James McBride autobiography, 1874-1876, 52-58.
View this source online
On the 17th, day of May 1850; having disposed of our homes in Apponoose county, we again started West. In company with myself, were Captain James Dayley, Harrison Severe, and William Pope and families. Also my Sister Mary and her children.
Having traveled about Three hundred miles, we came to Bluff City – then called Kanesville. We staid there a few days, during which time it was decided that the entire company could not safely venture to cross the plains that season.
A council was held. Two families could go on, but the rest would have to stay there, ‘till they could obtain more means.
Harrison Severe, having a better traveling outfit than either of the men of the company, was determined to cross the plains that Season.
One family could go with him. Who should it be? It was finally decided that I should go.
James Dayley, Wm. Pope with their families, and sister Mary Biddlecome and her children, were left to follow on as soon as possible.
We bade our friends good-bye until we should again meet them in a future day, and Harrison Severe, myself and families again started Westward.
Having t[r]aveled about fifteen miles, we got to the ferry on the Missouri river. There we joined a company of fifty families, under Captain Gardner Snow. Joseph Young, a brother of President Brigham Young, was president of the company. Thomas Rich was cap[t]ain of the ten in which we were included.
The organization, and all the necessary arrangements having been made, we crossed the river on the third day of June 1850—on our way to Salt Lake; a distance of more than One thousand miles—over an uncivilized Country.
About the first days travel after we crossed the river, there was a case of Cholera in the Company, which proved fatal.
In all, there were eight cases of cholera in our company, during the first month—from which seven of that number died.
While traveling up the Platte River, much might be said that would be of interest – but I will pass over the principle, and only make mention of a few incidents which transpired.
One forenoon, as the company was quietly traveling along, Suddenly the front teams started—in an instant, the first—Eight-teams were stampeded. Women and children were in the wagons, but most of the drivers were on the ground. For the drivers to keep up with the teams was impossible—Away went the teams—Helter Skelter. Those who have not seen the like, can hardly realize the excitement of the moment.
For perhaps forty rods or more, wheels were whirling rapidly, and wagon sheets were cracking in the wind—when, almost as simultaneous as was the start, the teams—principally in a breast, Stopped. Some of the oxen had been dragged to the ground, chains were wrapped around yokes—and some of the oxen were astraddle of chains.
The stampede was as equally unaccounted for, as was the sudden stopping of so many frightened teams.
The drivers hurrying up—and putting their teams in order, were all anxious to know if anyone was hurt. It was found, that Lyman Severe, son of Dorcas and Harrison Severe, at the time the teams started, was standing on the tongue of my wagon, which was very common for children to do crossing the plains—and in trying to Jump from the wagon, fell, and was run over by the next wagon coming up. He was not so badly hurt, but that he soon recovered.
There were many narrow escapes by drivers—who, in trying to follow their teams, were crowded between oxen and wagons, while being overtaken and passed by them. None however were much hurt.
From the time we left the Missouri river, near Bluff City, there were no white inhabitants, ‘till we got to Fort Kearney—at Grand Island. A distance of one hundred and fifty miles or more.
While traveling up the Platte River a distance of Twenty-five miles, the Buffalo were as numerous as a well collected herd of cattle. To estimate their numbers would be impossible by us. We could see them on each side of the road, for a great distance. It was necessary that someone should be kept ahead to turn them out of the road, in order that the teams could pass with Safety. As fast as the wagons would pass, the Buffalo would close in thickly behind us.
Over a vast space of country—where to-day fields of golden grain are dotting the lands—the hum of busy laborers are heard—and the Iron horse protected by the hand of Civilization whirls thousands of people across unmolested—then only roamed the indian and wild beasts. Indeed the Scenes on the plains in those days were wild and romantic.
Among the many curiosities that attracted the gaze of the traveler; was one called the ‘Chimney rock’—which was about two hundred miles from Fort Kearney. It was not a rock, but a kind of Adobie Clay. We t[r]aveled in sight of the chimney Rock about two days, before we got to it. In the great distance it looked very much like a flag Pole, but gradually grew larger until we camped at the nearest point—to it—from the road. We were then about two miles off.
Harrison Severe and myself went to examine the Curiosity. It was a column more than one hundred <feet> high, and about twenty feet square—which was standing on a hill, perhaps three hundred feet above the level of the plain. The column was covered with names and dates as high as men could reach.
On a fragment laying near the column, I cut my name. This was on the 5th, day of August—1850.
Having climbed the main hill, a distance to the South, we could see on the top of the Column what we supposed to be Raspberry Briars growing.
I have since heard that the Chimney Rock has crumbled down.
Perhaps a hundred and fifty miles more, brought us to fort Laramie. We were yet on the Platte River. From fort Laramie, we traveled over a wild, Mountainous country, for about four hundred miles.
We then came to a place called Fort Bridger. A white man, fleeing from justice, with changed name, had sought refuge among the Indians—and built a home there.
From Bridger, a distance of about One hundred and thirteen miles brought us to the City of Salt Lake—the destined place for the Latter-Day-Saints.
We arrived in Salt Lake City, on the 4th, of October 1850.