Frederick Piercy, Route from Liverpool to Great Salt Lake Valley edited by James Linforth (1855), 81-107.
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At Kanesville I was kindly permitted to join the emigrating company, under the presidency of Elders Miller and Cooley. To Elder Miller I am indebted for numerous acts of kindness, for which I yet hope to repay him. The company being ready we drove down to Ferryville, or Council Bluff’s Ferry, 12 miles distant, and just opposite Winter Quarters, at which point we crossed the Missouri into Indian Territory, now Nebraska and Kansas. Short as this journey was, it was sufficient to convince some of the company that they had loaded their teams too heavily. In the view of Council Bluff's Ferry, &c., they are seen transferring the contents of their boxes to bags to lighten their load, which they ought to have done before. Their experience ought to teach those who follow after to nip in the bud their affection for strong heavy boxes. For my own use I should very much prefer strong wicker baskets of a square form, lined with zinc. They are both lighter and stronger than wood, and keep out damp most effectually. Another advantage worthy of consideration is, that the zinc would be useful and valuable at the end of the journey. My advice to all is, to take those things which will be most serviceable on the road and valuable in the Valley. Let the beginning and end of all your thoughts be utility!
The ferry-boats are flat-bottomed, and large enough to carry 2 wagons of the ordinary size. The starting point is usually chosen a considerable distance up the stream, so that the current may assist in conveying the boats to the landing place on the opposite side of the river. Ferrying is hard work. When the boat is pushed from the bank the rowers are obliged to ply their oars most vigorously, as it is no slight matter to row across a river a quarter or half a mile wide, with a current running at a rate of 4 or 5 miles an hour. Six or 8 stout fellows are required to do the work. I went 3 or 4 trips myself, and found out what it was to work hard. The whole of our company crossed the river without an accident. Cattle are ferried across this river, but are compelled to swim or ford the minor streams. A few days after we crossed, the river rose several feet and overflowed the banks, which increased the difficulty of crossing ten-fold. The camping place on the west side of the Missouri was about a mile from the landing, in the vicinity of 2 springs, near the site of Winter Quarters. I paid a visit to the old place, and found that some person had set fire to the last house that remained of the once flourishing settlement. From an elevation close by I made a sketch of Council Bluffs and the Missouri river.
Before any general movement of the company can be made it is absolutely necessary that an organization should take place, that officers be appointed, and laws be made relative to traveling, camping, guarding, herding, &c. If possible, a man should be chosen as captain, possessing energy of character and intelligence. It will also prove of great advantage if he has been over the road before. He ought to have a horse constantly at his command, that he may be able to ride forward, and select the best road, and most convenience and desirable camping places. This arrangement will prevent a great deal of confusion and unpleasantness, and will save the teams much injurious delay and labour. If the company is large, it is well to organize it into divisions of 10 wagons each, and to appoint not only a captain over the whole, but over each ten. This course is adopted in the emigrating companies of Saints, and proves highly beneficial. In all cases it proves useful in a variety of ways. For instance, if an accident happen[s] to a wagon, the company to which it belongs will remain behind until it is remedied, and allow the main body to move on to the next camping ground. Thus, a few only will be inconvenienced, instead of the whole company. Still, if it is not possible for the 10 so left behind to join the camp the same day or night, it would be well for the main body to remain in "carrell" until those left behind arrive, and if assistance is thought necessary, promptly to render it. In fact, hardly any circumstance will justify the strong part of a company in leaving the weaker portion behind for more than a day's travel. The most disastrous consequences have resulted from this injurious course being adopted. As no man would like to be left by himself, helpless and defenceless on the prairies or mountains, so no company ought to leave any individual who is willing to proceed. The company I joined was formed on the principle of mutual assistance, and, having once started, it was agreed that none should be left behind. From the fact that accidents are of frequent occurrence, it is of course wise to divide the mechanics as equally as possible among the companies, that repairs may be promptly executed.
In addition to the officers already mentioned, a sergeant of the guard should be appointed to superintend the herding and guarding of the cattle. It is his duty to see that the guard is appointed and relieved. From the time of unyoking until sunset, the cattle should be herded, that is, they should be driven a short distance from the camp to the best feeding ground, and from sunset until sunrise, they should be kept in the immediate vicinity of the camp and strictly guarded. This may appear to be an immense amount of trouble, but when properly and systematically attended to, the labour being equally divided, it is not so great as it may, at first sight, appear to be. Still the labour, much or little, is nothing when compared with the trouble and exertion necessary to hunt up cattle in the morning if not thus attended to. If they are not carefully herded and guarded the best part of the day will be inevitably lost, and, perhaps, the best part of the stock too. There is not only danger of the cattle straying away, but the probability of their being driven off by Indians also. To a very great extent the Indians live by plunder, and when once they have decided upon robbing a company they will follow up for days, lurking behind trees and hills. A remarkable instance of crafty robbery came under my notice during my return. About 50 miles from Chimney Rock, we saw 6 or 7 wagons a short distance from the road, and soon after some men came from them and inquired whether we had seen any stray cattle. Upon our replying in the negative, they informed us that a few evenings before, the herdsmen were called from the cattle to take supper, and after remaining in the tents about 10 or 15 minutes they went out, but could see nothing of any of the oxen, except those that were yoked together, all the rest to the number of 40 were gone, and that they had now given up all hope of ever recovering them. The Indians had doubtless watched for such an opportunity, and the result proved that they knew how to take advantage of it. If there are boys in the company, they, with one or two men as overseers or directors, may be used to herd the cattle. It will not, however, do to trust the more important duty of guarding at night to them. Men often go to sleep and neglect their duty, it is therefore reasonable to suppose that if men cannot or will not understand the importance of this matter, boys will still be worse. It is impossible to take too much care of the cattle; in fact it is more essential that the emigrants' animals should be healthy and strong[er] than the emigrants themselves. In making laws for the government of the camp, it will therefore be wise to leave the number of miles to be traveled per day entirely to circumstances. Some men before starting make up their minds to travel 20 or 25 miles every day. Now this is very great folly, as every thinking man who has traveled the road must acknowledge. For the first half of the distance the feed is good, and there is a favourable opportunity, by careful and moderate driving during this part of the journey, to preserve the strength and muscle of the teams until it is really necessary from scarcity of food, water, or bad roads, to try their strength and test their powers to the utmost. In such a case forced travelling may be justifiable, but not otherwise.
