John W. Southwell autobiographical sketch, 1912 September 28.
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To all my Dear Children, Grandchildren, and Friends:
...But I will return to my subject as there are other horrors to chronicle. As it was late in the season it was thought wise so soon as enough carts were ready [to] accommodate one-half the number of people waiting. They would elect another competent man to take charge of one-half the people and advance to Florence, the main starting point to Salt Lake City, and wait there for the remainder of the company. Jesse Haven who was returning home from a mission to Africa was chosen the captain with brothers Hoyt and Ord as assistants. As soon as these arrangements were made, teams ready and loaded, the company was divided and the first company made a start to the main starting point for our long and wearisome journey over the sagebrush desert.
It was a beautiful morning in August. All hearts were light and and hay [gay] and as the company left the camp we had occupied so long the old hand cart song was the farewell to those who were to follow in our wake. “Some must push and some must pull as we go marching up the hill, merrily on the way we go, until we reach the valley go.” The usual mobocratic spirit we had witnessed all along the route filled the souls of the people and they felt to vie with each other in uttering oaths and curses upon us as we passed along thru their settlements. God forgive them. We passed along pleasantly for two days. The third day we came to a halt by a nice stream and in the foothills was grass for the oxen. The teams were out to feed and instantly two men started for them, cursing the G.D. Mormons, declaring they would kill every S. of a B. of them. Captain Haven met them and in his gentlemanly way apologized and offered them pay in order to secure a night’s feed for the poor, hungry brutes. This kind act on his part took them by surprise and they consented to leave them there without further trouble. The singing of the young ladies at evening service drew the attention of the kinder disposed people and in the morning they brought butter and milk into camp and expressed themselves as being pleased with the way we conducted ourselves traveling thru the country. At their request on breaking up camp we sang the hand cart song which pleased them. They bid us success on our journey. This circumstance is one that a kind word turneth away wrath and as Jesus said to his disciples, do good to them that hate you, is truly exemplified in this case.
On the following day, when half mile from camp, one of the most horrible electric storms I ever saw fell upon us accompanied with hail and rain. It proved a perfect deluge. In this flat clay soil in the space of ten minutes the roads became almost impassable and oh what a scene to behold. Four hundred men, women and children struggling to keep their feet. Here was no sign of a shelter. Our tents were rolled up in the wagons. After everyone was drenched and many were unable to move out of their tracks the captain gave orders to pitch camp and set up the tents the best they could in the mud and quick as possible this was done. It proved a temporary shelter for the old people and children. They were protected from the rain but they were still ankle keep [deep] in the mud. At this stage of the game the younger men displayed their heroism. Near our intended camp ground was a large patch of young willows and they attacked the willow patch with ax and pocket knives and in as short a time as possible they had enough ground covered on which we raised our tents, spread down the bedding, and then a good old farmer living in the distance gave us wood from a pile of dry willows which was soon piled up and a fire built. In the meantime the storm had spent its fury and men, women and children were soon standing and turning themselves around, drying their wet and bespattered clothing. Many a prayer went up asking the Lord to bless and prosper the old gentleman who had furnished us with the means to make us comfortable once more. With exception of a little hot tea, we ate a cold supper, had our night’s service and laid our weary bodies down to rest. The storm having left the roads in such a bad condition the captain concluded to lay over one day, which dried up the road.
When we again made our start we were blessed with fine weather until we arrived at Council Bluffs at which place we had to cross the Missouri river to Florence, or Winter Quarters, there to wait until the remainder [of] the company overtook us. At this place the saints who were driven from Nauvou [Nauvoo] and other places passed the winter before starting on their perilous trip to Salt Lake. Here we were again delayed two weeks, making in all six weeks lost in the good traveling, which distance must be made in the snow and scarcity of provisions, thus causing so many dear lives to be casrificed [sacrificed] to mismanagement who otherwise would have lived and reached their much desired destination. But as they suffered martyrdom for the cause of truth they ought and undoubtedly will receive and wear the martyr’s crown.
While waiting we passed the time pleasantly. Hunting and fishing occupied our leisure time and as the wild turkeys were abundant we spent the time profitably. At last the delayed company arrived and the two companies were officially consolidated. But to our sorrow Captain Haven was needed in another direction. There was a wagon company without a competent man to guide the people on their trip, so Jesse was called to officiate in that capacity. By now we were belonging to the Martin and Tyler company with whom all the saints who sailed with Captain Read on the Horizon were again thrown together under the management of Martin, Tyler and Toons [John Toones]. They formed the company under captains of hundreds and fifties and tens. The tens having charge of the tents and bedding, and the loading of the same on the wagons in the morning. Then there were the invalids to be looked after and cared for. An old gentleman 70 years old was elected to his office. He would muster them together, make an early start and travel them so far as they were able to walk. Those who tired out would fall back to be taken up by some young man and carried to camp on his hand cart, which was a light, frail article. Being built of very light material and tied with rawhide in place of whoop iron which could not be obtained at that time besides being expensive and as Brother Webb, the man who superintended the work of construction, said, a penny wise and a pound foolish as they would be frequently breaking down and thus hindering the company’s progress in their long march. This remark of Brother Webbs proved true to our sorrow in many instances.
