George M. Brown journal, 1863-1870, 8-13.
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All were busy now, mother [Elizabeth] sewing and fixing up the clothing as best she could and the wagon covers and all devolved upon her as it was very little help which we could obtain in that line, all being busy as many were going from the neighborhood. Father and us boys were busy in the shop, as he had two wagons to iron off for ourselves and a number for our neighbors. We toield [toiled] from early morn to the close of day, and with a good courage too as we knew that we were doing as the Lord desired.
Soon we had two good wagons in readiness. They were not overly heavy, about calculated for 20 or 30 hundred pound if necessary to put so much on, but we did not have a very heavy load, though it was necessary to have the wagons strong and solid built as the road was rough and very hard on both wagons and cattle. The wagon beds or boxes were about [..] feet long, [..] feet wide, and feet deep and were arched over with bows which stood high enough from the bottom of the bed or box so that a common sized man could stand nearly straight up under them. Over these bows we stretched a covering of canvass quite tight to that it would stand a heavy rain storm and not wet through. The wagons when thus prepared looked very neat and comfortable and as our family was not large, we could have room to sleep in the wagons all of us after our provisions, clothing and other things were packed in so there was every prospect of us having things very convenient on our journey, and of our escaping much suffering which is often accompanied by storm on the plains.
Our luggage consisted of, first our farming impliments, such as plows, spade, shovel, axes, hoes, pitchforks, and a number of other things. Next a few blacksmith tools, though these were so very few that they are hardly worth naming. Next was our provisions, which consisted of flour, bacon, sugar, coffee, molasses, and some crackers and dried meat. Also we had dried apples, peaches, etc. Next was our bedding and wearing apparel, besides the above there were many other things of less importance. All this was packed down in nice order and so that it could be preserved from the damaging effects of the rain and damp weather.
Our fire arms occupied appropriate places together with the ammunition so that they could be ready at any moment, that we should be necessitated to defend ourselves against the red man of the wilderness or wild beasts. All being put in order we were ready to start on the [..] June. We had considerable trouble in getting our cattle yoked as the greater portion of them were not used to being worked and having fed on the green grass for some months they felt pretty lively, which added considerable to their propensities for giving us trouble. At length, however, all were hitched up and we were ready for starting.
On one wagon we had our provisions and other principle articles of value and on this we had yoked two yoke of oxen and two cows as it was the heavier loaded. On the other we had two yoke of oxen. It contained our cooking utensils a part of our bedding and other articles, and mother and the children rode in it, this was to be drove by my father, while the other team was to be drove by myself and my elder brother, Thomas.
There was scarcely any one with whom we had to bid farewell as all of our neighbors were emmigrating as well as ourselves and had gone to the banks of the Missouri River a few days before, where they intended waiting until all were assembled.
We took a last view of our beautiful and romantic home and soon we were on our way rumbling over the prairies.
There is usually a feeling of sadness creeps over <every> breast as they take a farewell view of familiar scenes of childhood, and I cannot say that on this occasion we were altogether free from such feelings. Nay! We felt as though it would be long ere a new situation and new associations would seem as dear and homelike to us as these we were departing from. However, dear as they were to us we knew it was the will of the Lord that we should do so and we departed without a murmur. We set our trust in that allwise providence who had called us to go from the land of my parent’s mating and since from our home in Nauvoo, that he also now had a wise purpose in leading us away.
The first day we proceeded out a few miles and encamped for the night and all the next day. A couple of days in which we traveled but little brought us near the banks of the Missouri River a few miles above Omaha or what was called by the Saints "Winter Quarters."
Here on the banks of the Missouri were assembled some thousands of the Saints who had come from the surrounding country and expected to cross the plains this season. The greater part of them were comfortably fit out and entertained a hope that we would have a happy and prosperous journey over the plains.
According to request of the leaders of the Church we were here organized into companies of 50 wagons each, and were to travel a few miles from each other in order to better protect ourselves from the Indians. These companies were divided again into tens or smaller companies of ten wagons each. These tens each had their captains and seargent of the guard, and again over all these seargents of the guard was a captain of the guard, or advisor so that all could move in order.
