Beebe, Nelson Paul, The Life and Diary of Nelson Paul Beebe , item 9, p. 25-29, in Melinda Alice Earl Chesney, Collection 1846-1855; 1992-1994.
On the first of March we commenced our journey. There was 15 wagons and 25 (people) in all, old and young. It was a beautiful morning when we bid our friends farewell and commenced moving up a canyon known as Cajon Canyon. This was all new to me, to see the teams winding their way, snake fashion, up the crooked road. I thought of home, and the many changes and scenery that I had passed through.
From the little fishing boat on New England shores, the great steamer plowing her way through the blue water, to the old saw mill grinding out lumber, and now on the road to Great Salt Lake to see two women living in one house together. And I also thought of the wild Indians that we soon must meet. But we rolled on up the heavy sand hills by doubling up, as they would call it. And as the shades of the night came on we made our camp in a canyon, the great mountains towering up on all sides. The old dutch oven was got out and wood was gathered. The ladies mixed up some bread, put it into those old ovens, and soon we had a meal. Then we sat around on the ground cross-legged, as the tailor set to work. Now, whether it was the way that the food was cooked, or the toils of the day, I cannot say, but I thought it was the best meal that I had ever tasted of.
But after supper, the Captain said, "Now boys, who will stand the first guard?" I thought, oh my, if I had to watch those horses I would not have one by morning. But the Captain, seeing how sad I looked, says to me I can stand camp guard. This I thought I could do, for the wagons would not run off. But as the night wore on, I again thought of the old home, and again began to repent that I had started out on this trip.
But at 12 o'clock I was released, and I spread my blankets down between the rocks, thinking of lizards, toads and bears; but weary and tired, I soon fell asleep. The morning came as lovely as ever, and we soon commenced moving on. Every mile of the road there was something new. Every watering place was so romantic, and I often thought when I got back to my friends I could tell them a fine story. But on each day I began to learn how to travel, and to gather wood, and to know how hot the old dutch oven must be to bake the bread. And to watch the coffee, not letting it boil over. About 6 days out, a little girl some 10 years old took sick, and at a place called Resting Springs the little girl died. Here we dug her grave by a little bush.
We stayed there some 3 days, to rest up our teams and to let the ladies wash. The drives between water was from 30 to 40 miles. About 5 days more took us to a place known as the Vegas Springs, all right. This is a noted place on the desert. This spring runs water enough to turn a mill. It boils up out of the ground with such force that a man can jump into it and not get his head under water. Here we met about 10 Mormons had come here to fulfill a mission and to build up a little village. Here I met the first Indians. They were in a wild state, wearing no clothes except a piece of buckskin around their waist. The ladies wore a cape or mantel made of rabbit skins over their shoulders, reaching down to their knees. They seemed to me like they were watching every move that was made. Their looks, dress, and habits was so strange to me. With their bow and arrow they got the food that they had to eat. They seemed contented and happy, and would laugh and joke with one another. I could not, at that time, see how they could be contented in their humble life.
After we had got our suppers, there was a meeting called by the elder that presided over the mission. We were seated on rocks and boxes. Some sitting on the ground. There was no light except the stars and a new moon giving us a little light. This was my first meeting in camp life, and I wondered where they would begin. Soon one of the ladies commenced singing, then a man offered up a prayer, and they sang hymns. Then the elder got up and said if anyone has anything to say the meeting is now open. A brother arose and stood for some time. I could see a halo or dim light gather around his head. I wondered what it meant. But soon he began to speak. I thought that he was speaking to the Indians, for I could not understand a word that he said. When he sat down, another man got up and told what he had said. He told the brethren of the mission, if they would humbly be prayerful and united they would build up a nice place and become well off. But if they didn't comply with those laws they would leave there and someone else would come there and build up a place. They soon left there and came back to their old homes, leaving the old fort of wood standing. So years rolled on.
I made nine trips across the desert. I never passed that old fort but what I thought of that meeting, and that man speaking on tongues, and the interpretation, and how true it was.
After stopping two days, we started again about 4 o'clock. We had now 60 miles to the next water, so we had to travel all night. We arrived at the mountain springs in the afternoon on the next day, tired, sleepy, and hungry. And at this place the Indians, or many of them, had their homes.
