Layne, Jonathan Ellis, Autobiography, 1897, 10-18.
We traveled on the next day and crossed the Elk Horn River and camped on the west side. I was driving team sometimes, but most of the time I drove loose stock for Brother John W. Lasley. The company I was in was organized as all Companies of our people were who crossed the plains. Our captain was Benjamin Gardner (our former Branch President.) Captain of the first ten was Mark Hall. I have forgotten the names of the other captains of tens.
We traveled slowly on to allow our cattle all the time possible to feed. I stood camp and cattle guard much of the time, also stood extra for another man nearly all the way to Utah. We soon came to where the buffalo were seen in countless numbers. We had plenty of buffalo meat about all the time. In June we came to the Loup Fork River which we had to ford. The river was full of quicksand. If a wagon stopped moving while going across, the running water would take the same from under the wheels, and they would sink down a foot or more in a few minutes and completely envelope the lower side of the wheels, so that a team or more had to be hitched on before the wagon could be moved. Some became fast in this way and had to be helped out. It was the same with cattle, horses or men. All had to keep moving or their feet would get fast in the sand.
At last we all got safely over and camped for the night. Early the next morning we moved on, passing Bishop W. W. Eames' company camped on the Loup Fork River. Cholera was in camp. We passed by them to the west fork of the river and stopped to noon. Soon they came up and passed by us up the river. After two hours nooning we started on and soon overtook the Bishop's wagon and another or two with him. The Bishop was dead of Cholera and they had stopped to bury him. They had dug a grave and were just lowering the corpse into it. I looked in, the water was six or eight inches deep in the bottom. They put it down, over half buried in water and covered it up and immediately started on. They were then behind us and did not again catch up to us. About 4 o'clock in the afternoon we overtook another wagon by the side of the road. It was one of Bishop Eames's wagons. His wife had died of cholera and they were digging her grave not more than seven miles from where he was buried. Indeed it was a sad sight. Death was stalking abroad in daylight as well as in darkness. We passed on to Wood River about ten miles from the last mentioned grave.
The cholera attacked three or four in our camp that night, and at noon the next day Brother Amos Hunt lost a son about 16 year of age. He was immediately buried. Camp moved on and at night another died and was likewise buried. In the morning we moved again. Indeed it seemed as if we were in Death's valley so many new graves did we pass every day. We were now on the River Platte and in a day or two after sickness ceased, and we all felt a great relief had come to us and we thanked the Lord for it.
The camp always rested on the Sabbath Day, and meetings were held as often as we could do so. On the Sabbath, three and sometimes four men were on guard at night in camp and two more men with the cattle. Sometimes we had to drive the cattle several miles to get good feed, and the guard stayed with them all night. Our corral was formed every night. The first wagon would stop at a place designated, the next wagon would turn a little to the right and move forward till the front wheel of the one was just opposite the hind wheel of the first and so on till all were disposed in like manner, leaving room front or rear, as was most convenient for the stock to pass in or out. A few men at this opening could rope all the cattle very easily, and we could better defend ourselves against the Indians or other enemies, by thus being always ready. We got along in peace if not in plenty, but troublesome as all these cares were, it was better than the fear of the mobs and it was pleasant to reflect we were going to a land of peace, if not plenty.
Thus, day by day, and week by week, we traveled onward toward a land of promise, where we would be free to serve and worship the Lord, our God, according to the dictates of our own conscience, with none to afflict or oppress, free from the hands of such men as those who killed the Prophets of the Lord and drove helpless, sick men and women, whose husbands and sons were in the service of the government. This—same government did not raise a hand to prevent these outrages. Surely the God of Israel will remember this and reward every man according to his works whether they be good or whether they be evil.
Near the forks of the Platte River, it was thought best to divide our company into two or more camps so that we could travel faster. Accordingly this was done and we did go faster than before dividing. One night near Laramie, about 11:00 o'clock, the guards were making their rounds, and one of them went out among the horses to see if all was right with them, when the guard, Brother Edward Thompson, was shot by some one among the horses. Camp was immediately aroused. Each man took his gun and went to see what was the matter, but we never knew who fired that shot that wounded the guard. Though suspicion rested on a young man in the company, nothing was ever proved against him. We did not sleep any more that night.
