Samuel Openshaw diary, 1856 May-November, 3-10.
View this source online
July 11—We started for Iowa City at five o’clock A.M.; found that the rest had gone to they [their] camp ground. There was a thunder storm in this city last night, but I heard nothing of it. In Davenport—we continued on the campground until the 25th, when we made a short move just down the hill, more for our health than anything else.
July 26—Sunday. We moved none today. We had a meeting in the afternoon, partook of the sacrament and heard address from the Captains of Hundreds.
July 27—We made another short move across the river (creek).
July 28—We still remained here; perhaps on account of some of the cattle being lost.
July 29—Still on this place; about three miles from the city of Iowa.
July 30—We made a hunt for the cattle (eight), over the plains (prairies), but found none.
July 31—We made another hunt for the cattle, but could not find them. We started at 12 o’clock with our hand carts and traveled about seven miles, pitched our tents at seven o’clock P. M.
Aug.1—At ten o’clock A. M. made another start. The roads were all sandy. At seven o’clock P. M. pitched our tents on the top of an hill from whence we could look as far as the eye could carry, but the water was not good.
Aug.2—Orders were given to start at seven o’clock this morning, but a thunderstorm came which delayed us until 12 o’clock. We traveled until eight o’clock when we pitched our tents in the midst of a wood called Bull-Run. We kindled a great fire and set round to warm ourselves as night air is cold, and then begn to talk about our friends in the old country and compared their situation with ours.
Aug. 3—Sunday. On account of the unhealthiness of the place, we made a start today and traveled about seven miles. When we had traveled about a quarter of a mile we beheld a ball of fire brighter than the sun before us in the air and came within about three yards of the ground and then drew out in the form of a spear and vanished out of our sight. We pitched our tents two miles from Marengo.
Aug. 4—Still beautiful; and hot day. We did not move until four o’clock P.M. Traveled about seven miles and pitched our tents in the midst of a wood.
Aug. 5—We started about eight this morning, but the road through the wood was full of the stumps of trees. We had not got out of the wood before we ran our hand cart against a stump and broke the wheel off. We took our luggage and placed them upon the ox teams. We then tied our cart up with ropes and overtook the rest about two o’clock where they were camped for dinner. We got a new axeltree on, and traveled about two miles farther where we camped for the night.
Aug. 6—We were told we should start at seven o’clock this morning but a thunderstorm delayed us until 12 o’clock. I was so weak that I was unable to pull the hand cart, therefore, I went to drive the team for father. We traveled about ten miles, part by the light of the moon, pitched our tents about ten o’clock among the prairie grass.
Aug. 7—We started about seven o’clock this morning and traveled through a beautiful country where we could stand and gaze upon the prairies as far as the eye could carry, even until the prairies themselves seemed to meet the sky on all sides, without being able to see a house. Thought how many thousands of people are there in England who have scarce room to breathe and not enough to eat. Yet, all this good land lying dormant, except for the prairie grass to grow and decay, which if men would spread themselves and obey the commandment of God to replenish the earth, instead of thronging together in cities and towns and causing the air to be tainted with stinks and giving rise to disease, what a blessing it would be for men (people). We traveled about 15 miles and pitched our tent about two o’clock P. M.
Aug. 8—We traveled about 18 miles up hill and down. In fact, it [h]as been so all the way. We started at seven o’clock this morning, passed through the town of Newton, which contains 1200 inhabitants, traveled about two miles farther and pitched our tents at 8 o’clock in a valley by the side of a wood through which the creek runs.
Aug. 9—We started about 10 o’clock and traveled through woods and across creeks. We stopped for dinner about two o’clock at the edge of a wood where we found plenty of ripe grapes.We started again at three o’clock. We had not gone far before a thunderstorm came upon us and we got a little drenched in the rain. We pitched our tents about six o’clock close by a creek.
Aug. 10—Sunday. We traveled none today. We washed ourselves in the River Skark [Skunk] which is a beautiful water running as clear as crystal upon a sandy bottom, which appeared like the waters of Silon. Elija [Eliza Openshaw] began to be very badly. We had a meeting in the afternoon, and partook of the sacrament. Elder [Daniel] Tyler addressed us.
Aug. 11—A brother and a child were buried this morning, which delayed the camp until half past ten o’clock. We had to wait until the coffin was made. We traveled about 14 miles and pitched our tents about four o’clock.
