Hooper and Williams Freight Train (1855)
Three freight trains belonging to Thomas S. Williams & Company, of which William Henry Hooper was an associate, crossed the plains during the summer of 1855 traveling to Utah from Atchison, Kansas Territory. Involved were 87 wagons, 1,000 oxen, 185 tons of freight, and a few emigrants. The first train, headed by Captain P. A. Jackman, was 10 miles from Atchison on June 21 and consisted of 26 wagons. By July 11 it was at Plum Creek which was the first important campground west of Fort Kearny. On August 30 the company had reached the Weber River and it arrived at Salt Lake City on September 5. It is not known if emigrants were part of this train.
William H. Hooper led the second train, which was already encamped on the Big Blue River when the captain caught up with it on August 6. Hooper immediately began to "regulate" its affairs and "procure more oxen." By October 8 the train was at Pacific Springs where Hooper left it, himself going to Fort Bridger to buy oxen. His cattle were dying "at the rate of about 7 head daily because grass was scarce. He succeeded in buying 20 animals at the fort. Hooper then continued on to Salt Lake arriving on October 15. The train, numbering 43 wagons, finally arrived November 6.
The third train left Atchison on August 5 but did not cross the Big Blue River until the 27th. It camped at Fort Kearny on September 7 and crossed the South Platte River on September 18. Later it camped opposite Court House Rock, rolled passed Chimney Rock, and stopped at Fort Laramie. On October
4, snow fell to a depth of three inches. The train camped at La Bonte Creek and on October 12 crossed the North Platte River. It passed Independence Rock and Devil's Gate and then crossed South Pass on October 26. It later camped at the Big Sandy. The train then crossed the Green River and the next day camped at Green River Fort stopping at Fort Bridger.
On November 16 the Deseret News reported, "The men from Williams and Company's last train have arrived and report that they were obliged to leave the train at Bridger on account of the snow." They had left the fort November 9. According to teamster William M. Bromley, the company was "compeled [sic] to leave all but six of the wagons at Fort Bridger on account of the snow being deep, the remainder [the last six wagons] were afterwards left at the mouth of Echo kanyon [sic] for the winter and the party crossed the mountains in the snow, and after much suffering arrived at Salt Lake City the latter part of November." Also left behind at the crossing of the Weber in the care of two young men-John King and Benjamin Franklin Knowlton-were about 200 head of worn-out cattle and 6 or 7 mules. All of the mules and 60 oxen froze to death, as did King. Knowlton made it safely home by following the Weber River. December 12, Captain Hooper reported that 10 wagons were on their way in from Fort Bridger but that they had lost 75 oxen between the fort and the Weber. "They lost 15 head of oxen more this side of Weber," reported the Deseret News, "and were 9 days on the road from there in. The snow on the east side of the Big Mountain was seven feet deep, and they were three days and two nights getting over, during which time their cattle were without feed and were not unyoked, but Captains Moore and Knowlton, who were in charge, succeeded in overcoming every obstacle, tramped and packed the snow and got the wagons over contrary to our expectations." The wagons finally arrived in Salt Lake on December 17. By the end of the journey, Hooper and Williams lost 300 of the 1,000 cattle they started with.
(Captain Moore, mentioned above, was probably George W. Moore, who had accompanied Thomas S. Williams east "to purchase goods." Captain Knowlton either was George Washington Knowlton or John Quincy Knowlton, brothers-in-law and business partners of William Henry Hooper. Both of these men had gone east in the spring.)