Transcript for Teeples, Nicholus Gourley, [Interview], in "Utah Pioneer Biographies," 44 vols., 28:95-101, 105-6
10. With handcart from Florence, Nebraska.
11. When did it leave for Utah?
11. Later part of August, 1856.
14. Who was the leader of your company or train?
13. Edward Martin was the Captain.
15. Method of travel (handcart, ox team, mule team, horseback, etc.)
15. The Willis Company were just ahead of the Martin Company. When they left Florence there were two wagons in the same group to carry the heavy luggage. These wagons were drawn by oxen. There were three wagons. As the journey proceeded the oxen died one by one, the people ate them hide and all. Every ox died before the journey was ended.
The people had to wade streams, climb mountains, make and repair roads, etc. Nicholus would [be] by the side of her eight year old sister, stand in the form and push all day long. The little brother George seven years old pushed from the rear. On the best days they could travel ten miles a day. But on bad cold days it was torture to go but a third of that. Mrs. Teeples says often the people would get so tired they would lie down under a bush or tree and then they would be very hard to get up. The leaders had to take a whip to them and lash them back to consciousness, when they would beg to be left to die. Paul Gourley pulled one cart with his wife and two small children in. Each was allowed 17 pounds of luggage and Nicholus and Janet pulled that.
It may sound humorous now but it was a matter of life and death then and when two men were found fighting over which was to get to the companies ahead. These two men had to be separated before the one killed the other.
At Fort Laramie things had become acute and there the people were put on rations of 3 ounces of flour a day. This to those above 10 years. Those under had to be cared for by those above ten. The Gourley family was half and half. But here a young lady by the name of Emma Bachelor was put into the Gourley family. She had been left by a former company, and she was a most welcome asset to them as it made one more who could draw some flour and pull the handcarts. Here the order came to dispose of all luggage that could by any means be spared. Nicholus' mother had died when she was 8 years of age and among the precious baggage was <an> old copper tub that had belonged to her. It was condemned to be thrown away. When the company was ready to start Nicholus was no where to be found. A search was started and there the little girl was found in the copper tub and refused to be comforted, and absolutely refused to leave the beloved keepsake there. So the father of the motherless girl tied it on the back of his handcart and brought it to Utah. An early and very severe winter set in, and soon after leaving Larimie [Laramie] the ration was decreased and when the first snow began to fall they were living on water gravy.
Another great calamity that happened was a stampede of buffalo and the path they followed was directly across the line of march the weary emigrants were taking. Much flour was wasted and carts broken, but no lives were lost. Their progress was slow because they were all supposed to stay together and gather every buffalo chip they saw, for that was all the fuel they had.
As the season advanced and the cold increased, and food became more scarce, people began to succumb to the inevitable, and several died every night. One scarcely knew whether or not he or she would be alive in the morning. They had to wade through ice and snow and slush, but they were told to be sure to see that their clothes were dried every night and not to go to go to bed in wet things, for the first one who fell by the way was a man who had been too tired to dry his wet clothes and the next morning, it was his turn to make a fire, and Paul Gourley called him, and he did not respond, and upon investigation it was found he was dead.
No one was to blame, it was situation beyond control, a miscalculation and a series of disasters. The oxen died and their loads had to be carried by the people. The more that died the longer was the delay, for they all had to be given a decent burial. The cold was terrific. The little baby died and was buried on the way. In the morning an investigation was carried on to see who had died in the night and while the ablest prepared them for burial the others would actually hover over and lie by them and on them to absorb what warmth was in their dead bodies. One night sixteen were found to have died and they were all buried in one grave.
Right here we might say that along in September Daniel H. Wells passed the two companies, he was on a stage and he stopped and took in the situation and then hurried on to report the condition to headquarters. He reached Salt Lake City at October Conference time and President Young told of it in the meeting, and called for volunteers to go back and take provisions. Arrangements were made then and as soon as possible wagons were loaded and started east. And they met all kinds of storms and cold weather. There President Franklin D. Richards passed them in Wyoming and in making his report said, "No one knows the blizzards in Wyoming until he feels them". The first snow fell at Sweet Water. And the winter that followed was one like the one that killed the Donner people ten years before.
By the time the sufferers reached Devil's Gate the food was entirely gone. They were without any food for four days, then the help sent out in October from the church arrived. 20 teams had started, each one with an experience frontiermen. They had left immediately and bucked storms all the way.
When the rescue party reached Green River they sent three men ahead to meet the starving travelers and to relieve them by telling them help was near. They had a few crackers in their pockets, and in their haste to get to the poor people were riding like mad and came upon a famished group of children in a wash eating the bark from willows. The whole of them scattered, hobbling away as fast as their strength and frozen limbs would let them. They thought the strangers were Indians & had come to kill them. Imagine their surprise when the horsemen threw to them some crackers and assured them of friendship. Joseph A. Young and Lot Smith was among the rescue party. They told the poor people that food and clothes and teams and wagons would be there in the morning, but it was not for another day and a half. Their delay had been caused by the terrific storms. The next day several teams arrived from Salt Lake.
This was in Martin's Hollow.
150 died in the Martin company, through starvation, overexertion and exposure. One of the drivers from Utah was a young man of 19 years. Sidney Teeples. He saw the starving, frightened children run away but he did not know the girl he 5 years afterward, loved and married was among them. Neither knew the other that stressful time but they became prominent pioneers in early Holden times. ....
She attached no blame to the Church Authorities for her excruciating experiences on the plains. She says they were wholly without any means to have given more assistance than they did. As far as she could learn the whole group felt the same way. No dishes were washed on the Sabbath Day and no traveling was done, till Monday. They were nearly starving by the time they reached Fort Laramie, and they were thankful to always find some berries or roots or willow roots or anything to save their lives. When the relief wagons came, those that were too weak to walk were put into the wagons and if any handcarts were worth saving they were taken too.
When the Indians came into their camps they divided with them everything they had, even if they saw starvation ahead. "But the Indians were always friendly and when the situation became acute, the prudent Indians did not come to beg anymore, as they knew they were having a hard enough time to make a "live" of it. Nicholus' father dug out his watch from among his keepsakes and with some other things tried to trade for some provisions. But they brought only a few lo[a]ves of bread.
Her little brother George 7 years old, wore his shoes out and they wrapped his feet in gunny sacks. He pushed on the back of the cart and when they reached Salt Lake City his toes came off, becau[s]e they had been frozen.
Her step-mother's children were Paul 3 years old, he died after reaching Salt Lake and the baby Margaret 9 months was buried at Scott's Bluff in Nebraska. . . .