Oborn, John, Reminiscences and diary [ca. 1862]-1901, [Part 1], 4, [Part 2], 2.
In Iowa we were assigned to travel with a Handcart Company under the command of James G. Willie. Our one hundred was under the supervision of Millen Atwood. We left Iowa City, July 15, 1856. The train consisted of one hundred twenty handcarts, six wagons and six hundred souls. We arrived at Florence, August 11th, and a week later, after repairs to our carts, we started. It was apparent that the handcarts were poorly constructed. We left Florence, following closely along the Missouri River, going about ten miles per day. Father [Joseph Oborn] would usually pull and mother [Maria Stradling Oborn] and I would push. At the end of the days journey we would pull our carts into a circle, a meeting would be held and instructions given. I was but a boy 13 years, but I shall never forget the testimony and the wonderful spirit of sincerity and loyalty of all the members of our company.
Our guides kept us pretty well supplied with buffalo meat, which at that time was plentiful. There were thousands. On August the 29 we encountered a tribe of Indians. They were friendly to us and told us of a murder that had been committed by another tribe of Indians a few days previous to this in which a lady and her child were the victims. Our train passed the scene of the murder and we buried the remains.
We passed through Fort Laramie on September 30th, where a few supplies were bought. We soon began to realize we had started our journey too late in the year. There were no more buffalo to be found, and our rations were getting low. We were reaching the foothills near Rock Springs. We had already had some snow and weather conditions looked unfavorable. Our scant rations had reached the point where the amount ordinarly consumed for one meal now had to suffice a full day. From here on it is beyond my power of description to write. God only can understand and realize the torture and privation, exposure and starvation that we went through. Now word reached us that we must hasten or winter would soon come upon us. Instead of speeding up, the weakened condition of our older members slowed us down.
Each day one or more would die. A few more days, and then the most terrible experience of my life. This was October 20th,
winter had come[.] snow ten or twelve inches deep was upon us, movement in any direction was practically stopped. Our scant rations, had reached the point where) [they] were now gone, ten or twelve of our number, faithful to the last, were buried in a single shallow grave.
Privation and starvation were taking their toll. A day or two later my own father closed his eyes, never to wake again. He, too, had given his life cheerfully and without hesitation, for the cause that he espoused. We buried him in a lonely grave, its spot unmarked, not far from Green River, Wyoming, he was only forty five.
During these terrible times it seemed only a matter of days before all would perish. We had resorted to the eating of anything that could be chewed, bark and leaves from trees, etc. We youngsters ate the rawhide from our boots. It seemed to sustain life and we were very thankful to get it. Then when it seemed all would be lost, already sixty six of our number had died, and there seemed little left to live for, like a thunderbolt out of the clear sky, God answered our prayers. A rescue party, bringing food and supplies from Great Salt Lake City, sent by President Brigham Young, came into sight.
Those of you who have never had this experience cannot realize how thankful we were or how we thanked God for our rescue. Mother and I were cared for by a dear brother, who was very kind to us. He seemed like an angel from heaven. We left our handcart and rode in his wagon and slowly but safely he brought us to Zion. We passed through Fort Bridger on November 2nd. We arrived in Great Salt Lake City, November 9th, 1856.