The Diary of Johanna Mathilda Peterson Atkinson and Biographical Sketch of John August Peterson, 9-11, 50-51.
A Copy of the Diary of Johanna Mathilda Peterson Atkinson
. . . Finally we arrived at Wyoming [Nebraska]. . . .
Here we washed our clothing and rested about a week. My sister [Sophia] was now down with fever and delirious. She told us afterwards she saw a dark personage dragging all the sick people down stairs. Then he was coming for her. Just at that [time] mother knelt down beside her bed to hear her words asking kindly how are you feeling Sophia? She began slapping mother on the back saying go away you devil. Mother was surprised. We had to laugh for she was a sweet gently girl. Well we laughed. She near 28 years old. She wouldn’t marry as the young was counseled not to . . . so father and mother thought it best to seal her to my husband when we were married.
My brother’s wife, Sine, was sick with mountain fever and the baby [Augusta A.] too. We got on to the wagons as Brigham Young had sent 50 wagons with oxen to meet the saints at Wyoming. We got started but met a terrible wind storm followed by lightning. It was a sheet of flame. The sand beat in clouds and then a rain. It settled the sand and cooled the atmosphere for awhile. We traveled on. The sun was so hot and the sand was hot too. I began to fail; every step felt as if I would sink. I first wore shoes but my feet would get so hot and sweat. Then I tried to go bare footed but sinking ankle deep in the burning sand at every step wasn’t easy. Finally I came down too but was not so bad as the others. When we had traveled a week by the 14 of August, little Agusta died in mother’s arms at 11 o’clock forenoon. I washed and prepared the little body for burial. I was then going on 14. The sisters kindly ran about gathering flowers and filled the grave half deep with flowers thus softening her little bed. It was impossible to get coffins. We had to prepare the bodies of our loved ones as best we could with what we had at hand, wrap them in a sheet, place them in a grave, throw dirt on them, and then the graves were dedicated.
The next day 15 Aug, John’s wife died near 1:00 pm. She didn’t know the baby was dead as she was too low. We had to go on. . . .
After leaving our loved ones behind with not even a board to mark the spot, my heart still aches when I reflect on those scenes. Oh that pretty little baby so sweet, four months old when her father first saw her and seven months when he had to part with her again [and also] with that sweet young wife and mother beloved by us all. We traveled on with sad hearts. We reached Fort Laramie. There we got our introduction to the American Indians. Little did we think they were of the house of Israel. Oh how dark and ragged they appeared. We were told they were a wild people. Our people were standing in line on one side the road; the Indians on the other. The squaws came into camp asking for dinner. We had flour mush—gave them some and spoon and basin which they returned.
My brother would make fires, cook, help father get the sick out of the wagon, pitch tent, [two sheets sewed together for a tent] One day we had to cross a big hill. We were told to get down and walk as the load was hard for the oxen. Father said we have to carry them from the wagon to the tent and help them. My sister said; “I will try to walk with father and John.” This forenoon she had begun to get better so she could walk around the tent. She enjoyed getting a little stronger. Well she wore ankle shoes. It snowed and rained that day.
She walked during the forenoon holding on to father and John’s arms and her feet got wet. When at camp she said my head aches. I won’t walk this afternoon. That night she dreamed she held the baby Augusta on her knee. The baby laid her little hand on her knee. The next morning her knee felt tender. She removed the clothing and there was plainly visible in purple a mark the shape of the baby’s hand and every finger. She called my brother and showed him. My brother’s heart sank, well knowing she was going too. We got to the Green River that night after dark and had to scrape the snow away and lay the beds on the wet ground. The oxen were tired and hungry as there was very little grass if any. Some of the oxen died that night. The next day was fine. Our rations consisted of flour, pepermint, bacon, and coffee with a little brown sugar. We traveled near 30 miles a day or less. Captain Scott would ride ahead of the train. We had fifty wagons in our train and we had the nicest teamster. His name was John and he always had a pleasant smile for us. He spoke English and was from Provo.
One day the captain was riding out on his white horse to find water and a camping place for us. And Indian came up—talked with the captain who alighted to rest. The Indian managed to get the bridle, got on the horse and ride away. The wicked fleeth when no man pursueth; the captain got another horse.
We were near three weeks after leaving Green River getting to Salt Lake City. The morning of the 6 Oct, my sister was conscious up to the last. She called us all by name, bade us all goodbye and passed away peacefully. Farewell dearest sister Sophia. She was sealed to my husband Alfred H. Atkinson 10 July 1871.
A woman whose husband had died the week previous died that morning leaving 7 children with their grandmother to care for them. Her grave was dug when my sister died at 7. The brethren made the grave wider and the two were placed side by side in the same shallow grave with the frozen lumps thrown over their remains. Farewell dear sister Sophia—may we be worthy to meet you again. . . .
Sophia Israel was a friend to my sister. There was a settlement east of Salt Lake City. There Brother Sprague had helped her get a situation.
Twas a moonlight night. She came to the train, hunted up our wagon, gave my sister a peach which she ate. The next morning Sophia died. . . .