To complete the organization of the company I travelled in, a chaplain was appointed, whose duty it was to call the camp together, morning and evening, for singing and prayer. The voice of prayer was heard every day, and the song of praise at the rising and setting of the sun. Many a hard feeling was then destroyed by the melting influences of spiritual instruction, and resolves to amend were made, which doubtless resulted in a better life.
It was decided by Elders Miller and Cooley that we should start on Thursday, the 9th of June. Operations were commenced early in the morning, and then began the yoking of refractory cattle, and the initiation of "greenhorns" into the art and mystery of teaming. The whole of the cattle were driven into the "corral," and then, with yokes and bows in hand, it was the business of the teamsters to catch and yoke their teams, but, unfortunately, they did not know their business. Many of them had never touched an ox before, so that the wide-spreading horns of the untrained steers seemed to produce a most uncomfortable nervousness. The consequence was, that Elders Miller and Cooley had to do nearly all the work, which nearly brought noon before we could start. At length we started upon the Plains, and traveled to Six Mile Grove, where we camped. The road was rather rough, and so were the cattle, and, in the hands of raw teamsters, nearly unmanageable. Elder Miller was here and there and every where, giving untrained teams, and teamsters in training, many practical illustrations of the art. "Geeing" and "hawing" were most forcibly taught, and of course learned in proportion to the ability of the pupil. The teamster should drive with the team to the right. When he cries "Gee," the team should go from him, and when "Haw," come toward him. When the teamster cries "Haw," it is usual, with a lazy team, to let them feel the whip over their necks, and when "Gee," over their backs. The consequence is, that whenever a piece of rough or difficult road is encountered, the shouts and cries of "geeing" and "hawing," and the cracking of the whips, are most terrific. In a large company voices of all kinds and modulations mix up in the most curious manner. When a slight movement to the right or left is required, the command to "gee" and "haw" is given in a very mild tone, but when there is danger of running against a rock, or getting a wheel locked in a tree, the command is sure to be given with the full volume of the teamster's voice. During the first few days the teams and teamsters were constantly at variance. Nearly every man had the worst team in the company! Some steers would not "gee," others would do nothing else, and then would come an appeal to Elder Miller—"O, brother Miller, do come here and try to make my lead steer 'haw,' for the stupid brute does nothing but run away from me." "Very well," brother Miller would say, "but let me see you drive a little first." Directly this request was made the raw teamster knew he was going to make an exhibition of his ignorance, and sure enough he did so, for instead of keeping behind his leading oxen he went rather before them, which was sure to frighten them and cause them to scamper to the right again. Elder Miller would bring the oxen back, and with his good-humored smile say—"Now you are a pretty teamster, aint you, to go and place your ugly body and long dangling whip right before their eyes, instead of keeping back as you ought." Then away he would go, shouting and hallooing to a man, who, in defiance of the sacred laws of teaming, would be driving on the right hand side of his team instead of the left. Before Elder Miller could get to him, or make him comprehend his blunder, the oxen would get frightened at the strange sight of a man on the "off" side, and consequently violently swerve to the right, and cramp the wagon, and perhaps narrowly escape turning it over. This wisdom was gained by experience, and, however singular it may appear, a blowing up from Elder Miller only proved the kindness of his heart.
Friday, the 10th.—We left Six Mile Grove about 8 o'clock in the morning, and drove to Pappea Creek, 12 miles, without halting. After hearing so much about the Plains, of course every thing was expected to look new and strange, but as yet there was nothing new or strange except the mosquitoes. Their stings are most painful and irritating. Nothing but buckskin is proof against their long probing stings. Cloth is no protection, they penetrate it easily. When I was called to take my turn at guarding, I found the mosquitoes up and rather more ravenous than was agreeable. The cattle were guarded close to the creek. While pacing round them with a rifle on my shoulder, and keeping them within bounds, the sensation of loneliness was most singular. The night was very dark, and the stillness quite unbroken, except by the rustling sound of my walking in the grass. As I thought of the caution I had received about Indians, I grasped my rifle with greater energy, and looked about with increased vigilance. But the night passed without any chance of testing my valour, yet I have confidence in it still.
Early in the morning some one's sharp eyes discovered a good feeding ground to the left of the creek, to which the cattle were driven, and there herded.
Saturday, the 11th. —Crossed the very primitive and unsafe bridge at Pappea Creek, and traveled 9 miles over a road equally primitive, to Elk Horn River. The first occurrence that day was the breaking of a wagon–wheel. It was caused by the tire coming off, which, singularly enough, was not noticed by the man who was driving. He drove for a considerable distance, with the wheel in that condition before he was overtaken by Elder Miller, who started off in pursuit, rolling the tire as a boy would a hoop. It was however too–late to wedge it on as every thing was strained, and one or two of the fellies were broken. The wheel was therefore taken off, and a stout piece of timber being obtained, it was securely lashed over one axle-tree and under the other, so as to allow one end to touch the ground. This answered instead of the broken wheel, and supported the wagon until the evening tolerably well. About the middle of the day I saw two or three wagons turn off the road and stay behind, and in the evening I heard that a fine boy had been added to our number.
