Transcript for "Sketch of my life," 24-29.
After we started out from Winter Quarters, three or four days were consumed in maneuvering and making a “good ready”. At an appointed place for rendezvous, a general meeting was held around a Liberty Pole, erected for that purpose, and an organization effected similar to that entered into after leaving Nauvoo. Also, at our prep point, on the Platte River, a Liberty Pole was erected, from which our national Flag floated gracefully on the breeze. How dear to the heart of an American, has that sacred emblem ever been! And, although at that time, it yielded up no protection – although we were homeless exiles, the wave of the “Dear old Flag”, seemed frought with that inspiration which silently breathes a promise of peace.
As we moved forward, one Division after another – sometimes in Fifties – sometimes in Tens – but seldom traveling in Hundreds, we passed and repassed each other, but at night kept as compact as
possible circumstances would admit, especially when in the Indian country. Not knowing how our “red brethren” might feel disposed towards us, it was admitted that caution was the parent of safety. East of Fort Laramie, many of the Sioux nation mixed with our traveling camps – sometimes in our front and sometimes in our rear, on their way to the Fort, where their national Council was in Session.
We had no other trouble with them than the loss of a few cooking utensils, which, when unobserved, they light–fingered; except in one instance, when our Ten had been left in the rear to repair a broken wagon, until late in the night. It was bright moonlight, and as we were passing one of their encampments, they formed in a line closely by the road – side, and, when our teams were passing they simultaneously and vigorously shook their blankets to frighten the teams and cause a stampede; however no serious injury occurred, although the animals were dreadfully frightened – cows broke their fastenings, open turned their bows, and horses pranced and trembled, while some of the weaker human nerves were not altogether proof against the unanticipated scare.
Those Indians carried their tents and baggage on horses, mules and on drays formed of tent–poles, and drawn by horses, mules, and dogs: covers for the little ones were made by fastening skins over bows fixed to the upper side of the drays.
We had two fearful stampedes while on this journey – the first was in the evening – the animals were in a corral formed by placing the wagons and carriages side by side, with the tongues on the outside of the hollow square, to which open spaces were left on two sides, for ingress and egress. The wagon in which I had retired for the night was either second or third from one of these openings, and to this gateway the animals all rushed – bellowing, puffing, and snorting, while they rushed against, and lumbered over and upon each other in heaps, above the wagon–tops, and so frightened that it was some–time before they succeeded in breaking through the gateway in making their escape. The scene was horrible! Some animals died of injuries – many had their horns knocked off, which produced piteful sights. The trouble was occasioned by a person shaking the dust from a buffalo robe, which frightened the near animals – they started others to run, and the contagion spread almost instantaneously thro the entire herd. The camp necessarily halted for the recovery of the runaways, most of which were found the next day.
The second stampede occurred in the day–time. We had stopped to repair a dilapidated crossing over a broad slough – the teams were standing two,
and three abreast; and from the top, nearly to the bottom of a gentle slope, facing the hands at work, when two men on mules, with blankets swinging, rode galloping past – frightening the back teams, and they started on a rush forward, which started others, and soon every vehicle was in motion the drivers absent, and women and children in wagons, carriages, and others still more exposed, standing where they were in danger of being crushed by the reckless flying wheels. With fearful velocity, heedless of crossings and bridges, those teams whirled their vehicles across the slough where, it was admitted that the most skillful teamster could not have succeeded. I was sitting alone on the back seat of a carriage, holding the reins of a high–spirited span – vehicles were flitting past – the horses made several springs, and I knew very well, if they really got started, no human power could prevent them stripping every thing to strings. While I held them with all my strength, I prayed with all the fervency of my soul. Mrs Peirce and her daughter Margaret, with whom I was journeying, being out of the carriage when the scene occurred, had been trying to stop some ox–teams, but finding they could not succeed, they came, one on each side, and caught the horses by the bitts: they stopped prancing, but shook all over like a person with the shaking ague. Whatever skeptics may say, I attribute my preservation at that time to the peculiar and special blessing of God. And not only mine, but that of others: in the midst of the many fearful exposures, no one was seriously hurt.