They did not seem to have much idea of farming. They lived on mescal. It grows on the hillsides in bunches, weighing from 50 to 100 pounds. They dig a hole in the ground, put in some wood and some small rocks. They set fire to the wood and when the rock is hot they pull out the rocks, put in the mescal in layers of mescal and rocks. Then they cover it over with grass and leave it for two or three days. Then they all go to the pit and open it and have a feast. What one has, they all have. You will often see them out on a rabbit hunt. They make a net about 2 feet high and about 50 feet long. This they wear around their waists until they come to the hunting ground. The net is made of a plant that grows in their country. They set their net by fastening it to the sagebrush, commencing in a circle quite small. Then they fasten their nets together forming arms. They then go out, making a big circle, driving the rabbits between those arms, and as they near the circle they commence shooting them with their arrows. On one occasion they came to my camp with about 20 rabbits. I loaned them a camp kettle to cook them in. They cleaned them very nicely, but I noticed that they saved the innards in a pile, and after they had got the rabbits a-cooking, they all sat down by the little stream of water and would break the innards in two, rinse them in the water, and eat them raw. Yet after all, I thought that they were the happiest people that I had ever met. They had nothing and wanted nothing, for the reason that they knew no better.
Here we rested two days, to rest up our animals after the 60 mile drive. The next drive of 35 miles brought us to the Rio Virgin. It is a small stream emptying into the Colorado River. It is what the freighters call a quicksand stream. Years after, I lost a casting here which cost $5.00 to get it out at low water.
We had to cross it six times, and it being in January the river was high by the melting of the snows in the mountains. But we got through all right. About two days brought us to the Santa Clara. This is a mountain stream. Its source is the noted place called the Mountain Meadows. This is a beautiful clear stream winding its way over the boulders to the Rio [River] Virgin.
There was quite a band of Indians living here, and farming little pieces of land where they can get a place level enough to irrigate. They were nearly naked. Their huts made of grass or cane that grows on that stream. All the animals that I saw were dogs. They raised them. I was told to eat. They seemed to have all things in common, what one had, all had.
In reaching the beautiful level place elevated so high, we had a long hill to climb and I walked on ahead of the teams. And in a bunch of grass I saw some human skulls. I gathered a number also, some long black hair, and sat down on a small rock. And was wondering how they came there. When the teams came up, Brother McBride informed that this was the place where John D. Lee killed the emigrants. Or what is called, the Mountain Meadow Massacre. This has been well verified, and Lee paid the penalty by being taken to the place and shot.
Four days more took us to Cedar City. This is the first Mormon settlement. Now I have always thought that Brother McBride wanted me "to see the Elephant." He took me to an old friend for dinner, by the name of Clark. He was a man about 40 years old. After a few moments a lady came in which he said was Sister Clark. In a few moments another Sister Clark. I could see that they were both sisters. When dinner was announced, the gentleman invited us in to the dining room, or kitchen. Here sat a lady about 60 years old. I could plainly see that she was the mother of the two Mrs. Clark's. But Brother McBride says, "This is Mrs. Clark." I sat down to the table a-thinking what a strange people! Here is a man married to the old lady and her two daughters. I had but little to say. But when dinner was over and we got started on the road, I asked him how the old lady became Mrs. Clark. He commenced laughing, and said I wanted you to learn about polygamy. I made no reply, but as I reflected on the Book of Mormon, and of my journey and the strange sights, I thought I had done nothing wrong and would sometime learn more. We moved along slowly and in two days we reached Parawan [Parowan]. The roads getting better and the grass was green, and a-plenty of it.
This was a small place, built in the shape of a fort. It was built of logs, one room after another. About 150 feet on the east and about the same on the north and west. The south had a fence with a large gate, to drive in, and two little gates on the east and on the west. They had a log schoolhouse. What is called a double log house.
We arrived there about 4 o'clock in the afternoon. I suppose for our benefit, they got up a dance, and we all gathered to the log house. And as they gathered there, they seemed like one family. There was no style, nor trying to outdo the other to dress. I saw ladies with different colored patches on their dresses. And also on their sunbonnets. And when the music started, there was no space at the head of the hall for the high-toned ones. But all seemed alike, no noise nor confusion. And I thought they were the happiest people I had ever met. They opened the dance by prayer, and closed the same way.
I took no part in the dance, for the very reason I did not know how to dance. But in my looking around the room, I saw a big square box I noticed the ladies would often go to that box, and as I had started to see the world, I must go to it, and as I neared the box I found it bull of little babes. They were sleeping so nicely. While their mother's was a-dancing I walked away thinking, how grand, and what a happy people. Here we lost some of our party, and I thought that they were right in stopping. But I had started to see the elephant. Nothing of note happened to us. Road was good. We passed a number of small settlements, and in about ten days brought us to the Great Salt Lake City, all well.