The approach to Elk Horn is over a sideling road, and the descent into the lowland which borders the river is rather difficult. Another wagon was broken, and as I passed with Elder Miller's wagon and mules, which I had undertaken to drive, I saw the owner looking disconsolate, and some of the "boys" rigging up the same kind of support as before mentioned.
During the process of unyoking the cattle, a slight mistake committed by one of the teamsters was the cause of a curious exhibition of fright and rage by an unbroken ox. Before taking the yoke off, the man unhooked the chain which connected the yoke with the wagon-pole, and then, having taken the yoke from the "near" ox he was proceeding to do the same with the "off" ox, but the wild brute, feeling an unusual weight on his neck, broke away, and rushed madly about with the yoke still fastened to his neck. He bellowed, and capered, and danced about in a most singular manner, and then dashed away at a headlong gallop, followed at the same pace by all the unyoked oxen in the camp. It very much astonished me, and I did not at all envy Elder Cooley, when I saw him mounted on a horse, hastening away to catch and unyoke the mad animal, and bring the whole herd back. In about an hour he returned triumphant.
Arrived at Elk Horn, we camped on the east side of it until Monday about noon, resting, and repairing wagons. As there were 2 or 3 wheelwrights in the camp this was done most readily. A fine fat buck was shot by one of the "boys" and brought into camp, and eaten of course. While halting at this place I made the accompanying sketch.
Monday, the 13th.—Having repaired damages we crossed the Elk Horn, which is about 9 rods wide, and 3 feet deep. The labour to the ferrymen is not so great here as was at the Missouri river. On account of the narrowness of the stream they are able to stretch a rope across the river, which, being held by one or two of the ferry men in the boat, by means of a smaller rope with a noose attached, enables them to guide the boat which is partly carried by the current, and partly dragged by them to the desired point on the opposite bank. The cattle we compelled to swim across. They were collected together on the bank, and surrounded by men and boys who, with shouting and blows, tried to force them in, but they were most unwilling to commence the trip. Those in front being pressed by those behind backed and retreated from the brink until the pressure becoming overpowering there would be a flounce and a splash, an ineffectual struggle to return, and then the commencement of the voyage in earnest. Travelled 4 miles and camped on the west side of Elk Horn.
Tuesday, the 14th.—It was determined at a meeting of the camp to separate into 2 companies. Elder Jacob Bigler was chosen captain of the company appointed to go in advance. We traveled 7 miles up the Elk Horn and camped on the bank. Here I saw that curious little animal called the prairie dog. It is almost as much like a squirrel as a dog. It very much resembles a fat puppy of a light fawn colour. It burrows in the earth like a rabbit, and, it is said, usually shares his habitation with a rattlesnake and an owl: I have seen owls pop out of sight into the dog holes, but I never saw them together.
Wednesday, the 15th.—Travelled 12 miles. Detained 3 hours mending a broken wagon.
Thursday, the 16th.—Travelled 15 miles and camped on Shell Creek, which is 12 feet wide, and bridged. During the day we crossed a half dried-up creek, having mud in it of a very great depth, consequently the difficulty of crossing was great in proportion. Two or three teams were required to haul each wagon through. Considerable damage was done to chains and several wagons. A serious accident occurred to Henry Radnell.
He got under his wagon to secure the tar bucket, and very carelessly left his right leg projecting outside the wheel. The team, left to itself, started on, and the wheel passed over his leg and broke it. Learning that something was the matter I hastened to the spot, and soon saw that if I did not do something for him his chance of getting his leg set was a very poor one. I therefore took the case into my own hands, and turned surgeon, although I had never before seen a broken limb. In the first place I screwed up my courage to the sticking place and bared both his legs. I then took particular notice of the exact position of the bones in the unbroken leg and the position of the foot, and placed the right leg and foot in exactly the same position, and kept them so by means of 2 boards which I nailed together. These, with the aid of thin sticks or splinters bound round the leg, with abundance of rag, seemed to answer the purpose. The continual jolting of the wagon rather retarded his recovery, but I am happy to say he got on very well.
Friday, the 17th.—Several Pawnee Indians came into camp this morning, and begged all the time they remained. I asked one of the young men to give me a specimen of his skill in shooting with the bow. He fixed a small cracker on a stick which he stuck in the ground, and standing about 12 yards from it, aimed 2 or 3 times but did not hit it. A still younger one, seeing his want of skill, impatiently took his place, and split the cracker with the first arrow. Their clothing consisted of a cloth round the waist and a blanket over the shoulders. Altogether they were most villainous looking. One of them stole a gaily coloured piece of webbing belonging to me from the back of the wagon, and tied it round his waist. I took it from him, but after trying to make him understand that I disapproved of his thieving, I gave it back to him, with, however, very little hope that my lesson on morals had done him any good. The whole of the forenoon was spent in repairing broken wagons. Travelled 13 miles and camped near a pond. Firewood very scarce.
Saturday, the 18th.—Commenced our day's travel with the disagreeable knowledge that we should have to double team through a deep slough. It proved much worse than our fears, for with many of the wagons a triple team was necessary. The men were over their knees in mud, and how the ladies got through I dont know, and hardly dare conjecture. Elder Miller recommended me to keep in the wagon as he thought the mules could pull me through, but when in the mud-hole it was evident to me that if I remained in the wagon there we should stick, so into the mud and slush I jumped, and by plying the whip vigorously I got the team through. Once in the mud and thoroughly bedaubed I thought I had better make the best of it, so I borrowed an ox whip, which, with putting my shoulder to the wheel, gave me healthful and useful employment until all the wagons were through. Travelled 11 miles to the Loup Fork, a tributary of the Platte, and camped on the east side, near the ferry.