Aug. 12—We should have started at seven o’clock this morning, but for two of the mules ran away. We found them and started at 9 o’clock and arrived at camp ground at twenty minutes to six and camped upon the prairie grass not far from the wood, but water was not so fluent.
Aug. 13—We were delayed again at 9 o’clock on account of the mule teams having to turn back a little for some flour. We traveled about 20 miles and arrived at the camp ground about six o’clock. We passed through Fort Des Moines which is quite a new settled place. Lots of brick buildings which forms a new stylish town.
Aug. 14—We started about 8 o’clock this morning and crossed over the North Coon with our hand carts in the water which is about knee deep. Close by is the town of Adel which is in the county of Edeby. We found Robert Thirkman [Kirkman]. He had stopped behind from Haven Company last Saturday night and was cut off from the Church. We took him along with us and crossed over another river, which is also about knee deep. The women and children crossed over the river on a small bridge. We camped close by the river about five o’clock.
Aug. 15—A child was buried this morning. The coffin had to be made which delayed us until about 8 o’clock. We traveled about 13 miles and pitched our tents about half past twelve o’clock which gave us a chance to wash a little. James Furgerson McAllister and Dan Jones came up with their carriage and stayed all night with us.
Aug. 16—We started about 7 o’clock and traveled about four hours before we saw a house or any water to drink. We took but little water with us and all of it was finished up long before we got to any house. The day being hot we felt the want of water. We traveled about 17 miles and pitched our tents about two o’clock.
Aug. 17—Sunday. We started about 7 o’clock this morning and traveled all day without seeing a house or even a tree except a few at a distance. Nothing but prairie grass to be seen. We traveled about 18 miles and pitched our tents about 2 o’clock. As soon as we had put our tents up a thunderstorm came. In our travels today we found a well by having a pole set up with a flag upon it having wrote on it, “The Devil in the well below the spring.” Eliza is a little better. We camped at Morrison Grove.
Aug. 18—We started from Morrison Grove at 8 o’clock and traveled until eleven o’clock when we stopped two hours for dinner; started again; traveled 21 miles and pitched our tents; at six o’clock close by the Misslebetley [Nishnabotna] River.
Aug. 19—We started at twenty minutes to 8 o’clock, passed through Indian Town, which at the time the saints were driven from Nauvoo they passed through this place. It was settled with Indians and was an Indian village. We passed over the Indian River; we stopped three hours for dinner, started again and traveled 21 miles that day, camped at 7 o’clock at Jordon Creek.<20>Aug. 20—We started at 8 o’clock from the Jordon Creek, passed through Russing Botony and over the Silver Creek, stopped one hour for dinner at Mud Creek. We started again at one o’clock, traveled 21 miles and pitched our tents at 5 o’clock at Keg Creek.
Aug. 21—We started at 8 o’clock from Keg Creek, traveled 9 miles and stopped for dinner at the big Mosquito Creek upon the same spot of town where the saints were who were driven from Nauvoo in the depth of winter without food or house or anything to shelter them from the inclemency of the weather, when the Americans demanded from the saints five hundred men to enlist in the American cause for the Mexician War. It is from Council Bluffs about 3 miles. We started again at one o’clock, passed through Council Bluffs; about 7 miles camped about 7 o’clock where we found a beautiful spring.
Aug. 22—We started at 8 o’clock and traveled about four miles when we arrived at the Missouri River where we were ferried across to Flourence [Florence]. We went to the top of a hill where we could view the country all round and the Missouri River to a great distance. Every place we came through we were admired by the people very much. Some looked upon us as if we were deceived; others who were old apostates came with all the subtilty of the devil, and all the cunning they have gained by their own experience, trying to turn the saints to the right hand or to the left, but thank[s] be to God, but few or none adhered to their advice.
Aug. 23—Rested here.
Aug. 24—Sunday. A cow was killed today, and was divided among us—one-half pound each. A meeting at 11 o’clock and 4 o’clock. Elder Whe[e]lock and others addressed us.
Aug. 25—About one (or 6) P.M. we moved about three miles and passed over the spot of land where so many saints died and were buried, after being driven from Nauvoo in the depth of winter—men, women, and children—and driven on these plains to die from starvation. Their bodies are now molding in the dust while their spirits are gone to await the day of recompense and reward. Camped in sight of the Missouri River.
Aug. 26—We moved none today.
Aug. 27—Another cow was killed today and we had our dinner of it. About three o’clock we started and traveled about six miles; camped at 5 o’clock at the Little Paprio [Pappea].