William Joll[e]y was appointed captain over the company of 50 in which we traveled, and William Terry over the ten. In our ten we had those who lived nearest neighbors to us before we left home. Our encampment was near a small lake and just under a chain of high bluffs. We spent the few days we had to remain here very pleasantly in roaming about in the high bluffs or hills, or by fishing in the lake.
The inhabitants of the surrounding country who were not of us began to exert all their influence to if possible get into a fuss with us. They pretended that there had been some horses stolen, and that we had done it.
On the [..] of [….] we crossed the Missouri in peace and quietude. The water was very high, occasioned by the snow water coming down from the mountains. We effected our crossing by means of flat boats; these were about [...] feet long, […] feet wide, and […] inches up the sides. Two wagons were put on at once and the boat was propelled by four men, and as there was two boats running, our company of wagons were soon over and then came the cattle. Several head were taken at once and ere long this was accomplished. The first night after our crossing we encamped close by the ferry without moving our wagons after they had been run to their position from off the boat. This ferry was about opposite the present Omaha and consequently our camp ground was about where the […] of […] now stands.
In the evening about as we were eating supper, all were not a little excited by the appearance of three Indians in the camp, especially as there had never been a time when we had seen many of the specimen of human nature and many reports had newly been in circulation about the red man being very bad on this side of the river. Of course, no one supposed that three Indians were going to do us harm, but many of the more excitable portion supposed that they were spys. My father [George Brown] being acquainted with the language as well as the manners and customs of these Indians, began to speak to them and shortly they discovered that they knew him, having seen him at Bellview when he worked there. They were of the […] tribe and were very friendly so all fears of the people for these disappeared and the Indians and a number of us sat down to a good supper.
The next day we made an early start and were soon winding our way over the rolling prairies towards the west. In a few days the news reached us that difficulties at Missouri River became more serious and five men from every company on the road were called for to go back and protect the ferry until the remainder of the emigration got across and out of danger. These men were ordered to be fit out with provisions for […] days, and to be well armed so in case of difficulties they could protect themselves and their brethren and sisters. Their families were left in the charge of the respective companies and each man had to do his share in taking care of them. Of the movements of these men after they went back I shall write a short account at another time.
The Elk Horn and Lupe [Loup] Fork, streams of a considerable size were crossed by us in ferry boats similar to those on which we crossed the Missouri, but the oxen we swam over instead of ferrying them.
In reaching Wood River, Sarah Fowbush [Forbush], wife to Rufus Fowbush [Forbush], a near neighbor to us, was taken ill. Many supposed it was the cholera, but whether it was or not I am unable to say. We lay still a day and did all in our power to save her but all to no avail. A short time before the sun sank behind the western horizon she breathed her last. Her death was a great sorrow for my mother, as they were very intimate and good friends. All was silence and great fears of that trouble prevailed though the camp, and before long we had tar or pitch burning in and about every wagon in the camp, in order to disperse the poisonous particles which were in the atmosphere.
As soon as the corpse was stiff we dug a grave and began preparing to inter it. The coffin we formed by two pieces of bark which we took from a large tree so that when they were set together there would be hollow, and a number of pieces of wood were laid at the end so as to keep the dirt out. This was indeed a peculiar coffin, but the best we could furnish under the circumstances. The ceremony was brief and to the point as the night was dark and we hastened to attend to the duties of the camp. A few encouraging words were spoken to those around and the dead was consigned to the tomb in great solemnity.
The next day we were on our way early and continued our journey on the banks of the Wood River. The country was most beautiful and the weather fine and we thanked the Lord for His goodness toward us in preserving us in health and strength and giving us all the blessings which were necessary for our comfort and happiness.
In the course of a few days we reached the Platte River and pursued our way up its banks.
Our travels on this level and somewhat wet plain averaged from fifteen to twenty miles a day generally, and we seemed to get over the ground exceedingly well with our ox teams.
