"Letter from John Taylor," Frontier Guardian, 9 January 1850, 1.
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Letter from John Taylor-Incidents of Travel from Salt Lake, &c.
BR. ORSON HYDE: I take great pleasure in communicating to you for the Guardian some of the incidents of our travels and the objects of our journey from the City of the Great Salt Lake to your beautiful little village on the frontier.
The company principally left the Valley on the 19th October, with the exception of the mail and a few who accompanied it, which left on the 22d. We arrived at Old Fort Kearney on the 7th day of December all in good health and spirits.
The following is a list of the names of the persons composing the company with their destination:
Of the Quorum of the Twelve on Missions.-John Taylor, to France; Lorenzo Snow, to Italy; Erastus Snow, to Denmark; F. D. Richards, to England.
Church Business.-Edward Hunter, E. D. Wooley, Joseph L. Heywood.
On Missions to England.-Jacob Gates, G. B. Wallace, Joseph W. Young, Joseph Johnson, Job Smith, H. W. Church, John S. Higbee, Levi Stewart.
On Missions to France-Curtis E. Bolton, and John Pack.
On Mission to Italy-Joseph Toronto.
On Mission to Denmark-Peter Hanson.
On Mission to Sweden-John Fosgreen.
On Business-Robert Peirce, G. W. Hill, W. J. Steward, Dr. Ezekeil Lee, Shadrack Roundy, Russel Homer, P. Sessions, A. O. Smoot, J. M. Grant, Charles Decker, Robt. Graham.
Col. John Reese, Merchant of New York; John H. Kinkade, Merchant of St. Louis. Antonio S. Duval, Mr. Kinkades driver. Benj. Homer, returning home.
We found our journey to be very toilsome and unpleasant at this inclement season of the year, and were it not for the missions of a public nature in which many of us were engaged, we should have felt great reluctance at leaving our comfortable homes and firesides, to combat the chilling winds and pitiless storms of the Rocky Mountains and the desert plains. Our journey, on the whole, considering the season, has been a pleasant one. We have scarcely encountered a storm on the way. The snows have fallen on our right and left, before and behind, but with the exception of a slight fall on the Sweet Water, and another on the day of our arrival at Fort Kearney we have escaped unharmed.
Nothing very remarkable occurred on our journey out, except what is common in an Indian country. Between the upper crossing of the Platte and Independence rock we met a company of four men; who were carrying a mail from Fort Laramie to Fort Hall.
They had been robbed the day before, (or, the 6th Nov.) by a war party of Crow Indians. The following are the circumstances as they detailed them to us.
As they were traveling on the road, whey were attacked by a band of thirty Crows, who took from them their blankets, some of their provisions, one mules, and a quantity of clothing belonging to a gold digger, who accompanied them. After the first shearing they encountered another band who saus ceremonie, subjected them to another fleecing. They did not disturb the mail, nor injure them personally; but according to their testimony, were on the contrary very loving to them; hugging them in their blankets, &c. The gentlemen after getting free from their tormentors made the best of their way, night and day, till they met with us; not wishing again to partake of their loving embraces. They were of course pleased under those circumstances to meet with us, and were full of fiery indignation against their red brethren for subjecting them to such an unceremonious tything. They stated that in their opinion there were about 300 Indians in all, and that they were a war party on a horse thieving excursion against the shyanns (spelt erroneously Cheyannes) [Cheyennes], ans Siouxs.
Upon the whole we felt a little amused rather than otherwise at the circumstances which they detailed to us. On looking at their equiptments we found that their red friends had not dealt very unmercifully with them-they had let them their guns, ammunition, saddles, bridles, seven horses, the principal part of their clothing, buffalo robes, and some provisions.
We supposed that it was merely a tax or toll they had put upon them as lords of the soil. Being always liberal themselves, and ready to divide, they naturally supposed that the white man ought to possess the same principles; and as they considered according to their nation of things, that they had a quantity of superfluous clothing, provisions, &c. they thought it but right that their more needy brethren should share of their abundance, and no doubt but they thought they had dealt very liberally with them. We though differently, and consequently furnished them bedding and provisions.
