Transcript for Young, Joseph Watson, Autobiography, in Papers, 1849-1872, box 1, fd. 3, 70-75 (manuscript) or box 1, fd. 4, 33-35 (typescript
Our mode of travelling was as follows. We generally rolled out of camp between 7 and 8 o'clock and rolled on till twelve when we stopped an hour to water, and rest our cattle, then rolled on till six in the evening, when each company formed a corral, by making two half moon circles with their wagons. The cattle were then turned out to feed on the grass (which was all they had to subsist upon) with mento [men to] guard them from the Indians; and also to keep them from mixing with those of other companies. As soon as the camp stopped, and while the men were taking the cattle to pasture, the women were seen in all directions gathering wood, and kindling their fires, preparatory to getting supper. At nine o'clock the cattle were brought in, and put in the corral for the night, after which a strong guard was placed around the camp; and after all was made secure, the horn blew for prayers and all retired to rest. As soon as morning dawned the cattle were taken out to pasture, the camp wakened and all put in motion, for the day's journey. It was truly an interesting scene, to see our camp of over five hundred wagons, marching four or five abreast, along the level plains of the Platte River valley. We continued our journey for about 300 and 50 miles, without any accident, or anything occuring that I need relate, till about the middle of July. We had now got into the Buffalo country, and had killed several.
The company to which I belonged (Capt. [Jedediah Morgan] Grants) were camped on the bank of the river, and considerably in the rear of the remainder of the camp, when early one morning our cattle (as the Spaniiard [Spaniard] would say) took a stampede, that is to say, took fright at something, and run out of the corral, and in the course broke oneof [one of] Capt. [Willard] Snow's wagons, literally to pieces. Perhaps it will be well for me to state, that cattle, on such campaigns often take the stampede, and nothing can stop them unless they stop of their own accord. It is impossible for me to describe the awful appearance of a stampede; but I will endeavor to describe this one to the best of my ability, as it appeared to me. It was just as the day was dawning. I was in a sound sleep, when I heard a tremendous noise, which I cannot describe. The earth seemed to shake, I thought it was the Indians [c]oming upon us and i[n]stantly took my gun, and sprang to the fore-end of my wagon, When I could see all that was passing. My wagon was foremost but two in the line, and as I put my head out to look, the cattle were just coming from the lower end of the correl [corral] opposite me. They appeared most like wild beasts than tame cattle. I saw them rush into the mouth of the correl, which was unfortunately not more than 20 feet wide. Capt. Snow's baggage wagon was first on the other line, and stood pretty near crossways of the carrell [corral], and when the cattle struck it, they broke it to piec[e]s as before stated. At this critical moment, I heard a lad scream, and thinking he was in danger ran to his assistance; he proved to have been on guard at the mouth of the carrell, and h[a]d crawled under our head wagon at the approach of the cattle. He was not hurt, but badly frightened. While putting him from under the wagon, I had every opportunity of seeing the movements of the cattle. I noticed that many of them were crushed as they passed through the narrow gap at the mouth of the correll; and that others ran over them. When they had got fairly out, when they could see all around them, they stopped, and commenced feeding. We found some 25 or 30 in the mouth of the carrell which had been crushed by the rush, and which we at first though[t] were dead; but on further examination found they were not dead, but frightened. We lifted th[e]m up, when they walked off and joined their companies, all save one cow, that had her back broke. There were also several horns knocked off and many other bruises made. We had to remain in camp through the day to repair Capt. Snow's wagon.
The next morning we rolled on all right again.
