corn, turnips, and some fine, fresh churned butter—none of your creamery "fix up." The supper we had that evening tasted better than any other meal I ever ate in my life. The next day we had a task—climbing the Big Mountain four miles steady pull. That night we camped at Mountain Dell, twelve miles from Salt Lake. Next day being our last drive, we rose early and crossed the Little Mountain. Not much farther we came to the mouth of the Emigration Canyon and beheld a grand panorama, the Great Salt Lake Valley—the big lake in the background, a tract of ground dotted with some little adobe houses, a few newly planted trees, and all else sagebrush and high mountains as far as the eye could reach.

We then finished our journey (1050 miles[ )] and came to the home of my uncle. . . .

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