The wagons generally had two or three yoke of oxen each to draw them and as all the teamsters were now used to their business, we moved nicely along and began to think well of a camp life. The captain drove his own team at the head of the company and we followed one after the other in single file and the train reached a considerable distance along the wood.
Every day at noon we encamped on or near the banks of the river and turned our cattle loose to water and feed, while we took some refreshment. This being done we moved onward again until about five or six o’clock in the evening, when we encamped for the night. Our mode of encamping both for noon and night was to form the wagons into two half circles, which formed a corral or circle with a gap at each end. I say end because the corall was generally a little longer one way than the other. On the outside of this corall made by the wagons we drove down our picket pins to which we tied our cattle at night after they were done feeding. We let the cattle go out until about ten o’clock and had men to guard them while they fed on the good green grass, and then we drove them into the corral and about the wagons and every person took his ropes and tied his cattle up. The rope was fastened around the horns and the other end tied to the picket pin so that the cattle were made fast and they were quite comfortable as they were tied at a considerable distance from each other and the rope being some twelve feet long they could feed on the grass about.
The camp was guarded by two armed men, who stood half the night, when they were released and others took their place and stood till morning. One was placed on each side of the corral and they walked each half-way around so as to keep a look out over the entire camp and be able in case of attack from Indians, to instantly give the alarm.
In the evening as soon as we encamped, the first thing was for the men to unyoke and take care of the cattle, while the women and those of the children who were able took their sacks and began to gather buffalo chips, or rather dried buffalo dung, which in the absence of wood we used for fuel, and it burned very well in dry weather. For a distance of some hundreds of miles on the Platte Bottoms there is scarcely any timber, but as far as the eye can see in almost every direction there is level or rolling prairies, though in most places at some miles distance from the river on each side of the landscape is more elevated, and instead of the level plains we find hills and bluffs, though not so high as to assume any romantic appearance more than any other part of the country. The buffalo chips being gathered and the cattle being attended to we built large fires inside the corral and ere long a good supper of wheat bread, bacon, beans, dried apples, dried peaches, with other necessities was spread before us on some boards which we had prepared and lay on the ground to serve for a table and our appetites having been sharpened by the pure air and out-doors exercises, we generally relished our meals very well. After supper we generally spent the time in holding meetings which gave us good instructions from the leading men, or we gathered, some about one fire, some about another and spent the time in chatting or other amusements until bedtime, when we all retired to our tents and wagons in order to obtain rest and prepare for the toils of another day. As a general thing we had fine and dry weather and all went pleasantly and well, though once in a while a heavy storm would come and cause us to keep in our tents and wagons. But as these were good and water tight we did not suffer much—on the contrary, it was pleasant to lie in our good covered wagons and tents on a rainy night and hear the wet element shower down without being able to reach us. Once in a while, however, the wind and hail accompanied the rain and it was at such times that our patience was severely tried and our situation was not at all comfortable or pleasant. The wind often swept over this level country with such force that we were obliged to chain our wagons together in order to keep them from blowing into the river, and the hail was so large and was driven by the wind with such force that it would back down almost every shelter which we with our tents and wagons could present against it. But enough of this, for I don’t wish to point out in dark and dreary colors the few sufferings which we endured when in so many ways and at so many times and under so many circumstances the Lord had been kind and good in blessing and preserving us.
In the morning we were aroused from our sweet slumbers by the sound of the trumpet from the guard and after a good breakfast we yoked our cattle and were soon out in single file, winding our way along the road toward our destination.
Nearly every day we dispatched hunters out on the ponies and away to the hills, and often their exertions were crowned with success, and they brought buffalos and other meats into camp and, it being equally divided among us all, we generally had meat enough and it did us a great deal of good and kept us in a healthy condition.
On the [...] of […] we arrived at Fort Larrime [Laramie] though on the opposite side of the river from it: the Fort being situated on the south side and we traveled the entire distance on the north side of the river. Fort Larime was situated where the United States troops were kept to protect travelers and emmigrants on the way to California and the Rocky Mountain country as well as Oregon. At this place we saw a considerable number of Sioux Indians and some mountainiers who were, for the most part of French birth or de[s]cent.
