Simmons, Mary C., Autobiographical sketch, 1-2.
Mary C[ulmer]. Simmons born January 21st 1863 of goodly parents, Frederick and Mary Kennett Culmer, in Bermondsey, Kent, England.
I can remember going with Mother at the age of five, to bid her parents goodby before imigrating to America in 1867. I remember my grand parents home in beautiful Kent, England. It was a thatched house with steep roof and sanded floor, so sweet and clean and smelling of raspberries, as we had some for dinner.
With my parents and brothers William [Harrison,] and Harry [Henry Adolphus Lavender,] and sister Nellie [Ellen Emily] we crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the sailing vessel "The Hudson", embarking at Liverpool June 20th 1867. We were fifty-eight days crossing the Atlantic. I was a very delicate child and was laced in the berth most of the way to keep me from falling out, and to keep me dry for the old ship would rock so that the big air funnels, three or four feet across, would scoop up the water and flood the lower deck, where we were. It was a very old ship, this being the last trip it ever made. Father being a sailor, and my brothers were allowed to help in many ways, in this way helping to pay our passage.
My parents were advised to stay in Brooklyn for a year because it was unsafe to journey west at that time, as the Indians were on the war path through the Black Hills that year. My Father and brothers obtained work in Brooklyn
and the next year 1868 we started across the plains in Captain Seeley's Company, journeying as far as Larimie Wyoming by train, this being the end of the railroad, most of the way in cattle cars, with just boards put across for seats, no back to lean against. I remember, as a child of six, how dreadfully the cars smelled.
Father had a sun stroke at Larimie, which was only a trading post at that tieme. While we were waiting for the wagon train to be made up, he was just taken in the shade of a high board fence to recover. I was very frightened.
Our train had two span of mules to each wagon. I remember a big herd of bison stampeding the mules of our train, also being attached [attacked] by the Indians with their faces all painted red and white, yelling and screaming as they rushed into our camp. The wagons were in a circle with the tongues in the center. I think the attack was made before the men were able to get the mules herded inside the circle, after taking them to water, as I know there was a terrible excitement. I recall the steep canyon roads both up and down, but down mostly, where the wagons would slide off the big rocks, much larger than the wagons, and fording streams so deep the mules and cattle would swim and the men made rafts to take the wagons across. At other times I remember seeing my Mother dragging through sand more than ankle deep, and again through rain and mud while hunting a place to camp. I am so glad there are moving pictures of all this, so true to what it was.
One of my clearest memories is when we arrived at Echo, in Echo Canyon, in the Rockies, there was a ranch house along the side of the road and Father bought a pound of fresh butter. I will never forget the smell and taste of that butter, perhaps the first taste of real fresh butter in my life, but the first of any kind for, no[w] a year, as we had always lived in a city where one buys butter from kegs.
Another memory is of a moonlight night when the camp was all settled and made safe, the people would gather around the campfire and after some prayer and singing, there would be dancing. Some would be mending clothes for the next day while others would be mending harnesses by the light of the camp-fire. The singing and joking was done mostly by the middle aged as both the young and the very aged were glad to rest.
We arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah in August 1868 and were met by my oldest brother, Alfred who arrived in Salt Lake in 1862, and my sister Esther and brother George F. who arrived in 1864; our parents having sent them on ahead to a great unknown country, preparatory to coming themselves with the remainder of the family. What a reunion! I wonder could we do the same?