Transcript for [Woodward, William], "Crossing the Plains," reel 1, box 2, fd. 4, in William Woodward, Collection 1851-1919

Crossing the Plains

Constant Merit [pseudonym for William Woodward] was engaged to drive team for a Mr. Middleton; & the train was to start from Bethlehem in Iowa, John Horner was the Captain of <the company>[.] After crossing the Missouri River the company camped in the Otoe Indian country. About the first of July A move was made for the valley

The oxen were nearly all wild, and it was quite a chore to yoke these unruly cattle. After much troubles the train started but oh the trouble of driving those cattle, & keeping them in the road. After driving several days over a beautiful rolling country where the grass was high—the weather was hot & sultry & when the company came on the Platte bottom, or Platte Valley the heat was almost unbearable. Often the teamsters would bathe in the Platte River & let their clothes dry on them. The fare was flour, bacon, coffee, and sugar. The flour was mixed with salt & butter & really made into unleavened bread. The appetites of the teamsters were keen & they would put up with almost anything to get to the valley. Few Indians were seen till we got near Fort Laramie. Buffaloes were numerous. West of Fort Kearney [Kearny] thousands of these, quadrupeds were seen. Few were killed as it was thought fresh meat would be unhealthy in the hot weather. The crossing of the South Fork of the Platte River was a hasardous undertaking because of the quicksand—then driving down Ash Hollow—the wagons were lowered down a steep hill with ropes & both his wheels were broken but they got safely down & camped on the North Fork of the Platte River.

Oh! The sandy road—the dust, the heat—all were terrible. It was so hot the bacon was melting & dripping from the wagons, and was not a very pleasing diet. Sometimes fish were caught in pools of the stream: the rivers in places was only a bed of sand, and long stretches of sand were often seen[.] the water was warm & unpleasant to the tasting in the Platte River, but when Scott Bluffs [Scotts Bluff] were reached & the Laramie River Everything was change—Mountains were to be seen in the distance. Fort Laramie was a novel place—had been in existence for a number of years, it was a trading post & many Indians came to exchange their furs for powder, lard, caps & a variety of goods needed by Indians—Sioux, Cheyennes, Arrapahoes [Arapahoes], Pononees [Pawnees], Crows, Shoshonees [Shoshones], & other various tribes came to trade. Many Some of the traders took squaws for wives & many cared nothing for wives but indulged in vices with the Indian females. The traders did not go among the Indians to improve their morals—only to make money & to gratify their vicious desires. Our camp moved on and as we neared the Rocky mountains the water was cold, clean, & beautiful.

The Sweet water River, (Green River and other streams were pleasant for man and beast. Crossing the Mountains going over the water shed streams only liken going over a rolling hill—we could not tell when we were on its summit. But on the Pacific side things seemed scarcely to differ. On, our way west, passed Fort Bridger, where quite a number of half breed children, trappers, traders & Indians formed quite a little colony. But oh! when we had the rugged Wahsatch [Wasatch] Mountains to cross, hard, hard Indeed was the daily duties both for cattle & man. Sometimes only a few miles were made[.] 4 or 5 miles was a days travel; but finally the Big Mountain & the Little Mountain were crossed & down the last canyon & the beautiful city of the Saints was in view. What thoughts passed through young Saints mind. Here was the Great Salt Lake City for which Constant Merit had toiled, & dreamed for a few years. But the train had to descend a beautiful table land. The Salt Lake glimmered in the distance. The teams rolled on & in a short time the teams were in the City. Oh! How wonderful