Bernhard H. Schettler autobiography, undated, 18-23.
In May, brother N. V. Jones and Jacob Gates arrived from Liverpool to superintend the emigration in New York and Florence, Nebraska, and after having informed myself through them what was best to take along, I began to fit myself out for my journey. Besides fitting myself out, I bought a little variety of merchandise which I expected to be able to exchange to advantage for a place in Salt Lake City. Cladius V. Spencer, whom I had. entertained the previous Fall on going out to England, had now returned, and gave me some advice in the purchase of goods.
I think it was on the 11th of June, 1861, when the Saints were to start for the West. A company had arrived the day before from England, and I was kept busy on the 11th in the weighing of their luggage, as it as being transferred from the vessel to the cars, until it was getting dark, when I ran upstairs to mother and Emily to take with them my last meal, and fetch a few articles which I had not yet sent to the station. Having attended to this, I bid to Emily my last adieu, and mother accompanied me to the railway station in Jersey City where the train was already loaded with the Saints. Brother Orson Pratt desired me to take charge of the company until we reached a certain place in Pennsylvania, where brother John D. T. McAllister was to join us with a small company, and then take charge of the whole. I did this agreeable to request, and now bid good-bye to my dear mother to go back to Emily, not knowing whether I would ever see her again. At 10 o'clock P.M., the train left, and I well remember the happy feelings I experienced in starting for Zion. I occupied a place in a car where I had all the Swiss Saints together, and between singing, talking, and making music, the time passed very pleasantly. Being an emigrant train, we made for slow time. As expected, in Pennsylvania, brother John D. T. McAllister met us with his little company and I turned over my superintending to him. In Chicago, we had some four or five hours delay, changing cars, and at Quincy, we took the steamboat for Hannibal down the Mississippi River and from there again by rail to St. Joseph, Missouri, passing near Jackson County, which of course was an interesting place for us. At St. Joseph we embarked on a steamer and started up the [Missouri] River until we reached the following, Florence, in Nebraska, it being the 21st of June, having made the journey in 10 days and nights. Here arrived, we got our luggage all out onto the landing, and before we could get this done and the things covered up, we had a tremendous rain storm come on, which drenched our luggage so badly as to do much damage.
I moved with my company of Swiss onto the hill and into the so-called Church warehouse, which was simply a barn, pretty well filled with machinery taken apart which was to be shipped to Salt Lake when convenient. Here I made myself and company as comfortable as possible, awaiting the time for our starting by ox-train across the plains. I had not been here many days, when my brother Paul A. arrived by mule-train from Salt Lake going on a mission to Holland with captain Van der Vonde. He stayed with me nearly two days relating to me much of his experiences of crossing the plains and his stay in Utah. During his stay, I baptized sister Beneke, who had followed us up from New York, Paul assisting in the confirmation. When Paul was ready to continue his journey, I accompanied him to the steamboat landing and saw him off going down the Missouri River, and I turned back to my Swiss company.
It was over three weeks that we had to wait before we could start with our ox-teams. Joseph W. Young was superintending the emigration at this point, and it took a good deal of maneuvering to fit out the company and start them on their journey. There was a large corral near our camp ground where the cattle were being put as fast as brought, and from there turned out to those who had paid for their teams, and it was amusing to see the brethren take their first lesson in driving cattle. The cattle would get entangled, wagons upset, things smashed, the brethren lose their patience, get excited, and often times present such a picture as to cause me to have a hearty laugh.
I went out hunting a little and remember getting one rabbit. One evening as I was returning from town with some provisions for the company, a tremendous storm overtook me before I reached camp, and as I was ascending the hill, within a hundred yards from camp, a streak of lightening descended and struck into the ground within about 15 feet in front of me. I stood almost paralyzed like in a flame of fire for a few seconds, and then hurried to the barn feeling thankful for the preservation of my life. This was the most terrific lightning I ever experienced in all my life.
About a week before leaving Florence, I got my wagon and cattle. The wagon was of the Peter Schuttler, Chicago make, and the three yoke of oxen were as follows. One ordinary sized yoke, the best in the company, the nigh one being red and the off one, yellow. These I put to the tongue. Then came a larger yoke, the nigh one a brindle, the tallest in the company, and his mate a white one. Then came a pair of cows, which I also yoked up and put in the swing head of the big oxen. One of these cows, a dark red one, was with calf and I only milked her about three weeks when she dried up. The other one being speckled, I milked all the way across the plains. Then came a yoke of steers, the nigh one a dark brown, very lazy, and his mate a speckled one, good to pull. These I had on the lead. The cattle were being taken every afternoon out on a pasture and brought back to the corral on the following forenoon, and when they were in the corral, we would yoke them up occasionally and take lessons in handling and driving them. I selected Christian Hirachi for a teamster, Elaza Raetz, who had a little eight year old girl, for my cook, and Elizabeth Kunkler to do the wash. To these, I furnished their board and took their boxes across the plains for their services.