A day’s journey beyond the Fort and the men who had gone back to the Missouri River to protect the ferry, overtook us and we were glad to see them safe in our midst again. They gave the following short account of their doings.
We now entered the Black Hills, a wild and romantic country and very interesting to an observer but I shall attempt no discription of it here, enough to say that after a tiresome journey of some three days over hills, and crags, peaks and through dales, and ravines, we got through the Black Hills and continued our journey up the North Fork of the Platte River.
One item which I ommitted in the proper place I will mention here; some days journey on the other side of the Fort Larime we divided our company of 50 wagons into five companies of 10 wagons each and the captains of tens became the captains of the respective companies, and we were to travel at a distance of two or three miles from each other; this we did in order to obtain better food for our cattle, as when there were so many together the cattle soon cut off all the grass which was near the camp and we were often obliged to drive them a long distance to obtain better feed and water, this combined with inconvenience of camping and the time which it took to corral so many wagons brought us to the conclusion that it would be best for us to separate and travel at a few miles distance from each other, but the express understanding that we were not to get separated so far that we could not render assistance to each other in case of an attack from the Indians. This being done, we traveled much quicker and with much more ease. Captain Wind and ten traveled nearest us and we often encamped at a few hundred yards from each other.
After passing through the Black Hills, we wound our way up the banks of the Platte and all were going on favorably and to our entire satisfaction, when one day a scene occurred which was both frightening and dangerous, but through the mercy and never-ceasing care of our Heavenly Father, resulted in no harm and at the same time it learned us a lesson.
A pleasant and prosperous journey of some days brought us to the Sweet Water River. This is a stream of about 12 feet wide and from 1 to 3 feet deep.
After traveling a few days up this stream, we came to a good camp ground and made a three day’s encampment in which time our cattle revived as the grass was very good. One of our oxen drank of an alkali pond and died which was a considerable damage to us as we did not have any too much team. During our stay a number of us were out in the hills and mountains every day rambling about with our guns on our shoulders to see what rarities we could discover. As the country abounded in antelope and other game, numbers of these were brought into camp every day by those who were experienced in hunting. As I was too young to use fire arms with success in hunting, I did not do any hunting of any account, but I was often out wandering about in company of the more experienced, for I was always fond of adventure and of learning all I could and the rifle was a favorite instrument with me. The fresh antelope meat together with a number of small fish which we caught in the stream, when nicely prepared made us many comfortable meals and we had a large amount which we dried and took with us on the road as we seldom had time to hunt and kill enough to supply the company while we traveled.
On leaving the Sweet Water [Sweetwater] we crossed the South Pass on the divide. This dividing ridge lies at an elevation of [….] feet above the level of the sea.
A few days more through a somewhat sandy and desert-like country which abounded in sage brush, greasewood, a plenty of antelope etc., brought us to Green River, which is a stream of from […] to […] yards wide and from 4 to […] feet deep and runs very rapidly. The stream is fordable in a few places in low water, but generally it is ferried by the emmigrants.
On this stream we made a three-day encampment during which time both men and beast obtained rest and recovered strength. Among the timber and brush on the banks and river bottom we gathered a great many currents [currants] and some other small fruits, as we had also done at some few other places since leaving Fort Larime, and we caught a quite a number of fish from the river all of which articles of food came very good as when traveling all the time one likes a change of food, and it is healthy.
Here were encamped considerable many of the Sneak [Snake] or Sho[shone] Indians.
From Green River to Fort Bridger the road was tolerable good though sandy, and the weather very warm so it was not as pleasant as we could wish.
Fort Bridger was a resort for mountainiers [mountaineers].
I give the size as it was at the time of our crossing.
The country now became more and more moutainous and romantic and as it was just suited to my nature I enjoyed myself very well. In due time we reached Echo Canyon which is a narrow mountain pass.
On the […] of September we reached the top of the Big Mountain from where we caught first sight of the valley of the Great Salt Lake. A journey of more days brought us through […] Canyon and into the valley. It was the 9nth of September and the month was fine and all was beautiful and pleasant.