Ames, Ira, Autobiography and journal, 1851.
I crossed the Missouri River at Old Winter Quarters about the first of May and travelled out about 3 Miles where I joined one hundred wagons of the Saints and we there organized. James Allred was chosen Captain of 100, and William [Luman Andros] Shirtliff [Shurtliff] was chosen Captain of 50. And I was chosen Bro Shirtliffs 1st Counsellor.
The bottoms of the Elk Horn River were all overflow[e]d and inpassible for wagons at this time. And by counsil of Orson Hyde, President of the Twelve and Presiding Elder over all that region of Country and had the charge of Emigrating the Saints, we were to travel around the head of the Elk Horn. My own mind at the time was to remain in Camp where we were, busy ourselves in making roads and let our cattle be fattening on the rich prairie grass until we could cross the Horn which would have been in 2 or 3 weeks. And we would have gained time by it as, by the rout[e] we took, we traveled about 250 Miles, and struck the Platt[e] River about 100 Miles only from where we Started, and had to cross the Horn at last. The country we passed thro: up the Horn, had the appearance of having been a Desert of Sand. The wind had swept the Sand into hills which were movable by the winds. it was a wild country as ever I saw. It was cut up with Buffalo pawing holes, pretty good grass, and water except the latter part where we Suffered much for Water. We Saw no Buffalo, except one which had been killed, until we reached the Platt[e]. and there on the Platt[e] Bottoms we saw thousands on thousands of them and traveled through immense herds of them, where we were obliged to ride through them with our horses to open the way for our teams to pass. The whole camp felt deeply chagrined that they had been sent around. It was a source of constant vexation to them, for the road was very bad. We had to cross a great many little muddy streams, which had to be bridged and no brush or timber to bridge them. We would cut hay and fill it in, then run over 2 or 3 wagons. then the water would rise and require more hay, &c &c &c. A more tedious wearisome journey can Scarce be immagined[.] In one place we were obliged to empty our wagons, hitch chains together about 15 Rods, and after unyoking our cattle we drove them over, then yoked them together and put on about 10 yoke to an empty wagon and haul[ed] it over. [illegible] then formed a bridge of wagons and we passed our effects over in that manner. We broke a great many chains in the operation. This operation had to be performed in three different places. We had 4 Stampedes of Cattle before we reached the Platt[e] by which time damage was done but nobody hurt. Just before we reached the Platt[e] one night fearing a Stampede we gathered in our cattle on to a knoll and placed a strict guard around them. I was one of that guard. About 10 at night I was stooping Down, with my gun across my knee, and looking steadily at the Cattle. All was as Still as death, not a word was Spoken by the guard: and it was a Still, calm night. There was nothing Struck the ear but the cattle (who were all layd down) breathing and grunting. In one instant, as quick as a flash of lightening every animal was up and off. They ran about a quarter of a mile in one body and then divided in two bodies, and continued on from 10 to 15 Miles before they Stopt. But we always got them all again. But I lost two cows <one was hurt in the carrall [corral] and the other gave out at the s pass> There were about 250 Wagons that took this desperate rout[e].
In fact our cattle got into Such a Spirit of Stampeding before we reached the Platt[e] that we had a great deal of trouble with them. One day I was obliged to keep my [text missing] which looked for several hours to restrain my cattle. At one time the cattle Stampeded. Some ran but a short Distance but others ran to a great distance[.] Those who ran to a short Distance we drove up and yoked up, moved our wagons into the form of an L and hitched them to the wheels with chains on the inside of the L and every yoke had someone to stand by them and guard them[.] About once in half an hour a Spirit of Stampede would get into the whole of them in one instant, and they would all Start, cringe Down, tremble, shudder hold their breath, every head turned in the Same Direction and their bodies would shrink from that direction. We would speak to them and after some minutes would get them calmed down again. We found the balance of our cattle, hitched up and drove on. About two or three days drive from the Platt, One Captain Smith, Captain of one ten, got a Spirit of revolt or Stampede into him which was communicated to his whole ten. They wanted to go a little faster, did not want to be kept back by the rest. He started ahead in the morning and drove on ahead and camped about five miles ahead of us that night. The next morning we drove on and came up to his camp. his cattle had Stampeded in the night and the men were all out hunting them. We halted a few moments and held a consultation, then drove on about a half a mile further and called a halt and I then Spoke to the Captain of 50 and consulted with him as to whether it was not best for us to Stop and help them. He laid the matter before the Camp. It appeared the unanimous Spirit of the camp to go ahead and leave them, more especially as the other fifty were still back of them who would undoubtedly See to them: And no doubt they would find their Cattle again. And we felt it was a just retribution for their revolt. So we drove on. I have Since learned that they never found only very few of their Cattle: but they were picked up by Some of the tens who were behind, and they lightened up their wagon by throwing away a great many things and finally reached the Valley, but a few days after us. One can Scarce immagine the joy we all experienced when we rose over the Bluff and Saw the winding Platt River Spread out before us. we drove Down to the river and camped on its banks and used the water out of the River. The next morning a brother shot a Buffalo about 50 rods from Camp. He was very fat and good. It was the first Buffalo we had been able to get.
Before we reached the Platt we halted in the middle of the day to do up some baking and washing. A young man and I started out on a hunt. We marked our course as we went along, steering due west, noticing the various trees, formation of the hills &c &c. After traveling about Six or Seven Miles we saw a large flock of Antelope feeding quietly on a high bluff. We agreed to seperate and crawl quickly towards them, giving time for both to get a position for a shot. The young man fired first and the whole herd came bounding towards me. I fired and they bounded off but Stoped about 80 yards off. we started after to get another Shot but they ran again a short distance. On looking back I saw something like a dead Antelope. we went to see it and found it fine and fat, And concluded to let it lay and try to get another Shot. Upon reaching a high point, we Saw at the distance of three or four miles a very large herd of Buffalo in a kind of bottom or basin. But it was getting late, we thought, too late to go there. So we returned and time Slip[p]ed by[.] the Sun was just going down as we started with our Antelope for the camp. We took our course among the hills, it soon became perfectly dark, but we kept on our course, being both agreed, but after traveling as far as we thought we ought to reach Camp, there was no Camp to be seen. And we soon came to a Swampy place, that we knew we had not seen before. And a short distance further it became miry. So we retraced our Steps and took to the left to go around it, And upon using a slight elevation, we found ourselves only about 40 Rods from Camp. My Wife had been going from wagon to wagon full of fear that I was lost.
Nothing of any interest ocured until we reach[ed] G S L Valley except the usual incidents of a journey over the plains and through the Mountains. Our cattle lost the Stampede Spirit when we reached the Platt. We were much curious and interested at the Dog towns as we passed along. The animal is about the size of a weazel and they live in towns, burrowing holes in the ground, and are of the social order. Upon the approach of Danger each one runs to his hole and popping into it Stands with his head partly out and makes a Sharp, piercing, barking noise, and so peculiar, that it is almost impossible to tell from what direction the Sound proceeded. it is not a loud noise, but a small, wick [sic] shrill noise, And it can be heard quite a distance. They pile the dirt around the mouth of their holes. They are of a tawny yellow Color. And they are difficult to Shoot, and when Shot Difficult to get. As you have to Shoot at their little heads in the hole, and if Shot will drop down in their holes and have to be dug out.
We arrived in the Valley on the 22nd or 23rd day of September and my heart was poured out in thankfulness to God that I was once more with his true Servants, in the chambers of the Lord, in the tops of the Mountains. I felt heavenly. I felt I was at home again.