Brockbank, Isaac, Autobiography, in [Stephen W. Brockbank], Isaac Brockbank, Jr., 1837-1927: Autobiography , 9-15.
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- Church History Library
- Related Companies
- Abraham O. Smoot Company (1852)
We had rather a rough voyage, calms succeeding storms and were eight weeks and two days in arriving at New Orleans where we transferred all our luggage to the Steamer and following up the Mississippi River in one week, we arrived at St. Louis. Here we stayed two days and took the steamer St. Ange for Kansas City where we arrived in three days from that time. On our way up the river, we stopped a short time at Atchison to see some of the sufferers by the Steamer Saluda who had been blown up by the boiler of the steamer exploding while at the Levee here. There were a number of the Saints on this vessel who were among the unfortunates. It was a sickening sight to see these sufferers scalded and deformed, some without arms or Legs and some without eyes. I was glad to get away from such suffering.
Upon our arrival at Kansas, it was thought advisable by Bro. Smoot, who was appointed the President of the Company, to remain here for some time as the wagons which were being made at St. Louis were not near finished and might be several weeks before being placed at the disposal of the Company.
This was the first company that had traveled over the sea under the auspices of the Perpetual Emigration Fund Co. And on their arrival here, they had to be taken care of and sheltered. To do this most of the Company was taken to a point about ¾ of a mile from the river on an elevation where they pitched their tents and were made as comfortable as the circumstances would permit. The brethren and sisters having just got off from a long sea voyage and being dieted on the hard tack and the commonest kind of food without any vegetables, when they got to this point, some of them dug some roots that they thought they had been acquainted with in the Old Country. However, when they came to use these roots for food, the cholera broke out in the camp and this was a very sad affair.
Here was a company of several hundred saints, temporarily located among a people who were hostile to the whole Mormon Community and who had made their boasts that they had assisted in driving the Saints across the river some years before and that they were on hand to go through the same performance again. But as the scourge increased in the camp, and the Brethren and Sisters were dying off, alarm spread through the surrounding country and the result was that Indignation Meetings were held and propositions made to have the Saints removed. But as the scourge continued, they were afraid to go near the camp. At this Juncture the wagons commenced to arrive for the company and tho the cattle had not come, the people who were well soon took possession of the wagons and oxen were hired to take the whole camp out to the prairie some of seven miles west of Kansas. At this camping grounds in Kansas many distressing scenes occurred. There were over twenty deaths in a few days and the people were in a very poor fix for taking care of them. Rude boxes of any kind were made use of and the dead laid away without much ceremony.
My father had rented a small house about half a mile from the camp of the Saints and close by another house rented by Bro. Wm. Collinson for his family and the Thomas family who were related to the Collinsons by marriage and who had been assisted in their emigration by Bro. Colliinson and expecting to travel with this company to Salt Lake. The Thomas family consisted of the mother, two sons and three marriageable daughters all apparently in good health and full of joyful anticipation of their reaching the place they had started for and here a circumstance occurred that made a lasting impression on my mind as to the truth of the Doctrine of Plural marriage. While death was carrying off many of the Saints, and fear was manifested as to the result, the news of the public announcement of the doctrine of Plural Marriage, as a cardinal principle of the Church, reached us and threw more consternation around the Saints especially those who were not very firmly grounded in the faith, my mother and Mrs. Thomas being among that number. Mrs. Thomas went so far as to say that she would rather her daughters would die there than that they should go to the Valley and become the wives of a polygamist. I did not pay much attention to this at the time as they did not come with us but after we got started on the plains, we learned that two of the three daughters had died and that the other had been very sick.
In making preparations for the journey across the plains, my mother still maintained her indifference and it was very disheartening to start on a journey of thirteen-hundred miles and no unity seem to exist in the family tho my mother did all she could for us children. There were four of us, myself, and my sister Elizabeth, sixteen months younger than myself, my brother, Joshua four years old, and my sister Agnes, then a baby sucking at breast. There had been other children before leaving England either three or four but they had died in infancy two of whom were buried in the Stanhope Street Methodist Chapel yard and another one at the Necropolis in Liverpool. I had forgotten to notice that at the time of my mother taking leave of her folks in Liverpool, she told them that if she was not suited on getting to the end of her journey at Salt Lake, that she would return again to them. It was plain to us that she had this in her heart all the time and though she accompanied us, it was much against her will.
However, as soon as the wagons and cattle were brought for our use, we loaded up our wagons and started out to where the train was then stopping, some seven miles distant. On the way out we got stuck in the mud at a small stream of water just out of Westport. Here we found Bro. Collinson who also had a large wagon mired down and tho he had a long string of oxen hitched to it, they were unsuccessful in pulling it out and he consequently had to unload. Bro. Collinson was greatly chagrined at this and he began to feel as though some of his trials had commenced. We all remained at this stream all night and this is the last that we saw of Bro. Collinson and his family. Though he had got his outfit all ready, a large number of wagons, cattle and horses to move his family and also the Thomas family in grand style, we learned afterward that this mudhole was the turning point with him. He went back to Kansas, sold everything he had for his outfit at an enormous sacrifice and in a few weeks went back to England and succeeded in getting into his old business in Bond Street, Liverpool.
The next morning, after bidding farewell to the Collinsons, we moved on to the camp of the Saints and found that there had been some more deaths but still the general health of the people was better and in a day or two, we rolled out for the Valley. This was about the first of June and as our teams were rather wild, we had to herd them along the best we could. In hitching up our team on the first camp ground, the wheel oxen swung around and twisted the tongue of the wagon so that it broke but by splicing and wrapping with rope and raw hide it held together until we got through to the Valley. There were in the company fifty-two wagons, A.O. Smoot, Captain, Chris Layton, 1st Assistant Captain and we journeyed along without any particular incidents occurring. The weather was delightful and our teams getting more used to the work and the drivers getting more used to handling them.
