Jacob Hofheins Company (1857)
When it left Iowa City on June 6, 1857, this company also known as the New York or Delaware and Philadelphia Company, consisted of 19 ox-drawn wagons and 2 carriages. Its leader was Jacob Hofheins, an elder who was returning to Utah after serving a mission to the German-speaking population of New York. At first, progress was slow; cattle had to be tamed and drivers had to be trained. Four days into the journey some of the wagons got stuck in a large mud hole; one of them broke an axle that had to be replaced. The company went through Brooklyn, Iowa. Then when it stopped on an open plain where there was no fuel, a kindly old man with a wagonload of firewood gave them all they needed. Other locals attended an evening meeting and listened attentively to the preaching.
Near Newton, the train camped by some Kansas emigrants. Again, respectful locals attended the Mormon services. Before reaching Fort Des Moines, the travelers experienced a violent two-day thunderstorm; fires were impossible and roads became muddy. People from Des Moines visited the company. Animals strayed and were recovered. Bad roads became worse, but the prairies were abloom with wildflowers. While the train was camped on the North Raccoon, a child fell from a wagon and was run over. At Lewistown (modern-day Lewis), local people tried to hire the emigrants as laborers. Some were tempted to stay, but none did. The next few days were so warm that the cattle suffered greatly. The train camped at Bluff City.
After ferrying across the Missouri River on the 27th, the company stopped near another company that had come from St. Louis, let by Captain James H. Hart led the latter group. The two companies had been instructed by John Taylor to travel together as far as Laramie, Wyoming. Though the two companies were separately organized, Hofheins, who had more experience on the plains that Hart, was to be the "senior" captain until the companies split in Wyoming. They had a ragged start. The Hart Company from St. Louis left Florence June 28 through the 30th and camped on the Little Papillion to await the Hofheins Company. One St. Louis wagon carried a threshing machine. As they waited, the Jesse B. Martin wagon train passed them. Rain, balky animals, a drowned ox, a broken axle, a missing boy, and a visit from Mormon apostates enlivened their days.
The owner of the drowned animal dropped out of the train. Hart's group was on the road again July 1, struggling through mud holes, breaking a wagon tongue, and crossing the Big Papillion. The cattle were wild; teamsters were green. The party ferried across the Elkhorn, where the current was deep and swift, and camped at Raw Hide Creek. The Hofheins company finally caught up with them at the Platte River. They had passed through Liberty Pole, a Mormon way station (modern Fremont, Nebraska). The company now numbered 204 individuals, 41 wagons, 170 oxen, 17 cows, and 4 horses.
On July 4 the train celebrated Independence Day by washing, ironing, baking, listening to speeches by their leaders, and enjoying music and dance. On the 5th the train continued its journey, staying north of the Platte. One reason the parties had united was to guard against Indians, but the natives were friendly and were only interested in having some of the travelers' food. Lemonade was served on one occasion. Mosquitoes were hostile, however. By July 7 the train was on the Loup Fork, near Columbus. Here frightened oxen ran over a man, injuring him. The company camped at the Mormon settlement, Genoa. Here settlers sold an ox to a traveler. The train then crossed the treacherous Loup Fork by double-teaming and driving upriver at midstream before striking for the far bank. Forty-one wagons and three carriages crossed safely, but some of the women struggled as they waded across. A storm impeded progress for several days. During this time Captain Hofheins got upset with part of the company and had a violent altercation with a teamster. Expelled from the train, the teamster trudged back to Genoa and called upon settlers there to intervene on his behalf. Two of them did, and they managed to restore peace in the train.
The captain was sick on July 13. One stretch of road lacked grass for the animals because of an earlier prairie fire. The road was often sandy and hilly. One night, during a storm, about 50 head of cattle stampeded and had to be rounded up. Of this incident a woman wrote, "Of all the storms I ever witnessed I think this the most distressing." At Prairie Creek, an elderly woman died after seeing an ox kick her husband. After crossing Wood River via an old bridge, the train left the main trail in an effort to avoid another stampede. They had learned of Captain Martin's misfortune, losing numerous cattle and two lives in stampedes caused by buffalo. The company met members of Martin's train who were returning east. It also met returning Californians who reported on conditions in Utah. Company hunters were successful at securing buffalo for the travelers. July 24, the train passed the junction of the North and South Platte Rivers. On the 26th a wagon ran over James H. Hart's ankle and foot. Then the oxen again stampeded. According to an eyewitness, "men [were] thrown, women [were] leaping from their wagons, children [were] screaming as team after team ran on in wild confusion." Many injuries resulted and about 40 cattle were permanently lost. Sioux Indians soon visited the train and expressed deep sympathy for the injured, although one traveler blamed the natives for the stampede.
