A. W. D. [Albert Wesley Davis], "Adventures on the Plains," Juvenile Instructor, 15 Dec. 1881, 278-79.
It is very remarkable, considering the exposure of the Saints to the Indians in their travels over the plains in early ears, that they have suffered so little at the hands of the red men. When the Indians have made raids upon the Saints it has almost invariably been the result of white men urging them on. Then, too, many of the atrocities which have been charged to the Indians have in reality been committed by unscrupulous white villains, who have fled from other parts, on account of crimes they have committed, and lived in the wilds of the west by raiding upon travelers or stealing from settlers.
Many of such characters as these lived among the Indians, and others were located at various stations along the overland route from the Missouri river to our Territory.
Scores of incidents might be related in which the Saints have been preserved in a manner almost miraculous from the Indians and their vile white instigators while journeying to Utah.
While other emigrants, both before and behind them would be killed or have their stock stolen, companies of Saints would frequently pass without even seeing the Indians. This immunity, of course, might frequently be accounted for by their superior system of organizing and their reputation for courage, but it oftener appeared to be the result of an overruling providence in their favor.
In the year 1864, one of my uncles came to Salt Lake City, from Ohio, to visit relatives, and, in the spring of 1865, wishing to return to his home in the east, I was requested to take him as far as Omaha with my team. Not wishing to go without knowing whether the authorities thought it best, my uncle went to President Young and asked him what he thought about it. The answer was that if I would go, I should have his faith and prayers, and that I should return home in safety. So, as soon as the snow was out of the mountains and we could pass through, we started.
Our company consisted of thirteen wagons, which, with one exception, that of my uncle and family, were loaded with missionaries going on foreign missions.
Nothing of much note transpired on our journey until the first evening after passing Laramie, when we camped with an emigrant train on their way west.
Just before they camped for the night, two of their men took their guns and went a short distance into the hills to hunt for wild game. One of them got back to camp that night all right, but the other did not, and was not found until the next morning, when his body was discovered lying in the road; stripped of everything but his shirt, his left hand grasping the shaft of an arrow, the point of which was buried in his heart, and his scalp taken off as low as his ears. His friends took his remains in charge and we heard nothing more of them. Near the same time we encountered a severe thunder storm, and when we reached the next station we learned that seven hundred hostile Indians had crossed the river and the road in advance of us and passed into the hills. The storm had doubtless hidden us from their view, and we were not molested by them.
We traveled on in peace the remainder of our journey eastward and arrived at Omaha in good health and spirits. Here my uncle and family left me, taking passage on a steamboat on their homeward journey.
From Omaha, I, in company with three others, went to Nebraska City, where we loaded with freight for Salt Lake. We waited there until a company was formed large enough to travel in safety, and then started for home.
Nothing happened more than is usual to large trains traveling across the plains, until we arrived at Laramie on our return trip. Here we pitched camp for the night and turned our stock across the river to grass. Shortly after dark some persons palming themselves off for Indians, stampeded our animals, causing us to lay over one day hunting them, and then we did not not recover all of them.
Some of the Laramie people said the government was going to kill the "Mormons" off within two years and thought they might as well begin their work there and then, yet no one received any bodily injury from their hands at that time.
From Laramie we traveled to Cottonwood Hollow, a distance of about twenty miles, without being molested.
At this place, we camped for noon. Our company consisted of a large emigrant train, all ox teams, Brother M. G. Atwood, captain, and ten mule teams under my command.
I got into camp with my mule teams a little ahead of the others, and took the mules down the hollow about half a mile, to give them water at the spring. I always kept my horse saddled till every animal had been watered and turned on grass, and all other saddle-horse were turned loose. The mules had finished drinking, and the leaders of the ox herd had just reached the spring, when some one at the camp shouted that the Indians were coming.
At this time, one of the teamsters was at the spring dipping water for culinary purposes. I called to him, "The Indians are coming!" but he did not hear me, and I rode towards him and called again. He dropped his cup and bucket and ran for camp at his utmost speed, and I saw no more of him until the stock had been corralled, which was accomplished as follows: As soon as those at camp shouted "Indians," the Indians commenced whooping and yelling like madmen below me in the brush. By dint of chasing and shouting I managed to get the mules and oxen started on a good run for the camp, where they were met by Captain Atwood and a number of others, who headed them into the corral. About the time the leaders of the herd reached the camp, six mounted Indians came dashing down the hill, and rushing in ahead of about two-thirds of the stock, tried to run them back past me. I had two Colt's revolvers with me, well loaded. I drew one of them and began firing at the Indians and drove them out of the herd. They got one of my mules ahead of them, but I followed them up to the brush when the mule broke away from them and I got him back again.
Just before reaching the corral. I met Brother Miles P. Romney coming to meet me. I handed him my empty revolver and told him to load it as quickly as he could. As soon as the animals were corralled, a cry arose that the Indians were coming down upon the camp from the other side. I put spurs to my horse and went around after them, and was almost within pistol shot distance of them before they saw me; the rear Indians seeing me first, gave a whoop, when they darted down a ravine, and that was the last we saw of them.
The six Indians who came through the herd went back along the road, and, as those of the emigrants who were afoot, had not reached camp, of course they were met. I saw the Indians surround one man, and just as he was breaking through the circle they shot five arrows into him. He ran into camp where all the arrows were pulled out of him except one, which had entered his cheek, the spike clinching itself. Brother [Anders Wilhelm] Winberg and Romney came to me with a pair of horse-shoeing pinchers and asked if I would go and pull the spike out. I went with them to where the man was, and, as he could not speak English, Brother Winberg requested him to sit down upon an ox yoke. While brothers Windberg and Romney held his head, I took hold of the spike with the pinchers, and, with a forcible jerk, drew it from his jaw.
As soon as the man was released, he jumped up, and, grasping my hand, cried "thank you, thank you, thank you!" that being all the English he could command.
There were seven persons in all of our company who were wounded, all of whom recovered.