"Correspondence from America" [George A. Smith and William I. Appleby letter to Orson Pratt, 12 August 1849], Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star, 15 November 1849, 346-48.
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- Church History Library, M205.5 M646 v. 1-132 1840-1970
August 12, 1849
Dear Brother O. Pratt,—This morning, while the rain is wetting our canvass, and bids fair for a stormy day, I thought I would send you a hasty sketch of our journey thus far on our way to the Salt Lake, and offer a few suggestions to the Saints in England and other places, that will be of advantage to them in their emigration.
First, then, I left home and went into camp on the 23rd of June last, after months' exertion of labour and toil, and at last was obliged to borrow ten yoke of cattle to roll into camp with; however, I have got along tolerable well, for which I feel truly thankful. We left Winter Quarters on the 14th day of July, with about 130 wagons. At the Platte Liberty Pole, for convenience, herding, &c., we divided the company into two camps, denominated G. A. Smith's camp, including the Welsh company (under Captain Dan Jones, consisting of some twenty-five wagons) and E. T. Benson's, including the Norwegian company, making two camps, yet traveling and encamping near each other all the while. Our progress, thus far, you will perceive has been slow, owing to the wet, muddy, and miry state of the roads, rendered so by the incessant rains we have experienced since we left the Elk Horn; indeed it has been shower after shower of wind, rain, thunder, lightning, and hail. There has been no scarcity of water all through this Indian country, nearly every creek that was dry heretofore when the emigrating companies passed, has now plenty of water in them, and the grass on their prairies is very little behind the prolific yield of the prairies of Illinois.
We are now encamped on Skuuk Creek [Skunk Creek], near the Sandy Bluffs—plenty of wood, water, and rich pasture. Our cattle stand the journey thus far very well; our camps are enjoying health and peace; no deaths, losses, or serious accidents have occurred in our midst. Surely the angel of mercy and protection is round about, and goes before the camps of Israel, and may he still continue to go before us to preserve our lives, our cattle, herds, wagons, and provisions—vanquish the destroyer, guide and protect us safely to our destined haven. There were two or three stampedes among our cattle, until we adopted the plan of chaining and tying them up every night; since then we have had no stampedes, but our cattle have rested in quietness. We carrel our horses, sheep, and loose cattle inside, our oxen outside of the carrel, which we think the best and safest way. We would suggest the propriety, and recommend the same to all the Saints that propose emigrating, to provide themselves with plenty of good grass rope, one-half or five-eighths in diameter for tying up, about ten feet to an ox, or steer, or cow, and also to provide some good heavy ox chains, in addition to their lighter ones, in case of doubling several yoke together, when needed in miry places; and have good strong wagons, not too heavy, with high wheels, tight beds, and the bottom and side boards where they meet, beveled together to prevent the water running through, and thereby lose their flour, as has been the case in a few instances to a small extent in our camp; also procure a good thick twilled material, either cotton or linen, for wagon covers, Russian duck, No. 8; likewise a few yoke of good extra oxen to a company, in case of accident. These are things we recommend to the Saints, which if embraced or adopted, we feel confident will be a benefit unto them, especially the tying up of cattle. No one that has not witnessed a stampede of cattle on these plains has any idea of the terrors, and dangers, and losses sometimes that accompany them. Contemplate a camp of 50 or 100 wagons all carreled, with about 1000 head of cattle, oxen, steers, cows, &c., with some 3 to 500 souls, consisting of men, women, and children, all wrapt in midnight slumber, with every prospect of peace and quietness when they retired to rest in their wagons under their frail canvass covering, with the guards pacing their several rounds, crying the hour of the night, &c.; when all of a sudden, a roar equal to distant thunder, which causes the ground to shake, is heard; the bellowing and roaring of furious, maddened, and frightened cattle, with the cracking of yokes, breaking of chains, and sometimes of wagons, is heard—away they go, rushing furiously over guards or anything else that is not invulnerable to them. Hear the guard cry out, a "stampede! Every man in camp turn out." Horses are mounted, and through the storm and darkness of the night, with the rifle in hand, the roar and sound of the cattle are followed; sometimes rivers are swam, and hundreds of head so cattle are lost; but if success attends, in an hour or two, sometimes longer, they are brought back, but not quieted, to the camp, where the women and children, affrighted from being roused from slumber by such terrific wars, had been left with armed guards to protect them from the Indians, who roam over these plains in countless numbers, merely in quest of plunder, and perhaps had been the cause of frightening the cattle and causing the stampede; such, in grief, is a stampede; but it must be witnessed to be realized. Capt. Owens (Judge Owens of Hancock county, Illinois) with a company of gold hunters had a stampede a few weeks ago, about 70 miles from here, and lost upwards of 100 head. They were found near Fort Childs, by Captain Allen Taylor's company of Saints, and returned to them a few days after. The cattle travelled 130 miles in thirty-six hours.
