Transcript for Smith, Alexander Hale, "Without Purse or Scrip," Restoration Voice, May-June 1995, 22-24
We turned our attention to getting into the train, which we learned was waiting to be examined. No train was permitted to leave the fort for the West unless it was well armed and was a strong train in men because of trouble with the Indians. Brother Atwood introduced us to the inspecting officer and made known our desire to cross the plains westward. The officer examined our guns and team and remarked, "There will be no trouble at all; fellows like you, without any women incumbrances, will be a desirable addition to any train."
He told us to hitch up and drive out where he and his aides were inspecting the train. We did so and found the train numbered about fifty wagons, laden with merchandise and the dunnage of the emigrants, who numbered about two hundred and fifty souls. These teams had been sent down to Omaha by the (Mormon) church authorities at Salt Lake City to bring out the emigrants. I learned that all, or nearly all, the drivers and the men in charge were faithful Mormons, who had passed through their endowments. The train was in the charge of Thomas Ricks.
We had been on the ground but a few minutes before the captain of the train and the officers from the fort came up to our team.
"Do you intend to travel with this train?"
"Yes, sir, that is our desire; but there seems to be some objection to it."
"What is it?"
"They require us to pay them ten dollars for the privilege."
"What is that for?"
"They explained that it is to help pay their herders for taking care of the mules at night; but we propose to take care of our own mules."
They passed along up the line. Soon they came back; and the officer said to the captain of the train, "Are you going to allow these men to travel with you? I think you better; they are well armed and will be quite an addition to your fighting force if you should have trouble with the Indians."
"No sir. They can't travel with us unless the ten dollars is in hand."
"Well, now see here; you can do one of two things—either take these men along and treat them well, or I shall be obliged to send an escort of soldiers along with you as far as Fort Bridger, and you'll have to take care of the soldiers, also. Now you can do as you please."
After consultation with his aide, Mr. Ricks said, "You can fall in as the train pulls out and go with us."
The officer said, " I thought so." He then instructed us to telegraph back at every station and let him know how they treated us; and if they did not treat us right, they would hear from him at Fort Bridger. Once more we were made conscious that the good Father was watching over us.
Having been forced upon them against their will, it was but natural they should show some resentment. We expected it and were on our guard. What was there to hinder their working their will upon us when we should find ourselves hundreds of miles from settlements or the soldiers who were so kind to us at Fort Laramie? We counseled that it would be best not to reveal our identity, nor to let the emigrants know our mission, but to treat all with the utmost kindness, and do our part in all camp duties just the same as any other member of the train.
It seemed that the same power which had so markedly attended us all along was still with us. While we were watching the inspection of the company, a young man came up to me and shook hands but whispered to me, "Don't seem to recognize me. I am the driver of one of the teams in the train—am a Josephite (a follower of Joseph Smith III instead of Brigham Young)—will see you later!" I was surprised, but soon fixed the young man. He was indeed a member of the Church, had relatives in Bear Valley, Utah, and was going out to visit them.
At last the train was in motion, and we drove in behind and were on the road. We soon discovered that we were watched very closely, and speculation was rife as to who we were. At our first meal after joining the train we were watched; and when we asked a blessing upon our food, it was immediately reported to the captain that we were either apostate Mormons or Josephites, as no other class of religionists continued to have prayer and ask a blessing upon the food so long after striking the plains.
About the third day out from Laramie, one of their number came to me. He said he was in charge of the corral guard and was making a list of all the names of the able-bodied men in order to organize more perfectly for the protection of the train. I at once recognized that it was a subterfuge to learn who we were. I told him any time he wanted one of us men, to let me know; and I would furnish the man. This did not satisfy Captain Ricks, so I gave them our names, except that I only gave him my first and second name—Alex Hale. My purpose was to avoid any undue curiosity among the emigrants. If it was known there was a son of the martyred prophet in the train, there might be too many questions—and confusion ensue—or a collision on religious matters.
For a few days all went smoothly; then we were called to take our turn as advance guard. I was placed with several others far in advance of the train. As I was riding along, the captain rode up alongside. He had heretofore seemed to avoid me, but now he said:
"Where did you say you hailed from?"
Instantly I was aware of what he wanted and resolved to tell him and evade nothing.
"I came from the state of Illinois," I answered.
"What part of the state?"
"The western part."
"What country or town, may I ask?"
"Certainly, sir; I came from Nauvoo, Hancock County."
"Ah! I thought so," and he looked me straight in the eyes. We understood one another.
I explained my object in withholding my full name, and he confessed the wisdom of it. From this time forward, Captain Ricks treated me with the utmost kindness.
About this time a little incident occurred which left a pleasant memory to relieve some of the strain which affected us. I was assigned the position of advance guard. As I rode along, I noticed a beautiful little mountain to the right of the train. The idea occurred to me that I could obtain a fine view of our route from its top, so I climbed its sides. As I stood taking in the beauty of the scene, there came upon me a feeling of awe and reverence for the magnitude of the works of God. While this feeling was upon me, I became conscious of sweet musical vibrations filling the air around me. Gradually the music seemed to draw near, and tune and words came out full and distinct. It was human voices, but I am sure angelic singing could not have affected me more just then. It was the emigrants as they passed around the base of the mountain. Whether they saw me and had been informed of who I was, I had no way of knowing; but the words of the hymn led me to think so. They were singing, "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet."
Having passed through the Indian country and arrived within the radius of the settlements in Utah, we were told we would have to take our mules five miles away from camp for grazing. It being my watch, I took them and started; but something said, "Don't do it. There is danger!" I turned about, returned to the wagon, and tied the animals to it.
I had noticed, as we drove into camp, some grass cut and raked up in the yard of a farm not more than three quarters of a mile away. I took a rope and started back. I went into the yard. A big dog came towards me barking and acting quite ugly, but I paid no attention to him. I walked up to the door and knocked. A voice said, "Come in."
I went in and found a man sitting beside a fireplace. I made my errand known and asked him if he would sell me an armful or two of hay.
"No, sir. I have no hay for sale."
After some little talk, he said, "Do you belong to that train camped down on the river?"
"They tell me a son of Joseph Smith the martyr is in the train. Do you know anything about it?"
"Yes, sir; you are rightly informed."
"Well, I don't believe it. Do you know the man?"
"Yes, I am tolerably well acquainted with him, as I am the man myself."
"What, you?" and he sprang to his feet and grasped my hand. "You the son of Joseph Smith? Which one of the boys?"
I told him, "Alexander." All the time he was looking sharply at me.
"Yes, I see it. You are like him. Yes, sit down, sit down."
We had a long talk. He was a Josephite—belonged to the Reorganization. Finally he said, "Yes, you can have all the hay you want for your mules. Tell the brethren to come up. I want to see them. Say, how would you boys like some nice fresh potatoes, and some good cheese?"
And when I went back to the wagon, I carried some fresh potatoes and some of the finest cheese I ever ate. And I could not help thinking that God was good and was still watching over us. Praise His holy name