Sunday, the 19th.—We remained in camp. Elder Miller's mules, always perverse and obstinate, strayed away. I made diligent search for them but could not find them. After the preaching meeting, Elder Miller started in search of them but returned without them. He had, however, discovered tracks of them, and, with his usual courage and inflexibility of purpose, supplied himself with provisions for 2 or 3 days, and, accompanied by a volunteer, set out with a determination to find them if possible. As we were to cross over to the west side of Loup Fork at this point he promised to meet us on the road, when he had either found the mules or lost all traces of them. He bade us good bye, and a few hours before sun-down started in search of his animals up the east side of the stream.
Monday, the 20th.—Elder Miller did not return, so Elder Cooley yoked up a couple of oxen to draw his wagon, and I commenced to struggle with the difficulties attendant upon the management of horned cattle. My friends must not accuse me of vanity when I assure them that the abstruse mysteries of "geeing" and "hawing" were at last comprehended and successfully performed by me. Neither should they accuse me of over cautiousness when I inform them that, finding one of the oxen afflicted with the not over amiable desire to give me a "dig in the ribs," I very prudently managed to prevent the accomplishment of his wish. We ferried both wagons and cattle over the Fork, which is a much more easy method than fording. It is a broad and comparatively shallow stream with quicksand in many places. I made a sketch of Loup Fork Ferry, which is herewith presented. Elder Cooley lost an ox in the evening through its straying into a mud hole and getting "mired."
Tuesday, the 21st.—Looked in vain for the return of Elder Miller. The yoke of cattle under my care improved upon acquaintance, although I must confess our 15 miles' drive this day gave me enough of "geeing" and "hawing." We camped on the bank of Loup Fork.
Wednesday, the 22nd.—We travelled 17 miles this day , and camped near a slough, about a mile from Loup Fork. No timber, and water bad.
Thursday, the 23rd.—Travelled 18 miles. Camped on a small creek. Good water but no wood. Elder Miller returned without his mules, downhearted, tired, and sorefooted. He had followed their tracks 70 miles up the east side of the Loup Fork, traced them to several islands which they passed over in crossing the river, saw the spot where they had landed on the bank, was able to detect the prints of their hoofs for some distance further, where they turned off again on the grass and all trace of them was lost. He however bore all the trouble and vexation like a philosopher. Late in the evening some of the "boys" discovered tracks of mules not far from the camp, which Elder Miller thought sufficient reason why he should continue the hunt.
Friday the 24th—Early in the morning Elder Miller started off in search of his mules. Our road was for 6 miles over sand hills, and the teams had to work exceedingly hard to get through at all. Veils and goggles were in great demand, for the wind brought the sand into our faces with blinding and choking effect. The mules were found in the course of the day, right in the road. As if tired of a wandering life, they had decided once more to submit to servitude. When I arrived at the spot, I found them in the hands of the two young Wilsons, evidently unmanageable, but when they found me at the end of the lariat they submitted quietly enough. Elder Miller early taught me, that the only way to manage a mule was to administer a dose of strangulation, the consequence was they acknowledged my authority, and I harnessed them immediately. I found Elder Miller sitting on an old Indian grave, despairing of ever seeing his mules again. Travelled 15 miles and camped on a small creek.
Saturday, the 25th.—Travelled 4 miles to Prairie Creek. As the descent to the narrow bridge was very steep, all teamsters were instructed to allow no persons to remain in the wagons. I suppose these instructions were attended to in every case except one of a woman who happened to be asleep unknown to the teamster, and, as misfortune would have it, the wagon fell clean over the bridge into the creek. Of course the effect of the fall, and the plunge into the cold water, was a loud scream from the woman, which all thought proceeded from some person underneath the wagon. The men at once jumped into the creek, with the intention of raising the wagon, but as the woman came to her senses, she very wisely caused a commotion inside the wagon, which speedily resulted in Elder Miller's ripping up the wagon-cover with his knife, and pulling her out. I urged the mules down the bank with many misgivings, for a swerve to the right or left of a few inches would have made the woman's fate mine also. We traveled 4 miles further, and with much difficulty crossed a small but very muddy creek. The "boys" close to the camp this evening shot a very fine antelope.
Sunday, the 26th.—Travelled 7 miles to Wood River, and crossed over an emigrants' very bad apology for a bridge, composed of branches of trees, and foliage thrown into the river, which is about 2 feet deep and 3 or 4 yards wide. Camped close to the river. Water good and an abundance of wood. I was told that during the night an Indian was seen lurking close to the camp, and that one of the guards fired at him. I made the accompanying sketch of our camp at Wood River.
Monday, the 27th.—Travelled 20 miles over a road generally very good. A good day's traveling like this repays one for many a hardship, and when again in the noise and smoke of cities will surely be remembered with longing regret.
Tuesday, the 28th.—Remained in camp repairing wagons until 2, p.m., after which we travelled till dark, about 16 miles, over an excellent road, and camped about half a mile from the Platte river.
Wednesday, the 29th.—Travelled about 16 miles to Elm Creek, over a rough road. Came to wood and water about 6 miles from last night's camping place, and crossed 2 deep ravines.
Thursday, the 30th.—Travelled about 15 miles today, which, considering that the road was very rough and difficult, was very good work. I saw buffalo this day, for the first time in my life. They are very singular in shape, and run in a most grotesque manner, and apparently very rapidly. I had no chance of getting near them, but the enthusiasm of some of the hunters in the camp drew them out in chase. I wished them success, for I was tired of bacon. There was good camping at this place.
