Nelson, James Horace, Sr., "Autobiography of James Horace Nelson, Senior, from the original manuscript of the author, by his son, Horace J. Nelson," , 5-10.
LEAVING THE EAST FOR THE VALLEYS OF
MOUNTAINS IN THE WEST, TO JOIN MAIN
BODY OF CHURCH"
June 17th, 1852, we crossed the Missiouri River on a flat boat, and started our journey towards the Great Salt Lake Valley. The trip across the plains was an eventful one for a boy of thirteen years of age, who had just previously been living in a large city, going to school, and unaccustomed to hardships of any nature. I will here state from my birth to the time of starting on this journey, I was a very weakly and sickly child—in fact I had often heard my father [David Nelson] say, I was the most sickly child my mother [Mary Thompson Miller Nelson] had, and many times my parents had given me up to die. But I always had great faith in the ordinances of the Gospel, and when I would be taken violently sick I would desire my father to administer to me by anointing me with oil, and the laying on of hands.
For months before leaving St. Louis, I looked forward to the time when we should start for the West, as I had a great desire to be gathered with the Saints, and when on the journey, I greatly rejoiced. The trip across the plains was attended with a great deal of danger, as there were no bridges across the streams in those days. The larger streams we would cross with flat boats, and the shallower ones, we would ford. There were fiftytwo or fiftythree wagons in the Company we came in, and a man by the name of Thomas [John] Tidwell was Captain of the Company. I do not remember the names of the Captains of the tens, as each ten had a Captain, ten wagons constituting what was called a "Ten." Besides my father’s family in our wagon was a man by the name of [Henry] Thompson, with his little boy [William] about eight years old, both of whom hired their passage with us from St. Louis.
"A THRILLING INCIDENT AND A NARROW ESCAPE
FROM DEATH BY THE INDIANS"
When we entered the Sioux Indian country in the Black Hills, this Thompson boy, and myself, also my father, had a very narrow escape from being killed and robbed by these Indians. There are some very bad sand ridges and hills to pass over in the Black Hills, making it necessary to double teams when we came to bad roads. It was on one of these hills that my father took his teams off one wagon, and helped one of the brethren over the hill (which by the way was over a mile, over), and left this Thompson boy with myself, with our wagon at the foot of the hill. We were not frightened in the least during my father’s absence of about one hour, as we played about the wagon. Father returned alone with five yoke of cattle; the man he had helped over this hill remained with the main Company. We hitched the oxen to our wagon, and got to the top of the hill all right, but when we got on the level, we were startled by the appearance of an Indian on horseback, to the right, coming toward us. I was very much alarmed! He came up to us, and first offered his hand to me, but I would not accept it, whereupon he went to my father, and put out his hand to him, and they shook hands. However, I did not feel that the Indian was a friend which subsequent events proved I was right. In a few moments, we looked up and saw a large band of Indians to the right of us on a Bluff, probably a half mile distant. Our supposed Indian friend traveled right along with us, talking all the while to my father. As near as I can recall, he must have gone with us a third of a mile, when suddenly he left to join his comrades. No sooner had he left than my father told us boys to whip up the oxen. The Thompson boy sat on the front of the wagon, and I got on the off side of the team, and the way we made the dust and the sand fly, "was a caution!" as the saying is. (I can remember this experience as though it happened yesterday.)
In the meantime, the main Company had gone on and left us quite a distance behind. As soon as we commenced going down the hill, we noticed the Indians endeavoring to head us off. There were quite a large band of them, but we kept the oxen running at full speed, and as Providence had so over-ruled, our company had stopped right at the foot of the hill, or rather under the hill, to feed the cattle, as where we had camped the night before there was no grass for the stock. The Indians upon seeing that the Company had stopped, circled around, and went direct to the Camp, instead of attacking us. We were soon met on the road by a great many of the brethren and sisters, congratulating us on our narrow escape from being robbed and scalped by the Indians, these savages of the plains! I will here state that the Captain did not know we were behind until he saw the Indians trying to head us off, and apparently the Indians thought we were traveling alone, until they saw our Company. Upon arriving in Camp, and seeing the great number of Indians, and how mad they were that they did not succeed in getting us, we were very thankful and our hearts were filled with gratitude to our Heavenly Father for our deliverance! Such a thing as our Company stopping at 10 or 10:30 o’clock in the forenoon did not happen before or after on the entire journey.
This experience brings to mind a conversation between a storekeeper and myself, a short time previous to leaving St. Louis. I was at the store where my father bought his paints, oils, and glass, when the keeper of the store put his hand on my head and said, "Sonny, you are soon going to Great Salt Lake, and the Indians will kill you and your father’s family and that will be the last of you all." I thought what he said to me when the Indians got after us, and a great many times since, but we were preserved in a most miraculous manner by the hand of the Lord. I have given considerable space to describing this incident, more than I intended at first, but I desire to let my posterity, and those who come after me, know a little of the dangers and hardships their fathers and mothers had to endure in gathering up to the mountains, the place appointed and preserved by the Lord for His people, as a resting place, after the persecutions they had to endure in the Eastern states. There were many incidents which happened on the journey, but this one I have just described, I always considered the most thrilling and exciting. I might add that this particular band of Indians followed our Company the rest of the day, and tried to steal our stock during the night, but there was a double guard put on, and they did not succeed in their desires, for plunder.
"ARRIVAL AT SALT LAKE."
Finally after a long and tedious journey we arrived at Salt Lake City, Sept. 16th, 1852. My health was excellent at all times on this journey. I walked most of the way, driving the team, and I got quite rugged. When I beheld the city of the saints, my heart was filled with joy, and gratitude to my Heavenly Father for preserving my life, to behold this goodly land! I believe I had the spirit of gathering as much as if I had been of mature years, and I can remember how pleased and thankful I was in driving those two yoke of oxen and one of cows, down the dusty roads of the Bench from Emmigration Canyon into the beautiful streets of Great Salt Lake City.