Our statistics are follows, as near as we can ascertain at present:— 129 Wagons, 4 Ponies, 74 Chickens, 2 Marriages, 467 Souls, 514 Oxen, 22 Cats, 2 Births, 125 Men, 243 Cows, 26 Dogs, No Deaths, 23 Horses, 70 S. Cattle, 21 Ducks, 157 Guns, 1 Mule, 100 Sheep, 4 Turkies, 38 Pistols. 12 Pigs, 2 Doves,
We are composed of Yankees, English, Welsh, Norwegian, &c., yet we are one, although of different dialects and nations. The English are doing first rate, as also the Welsh. They are well fitted out with teams and provisions; are in good spirits, are joyful, and make the camp resound with the songs of Zion in the evening after carreling. Capt. Dan Jones understands his duty, and surely he has done nobly in building up the kingdom of God in his native land, and conducting the company he has across the mighty deep. Surely their prosperity and rejoicing should stimulate their brethren to imitate their example.
There are three companies of Saints a-head of us: Capt. Gully [Samuel Gully], with President O. Spencer [Orson Spencer], Capt. Allred's and Capt. Richards's [Silas Richard's]. Capt. Samuel Gully went out last spring as captain of one hundred in Brother Spencer's company, and on the 3rd day of August last we discovered his grave and another, Henry Vanderhoof, of the same company, but not a member of the church, neatly sodded over, and head boards with inscriptions upon them, about 180 miles from Winter Quarters, from which we learned that Brother Gully died of cholera, July 5th, 1849, and Vanderhoof on the 4th. We have also since learned with regret, from the gold diggers that returned after their lost cattle before referred to, that the same company at the Loup Fork, lost one man by drowning, another the Indians shot while out hunting. Four had died of cholera, and two more had been severely injured by cattle in a stampede. At Prairie Creek we saw the grave of an infant, son of Joseph Egbert, who died July 27th, 1849, aged seven months.
We would also recommend the brethren not to calculate to carry over these roads, at the furthest, more than twenty hundred pounds weight, to two good yoke of cattle and a yoke of cows, with wagon not too heavy, as we before referred to, and double covers to the same,—one of the material before mentioned and the other coarse cotton sheeting, as it will be necessary to shield them and their provisions from the storms, especially such a one as we experienced night before last. We give a sketch of it from Brother Appleby's journal of the camp.
"August 10.—Travelled about 12 miles, some part sandy road; a heavy shower coming on, we encamped early near Low Sandy Bluffs. From about five o'clock, p.m. until midnight, there was one constant and incessant deluge as it were. The rain fell in torrents, the lightning flashed in vivid glare, the thunder rolled in rumbling and terrific peals, the winds howled through our camp of canvass, spread to the enraged elements, and many were the mothers and infants that received the cold drops through their frail covering, and reposed in their saturated beds, without murmuring as it was heaven's will. The cattle bent to the storm as they stood upon their feet, and sometimes gently tried a chain or roped by which they were made fast. The guards, wet and dripping, paced the camp in their several rounds, cried the hours, exposed to the furious and pitiless storm. However, after about seven hours, the elements having spent their fury, a calm subsided, and in the morning the camp arose to behold a beautiful clear sky, a shining sun, cattle all safe, and cheerful and smiling countenances in the camp, and plenty of water around the same! Such is a prairie thunder shower."
We saw Brother T.D. Brown of Liverpool. He paid us a visit while crossing the Missouri river, but in the bustle and hurry we had not time to converse a great deal. He was in good health and spirits, although his business was a little complicated. He rejoiced to behold the camp, and only wished he was ready to go along. He tarries at Kanesville. Sister Smith sends her respects to you and Sister Pratt, and thanks for the presents received. She, together with Sister Benson, wrote a letter at the Horn to Sister Pratt, which we hope she has received. Farewell. May the Lord bless and prosper you for ever. Amen.
W. I. APPLEBY, Clerk and Journalist of the Camp.