The second nigh[t], after we left this place, we divided the company and formed two coreells [corrals], about half past nine o'clock P.M. the cattle in Capt. Snows fifty took the stampede and came out of the east end of the correll, but soon stopped and were driven in again; but as soon as they reached the inside they took another fright, and came out of the west end. A part of them stopped as before, while the remainder kept running till we lost all trace of them and those who when [were] pursuing had to return without them. As soon as the day light appeared, we were out looking for them, and about ten o'clock A.M. some of the men returned with the greater part of them; but on counting we found that there were 68 head missing. We sent those in front, of our misfortune, and
regarddin requested th[e]ir aid in searching. They complied and men were sent in all directions for 20 miles around but to no purpose. After searching for three days it was thought best for some men to return towards the Bluffs until they were out of the Buffalo Country, with the hope of finding their herd and for the camp to move on. I was chosen with three others to return, we set out early on the fourth morning, on horse back, well armed, and with provisions to last several days. We left the road; and went into th[e] hills, and travelled till about three 1'clock [o'clock] in the evening, but not finding any water we as well as our horses began to suffer very much from thirst, and were obliged to turn towards the river. About 5 o' clock we came into a deep ravine in the bottom of which we found a pool of muddy filthy watter [water]; but notwithstanding the dirt, we drank of it very freely, and were very glad to get it. We rested our horses for a few minutes, and then travelled on till after dark when we rode into a little hollow to camp for the night; but we did not alight till after we had tried titles with an old buffalo bull for the ground. However a ball from my rifle, and another from a pistol of the company soon silenced his claim. We fettered our horses so that they could not run off, a[n]d then one kept watch while the rest slept.
Next morning we started again as soon as light appeared a[n]d about 8 o'clock road [rode] some 60 miles below where we left the camp, having travelled some 80 miles or more. We rested on the river bank for an hour, and proceeded on our way. We were now getting out of the Buffalo pack so that we could begin to look for the trail of our cattle. About 10 o'clock we left the river and followed up a deep ravine for some ten miles, carefully examining its banks to see if any cattle had crossed it. Having satisfied ourselves that they had not passed there, we determined to return to the road and from there return to the camp. We did so, and after having travelled till about four in the evening, we stopped to let our horses rest, and feed. While resting we saw four objects, several miles off coming out of the hills toward us. Many conjectures were passed respecting them, without our being able to tell what they were, but when we saw they were cattle, we immediately saddled our horses and rode towards them. They were very wild and it was with great difficulty, we got near them; but when we did, we found they were some of our cattle, and we came to the conclusion that they were all scattered among the Buffalo, and it was useless to look for them. We drove these on towards the camp, thinking to sleep in a valley some 8 miles in advance. We reached the valley, just as the sun was setting; but such a sight; as far as the eye could see was one living moving mass of Buffalo. We saw it was useless for us to think of stopping in that valley for if so, we would only be run over. We travelled till next morning before we got out of them two riding in front to clear the road and the other two driving behind. I should think we passed during the night, scores, if not hundreds of thousands of them. After three days more hard travelling we overtook the camp. The losing of these cattle weakened Capt. Snow's company so much that they could not go on without help; but tho' their companions kindly imparted to their wants so that all were enabled to roll on very comfortable. At chimney rock we met five men from the Pioneers who had returned with a mail to us. My Uncle Phineas was one of the company. Near Fort Laramie, we met with General Kearney and escort on his return to the States. At Horse-creek in the Black hills, Capt. [Jedediah M] Grant and others concluded to send my uncle Phineas and me to the Pioneers to let them know how we were getting on. But when we overtook the foremost company we found E[zra]. L. [Taft] Benson, and O[rrin]. P[orter]. Rockwell, who had just returned from the Pioneers. They brought us the pleasing news that they had found and located the valley. They stopped with the camp two days, when I set out with them for the valley, with a mail to the pioneers; my uncle remained with the brethren at the Platte River ferry a few days and then set out with a man named Casto for the Bluffs.
The morning of the third day after we left the camp, we were surrounded by about three hundred snake or Shoshone Indians, but they were very civil, and after giving them some presents they allowed us to pass on without interruption. The next day we overtook a war party of the same tribe of some 200. We travelled with them the best part of two days and were very kindly treated by them.
On the 29th day of August, we met the majority of the Pioneers with President Young, and the twelve at Echo Cave, 72 miles east of the valley, where I arrived on the 31st of August 1847.