Transcript for "Eli Wiggill, reminiscences," 39-41.
We were glad to reach Florence. It had been raining heavily. There was not a dry spot on which to place our boxes. The girls went on board again and were nearly taken off. The signal was given for the boat to start, and they had to run to reach shore again.
Wagons were at the Landing to take us to the settlement. We found it almost a deserted town. Nearly all the houses had been moved away to Omaha, as that City had just been laid out. We were taken to an old barn, where we stayed two days. I then looked about the settlement and found a small cottage, into which I moved by family, and we were more comfortable. We stayed here three weeks waiting for our wagons to be fitted up. There were stores there at which we bought goods and provisions for the journey.
Florence is a very pretty place. The country around is undulating and park-like. Good water and grass. While here, two of my children were married. My son Jeremiah to one of Mr. Talbot's daughters Pricilla, and my daughter Margaret to Thomas Talbot.
When I got my new wagon into my hands I made it very comfortable, putting in side boxes, covered its tent with two covers and a carpet. I paid eighty dollars for the wagon. I had six oxen, two cows and one calf.
We were then organized into a company. Homer Duncan was our Captain. He and several other Elders were returning from a mission to England. In our company also traveled Elder Charles Penrose, Jacob Gates, a family named Rossell, Mr. James Dyer, the Luffs and the Stratfords, and very happy times we had together.
After we were organized, we started off, and camped about a mile from Florence, near a small forest. Into the forest I went, as it reminded me of a South African Bush. I cut a stout hickory stick to take on our journey in case we needed a pole. While camping here, Mr. Talbot, Sr. was chosen Chaplain for the company.
I must record a sad occurrence which took place while in Florence. A lady and two sons were in our company. Just before starting, those two boys went to the river to bathe, and both were drowned. The grief of that poor mother was terrible to behold. They were buried in one grave, where so many faithful Saints have found a last resting place, as this place was the home of the Saints on their way to Utah, for years. Many companies having to winter there.
We left this camp on the last day of June, 1861, and now commenced our long journey of a thousand miles. We traveled many days over a beautiful rolling country, good grass and water, but very little wood. Miles and miles we traveled, until we reached "Wood River", where there were many trees. Between the streams of water grass covered the plains, two feet high, waving, full of seed.
A man with a hand cart started with us, but he soon tired of his job, sold his cart, and traveled with one of the wagons. As we traveled along, I thought of the brave handcart companies that had walked all those weary miles. Many meeting death on the way. Faithful and true, they sang as they traveled on, that cheering hymn, written by William Clayton, called "All is Well."
"Come, come ye Saints, No toil nor labor fear, But with joy wend you way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear Grace shall be as your day."
They were on their way to a place of rest, far away from mobs and enemies, who had so cruelly murdered their beloved prophet Joseph Smith; where they could worship God according to the dictates of their conscience.
At Wood River a wagon broke down, belonging to a man named Charles Dean. It was an old wagon and one wheel gave out. I helped Captain Duncan repair the wheel and set the tire, and we journeyed on. I had sometimes to be out all night guarding cattle, which was very unpleasant when grass was up to our knees, and wet with dew. We passed many trading stations, at one of which I bought a Buffalo Robe.
At Loop Fork Ferry there was a village called Columbia. Here large boats took our wagons, fifty in number, over, one at a time, which took us all day. Charles Dean's wagon had to undergo more repair. We camped under cottonwood trees. Somewhere in this vicinity we met a train of wagons going to Florence to fetch emigrants. The Church sent wagons regularly to meet them. I have forgotten to mention that we were an independent company, that is, we all owned our own wagons. With these wagons were some missionaries on their way to Africa, among them Mr. Henry Talbot's son, John, who had come to Utah a year before. They camped with us one night. John telling his parents a great deal about Utah's manners and customs.
Next we separated, their train going east, and ours west. On and on we traveled until we reached Platte River, Nebraska. For two weeks or more, we traveled along its banks. The road was level and smooth and not much wood for fuel. We used "Buffalo chips" or dry cattle dung. An antelope was killed and its flesh much appreciated. Wild grapes and currants grew along the banks of the river. At a place called Ash Hollow, we were visited by a number of Indians; who came begging. The Captain collected a number of articles from the company. With these they went away satisfied.
We next came to some heavy sandridges. The oxen could not pull the wagons through the sand without doubling the teams. The ridges extended for ten miles. It took up all one day to travel that distance. All along this sandy road lay broken wagons, loose tires, and one stove. Wagon loads of good useful material could have been gathered on the plains in those days.
We were all anxious to see "Chimney Rock", a tall, sandstone formation, which could be seen for miles around. This was a romantic part of our journey. Low cliffs or buttes along the road, and these curious shaped masses rising from them, formed of loose gravel and hard grains of earth. I think this land must have been at one time covered with water, which as it dried away, after earthquakes and convulsions of nature, corroded parts of the earth's surface, and left the harder parts standing, also washing the sands down in those heavy ridges. We could see great mountains in the distance, which appeared to have plenty of pine-trees on their sides.
Still ascending, we finally reached the foot hills of the Rocky Mountains. Here we passed "Independence Rock", a huge perpendicular boulder of iron stone granite. On its sides many travelers had carved their names. We now came to a pass called Devil's Gate, through which flows a beautiful stream known as the Sweetwater River. Here we camped, and I had to mend a broken axle. The Devil's Gate is a very narrow glen. Its sides rise up perpendicularly for hundreds of feet. On the margin of the stream grow trees and shrubs. Some of our party walked through this glen, meeting the wagons on the other side. We camped here on[e] night, then journeyed on 'til we reached Green River. It is a very wide stream, its banks wooded with cotton-wood and birch.
A mile from here we camped in a grove of cotton-wood trees. As we had plenty of fuel. We built tremendous camp fires. The next place that comes to my mind in the Military Post of Fort Bridger, named after the famous old Trapper, Jim Bridger. This place is well wooded and watered. We were now one hundred and fifty miles from Salt Lake Valley. As we ascended the Rocky Mountains, good water became scarce, and we would have to travel long distances between camping places.
In some places our road lay on a ridge with the valleys on each side. Sometimes we were on a level plain covered with sagebrush. I now recall Bear River, a beautiful stream, its water clear as crystal, so one could see the pebbles and rocks in the bottom. Cotton-woods grew on its banks.
Our road now lay between red sand hills, descending until, we reached Echo Canyon and here I saw the most romantic and rugged scenery I ever saw in my life. On either side rise steep cliffs in most fantastic shapes imaginable, composed of rocks and pebbles, cemented together. Three of these columns close together are called "The Witches". It takes its name from sounds echoing and re-echoing among the rocks. It is twenty miles in length. Through it runs a creek of clear water, its banks lined with willow and other trees. Wild hop vines climb over the trees, as they were ready for picking. Great bunches were gathered.
This canyon joins another called Weber Canyon, through which runs a rapid stream called Weber River. On the river we struck the first Mormon settlement, called Hennifer [Henefer]. In Weber Canyon is the curious formation of rock called "The Devil's Slide". After leaving the settlement we turned off and traveled for six miles up the mountains of the Wasatch Range. Here we camped. Mr. Talbot and I thought we would go ahead of our wagons and so we started on horseback. We camped with another company that night between Little and Big Mountain. Next day we rode down Emigration Canyon, where thoughts of the Pioneers filled our minds. On emerging from this canyon, the valley came into view.
Our hearts were full of joy to see before us the City of the Saints, and know our toilsome journey was over.