Letter from John A. Hunt to Brigham Young, 11 October 1856.
- Source Locations
- Church History Library, CR 1234 1_b0024_f0022, items 27-34
- Related Companies
- John A. Hunt Company (1856)
Camp on the Platte. 5m. West of
Oct. 11. 1856.
President Brigham Young
I resume my pen to inform you of the welfare of the company of emigrating Saints under my charge, Since I wrote you from near Fort Kearney. I mentioned in my last that the Cheyennes were hostile & comitting depredeations on the travellers, we however have met with no difficulty up to this point, and indeed we Saw none between Forts Kearney & Laramie, except 4 Rappahoes [Arapahoe], and a few Sioux at Bisnett’s trading post 20 m. East of the latter place.
On the 20th ult. [September] while encamped[,] a Small party of traders from Green River, as they said, drove up and camped near us. They reported that they had passed the scenes of Several Massacres, one of wh[ic]h was that of Secretary Babbitt & party. One of the party, Charles Martin, exhibited a Small trunk containing numerous letters, documents & promissory notes, belonging to the Secretary, which he said he had picked up on the spot where the murder was perpetrated[,] and intended to deliver to the Comd. Officer at Ft. Kearney.
One of the promissory notes was from Livingston & Kinkead for upwards of $8000 paye. [payable?] in G.S.L. City. There were letters & papers in the Same trunk with Thos. Sutherland’s name upon, and we have Since learned that he and also Thos. Margetts with, in all probability, their companions have met with death from Indians.
On the 21st Elias Davis from Kent Con. [Conference] died of the dysentery & was buried the Same night. He leaves a widow [Ann] who is with us.
On the 25th we passed the spot where Mr. Babbitt was murdered, Saw his carriage wheels & other fragments. A piece of his hair was picked up by Some of the company, and a receipt from Curtis E. Bolton for $500. by Sister Redding.
On the 26th while among Some bluffs with Gilbert Spencer I picked up Some human hair, bones, & parts of Stockings. During the Same morning Some fragments of blue checked Shirts, and a calico “garment” were picked up and saturated with blood. Altogether I think we have passed palpable Signs of three massacres, besides those of Mr. Babbitt’s men near Ft. Kearney. While the Indians have held Such bloody revel this Season, and we have thus far been Spared and also the companies ahead of us, we feel our gratitude to God increased & renew our diligence to help ourselves while He helps us. In
Up to Sandy Bluffs, at Wolf Creek named in Claytons guide[,] we <saw a> travelled on the North Side of the Platte, but previously to arriving Saw a notice from Elder Martin to beware of hostile Indians in that quarter in consequence of which we did not cross the Bluffs, but went up the bed of the river to a point where the road over them descended again to the “bottom.” After crossing Crab Creek, I lost trace of the preceding companies & with G. Spencer went over to the South Side to ascertain if they had crossed the river and found that they had.
On the 2nd inst. [October] I crossed my company and Since that time have travelled on the South Side, which I expect to continue until arriving at the last crossing of the Platte. The same day we passed Mr. Jonathan Grimshaw & other returning emigrants with a military escort going to Ft. Kearney.
On the 4th SuSannah Bruner [Susannah Briner] from the Swiss & Italian Mission died, aged 64 yrs. & was buried by the roadside.
On the 5th we buried Marinda Lucy [Nancy] Pay, aged 11 wks, who had died sometime during the night. The Same day while we were yet in camp Elder P.P. Pratt & party passed us on their way East, all well I believe. Bro. Pratt visited the Camp for about 15 minutes.
On the 6th John Turner from Kent Con., [Conference] died of dysentery, aged 42 yrs and was buried in the evening.
On the following day we made probably the best morning’s travel we had made on the whole journey but I regret to Say that just as the wagons were turning off the road to noon the whole camp was thrown into a State of gloom by the death of Sister Esther Walters, aged 39, by a Stampede caused by an ox in one of the rear teams getting loose & running with the yoke on his neck. About ten of the teams started, and in the confusion the sister [Esther Walters] was knocked down and kicked by the oxen. She leaves an infant behind not 2 months old. [Jane Walters] Her husband’s [John Walters’s] team did not run, but while he was after those that had[,] his wife came to her melancholy end. In the afternoon we buried her, mended two wagons broken in the Stampede, and moved on about one mile.
