William G. Young Company (1857)
William Goodall Young, a nephew of Brigham Young, was returning from a mission to England when he led this small freight and passenger train west. Young arrived in Florence, Nebraska Territory, on July 8 with 12 wagons. Others joined him here so that when he resumed his journey on the 12th, the train consisted of 55 individuals, 19 wagons, 83 oxen, 4 cows, and 1 mule. One of the emigrants was Nancy Kent, Brigham Young's 71-year-old sister. This was the last Mormon overland company this season. Early on, before reaching the Big Papillion River, the train had a near disaster; ten or twelve wagons, some of which held women and children, rumbled uncontrollably down a hill and scattered in various directions. People on foot scrambled for their lives. Fortunately, no one was hurt. At the Papillion the travelers formally selected William Young as company captain. Next, the party experienced a thunder and lightening storm. On July 13, they camped at the Elkhorn River, where mosquitoes were "immeasurably thick." It cost 50 cents to ferry each "team & 2 yoke of cattle" across the stream.
On the 18th the company camped on the Loup Fork; the next day it came to the Mormon settlement of Genoa. Here, the train successfully forded the Loup, a very dangerous stream to cross. Some of the wagons had to be pulled by 10 yoke of oxen. On July 23, the company traveled some 22 miles with little water before camping on Prairie Creek. That night the cattle were exhausted. During the day the train had passed some returning Californians as well as an eastward bound Dane who had been with the Matthias Cowley company, but who said that his oxen had failed him, one had died-the other was sick. On the 24th the travelers met members of the Jesse B. Martin Company who were forced to return east because many cattle had been lost in a stampede. The Young party crossed Wood River on July 26 and then camped. Here the emigrants saw their first buffalo. Wolves and antelope were also becoming numerous. Winged ants and mosquitoes made human life miserable. Soon, the company ran into numerous snakes, many of which were rattlers. Four friendly Pawnee Indians visited the train on the 27th, near the head of Grand Island. It rained hard and was "rather cold." A few oxen had sore necks. Buffalo became more numerous and men had to go ahead of the train to scare the shaggy beasts off the road. The captain killed one of these for food. Later a very large bull charged the train but was turned away by shots from a revolver.
As the company continued west, buffalo became even more numerous and were seen on both sides of the Platte. Amos M. Musser, company clerk-historian, estimated that there were "a nontillion more or less," and the travelers dried buffalo meat for future use. Grasshoppers were numerous and, according to Musser, "when you disturb them they hop or jump East & not West. . . . They appear to have got tired of ravaging the crops of Israel [the Mormons] & propose visiting our immaculate neighbors in the States." By August 1, buffalo were scarce, but green-headed flies were on the attack and the oxen suffered; they were left with "blood oozing down their sides." This plague continued for several days. More rain fell and it was quite cool. The road was bad and when the train came to sandy bluffs the drivers had to double-team their wagons. The company passed several prairie dog towns and more returning Californians; the latter shared with the travelers favorable news from Utah.
August 7 the train passed two Sioux villages. Some of the natives came out to trade, and then spent the night in an emigrant tent. The travelers gave them crackers, sugar, and tobacco. The teams were weakening. An ox belonging to Captain Young and his cousin, James A. Little, died suddenly, so they abandoned a damaged wagon and redistributed some of the freight. When the company held Sunday services on August 8, they were just across the Platte from Ash Hollow. They also saw a westward bound carriage, escorted by horsemen. Captain Young crossed the river and visited with these strangers, discovering that they were an advance party of President James Buchanan's Utah Expedition. The emigrants were now in an area where mountains and hills looked like castles and fortifications, an area where alkali water was abundant, so they had to keep close watch on their cattle in order to save them from getting poisoned.
August 14 the company camped opposite Chimney Rock, and on the 16th, opposite Scotts Bluff. On the 18th they voted unanimously to send Captain Young on to Salt Lake, mounted on the mule, to report to Brigham Young and request aid. The captain seems to have left James A. Little in charge. Several contemporary sources refer to "Little's company." Little had been an emigration agent in Florence and had become this company's president; also, he and Young had worked together to outfit the train. Traders told the emigrants about the U.S. government canceling all mail service to Utah. On August 21 the train forded the North Platte near Fort Laramie and then camped together with a party of men from Salt Lake who were on their way to the eastern states and to Europe to recall Mormon missionaries and
to temporarily halt Mormon emigration. Some of the travelers purchased fresh cattle here. Wild gooseberries and currents were abundant. Later, squaw berries were available.
The company spent Sunday, August 23, at Horseshoe Creek near Fort Laramie (Amos Musser called this outpost Porter's Station). The men who had so recently built this place immediately abandoned it and traveled back to Utah with the train. After a forced drive, the train camped at Deer Creek on the 26th. The 70 men at this station closed it down and they, too, accompanied the train west. On the 29th the expanded party crossed the Platte for the last time. Feed for livestock was scarce and the travelers passed many dead cattle, left behind by earlier emigrants. September 1, near Independence Rock, the travelers gathered saleratus from an alkali lake. The next day, they were at Devil's Gate, where they found a force of men who had come from Utah to help the emigrants and to watch the soldiers. The oxen were now nearly exhausted and several had already died. Nevertheless, the travelers re-shod them and plodded on.
September 3rd James Little and other returning missionaries with the train pushed ahead of the main body. Little arrived in Salt Lake on September 11. Ice began to appear in the water buckets. September 8 the train was at the last crossing of the Sweetwater. On the 14th, at Black's Fork, the company met a group of men who had brought them oxen from Salt Lake City. The company then proceeded to Fort Bridger where they spent a day shoeing oxen. On the 18th Captain W. G. Young returned to the train, and when he reached Salt Lake City on September 26, he was at the head of 30 wagons.