Joseph Yates autobiographical sketch and genealogy, 1911, 12-14.
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on the 14th day of May 1862, I was called together with many others b[y] President BrighamYoung to act as teamster and take a trip back to Florence, Nebraska, to help the poor Saints there across the Plains to the Salt Lake Valley. This was a mission for me and a very necessary mission in those days, and previous to departing for this labor I was rebaptized, as was customary in those days, and although very young received my full endowments in the old Endowment house at Salt Lake City.
At that time, the Indian tribes upon the Sweetwater had been very troublesome, and were out on the war path. They had destroyed the Stage coach stations in many places, and run off and stolen the horses, and given the Stage Line Companies a great deal of trouble.
President Young was doing all he could to protect the stage lines, and had commanded Lot Smith with his Company to guard the Stage from the attacks of Indians, and at that time Captain Lot Smith in obedience to that command had his camp and headquarters at the South Pass.
In going East then to gather out the Saints, we took out supplies to the different Stage Stations, as well as fresh supplies of horses to replace those stolen or run off by the Indians, thus we distributed supplies and horses at Hams Fork Green River and South Pass and other Stage Stations.
Our company which was recruited from Box Elder, Davis and Salt Lake Counties consisted of forty five wagons under the command of Captain Horton D. Haight,
I was quite a young fellow to be a teamster, only a boy of 17 years, but my early struggles had taught me to be self reliant and had equipped me for just such a mission as this. . . .
At length after a long journey, filled however with interest and adventure we reached our destination and arrived at Florence, Nebraska.
Here we found a large number of the poor Saints about 600 of them anxiously awaiting our coming. Our wagon train was the last of the season. Three other trains had preceeded us, so we had to carry all the Saints here assembled and their baggage and belongings in our train. We commenced to load up, and we surely carried big loads.
On an acerage [average] each wagon carried the entire baggage, goods and chattels of eighteen emigrants. Their tents which were usually about 8 by 10 or 12 feet in size were distributed in the ratio of 3 tents to every two wagons. But when it came to my load, I was required to take the baggage of twenty passengers as well as one tent. The goods and chattels of the emigrants were piled up as high as the bows, and the tin ware and miscellaneous articles of the Saints were strung up in every conceivable corner. I have in my time hauled many a wagon load of goods, but never in my experience did I carry such a crowded load.
Of course it was impossible for the passengers to ride, it was all we could do to carry their belongings. Walking was the order of the day in those times, with the possible exception in some cases where disease and sickness rendered it impossible for them to walk.
The return journey across the plains with the Saints was hazardous, full of toil, difficulty and danger, and occasionally I witnessed scenes of suffe[r]ing and distress that would well nigh appal[l] the stoutest heart. Of course we did all we could to alleviate the sufferings of our people but still with all we could do for them they suffered greatly.
It was no uncommon thing for delicate women to give birth to children crossing the desert, and in the absence of proper medical and surgical skill and conveniences it may well be imagined how severe must have been the sufferings of some of our sisters. Dependant as they were upon the kind offices of some neighborly sister for such help a[s] could be given in the emergency. A very touching case came under my own observation as we neared a place called Chimney Rock in our Journey.
A good sister [Susannah Jolley], wife of one Brother Jolley, who now resides in Cache County, gave birth to an infant, in our journey west, she was already the mother of six or seven little ones, who with the husband were coming to Zion together. She was a fine, good looking woman, every inch an heroine, and a true latter day saint. When her infant was about ten days old feeling well and strong, and not wishing to be a burden to others, she used to get out of the wagon after breakfast, at the morning start, and walk on ahead of the train carrying her little infant in her arms, and thus she would walk every morning until about ten o'clock, when waiting for her wagon, she would get in, and lay down to rest upon a little bed there prepared for her. One morning as usual she took her accustomed walk carrying her little one in her arms, and about ten o'clock she got into the wagon and handing her infant to one of her little girls, she lay down to rest upon the bed. She lay upon the bed without movement or a sound proceeding from her, until her little girl became alarmed and called the attention of the teamster to this sister. He stopped and gave an earnest look at the still form of the woman, and to his astonishment and the deep sorrow of the husband and little family, the mothers pulse was still, the heart of the brave woman had stopped its beating and without a sigh or a moan she had taken the last sad journey to the great beyond.
It was a pitiable case, and our hearts bled for the bereaved husband father, and little ones. The dear little infant was left but it was mercifully taken, for about a week after it followed its mother to the home of peace and rest where no doubt mother and babe were again united.
At noon that same day, we dug a grave, placed in it the body of our sister, gently covered it up, and left her to sleep in peace by the wayside.
Her disconsolate husband and little children turned sadly away from the last resting place of a beloved mother, and the train of wagons proceeded on its way. We became acquainted with the hand of death, it frequently visited our camp. Too frequently we were called upon to perform the last sad office for those thus snatched away. In all we buried about fifteen Saints by the wayside trail, who died upon the journey.
In the Black Hills I remember we buried two Saints side by side, in one grave, during the noon halt. We usually dug the graves from three to four feet deep, depending of course upon the nature of the soil.
Many are the lonely graves b[y] the wayside, the march of Israels camp through the wilderness and praireie is marked by the resting places, of those who drooped upon the way, and mercifully found the rest and peace, denied them here. But we could not linger by the graves of the dead, we had to perform our duties also the the living. The business and care of the Camp occupied all our time and attention. As we journeyed along.
The roving bands of Indians, frequently crossed our trail in all their picturesque and interesting costume, together with their bands of various colored ponies, and the squaws bringing up the rear with the lodge poles, tents and camp equipage. The prairies swarmed with game, and especially buffalo, and frequently not only the Indian hunters but our own hunters would chase the buffalo, and as a result of their prowess, the camp would be enriched by buffalo meat. It was a great help then to emigrants crossing the plains, were these great herds of buffalo, they helped to replenish our scanty food supplies, and gave to us occasionally a rare taste of meat. But we journeyed on, crossing fords ferrying across the larger rivers, over hills, through mountain defiles, on, on, o'er hill and plain, in storm and shine, to our destination.
In crossing the sand hills in the Platte Valley, I witnessed much distress and suffering amongst the Saints. As I stated before, all the able bodied, me, women, and children of necessity had to walk. Walking thus many weary miles every day, without much rest, under the blazing hot sun, and through the blistering sand caused the feet of these pilgrims to chafe, and bleed and blister. To add to their suffering most of the Saints wore heavy shoes, with very s[t]out soules, filled with large hob nails. . .
In due time we reached Fort Bridger and here we found United States troops, and here also we were required to sign papers and take the oath of allegiance to the Union. For be it remembered the Civil War was now raging . . .
Passing Fort Bridger, our way lay through the mountains and the Canyon defiles echoed to the sounds of our wagon train, as we rumbled down the trail. But all things have an end at last, and on the 22nd day of October in the year 1862, our journey ended and we pulled our wagons with their loads of Saints and goods upon the public square of Salt Lake City.