Jackman, Susannah Catherine Ovard, Reminiscences, in Gordon R. Orme, comp., The Family of William Martin and Mina May Smith Ovard (1999), 118-20.
- Related Companies
- Edward Stevenson Company (1859)
We went down the Ohio River for the space of three weeks. On the way the boat stopped at Cincinnati and we had the privilege of seeing my father’s only sister in America. The boat stopped for 12 hours.
My uncle owned a large hotel and he tried to persuade my father to leave four of the children with them saying, “I will provide for them as a father would for his very own.” They had no children and if it had not been for the gospel father might have granted their request. The children were the hope of our parents and they could not leave even one of them behind.
At five o’clock in the evening we continued our journey on to St. Louis, where we changed boats. We took passage on the carrier, a passenger vessel and went up the Missouri river for another three weeks.
There were many dangers on this journey. At one time John came nearly losing his life. While getting a pail of water, he barely escaped but he lost the bucket in the river. Another time, our little sister, Emma nearly fell in the river. Sister Amelia caught her just as she lost her balance. One day we had a collision with another boat and broke our front mast, it nearly sank and we were delayed for a whole day.
When we arrived at Florence we waited for the arrival of the saints that were to go in our company. While waiting there were many things of an unpleasant nature to do. H.S. Eldridge was an emigration agent that year and through him the teams became very high. This meant that the poorer class could not buy them.
About this time President George Q. Cannon came from Philadelphia and he assisted father in buying a team which consisted of a yoke of oxen and a yoke of cows. When George Q. Cannon went back to the Union Branch of which father had been presiding, father’s nephew, Henry Dittmar refunded twelve dollars of the amount father had borrowed from Brother Cannon.
Among other things that were discouraging many of the cattle were wild and had never been yoked up before. They would run and bellow and turn their yokes upside down. Amid this confusion father became very discouraged. He thought he never could drive a team of that kind across the plains. He had never driven a pair of oxen in his life. This was the first time he had seen oxen yoked together in this fashion.
In Germany they were harnessed up with straps around their horns and shoulders. They pulled the load with their heads and he thought this was cruel to make them carry that heavy yoke. Father was feeling very bad one evening and mother asked him to let her say the prayer. During her prayer she said, “Oh Father, we will be willing to pass through all kinds of hardships and trials if though will be with us. Spare our lives that we may serve thee.” These words gave father courage and he was blessed with getting a tame yoke of oxen and a yoke of tame cows.
When we were ready for the journey, the family consisted of Mother and Father and ten children and we only had one wagon so there was not room for all to ride. Mother and Father and the two oldest girls. Mary and Amelia walked all the way from Florence to Salt Lake City. The rest of the children that were old enough took turns walking.
When we had been on the trail three weeks great sorrow came to the whole family. Upon rising in the morning we found that father’s near ox had died from drinking alkali water. There was no breakfast eaten that morning by any of the family. Father did not know how he would cross the plains with one ox and two cows, but he went to work.
He made a single yoke for the ox and hitched him on the lead and in this way we traveled for several weeks. This oxen had become so tenderfooted that father had to trade him at the next post. This time all they could give him was a three-month old calf. This we brought to the valley with us. When we were left with only two cows our Captain Edward Stevenson asked the company to help us and we were given two more young cows and with this team we made the rest of the journey.
There were many things to contend with, many disappointments and sorrows, but with it they tried to be cheerful. They had started for Zion and nothing could stop them, through sand and dust, stumbling over clods and boulders that lay in their path.
At Buffalo creek and old man followed a buffalo for several miles in company with his son. After they had killed the animal, the man sent his son back to the company to get a light wagon saying “I will stay here and get the meat ready by the time you get back.” After he was left alone he thought the Indians might come and so he hurriedly left after cutting a piece out of the hind-quarter. When the boy returned with the wagon he could not find his father. He was lost three days when he finally wandered into the camp.
He had spent the first night up in a tree after being treed by a buffalo who kept watch all night, occasionally trying to break the tree down. He would bellow and dig the ground with his feet, showing he intended to keep him there till morning. There was great rejoicing when Brother Rodgers returned. We then could start once more on our journey, as the company had spent all this time searching and looking for him.
At one time there was a herd of buffalo which seemed to be on a stampede running directly towards the train. Our captain rode out and was successful in turning them so that all but one ran past the train. This one jumped right over the front wagon just behind the oxen, frightening the oxen so they nearly ran away. Our captain followed them and killed a fine animal and distributed it among the 75 wagons.
There were many large streams to cross and it took both father and mother to get the cows to go straight over. They always wanted to turn back. Father worked on one side and mother on the other.
Our whole journey was crowded with events too many to remember. The Indians were on the war path. At one time about two hundred crossed the Platte river bearing the scalps of those they had killed. This very much frightened the woman and children. After the Indians held council with our captain, they went away without molesting any one.
We traveled along the Platte River for many days. When we came to the black hills the sand was very deep and often during the journey the dust and wind was very trying to both animals and people. One night while we were camped on the bank of the Platte River there was a terrible dust storm of wind and rain and every tent in the company was blown down except ours. There was about one foot of water on the ground in the morning and everything was drenched. Many things were floating in water.
It took strong hearts and determined wills coupled with faith in God to endure those trying times without complaint. Many nights were made hideous with the howls of the coyotes. While we were camped in Echo Canyon some of the cattle strayed so far as to be lost. Our calf was with them.
The Indians found them and brought them back to camp the next day, for which they wanted flour and sugar. After they had been rewarded they left. Some distance this side of Echo at a place now called Henefer, the company camped for a day so that all might have a chance to wash their clothing, for we were nearing the city. The wind and dust was so bad that we did not look much better after cleaning up.
The last hard pull was the big and little mountains which was another struggle with our now nearly worn out cow. Mother baked her last flour on the camping square in Salt Lake City.