The above occurrence made us more vigilant in guarding our horses, as we rather preferred to be tythed by our own bishops, whom we had with us, than be subject to the ordeal of those who officiate without authority.
Two days journey on the other side of Laramie, while we were baiting our horses at noon, on the banks of the Platte we espied a large body or Indians, who came sweeping down a gentle sloping hill east of us. When they first appeared they were about three quarters of a miles from us, an as they were mounted upon excellent chargers, they came with the rapidity of an arrow. It gave us little time enough to gather our horses and prepare ourselves to meet our belligerent visitors. Capt. Roundy ordered the horses to be gathered and securely tied to the wagons. Gen. Grant acted with great promptness and decision on the occasion; immediately forming us into line, leaving two of our number to tie the horses up. The men showed great intrepidity, every man standing at his post undaunted. The efforts of the Indians were to either break our line or turn our flank; but being repulsed at all points, they were brought to a dead halt, about a rod and a half in front of us. During all this and for sometime after they were shaking out the priming from their fire-arms and priming them anew. Many placed their arrows to their bow strings-their lances in rest-and were wetting the ends of their arrows with their mouths that they might not slip too quick from the finger and thumb.
Their chiefs, whom we supposed kept intentionally behind came up after a while, and showed signs of peace; but as they understood neither French nor English, nor we their language, and neither party having interpreters, we could only convey our ideas by signs. One of the chiefs presented a paper which had been given him by Major Sanderson, commanding at Fort Laramie, certifying that "this tribe was friendly to the whites," upon which, I told him to withdraw his men a little, which as done immediately. We presented them some crackers, dried meat, tobacco, &c., of which they partook, sat down and had a smoke, and thus everything concluded amiably. We then harnessed up our horses and pursued our journey. They very courteously filed to the right and left, and escorted us on our road till we came opposite their village. They were about two hundred in number and were of the tribe of Shyanns [Cheyennes], (as they pronounce it.)
They presented the most respectable appearance of any Indians I have met with. Many of them were dressed in American style which clothes of the best broadcloth, beaver hats, caps, &c. And those who were dressed in Indian costume displayed the greatest elegance of taste in their attire. They were adorned with head dresses of feathers of the richest hues-and their various insignia's of office displayed a taste which is at once wild, romantic and beautiful. They were mounted on excellent horses-richly caparisoned in many instances, and painted off in the most fantastic style-they pawed the ground and champed their bits, and seem as impatient of restraint as their riders. The whole affair was truly grand. and notwithstanding the peculiar situation in which we were placed, we could not but admire the magnificent display which the lords of the prairie presented as they dashed with lightning speed upon us, arrayed in all the gaudiness and pride of Indian holiday attire. The scene was rich, and exceeded any theatrical representation we have ever witnessed. Messrs. Edward Hunter, Lorenzo Snow and myself, at the request of their chief, visited their encampment which was about three miles off the road-we found there a large number of lodges, and was informed by a Frenchman that they numbered six hundred warriors-they appeared to be wealthy, and I should think had about three thousand horses seen by us. We visited many of their lodges-they appeared very friendly, but a little chagrined at the occurrence of the morning.
The same evening the Crows made a break upon two of their outposts and stole twelve horses from one and nine from the other. One of the places where the Crows stole from was within a quarter of a miles of our encampment, and nothing saved us from a like fate but the strictness and faithfulness of our guard. These Crows stole a number of horses from a trader in our neighborhood the same night. Mr. Shadrac[h] Roundy, our Captain, kept up a guard of four men at a time with scarce and exception all the way through.
On our arrival at Fort Laramie we obtained supplies for ourselves and horses. Those of our number who had passed this Fort the present summer were astonished at the great improvements which have been made here in a few months time. There was an air of quietness and contentment of neatness and taste, which in connection with the kind reception given by the polite and gentlemanly commander, Major Sanderson, made us feel as if we had found an oasis in the Desert. This same feeling of kindness and gentlemanly deportment seemed to pervade all ranks at the Fort.
