Heber Robert McBride autobiography, circa 1868, 9-15.
View this source online
we had to lay over 3 weeks at Florance [Florence] I dont know what for but after we left Florence a little while Mother [Margaret A. Howard McBride] was taken sick with Chills and fever and those that was sick had the privelege of riding in the wagons as there was a few wagons to haul our provisions but as we jornied along the team began to give out and our trouble began in earnest for there was no more chance for the sick to ride and then we had to haul them on our carts[.] we were 7 in our family[,] I being the oldest boy just past 13 years and my sister [Margaret Alice McBride] 3 years older than me we had to pull the handcart all the way but Mother being sick and nothing for her comfort she failed very fast[.] she would start out in the morning and walk as far as she could then she would give out and ly down and wait till we came along, and we would take her on our cart and haul her along till we came to camp[,] but it was not long before our provisions began to get short and we was reduced to one-half pound of flour and children to ¼ lb per day, and nothing else with it only water and some times a very little tea[.] the food we had was not enough to suport nature and Father [Robert McBride] began to fail very rapidly and got so reduced that he could not pull any more at the handcart bout [but] could manege to walk along for a fiew days[.] then him and Mother could start out in the morning and walk as far as they could along with others that was sick and give out[.] then there was 3 children younger than me and so small she had to ride all the way for she was only about 3 years old[.] the other 2 being boys managed to walk by holding on the handcart[.] no toung nor pen could tell what my Sister and me passed through[,] our parients both sick and us young[.] it seemed as though death would be a blessing. for we used to pray that we might die to get out of our misery for by this time it was getting very cold weather and our clothing almost worn out and not enough of bedclothes to keep us warm[.] we would lay and suffer from night till morning with the cold[.] by this time the team was give out intirely and we had to take more load on our carts and had to haul Father and Mother[.] sometimes we would find Mother laying by the side of the road[.] first then we would get her on the cart and haul her along till we would find Father lying as if he was dead then Mother would be rested a little and she would try and walk and Father would get on and ride and then we used to cry and feel so bad[.] we did not know what to do but we would never get into camp till away after dark and then we would have to hunt something to make a fire and the captins of the companyes was worse than brutes[.] there was a capten over each hundred and they took a great deal of satisfaction in showing their authority over the people by making them obey orders or keeping back their rations although that was not enough to keep men from starving. One night when we came into camp it was after dark and had been raining very very hard through the day and there was no wood to be got and mother was very sick[.] we thought she was going to die and we had gathered a few sunflower stalks and wet Buffloo chips and had just got a little fire started when all hands were ordered to attend prayers and because we did not go to prayers Daniel Taylor [Tyler] came and kicked our fire all out and spilled the water that we was trying to get warm to make a little tea for Mother. I then told him if I ever got to be a man I would whip him if it was the last thing I ever did on this earth. Father had gone to attend prayrs and that was the reason he took advantage of us, well this is about the way we had to get along, pass through about the same every day till we crossed the last crossing of the Platt[e] River[.] we had to ford all the rivers but one and that was the L[o]upe Fork of the Platte[.] but the evening we crossed the Platte river for the last time[,] it was very cold and the next morning there was about 6 inches of snow on the ground and then what we had to suffer can never be told. Father was very bad this morning[,] could hardly sit up in the tent [.] we had to travel that day through the snow[.] I managed to get Father in to one of the wagons that morning and that was the last we ever saw of him alive[.] we only made one drive as it began snowwing very hard when we camped[.] the snow was getting deep and my Sister and me had to pitch our tent and get some wood but that was handy as there was plenty of dry willowes on the bank of the river[.] after we had made Mother as comfortable as we could we went to try and find father but the wind was blowing the snow so bad that we could not see anything and the wagons had not got into camp and it was then after dark so we did not find him that night and the next morning the snow was about 18 inches deep and awful cold but while my sister was preparing our little bite of breakfast I went to look for Father and at last I found him under a wagon with