Transcript

Transcript for Stewart, Elizabeth White, [Autobiography], in Workman, Mary Ellen B., comp., "Ancestors of Isaac Mitton Stewart and Elizabeth White" [1978]

When we completed our journey to Iowa City we were informed that we would have to walk four miles to our camping ground. All felt delighted to have the privilege of a pleasant walk. We all started, about 500 of us, with our bedding. We had not gone far before it began to thunder and lightning and the rain poured. The roads became very muddy and slippery. The day was far advanced and it was late in the evening before we arrived at the camp. We all got very wet. The boys soon got our tent up so we were fixed for the night, although very wet. We camped there until September.

The hand cart company had started ahead of us. We started on our journey across the Plains on the third of September with two yoke of oxen, two cows, a tent, a covered wagon, our trunks and bedding and provisions, and seven of us in the family, so we had to walk except when we went through the water. I think we would travel from fifteen to twenty-five miles per day, when the weather was fair.

We had about forty wagons in our company, led by Captain John Hunt. We got along real well, had no trouble with Indians, but when we were near Fort Laramie a herd of buffalos came along as we were traveling and caused our cattle to stampeed, resulting in the death of Mrs. [Esther] Walters. She was driving the team in front of ours. She was knocked down and tramped upon by the oxen. She never spoke, but died in a few minutes, leaving a young baby [Jane Walters]. This sad affair cast a gloom over our camp. She was sewed in a blanket and buried on the wayside.

Another sad event, one night a father and little son went out for wood to make a fire. They never returned. One leg was found in the father's boot. Wolves had eaten them.

The weather was fair and we got along real well until we were near the Platte River. It was getting very cold by this time. We finally reached the last crossing of the Platte River. We were then about 500 miles from Salt Lake. Our company camped on the east side and the hand cart company passed over that night. All our able-bodied men turned out to help them carry women and children over the river. Some of our men went through the river seventy-five times. The snow fell six inches during that night; there were thirteen deaths during the night. They were so worn out. It was a terrible night for them. This was on the twentieth of October. The snow continued falling for three days. From this time we had no food for our cattle; when it stopped snowing and we could see to travel, our cattle were so weak they would drop in the yoke. Then they would kill them for us to eat. Our provisions were getting very low and we were then living on a fourth pound of flour per day and we used nothing but the poor meat for our noon meal. We were in this condition until we reached Devil's Gate. We could then go no further. Our two yoke of oxen and one cow had died and the rest of the company about the same. We had nothing to burn only the wet sage brush from under the snow, and melt the snow off the sage for our water to make our tea and make our bread with soda and sage water, what little we had. The snow was then from three to ten inches deep. The ground was frozen so hard they could not drive the tent pins, so they had to raise the tent poles and stretch out the flaps and bank them down with snow.

We were nearly out of provisions. Our dear mother [Mary Ann Sayer White] said she had never seen her dear family want for bread, but said the Lord would provide. About midnight that night all the camp had retired and we were awakened with a noise, and thought it was the yelling of Indians. We got up expecting they were upon us, but to our great surprise the noise was caused by the teamsters of relief team and some of the camp shouted for joy. They were loaded with all kinds of provisions: flour, bread, butter, meat of all kinds, but all frozen so hard. Everything was so good. The bread was like cake, so sweet and nice. I remember we had to cut everything with the hatchet, but oh how thankful we all were that the Lord had answered our prayers and saved us all from starvation. Through the timely action of President Brigham Young in organizing this company we were saved. The loaded wagon that came to our camp was from Draper. George Clawson and Gurnsey Brown were the teamsters.

The next evening we had made our camp fires. The boys had cleared the snow away and several of us young folks were sitting around the fire singing when our captain, John Hunt, and those two teamsters stood there until we got through, then the Captain came to me. He said that Mr. Brown was going to take a load of sick and old folks and if I would go with them, as his wife needed help, he would give me a horse, but I told him I would rather he would take my mother, as I could not leave her, but she begged me to go and said they would soon follow. I bade my dear mother good-bye, thinking she and the folks would soon follow, but they did not for two long weeks. I was lonesome when I left camp and we overtook the camp ahead of us. We stayed there and got Sister Esther Brown, one of the girls that crossed the sea with me. I felt so pleased to have her with us. We had a load of sick and infirm folks under the cover. We had to sit in the front with the men folks. We had to walk considerable. When we got to the foot of the big mountain, the snow was so deep I had to put men's boots on. The teamsters were tall and so was Esther, and she could step in their tracks, but I could not in hers and had to make my own road up both mountains, frequently falling down. The snow was so deep and drifted but they told us when got to the top we would see Salt Lake City. We were so thankful and delighted that it seemed to renew our strength and energy. It was the hardest part of my journey, but the thought of being nearly at our journey's end after six months traveling and camping was cheering. If only my dear mother had been so near I would have felt so much better.

When we got to the top of the big mountains the men folks took of their hats and we waved our handerchiefs. They then pointed out Salt Lake City and I could not believe it was, for it looked to me like a patch of sagebrush covered with snow. I could not believe it until we got nearly to it. We arrived in Salt Lake City just at sundown on the thirtieth day of November, 1856. the last handcart company came in on the afternoon of that day. 

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We kept behind the last handcart company so that our able-bodied men could assist them. My brother Barnard, with others, would go into their camp and see how they were suffering. He said it was terrible. Our company assisted them all they could, but there does not seem to be any account of our assistance in their history.

 

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