Friday, July 1st.—Travelled 8 miles to a slough, watered, and continued our journey for about 7 miles, when the train was detained a short time by our coming within convenient shooting distance of a few buffalo. The "boys" raised a cry of "Buffalo, buffalo a-head!" and away scampered men and dogs in pursuit. "Ah!" said Elder Miller, "Let them go, they'll get tired without killing one I'll be bound." The buffalo, of which there were about 6 or 8, did not seem inclined to retreat until they got scent of the men, and the dogs were close at their heels. They then started off at a pace which surprised me, and in a manner closely resembling the gallop of a hog. The chase did not continue very long before the "boys" found that for speed and wind they were no match for buffalo, although so clumsy looking. They therefore separated themselves, and, urging on the dogs, succeeded at last in scattering the game. But they were green hunters, unacquainted with their rifles, and bad judges of distance. A very red-headed Welchman was the first to fire, but instead of bringing down the brute, he only made him roll away the faster. The report of the gun excited Wilson's lame bull-dog so much that he limped from under the wagon, and, warming with the exertion, increased his speed so as to catch up to the nearest animal. I saw that, unlike the other dogs, he, without the slightest hesitation, dashed at the buffalo's nose, but failing to catch firm hold was, of course, violently thrown over, and then limped back to the wagon. As yet not a horse was out. Elder Miller said it was of no use going after buffalo without one, so he remained at the camp and laughed at the "greenhorns." At last Elder Cooley got his ambition up, and taking his horse from the sheep driver, and borrowing Elder Miller's large flint-lock pistols, he joined the hunt. Although the buffalo had been chased some time they had not succeeded in getting much further off than at first, as the river was on one side, the camp on the other, and the hunters at all points. Elder Cooley's horse carried him well, and I saw him overtake one animal, ride round him once or twice, and then extend his arm with the evident intention of firing, but there was no smoke, and no report, consequently death did not result. He stopped his horse, examined his pistols and slowly turned towards the camp; Miller gave the word to move on, the whips cracked, the wheels began to roll, and again we had to endure the certainty of fried bacon. Elder Cooley in his hurry, had either shaken the powder out of the pan, or he had started without any, which was a pity, for he was a capital shot. In the evening one of the "boys" came in, and reported that he had killed a buffalo, but so far off that it was useless to think of going to it. I would have brought its tongue as an evidence had I shot one, which, however, I had no ambition to do.
While I was at Winter Quarters a man named Furze requested me to call upon his friends in London, and inform them that he was well, and doing well, and was going to California. To-day I passed his grave, which had a board at its head stating that he had been killed by Indians while on guard.
Saturday, the 2nd.—Travelled 12 miles over a rough road, in some places very heavy from the previous night's rain. We camped early, on account of the sheep-driver, who was ahead, returning with the information that about a mile further on the mosquitoes were so numerous, and had attacked him and his horse so furiously, that he was obliged to turn and gallop back as fast as possible. Our camping ground was near the Platte river, in a place admirably suited for the purpose.
Sunday, the 3rd.—Travelled 7 miles to heavy sand hills, which extended about half a mile, and then proceeded 7 miles further and camped close to the Platte river. We had a visitor from the camp ahead, who told us that one of their number, being about half a mile behind the camp, was attacked by Indians, who stripped him of his clothes and then gave him a kick and told him to "Puck-a-chee," which is the Indian word for Begone. It is evidently impossible to know when Indians are near. I have been told that they will follow up a camp for days, keeping on the opposite side of hills, being unseen, yet seeing all, until a favourable opportunity presenting itself for robbing, they pounce on their prey like the tiger from its lair.
Monday, the 4th.—Travelled about 6 miles to the crossing of Skunk Creek, which was not difficult to get over. Being very thirsty, and the creek shallow, I lay down with my mouth in the water, and was in the very act of taking a good draught, when a long brilliantly coloured snake glided past close to my nose. Had a professor of gymnastics been present, it is my opinion he would have spoken favourably of the rapidity with which I sprang to my feet. Travelled 7 miles further on and camped near the spring, at the head of the Pawnee swamps. No timber.
Tuesday, the 5th.—Found no timber at the place described in guides as "Last Timber." We traveled to Wide Creek, about 16 miles, and camped with the intention of remaining until all necessary repairs were attended to. Wood was obtained from the islands in the river for making charcoal, which was essential for blacksmithing purposes.
Wednesday, the 6th.—We made charcoal to-day by piling up wood, and covering it over with turf so as to burn it with as little air as possible.
Thursday, the 7th.—A forge was erected to-day and large bellows were set up. Ox shoes were made, wagon-tires were shortened, and shakey wheels were made tight, so that we were once more in traveling trim.
Friday, the 8th.—Having completed our repairs, we left Wide Creek and crossed Black Mud Creek, Grass Creek, two other creeks or sloughs not mentioned in guides, and North Bluff Creek, and camped near good grass and water. Distance from Wide Creek, about 13 miles. There were plenty of buffalo chips there. They are composed of grass, masticated and digested, and dried in the sun. It is a common joke on the Plains that a steak cooked on these chips requires no pepper. It is marvelous the wonders time and circumstances work. Young ladies who in the commencement of the journey would hardly look at a chip, were now seen coming into the camp with as many as they could carry. They burn fiercely and cook quite as well as wood.
Saturday, the 9th.—Our road lay through the heaviest sand-hills we had then passed over, and we found that it was preferable to make the cattle pass over rough places covered with grass, than to keep them in the sandy road. We caught 2 or 3 lizards to-day, which were beautiful little creatures, and appeared to be quite harmless. Crossed Buffalo Creek and camped at Shepherd's creek, distance 11 miles. During the night Elder Cooley's child [Samuel William Cooley] died. The poor mother's grief was very affecting. What can be more distressing than to see a poor infant struggling with death, and to be utterly unable to render assistance.
