Biography of Gustave Louis Edward Henriod, undated, 4-6.
View this source online
A nine months life on the plains cannot be very well described with such a pen as mine nor imagined or appreciated by a stoic. You my kind reader will never know the sports and vicissitudes, joys and fears, gladness and disappointment, grief and delight, cravings and satisfaction, hope and despair, anxiety and contentment, pains and pleasures, all of which our familiar associates or rather were in the year 1853 between Omaha and Salt Lake City. Yokying [yoking] up half wild oxen every morning, staking down the tent every night, picking up buffalo chips to cook the food, loading and unloading boxes and bedding mornings and evenings; in the saddle or on foot guarding the stock every night and driving loose cattle in the day; digging trenches around the tents to keep from being drowned by the torrents every morning and evening, singing the songs of Zion, mending a broken wagon, carrying on your back across some deep stream about 140 lbs. of female avoirdupois, without losing your feet on the rocky bottom of a river, washing your clothes (every body forgot a clothes-line).
Some nights in a dangerous part of the prairies, we form our sixty wagons into a round corral, putting the stock inside for safety and guarding outside for protection from Indians; for if the cattle are stampeded, how will you reach either Salt Lake or Omaha? And if your scalp is lifted, where are you going? When there was danger on the plains from either fire or Indians, it was similar to the dangers of the sea, when you are threatened with fire or water; if you escape the one, the other gets you. One is the sea of water, the other a sea of earth. One is drowning, while the other is starvation, if there is a choice, then you certainly can take it.
Being unfortunate by having a spare saddle-horse, Captain Cyrus H. Wheelock often detailed me as a pilot, being often several miles ahead of the travelling Caravan on the Great Saharah [Sahara], so as to select a good grazing noon stopping place and another for our night camp of about 600 souls.
Upon one occasion, having lost track of the road, I travelled for miles alone until late in the shades of evening, when approaching a small stream running into a deep ravine surrounded by a beautiful cluster of lovely shady trees, suddenly descending the banks of the creek, what was my terrible surprise in stumbling in the midst of a band of Sioux Indians who were busily engaged in jerking buffalo meat, they having just concluded a big hunt. What could I do? hungry and tired, lost and alone, a youth sixteen years old, standing before about one hundred stalwart, ferocious, powerful sombre kings of the Prairies, ready to sacrifice human lives and torturing a defenseless being, and that for the sport of having a living target and of placidly studying the dying expression of a human being while in the agonies of death. One hundred pair of dark and devilish eyes were fixed on that youth who but a few weeks before, was setting quietly on his tripod, figuring percentage on some meritime [maritime] policy in one of those offices pleasantly located among the largest thoroughfares of a large city in the commercial world.
Reader, favor me by comparing the two situations. A beautiful picture, a splendid opportunity to a brave soldier or a cute statesman for quick and decisive action; if I was molded for either of those positions then and there I quickly realized that a blunder had been comitted either by my ancestors or that I must be a deserter in the situation, being unerved, paralyzed and much unprepared for that State occasion.
There was a quick commotion among the moccassins, bows and arrows, the young bucks smacking their lips for the feast, while I the victim instead of quickly preparing for the sacrifice, had the cowardice of unmounting my pony and making of the poor frightened steed a fortress such as it was, to protect the also frightened rider from a shower of arrows.
They never came. It must have been the transmission of that original and native Celtic blood into my arteries which gave the impulse of accelerated pulsation to my heart, that lighted up the spark of bravery in me at that critical moment. I carelessly fastened my horse to a young sapling then quietly stepped in the midst of the tepees and singling out one of the big Tycoons offered to shake hands with the great warrior who in return gave me a very unmusical grunt; having had a very fair medical education my ear was not slow to catch the vibration of his disatisfied growl. I pointed, with a smile to the tempting broiling buffalo steaks, having a fear in my heart that I might be an unwelcome and uninvited guest, intruding among the Royal blood of princes and princesses of the forrest.
No signs of approval from any one. I helped myself to a good size chunk of half fried meat, this must have been a settler for my dark friends, they interpreted it as an act of great courage and bravery on my part and no one interfered with me while I partook of one of those now lunches that would perhaps have caused Delmonico's chef de cuisine to blush as well as to my epicurian proclivities. They were all amazed. I managed by gestures and signs to make my red friends understand that I had lost my way. They pointed to me where to find the wagon road, and starting out in that direction about twilight, reached our camp just before the break of day. My friends keeping up fires all night around the camping ground, so as to attract my attention in case I was still alive.