Several girls came with shinning brass kettles filled with peaches [and] they gave them to the travelers as they ran for more twas over the mountain East. At 7 Oct, we traveled near 16 miles. Coming down the mountain was rough but we were coming to Zion. When we told Mother this is Salt Lake City, she clapped her hands saying, “Now we can see the blessed city.” . . .
Biographical Sketch of John August Peterson
. . . There were fifty wagons in a train and a captain and assistant for each train. The captain’s name was [Andrew Hunter] Scott. The first day we started, there came up a heavy rain and electric thunder storm. The lightning flashed so it was like a veritable lake of fire about us. Wind and sand blew in clouds but it cooled the hot sand a little for the time being, but soon we would sink ankle deep in the burning sand. I came near getting sick from drinking so much water from the Missouri River. It wasn’t cold and contained clay which gives it the name of muddy river. There was a cold spring a little way off where we could sometimes get drinking water. The days were very hot. One day a young man was determined to drink his fill. He would not listen to others who told him so much cold water would hurt him. Well he got enough for in about an hour he was dead. That water tasted good but it contained a sort of mineral and were forbidden to drink it.
We started on our journey. Father and I had to walk all the way. Sometimes I walked in wooden shoes, sometimes they were too troublesome and I would go barefoot, but alas there were prickly pears in the sand that had to be picked out when time would permit. When we camped at night we had to make haste, pitch our tents, and help the sick down from the wagons. Father’s work was to help me get water, gather buffalo chips and wood wherewith to cook our meals. The bread was raised by saving a piece of dough from each mixing. I would make bread first, mix it and bake it. We had flour, bacon, a little brown sugar, and coffee. The bread was baked in a cooking kettle with iron lid with a rim so we could place red coals on top and under it. As a rule it was about 11:00 o’clock before the bread was baked and I could go to bed. In the morning, we would eat our breakfast, gather up beds and cooking utensils, get everything ready to leave camp at seven o’clock. We would travel about 30 miles a day. I would be so tired at evening when we camped I would like to have gone to rest.
The plains were pretty, covered with green tall grass that made good feed for the oxen. Our teamster was a tall well built young man. He was pleasant, polite and kind. His name was John. I think he was from Provo. My wife and baby got no better. My baby died 14 Aug in mother’s arms at 11:00 o’clock. The grave was dug and the sisters ran all over gathering wild flowers. They filled the little grave to a depth of about half a foot with flowers. It was very kind of them. My sister Matilda, aged over 13 washed and prepared the little body for burial with a sheet wrapped about her. She was laid tenderly on her little bed of flowers. Her mother died the next day about one o’clock and was laid to rest. We had traveled about a week at that time. Mother got a little better. Sophia improved some so she could walk from the wagon to the tent, for which she felt glad. But when we came to a long hill or mountain [the Black hills] where there was snow and hard for the oxen to pull the wagons, all who could were asked to walk. Sophia said she would try to walk that morning if father would hold to her on one side and me on the other. We led her along till noon. She said she was tired and her head hurt her and that she would not try to walk in the afternoon. Her shoes were low and her feet got wet. That night we camped at Green River. The next morning she called me into the tent and said, “I dreamed I was holding your baby. She put her little hand on my knee. My knee felt so strange that I removed my clothing and there I saw a purple mark the shape of her hand and every finger? She showed me the mark. My heart sank for I could see she was going to leave us too. She did so about three weeks after. She kept her mind bright till the last moment and bade us all good bye.
The emigrants had to walk as far as possible. The wagons were pretty loaded with goods. Mother bore up bravely under the trying circumstances. Mother and Sophia were like companions. Mother said, “If I should give way to sorrow, I would go too,” but she controlled her own grief realizing she had us to live for. The night we camped at Green River, we had been traveling up hill, it had rained, and snowed all day. We shoveled away the snow, put up our tents, and spread our bed on the wet ground. It was quite dark. We could hardly find anyting to make a fire with. It froze hard that night. There was scarcely any food for the animals to eat. Some of the oxen died during the night. The next turned out to fine and warm. When we camped at noon, the snow was gone. The ground was uneven, buffalo chips were not much good but there was sage brush, willows and streams for water. We waded up to our waists. There was ice on both sides. The wagons went ahead and broke the ice and we waded in after. It was a cold trip over the river and it came pretty often that we had to wade through the cold st[r]eams. Sophia had another attack of mountain fever at Green River. She died 6 Oct 1866 and was buried in a shallow grave with another sister who died that morning. There was no pretty coffin or pretty flowers but she was called on the other side to a better home. Her spirit hasn’t come or been shown to me since that time, but a few days after my wife, Sine, died, I saw her in a dream. I thought I was in a room. She came through with the baby on her arm. She wore a light calico dress; the pattern was red stars and flowers but was very light and clear. She came and greeted us then went back into the room she came from. . . .
On the 7th we came into the valley, and on the 8th into Salt Lake City. When we entered it, mother clapped her hands with joy saying, “Now we can behold that blessed city.”