"Autobiography of Richard Isaac Mills Sr. (1836-1910)." In Mills, Paul Stevens, comp. Of Noble Birth: A Brief Sketch of the Ancestors of Clyde William Mills (Bountiful, Utah: Paul Stevens Mills, 1973), 25-30.
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On the 4th day of April, 1859 I left my father and mother, brothers and sisters, for Liverpool on my way for Zion. I left Liverpool on the 11th of April and arrived in New York on the 14th of May in the ship William Tapscott, a sailing vessel. We then left New York the next day up the Hudson River to Albany and so took the train right for Suspended Bridge, Niagara Falls, and to St. Joseph and to Florence up the Missouri River.
I then started across the plains with handcarts, came in to the Black Hills with them, but by that time I was so weak and low that I asked my mate, a young man named George Read, to let us stop overnight, not thinking that we should not overtake the company again.
So we stepped out on one side and begged five matches from the company as they passed on by us, and when we needed a light for fire it so happened that every match struck a light.
We did not have enough to eat. We only had one pint cup of flour for a day’s provision and mixed that up with water—no meat unless a sick cow or ox should be killed to save it. Then we might go back a mile or two and get some of it after pulling the cart 15 to 20 miles a day with 200 pounds of flour besides 20 pounds of luggage and the four cups of flour for a week’s allowance.
At one place we met the Indians waiting to meet another tribe for war. Three of the chiefs followed us to camp and stopped with us all night, and they were so full of war, they got up in the night and sang—I suppose the war song.
In the morning I gave the head chief, as I supposed him, part of a looking glass. It was a small round pocket glass broke across so that one half came out of the tin. When I gave it to him he took his knife and cut off the tin that had no glass in. He then quite a few times viewed himself through the glass and seemed very pleased with it. And while we stood there we saw two buffalo in sight and showed them to the chief. He then spoke to the other two, and they unsaddled their horses and away they went.
After a while, the chief went, and before we were ready to start on our journey they came back with their horses loaded with buffalo meat all cut up in pieces. They then began to give it to the people.
I then thought I would go for a piece, but the people were so crowded around the Indians that I could not get [any], so I told them to make room and let me come. And when the chief that I gave the glass to saw me, he rolled over the meat till he found a nice piece right off the round without any bone, and he gave me that, and I went on my way rejoicing.
Some of the Saints then gave them presents. One sister gave a nice white duster to one of them, and he put it on and viewed himself, and was so proud that he sprang on his horse and away he went back to his tribe. And the captain had tea and pancakes given to them for breakfast. They drank a little tea but preferred water instead of tea.
At another time, we met with Indians just as we were getting on some very heavy sandy road. The Indians then got off their horses and came one or two to a cart and pulled us over the sand. There was one to the cart that I was at, and with me being so weak the Indians seemed to be as strong as a horse. And they enjoyed the fun of pulling us over the sand, and I am sure I was pleased to let them. They were very good to us, and I believe the Lord sent them to help us.
After we left the handcarts—the company went the next morning and left us—we started after them, but the sun got up so hot, and were on the tops of the mountains without water. And not knowing anything about mountains, we went to look for water and found wild gooseberries which made us more thirsty.
At last, I gave out, so George, after I asked him to go after the camp and bring some water to me, he went when he saw I could not go, and he took a little flour and made some mush and brought water on the top of it for me. He said the Captain, George Rowley, said he was going, so we were too late, so we stopped in the Black Hills from Saturday till Monday by ourselves.
And it so happened that the captain had taken 100 pounds of flour out of our cart, so that left us 100 in the cart. So for those three days rest and plenty of flour we got along, but on Monday morning Joseph Young’s mule train came along and took breakfast a little ways off. But only one man came to us to see what we were doing there alone.
But we were picking some green currants to make a pudding without sugar, only flour and water. So in the afternoon two men came back after us and said we should have to travel all night to overtake the camp, so we started.
When we came to a heavy pull, I asked them to take hold and help. “No,” says they, “You can pull yourselves. We are not going to help you.” So after awhile we saw a wagon coming back from the valley going east, and they asked us if we wanted to go back. Some of the company had told them of us, to befriend us, so we took a little flour and put it and our things in the wagon and went back to Fort Laramie. And so we left them to pull the handcart all the way to camp.
After traveling three days back, we were out of flour. The people that we went back with gave us a little milk which helped us. They had a cow or two.
While at Laramie an old trader told us to go over to the Fort and ask the Colonel for work or provisions to go back with. So we went, and he allowed us 30 pounds of hard bread or crackers and 18 pounds of bacon which was to last us till we got to another fort.
The traders took us over the river and brought us back, so when they saw us, they came over with the boat for us. They had fed us before that, so when we came with our load, they offered us $1.00 for 5 pounds of bacon, so we sold it, and that was all the money that we had.
In the meantime, the oxteam company was in sight with Captain Robert Neslon [sic] who was our President on board the ship. And one of the men or traders went to them and told them about us, so after we had something to eat, we went to them.
And the captain met me and asked me if I wanted to go on. I told him yes. George Read had gone the other side the camp, so the captain called a meeting, and the people, most of them, knew us by sight, with being on the sea together.
So the captain told them how we were left in that wild country among savages and wild beasts, and he told them what we had of the government and those who took us must feed us. So we came along again with the ox team.
So I came across the plains both by handcart and by wagons. I would drive team for one and another and so shared very well. I found favor with the captain and the people. Sometimes I would ride. Sometimes I had a little milk or meat.
So I got into Salt Lake City about September 15, 1859 after all my trouble. It had been spoken in tongues before I left home in one of the meetings what trouble I should go through, but if I was faithful I should overcome and get safe to Zion.
Many times I have trembled when I look back to the times when I was on the plains. After we left the handcarts, the next day while on the Black Hill Mountains, just where we were the Platt[e] River ran under the side of a high cliff or hill, and we were so in want of water that I, having a long string of twine, I tied it to a canteen and let it down into the river below. And the place where I stood was so steep that I dared not move, as a slip would have taken me into the river below.
So the canteen floated under a rock, and I dared not move until it got loose again, when I pulled it up.
After that, there came a long strip of a black cloud, and it rained long enough for us to catch a little water in our tin cups. So we did well then until we got to some springs where we stopped from Saturday until Monday.