Charles Denney reminiscences and diary, 1875 January-1883 April, 14-25.
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. . .I stayed in Wyoming that night, & the next afternoon started on the journey across those long, dreary, desolate plains, about a thousand miles to our destination. I was in one respect more fortunate than many others, some of them having to stay in Wyoming 5 or 6 weeks.
On the next day after my arrival in Wyoming, one of the brethren asked me if I would not like to go on, I told him yes, & he told me to get my luggage an get into a wagon that was just ready to start, an[d], after they had taken away my box from me, as being to heavy to take along, and putting all my things into my sack, I started on my journey with about 5 or others in about 60 wagons, across the plains. Here I knew scarcely anybody, almost an entire stranger in a strange land. yet I did not feel discouraged, but still desired to go on to the valleys of the mountains. On the first afternoon we travelled about a mile, just to say we had made a start & then camped for the night; The first evening we camped, the captain of the company, Bro. Halliday of <Alpine or> Am. Fork Utah Co., Utah, called the camp together, & held a meeting, instructing the Saints in regard to their duties, the dangers of the people, in leaving the main camp, giving good, kind, fatherly advice, &c. We then had prayers and retired for the night. We used to have
even prayers every evening previous to retiring, about 8 o'clock, which I think I never missed. I enjoyed good health, the whole journey through, although I did not have as much food as I could have eaten.
It must have been about the 14th of July 1866, when I left Wyoming for Salt Lake City. We travelled the old road, that is the road the pioneers travelled, I think or at least the one travelled by the Saints for a number of years, previous to this time. As I did not keep a journal, of course I must depend on my memory for what I write now. In the wagon, that I was put in there was (2) two families; Bro & Sister Balmforth, and six children, and Bro & Sister Isaac Woods, no children, making eleven in all. On our wagon cover our teamster wrote the name of "Weber Sal," & that is what our wagon was known by, our teamster's name was Joe [blank space], from Weber, a pretty good kind of man, but rough like the rest of the teamsters; on another wagon was, "Pony Express," "to Salt Lake, Pike's Peak, or Bust by Golly," on another "The Mountain Boy," The Pony Express was driven by Mart Lenzi, or as he used to be called "Pony" because he was a short, stumpy sort of a fellow, and full of his fun, another wagon was driven by Tom Brown, which was loaded with coal oil for the old Tabernacle, and the Theatre. Most of the wagons have some church freight in them, in addition to the emigrants & their luggage. There was nothing particularly exciting in our journey: But I will remember the first death that took place on the plains, the scene I shall never forget. I think it was about two 2 weeks after we started on the Plains, I think it was a sister. A rough box was made somewhat in the shape of a coffin, with no lining, or anything of that kind, the grave was dug on a hill a little way from the side of the road, and the train was stopped for noon, and she was burried, and in the afternoon the train went on, almost as though nothing had happened. We had about 6 deaths on the plains, all buried alike, on the road here and there we would see a piece of wood about the size of a pickett stuck up, it was the toomb "stone" of some weary emigrant, who tired of the long and weary journey, by the ox teams, has taken his last long rest, or perhaps a toilworn Saints, who, with his hand cart had given up under what might be considered one of the most wearisome and laborious journeys ever undertaken by man or woman in this or any other generation, another toombstone would mark the last resting place of some loved son or daughter, who, overtaken by cholera or other disease incident to the plains, had bid their parents
gon or brothers & sisters go on while they, weary of the March, laid down for their last long sleep. In other places nothing but two cross Bones of oxen would mark the grave of the sleeping traveler, with his or her name written on the bones. These land marks were not touched by the travellers, but left all alone in the solitude of death, with none but the eye of that all seeing God, who does not let even a sparrow fall to the ground without his notice, to watch over them. Others were not so fortunate, if it might so be called, as to have even a box to be laid in, but had to be rolled in a blanket, and in that way were burried. Here and there might be seen holes in the ground about 10 or 15 feet from the graves, which were made by wolves, who in their desperate hunger had burrowed into the graves and feasted on the remains of some burried traveler. But let us leave this dreary scene & take another view of this long march.