snow all over him and he was stiff and dead. I felt as though my heart would burst[.] I sat down beside him on the snow and took hold of one of his hands and cried oh Father Father[.] there we was away out on the Plains with hardly anything to eat and Father dead and mother sick and a widow with 5 small children and not hardly able to live from day to another[.] after I had my cry out I went back to the tent and told Mother[.] now to try and write to tell the feelings of Mother and the other children is out of the question[.] now we were not all the family that was called upon to mourn the loss of a Father this morning for there was 13 men died in camp[.] the men that was able to do anything cleaned of[f] the snow and made a fire and thawed out the ground and dug a big hole and buried them all in one grave[,] some side by side and on top of one another any way to get them covered for I can as[s]ure you that the men had no heart to do any more than they had to[.] we never knew how Father died[,] wheather he died in the wagon and was lifted out or he got out himself and fell down esausted and froze to death[.] I dont know how many days we had to lay over for the snow was so deep that we could not pull our handcarts through and there we were in a starving condition and the oxen that pulled the wagons began dieing but everyone that died was devoured very quickly and us little boys would get strips of rawhide and try and eat it[.] all the way could do anything with it was to crisp it in the fire and then draw a string of it through our teeth and get some of the burnt scales of[f] that way and then crisp it again and repeat the operation till we would get tired[.] after laying over a fiew days the word came to camp that there was 10 wagons from Salt Lake had come out to meet us but could not come any farther and was camped about 40 or 50 miles from where we were on what was Dear [Deer] Creek[.] how they came to be there I dont know but I suppose our friends in the Valley thought perhaps we were lost or snowed under or would be because we started so late in the season[.] there was no stage nor Telegraph nor U.S. mail crossing the plains in those days[.] Almon Babbot [Babbitt] started with the mail that year but the Indians killed him and a woman that was with him for we saw where he was killed and his wagon burned and some of his things laying around but all the Indians we saw were friendly with us[.] well when we got word about the wagons being ahead of us we received an extra half pound of flour and orders to start out in the morning[.] it had been thawing some so that the snow was not so deep and the news of wagons waiting for us seemed to put new life into every one of us[.] so in the morning we started in good time but made very little progress but at night where we camped there was not very much snow[.] well we tryed along through snow and mud till at last we saw 10 wagons and it was a welcome sight for we thought that we would have plenty of flour but we were disappointed for they had been so much longer on the road than they had expected that they were out of provisions and horse feed or nearly so as they had left some on the road at some discarted traiding stations but they had sent a man back to Salt Lake with too horses as an express to let the people know our situation[.] the 10 wagons releived us of some of our load by taking the sick into their wagons and a fiew other things such as tents and cooking things[.] there was 2 men to each wagon and as they were hearty and strong they took upon theimselves to all the work about Camp and the Captens [Captains] of companies had no more to say as regards ordering the people around for the men from Salt Lake would clean off the snow and pitch the tents and get wood for all the families that had lost their Father and then they would help the rest what they could[.] when we had got as far as Devils Gate the snow was getting to[o] deep to pull handcarts so we came up this side of Devils gate about 6 miles and camped in a little cove in the mountains where the wind could not have such a clean sweep at us and there we camped for 2 weeks waiting for help[.] if it came in time we was safe and if not, starvation was our fate for we was r[e]duced to 4 ounces of flour a day for all those that were over 12 years of age and 2 ounces for those under that age and nothing else[.] then they began killing the poor oxen that had not died and distributing the hyde and bones among the people to try and keep them from starving[.] then was the time to hear children crying for something to eat[.] nearly all the children would cry themselves to sleep every night[.] my 2 little Brothers would get the sack that had flour in and turn it wrong side out and suck and lick the flour dust of it[.] we would break the bones and make a little soup by boiling them and put in what little flour we had for we did not get enough flour to make bread[.] the men was very kind to us that is those that came from the Valley for my Sister and me had nothing to do only try to keep ourselves and Mother and our 2 Brothers a