Sunday, the 10th.—We buried the child, and recommenced our journey at 12 o'clock. Travelled, according to Horn's Guide, 9 miles to Petite Creek, having crossed 3 creeks running between bluffs rather difficult of ascent and descent. We saw a great variety of brilliantly coloured grasshoppers, some being very large. They were very interesting to me, and pleased me as much as they did the children, who hunted them with great glee.
Monday, the 11th.—A wet morning prevented our starting as early as usual, for nothing is worse for the necks of oxen than dampness. It softens the hair and opens the pores of the skin, so that a slight amount of friction causes soreness. Travelled 16 miles over a sandy and bad road, and through several creeks, none of which were difficult to cross. Camped on the bank of the Platte.
While in camp I laid a silk handkerchief upon the grass, after washing it, expecting that the sun would dry it in a few minutes, but fortune ordained otherwise. My attention was suddenly attracted to the spot where I had left it by hearing a girl cry out—"O look 'ee there! If there isn't a critter a eaten something;" and sure enough there was, for that moment I saw the bright red corners of my best silk handkerchief vanish into a cow's throat. I learned that it was no uncommon thing for these animals to appropriate such delicate morsels.
Tuesday, the 12th.—We passed over sandy bluffs which were decidedly the worst we had encountered, and had to double team all the wagons except the mule-wagon. The mules were brave little fellows to pull. Travelled about 15 miles, crossing several creeks, and camped on Watch Creek.
Wednesday, the 13th.—In the guides there is a notice of a "Lone Tree." All through the journey the lone tree had been in my imagination until at last I had associated an interest, a sort of romantic idea, with it, which became quite exciting. I pictured to myself an old, weather-beaten, time-worn tree, standing in mournful solitude on a wide-spreading prairie, having to encounter alone the attacks of the elements, with no companion to share the storm, or help to break its fury. I could imagine it on a cold winter's night with its arms bare of foliage, tossing them in sorrow in the wind, being desolate and alone. Even sunshine and refreshing showers must be melancholy pleasures to a lone tree, for do not they prolong its dreary isolation! I started off ahead of the company with the intention of making a complimentary and therefore careful sketch of this tree, but I could not find it. Some unpoetical and ruthless hand had cut it down, so my hopes were blighted and my occupation was gone. We passed Ash Hollow, which is on the south side of the Platte, where we could see an immense herd of buffalo, which good judges said could not number less than 10,000. Travelled about 18 miles and camped near Calm Creek.
Thursday, the 14th.—Travelled along the Platte bottom, over a heavy road, then by the edge of bluffs to Crab Creek, a distance of 17 miles. Camped amongst arrow grass, bad for sheep, and very disagreeable to every body having sensation.
Friday, the 15th.—Travelled over a pretty good road to Ancient Bluff Ruins, which are curious natural formations, resembling ruins, as their name implies. They are fit abodes for Indian ghosts and goblins. Camped where the road joins the river, about 20 miles from Crab Creek.
Saturday, the 16th.—Travelled 13 miles and camped on the Platte. Chimney Rock in sight all day, and Scott's Bluffs in the evening. Chimney Rock is on the south side of the Platte, and on my journey home I made the accompanying sketch of it, engraved on steel, which is a view taken nearer by three miles than could be obtained from the north side. During the day I made a sketch of it from the west, represented by the wood-cut below. To the right of the rock the wagons are in corall, which is the order in which they are arranged while camping. When danger is suddenly apprehended from Indians, the cattle are driven inside the corall, but as the slightest noise from a dog, a wolf, and at times unaccountable circumstances, often cause a stampede, in which the cattle break down the wagons and rush madly from the camp, endangering the lives of the emigrants, and frequently running until they are lost to their owners, or fall dead, it is much the best way to tie them up to the wagons outside the corall and picket them. In the latter method the cattle are safely guarded, and should Indians approach to drive them off or cause a stampede, they would be within range of a rifle shot all round.
Sunday, the 17th.—Travelled 6 miles, and camped on the bank of the Platte. Rain in the afternoon.
Monday, the 18th.—In the morning met 27 Elders from G[reat]. S[alt]. L[ake].Valley on missions. They informed us that they had had a quick and an agreeable trip so far. We spent half an hour with them, and then separated, they to the rising and we to the setting of the sun. Scott's Bluffs were in view all day. They were certainly the most remarkable sight I had seen since I left England. Viewed from the distance at which I sketched them the shadows were of an intense blue, while the rock illuminated by the setting sun partook of its gold, making a beautiful harmony of colour. They present a very singular appearance, resembling ruined palaces, castellated towers, temples and monuments. In the foreground of the engraving are seen some emigrants hunting the buffalo.
Tuesday, the 19th.—Stopped to noon at Scott's Bluffs, and traveled about 4 miles to Spring Creek, making about 46 miles during the last 4 days.
Wednesday, the 20th.—Travelled over a pretty good road somewhat sandy in places. About 5 miles beyond is what is named Blue Rock. It is slightly grey, but by no means what may be called blue. Camped near the river.
Thursday the 21st.—Saw Laramie's Peak this morning, which, by Elder Miller's account, was distant 75 miles to the south-west of camp ground. We travelled over a very sandy and difficult road. Visited a trading post kept by two Frenchmen, a few miles east of Raw Hide Creek. As the affair was made up of Frenchmen, Indians, squaws, horses, mules, oxen, dogs, trees, a shady bower, a sheep pen, a wagon, and a tent, it was most picturesque. Cattle in by no means good condition were from 90 to 100 dollars per yoke. I noticed that nearly all these trading posts were kept by Frenchmen, who were mostly married to Indian women. Camped on the bank of the Platte, 3 miles west of Raw Hide Creek. Travelled yesterday and to-day about 37 miles.
