Wilmer Wharton Bronson in Ancestors and Descendants of Leman Bronson 1640-1963 (1963), 60-62, by Sarah Bronson Boden.
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About the fifteenth of May, 1847, the arrangements for our departure being completed, we commenced our line of march westward bidding adieu to the land of our fathers, a land that had become endeared to us by a thousand ties, a land which still contains smoldering ruins of our revolutionary sires, who bravely fought and a great many laid down their lives, in the great cause of political and religious liberty. Where by they transmitted to us, their children, all those sacred rights and privileges which the Constitution of our country guarantees to its law abiding subjects.
Those reflections contrasted with our exiled condition caused us to shed tears of sorrow and call loudly upon that being, who created all men free, for vengeance upon the administrators of our government who had allowed us to be so inhumanly and unmercifully dealt with. But leaving the matter with Him who holds in His hands the destiny of all men, and believing it to be the will of the Lord that we should isolate ourselves for a time from the pales of civilization in order to attain to the high destiny the Lord had declared through his servants we should arrive at in the future, we struggled on.
When the wagons were strung out in traveling order, formed as we were in two lines abreast, they extended almost as far as the eye could see; while the face of nature clothed with all its majestic beauty and grandeur, would have furnished a scene worthy of the artist's pencil and would have inspired a feeling of sacred devotion in those who beheld it.
A military organization was effected in order to protect ourselves against the attacks of hostile bands of Indians who roamed about the country in great numbers. We might with some degree of propriety be regarded as intruders. Consequently, a thorough system was entered into by which a strong guard was posted around our camp every night. In this way we had strong hopes of avoiding trouble with our red neighbors.
Our progress was slow in consequence of the company being so large. The dust which would naturally arise from such a vast number of animals and wagons traveling as we were in a somewhat sandy country was very dense and suffocating.
A few days travel took us beyond the reach of wood for fuel. So we were compelled to resort to the necessity of burning buffalo chips in order to cook our food. The water was warm and of poor quality which, together with the hardships and privations consequent upon a journey of that description, was the cause of some sickness which would occasionally result in the death of some of our friends and relatives.
We followed the pioneers trail which led us directly up the Platte River, a large stream half or three quarters of a mile in width and upwards of seven hundred miles in length.
A weeks experience in traveling in two lines abreast demonstrated the impracticability of the plan. We were compelled to divide into companies consisting of one hundred wagons each, which greatly increased our facilities for traveling. It was a great curiosity to see the almost numberless herds of buffalo, which roamed over the hills and plains. These champions of the forest (bring unaccustomed to see invaders of their soil in the shape of wagons and teams) would come so close to our train as to be easily shot down by the teamsters while sitting in the mouth of their wagons. On several occasions some of our cow herd and loose oxen, (on seeing a herd of buffalo) would stampede and mingle with these wild cattle; and away they would run over the hills where we never see nor hear tell of them any more.
One little circumstance connected with these animals I will take the liberty to relate. A very large bull weighing—I should say—in the neighborhood of fourteen hundred pounds, came lumbering down the side of a sloping range of hills, making directly towards our wagons. His bold and fearless disposition as he came within a short gun shot of the train attracted considerable attention.
Some eight or ten teamsters, including myself, seized our guns and discharged a volley of balls with such accuracy as to render the old fellow very uneasy and caused him to beat a hasty retreat. He was closely followed by our little party. Volley after volley of leadened messengers were sent after him with no apparent or immediate results in our favor.
After following him over a mile in this way, he all of a sudden dropped down on all fours as if about to give up the ghost. Supposing him now to be wholly within our power, we gathered around him in order to take possession of our prize.
One of the company by the name of Hubbard Tuttle drew his knife and throwing one leg over his neck began to cut the old fellow's throat. This last maneuver brought him to his senses, and he jumped up with the activity of a panther, tumbling Mr. Tuttle head over heels and making at him with all the ferocity of a demon. Mr. Tuttle took to his feet for security and barely escaped by the skin of his teeth. After running a short distance in this way he (buffalo) fell to the ground and died almost instantly. We were not long dissecting him, during which time the train patiently waited until the meat was loaded into the wagon.
Our loose stock had to be guarded with the greatest care to prevent their mixing with the buffalo and running into the hills. On one occasion while camped on the banks of the river, about 12 o'clock at night, our slumbers were disturbed by a loud rumbling noise not very much unlike that of a strong wind in a dense forest. The guard gave the alarm. Men, women and children could be seen tumbling out of their wagons in a half dressed condition anxious to ascertain the cause of such an unusual disturbing of the water.
We soon discovered it to be a large herd of buffalo, consisting of five or six hundred head, in the act of crossing the river. It so happened that we had camped and so formed our wagons as to hedge up one of their old crossing places. It required all the force we could muster, consisting of men, women and children, with ox whips, tin pans, and everything could make a noise in order to prevent them from running over and demolishing our wagons and camp equipage.
They came so close to the bank of the river that they were easily reached with our ox whips. After considerable exertion we succeeded in inducing them to clamber up the bank a short distance below the camp. The ground fairly trembled as they galloped over the plain leaving us unmolested the remainder of the night.
Sometime after this while traveling quietly along with no apparent prospect of trouble of any description, the teams of the entire company consisting of three hundred yoke of oxen, as if startled by some invisible power, made a simultaneous leap and away they ran and inspite of the most sanguinary efforts on the part of their drivers became entirely ungovernable. They got over the ground with incredible rapidity, leaving the road and running over hollows and rough places, turning over wagons, scattering contents in every direction, and in one or two instances running over children injuring them severely.