On the 8th, a man from Bisnett’s trading post rode into camp at noon & from him I learned the following particulars concerning the Indian difficulties, which he stated had been communicated by some “old men” of the Cheyennes to him, and to the military authorities at Fort Laramie – “A Small party of their young men had, contrary to the wishes & injunctions of the old men, gone out to fight the Pawnees & had encamped a little below Kearney, when a halfbreed boy among them descried the mail party coming along and being in want of a little tobacco rode up & asked for it, but was refused. He then offered a pair of mocassins for Some & was Still refused, but continued his pertinacity which led the mail driver to draw his revolver & shoot. He fired twice without hitting the boy who wheeled round on his horse & called to his Indian friends that he was shot at, and asked what he was to do. They said the law was to shoot the man who had fired and away the boy rode & put an arrow into the wrist of one of the mail party, which was all the harm done. (this agrees with a Statement made to me by Captain _______ at Ft. Kearney) They then threw Some of their feed out and escaped to the fort & the boy returned to the Indian Encampment and requested his friends to leave with him immediately, but they would not, treating the whole affair as a boyish freak.
The next morning the boy again urged their departure, assuring them that the Soldiers would be down upon them. They still refused & shortly after the military came out & killed 7 of them. The rest escaped with the loss of their blankets & bows & arrows, which one of the Indians proposed they should try to regain after the Soldiers had returned to the Fort. This was opposed by another who Saw Mr. Babbitt’s train of wagons & proposed that they Should attack that & Supply themselves. ‘The Soldiers had attacked and killed Some of them, they would attack the first whites they Saw, that would be right.’ was the language of the man who made the Suggestion and which was carried out. This was the commencement of the Several massacres which have been reported. The Indians Say that they attacked Mr. Babbitt, while he was nooning, and his men getting up the mules, that he fought like a tiger until his shots were all fired, when they rushed upon him & killed him. His men also were killed. The Indians report none of their own number killed. The old men had been to Ft. Laramie to Seek peace but were told they must give up their white prisoners first. They said they had a woman and a boy which they would deliver up, but on returning for them they had made their escape, either to the Sioux, or to a Surveying party. They were then informed at Ft. Laramie that the Great Father would let the matter pass for the present, if they would promise to keep 75 m. from the road until next Spring when they should hear further. One of the “old men” in Speaking of the affair said he was ashamed that his people should attack defenceless travellers, and that among their victims was a Mr. Rowland, bro-in-law to one of their women. He said if they had challenged and fought the Soldiers he would not have been So much grieved, but, continued he they, if they knew it could extinguish us & wipe us out of existence. To illustrate himself he said it would be like a traveller taking up a bit of dirt in his hands, rubbing it to powder and blowing it, after which it would be impossible to collect it again.
On the 9th in the afternoon, I set off to Laramie with G. Spencer, to see Cap Hodgett’s company of wagons & the Hand Cart Company under Cap. Martin, which I was informed by Cap. Anderson & Lieut. Carr, U.S. Army, were at the Fort. We arrived just as they were moving off, but I remained over night and Saw Caps Hodgetts & Martin, and learned of the death of Mr. Thos. Tennant, which took place on the 4th inst. He is buried at Fort Laramie. I learned from Elder Martin that about 30 of his people had died between Florence and that point, and that some few men feeling too-weak to proceed further had enlisted at Ft Laramie. I have learned this evening that 5 more have died to-day. I refrain from saying further as Elder Martin has doubtless communicated to you the position of his company. I may, however, be permitted to say that I think them in a very low state, and that they need immediate and radical assistance. I do not wish to pass them but I believe it will be extremely difficult for them to keep ahead. I need not assure you that any assistance that I or my company can render them will not be witheld in the hour of need, although it must not be too much depended upon as some of my teams are already failing and the provisions in the company are not more than sufficient even with good luck to carry us through.
Returning to my own company, it arrived at Ft. Laramie about 2 hours after Sunset on the 9th & I returned to it next morning & found all well, except that Bro. [John] Wiseman had lost his son John Joseph, aged 5 yrs. during the night. We buried him yesterday in the Fort burial ground alongside Bro. Tennant. This is the Second child [Henry H. Wiseman] he has lost on the way, and all he has except a daughter in New Zealand, and with the death of the last[,] considerable property passes away from his wife [Mary Ann]. He is a man who has done much for the cause in England & deserves sympathy. We were detained at the Fort making purchases until after 3 o’clock & then came on to this place,
were <where we> have been engaged all day in exchanging cattle & purchasing new ones. We hope to make an early start in the morning.
There are a few cases of sickness yet, but I sincerely trust none others will prove fatal. The whole company seem in tolerably good spirits and hope by diligence to get through without experiencing inconvenience from cold or snow, although we have considerable ice at nights.
Our prayers are daily attended to and our faith in the promises of God through His servants we feel assured is increasing. We hope to be remembered by you day by day, as also our good brethren who Surround you.
Your Obedient Servant
John A Hunt