Weech, Hyrum, [Autobiography], in Our Pioneer Parents , 1-5.
A train was fitting out in St. Louis, Missouri. The means to buy cattle was sent in and cattle and wagons were to be shipped to Florence, Nebraska. We took passage with the St. Louis Saints on a steamboat to go up the Missouri River to Florence. There were six in the family, besides our mother [Elizabeth Gould Weech], as my oldest sister, Sarah, had married a William Betts in August, 1853, and they were intending to follow us the next year. With my brother and his wife, there were nine of us to go in one wagon.
We left St. Louis in June and had a hazardous journey up the river as there were so many sand bars and snags. The river changed its channel often in flood time, cutting through strips of timber, breaking the trees off from their roots and leaving snags. If the boat ran into them it was likely to pierce the side or bottom of the boat and sink it, so the captain had to be very cautious and it made the journey slow. But we enjoyed the trip very much as we had a brass band in the company and they would go up on the hurricane deck of the boat and play very often in the evenings until bedtime. My brother, Lorenzo and I, slept in the engine room, and the noise was annoying until we got used to it. We had no accidents and arrived safely at Florence, Nebraska, about the middle of June and went into camp a short distance from the town, which was a small place at that time, and awaited the arrival of the wagons and the cattle which were expected in a few days but which did not occur for some time.
We lived in a tent and spent our time in fishing and picking wild blackberries. I caught a nice catfish, and we had all the blackberries we could use.
Before the wagons and cattle came, my married brother, Henry, and his wife got dissatisfied and concluded that they would not go any farther and left the camp. We all felt very bad, but mother was determined to go on without them. Arrangements were made with another family to join teams with us and have part of the wagon. The cattle came at last, and we were very glad for we wanted to begin the journey.
The cattle were unbroken and we had a time breaking them in, teaching them to go to the right, by saying, "gee," and to come to the left, when we said, "haw," and to stop, when we said, "whoa." We drove them loose from the wagon with only the yoke on for a few days. Then on the fourth of July, our captain, John Banks, decided to make a start and go to a spring about five miles out. So the train started in the afternoon.
It was amusing to see the way the teams were herded along. Very few of the company had ever driven cattle before, and the women would walk on the one side and the men on the other side. But some of the steers ran around and broke several wagon tongues and then the people had to cut a green tree and put in a new tongue, and they did not get into camp until way in the night. Our family, however, did not have any trouble.
In a few days we arrived at the river, called the Loupe Fork Platte, and here we had to ferry our wagons across and make the cattle swim, as it was too deep to ford. This took us all of one day.
When our train camped, we would make a corral of the wagons so that the cattle could be driven into it to be yoked up. This was done by making a half circle with one-half of the wagons on one side of the road and the other half of them making a half circle on the other side of the road with the tongues on the outside and the front wheel of one wagon coming to the hind wheel of the wagon in front of it. Sometimes they could not get up quite close enough and a chain used for hitching the one yoke of the oxen would be hooked to the front wheel and then stretched and hooked to the hind wheel of the wagon that was in front of it. This would prevent the steers from going out of the corral between the wagons.
One team would take the lead each day, then the right side of the camp would follow one day and left side the next day. The tents were pitched on the outside of the corrals, opposite each family's wagon with the doors toward the wagons. The campfires were made on the outside of the rows of tents. When a stop was made at noon, they did not pitch the tents, but cooked the meals and ate them by the side of the wagons. When the cattle were turned out to feed, a number of men would take their guns and go out with the cattle to guard them to prevent them from becoming frightened or stampeding and running away, for the scent of the wild animals and their coming around them would frighten the cattle. These guards went out night and day. Those going at night would bring the cattle in with them in the morning and those doing the guarding at noon would do the same. They would eat their meals while others were hitching up the teams. Then another guard was placed around the camp every night. This duty of guarding was taken in turns by the men. After leaving the Loupe Fork, the next stream we came to was Little Wood River. Up to this time we had traveled through a timbered country, but this stream was void of wood. Only occasionally some driftwood could be found. Here we had our first experience of cooking our meals with buffalo chips, the dried dung of these animals and of the cattle that had passed there in former years.