Aug. 28—We started at 8 o’clock; stopped at the Big Paprio [Pappea] for dinner, a distance of three miles; started again at one o’clock. Traveled today 15 miles; Six o’clock camped at the Elk Horn.
Aug. 29—Began to ferry at 8 o’clock across the Elk Horn, and had all ferried across about 12 o’clock—132 hand carts, 120 head of cattle, 8 wagons. We had our dinner and started about two o’clock; traveled three miles, mostly through a sandy road, arrived at the Raw Hide Creek where we camped for the night.
Aug. 30—Started about 8 o’clock and traveled until about 1 o’clock when we camped for the day upon the banks of the Platte River.
Aug. 31—Sunday. We started today about 7 o’clock and left the river a little on our left, but being nigh to the banks of the river, the road was very sandy, which made it hard pulling. We camped again about two o’clock upon the banks of the platte River.
Sept. 1—Started about 7 o’clock. The road was not so sandy as yesterday. Traveled until 1 o’clock when we stopped for dinner at the Shell Creek. Started again at 2 o’clock and traveled until 7 o’clock; the sun had set below the horizon, therefore[,] we were obliged to stop on the prairie before we got to the river. There is no wood upon the prairies, only at rivers and creeks, and having nothing cooked we were obliged to lie down without supper. Traveled about 20 miles; we were a little tired.
Sept. 2—We started about half past 5 o’clock this morning; traveled about four miles when we arrived again at the Platte River; stopped to breakfast about two hours, started again at 10 o’clock for the Loop Fork Ferry where we arrived; about 30 in one part were ferried across the Platte today.
Sept. 3—We commenced to ferry this morning about 7 o’clock, and finished about sunset.
Sept. 4—We started about 8 o’clock and traveled about 9 miles; stopped for dinner again, and traveled 14 miles today; camped at 4 o’clock, killed a cow and it was divided.
Sept. 5—We were notified to start at 7 o’clock this morning, but a thunderstorm came which delayed us until half past two o’clock. In the meantime another cow was killed and divided among us—½ pound each. We started and traveled until 5 o’clock; camped again at the Platte River. We put our tents up and then a rain storm came upon us.
Sept. 6—Started about 5 o’clock this morning. We met a large party of Indians—men, women, and children with their horses and mules all loaded with skins going to Missouri to trade with the whites. They are the first party of Indians that we have seen. Camped (stopped) about 12 o’clock for dinner. We then went to the top of the hill and camped for the day.
Sept. 7—Sunday. Started about half past 8 o’clock. Eleanor [Openshaw] has the Ague and Diree [diarrhea] and is so badly that we had to pull her in the hand cart. Eliza also is yet so weak that we had to pull her also in the hand cart which made it just as much as we could pull. We camped again near the Platte. About 8 o’clock Franklin D. Richards, D. Spencer Wheelock, and others came up with their carriages. We found a good spring here.
Sept. 8—We started about 8 o’clock this morning; traveled until 1 o’clock; stopped for dinner one hour, started again and traveled until 10 o’clock at night on account of not being able to find any water or wood. Traveled about 24 miles and found some (little) water in holes that had been dug in the sand. We pulled Eliza on the hand cart all day .
Sept 9—We started this morning about 8 o’clock and traveled through a very hard, sandy, up hill and down road; halted for dinner about 2 o’clock but there was not water, but an old mud pit; started again at 6 o’clock. It thundered and lightened awfully, and rain at a distance, but as if to give everyone their share it rolled over and gave us a good soaking in the rain, rolled on until it died away at a distance. We were almost worried with mosquito. Traveled until 11 o’clock when we camped at the Prairie Creek, which is very good water. We have traveled two days without water except mud water and that only twice.
Sept. 10—Started about 9 o’clock from the prairie creek. We went about three miles and then crossed it, traveled until 1 o’clock when we stopped for dinner one hour, traveled until 6 o’clock and camped again at the Prairie where we found a little wood which is the first wood that we have seen since Monday morning; we had to cook with Buffalo chips.
Sept. 11—We started about 9 o’clock again this morning, traveled until 1 o’clock, stopped for dinner, started again, traveled until 6, camped again at the Prairie Creek.
Sept. 12—Started about 8 o’clock, traveled about 4 miles when we came to the Wood River which we crossed on a small bridge yankee; continued down the side of it, stopped for dinner at 12 o’clock. For ought we knew, but a cripple, a young man who walked with crutches, had been left behind. We sent four men back to search for him, which caused us to move none today. About sunset they brought him into the camp.
