Transcript

Transcript for Ursenbach, Octave, Journal, 1857-1869, vol. 1. [translated from French]

War having been declared against our people, and knowing that our enemies were eager to exterminate us, I armed myself and put myself secretly en route with several missionary elders who were returning to their homes. Our travels were marked by unbearable suffering, exposed as we were to the elements during an intemperate spring.

I covered two thirds of the road on foot, sometimes in the company of our enemies who suspected us of being Mormons. I traveled two days on a road so deep in mud that it ran over my boot tops, our mules and our wagon sinking at every step. Sometimes we followed a rail line under construction, jumping from one tie to another. I plodded forward until I could barely stand, always wet to the bone by the frequent bursts of snow.

When we arrived at the Platte, we had to make rafts like Robinson Crusoe to cross the river.

When we reached Fort Laramie, we learned that we were being pursued, and that a cavalry detachment was searching for us. With no other alternative to save ourselves from being hanged, a fate we had already escaped more than a hundred times, we left the traveled road and hid ourselves in the endless shadows of the Black Hills, where there was no trail except the one we blazed ourselves. After several days of walking, we were caught in a blizzard—the heavens darkened, the temperature plummeted, and we were wrapped in a cold so unbearable that we put ourselves on forced marches to escape from that desolate wilderness. Once we walked all night in order to keep our mules from freezing in the sleet. Another terrible morning, my frozen feet incapable of carrying me any further, we called a halt to feed our animals and make our breakfast. Seated on a log, tears running down my cheeks, I suffered as a martyr. The one who had gone to bring water refused to give me any because I wasn't doing any work myself—such was the hardness of his heart! I finally stood without realizing what I did, because I could no longer feel my feet. I jumped over a ravine and set out through the snow in search of water. The first that I found was not good; it was poisoned with alkali. I had to keep searching, and a quarter mile further I found good water. I returned by the same route, jumping again over the same ravine, which so stirred my blood that my feet were saved from being completely frozen.

Over the following days, I walked from morning to night, wet to the skin. By day we usually had a little sun and snow by turns, but every night I lay down in the fresh snow, too exhausted to clear a place for my bed. I tramped it down with my feet a little, then rolled myself in my blanket and stretched out, after having said my prayers. In the morning, I found my bed covered with new snow, and I was so warm that I hated to leave my bed and expose myself to the cold morning wind.

At last the sky brightened, and we crossed the sandy desert, where I set my foot where, perhaps, no other white man had ever penetrated. Below a bluff we found an Indian woman, frozen, with her dead infant in her arms. When we reached Bear River, we crossed the stream by making rafts of the wagon boxes. We walked by fresh bear tracks—the bears had been frightened away by our approach. At Hams Fork I barely escaped drowning. Astride an old horse, we reached the middle of the fast-moving water where he wanted to stop. By dint of my fists and kicks from my feet, I made him continue.

At Echo Canyon we learned that negotiations had taken place, and that our enemies would not enter our city.

We entered Salt Lake City on the 4th of July 1858, but the city was deserted, the inhabitants having fled to the south; there remained only about a hundred men ready to put everything to the flame at the first signal. I rested there for one night, and the next day set out for Provo.

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