Groesbeck, Nicholas Harmon, Reminiscences. (Trail excerpt transcribed from "Pioneer History Collection" available at Pioneer Memorial Museum [Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museum], Salt Lake City, Utah. Some restrictions apply.)
A few days after our arrival at Florence, Brother William Wardsworth and a few other Elders arrived from Utah, who had been sent to organize our company and see that we were started out on our journey across the plains in good order, which they did. On July 3 father's teams and a few others left Florence and pulled out some three or four miles, at which place we spent the fourth of July and had a very pleasant time.
We continued our journey without any interruption until the morning of the 24th of July. Owing to the fact that we had to make a dry camp the night before, digging wells to get water enough for culinary purposes, we could give our stock but very little water. We had only got fairly started when two of our teams became unmanageable and ran away. In one of the wagons there was a little boy about eight or nine years old, who was the son of a widow, by the name of Burton. He attempted to jump out of the wagon from the front end, but slipped and fell in front of the wheel, both the front and the hind wheels passed over his body, killing him instantly.
About three o 'clock that afternoon we came to what was then known as Pra[i]rie Creek and very unwisely camped on the north side of it. That night a very heavy rain occur[r]ed some few miles north of us and the next morning the creek, which had been only a shallow streamlet, was a raging torrent, the water being some six or eight feet deep. We were therefore obliged to stay until evening when it got so low we could ford it. We had only got fairly across when there came another storm and it was well for us that we were on the south side of the creek, for it raised some five or six feet again in the night.
The next day we continued our journey camping on the south side of Wood river that night.
On July 27, we saw our first buffalo. Some of the men of the company took their guns and went out and killed two or three and brought in some of the meat, which we enjoyed, for it was the first meat we had had for some time. On the morning of the 28th we continued our journey and had traveled about two miles when we came to the foot of some sand hills which were literally covered with buffalo. Two of our horses became frightened and ran into the midst of them. Of course we expected that that would be the last of them, but after we had traveled about half a mile, to our surprise and joy we saw the two horses in the middle of the road, coming toward us. We soon caught them and got some of the company to ride them and help drive the loose herd which was always in the rear of the train. On getting to the top of the hills and looking down on the valley below we there saw the sight of our lives, for as far as the eye could see west, north and south it was a heavy mass of galloping buffalo. When we got to the foot of the hill we were obliged to send men ahead of the train shooting blank cartridges to scare them so we could progress. We had proceeded this way for perhaps an hour or so when there was a line of two abreast coming from the north which broke through our train, and it was with a great difficulty that we got them turned so that our train could be reunited. We traveled this way until we came to a bend in the Platte river where we stopped and camped for the night, turning our horses and cattle into the bend and guarding the north side so that they could not get out during the night or the buffalo get in. It was a terrible night for all concerned for we were surrounded by those wild animals whose bellowing was like the roaring of the ocean. In the morning the captain of the train called a council of the other five captains of the company, for we were in five different companies of ten wagons each. They concluded to lay over there that day and get some buffalo meat and jerk and dry it, which they did, but while we were there another bad accident happened in which one of father's teamsters lost his life by being shot accident[al]ly through the thigh, severing the large artery that passes through the leg, which caused him to bleed to death. His name was Solomon Hall. We buried him that evening in a very deep grave to keep the wolves from scratching him up.
The next day we continued our journey, nothing of interest happening for about ten days, when we came upon a village of about three thousand Sioux and Cheyenne Indians. They demanded a toll of flour, bacon, sugar, tea, coffee, etc. We gave them all that we could spare and started on. We had only gone a short distance when they again formed in a semi-circle and demanded more provisions. We then called for the principle cheif and told him, through a man we had with us who could talk some Sioux language, that we had given all we could spare, and he asked where we were going and we told him to Salt Lake City and that we were Mormons. He then told his men to get up and let us pass which they did in a very sullen manner. We turned our teams to the south and went a few rods from the road and formed a corral with our wagons, then made a bargain with the Indians to herd our cattle and horses and bring them in the next morning at sun-up. They demanded some shirts and a few other things for their services, which we gave them when they brought the stock in the next morning as per agreement, not one hoof being missing. We did some trading with them and they let us pass on our way peacefully.
We continued our journey until we arrived west of Fort Laramie, where our company split up into five companies, each company going by itself. In the meantime we crossed the Platte river twice, the last time on the second of September.
On the fourth of September we crossed the great alkali beds where we gathered enough crude soda to last us for years and camped that night at the first crossing of the Sweetwater river. About one half mile east of Independence rock, which, as near as I can remember is about three hundred feet long and about one hundred feet high and about one hundred fifty feet wide, being in the shape of the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City.
That day was the warmest we had experienced on the road. The next morning when we awoke there was six inches of snow on the ground and about thirty head of our oxen had been chilled to death. Fortunately there were some Indian traders there who sold us what cattle we wanted at a very reasonable price.
That afternoon we moved about four miles up the river and camped in some cabins near the Devil's Gate, which is a crevice through solid rock about one hundred fifty feet high and about thirty or forty feet wide. We traveled along quietly overtaking and being overtaken occaisionally by some of the other tens of our company and frequently camping at the same camp grounds, where the young folks, to say nothing of the older people, always had a pleasant visit together.
About the tenth of September we crossed the Great Divide and camped that night at Pacific Springs on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. On the top of the divide we saw water coming from one spring and dividing, one part flowing toward the Atlantic ocean and the other toward the Pacific ocean. About eight o'clock that evening the first handcart company came up and camped there also. The next morning they passed us and we did not see them any more.
There was nothing to mar our happiness from that point until we arrived in Salt Lake City on the second day of October 1856.