Friday, the 22nd.—Travelled about 9 miles over a good road to Laramie, and sketched what little I could see of it, but not having time to cross the river, I was unable to obtain a complete view of it until my return, when I made that which is used in this Work. Travelled about 6 miles further, over a pretty good road, through rather a hilly country, quite different in character to that east of Laramie. Camped on the summit of a high bluff on the west side of a dry creek. I sketched Laramie's Peak, of which an engraving is given. Although its top was free from snow when I saw it, it is said to be generally covered with it, and that it "acts the part of a condenser upon the vapour of the atmosphere which comes within its vicinity, generating clouds, which are precipitated in showers upon the surrounding country."
Saturday, the 23rd.—The road was good for 3 or 4 miles, after which it became the roughest we had had. We broke one wheel, one axle, and one tongue, which Elder Miller fixed as usual. He is really a model of a captain, and deserves great credit for the masterly manner in which he managed every thing, and the good-humoured energy with which he surmounted every difficulty. We did not camp till after dark when, as there was no grass on the north side of the Platte, all the cattle were driven over to the south side. The night was very dark, and as it rained, all the men who would volunteer were sent over to guard the cattle, which are always more inclined to wander off in wet weather than in fine. The current of the river being very swift, none but strong swimmers ventured over. A large fire was maintained on the north side during the whole of the night, by keeping a fine old tree burning, which served as a beacon to the guards opposite. Travelled about 9 miles.
Sunday, the 24th.—We remained in camp all day. It had become apparent that our provisions would not hold out until our journey was completed, and to-day Elder Miller decided upon going ahead of the main company to bring out supplies of provisions from G.S.L. Valley. I was much gratified with this arrangement, as I had begun to doubt whether I should be able to accomplish the object of my journey the present year. This concluded upon, the mules were shod, and everything was got ready and put in order for separation from the company, and the recommencement of the journey on Monday morning.
Monday, the 25th.—This morning Elder Miller, Elder Bigler and wife, and myself "rolled" out of camp to proceed in advance of the company to G.S.L. Valley. In passing the various wagons[,] a shower of wishes for good luck and a quick and pleasant trip for the remainder of the journey greeted us. Travelled 15 miles, and camped with Elder Wilkin's company.
Tuesday, the 26th.—Road good to river about 15 miles. Travelled about 33 miles, which the mules did bravely. Elder Miller's plan of travel was most excellent. As soon as morning dawned we harnessed, up and travelled till about 8 o'clock, when we breakfasted, and the horses and mules grazed for about an hour. We then traveled till noon if there was good grass to be obtained for the animals, and they were again allowed to graze for an hour or an hour and a half, when the journey would be resumed, and continued until about one hour before sunset. A fire was then lighted and supper was taken, after which we went on a little further till dark, and then camped without lighting a fire. The last part of the journey was to out-manoeuvre any Indians who might have been watching us during the day, and who seeing a fire lighted would naturally conclude that we had camped for the night, and act accordingly.
Wednesday, the 27th.—Rough day's travel over about 34 miles of a very bad road. This morning we overtook the sheep-drove to which the man who had been shot by an Indian was attached.
The captain informed me that Furze was on guard at night, when suddenly the quiet of the camp was broken by his crying out—"Oh! Oh!" and "Come here," and then the sharp crack of a rifle was heard, which caused the men to run out. They found him on his hands and knees on the ground, shot through the lungs. He died almost directly without being able to communicate anything. But from the fact that no emigrants or traders were near, that the wadding used was made of dried grass, and that the rope by which a very fine horse had been fastened was severed, the captain concluded that an Indian must have committed the murder. Furze was much regretted, as he was a great favourite with all.
Thursday, the 28th.—Travelled about 30 miles, being 3 miles beyond the "Upper Ferry," where there is now a bridge over the Platte. Our journey up the north side of the Platte was much more difficult and unfavourable than it would have been (according to Elder Miller's account) over the Black Hills route, to have taken which we should have had to cross at Laramie. To-day we did not take the road described in Clayton's Guide, which leads by the Mineral Spring or lake, considered poisonous, but continued along the Platte. Found the road very hilly and rocky, but I suppose the good water of the river[,] instead of the poisonous water of the springs[,] amply compensated.
Friday, the 29th.—Travelled to Grease Wood [Greasewood] Creek, 36 miles, and camped. It was so dark when we had finished our supper, that we had great difficulty in finding the mules. Their wandering propensity kept me in a constant state of alarm, and every morning when I arose I fully expected to find that they had during the night become impatient of delay, and had started for the Valley without us, as they did at the Loup Fork.
Saturday, the 30th.—Left Grease Wood Creek, and stopped about an hour at the Alkali Lakes to obtain saleratus. As we approached them they had all the appearance of ponds of water frozen over, and having a slight covering of snow over the ice. We then proceeded to the ford of Sweetwater, about a mile beyond Rock Independence. Forded, and then, while the company were taking breakfast, I hurried back to the Rock and made a sketch of it. It is a large rounded mass of granite, on which are inscribed the names of many passing emigrants. At Devil's Gate, about 4 miles further, I remained behind to make a sketch of this great curiosity, after which, as my boots were without toes, and admitted the gravel, which cut one's feet dreadfully, I had some difficulty in catching up with the wagons. Camped on the east side of High Gravelly Bluff. Day's travel 38 miles.
Sunday, the 31st.—Breakfasted about 2 miles west of High Gravelly Bluff. Travelled till 10 p.m., and camped on east side of Ford No. 5, of Sweetwater. Wind River Mountains, which were capped with snow, in sight to-day. Day's travel 34 miles.
Monday, August 1st.—Travelled to last ford of Sweetwater, and crossed rocky ridges very rough and tedious to get over. Day's travel about 30 miles.