A like tragedy was repeated several times afterwards with similar results. Several times the camp was thrown into confusion in the silent hours of the night by the guards reporting Indians seen lurking around the camp, but for some cause they did not attack in the intervention of kind providence. A strong guard held them in check so that we received no injury from them.
The two extremities of the expedition were not separated a distance of thirty five or forty miles. Elder John Taylor had charge of the company that I belonged to – a man greatly beloved by the entire company. We had a bugler whose duty it was to blow the horn when the hour arrived for prayers. Each head of a family would then call upon the Lord for his blessings to rest upon them in their journeyings over the great western plains. The sound of the bugle was also the signal for starting in the morning, gathering in the stock and so forth.
After a somewhat wearisome journey of thirty days duration, we arrived at a place called Fort Laramie, the only signs of civilization we had seen since leaving Winter Quarters. This was a very poor speciman, for the entire place consisted of five or six log cabins inhabited by some Frenchmen who had married squaws for wives and were keeping a kind of Trading Post to accommodate the Indians.
From this point we left the main stream of the Platte River and followed one of its tributaries, which led us in the direction of the Black Hills, where we arrived at the expiration of the second day's travel.
From the point above mentioned here we found a considerable quantity of trees, the first timber we had seen of any account since we left Woodriver [Wood River]. Some of our teams had died from the effects of alkali water. Others had run wild by mingling with the buffalo. While not a few had become so far reduced (in consequence of heavy loads and a tedious journey) that they were very little use to us. Cows, young steers, and heifers were substituted which of necessity rendered our progress very slow; but there was only one alternative left us for life. We must either go ahead or perish in a wilderness country. The very idea of retracing our steps with the hope of obtained aid or protection from our Christian Friends was despairing in the extreme. So by the help of the Lord we struggled on in spite of all the difficulties we were called to encounter.
As we left the Black Hills and began to ascend to the summit (which divides the waters of the great Atlantic and Pacific slopes) the atmosphere began to grow chilly and cold. On arriving at the first crossing of Sweetwater (a place which nature had clothed with a great many charming curiousities) we found it necessary to put on our overcoats if we had any. If not, blankets or bed quilts were used, especially at night as the high altitude (torn out) rendered the cold several degrees above (freezing) point.
One of the characteristics of this high locality (or rather of its natural curiousities) was a very large rock containing a surface of half or three quarters of an acre somewhat convex in shape. The top of which was sufficiently flat to admit of and accommodate a great many hundred people, who could view with pleasure the surroundings for miles in extent. The surface of this rock was reached by the aid of steps which were cut in solid rock with an axe or some other kind of instrument. A short time was occupied in dancing in order to more fully gratify our curiosity. This remarkable looking rock was about sixty feet in height and so beautifully shaped as to indulge the idea that some genius had been trying to show his skill in the art of sculpture.
The next point which nature rendered attractive was a place called Devil's Gate. On our arrival at this romantic looking spot of the world's surface, we found that the Sweetwater River had sometime (aided in all probability by a convulsion of the earth) cut its way through a mountainous range to the depth of three or four hundred feet. Its (walls) being perpendicular and of solid rock. A few hours travel brought us to the summit of which I have made mentions.
We had now camped on the [text missing] elevation of land on the western hemisphere.
It was in the month of August, 1847. We were overtaken in a tremendous snow storm of such uncommon severity as to chill some of our stock to death. The condition of the weather necessitated a hasty exit from our uncomfortable situation. The mountainous and rugged condition of the roads dictated subdivisions of the company in order to facilitate and hasten our entrance into a warmer climate.
As we began to descend the great slope, the nights gradually grew warmer. After crossing the Big and Little Sandies [Sandy], we came to Green River, one of the tributaries of the great Colorado. On arriving at Blacksmith's Fork, we found an old mountaineer by the name of Bridger, who had been living with the Indians a great many years, had married two squaws, kept quite a number of cattle and horses, by which he bought skins and furs from the Indians.
We were told by this mountaineer that it would be impossible for us to sustain ourselves in Salt Lake Valley (as we had already learned that the Pioneers had already located in that vicinity). So sanguinary was this mountaineer in his belief that he offered one thousand dollars for the first ear of corn raised in the valley.
Trusting in the Lord we struggled on over mountains and through canyons. Weber River was crossed in turn, a small but beautiful stream. A few days travel from the last mentioned place brought us to the top of a high mountain, from whose lofty summit a distant glimmering view of the Great Salt Lake was visible, the great valley lying several hundred feet below us, the lofty peaks of the western mountains rising above the blue and extensive waters of the great lake, whose sparkling brightness reflected back the rays of the sun with almost indescribably brilliancy. Bursting as it did upon our vision so suddenly presented a scene indescribably grand and caused us to halt for a short time and gaze upon it with a great degree of admiration and delight. A feeling pervaded every bosom that we were on the borders of a land where we hoped to enjoy a quiet resting place from our relentless persecutors who had by mob violence driven us from our hard earned homes and possessions.
After our teams had rested a little, we moved along over hills and through canyons in hopes of soon enjoying the realities of our new home.
A reaction took place in our feelings as we emerged from the mouth of Emigration Canyon into a parched barren desolate looking valley whose surface was almost literally covered with large crickets whose unsating appetite threatened the entire destruction of every green vegetable with their reach.
At a distance of two and a half miles was presented to our view the wagons and tents of the Pioneer company who had located themselves on a little stream which afterwards was called City Creek.
A half an hour's drive brought us in close communion with the loyal and brave pioneers.