The route from Laramie to New Kearney was performed without snow, until within 50 miles of the last named Fort and that snow had fallen before our arrival. Here we again obtained fresh supplies. The Major in command and the Quartermaster cheerfully accommodated us with such things as we needed. I mention these acts of kindness because of our peculiar situation. No one can appreciate fully such acts, unless, they, like us, shall have traversed these desert regions in this inclement season of the year.
On our arrival at Kanesville, we were very much pleased to strike hands again with our brethren and friends from whom we had been separated by the western wilds, and if we may judge from appearances these feelings were reciprocal. We were hailed upon our arrival with songs of rejoicing, firing of guns and other tokens of joy.
We feel to tender to them our warmest thanks for their kindness, hospitality and benevolence. We here meet a kindred spirit, and find that the presiding genius of this place drinks from the same fountain, breathes the same air and revels in the same intelligence as do the master spirits of the Great Salt Lake Valley.
Relative to the situation of affairs in the Valley, it is unnecessary for me to enter into details, as the "General Epistle" will be published, containing all the important items pertaining to this matter. Suffice it to say that the crops are sufficient to sustain the inhabitants. Wheat, barley, oats, rye, buckwheat, and the small grains, and peas, beans, turnips, potatoes, beets, and other vegetables grow as well there, as in the Eastern or Western States. The system of irrigation is something new to our farmers, and it will require experience to enable them to cope with the Californians or the inhabitants of the country of the Nile.
It is an excellent grazing country, the grass is very rich and nutritious, cattle an[d] stock of all kinds will become as fat as the best "stall fed" in the east.
We have of course had many inconveniences to cope with, owing to the position we occupy, so far remote from supplies. The emigration the past summer brought many things with them which they found to be superfluous upon their arrival at the Valley, and were glad to give them in exchange for horses, oxen, &c.; besides, there were many small merchants who brought from two to ten thousand dollars worth of goods with them, who found it indispensably necessary to sell out in the Valley, owing to the loss of team and "pack" from thence to the mines. The Messrs. Pomeroy of Missouri, with about fifty thousand dollars worth were of the number who found it impracticable to proceed. And, here, Mr. Editor, allow me to correct a mistake which I perceive Mr. Babbitt has fallen into in a communication to your paper. Mr. Babbitt was in the valley at the time when the before mentioned goods were being sold out, and supposed very naturally that there would be an abundant supply of goods for the inhabitants from those sources, and that Messrs. Livingston & Kinkade [Kinkead], of St. Louis; Col. John Reese, of New York, and other merchants who were carrying goods laid in expressly for the Valley, would be likely to sustain a "heavy loss," which proved to be very different. Mr. Babbitt, perhaps was not aware that the goods which had arrived in the Valley during his short sojourn were intended expressly for the gold diggings and consisted mostly of men's ready made clothing. As Mr. Babbitt was a butchelor when he was among us, and overhead and ears in politics he of course could know nothing of the wants of a household. Consequently when Messrs. Livingston and Kinkade [Kinkead], Col. Reese and others arrived with an assortment of goods adapted to the wants of the people; they found a very ready sale and large profits; so much so, that if you had been at Deseret you would have though the ladies were bees and their stores the hives-though unlike in one respect, or the bee goes in full an comes out empty, but in this case it was reversed.
I am assured by Mr. Pack who rented a store to Messrs. Livingston & Kinkade [Kinkead] that they took from two to three thousand dollars a day for several days after they commenced sale. Col. Reese, of New York, and others were partaking at the same time with them of the GOLDEN HARVEST. And as the yellow stream continues to flow from the Pacific coast to the Valley, the cry of the people is, goods! GOODS!! GOODS!!!
