"Journal of Rachel Emma Woolley Simmons," Heart Throbs of the West, Vol. 11, pp. 161-63.
THE JOURNEY WEST
The time soon passed and then we were getting ready to go still farther west. We left Winter Quarters the first part of May 1848. We travelled a few miles the first day and camped on what was called Horn or Elk Horn. We had three wagons and a light spring wagon for Mother to ride in as her health was rather delicate at that time. Her wagon was fixed very comfortable so she could have her bed made all the time and she could lie down if she wished. My Brother Frank was to drive a wagon, but he had to drive mother, as one of our teamsters left soon after we started, so then I had to drive. I did so in fear and trembling, as one of the horses was very vicious. She used to kick up dreadful until she would kick the board of the wagon all to pieces, but it made no difference, I had to go at it the next day just the same.
When we got fairly started on our journey, there was a very large company—I think there was two hundred wagons travelling up the Platte River. The wagons were divided into sections as the road ran parallel. President Young headed one section. That was a dreary part of the journey. For miles and miles, one could see nothing but the unbroken plains. Not a tree or a shrub in sight, nothing but white dusty road as far as the eye could see. At night when the camp was reached, myself and companions would always make a rush for the river to bathe. It was great enjoyment after the warm dusty day.
How Camps were Formed. While travelling, there was always someone sent ahead on horseback to search out the best place for a camp, then when it was reached, the wagons at the head of each line would stop and the next one would drive just as close as possible to it, then the next and so on until they were all in each row formed into a semicircle with an opening at the beginning and end. These gates or openings were left so the animals could be driven out and in. There was a guard placed both in the corral and out and I often think of the cheery call of the guard when all was quiet in camp. It was in this wise, “Twelve o’clock in the corral and all is well.” Then the next would take up the call until each one of the guards had given the hour.
There is one thing I must mention in regard to my bathing in the Platte. I had one of the most indulgent of mothers, but she had told me many times not to go in bathing so often, (my run-away practices clung to me yet) but I was disobedient and went with the girls as usual after the many warnings I had received. We staid longer than usual and the night being dark I lost my way. I suppose I must have passed the wagons and not recognized them. The grass was very high and the dew very heavy. I was wet to my knees, but after what seemed to me a very long time, and after I had repented my disobedience, I found our wagons and also found Father with a rope in his hand waiting to receive me. I received a deserved very warm reception. I think it had the desired effect. I don’t remember any more escapades of that kind during the rest of the journey. In consequence of getting so wet that night, I had a crick in my next the next morning. My head was drawn on one side. I tried to make myself believe it was because Father had whipped me and I thought he ought to be sorry, but it didn’t seem to strike him that way. I had to lie in bed all day. Mother petted me some, I remember. Disagreeable results always follow disobedience whether in young or old.
Birth of Mary—Mother of J. Reuben Clark. July the fifth we were camped on a small stream called Goose Creek. It was here that my sister Mary was born. The place was not localized at that time, but since the Territories have been recognized, it is in Wyoming Territory. We never laid over a day in consequence of Mother’s sickness. The Lord blessed her and fitted her to bear the journey as He did many others at that time. I have heard her say she never got along better in her life. Mary grew so fast, she was one of the finest of Mother’s children, even if she was born under difficulties. We had to burn buffalo chips while coming up the Platte. I used to get out just before camping, take a sack and fill it as our journey progressed. When we got into the Black Hills our companies were divided into tens, as they were called, because the facilities for camping were not so good for so many in one place.
Landmarks. There are some land marks I remember. We heard so much of Independence Rock long before we got there. They said we should have a dance on top of it, as we had many a dance while on the plains. We thought it would be so nice, but when we got there, the company was so small it was given up. We nooned at this place, but Father staid long enough for us children to go all over it. I went with the boys and with Catherine. It is an immense rock with holes and crevices where the water is dripping cool and sparkling. We saw a great many names of persons that had been cut in the rock, but we were so disappointed in not having a dance. Our company was so small, and we had not a note of music or a musician. I was told afterwards by some of the girls that we had travelled with that they had a party there, but President Young had all the music with him. I think we camped that night on the stream of water called Sweetwater. The companies ahead of us lost a great many animals at this place. The stench was awful, and the wolves were as thick as sheep. It seemed as though they had gathered for miles around. There wasn’t a wink of sleep that night for any of us. I was staying with Aunt Catherine that night for company as Uncle Sammy was out on guard with the rest of the men to keep the wolves from attacking the animals or stampeding them. They were so bold they would come right into camp and some of them would put their feet on the wagon tongues and sniff in at the end of the wagon. This was my birthday, I was twelve years old. The next day we passed Devil’s Gate, another landmark of very high rocks with an opening at the top with water pouring down to a great depth.
The next I remember was crossing what was called Rocky Ridge and I can truly say that the Belview road isn’t a circumstance to that road. I was driving as usual, and to make matters worse we had an old pig that was in trouble that day and she had to ride in the buggy, as Father was very anxious to save the little pigs, but they all died in consequence of the rough road. I remember I was so glad when we camped that night, because I was so completely tired out with the road and the frisky horse.
Big Mountain. I don’t remember anything else of note until we drew near our journey’s end. We came to what is called Big Mountain, and it is rightly named. We had to double teams to get up, that is, take all the teams in camp and put them all on two or three wagons, take them up to the top, then go back for others. Then coming down put them on the back of the wagons to hold them back. Those that came when we did know something of the difficulties of traveling. Five months of that kind gets monotonous after awhile, but we were so near our journey’s end that we could rejoice even withal.
Coming down the mountain, the axle tree on Mother’s wagon broke, which caused some delay. Father cut a young tree and fastened it under the wagon so that it could be brought into the Valley.
The New Home
With what gladness we got our first glimpse of the Valley. We camped just at the mouth of Emigration Canyon in the afternoon to wash and fix up a little before meeting our friends that had preceded us the year previous.