Winters, Johanna Larsen, Reminiscences, 3-8.
Trail excerpt transcribed from "Pioneer History Collection" available at Pioneer Memorial Museum [Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museum], Salt Lake City, Utah. Some restrictions apply.
There was no food in camp and nowhere we could buy any. By this time all the younger children in the company were sick and it began to look as if we should all perish. Means had been provided by the heads of every family to cover all expenses from the time we left our old homes until we should reach Salt Lake, as there would be no church teams to meet the emigrants that year. The money was forwarded and men sent from Salt Lake to make the purchases. One man to buy the provisions and another to buy the oxen and wagons and a few cows. All were supposed to be at the Platt[e] Station at the time of our arrival. There was nothing, not even a message.
Brigham Young, Jr. was with the company returning from his mission to England, he was such a kind fatherly man. His brother, Joseph A. Young and wife came to North Platt to meet him and with them our wonderful Captain Rice who was to lead us across the Plains. A meeting of the Brethren had been called and each man according to the number in his family put up enough to buy a few sacks of flour from the nearest point, which was divided every morning a pint cupful for each adult in the family. Two children had already died and a number more were not expected to live. It was train time, again everybody waiting and watching and sure enough it was loaded with wagons, oxen and a few milk cows. Everybody got busy unloading and putting the wagons together with Captain Rice there to help them. But no provisions, nor a word from the man in charge had come. Brigham Young Jr. had sent several telegrams to different parts in the State of Maine where he was ordered to make the purchase, but no reply. The situation was becoming alarming—children sick and dying. The oxen was numbered and corresponding numbers were drawn by the Brethren, so each man had three teams. The cows were sold to anybody who had the money. My father paid $90.00 for the best one, the others were sold for less, and all were anxious and willing to help feed the sick. It was now towards night and a message to Brigham Young Jr., came from Mr. Man from the east. (I will not mention his name) The message said that when he got there he saw a large stock of bankrupt goods advertised for sale at a bargain, so he bought the goods with the money belonging to the company on the strength of getting the same amount that he had coming to him in the adjoining state, but failed to get it and said he dared not come back without the provisions. Brigham Young Jr. called a meeting of all the returned missionaries to interpret it, so they could all understand it.
My father said the suspense for a few moments was terrible. At last, Brigham Young, Jr. asked the returning missionaries if they knew of any one in the company who had any surplus means. A Bro. Nielson from Sanpete said, "Yes, there is one man, but I doubt whether he will let it go now." Bro. Young told him to call him and talk to him." They told him what Bro. Young wanted to see him about and he said, "Yes, I have a little more money left, there are seven of us in my own family besides I paid the emigration for 24 poor persons, including teams and provisions until we reach Salt Lake. I have still $24.00 left, but not one dollar more for that man to handle.
Brother Young then said, "Will you lend it to me?" He said, "Yes provided you promise to purchase the provisions yourself." Which he did.
Brother Young and another man left the same night for the east, and returned on the third day with the provisions which were distributed according to numbers in each family. Captain Rice ordered all to pack up and hook on to the wagons. He said, "We must pull out of this death hole if its only half a mile." Ten children had already died and were buried there, besides an old lady 82 years of age. We had been waiting there three weeks—it did seem good to get into fresh air and to get a drink of fresh water. Captain Rice was a wonderful man—he seemed to know every inch of the road between North Platte and Salt Lake. We all had to walk, none were allowed to ride, he said the oxen had all they could do to pull the load. The feed was beginning to dry up.
The captain said we must cover at least 30 miles a day in order to reach Salt Lake by October Conference which must be done. A certain number of the younger brethren were to take turns to herd the oxen at night and before starting in the morning the hymn "Come, Come, Ye Saints" was sung and prayers were offered by one of the brethren. Then we started out to walk ahead of the teams. We were not allowed to walk behind because of Indians. We made aprons of burlap sacks and picked up fuel as we went along, mostly buffalo chips or anything that would burn. If there were streams to cross, the captain, would pick us up, one in front of him on his horse and another behind him and keep on going back and forth until all were across. Every day was about the same only the farther we got, the more rough and rocky the roads seemed to be, sometimes we would find some old Indian sandles and tie them under shoes to ease our feet a little. At times some of the returning missionaries would walk along with us telling some of their experiences. Sometimes we would sing a verse or two of "Come, Come Ye Saints."One of the Brethren asked us one day if we ever sang:
Think not when you gather to Zion.