Much of the time we journeyed on untrod ground, but occasionally we struck the track of the Pioneers and read the date of their presence, with an “All well” accompaniment inscribed on a bleached buffalo skull, and had a general time of rejoicing. Those skulls were duly appreciated; but at times, the tremendous herds of live buffalos were very annoying, especially when crossing their watering paths in near proximity to a river, and we were compeled to make a break in a line of wagons, and wait for two or three thousand of those uncompromising animals to pass.
We had many seasons of rejoicing in the midst of privation and suffering – many manifestations of the loving kindness of God. In very many instances the sick were healed, and those who by accidents were nigh unto death, made speedily whole. I will mention one case which was under my immediate observation. Mrs. [Nancy Maria Bigelow] Love, an intimate friend of mine, fell from the tongue of her wagon, containing sixteen hundred freight; the wheels ran across her breast as she lay prostrate, and to all appearances, she was crushed, but on being administrated to by some of the elders, she revived; and after having been anointed with consecrated oil, and having the ordinance of laying on of hands repeated she soon recovered, and on the fourth day after the accident, she milked her cow, as usual.
Many, yes many were the star and moonlight evenings, when, as we circled around the blazing fire and sang our hymns of devotion and songs of praise to Him who knows the secrets of all hearts – when with sublime union of hearts, the sound of united voices reverberated from hill to hill; and echoing through the silent expanse, apparently filled the vast concave above, while the glory of God seemed to rest on all around us.
On one of these soul–inspiring occasions – prompted by the spirit of Song, I wrote the following,
Beneath the cloud – topp’d mountain –
Beside the craggy bluff,
Where every dint of nature
Is wild and rude enough:
Upon the verdant meadow –
Upon the sun–burnt plain –
Upon the sandy hillock,
We waken music’s strain.
Beneath the pine–tree branches
Which have for ages stood –
Beneath the humble cedar,
And the green cotton–wood:
Beside the broad smooth river –
Beside the flowing spring –
Beside the timpid streamlet,
We often sit and sing.
Beneath the sparkling concave,
When stars in millions come
To cheer the weary strangers
And bid us feel at home.
Amid the cheering moon–light,
Fair Cynthia’s mellow rays
In Social groups we gather,
And join in songs of praise.
When evening shadows fall,
And when the darkness deepens
Around our spacious hall;
With true and warm emotion
To saintly bosoms given,
In strains of pure devotion
We praise the God of heaven.
Had it not been for the rich seasons of refreshing from above which we experienced from [time] to time, with renewing influence; it really seemed as though many must have yielded beneath the weight of fatigue and exposure; who were thus enabled to struggle through.
But with all that was so kindly and timely bestowed, death made occasional inroads in our traveling camps. Nursing the sick in tents and wagons, was a laborious service; but the patient faithfulness with which it was performed, is, no doubt, registered in the archives above as an unfading momento of brotherly and sisterly love.
The burial of the dead by the way–side was a sad office, and so sad, that, had it not been for a genuine feeling of sympathy for the bereaved, I would not have witnessed its performance.
On the 4th of Aug., we met several of the “Mormon Battalion” – husbands and sons of women in our Division; and to see the care–worn faces of those women, beaming with the glow of exquisite joy in a happy re–union, after a long, toilsome separation, imparted unspeakable pleasure to us all.
On the 17th, a letter brought by brethren returning to Winter Quarters for their families, was publicly read, confirming the cheering report of the first arrivals, to wit – the Pioneers have found a location in Great Salt Lake Valley – a City site was being surveyed etc. etc., which prompted a feeling that we had a definite point before us – a future peaceful home.
On the 8th, we met the main body of the Pioneers, led by Pres. B[righam]. Young and H[eber]. C. Kimball, who were returning to Winter–Quarters to spend the winter. It was a joyful time, and so deeply interested and absorbed were all, that no guard was kept, and about forty horses and mules were stolen in the night – some of them were not recovered; which crippled the teams and impeded our progress; for many times, especially in ascending hills, the teams had to be doubled, thus causing much delay. But with all these impediments, we strung along and reached the valley, one company after another, until all had arrived. Our arrival was on the 2d. of October.