Cropper, Thomas Waters, [Autobiography], in Family History of Thomas Waters Cropper and Hannah Lucretia Rogers , 22-26.
We reached the Missouri at Weeping Water, four and one-half miles above Nebraska City. Here we had to wait for seven weeks for the immigrants to come. We hired out to farmers to cut and bind grain. One day, while there were about 100 men at the river, a Mr. Hans Jasperson challenged anyone to swim the Missouri with him. I accepted. We went across and back. The water ran swift and was filled with driftwood. The stream was about half a mile wide. It took us down stream four miles. While on the road we practiced running races. I beat all but Hammond. My time was 100 yards in ten and a half seconds.
When the immigrants came, the captain gave instructions. Eighteen men, women, and children placed their belongings in my wagon. All able-bodied were required to walk. The first night it rained and we had some trouble sleeping. The first day we traveled four miles. Some of the immigrants did not get to camp until dark. On the trip there was much sickness. I should judge about one-tenth died.
When we got out on the Platt River the indians were numerous and very warlike. They burned some stations and killed many people. We doubled trains, making 210 wagons in all, averaging about ten persons to the wagon. Just before we reached Plum Creek, a group of United States soldiers passed us. We learned the indians were attacking and burning a train of about fifteen wagons. They were drawn by four horse teams and were loaded with machinery and supplies for Big Horn. I was permitted by the captain to see the massacre. The wagons were on fire, some of the horses were killed by being shot full of arrow. The soldiers buried the victims. A woman was taken alive. There were fifteen graves.
We came to a place where a ranch had been burned and a dead man lay where the house had stood. We stopped to bury the man. We camped that night in a bend of the Platt[e] River and put out a heavy guard around the cattle and camp. I was on guard and counted in the moonlight fourteen indians crossing the river not far from our camp. As I passed some of the wagons I could hear the people's teeth chattering with fear. As we traveled the next day we saw about a mile from the road more than a thousand tepees, or wickieups, of Cheyenne and Sioux indians.
As we drove along, four indians came toward the train at full speed on horseback one in advance of the other three. Every man grabbed his gun thinking it might be an attack. The lead indian had a short shotgun. He dashed into the train snapping the gun at the women and girls, making them scream. I had my gun leveled on him and called out to James Jenkins, the teamster ahead, "Shall I shoot him?". He answered, "Don't shoot. His gun didn't go off". The other three indians came up and grabbed him and took him away. The fellow was drunk.
Next morning we were about to start the train, and nearly all the people were with the first twenty wagons, as quick as a clap of thunder, there was a stampede which tipped over wagons and broke oxen's horns off. The cattle ran about 300 yards, then stopped as suddenly as they started. This caused quite a confusion. Some of the broken wagons had to be abandoned and the loads put on other wagons.
We came to several streams that were difficult to cross, which caused us quite a lot of trouble. Finally, we had to cross the Platte. Double teams took over half the train at a time. All the people waded. The stream was crotch deep at the deepest places.
In my wagon a woman was confined. I did most of the cooking as these women did not understand cooking on a camp fire. W[illia]m. Brangum [Brangham] was the father of the new baby [Sarah Ann Brangham]. He was not a member of the church and he and his mother-in-law [Ann Barrett] quarreled a great deal of the time. One day they were quarreling and he started to choking his wife [Charlotte Barrett Brangham] and his mother-in-law was fighting him. I grabbed him by the leg and gave him a trouncing. He began to cry and said, "I'll leave you and you'll never see me again".
He left and his wife cried and blamed her mother for driving him off. About nine o'clock he came crawling into the wagon. From that day on he was a changed man. He was good to his wife and her mother and did everything I asked him to do. Finally this man came to Logan and joined the church and was Justice of the Peace the last I heard of him.
We reached the Sweet Water and had to cross the stream twenty-six times. Some of the people decided to take a round about road. We went on through the canyon and camped. The others did not get in that night. We had to lay over a half day and send men out to bring them in. Prayer meeting was held every night. There were some missionaries who preached to us. In the camp there were several concertinas and violins and we often danced on the ground inside the ring of wagons.
The camp was formed in a circle leaving a gap at each end. The tongues of the wagons pointed out and the front wheels of one wagon chained to the back wheel of the next. The tents were pitched inside the circle next to the wagons. In the morning all tents were folded before the cattle were driven in to be yoked up. With guards at each of the two openings a complete corral was formed.
When we reached South Pass, bullberries were plentiful and all enjoyed picking berries. The people felt encouraged to find the water running west. We passed Hams Fork, Black Fork, and the old Fort Bridger; and went on to the head of Echo Canyon. Down the canyon we crossed the stream forty-six times. The deepest places were bridged now. We came to the Weber River and followed the Mormon Trail over the mountains and down Immigration Canyon to Salt Lake City. There the teamsters were discharged and allowed to go home. Some of the men took immigrants with them. I reached home at Deseret near my birthday, October 24, 1864. I was now 22 years old.
The teamsters were allowed $25.00 a month labor tithing. This you could sell or transfer to men who owed their immigration fund, which was $50.00, to be paid into the perpetual Church immigration fund. I turned $50.00 to Joseph Jensen in exchange for labor. Croft, my step-father [stepfather], furnished four yoke of cattle and one wagon. We furnished our own provisions going down, the Church furnished them coming back.
At Nebraska City the captain took one of my oxen, Paddy, to the manager of the immigration fund and it was sold for flour and bacon. Our pay was merely a tithing credit. The $50.00 above mentioned was all I ever received. I went to transfer some more and was told by the Bishop's clerk that it had been transferred to Croft's account, he having been delinquent in his labor tithing. This transaction took place after I was married.
Before I started, mother made me a light green suit from cloth she hired made from Dixie cotton. She employed a widow, Mrs. Anderson, to spin, weave, and dye the cloth. The cloth was died with rabbit brush. I had a good heavy pair of shoes and straw hat which was home braided.
When we arrived at the Platt[e] River, Ephraim Tomkinson, one of the teamsters, a stout, heavy-set fellow, bantered me into a trade—his buckskin pants for my cotton ones. His had been wet and had shrunk until he couldn't wear them. My pants fit him like a glove. His were much too short for me, the knee places came inches too high and the bottoms ended half-way to my knees. I could not wear them but the exchange was made.
I had a cow hide in my wagon. This gave me an idea. While riding in the slow moving caravan, I cut the pants and the cow hide into strips and braided nice ox whips. I put a sign on the wagon, "Whips for Sale".
We were meeting many immigrants and the whips sold readily at $1.00 each. I obtained $20.00 from the sales. This, together with the money I earned while waiting for the immigrants, I spent in Nebraska City for clothing and equipment. A trunk cost me $5.00; a suit of clothes was $12.00; a pair of shoes, $2.00, etc. I came home a well dressed young man.