Tuesday, the 2nd.—Breakfasted on Pacific Creek, after crossing the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains, or summit of dividing ridge, the principal evidence of which was that, whereas all the streams we had crossed or passed until that time ran east, the Pacific Creek, which is just over the Pass, runs west. The same is the case with all the streams on the west side of the pass. The altitude of the pass is 7085 feet. We killed five prairie hens to-day, which, after being admirably cooked, made our salt bacon seem wretched indeed. Road excellent to Little Sandy, where we camped, and found good feed. Distance about 37 miles.
Wednesday, the 3rd.—Travelled about 8 miles to Big Sandy, and breakfasted. While camping, a large troop of horses crossed, being driven by 2 Indian women, who were dressed in the most gaudy manner, followed a short time after by a Frenchman, whom I supposed to be the owner of both squaws and horses. Travelled about 9 miles further to Big Sandy again, dined, and then left for Green river, expecting to reach it about 6 or 7 o'clock, but much to my disappointment 6, 7, 8 and 9 o'clock came, but no river, and it was not till 11 o'clock, tired and worn out, that we came to the water. Distance 35 miles.
We had now left Nebraska, passed over the south eastern corner of Oregon, and entered the Territory of Utah, and although we were about 170 miles from the place of our destination, we were on our own ground, and all around assumed a closer interest as we approached Great Salt Lake City, where we were to meet anxious friends waiting to give us the hand of brotherhood and hail us welcome.
Thursday, the 4th.—Rose before the sun, and then learned from some traders that we had taken the wrong road and had come to the California Ferry. Breakfasted and turned back to the right ferry, where Elder Bigler found a relative who presented him with a very good Indian pony. There was a trading post there, and crowds of traders, gamblers and Indians, who of course all live on the emigrants.
Friday, the 5th.—Harnessed Elder Bigler's Indian pony, and hitched him to our wagon. As it had never been in harness before, it was rather amusing to see it make all its movements with a jump and dart forward. By adroit management on the part of Elder Miller, it was by the evening comparatively gentle and seemed to promise to do good service. Just before arriving at Black's Fork, No. 3, where we camped, we passed a splendid range of clay bluffs which, as we passed them, seemed covered with figures in almost all attitudes—nuns confessing to priests, and warriors fighting, and transforming and varying themselves as we changed our position. Day's journey about 38 miles.
Saturday, the 6th.—Travelled about 17 miles over an excellent road to Fort Bridger, on Black's Fork, a short distance east of a bluff, very prettily dotted over with cedar. The accompanying wood-cut represents the place. It is merely a trading post, then belonging to Major James Bridger, one of the oldest mountaineers in this region. The fort is built in the usual form of pickets, with lodging apartments opening into a hollow square. A high picket fence encloses a yard into which the animals of the establishment are driven for protection, both from wild beasts and Indians. The grass in the neighbourhood was abundant, but about a mile and a half from the fort Mr. Bridger had erected a board, on which was written a request for emigrants to keep a mile away from his place.
The road from Fort Bridger, described in Clayton's Guide, leads to the left of the bluff west of the fort, but the new road, the one altogether traveled now, leads to the right. East of Muddy Fork we descended the steepest and roughest hill on the road. Camped at Soda Spring, about 17 miles beyond Fort Bridger, tired enough. The wolves howled at night most dismally, causing an almost indescribable sensation. They seemed to wail and gnash their teeth for the fun of the thing. It was however, no joke to me to be hushed to sleep with such music.
Sunday, the 7th.—Our road to-day was most tedious, with nothing but the anticipation of a quiet rest in the Valley, in 2 or 3 days, to comfort us. We passed through some droves of cattle and sheep, and fortunately got through without suffocation from the clouds of dust raised by them. I could not stop to see Cache Cave, a cave in the bluffs, which is considered a curiosity, as our teams were weary and we wanted to hurry on to Echo Kanyon [Canyon], where we camped, near the creek, for the night. Distance about 37 miles.
Monday, the 8th.—Arose early this morning, and hastened on our journey. We crossed Echo Creek from 15 to 20 times, and most of the crossings were difficult. We passed many remarkable rocks to-day, but none I think so much so as Witches Bluffs, on the east bank of Weber river. They are more like gigantic and somewhat rude pieces of statuary in the form of women than any thing else. Out of compliment to their resemblance to the ladies I made a sketch of them. Weber River was the most important stream that we crossed after leaving the Platte. Had it been a few inches deeper our little mules must have swum for the opposite bank. Camped on Kanyon [Canyon] Creek. Day's journey 31 miles.
Tuesday, the 9th.—Commenced our journey this morning by getting our mules "mired" in one of the bad crossings of Kanyon Creek, and after many vain attempts to get them out, we at last succeeded by hitching Elder Bigler's horses to the wagon poles. The rest of the journey to the mouth of the Kanyon which opens into the Valley was desperate work, but we knew there were warm friends ahead, and a hearty welcome for the travelworn, so we scrambled up the mountains, and thumped and bumped over the rocks, and splashed through the streams, till we surmounted all difficulties. Signs of civilization met the eye as we proceeded along. From away up the mountain sides we could hear the sound of the axe, and in the road, chewing the cud of patience, we saw the sturdy team waiting to transfer to the busy haunts of men the foliage crowned monarchs of the solitude, perhaps then for the first time invaded. And now our journey, so full of interest and novelty to me, was nearly completed, and we were about to exchange the rude, but bracing and healthful, prairie life for the comforts and refinements of the city. Just before we turned the corner into the Valley we stopped at the creek, and having bathed and changed our clothing we at last entered as the sun was setting beyond the Great Salt Lake, a steel engraving of which is herewith given, and another 5 miles brought us to the City.