As we travelled on day after day, we would see herds of Buffalo, deer, and other wild animals that inhabit this Great American desert, some of our teamsters take their rifle in hand a perhaps be forturnate enough to kill one, when the most favored ones in camp would get a small piece of this fresh meat, which was considered quite a luxury, others would shoot a rabbit or two, &c. The principle food that I got was flour and bacon, one pound of flour per day was all I was allowed, and about 1 pound of bacon per week. The flour I used to make into dumplings and the bacon I used to fry, on one occasion I had a treat in the shape of a couple of rabbits heads, which I cleaned and boiled, and thought I had a feast. As we journeyed up the Platte river I used to go a fishing and would cook what I caught for supper. I used to do all my own washing, as I did not know anyone scarcely that I thought would do it for me. I enjoyed good health, all the way across the plains.
One night in particular I must speak of as being the first that I ever passed in the open air, in the pouring rain. There was no room in the wagon for me & I had to walk about the whole of the night as I could find no dry place to lay down in, the rain poured down very hard, and I was dripping wet through the whole night; I thought the morning would never come. We could get no fire, & I could get no shelter. But I felt that it was alright. The teamsters used to have some good times, at night, they would have their dances, songs, games &c., but I felt too strange to try to join in with them. The night herders used to sleep in the wagons during most of the day & watch the cattle at night, and protect the train from Indians raids while the others slept. The train which started out ahead of us from Wyoming was attacked by Indians and a number of their <oxen> driven off, so that they had to leave a great part of their luggage behind, we passed the same spot 2 days afterwards and saw their luggage, but, as we ourselves were heavily loaded, we could not take any of their luggage along. There was nothing connected with our journey very much different to what all others, who travelled the same way, experienced.
One night, however, I must write about, as it seemed to me, at that time, the longest night I every saw. In the afternoon it commenced to rain, and continued to do so up till dark, it was now bed time, but I had no place to lay my head, the wagon, then containing 10 persons, was too crowded, and the ground was soaking wet, & I had but 1 knotted quilt for bed clothes, I laid down under a wagon for a short time but was soon sopping wet, I could do nothing else but walk around all night in the rain, & I thought the morning would never come. At about 6 o'clock the rain quit, & I gathered some "Buffalo Chips," dried Cattle dung and made a fire, and dried myself as best I could. One young woman, <I think her name was George before she was married,> acted very kind to me on one occasion, & I must never forget it, she told me if I would carry her some water and some "buffalo chips," she would wash my shirt & quilt for me. I carried the water for her, also the "wood," then she told me her mother said she could not do it, so I had to do it myself. The way I used to wash my shirt was like this—I would go into the water with it on, then after I had splashed about a while, and rubbed my shirt I would lay it on the bank to dry while I went into the water again , so you see I was clean myself and had a clean shirt to put on.
When we had got a good way on our journey a Bro Meiks [Meeks] took me to drive a team for him for a bout 2 weeks till we arrived on this side of Green River, when he took a different road & I left him. When at Weber a person wanted to hire me, But I wanted to come to Salt Lake, so I did not stop there.
It was on the night of the 25th of September, 1866, that we made our last camp out. Early next morning we were up and doing. This place I think, must have been what is called Hardy's station. The most of us <boys> put on some of our Sunday go to meeting clothes, and started off to walk to the city ahead of the train, but it seemed a tremendous long walk, in Parley's Kanyon we met several parties who had came to meet their friends & relatives, but I thought I had no one to meet me, so I journeyed along, till I came to the mouth of the Canyon. I shall never forget my feelings as I looked upon the city of Salt Lake from the bench at the mouth of Parleys Canyon, it seemed so beautiful to me. I walked down the road till I came to a place between the Cotton factory of President Young to what is known as Smoots factory, about a mile ahead of me I saw a couple of teams, and I said to myself, I'll rest here till these teams pass me, then I will proceed on my journey, so I sat down by the roadside til the first one, a horse team came up, the man who was driving it asked me if I knew a boy in the train, which was then coming into sight, by the name of Charley Denney. I replied "I'm the one." He said, "jump on, & I'll take you home,["] but did not tell me his name, & I did not know him. In a little while I found out that it was my Brother-in-law, David Wm. Leaker, and the young woman who was riding with him was my cousin, Caroline West, and she gave me a couple of nice ripe peaches, the first I ever had tasted in my life.