The man who was shot had his leg broken close to his body, and as it was very warm it was difficult to prevent the wound from mortifying, but it got well in a few weeks. We did not know but what it was an Indian that had done the shooting, but the next morning saw no signs of Indians. The ground was quite sandy so we could have found some signs of them, nor was anything missing, animals or anything else.
Our company did not cross the Platte River at Ft. Laramie, but continued up the north side till we reached the mountains 40 or 50 miles above Ft. Laramie. We camped with the 11th Company, James Megaw [McGraw], Captain. We stayed here two or three days as the feed was good. We found old acquaintances and had a good time visiting.
It was a new thing for me to climb mountains. The different kinds of timber, pine and spruce, the magnificent scenery and the view to be had were entirely new to me and one which I greatly enjoyed. In after years in Utah I grew to love these mountains with all my heart.
The buffalo, that were at this time to be seen on the hills and plains of the Platte River, were something wonderful—immense. From the hills bordering on the river, probably 50 feet high, one could look in every direction as far as the eye could reach. The earth was covered black with moving masses of buffalo, so close together the ground could not be seen. We had to put out guards right and left to prevent them from going between the wagons and stampeding our cattle and horses. Being thus prepared we got along without any stampede, which was not the case with others who were less watchful, and as the buffalo did not travel much in the night we got along very well. Indeed we saw an old work ox which had gotten in with the buffalo, and we could not get him to leave them.
When we left this campground, we left the 11th company and we saw them no more till we arrived in Utah. We soon crossed the Platte River to the south side. The country on the north side was so rough we could hardly travel over it, and our teams were beginning to get a little weary, and feed at the camping places was not enough for large herds. It was thought best to again divide our company. We did so, and to lighten our loads as much as possible, we threw out boxes and other things that could be spared to help the poor hard worked teams. My brother-in-law, George Wilding, who had married my sister, Mary Elizabeth, in the spring of 1851, broke his wagon, and his team being weak and nothing with which to mend the wagon, it was thought best to leave his wagon. We put his load and team to other wagons so we could move on, and in a few days reached Deer Creek. There was coal here, right in the bed of the creek, so we stopped here two days to mend wagon yokes, chains, etc., and to spend Sunday. We moved on the next day, and when we stopped at noon, quite a large camp of Cheyenne Indians came up to us. As these Indians were in their war paints, and seemed a little hostile, we did not know what to do. It was a little ticklish to say the least, so to let them see we were not afraid of them (but at the same time we knew we were) we got out our fiddles, and the young people had a dance which greatly amused them, and after giving them a few presents they moved off, which, I assure you was just the move that suited us best. After they had gone a little while we move on too, but not in the direction they went. That night we put on a double guard. We saw them no more and we were glad of this.
We soon reached the last crossing of the Platte River which is very sandy and about two feet deep at this place. After some little difficulty we all got safely over and in one and one-half days, reached Independence Rock on the Sweetwater River. Had plenty of cedar for wood. Next day we moved on to the three crossings of Sweetwater River. As I was driving loose stock, I left the road and went to see the Devil's Gate where the River runs between perpendicular rocks from one to two hundred feet high, the water taking all the room between the rocks.
At Independence Rock or near there, we saw a lake which was about one foot deep of crystal saleratus. We could have gathered a ton in thirty minutes. We got all that we wanted and passed on.
We camped on Strawberry Creek where gold was discovered in 1861. The ground was white with frost in the morning, September 1. The next day we went over the celebrated South Pass, where waters divide those going to the Gulf of Mexico on the east, and those on the west to the Pacific Ocean, or Gulf of California. Camped at Pacific Springs. There was another company here and the young men of both companies got together. We thought they were very insulting in their language and we proposed to resent this. At night we got together to go down to their camp to have it out with them, but the captain of our company with others, found out what we were up to, and went to the captains of their company, and the fun we were expecting to have didn't come. Better counsel prevailing.