August 1, a wagon overturned in a creek, causing extensive damage, and the Christian Christiansen handcart company passed by. Hofheins and company camped at Ash Hollow. Later, there was another quarrel between the captain and company members. Rumor, although untrue, had it that the handcart people had smallpox, so the captain had driven his train unusually hard in an effort to get ahead of the carts. The disagreement was settled amicably. At this time many of the animals were exhausted. The train camped opposite Chimney Rock on August 6 while individuals crossed the North Platte to purchase buffalo robes and fresh livestock from a trading post. The train passed Fort Laramie on August 10; again men crossed the river to trade. The road through the Black Hills was hilly and rocky, and party members grumbled.
On August 14 the train divided-ostensibly so the cattle could more easily find feed, but the two components were never far apart, sometimes camping together or passing and re-passing one another. August 16, the St. Louis group drove their cattle across the North Platte to feed; three days later this party forded to the south bank of the river to camp near Deer Creek Station (a Mormon outpost near modern Glenrock, Wyoming). Here, members of the party bought fresh cattle. That same day some 20 head of cattle belonging to the New York group who were still north of the river, strayed but were soon recovered. Men from Deer Creek who visited the easterners expressed surprise that the emigrants were traveling north of the Platte; the visitors said that the southern road was much better. In spite of this, the St. Louis group returned to the north side of the river. Here they followed the river road; it was rough and hilly and the alkali-heavy water was harmful to the cattle killing one.
On August 20 the New York party was at North Platte Bridge. August 21, the St. Louis group crossed Prospect Hill, from which they had a clear view of the Sweetwater Mountains. Meanwhile, the easterners camped with a company of Mormon emigrants from Texas. These groups reached Prospect Hill on the 23rd. The New York party camped at Independence Rock on the 24th and about three miles east of Devil's Gate on the 25th. Passing Independence Rock, the St. Louis party also stopped at Devil's Gate on the 25th. The weather had turned cold and on the 27th ice formed on the water pails. That day men from Salt Lake City, headed to Devil's Gate, passed the St. Louis group and shared the latest news. The St. Louis party camped on the Sweetwater that night. Also on the 27th, the New York party splintered. Three families broke away to travel separately, observing that some members of the larger party were too slow. Before the day was over, however, one breakaway family returned to the main group.
Meanwhile, Captain Hart of the St. Louis Company bought nine yoke of cattle from the Texas emigrants, but the new cattle were wild and caused a lot of trouble. After crossing the Sweetwater for the fourth time, the Hart Company took the south road, where they met 30 men from the Salt Lake Valley who were headed to Devil's Gate. These spent the night with the emigrants and then helped them catch an abundance of fish in the Sweetwater. On the 30th and 31st the St. Louis group camped very near the Texans and the easterners. September 1, the St. Louis party resumed its journey. Eleven government wagons headed for Salt Lake passed them. That night the New York splinter group camped on the Little Sandy. On the 2nd the St. Louis party stopped at the last crossing of the Sweetwater; the splinter group was on the Big Sandy.
On the 3rd the St Louis party crossed South Pass and camped on the Dry Sandy. It was very cold that night. On the 4th the St. Louis party passed the junction of the California and Oregon Trails and crossed the Little Sandy; the splinter group was on the Green River. On the 5th and 6th the St. Louis party passed the Parting of the Ways where the Mormon and Oregon Trails parted, and camped on the Big Sandy. The splinter group forded the Green on the 5th and then, on the 6th, took a wrong turn in the road-until a mountaineer set them straight and they had to retrace their steps. The weather was warmer.
On the 7th the St. Louis party crossed Green River and camped on its west bank. A dog frightened one of the teams, causing it to shy into a deep gully, damaging the wagon and almost killing the oxen. While the party was camped on Black's Fork, a strong, cold wind began to blow. The splinter group visited a trading post on the 10th; here they bought potatoes, cheese, and fresh beef before moving on to Black's Fork and Ham's Fork. Three companies of government wagons were camped on Ham's Fork. On the 11th and 12th the St. Louis contingent camped at Fort Bridger to shoe oxen. The splinter group arrived there on the 12th. Captain Hofheins and members of his party were "well pleased to see" them. On the 13th, the captain and the splinter group set out at different times. The latter party camped on the Little Muddy that night.
On the 14th they crossed the ridge separating the waters of the Great Basin from those of the Colorado, and as they descended a long narrow pass, both the St. Louis and the New York groups overtook them. All three parties camped together on the Bear River. The next day they crossed the Bear, but the splinter group "kept out of the way of the St. Louis [party] and Capt Hawfines [sic]," then camped two miles west of Cache Cave. The St. Louis group camped in Echo Canyon. It had rained for two days and the road was slippery. The St. Louis party camped on the Weber River; the weather was frosty. They stopped at the eastern foot of Big Mountain. This obstacle was crossed without incident. As the emigrants camped at the foot of Little Mountain a light rain fell, but the weather cleared, allowing them to cross this last barrier and descend Emigration Canyon safely. The St. Louis contingent entered Salt Lake City on September 21. Reportedly Jacob Hofheins and James H. Hart were the captains (a few St. Louis wagons had arrived on the 20th). An elderly woman was the sole casualty during the journey.