Nancy A. Tracy reminiscences and diary, 1896 May-1899 July, 37-42.
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- Source Locations
- Church History Library, MS 4525
- Related Companies
- Benjamin Hawkins Company (1850)
As I said, we stayed in this place [Winter Quarters] for three years. The third year we began to make preparations to go on our journey. My husband had had three of his brothers come on from the east and two of them were going with us. We had been able to get in better condition to travel this time. We could put two yoke of cattle and one of cows on the wagon and were pretty well fixed for the journey.
There was a widow lady by the name of Bresket who wanted to go with us. We thought she could help me, and so concluded to take her along, but she was very sickley although a very good woman. And then there was a widow [Elizabeth] Lamb that Amos Davis had fitted out with wagon and a yoke of cattle and a yoke of large cows. He wanted my husband to find a driver to take charge of this family and team. There were two little children in this family.
So all being ready, we started out, crossed the Missouri River, and went into camp to wait for the company to be organized. One brother Hawkins was chosen to be captain over 100 wagons, and then a captain was chosen over each of the two fifties’ and one over each 10 wagons. Thomas Johnston [Johnson] was over our fifty and my husband was captain over the second ten they organized. In this manner we rolled out. There had been a general rally this year for the great Salt Lake.
We traveled on in this way for days and all went well. We had a good rest while at Council Bluffs. We enjoyed ourselves around the camp fire at night when the moon shone. After supper was over and the work done for the night, they would clear away a place and go forth in the dance for we had plenty of music in camp.
Finally, we got as far as the Platte River. Here they thought it was best to divide the camp into two companies and travel separately in order to travel faster.
The Indians were generally peaceable although sometimes they were a little troublesome, begging around. However, they did not commit any depredations in particular. Once a large band of Sioux came up to where we camped and came inside the corral of wagons. One of the young bucks picked up a sack of crackers and ran off with it. The chief was informed of this, and he soon brought him back with the crackers and gave him a tremendous whipping over his naked head and shoulders.
While we were traveling along the Platte River, the men thought they would stop and give the cattle a rest and have a buffalo hunt for the buffalo were quite numerous. In the meantime, the women could do their washing and baking. We camped in a little skirt of timber. The next morning the men started out to hunt. It was a very hot day, but the men came in at night loaded with meat. However, there was a young man, Charley Jensen, the widow Lamb’s teamster, who, when he came in was so thirsty and hungry that he could not wait for supper, and so cut a piece of raw buffalo meet and ate it. The poor fellow, that night he was taken with cholera and died next morning. The brethren worked all night with him but could not save him. His groans were heart-rending to hear. They dug a deep grave, rolled him up in blankets, and buried him there. They could do no better under the circumstances.
When we made ready to move on, we discovered that one of the widow Lamb’s cows was missing. They hunted for her but could not find her and finally came to the conclusion that Indians had driven her off. So we had to go on without her and had to leave poor Charley in his lonely grave. My oldest son then had to drive the widow’s team. The large wolves followed us that morning for they were very numerous.
We went on without further incident till we passed Fort Larimie when one evening there came two deserting soldiers into camp. They began to travel with us, saying that they could stand it no longer at the fort. They traveled two days with us, and then were overtaken by officers from the fort. Poor fellows! they might easily have been protected, but there was a reward up for them and our captain delivered them up. They were strapped to horses and taken back to receive their punishment. My husband and our captain had quite an argument about it. It was indeed cruel, but a little money was tempting for it was scarce.
There began to be considerable sickness in camp and some deaths. Peter Shirts, captain of the first ten, had to bury his wife by the wayside. Abram Durphy [Durfee] buried one of his children, and there were others who died.
There were two emigrants traveling with us bound for California. One of them came down with small pox and died, but there were such precautions taken that no one else took it. However, the whole camp was vaccinated, and some were quite sick. I was, myself.
Well, those were very long and toilsome days. Still we plodded on until they had to stop for rest. The cattle were giving out and becoming footsore and had to be shod. So we stopped in the country of the black hills for twelve days. There was water and plenty of timber, but previously to this, they sometimes had to tie up the cattle at night without feed or water. But here there was good feed and water and the poor animals surely needed it for they were about worn out. My two cows had given milk all the way and worked in the yoke besides, and so when there was no other alternative, we could drink their milk. But they were failing in this now. So we camped and overhauled and cleaned up generally while the men were busy shoeing the cattle and making tar out of the fat pines for the wagons for pine trees were abundant. When they got through with all this, they spent the time hunting until we were ready again to move on. They killed elk and deer; so we had meat. But O the wolves! At night they made the air hideous with their howling. Of course, we always kept a guard at night ever since we started, and this was telling on the men. Many a time when my husband was on guard along the Platte River, I have gone out with some noursihment even if it were nothing but a hot potato.
There was one circumstance I forgot to mention in its proper place. We had to cross over one fork of the Platte River. It was one quarter of a mile wide. We had to pile everything as high as we could in the wagon and then sit on top. The water was shallow at first but grew deeper as we got into the stream. Of course, the men had to go in the water to guide the teams and hold on to the ox bows. The water came up to their shoulders and was very chilly. But we got across safely and unloaded the fifty wagons and crossed back to bring a herd of sheep over. That meant that the men had to cross the ugly stream three different times. Then we had to stop over one day in order to dry the things. I was glad we saw the last of that river as I also was when we rolled out of our camping ground in the Black Hills, although we had a good rest there.
We were now on the last half of our journey and began to feel anxious to get to our final stopping place. My husband was beginning to feel the wear of the trip severely.
Memory fails to think of anything worthy of note as we traveled on, although there was one place I remember well. The wagons had to be let down an embankment into a stream and had to travel on some distance in the stream before they could climb the bank to the road again. The men in letting the wagons down the bank into the stream had to tie strong ropes to the back of the wagons and several of them had to pull back on the ropes so as to let the wagons down easily. It took some time and was slow work but was accomplished. I often think how different the mode of travel is now to what it was at that time in 1850, and it is now 1895.
The travel became slower and more fatiguing. At last we got to the crossing of the Green River. The river ran on very swift and looked angry and deep. The first ten drove in. There was one Brother Gifford who held on to his ox bow till he lost his hold and went down. He could not swim but one of the Brethren went to his rescue and brought him out more dead than alive but he was brought around after a while. The rest got across safely and moved on toward the mountains that we were now approaching. In a few days, we began to raise the heights of the big mountain and reached the summit. When we did reach the top, we were struck with amazement as we gazed at the valley below, the long sought for place of rest. O how beautiful and grand the valley, dotted with dwellings and with the Great Salt Lake sparkling in the sunlight, appeared. We feasted our eyes upon the scene. It looked like paradise after three months of toil through the hot summer. We were about to reap the reward of our labors. We had found a place of rest far away from our enemies and those that had persecuted us and shed the blood of the Saints and prophets of the most high. Here we could live and worship God and keep his commandments. Will they let us alone now or will they follow us? Time alone will tell.
On the 12th day of September, 1850, we came down into Salt Lake City.