A few days before starting on our big journey, I took with my teamster the best yoke of cattle and the wagon to Omaha, about six miles distant, and there bought a box of soda crackers and dried beef, which with sugar and tea, constituted nearly (all of what) I ate and drank. In the beginning, I ate bacon and drank milk, which seemed to disagree with me. The latter gave me diarrhea.
It was about the 15th of July, 1861, when we started from the old church warehouse westward for Utah. My team presented a fine appearance, my wagon contained about 3000 pounds, and the animals were well able to pull it through any place that we might have to pass. I had my secretary (desk) along, packed in a sheet iron box, my Sharp's rifle tied inside the wagon to the bows, my tent to the side of the wagon on the outside, and some pots and kettles under the wagon, also some chains and extra yoke. Most of my merchandise I let Claudius V. Spencer freight across at 15 cents per pound. Our first day's journey was but a few miles, and each day, we increased the distance until we made 20 miles in one day, camping (stopping) generally three times per day, although sometimes only twice according to the feed and water supply. Mostly all would walk by the side of their teams, though some rode part of the time, and a very few, nearly always. When getting near to a camp site, we would be looking out for fuel, which in the forepart of the journey would consist of dry brush or roots, and after we got out some distance, of buffalo chips which answered very well for baking.
Joseph W. Young was captain of the company, but after a few days out, the company was found to be altogether too large for camping, especially; therefore, the company was divided into two, Anson Harmon taking charge of the latter. Joseph W. Young drove in a light mule team with one or two others, and overtook one company after another, giving instructions and directing things in general. Each captain was mounted and had three mounted guards, mostly mules, each guard had two revolvers besides (at night) a rifle. Every man in the train had to stand night guard, two till midnight, and two until four A. M. My turn came every two weeks, and I well remember standing around the sagebrush fire and hearing the coyotes (small wolf) howling at night, in the distance. It was our duty to go around the corral every half hour examining each wagon and tent and see that all was right, and (that there was ) no approaching danger. When we were out a few days on our journey and had just gone into camp, we had quite a company of Indians coming to us, who were begging for groceries, which were furnished to them; we were warned of their thieving proclivities. That same afternoon we had an immense rain storm. Shortly after this, when traveling along the road, bother Orson Pratt with some other brethren overtook us. They were traveling with mule teams, often in company with brother Joseph W. Young.
After about 10 days traveling, we came to South Fork, where we had to cross the Platt[e] River on a ferryboat. This boat was capable of holding two wagons with one yoke of oxen each at a time. The captain came to me and said, "Now, brother Schettler, put your best yoke of oxen to your heavily loaded wagon, and when you arrive on the ferryboat on the other side, keep them on a run until you get on to solid ground, for if you don't, your wagon will sink out of sight." I knew I could trust my wheelers and put them on. The women and children had been taken across, and all cattle but those hitched up, were being driven into the river and made to swim across. Christian and I carefully drove onto the ferryboat, and as we approached the other side, I saw the quicksand through which we had to drive for a distance of about 300 yards. Christian on one side and me on the other, we started the team on a run, and nobly they did their work, as fast as we went, nevertheless, the wheels cut in about a foot deep. It was a terribly hard pull. When we got onto solid ground, we stopped and rested, then got the other cattle yoke up and hitched, and when ready to start, the big brindle ox balked for the first and only time, absolutely refusing to pull. It was some time before we could coax him to go, and at last he did, starting on a run, pulling the whole load almost alone. We had about a mile to go to camp and by the side of the road leading to it there was a tree which I did not notice in my anxiety, watching the team as we ran along, me on the offside, keeping the team on the road and close in front of the wagon wheel. I found myself all at once as by some unseen power, pulled to one side of the wagon, and on looking up, saw the tree within about two feet of me, threatening me to be crushed to death if it had not been for the timely warning received. As it was, I escaped unhurt, and felt to thank the Lord for his preserving care that had been over me for good. All the teams got across the river in safety and we had a good camp site where we enjoyed an early supper and dinner.
