Alston, Thomas, [Autobiography], in Ray Lester Alston, comp., "Thomas Alston and Mary Ellen Holt Alston," , 16-19.
The only convenience for shelter was a warehouse of two storeys; the company occupied the upper story; The only partitions were white paint marks on the floor.
Preparations had not been completed for furnishing the outfits, so we remained there for several weeks, while the various supplies were brought in, the cattle paired, the young steers and cows broken to yoke, wagons put up and necessaries for the trip across the plains gotten together.
It was great sport for the youngsters, who had never seen an ox and scarcely a cow, to climb to the top of the corral fence and watch the men lasso the steers, tie them to a post, put the yoke on one, bring up another in the same way, put him at the other end of the yoke and after completing the yoking, turn the pair loose to kick around the corral and often turn the yoke beneath their necks instead of on top, which condition continued until the cattle would become tame enough to conduct themselves like gentlemen oxen and allow themselves to become yokefellows in a proper manner.
The cows were not quite so unruly as the steers, but did not like the yoke too well. There were about 1/3 as many cows as oxen so that each team of three pairs had a pair of cows.
When the supplies and outfits were distributed, mother [Ann Molyneaux Alston] again trusted Elder Taylor to advise her as to the kind of articles she should purchase, and as before she was improperly advised in the selection of our outfit. According to advise, she purchased a wooden axel wagon instead of a thimble skein, which would have been much more up to date and given better service; also a wood stove instead of a coal burner; she later discovered that she had been "sold again" and Elder Taylor got the money. In addition to the stove etc., she bought some sheet iron with which to make stove pipes when we reached the valley, and like a provident housewife, laid in an ample supply of flour, bacon, dried apples etc., to last us the entire journey. Our motive power consisted of one yoke of steers, which were hitched in the lead, a pair of cows, one of which gave milk, hitched next behind the steers, in the swing and lastly a pair of older cattle on the tongue, the wheel, so we were all ready for the long, dusty journey.
Of course mother could not drive the team and I was too young and otherwise unfitted for the job, so she had to scout around for a teamster. A comparatively young man offered his services as driver for his passage, but for some reason a married man with his wife was selected, he to drive for his passage, board, etc., and to pay for his wife's [Ann T. Hallett's] passage upon arrival in Utah. His name was Samuel Hallett. After arrival in Utah, the good brother refused to pay anything, and again the widow and children were duped.
Everything was paid for at the time of purchase and it was thought that we were all set for the trip. In order to save money, unbleached factory was purchased for the wagon cover, which was sewn by hand; in order as she thought, to prevent the rain penetrating to the contents of the wagon she sewed oilcloth together to make an additional cover, which was placed on the bows, under the cotton cover; it was thought that everything was OK, but the oil cloth not being large enough to cover the entire bows, when the rains came the water would penetrate the cotton, run down from the oil cloth and drip therefrom into the wagon. Before leaving Wyoming, Brother Taylor persuaded mother to bring some articles for his son-in-law, John C. Cutler, afterwards Governor or Utah, which articles were delivered although many of our own items were thrown out in order to ease the load as the cattle be-poor and began to die.
Our train was made up of an imdependant company and placed under the leadership of one Captain Walker, who was from Utah and therefore somewhat acquainted with the route and the handling of teams. Among the members of the company was a family from South Africa named Kershaw. There was also two colored men from Africa, who strenuously objected to being called niggars and said they were Caffairs.
Cooking over a campfire made of a few sticks and "Buffalo Chips" (dried dung) was rather a novel experience for people not accustomed to camping out, but all soon became quite expert in cooking with the primitive utensils. My part of the culinary art being to bake apple cakes in a frying pan; they being cakes of bread dough, raised with a piece of sour dough, made into a sandwich with stewed dried apples, in which I became quite proficient.
At many of the places along the Platte River it was necessary to double up the teams to get the wagons over fords and up hills, etc. We were not molested by Indians; in fact, I do not remember seeing more than one Indian on the entire trip, and he was at some distance from the road, standing like a sentinel, near Chimney Rock.
Several times we drove through the camping place where the preceeding company had placed their fires ready to light and had been driven therefrom by Indians. On one occasion as they journeyed along, a couple named Gruntvig, and a young lady, strayed behind the train, contrary to the orders of their Captain, when they were surprised by a number of savages who shot the man with arrows, although not fatally, lassoed Mrs. Gruntvig and dragged her off and attempted to do the same with the younger woman, but she threw the lasso off her body, but in doing so lost the tip of two fingers which were severed by the lasso.
One incident which promised to be serious occurred as we were driving along slowly, our team being toward the rear of the train, when all at once the teams in the lead became frightened and stampeded; the team directly in front of ours started so quickly that a young woman who was sitting in the rear of the wagon, fell backward and hung by the heels of her shoes until the team was stopped; our team did not run. I think the driver ran in front of them and thus prevented their becoming frightened.
At one time when Hallett was having some trouble with the cattle he remarked, "Mrs. Alston, these cattle of yours don't know haw or gee", mother replied, "I am not driving them, you are."
Very little game was encountered on the trip; only one antelope being killed and brought into camp; on being divided we received a small piece of the meat, which tasted very nice; it was the only taste of fresh meat we had on the entire journey. I do not remember seeing any buffalo.
