Transcript for Thomas Atkin autobiography, circa 1901, 5-7
On May 28 we started from Council Bluffs on our journey, father having purchased two wagons, five yoke of oxen and two yoke of cows. The road on this, our first day's travel on land, proved to be exceedingly rough, being most through a hilly country with heavily loaded wagons that were not new but second hand. Our teams were wild and unbroke, many of them being strangers to the yoke, and drivers about us awkward as their teams, and with our mother sick in one of the wagons with that dreaded disease the cholera: under these circumstances it required our utmost care in managing the team in which my mother lay sick. We camped at night in the forest.
May 29th--traveled a short distance and camped near the ferry which crossed the Missouri river.
May 31st we had the satisfaction of seeing the recovery of our mother.
On June 2nd we crossed the ferry over to the South side of the Missouri river. Here we joined the main body of the company of Saints waiting to be organized into companies of tens, fifties and hundreds with captains to lead each division.
On Sunday, June 3rd we camped with the main camp at the old Winter Quarters of the leaders of the Church, and the Pioneers when on their way from Nauvoo to the Rockey Mountains. We saw the vacated log cabin of Brigham Young and others of the Twelve Apostles and Saints in which they wintered before starting upon their long and perilous journey. We remained here a few days to break in our teams and to make final preparations for our journey.
and on June 8th we commenced our pilgrimage with Brother William Hyde, a most excellent man, as captain of the fifty wagons of our company, and Brother [Daniel] Collett as captain of the ten wagons in which our[s] was included. Orson Spencer was captain of the hundred.
June 9th we reached the Elk Horn river over which we ferried our teams the following day.
A large band of Indians was camped a short distance from us, who manifested signs of hostility towards us. Our captain required every man in camp to muster armed and equipped for business which seemed to have the desired effect of quieting the Indians. Here father purchased a yoke of fine cows, having found that our teams were hardly sufficient for their loads.
On the 22nd of June we arrived at the Loup Fork of the Platt[e] river, a large and rapid running stream.
Saturday 23rd, on account of the depth of the river we were unable to proceed.
Sunday, 24th of June we made a tabernacle of the branches of trees and held Sabbath meeting, which was addressed by Captain William Hyde and President Orson Spencer.
June 26th both fifties forded the river which was quite deep and dangerous with quicksand bottom, but we were all landed in safety on the other side. During the first week in July a rainy season set in which greatly impeded our progress, having often to attach 6 or 8 yoke of oxen to one wagon that cut into the ground until the axeltrees almost scraped the ground.
On July 5th, Brother Samuel Culley [Gully], Captain of the other fifty, died of cholera and was buried by the road side.
July 7th camped at night on Elm Creek. Here we discovered that we were traveling in the famous buffalo country. Every day large, dark, moving herds of buffalo could be seen on the distant hillsides or down in the meadows.
July 10th the hunters killed their first buffalo.
On the 12th they killed two others.
and on the 14th they killed 4 buffalo. In the afternoon of the 14th wagon and team were started out to gather up some of the best parts of the 4 buffalo. My brother George and I being desirous to see a buffalo before it was dis-sected, went along with the hunters for that purpose. After traveling several miles we entered a range of low hills and finding that the sun was about setting, I took an hasty glance at the buffalo, then started back alone for camp, hopeing to arrive there in time to help secure our cattle by tying each animal to the wheels of our wagons before night set in, and guarding them through the night against the raids of the hostile savages that were numerous in this region of the plains. I had proceeded a short distance when I heard the hunters calling on me to return, assuring me that I would get lost among the hills or meet some of the natives on the plains, but regardless of their friendly warning I continued on my way following the slight trail which the wagons had made in coming out. I soon found that I was not traveling fast enough to enable me to get out of the hills before night set in and in my anxiety to increase my speed I lost all trace of the wagon track, and although I made several circuts back in hopes of again finding the trail, I was unsuccessful in finding it. Having abandoned my search, I hastened off in the direction I judged lead towards the river.
I was greatly impelled on my way by the knowledge that I was alone on the domains of the Indians at that time hostile towards the white man. With night rapidly approaching, the country around me afforded no distinguishing object as a guide, nothing but a succession of low hills and vallys in every direction as far as the eye could reach. Under these circumstances I hastened on over hill and vale, climbing some of the highest points and anxiously looking in every direction, hoping to see the river and the trees bordering it, occasionally kneeling to offer up a fervent prayer for guidance from above. Finally, just as the day was disappearing I saw from an eminence I had gained, the reflection of a hundred camp fires lighting up the gloomy horizon, and although the camp was several miles away, I felt greatly encouraged. I soon emerged from the range of hills but found yet another difficulty in my course. I was suddenly checked in my progress by a dismal swamp of deep water and rushes which were directly in my course, but I was not in the mood to hesitate long. I entered the swamp and after struggeling what seemed to me a long distance through mud and water, fighting mosquitoes which were fearfully numerous, I finally landed on solid ground and soon reached the camp in safety.
Large fires were kept burning all night to guide the party of hunters to camp but they did not return until the next morning.
July 27th--passed chimney rock.
July 29th--forded the Platt[e] river three quarters of a mile across very deep quick-sand bottom.
August 3rd--passed Fort Laramie.
August 5th the camp did not move. Held Sunday meeting under the shade of some trees. President Orson Spencer preached.
August 10th our ten commenced to travel seperate from the main company on account of the scarcity of feed for our animals.
August 22n-- passed Independence Rock and camped at Devil's gate, a narrow channel cut through a mountain through which the sweet water river runs, overhung by rocky crags. We here began to experience frosty nights.
August 29--snowy morning today. A child was run over and killed.
September 2nd--crossed the Sweet Water river for the last time being the twe[f]lth crossing.
September 7--traveled to Green river which we forded and camped on the other side with a company of brethren and teams on their way to meet Apostle E.T. Benson's company of Saints, they having started late in the season.
Sept. 13th--traveled 8 miles and camped at Fort Bridger.
September 16th--traveled 6 miles and crossed Bear river. Rough mountain roads is the rule for the rest of the journey.
September 19th--5 miles and crossed the Weber river.
September 20th--14 miles, chiefly in a canyon up and down steep hills, having to hold our wagons from upsetting with ropes.
September 21st-- traveling over the big mountain.
On Tuesday, September 25th we entered the Valley early in the afternoon and thus completed our long journey and at last gazed upon the Great Salt Lake valley, the goal upon which our hopes and expectations had so long been centered, and although the whole country was at that time in a wild and uncultivated condition, it appeared to us all that we could desire.