During all the journey, I enjoyed remarkably good health. I made it a point not to drink from every stream of water that we crossed, as numbers of the people did, and complained of belly ache and thirst. I used to drink only tea at each stop two or three times per day, from two to three pints each time, and ate dried beef and crackers. From here on, we traveled several hundred miles along the Platt River, camping often by the side of it. On one occasion, having gone into camp early in the afternoon for the day, and the women being engaged in washing, I took my gun and started out hunting. I saw a stork (a great blue heron?) on a distant island in the river, another small island lying between me and the stork. I left my boots on the shore, pulled up my pants and waded through the river to the small island, crossed it, and now had the stork within about 250 yards. I took aim, and dare say came very near hitting him, but not quite, as he raised his large wings and majestically flew away, and in view of this, I saw what I believed to be a buffalo on the other side of the river, but too far out of reach to expect to be able to shoot him. I waded back to my boots and went to camp, an unsuccessful hunter. One of the brethren had killed a beaver weighing 150 pounds, which was quite interesting sight to me.
From here on, we had to cross a good many alkali waters which had their effect upon the cattle. Every few days, one would die, commencing with a little bleeding at the nose, and within 24 hours after that, laying over to die. I dreaded it, although my cattle were still spared. About 450 miles out of Florence, we saw Chimney Rock on the other side of the Platt River, reaching up about 500 feet, which was quite a sight to behold. When we got near Laramie, we had to cross the Platt River, which as quite an undertaking, as the river was wide and at the crossing, about two and half feet deep, coming near the wagon bed. As we were driving along through it, my cattle came to a stop so that I had to roll up my pants and wade by the side of the cattle, whipping them to do their duty. We thus made the task, coming out all right.
We next made Castle Rock, where there was much alkali. I had noticed the day before, my big brindle ox bleeding a little at the nose so that I dreaded I might lose him. Sure enough, when we got to Castle Rock, I noticed him drinking much and refusing to eat. Late in the evening after I had retired to my tent, the guard put his head in saying, "Brother Schettler, your brindle ox is dead." The next morning, I saw his carcass laying on the prairie much swelled up. The captain used my white ox, and loaned me a very good yoke of cattle for a few days, which did me much good service. We were now in the mountains and had to occasionally ascend and descend steep hills. At one time especially, we had to descend a very steep hill so that we had to lock all our wheels with chains and select soft, sandy ground through which we slowly slid our wagons down to safety.
When nearing South Pass, we had some very cold weather. Our water buckets had half an inch of ice on them and in the morning, we had two inches of snow on the ground. The captain now pushed ahead with considerable determination, making from 18–22 miles per day, which for cattle with very heavily loaded wagons over rough and sandy rods is good work. At Green River, we had to cross the stream, which was quite a task, but was performed successfully with loss. As we neared Fort Bridger, one of my best yoke of cattle, the yellow ox, was alkalied, and after we had left camp in the morning and traveled about a mile, he stopped and I had to take him out of the yoke. I hated to part with him. I let Christian go on with the team, and I stayed behind to see how he would act. He soon lay down by the side of the road grunting with pain and after all the train had passed, I noticed a coyote Sneaking along smelling his soon to be meal. I hated to shoot the ox, but still I did not like to leave him to his fate, but was obliged to do so at last. I well remembered the place and recognized it when traveling east by rail in 1870.
I now had to again call on the captain for help. I got the loan of a yoke of big red oxen which were terribly lazy. The whip had no effect on them at all, and the only way I could get them to pull was by sharpening a stick of wood and punching them with that in their hind legs. In this way I got along pretty well until after a few days I got another yoke in place of them which I used to Salt Lake City. The company lost in all about 20 head of cattle on our journey across the plains, which was considered very fair. In traveling along the hilly country I experienced the danger of straying from the train, being out hunting, as many did. I came very near one time of losing sight altogether of the train in the hills, and after that never again went off any distance. We lost one man that way whose name I do not remember. He was an old hunter, and although we stayed half a day hunting for him, never found him.
I now began to feel as though I would be glad to get to our journey's end, and was happy when we got to the head of Silver Creek Canyon, where we camped near some of our people's log houses, and were visited by them exchanging a few groceries, which were scarce for some onions and potatoes, which we did not have, but which after enjoying a hearty meal of them, gave me the bowel complaint so that I did not eat any more of them on that journey. After another day's journey, we got to Kimball's Station 24 miles out, where we stayed half a day, and assisted in making a piece of Swampy road passable by packing rocks on willows on it. The following afternoon, we reached Hardie's Station, where in Parley's Canyon we camped for the last time before reaching Salt Lake City. Several days previous to this, A. M. Musser and John B. Maiben, Church agents, met our company and took the notes of the passengers for their immigration across the plains. During the last few days of our journey, we were often visited by parties living in the neighborhood. On the morning of the 23rd of September, 1861, we struck camp and soon emerged from the mouth of Parley's Canyon onto the bench lying to the southeast of Salt Lake City, from where we had a beautiful view of the whole valley, and it being a fine warm day, we were highly pleased with thus finishing our journey.