Your troubles and trials are through.
That nothing but comfort and pleasure
Are waiting in Zion for you.
I think he had a purpose in doing it—we looked up the Hymn and at least it gave us food for thought and study. Things went along as usual. The days getting a little shorter and the nights colder and longer. It seemed like we were traveling up hill all the time. We got up one morning and found the ground completely covered with crickets. They would hop into our pans and kettles over the fire as fast as we could flip them out with a fork. We traveled in crickets for two days. They would crush under the wheels like so much sand or gravel. Once in a while we would see a deer or an antelope. Some of the brethren had bought old army guns at a soldier station near Julesburg. When we passed and of course, everybody was anxious for fresh meat, but accidently a young man was shot, the bullet lodged in the back of his head.
Brother Young sent a message to Julesburg, to send the army doctor as fast as horse flesh could take him. He came and traveled along with us for three days, but was unable to find the bullet. The young man died and was buried there.
I think it was within the next day or two we were camped on a large, open flat, the oxen were brought to camp as usual and yoked up ready to start, we sang our morning hymn, prayer was offered by Brigham Young. Just them we all noticed at a distance something like a small campfire in the direction which we were to travel. There was no sign of anything else to be seen, the fire increasing in size and the wind bearing right toward us. The captain ordered the oxen unyoked and said we will sing again, and again he offered prayer. The oxen were driven in an opposite direction for fear of a stampede. It was now coming close and getting hot. Brother Young stepped up on the highest part of a wagon tongue, raised his hand and said, "Brethren and Sisters, stand still, we are not here to be destroyed." He still stood there, all at once he pointed to a little cloud not much larger than a man's hand and said, "There is our deliverance." At the same moment a terrific peal of thunder and a flash of lightning and then the rain poured down. We then thanked the Lord for our deliverance, and we went on our way rejoicing. We traveled on as usual making over 30 miles a day. All went well until it commenced to rain. It rained steadily for four days. It was hard to find anything to make fire with. Then it turned to snow which was worse. For three days the ground was covered with snow, the poor oxen could find nothing to eat only the tops of dry bushes and a few branches on the side hills, but still we had to travel. The nights were cold and the days grew shorter. A few cases of Mountain fever developed—my father was one of them. There was not much left at this time that the sick could relish—only milk, and every one that had any were willing to divide. Brother Young was handy with his gun, he would kill a deer once in a while and divide it among the sick for stew or broth which was a great help to them. And all recovered slowly.
We now traveled on until we reached Green River. At this point Brother Lewis Robison, from Salt Lake was running a ferry boat. It was then arranged that the few small rigs drawn by horses or mules should be taken across first on the boat. Then the women and children. The ox teams had to cross the stream and the driver with them. The water was high and swift. The oxen had to swim and pull the load—the captain on his horse followed each wagon across to steady it and keep it from turning over. There were fifty wagons, two yoke of oxen on each wagon. Imagine how tired that man and his horse must have been. Now, before we started to cross, the captain gave strict orders to tie utensils of all kinds onto the wagon or they would float down stream. The wagon next to ours was driven in and two or three buckets or kettles floated down stream. The woman, on the impulse of the moment jumped into the stream trying to grab them. The woman had on a heavy skirt of homespun, which filled with air and she floated down stream. Although it looked terrible it reminded me of pictures I had seen and read about fairies floating on the water. The captain galloped his horse quite a ways past her and then plunged in and brought her ashore. I have often wondered if he was not tempted to say a swear word or two. Captain Rice was a wonderful man.
I do not remember how long it took us from there to Salt Lake. We traveled late and early. We reached the old camping ground on October 5th, at 11 o'clock at night.