Murdock, John Riggs, [Reminiscences], in Tanner, J. M., A Biographical Sketch of John Riggs Murdock , 136-40.
"It generally took about nine weeks to cross the plains, and though it was a laborious trip, we had a great deal of enjoyment out of it. We had musicians with their instruments and would sometimes have what the boys called 'stag dances,' as there were no ladies with us on the 'down' trip. There were always several trains on the road which frequently camped close to ours, so the drivers often mingled with each other and engaged in such contests as wrestling, racing, and jumping. I took a great deal of pleasure in such association with the boys."
These trains were generally made up from different sections of the territory, and there would naturally be some feelings of rivalry among them. As these rivalries took on the form of honorable contests, they naturally gave rise to sympathies and friendships that lasted throughout life. How often in after years men were wont to say, when introduced to a supposed stranger. Yes, I know him. We were old friends together on the plains." To know each other on the plains was the badge of friendship and the assurance of hospitality. How these old-time friends were men and women who underwent trials together and rejoiced in lasting friendships, those of later generations can hardly realize. There is an old adage which says: "If you would know a man you must first travel with him."
How unlike, however, were the Mormon travelers on the plains in those early days when compared with other travelers! The latter were quite contentious from the familiarity of their associations with their fellow men. Their companies were frequently broken up, hatreds were engendered, and sometimes men fought to the death. On the other hand, the Mormons were men and women of religious convictions, who deeply sensed their obligations and desired to live in harmony with their fellow men. They were under the watch-care of God and were taught unity and brotherly love by humbly submitting themselves to the direction of a kind Providence, both morning and night, in an attitude of prayer. They were taught to feel the need of divine protection, and the approbation of their God. How could they have, then, they asked themselves, these blessings, if in their midst there were not brotherly love and willingness to make sacrifice for the good and happiness of others. The relationship of these Mormon emigrants was both, instructive and joyful. What, therefore, John R. Murdock has to say of those days on the plains is full of interest. He gives us some insight into a life far from anything that we have ever experienced, but into a life that had much to do in laying the foundations of that faith, love, and friendship that characterized the beginning of the Church in the early history of Utah.
"Our first trip down," he says, "was without any particular incident. We remained at the river a short time and then loaded the luggage of the emigrants into our wagons. There were from sixteen to twenty persons, men, women, and children, assigned to each wagon. Those who were old enough to walk were expected to do so the greater party of the way. They would ride, occasionally, when the roads were good. I always appointed two men whose duty it was to look after the passengers. It was certainly novel to see a train starting out with everything that could be put into wagons and everything that could be tied to the outside, such as buckets, cans and all kinds of cooking utensils. It reminded one of an old turkey with a brook of young ones keeping her company. Generally there were about seven hundred passengers in one train. The organization was systematic and complete. It consisted of a captain, an assistant, a chaplain, a quarter-master, hospital steward, a camp guard, and a night guard for the stock. The chaplain took charge of the religious services, and we had prayer night and morning. We also had a choir with its leader. The people were called together by means of a bugle."
This description applies to all the companies, which required about nine weeks going and coming. The experiences of the emigrants were educational as well as fraternal. Frequently the teamsters, who were usually unmarried men, formed attachments for the young ladies among the emigrants. These attachments resulted in life-long friendships, and sometimes in matrimony.
On reaching home from his trip across the plains in 1861, he returned to Lehi to pass the winter of 1861 and 62. This gave him no opportunity to till his fields and harvest his crop. His stay at home was at a season of the year in which it was most difficult to provide means of sustenance for his family. John R. Murdock was a thoughtful man-a man who could forsee possible dangers and was therefore constantly on his guard to escape troubles that forsight and prudence might protect him from. There is seen in his narratives of those early experiences a deep-seated satisfaction which he felt in the fact that he and those in his charge escaped accidents and avoided both danger and trouble. The personal conquests of his life were the conquests of peace. He put great store upon timely prudence, which was a protection to himself and others; and although he was pre-eminently helpful in assisting others out of difficulty, he found greater satisfaction in keeping them from it. He had, therefore, a right to speak of that particular satisfaction which he felt in the fact that he had lost few passengers among all those whom he had helped across the plains.