Started on next morning and at night camped in a patch of the biggest sagebrush we had ever seen. As the nights here were quite cool, the sage was very acceptable to make campfires.
This day we killed quite a number of prairie dogs, which we cooked over our sagebrush fires. They were very palatable meat, although some folks could not persuade themselves to taste it, because it was called dog.
Camped at Big Sandy. Nights were cool and days clear and warm. We came to Green River and camped. The Big Wind River Mountains were clearly seen to the north with Fremont's Peak towering high above the others. These could be seen for hundreds of miles all around. The lowlands were covered with sagebrush with a little grass between, and peopled with prairie dogs, hares, antelope, hyenas, coyotes and Indians, a few white men or half-breeds, and a few mountaineers, some of whom kept stock which were very fat and nice to our eyes, compared with our very thin, poor stock that had come all the way from the Missouri River this season, and were well nigh worn out with long traveling.
Passing Green River, we passed onto the west over a somewhat elevated sage plain. To the south of the road a few miles, in some small broken hills, I saw quite a number of petrified pine trees, broken off seven or eight feet from the ground, with the rough bark and all turned to sandstone. There had evidently been quite a forest of them at some time in the long ago, in the present state of Wyoming.
Camped on Black Fork. Cattle were ranging on the plains along the road right and left. Traveled about 20 miles and camped with sagebrush and cottonwoods for fuel. Some snow fell in the night. We started early next morning and at night came to Fort Bridger. Crossed to the west side of Black's Fork, camped for the night. Next day went to the top of Aspen Hill, camped in the quaking asp timber. Snowed about five inches. This was our introduction to mountain snow storms. In the morning the cattle were gone and snow everywhere. We Hunted till about noon and found them all right. They had gone west down off the ridge where [there was] little snow and were doing first rate. We got started about 2 o'clock and [got] to Bear River that night. No snow had fallen here and we had a good place to camp and plenty of good wood for fires. It was a cold chilly night.
About two hours drive the next morning we came to a spring trench that was a little hard to cross. The mud was deep and Brother Vinson Cooper turned his wagon over, but we soon had all things righted and went on over the divide and into Echo Canyon, and nooned at Cache Cave. Here I quit work for Brother John W. Lasley as we could not agree, and I traveled with my Uncle A. A. Bybee, my mother's brother. Camped on the Weber River at the mouth of Echo Canyon. Visited the Witches Rocks on the east side of Weber River and then crossed to the west side of the river near where the town of Henefer is located, and up a small stream and over a divide to Canyon Creek, which we crossed at least a dozen times, and camped in the timber. Here I was married to Mrs. Lucinda M. Bassett, whose husband, Hyrum D. Bassett, died at Winter Quarters in the winter of '47. He was a very good man. Elder Peter Manzer performed the ceremony. Brother John W. Lasley and his wife, Mrs. Bassett's sister, both said when she asked them to come and see us married, that they would rather follow her to her grave than see her married. We stood up, dressed as we were any day in the week, by the campfire after supper and the ceremony was performed. At this time I could have carried on my back at one load, all we possessed, but we had plenty of faith in God, the Eternal Father, who has never yet forsaken us.
We traveled on through the timber, up the Big Mountain, till we reached the top and then began the descent. It was very steep and dangerous, but we got safely down and nooned at a little creek at the foot of the mountain. We did not stop long here, as we had been told that from the top of the next little mountain, we could see some of the valley of the Great Salt Lake, so we hurried on to see who should get there first. We soon reached the top and there before us lay the valley we had come so far to see. Some were moved to tears of thankfulness, others were so disappointed with the looks of the place, all sagebrush, dry, treeless plain. I felt very much disappointed, and felt as blue as blue could be, but we went on down the little mountain and across the bench to the City. Got there about 4 o'clock on September 27, 1852.