Among the articles bought at Wyoming, by advice of Elder Taylor, was a large Navy Revolver, which after reaching Utah was loaned to Richard Carr, to take in the Indian campaign; we never saw it afterwards.
My place in the wagon was usually in front where I could view the landscape and the other teams leading us, Mrs. Hallett, a very large woman, occupied the center, where she could lie down and rest, which she did nearly all the time, while mother and sister Lizzie [Elizabeth] walked to lighten the load, sometimes trudging along 25 miles per day.
On arriving at the alkali plains the animals began to give out on account of the scant feed and impure water; they would drop in the road, be rolled out of the way and be left to be deboured by wolves. Our first loss was the milch cow and thereafter we missed that addition to our rations. The next to bid us good-bye was one of the older oxen, followed soon after by one of the steers; so we were left with just one half of our team and were compelled to borrow an ox to make a team of four animals.
In order to lighten our load we were compelled to throw away many of the heavier articles, among which I remember was our iron kettle which had been used for boiling water in[,] over the camp fires, also other things that would have been useful upon our arrival in Zion, but we could not dispense with the heaviest article of freight, Mrs. Hallett, who stuck to her seat through good and evil traveling.
Mother often tried to induce me to walk for exercise and on one occasion lifted me out into the road for that purpose, but I lay down in the dust and remained there until I was picked up and carried to the wagon; the experiment was not repeated. I think I must be a typical Alston and that Immotus a part of my nature. At times mother would carry me on her back; on one occasion, in order to make a cutoff and reach camp without going round a clift of rocks, she climbed down backwards a distance of perhaps 40 or 50 feet and we arrived at camp as soon as the teams.
On the route the Scandinavians who were abouta week ahead of us ran short of flour and sent to our train to borrow enough to last them until they could receive supplies from Utah; mother loaned them all we had except enough to last until the expected supply reached them and us; upon the arrival of the looked for supply, we received only a small portion of the amount we were entitled to, which when baked was quite black and sticky (probably made from frozen wheat) and we did not relish it; soon after Captain Walker asked mother how we were getting along; she replied "very well, only my children cannot eat the black bread", he said "Oh, they will get used to it", whereupon she said "no they never will" and we never did.
It was customary in those days for people living in Utah so [to] send to their relarives [relatives] and friends enroute supplies of vegetables etc., so as to vary their food, which custom Grandfather Molyneux followed and sent a box of potatoes etc., to mother, which never reached her; about the time the box should have arrived, she was passing the captain's part of the camp and saw him and his associates eating and enjoying Utah potatoes, which she said made her mouth water for some of the vegetables, but not suspecting that they were hers, passed on without saying a word, only noting the box; on arriving in Salt Lake City and conversing with her father, he inquired if she had received the supplies; she told him no and described the box she saw at the captain's fire; he declared it was the one he had sent; thus again was the widow and fatherless deprived of their own by their greedy brethren.
Arriving at Green River it was found to be at flood and spread over a wide expanse of country; it was deemed necessary to "double up" the deams in order to get across; the teams in the lead were thus gotten over and were left until the last; as it was approaching darkness and seeing no one coming to our assistance, Mr. Hallet drove into the river; we had not proceeded far when the wagon began to float down the stream, whereupon the driver jumped into the water, which reached up to his arms, and with his whip so belabored the animals that they made a desperate effort to get ahead and finally succeeded, and some of the party seeing our predicament came to our assistance and we finally reached the opposite bank, having had a great fright.
Only one death on the plains occurs to me; all I remember of the incident being the funeral, when the people gathered round the grave singing "The Resurrection Day".
At some distance East of Fort Bridger we were met by teams from the Valley with provisions for sale; then it was that we got our first taste of Molasses (Sorghum), which surely tasted good; there mother arranged with a man who had a horse team, who had sold his supplies, to carry us to Salt Lake City; so we left our team in charge of Hallett and started on ahead.
When we arrived near Fort Bridger we camped on the prairie at a short distance from the fort, where we encountered our first show storm; as we lay on the ground, we slept very comfortably and on awakening in the morning found about four inches of snow over the bed.
Nothing further of importance happened on the way to the "Valleys of the Mountains"; we were amazed at the scenery in Echo Canyon, the rocks which the men from Salt Lake and vicinity had prepared to roll down on Johnson's Army, had the attempt been made to enter Salt Lake Valley before the proper arrangements therefore had been made and particularly with the echo which we heard.
After an early morning's drive we arrived at Coalville near noon; we were all quite tired and hungry; we called at a house on the East side of the street, just South of the coal mine and almost opposite the stone meeting house and asked the occupants if they would prepare a meal for us, but were refused, so drove on a little farther, purchased some eggs and cooked a meal over a campfire. After dinner we drove to Wanship, passed through the town and stayed over night with a family named Bates, living on a farm at the mouth of Silver Creek Canyon; in the morning "Brother Bates" took mother for a walk, showing her his farm and proposed that we stay there and she become his wife, which she declined with thanks and we proceeded on our way through Silver Creek Canyon into Parley's Park, where we were met by John Ollerton and others on their way to meet our company.
At about seven or eight o'clock in the evening we arrived at the home of mother's sister, Margaret, who had married John Wilson; they lived on Ninth East Street near the corner of Eleventh South Street (now 17th South) in November, 1865, having been more than six months on the journey.