The next stream we came to, was the Platte River. This stream had timber growing along its banks in most places. The river was a shallow stream at this time of the year. We traveled on the north side of it, and here we began to see the wild buffalo of the plains and the Indian camps, and the guards had to be alert to keep the cattle from stampeding at nights and noon whenever they were turned out to feed. As we traveled farther, they, the buffaloes, increased in numbers and would be coming in to the river to drink.
One day a large bull was seen coming from the river straight for the train, and the men were ordered to get their guns and shoot at him. They did, but could not turn him. On he came and ran through the train three wagons from the rear end. The cattle of these three wagons stampeded and ran after the buffalo. A boy about twelve or fifteen years of age, who was riding in one of the three wagons, was thrown out and was run over by the wagons and was killed. This was the first serious accident that had happened. The train went into camp and the boy was buried on the plains.
As we traveled on, the captain decided to stop a day and let the men have a hunt and get some buffalo meat for the camp, and also to let the cattle rest. Quite a number went out. There were two, who saw some buffalo feeding at a distance and they started to crawl on their hands and knees toward them, one behind the other with their guns in their hands. In drawing the guns through the grass, something caught the hammer of the gun of the man who was behind and the gun was discharged. It shot the head man through the thick part of the thigh. The weather being very warm, they could not save him and he died and was buried there. Out of all the men who went, they got only one buffalo.
Then we arrived at Ft. Laramie, a government post. There were several hundred soldiers kept there to protect the traveler from the Indians. At this time, several thousand of the Sioux tribe had come in to receive their annuity from the government. They were a fine looking lot, camped along the river in their tepees made of buffalo skins. They were clean and well dressed in their buckskin clothes, and it was a grand sight to see so many of them.
At Ft. Laramie, the road forked, one road crossing the river to the fort and the other keeping on the north side. A short time before, some men who were going back from Utah along the road on the south side had been killed by Indians. Because of this our captain decided to take the north road although the south one was better and most of the travel went that way. The north road was very rocky and mountainous. We had very steep hills to climb and go down. As we had no brakes on our wagons, we had to lock the wheels with chains to go down hills and had to put two teams on one wagon to go up hills, one half of the train going up at one time. We got along without accident, but we saw many wrecks of wagons left by those who had traveled the road before.
We continued up the Platte and at last left it to the south and struck across the Sweetwater River. It was now September and the nights were getting cold. We came in sight of the box canyon the river runs through, walls of solid rock and called the "Devil's Gate." The clouds were hovering over us when we camped that night not far from the gate, and in the night it snowed and froze thick ice. Some of the thinnest cattle had become chilled and could not get up without help and some died. We stayed there that day. The sun came out and most of the snow melted off. Here we had plenty of sage brush to burn and it made warm fires which kept us from suffering from the cold.
We left Sweetwater, going north and crossing to a stream, called Sandy. Then to Green River and on to Blacts [Blacks] and Hams Forts [Fork] to Fort Bridger. While we were on the Sweetwater, some men with teams from Salt Lake met us. They were carrying provisions for the hand cart companies who were coming not far behind us. One train passed us while we were camped on that river. They seemed happy and traveled much faster than we did. Our flour was about all gone and Joseph traded a gun to the men from Salt Lake for some flour. It made very dark bread, but it tasted good to us as we had been on rations.
Fort Bridger was one hundred and twenty miles from Salt Lake Valley. There we were near the towering mountains that border the valley on the east, and from then on our road lay through these mountains. The next stream we came to, was Bear River, then Yellow Creek and over a divide into the head of Echo Canyon and down this canyon of perpendicular walls to the Weber river, a nice clear mountain stream. We went down the stream and crossed it into a wide mouth canyon, up the canyon and over a divide called the Big Mountain, then down a short distance in one fork of Parley's Canyon, then over another divide called Little Mountain, and then we got a glimpse of the Great Salt Lake Valley, and our hearts were filled with joy and gratitude to God, for his protecting care that had been over us on our long journey. We were thankful that no accident had happened to any of us and that the cattle had stood the long journey and that we were now near our journey's end.
That night we camped in Immigration Canyon, and the next day we came out of the canyon. There before us lay the beautiful Great Salt Lake Valley, and nestling close under a ridge of the mountains which ran down into the valley sheltering it from the northern blast, lay the city of the Saints, a city which seemed to me to resemble Jerusalem which was a holy city where the people of God dwelt. That night, we camped in the city.
Our journey ended on the third day of October, 1856.