Pratt, Orson, et. al., to Brigham Young, 8 Aug. 1854, in Brigham Young, Office Files 1832-1878, reel 54, box 41, fd. 2.
Junction of the north & South forks of the<br. Platte river.
August 8th, 1854
To Prest. BrighamYoung,
Dear Bro., You will no doubt be surprised to learn that the Church train is,
at this late season, so far from Utah, but unavoidable circumstances have detained us. It was found, after proceeding 40 miles upon our journey from Fort Leavensworth, and the scattering fragments of our camp had been collected together, that we lacked some 12 or 15 yoke of cattle for leaders, before we could move all the waggons at once: Capt. James Brown, and H.[orace] S.[underlin] Eldredge were therefore sent <went> back to Jackson Co, about 75 miles, to procure those the required number; & in the mean time Brothers [Orson] Pratt & [Frederick] Kesler continued to roll forward the train as fast as they could. They succeeded by travelling the ground three times over, in getting out one hundred miles from Fort Leavensworth by the time that the brethren returned with the additional cattle, without the loss of only a few axle trees and waggon tongues which were soon supplyed. After this we were enabled to move forward all the waggons at once at the usual rate of traveling. Thus you will perceive we were detained until after the middle of July, with 1150 miles still before us. We continued to be prospered after this so that the last week of our travelling we averaged about 19 miles per day, and the cattle felt well, and we were full of hope, and cheerful with the expectation of still reaching the valley by the 1st of October. But alas! our expectations <vanished> in a moment < were> vanished.
On the morning of the 5th instant, we turned out our cattle at 3 o,clock as usual to feed. They had scarsely arrived at their feeding place, some 40 rods from camp, when they became frightened, and a stampede ensued. The guard, instead of alarming the camp as they had been previously, and frequently instructed, ran after them on foot, and succeded in recovering a part of the herd;
and finding it imposs without travelling only about 3 miles from camp. It was about 5 o'clock before they returned, and notified <the> camp, when brothers Eldredge, and Capt. Russell, and others immediately <pursued> their animals and on <on horse and> on their animals and on foot. After going about 10 miles into the bluffs, they overtook 2 yoke of oxen which had given out; these were so frightened that it took some 2 or 3 persons to drive them back. <The> balance of the horsemen continuing on some 5 miles further, on one branch of the trail, overtook 9 head more which they brought into camp, and After getting some refreshments, 5 men started on horses & mules, with 3 or 4 days provisions, to follow the trail; these were all the horses and mules that were in the least fit to be rode. they again started about 12 noon On the evening of the same day Brothers <E.T.> Benson, Ira Eldredge, Erastus Snow, Orson Spencer, & company, arrived in our camp in good health, & spirits. The next morning the 2 brothers Eldredges and some others went back on the rod road, with the intention of going some 25 or 30 miles in search. The same day, (being Sabbath,) brothers [Ezra T.] Benson & Ira Eldredge were acknowledged in their appointment as the leaders, and presidents of the camp, by the unanimous vote of all. A short time before sundown one of the horsemen returned, being sent back with seven head of cattle which were overtaken <in the bluffs> some 40 miles from the camp. in the bluffs. We found, by counting the cattle which remained, that about 120 head were still missing. On the morning of the sixth seventh we sent 2 men on horseback, with a fresh supply of provisions, with instructions <and instructed> to go and meet those still on the search. About 11 o'clock 2 more of the hunters returned driving brother [Orson] Pratt's carriage horses before them; they had become so broken down in running over the bluffs and sand knowls, that they could scarsely be got into camp. They reported that they had followed up the trail till it became so scattered, and defaced that they could follow it no further, and that the men & animals were nearly famished for want of water; that one of brother Pratt's horses was so weary that he could not be got to the water without taking from him the saddle and carrying it upon their shoulders; they also reported that after riding some 15 miles beyond where they lost the trail in the direction that the cattle had before travelled, and after a diligent search upon the highest hills, and in different directions, they <and> could find no trace, they concluded to strike for the road some 30 <few> miles to the east of our camp. After reaching the road they met the two men with provisions, when two <and 4> of the company started east, and they came into camp. About sundown bro. Eldredge returned with his carriage having met the company, and again directed them to bear off into the bluffs in a south west direction, in hopes to intersect the trail. About 11 o'clock Capt Russell and Ira Eldredge returned and reported that the 5 persons traversed the bluffs in different directions for some 18 miles back from the road, until they intersected the trail which had already been traveled by the horsemen, when 3 were directed to camp for the night, and they returned, striking the road about 8 miles east of our camp. The 3 men are expected in to-day. We are now It is now 10 o'clock A.M. We are yoking our the cattle which we have left, in hopes to move our cap camp a few miles to day.
Brothers Benson and Horace S. Eldredge expect to take a carriage and go ahead some 2 or 300 miles to overtake 6 emigration companies, and if possible, procure from each a few yoke of cattle and return with them to help our camp. There is supposed to be about 2
perper or 3 perpetual Fund companies still behind, and also brother William's merchandise train, from all of which we shall try <to get> and draw some cattle; and by these exertions we are in hopes to work up our train Zion-ward until we meet a fresh supply from the valley, and if possible to land the train in the valley this season.
We have instructed brothers Snow, Spencer, and company to keep a good look out for our cattle throughout their journey to the states and also to inform the companies still behind; and if all or a part of the lost herd is found, to instruct them to send them to us.
Bro [Frederick] Kesler will leave by the August mail for Utah[.] he has been of great service to us.
Aug. 8th 6 o'clock P.M. We <have> been able to
slowly move our train about 12 miles to day, but our teams are altogether to[o] light for hills, and sandy places, we consider it best to keep moving, if we do not everage [average] more than 6 or 8 miles per day.
Bro. H.S. Eldredge,
expects after assisting in to obtain cattle from the companies in advance will expects to remain with his own individual waggons and ox teams until he arrives in the valley. Bro Pratt will probably be under the necessity of remaining with the ox train as his horses are, in their present condition, unable to travel faster than cattle; he has not means to go through by mail, or he would probably accompany brother Kesler.
The 3 men who camped out last night have just arrived, bringing no intelligence from the cattle.
To morrow morning we expect to send back 2 men who will go
back to fort Kearney, if they do not obtain intelligence of the cattle sooner. We shall send letters to brothers Farr, Williams, Empy, and others, authorizing them to procure the cattle for us, should they, by any providence, fall into the hands of the garrison, or any other individuals; also a request of to the commanding officer at the fort to use all dilligence to recover them for us.
August 8th 7 o'clock A.M. Bro. Kesler is about starting with brothers Benson & H.S. Eldredge: also our 2 messengers which we send back to fort Kearney are about ready to start with the letters, &c The meat in our camp will soon be
exausted gone. We have flour enough to do us until we reach the south Pass. We do not need many waggons sent from the valley, but we want a plenty of teams. A very few horses & mules to assist in looking out camp grounds, feed, & water, and to run after stray cattle should there be any, would not be amiss, as we are now very destitute. Our camp is generally in good health, only a few sick, no deaths since we wrote by the last mail.
We remain your brethren in Christ,
H[orace]. S[underlin]. Eldredge