We traveled about a hundred miles a week. I quickly got into the way of handling and driving three yoke of oxen and drove the team nearly all the way. While traveling on the Platte River we had a regular stampede while the train was in motion. A brother by the name of Murdock had remained behind the company to see some sheep herders and as he came up with the train, riding on a mule, he held his hands up like a crazy man. Instantly the hind most teams started out to run, scampering in every direction one starting the other. A good portion of the train was on the run when I saw something must be done or my team would go also. Fortunately, I succeeded in quieting the leaders and in this way the balance of the train ahead was kept from running off. The result of the stampede was that a number of the wagons were broken up and we had to lay over some time for repairs. Our wagon was kept in good shape all the way through. And during the trip, we enjoyed the scenery and everything seemed prosperous to us until a sad calamity happened to us that brought gloom and melancholy to our hearts.
In the latter part of July as we journeyed along having passed Fort Laramie and to all appearances, my mother seemed more reconciled to the situation and we having no idea that she had the least intention of leaving the train, her baby was not weaned, and we were not aware of any additional rupture between her and my father. She had been riding in the wagon all morning over quite a rough country, and just before noon, we came to a very steep hill to go down and those who had been riding in the wagons during the day got out. My mother did the same and gave the baby to my sister and they proceeded down the hill. In this locality there were many wild currant bushes pretty full of fruit and at the foot of this hill there was quite a patch of them.
This is the last place that she was seen by anyone of the company. We soon expected to camp for noon as there was another company traveling in the same direction just ahead of us. We never missed her until we came into the noon camp which was about half a mile from the place where we last saw my mother. As soon as we found that she was not in camp, we immediately set about a search for her. I got a mule and rode back to the place we had last seen her and took every means I could to trace her by hallooing and hunting through the bushes but all to no purpose. My search was fruitless. I returned to the camp and the result was soon known. It was then decided that we move the camp to a good place to stay so that our stock could get feed and water while we remained over for a time.
Towards evening, we encamped on Horseshoe Creek and next morning, my father and Bro. Layton took a pair of mules and a light buggy and started on the back track. When they got back to where our company had stopped at a spring a short time, they found that she had been there by tracing her tracks to and from the spring and also taking a road back towards Fort Laramie. They continued on the road expecting to overtake her until they reached Fort Laramie. Here they made all the inquiry they could but got no traces that were satisfactory. They had met three or four men coming west who had left a sheep herd and they reported seeing a woman traveling toward Laramie who upon seeing them had left the road and appeared to be either demented or very nearly so. They did not follow her. This was the last information we have of any seeing her either alive or dead. On the return of my father and Bro. Layton to the camp, it was decided to move on to Salt Lake, the authorities at Laramie having been notified to forward any information of my mother to Salt Lake City.
We now began to realize w hat it was to be bereft of a mother, having a baby in our care and she had been up to this time living on the caresses and nourishment of a kind and indulgent mother. For no matter what her treatment was from my father, she was at all times willing to bear everything for the sake of her children and I cannot think, even at this time, that she willfully went away from us. My own idea is that she may have been quite despondent and tired and after getting out of the wagon, she may have laid down and fell asleep and on being aroused found herself left behind and not knowing what way to go, her brain no doubt would be affected and she would be oblivious to anything about her condition and most likely perish before getting to the care of human aid. It took sometime to get our baby pacified, being unweaned. She cried night and day and the extra care devolved upon my sister Elizabeth. Of course we had the sympathy of the whole camp but no one could pacify the baby like my sister, consequently, she was pretty well tied and could do but very little only taking care of the baby.
However, we got along tolerably well until my father took sick and had a serious time. He was confined to the bed on the wagon and became so reduced in flesh that many of the folks thought he could not possibly live. He had been getting worse for several days when one night he seemed to be suffering very much and he thought himself that he would have to die. Several of the brethren got around him in the wagon and administered unto him and through their faith and prayers in his behalf, he immediately took a change for the better and soon, very soon he was able to be up again. Soon after this, our Captain Bro. Smoot, took down sick and he felt so impressed about it that he made his will and for several days his life seemed critical. At one time, the camp laid over a day so that he could be at ease during his last moments but this was not to be; so he took a change for the better and though he did not get well enough to be of any more service to the company as Captain, he kept gaining in strength until he left the train. Having been met by his wife before in the valley and she having fresh team, took him speedily to Salt Lake City.
As we were passing through East Canyon and in climbing on to the wagon tongue previous to crossing a stream, my foot slipped and got under the wheel and tho no bones were broken, I sustained a severe fracture of the ankle and was unable to walk on it for several days.
We arrived in Salt Lake City on the 4th of September, 1852 being six and three-quarter months on the trip from Liverpool to this place. In coming through the Emigration Canyon and on first taking a view of the city, our hearts were filled with gratitude to God that we had been enable to complete our journey though we had lost many from our number since leaving the shores of Old England. This being the first company that had arrived direct from Europe under the auspices of the Perpetual Emigration Fund Co., considerable interest was taken by the Saints of the City in visiting the company on their arrival on Union Square. Pres. Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and others of the leading authorities of the Church visited and counseled the new arrival as to what course to take and especially to be careful as to their diet until they had got used to the mountain climate.