John R. Young, Memoirs of John R. Young: Utah Pioneer, 1847 (1920), 109-14.
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By the first of March forty persons had gathered at the Redwoods, 40 miles south of San Francisco, prepared to go to Utah. We organized a company by appointing Eli Whipple, captain; Sextus [Sixtus] E. Johnson, sergeant of the guard; John R. Young, chaplain; and Elemuel Sawtell, clerk.
Brother Whipple furnished the provisions, and hauled the blankets for the returning elders, thirteen in number; and with hearts full of hope and joy we started out for a walk of thirteen hundred miles. Before setting out, Joseph A. Kelting and I went to San Francisco and purchased thirty-five rifles and one hundred pounds of powder.
At the start grass was short, and teams were heavily loaded, so we traveled slowly. By the middle of April, it was evident that our provisions would not last us through. Our meat was nearly gone, and I began to urge the brethren to lie over a day and hunt. However, as we saw but little game, and killed none, there was no spirit for hunting.
On the 20th of April we camped at Elizabeth's Lake. After evening camp prayers, I talked and prophesied that if we would lie over, and go out to hunt, we should kill all the meat we should want. The company consented; and the next morning at daybreak thirteen of us started out. I was the odd man, and went alone.
I had walked about a mile when I saw nine deer standing across a hollow. I fired and killed a large buck. That commenced the ball. William King killed three without moving out of his tracks. By noon we had in all, twenty-two deer. We lay by and jerked the meat. Needless to say, we had plenty to last us the rest of the journey.
At Stony Creek, Mr. Cooper and party from New York, overtook us. My services were secured to pilot them to Salt Lake City. So bidding goodbye to my fellow missionaries, who were very dear to me, and to the Saints that composed our little company, I mounted a mule and struck the trail for home.
On the Mohave, having struck the Mormon road leading from Salt Lake to San Bernardino, we saw Indian signs. The redskins approached our camp at night, but kept out of sight in the day time. That looked unfriendly. At the lower crossing of the Mohave we picketed our animals close around our wagon.
At three o'clock in the morning, they stampeded, and all got away but one. I mounted bareback, without stopping to dress, and soon overtook the frightened animals, and making a wide circuit, brought them safely to camp.
At the Vegas Springs I met for the first time, that renowned Indian peacemaker, Jacob Hamblin, and learned from him the history of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. He said the Indians were still hostile, and thirsting for more blood. On the Muddy, a small stream of that region, we found living in a wagon-bed, turned bottom-side up for a shield from heat and sand, Ira Hatch and Thales Haskell, strong men, giving the better part of their lives to missionary work among the Indians—a labor that brought them neither pleasure nor wealth.
Taking their advice, we rested a day, purposing to make rapid drives from there to the settlements. On the 13th of May we nooned at the Beaver Dams, rested until night, then drove to the Clara Mountains, made a dry camp, kindling no fire. In the morning we drove to the Cane Spring for breakfast.
Scarcely had we turned out our horses when we were surrounded by forty Indian warriors, their faces all blackened. I soon became convinced that they had been watching for us and intended to rob, if not kill us. Many of them had on good broadcloth clothes, which I suppose they had taken from the people they had murdered at the Mountain Meadows. Most of them had good guns, and they were very insolent helping themselves to whatever they wanted.
A few minutes after they came, a mourning dove alighted on a willow at the head of the spring, about twelve rods from our camp. The wind was blowing hard from the south, waving the willow on which the bird rested. The Indians commenced shooting at it. With a sudden impulse, I raised my rifle and fired. If I had had the dove in my hand, I could not have cut its head off more nicely than I did.
The Indians seemed astonished, and for a short time were quiet. In our small company—only five of us—was a mountaineer by the name of Hardin. I felt that he was the only man that could be relied on in case of trouble. He had loaded a double-barrelled shotgun with navy balls, and stood leaning by the side of the carriage, the butt of his gun on the ground, the muzzle resting in his right hand.
Three Indians crawled under the carriage and commenced scuffling. Instantly one barrel of his gun went off, taking off the upper part of Hardin's ear, and tearing away the rim of his hat. It knocked him down, and I thought he was killed. The chief threw the back of his hand to his mouth and gave the war whoop.
I cocked my gun and put the muzzle against his belly. He stopped yelling, and Hardin sprang up and attempted to shoot him; but I interfered, telling the men that our lives depended on our keeping the chief.
I then spoke in Ute, and ordered the Indians to their camp, but kept the chief a prisoner. We hitched up, and putting the chief into the carriage, drove until three o'clock, then rested until dark, when we hitched up and drove rapidly until midnight. We then camped, tied up, and stood guard without a fire until morning. After breakfast, we gave the Indian a shirt and plug of tobacco, and told him to "git."
Years after, I became intimately acquainted with this chief Jackson. He was a bad man; and while he lived there was no peace with his band. Without doubt, all that saved our scalps at that time was the fortunate shot in killing the dove, and the course we pursued in keeping the chief a prisoner.
After turning the Indian loose, we passed a painfully anxious day; our animals were so exhausted that we had to take several rests, and were fearful of being followed by the Indians. Just before night, however, we had the good fortune to pull into the town of Pinto, the frontier Mormon settlement.
We were kindly received by the good people of that ward, and after resting a few days, continued our journey. The monotony of the desert was now pleasingly changed by the many ranches and busy villages we passed. At Parowan, two hundred miles south of Salt Lake City, we encountered a scene that I shall never forget. I remember distinctly, the "Exodus," as it was called, from Nauvoo, when sixteen thousand souls left their homes and commenced that marvelous journey of fourteen hundred miles to the unknown valley of the Salt Lake. But that exodus was like a small rivulet by the side of a mighty river when compared with the seventy-five thousand men, women, and children that we now met in one continuous line of travel.
Horses, oxen, and cows were harnessed or yoked to wagons and carts; and one family by the name of Syphus, was moving their effects on a handcart drawn by a pair of yearling steers. Mothers and children walked along as merrily as if going to a corn husking; each family moving its little bunch of cows and flock of sheep, and all starting on the journey (that was never completed) to Sonora, in Mexico, or some other place.
At times we were compelled to drive our wagon for miles outside the beaten road, everywhere hearing and seeing evidences that increased my gentile companions' wonderment of the marvelous power held by Brigham Young over his people; and added to my curiosity to see the outcome of Mr. Cooper's colonizing scheme. Surely everything looked favorable for the promoters of that idea.
At last we reached Provo, where the Church leaders had made their temporary headquarters.