Then the teams had to be looked after. This needed a man of experience but as there was no such man in camp, a green Englishman who had scarcely seen one ox undertook the job, and a pretty mess he made of it. In the first place the oxen were unbroken and once in a while a runaway would occur and as a rule some damage would call for repairs. In such cases Bro. Tyler would ply Bro. Timothy Hoyet [Hoyt] with a tongue lashing, and this would cause a quarrel and at times almost a fight an[d] it continued thus until Bro. Hoyet [Hoyt] had his teams in subjection.
This much arranged, a bugler had to be appointed to call the saints in the morning and to other duties such as, time to start on the days journey, time to attend services at night before retiring, etc. But oh! That bugle, that awful bugle. How disgusting it was to the poor, weary souls who needed rest rather then to hear the tirade of abuse uttered by that man who liked to talk and call down the curses of Almighty God upon the disobedient after a hard days march. Tired and weary as they were, some of the older people would lie down on their hard beds and almost instantly be in the land of dreams. Than [Then] that accursed bugle would blow the call for prayers. Which, I ask, did the poor souls need the most, God himself did require this at our hands. Obedience, it is written, is better than sacrifice. But had we not obeyed the call to come to Zion? Then would it be wisdom to exhaust nature that we would not be able to accomplish the desired end? No. Still I have heard the order given “Pull them out and compel them to attend prayers.”
I must now make a statement that will disgust the reader, one that will surprise you. In addition to the duties of pushing the horrible cart all day, and having to stand our camp guard which we were all anxious to do, some one or party were taking a bunch of cattle to the valley. These cattle were driven and guarded nights by those poor, weary souls, thus depriving us of our much needed rest. It was only by an act of providence that our company, consisting of so many women and children together, and our peaceful attitude, that we escaped the wrath of the murderous, thieving Indians with this outfit. But we marched merrily along, singing the songs of Zion in this strange land. We had now got fairly started on this sagebrush desert. Nothing of consequence, more than, our hard labor with our carts, had happened to dampen our spirits up till the present time. Some times we had a good camp ground, sometimes the reverse. Scarcity of water was the prevailing evil and it was then we suffered most. Some days we would have to make long drives in order to reach a watering place and then have to go to bed without the one great necessity of life. This was working a hardship on both people and teams. But harmony prevailed in campl [camp!] In the morning father [George P.] Waugh called his invalids together early and started on the road. In his company was one of the worst cripples I ever saw to be a traveler. His lower limbs were paralyzed and his body badly deformed but he was strong in the faith. He was able to propel himself with surprising speed with the use of crutches.
On the road the old father missed him. The road followed down an old dry bed of a creek but finally crossed on to the other side where we expected to get back of him. There were, on the road he was traveling, faint tracks that had been used by stock, perhaps buffalo, and the poor fellow followed those tracks instead of crossing on the other side. We camped for noon near the loup part of the Platt[e] River. Myself and two other men, taking a hand cart, went back to where we left the buffalo tracks and followed down about a mile when to our horror we saw around an old tree two large gray wolves prowling around, and half a dozen eagles hovering over the tree waiting for him to quit his screams and gestulations with his crutches so they would pounce upon him and devour him in his cramped position under the roots of the tree, screaming out his death knell.
We arrived in time to save him from his pending fate, took him out and placed him on the cart we had brought, placed him in position to ride back to camp. How the poor fellow begged us to let him walk, as he said he had promised brother Tyler when we started on our trip that he would walk every foot of the way to Salt Lake City. However, we only saved him to travel a few days longer, when at the close of the sixth days march his trouble in this world came to an end and he was buried on the banks of the Elkhorn River where one other passed beyond the veil of tears.
The next days march lay across the river to the south side. We crossed on a small ferry boat. The boat was a flimsy affair and the first load of flour that we placed upon it sank the thing to the bottom. The whole load was badly soaked and we had a hard time taking it from its bath and unloading it to prevent it from being a total loss. With this accident occurring we were detained all day in crossing this small stream. However, it gave us a rest. We buried our dead, drained our flour, pitched camp, and spent camp, and spent the remainder of the day washing, mending and taking a little sport which was enjoyed by all hands.
Before leaving the now scattering towns of Iowa it was made known to us that we must reduce the amount of our spare luggage. There was an inspector sent among us to judge of what we actually needed. The remainder was to be sold. I was well clothed for the present as the days were warm and filled with good sunshine and we still enjoying our full ration of flour and with what small change we had we could buy little luxuries of the settlers but the time will come when the wisdom of this order will be questioned.
