"Biographical Sketches: Ransom G. Moody, One Of the Emigrants of '49—An Adventurous Trip across the Plains," The Pioneer, 17 March 1877.
- Source Locations
- Church History Library
- Related Companies
- Cornwall Company (1849)
The march across the plains and over the mountains was commenced on the 29th of March, 1849 and the train consisted of seven wagons, four belonging to Moody and three to Skinner. The former had one light, spring wagon, in which his family rode, the other wagons being drawn by oxen.
In crossing the Iowa River, they were obliged to improvise a ferry, by lashing canoes together, and after no little trouble, not unattended with danger, the passage was safely made.
At Council Bluffs, a rest for a week was taken. The oxen were shod, a train was organized and complete preparations were made for the long and weary journey before them. A Mr. Cornwall was chosen captain and the train then numbered in all, forty wagons.
At Winter Quarters, eight miles above Council Bluffs, our party found a band of Mormons preparing to cross the river on a scow belonging to themselves. On the arrivals of the Gentiles, they generously gave way and tendered them the use of the scow, provided a crossing should be effected before eight o’clock the next morning. Mr. Moody and his companions worked until eleven o’clock that night and succeeded in getting twenty-five wagons over, when the man in charge of the scow refused to work any longer and they were obliged to suspend operations. In the morning, a few more wagons were crossed before the allotted time had elapsed, leaving ten to follow with the Mormons. The bargain with the ferryman had been one dollar per wagon, but as only thirty had been passed over, he was offered thirty dollars. He claimed forty dollars, but took the thirty, grumbling, only to enter another and stronger claim upon his arrival in Salt Lake City.
At Elk Horn River the party was joined by the notorious Bill Hickman, Brigham Young’s “Destroying Angel,” together with his wife, a female companion, and his brother in law, Isaac Hatch and wife. Mr. Moody’s party were ignorant of the fact at the time, but Hickman was fleeing for his life, having a short time before brutally murdered an old Indian. Knowing that the Indians would naturally seek for him among his own people – the Mormons – he took refuse among the party of Gentiles. The Indians discovered his whereabouts and followed the train many hundreds of miles, and despite all his precautions they were within an ace of capturing him several times.
On one occasion accompanied by Hatch, he had been led considerable distance from the train in pursuit of a buffalo, which they, at last, succeeded in killing. While engaged in cutting off a couple of quarters, the Indians burst into sight. The meat was thrown aside, their horses mounted instantly and a dash was made for camp. Hickman soon discovered he was leaving Hatch behind and that the Indians were rapidly overtaking him. Pretending that his horse was giving out he fell behind and riding round a mound, dismounted quickly, and the instant the foremost Indian dashed into sight, he sent a bullet through the skull, and then remounting, joined Hatch and reached camp in safety.
Hickman’s treatment of his wife was brutal in the extreme. He frequently beat her in a horrible manner, and, but for the interposition by Capt. Cornwall would have been driven from the train.
The North fork of the Platte was crossed in safety, as far as the good in the wagons were concerned. One man lost his footing and was carried down stream some distance, but fortunately escaped drowning.
At Elk Horn, the train began break up, some desiring to go faster and some slower, and a gradual separation followed until Salt Lake City was reached.
At Laramie, Capt. Cornwall attended a fandango and got drunk. He directed the train to pull out for a mile or so in the morning and there halt until he came up. Mr. Moody had no time to waste in waiting for a drunken man, and accordingly he and two others, Skinner and Bennett continued their journey with their teams and families. For several days they were in sight of the remainder of the train, but they gradually drew ahead until those behind were lost to sight, reaching Salt Lake six days in advance, where they found that those who had left the train before them had already arrived.
In passing through the alkali country the stock suffered very much and the trail, for many miles was strewn with the carcasses of horses and cattle that had perished by the way. Their own stock would have mingled their bones with those already on the plain had it not been for the great care and liberal doses of lard and fat pork which served to neutralize the effect of the alkali.
At Deer Creek the party found fine grazing ground and remained there about a week to recruit their cattle. At this place was also found a fine bed of coal which was utilized by the blacksmith who demonstrated that it was a fine grade and excellent for welding and other similar work.
After leaving Deer Creek, the party entered the heaviest road of the entire journey. The sand was deep and made a steady, heavy pull for the teams. They arrived at the summit on the 19th of July 1849 and were forcibly reminded of their altitude by the biting cold. Water left standing in a wash basin overnight would be covered, in the morning, with ice half an inch thick. Beds of solid ice were found at a distance of a foot below the surface and extending over an area of several miles.
Salt Lake City was reached August 14th, 1849. For some days before reaching the city they had found the trail strewn with boxes and bales of merchandise. Flour, pork, bacon, etc was mixed in promiscuously with dead horses and steers, all of which indicated those ahead must be short of provisions. The wagons, belonging to Mr. Moody’s party, were already so heavily loaded that it was impossible for them to carry anything more or at least, enough to furnish any substantial relief, and so the stores were left where they had been thrown. They, however, took warning and decided to remain at Salt Lake during the winter and make a fresh start in the spring.