Sept. 13—Started about half past 8 o’clock this morning, traveled until l one o’clock when we stopped for dinner nearly opposite Fort Kearney where the soldiers are stationed, started again and traveled until five o’clock when we camped at the Platte River. A man fell down dead. The Indians are very hostile about here. They have attacted some of the immigrants who have passed through this season and rumor says that some have been murdered, but they have kept out of our way for we have seen none since the sixth, not even so much as one.
Sept. 14—We started about 9 o’clock and traveled until 12 when we stopped for dinner, started again and traveled until 5 o’clock when we camped for the night. Eliza is a little better, but is so weak that we have yet to pull her on the hand cart.
Sept. 15—Started at 8 o’clock and traveled until 2 o’clock when we stopped for dinner at Buffalo Creek, started again and traveled until 7 o’clock; saw several droves of Buffalo but could not get no nigher to them than three or four miles. Camped at Buffalo Creek.
Sept. 16—Started at half past 8 o’clock. The weather is extremely hot which makes it hard traveling. Stopped at one o’clock, but moved no farther today. It would truly be an amusing and interesting scene if the people of the old country could have a bird’s eye view of us when in camp; to see everyone busy—some fetching water, others gathering Buffalo chips, some cooking and so forth upon these wild prairies where the air is not tainted with the smoke of cities or factories, but is quiet here. One may see a creek at a distance and start and travel one hour towards it, yet seem no nigher than you did when you started.
Sept. 17—An old sister died this morning, which delayed us until 10 o’clock. When we started out it was a very hard, sandy road and the wind was extremely cold, as if we had come into a different climate all at once. Stopped for dinner at one o’clock, started again, and traveled until 6 o’clock when we camped for the night.
Sept. 18—Started at 7 o’clock this morning, traveled until 1 o’clock when we stopped for dinner at the Platte River. Old Sister [Ann] Gregory from Chew Moore died and was buried on the banks of the Platte River. Started again and traveled over the sandy bloffs [bluffs] and camped again at the Platte River.
Sept. 19—Started at 8 o’clock and traveled until 12 o’clock when we stopped for dinner, started again at 1 o‘clock and still continued to travel over the sandy bluffs which is very hard pulling. Eliza continues in a lingering state so that we have to haul her on the hand cart. We camped at half past 7 o’clock.
Sept. 20—We started at and left the sandy bluffs on our right, went about three miles and then crossed a creek about knee deep; the weather being cold, it felt disagreeable to go into the water. Went about 8 miles and came to the Platte River where we stopped for dinner, started again, continued down the side of the Platte. Measly rain. Camped on the Platte about 6 o’clock.
Sept. 21—Small measly rain which delayed us until 2 o’clock. In the meantime another cow was killed. Eliza on account of being exposed to the weather is considerably worse. Traveled until 7 o’clock when we camped, but being not nigh to any wood and the Buffalo chips being wet we were unable to cooking.
Sept. 22—Started at 8 o’clock this morning, traveled until 12 o’clock when we stopped for dinner at the Platte; started again, went about three miles, came to the north fork of the Platte which is ten rods wide and two feet deep; crossed over with out hand carts. It was a sandy bottom. Camped as soon as we had crossed, being about six o’clock.
Sept. 23—Started half past 7 o’clock, crossed over sandy bluffs and sandy roads, stopped for dinner at 12, started again, continued over the sandy bluffs until 6 o’clock when we came to the Sandy Bluff Creek where we camped for the night. Traveled 11¾ miles today, and it is, I think, the hardest day we have had on account of deep sands. We had to pull Eliza all through them. Saw Babbit’s buggy burnt.
Sept. 24—Started at 8 o’clock this morning, stopped for dinner at 12 o’clock, started again, saw the blood stained garments of Thomas Margaret’s [Margett’s] wife and child who had been murdered by the Indians. They are committing depredations behind and before. In fort [fact] they made an open attact in day light upon Fort Kearney. On the twenty Second of August the soldiers killed a great number of them, which has stirred them up against the white man, but they keep out of our way. Camped at the Platte.
Sept. 25—Started at 8 o’clock. Still continued over the sandy bluffs. Saw several Indians on horseback, which are the first that we have seen since the above mentioned. Stopped for dinner at 12 o’clock at the Platte River, started again, the road is rather better, camped near the Platte at 6 o’clock.
Sept. 26—Started at 8 o’clock, continued until 12 when we stopped for dinner. For several days we have crossed through a great many creeks and forks of the Platte which gave us plenty of opportunities to wash our feet.