We were now fast leaving the borders of civilization and we could also feel the night air grow chilly, but we still obeyed orders of the men who, above all man, liked to talk and attend his night services. But the time is fast approaching for a little rebellion. But before this time came to any great extent, a party of elders from the British Mission arrived on the scene, consisting of Brother Franklin O. [D.] Richards and Brother Callister and some others in authority. They arrived in time to save us great trouble. They came up in carriages and prancing horses. They were royally welcomed into camp and took command temporarily. In the evening the camp was called to order by Brother Callister. He introduced Brother Franklin, the then president of the European Mission. Meeting was opened in the usual way by singing “Come, come ye saints, no toil or labor fear, but with joy wend your way.” Brother [John] Toone offered the opening prayer. In his prayer he used the words “May God send us a speedy deliverer from the arduous labors we are daily and nightly called to perform.” The people as if with one voice proclaimed a hearty “Amen.” Brother Franklin then made a speech which was applauded to the echo. He told us that we would soon be relieved of the responsibilities of the bank of cattle that were now forming so much extra labor, such as reducing our forces at the hand carts as well as double the number of men to guard through the night instead of giving them their much needed rest. The man who liked to talk said we were all willing to do it, Brother F. The meeting was about to be broken up in the uproar which followed this remark, when Brother F. said you may consider yourselves dismissed. Amen was again echoed from every tongue.
A meeting was held by the authorities with the following results. The herd was taken possession of by two horsemen who were with the party and were driven by them the remainder of the journey to Salt Lake City. Before starting, however, two small animals were killed and distributed among the people, being the first beef we had been the recipient of on the journey.
On the following morning our friends were up bright and early. The teams had been picketed near by. The teamsters had them ready to roll out in a few minutes after breakfast and the parting good wishes of the visitors had been expressed for the flocks of struggling humanity who were waiting for the last shake of the kind and friendly hand of our deliverers from the oppression we had been subjected to on the first part of our journey. The visitors rode out in high spirits and were soon lost from our view. The night guard had rounded up the teams close by and soon had them under the yoke and ready to commence the days journey. The invalids, with father Waugh in charge, were in the lead. The van which had been provided to carry those who gave up after walking as far as they were able, was next in procession, and following these brother Hoyet [Hoyt] with his wagon trains loaded with flour brought up the rear. The last but not the laest [least] were a train of fifty hand carts, which carried our luggage and each one hauled their camp ourfit [outfit] which consisted of a few pots and kettles made from the most flimsy material possible to be of any use.
Our tents were carried in the wagons, loaded with flour. The train, when on the road, was a picturesque scene on the American desert. Had we not lost the six weeks of good weather in July and August what a different story I would now be writing. But we had the sad experience which resulted in such fearful suffering and loss of life. Who, let me ask, will be accountable? Who answers. Who?
The train at last was on the move and what a pleasure it was to all that we could now concentrate our forces to take part in the toils and labors to be performed instead of dividing our strength which was so much needed to the herding and driving of the loose herd of cattle in which we had no interest.
The day passed very pleasantly and we made a good progress in our long days march. There had been in the invalids van for a few days two people who lay at the point of death. An old gentleman of 70 and his wife who was about the same age from the Lancashire Conference. When the second guard was put on, a change for worse occurred and at three o’clock the old man breathed his last. He was taken from the van and the old lady became so prostrated she became unconscious. She lived until seven o’clock, when she joined her husband in the land of spirits. This sad affair caused a delay in the movements of the company but their remains were laid way with all due solemnity. A grave was dug and their bodies were wrapped in their bedding, solemnly laid in the grave and funeral services held over the grave. The best was done that could be in our circumstances.
This circumstance was only a commencement of the many that were to follow in the future. However, as time passed we became hardened, as one case after another is made part of our duties in this world of trouble. While we expected to find water at our next scheduled camp our leaders concluded it would be the safest thing to do to stay here until next day. Many things needed attention and to these we spent the remainder of the day, until the bugle called to evening services where we held a testimony meeting until a late bed time when we put out the camp guard, also a guard round our teams and retired to our rest and received what comfort we could receive from that health giving blessing.
Next morning at the sound of the bugle all hands were astir and owing to the lessening of our morning duties we were soon prepared to break camp early and make a successful drive to our next camp to which place we arrived without a mishap to mar the days pleasure. We are now traveling along the Platte River and expected to cross that stream at noon. At this time the stream was low and we crossed without an accident. The female portion of our company owe it to the gallantry of us young, strong men for crossing the river dry shod. Some few of them, however, objected and made the attempt and were successful. But it was quite laughable and caused some fun, but before sunset all were safely across and making camp.
This was an ideal place. Plenty of grass, plenty of wood, and all the requisites of a good camp. We were now on the side where the famed chimney rock stands. It was a great sight. A sight that once seen is never forgotten. It stands on the Laramie Plains and is visible one hundred miles.