Another night while on guard, just before day break I noticed a pair of shining eyes staring at me through some thick brush close by my side, being watching for Indians all around us, I did not hesitate to bang away at the eyes discovering soon after that I had been shooting at one of our wandering oxen who happened to be brousing [browsing] near me.
It would fill a respectable size volume to mention all the events that occur during six long months of journeying across the plains from Keokuck [Keokuk] Iowa to Salt Lake Valley Utah. He that now rides swiftly on the railroads passing through the same country has not the least conception of an immigrant's life forty years ago, travelling on the Old Mormon track driving a worn-out ox team.
It is no wonder to our tourists and distinguished visitors to see the progress and advancement of the agricultural and other developments in Utah, when they are given to understand by what race of hardy pioneers our settlements, farms and orchards sprung up as if by magic from the East to the West and from the North to the South. It is from such persons who possess the power of endurance, acquired day by day in their westward journeying, that we should look for the best citizens in the United States; hardy then, who build permanent homes, improve their surroundings every year that they live, who teach and raise their sons and daughters a busy life of energy, industry, improvement and labor upon this American soil, redeemed from a desert land, until every man shall have a home, and an interest so undivided with the nation or rather so strongly united that their aim shall never be to devote their whole lives, abilities, labors, interest and wealth to supporting and strength[en]ing the noble and free government, who has so liberaly contributed its encouraging influence and support to such immigrants while eagerly searching for homes.
When a nation is made up of such people who can calculate of its future strength, wealth and prosperity, it is better for such people to be the rulers of our great nation than have an assembly of blundering politicians (who will dicide upon every vital point of interest) be rulers over such a people.
Those are the men who can easily govern or be governed. Those are of the same stock and ancestors as those who inaugurated the declaration of Indepen[den]ce upon this favored soul and defended it to its truimphal [triumphal] success with their lives, fortunes and sacred honor, relying on the protection of Divine Providence, who kindly rewarded them with a nation of people who have become the greatest and most independent on the Earth. I think that to be an intelligent American citizen is greater than was a Roman in the days of their glory.
Every day of travel westward brings us nearer our destination and also finds our teams weaker and our weary immigrants nearly worn out with fatigue. The travel of the last few days is no longer on the plains, but through rocky mountains and rugged canyons. Now our bull-whackers have almost become experts and he must be a very dull student who cannot drive his wagon over every rock and stump on the road.
I may here say that no immigrant feels that shaking up of the wagon, as we have all footed it from Keokuck [Keokuk] into Great Salt Lake valley excepting at times when the sick, aged, or cripple were allowed to ride, but only when the roads were good, and nature had nearly exhausted her power over the unfortunates.
The "messages" who were numerous along the road sides for the last 500 miles or more, now become scarcer and scarcer.
The year 1853 was noted for its large amount of immigrant and freighting wagons from the East to the West. They could have been counted by the hundreds; it would have been an interesting sight to an aeronaut speeding through the ethereal blue above us, to look down upon the plains that summer and photograph the long stretches of living masses vending [wending] their way towards the Sun-set as they were moving onward towards the shades of the evening, or when majestic Sol first begun to shed his piercing flash upon the camps of the travellers either when resting, or rustling [hustling] for the day's journey.
The many little columns of smoke, curling upwards and forming themselves into clouds hovering over the camping grounds long after the tenants had moved away; was a well fitted companion for the silence and the vast stillness of the plains after the departure of a train.
It was some little pleasure for me, when ahead of our company, looking for a nooning place to find written upon some buffalos bleached skulls, silent, but encouraging message left as follows "Capt. Duncan's Company of fifty wagons camped here last night, August 20th, 1853, all well". It was like a letter coming from home or some friend, it assisted in breaking the monotony of the qui[e]tness upon the plains. The reader cheerfully consoled himself in knowing that he was not alone in the desert, for other's footsteps were not very far before him. Such news were soon distributed throughout the train and every one must read or see the welcome message.
At last we came rolling down Emmigration [Emigration] Canyon and out into Great Salt Lake Valley. It was on the 6th day of October 1853, the weather was beautiful and every heart seemed joyful, giving a sigh of relief and contentment in beholding in the near distance the "City of the Saints", the destined home and headquarters of the Mormons.