3—Passed Chimney Rock, which is a rock that rises in the form of a monument or chimney and can be seen at a distance. We continued our journey as quick as we possibly could. The cold increasing upon us. It is severe nights and mornings. Our provisions are running out very fast so that our rations are reduced to 12 ounces of flour per day. Our common allowance [h]as been one pound per day. The snow now came upon us and being so cold and the oxen wore out many of them were now froze to death, which rendered almost impossible for us to travel; we also being pretty nigh wore out with fatique and hunger a great many died. I have seen several buried in one grave. The cattle that were froze and died off were eagerly ate up by us. We now seeing the storms increasing upon us in the midst of an inclement and howling desert far away from an[y] human succor and having only a few days rations in the camp, summoned all our strength and efforts to make another move, but our oxen having died off and our strength being very much reduced—the snow, cold, and the blasting winds, it seemed impossible for us to travel, in fact, we were traveling all day, cold, hungry, and fatigued, and only traveled about 5 miles. We put up our tents and then shoveled out the snow and put it around the bottom of the tent in order to keep out the winds and to make ourselves somewhat comfortable. We continued here for several days; our rations were now reduced to 8 ounces per day. After camping here several days, and all the flour in the camp nearly used up and where not able to move and about 370 miles from Y.S. [Great Salt Lake]City, and it being by far the nearest to look for succor. Yet, we did not despair. We look forward for support with gleaming hope upon on [our] countenances.
In the midst of all this uncertainty and doubt our hopes were realized, for lo and behold, Joseph A. Young and two others with him came riding into the camp; voices from all parts of the camp, help for the camp, we all rushed together to hear the news. He told us that there were about ten wagons loaded with flour and sent out from the valley for our relief and was about 50 miles ahead of us at a place called Devil’s Gate. After they had learned our circumstances, they started back again in order to have them come out and to meet us. In the morning, we summoned all our efforts and strength, impulsed with the prospect of deliverance, we again started on our journey. After traveling about two or three days, and they traveling towards us, we met. The last flour was all ate before we met them. We now had one pound of flour per day, which in a measure began to recruit our strength so that we were enabled to perform the journey before us. The breathern who came out to meet us did administer every comfort and help that was within their power to the sick and the inferm. We continued our journey until we arrived at the devil’s gate. Here we were obliged to stop, the snow being about 14 inches deep on the level, and not withstanding the teams that had come out to help us, there was not sufficient help to move the aged, sick, and the women and children along, so that we again stopped several days.
A council was held in which it was decided that we should leave all our clothing and cooking utensils (except what was absolutely necessary, such as a blanket to wrap ourselves in and the clothing we stood in) to be left at Devils Gate and that a number of the brethern who had come out to meet us should stay to take care of them until spring should open (when they would be sent for from the valley) and that we leave all our hand carts, except one to each tent in order to carry our cooking utensils only. Our blankets were put in the wagons that came out to meet us. Also it was decided that Joseph A young should go on an express to the valley in order to start out more help. We now began to gather together all the cattle that we could find, and pulled down our tents and made another start in the snow.
We traveled about two miles, crossed over the Sweetwater; some on the ice and others waded through, which was about 3½ feet deep. James Lord and myself pulled the hand cart across the creek. The women and children were all carried across by some of the brethern who had come from the valley. We then went into a canyon where we camped for about three weeks. In a few days after we arrived here our rations were reduced to four ounces of flour per day. This happened on account of a number of the brethern having to stay a[t] Devil’s Gate until spring to guard the effects that the company had left. Having to leave all the flour that it was thought we could do without until we should meet a fresh supply from the valley; we now realized that such low rations and our bodily strength having been so much reduced by our former privations and being such cold and inclement weather, a great many died. However we made another start, some with bundles on their backs, a number of others would join together and put them on a handcart. Some would be crying, others singing, and thus went trudging along as best we could. We traveled in this manner for a few days, when we began to meet wagons every day. Our rations now were one pound of flour per day. We continued to meet wagons nearly every day so that more of the sick, women, children, and the aged could ride and were enabled to travel a little more every day. We now arrived at the South Pass, which is about 320 miles from the valley. The wagons that had come out to meet us were now increased to about 50 or 60 so that we were now all able to ride, which did increase our speed of march, for we traveled about 20 or 30 miles per day. We continued to travel in this way, attended with various circumstances, until we arrived in the valley, which was on the 30th of November, 1856.