Transcript for Thomas Bullock, "Travel Account of the Mormon Journey from Council Bluffs to California," Prophet of the Jubilee translated and edited by Ronald D. Dennis (1997), 92-94
In a previous letter I made a faint description of the persecutions of the Saints at Nauvoo, the burning of their houses and their possessions, the beatings, and the cruel and needless exile they suffered, &c, how they were fed miraculously with quails, together with their progress on their journey from there to here, &c; but now I shall begin an account of our journey from here towards the Rocky Mountains. I started, with eight of the twelve apostles, together with one hundred and forty-three other persons, to search out an advantageous spot to be able to worship God according to our conscience, where we could rest from persecution, violence, and the cruelties we suffered for so long because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus—where we could build houses, and inhabit them, and plant fruit trees, and eat the fruit thereof, with none to hurt or to make afraid. We camped on the bank of the Elk Horn river, until all were ready to begin; then we traveled on the north side of the splendid river called the Platte. We crossed several small streams before arriving at the Loup Fork, which is the most difficult stream of all to cross, because of the quicksand in it. But by the blessing of the God, we got all through in safety, together with our provisions; then we crossed over a ridge, and we came to the head of Grand Island, where on the 30th of April, we could see the first Buffalo: and this was a day long to be remembered, for having seen the first Buffalo hunt. Several of the brethren rode their horses after them. They went in pursuit of one band of about sixty-five for several miles; and from the camp we had a full view of their campaign along the mountain side, until they were enveloped with a cloud of dust raised by the feet of the horses and the Buffalo, and they did not return until they brought back the spoil of eleven bulls, cows, and calves. Our camp looked now like a large butcher's market. The way we preserved the meat was by drying it.
"May the 4th we traveled five wagons abreast in a defensive position, for we had been informed of a large war party of Indians ahead of us. We had a cannon, which we fired several times to frighten the Indians, which had the desired effect, and we went on our way in peace. We held a meeting of gratitude to God for protecting us. Next morning, we saw several thousands of Buffalo, besides many Antelope, Elk, &c. Within a few days afterwards, we saw the face of the land covered with Buffalo for several miles. I think I saw something like one or two hundred thousand of these animals in one day. They were so numerous on the other side of the mountains, that our camp had to wait three times until the droves of them went round us. Several of them turned back and looked at the scene, as if they were amazed at the sight of our camp. We caught several calves alive: but remember that catching one of these calves, and catching one of your domesticated calves, are two different things. They are as swift as swift horses; and despite the ugliness of the gallop of these creatures, they get over the ground with such speed, that they leave the swift rider to admire them in the distance; and if he gets within shooting distance, he should be thankful if they do not cause him to kiss mother earth.
"We arrived at Fort John (Laramie) on June 1st. Here our journey commenced over hills and mountains, along which plenty of timber is available for firewood, which is chiefly pine; but in the lower land, the kinds of trees are chiefly cottonwood. Afterwards there is before us a journey of five hundred miles, through plains of bushes called sage, which grow from six inches to ten feet high, and which do not permit much grass to grow in their midst. About four miles to the east of Independence Rock, there is a lake of Saleratus, of which I would advise you to gather one or two hundred pounds' weight for family use, for this is what you will use from now on in place of leaven in your bread; and there is soda also in the same lake, which would be very useful to wash clothes. Be sure to remember this.
The rocks now are bold and high, the roads very sandy, and the sage bushes are more plentiful; yet you will be rejoicing that every day brings you nearer home. There is nothing unusual in the South Pass, by which you will know you are in it, except this, namely that the water runs the opposite direction, that is to the west. From this point you will have several heavy days' drive, without seeing much water, except in those places in which you camp overnight. After passing Fort Bridger, you can camp comfortably wherever you have a mind to. The grass out here will sustain your animals practically any time in the year; and when the muskeet grass is dry, it answers for corn, hay, and grass for your animals. The mountains between Fort Bridger and the valley are very high, and the road winds through the valleys between them, some of which are very narrow—in some places not more than ten yards wide, and the rocks are steep on either side, sometimes about a mile high. The elevation of the highest mountain ridge we have to cross over on the entire journey is about 7300 feet above sea level. From this ridge you will see the Twin peaks, which are covered with eternal snow. The slopes of these two mountains reach to the valley; and when you see them, you will shout out, 'I shall soon be home now.' There is no fear of losing the way between the mountains. After crossing a small creek twenty-one times in about five miles, and between mountains near a mile high, and after coming round a high knoll and making a sudden bend in the road, you come at once in full view of the "Salt Lake," together with a beautiful valley about twenty miles wide, and thirty miles long; and even though there is very little timber to be seen, you will be sure to say, "Thank God, I am home at last." On this spot that I am now talking to you about, our procession arrived on Thursday afternoon, the 23rd of July.