While on the subject of goods I many as well mention that we were accompanies here by Messrs. Roundy, Grant, Smoot, and others, who have associated for the purpose of forming a carrying company, to convey goods from this place to the Valley. They also intend establishing a Swiftsure Passenger line, to convey persons from this place to Suters Fort. The company were selected and organized by the Government of the State of Deseret; part of their number are in the Valley, part of them here, and part of them are going to the Pacific coast. And as their location and knowledge of the route affords them a facility of obtaining horses, mules, &c., to recruit with-and as they are men of energy, enterprise and respectability, they are more competent to carry out an enterprise of this kind and to establish a cheap, speedy and sage conveyance to and from the diggings than any company that could be organized on this side of the plains.
It is not at present necessary for us to say anything about the "Perpetual Fund" which is under the direction of Bishop Hunter, who came out with us; further than we would remind our brethren who have entered into a covenant along with us, in the Temple of the Lord to emulate our example and fulfil their covenants in helping to gather the poor to Zion. The plan adopted is the best and most satisfactory for those that give and those that receive blessings of any that has yet been designed. As the funds will principally if not entirely be laid out in cattle, which soon after their arrival at the Valley will command full as high a price as they do here. The cattle can be sold and the funds together with the additions both there and here will furnish fresh outfits from year to year in an increased ratio according to the exigency of those requiring aid, and the liberality of the Saints, without being subject to so heavy a loss in cattle and breakage of wagons as we have heretofore sustained. And as Br. Hunter is a very careful and thorough business man, and is every way competent for the arduous task reposed in him.
It appears to be the general conceived opinion of the people in the States that there would be a large body of gold diggers who would have to winter in the Valley-this idea is incorrect-there are scarce any of them remaining, as the Southern route has been taken by those who arrived too late for the Northern one.
In relation to the various missions in which we are engaged, the peculiar position in which we are placed in the Valley-the little time we have had to settle our families, and the inconveniences we had to labor under, make these as great and important as any that have been entered upon since the commencement of this work. A few years ago a few of the Twelve accompanied by three or four elders visited England for the first time. The Church of Latter-day Saints was then unknown in that kingdom, now they number in that country as near as we can judge, about 50,000.
In the then infantile state of the Church a mission of that kind seemed Herculian; but the power of truth prevailed, superstition and fled before the luminous beams of the Son of Righteousness. And where darkness once reigned, many thousands now rejoice in the fullness of the gospel of peace. That mission, however, was to a people whose language we were acquainted with; whose habits and customs were congenial with our own; whose commercial relations rendered them familiar; and whose blood still flowed in our veins. It was a visit to our father land, the home of our grandsires and friends. It was started from Kirtland, Ohio. But now we have left our friends and homes in the Valley of the distant west; we left on six days notice, wound up our business affairs, bid farewell to our wives an families, and started without purse or script in an inclement season of the year to cross a howling wilderness, having to cope with the mountain storms, the wintry blasts and the savage Indian; and then to wend our way through this vast continent in the winter season, and all this to carry the gospel to nations who know us not, with those whose language we are unacquainted, and who are at present wrapped about with the cloak of mystery and superstition, this is a task which nothing but the "thus saith the Lord" could cause man to encounter. The nations to which we are now destined, have recently been convulsed with revolutions; the thrones of which still sicken the whole system, and render life, person and property insecure. This is literally a "distress of nations with perplexity." Denmark, Sweden, Italy and France have been, or are weltering under the sickening influences of this eastern tornado, which, while it sickens, has not power to throw from the body that disease which has been generating for ages, and what with-bigotry, superstition and political frenzy, the nations are mad. Yet to these nations we are sent to unfurl the banner of truth, and publish the glad tidings of salvation; and while the waves of tribulation roll high, and the national earthquake bellows destruction, to whisper to the honest in heart, "what, dost thou hear Elijah." We go therefore in the strength of Israel's God, our trust is in him, we lean upon his arm and all is well. The nations must hear the joyful sound. The power of truth must prevail; the Kingdom of God must be established and all nations flock to her standard. And as the truth has spread in England, Scotland, Wales and on the Islands of the seas, so shall it continue to spread from kingdom to kingdom, until all nations shall bask in the sunbeams of truth till salvation is sounded on every continent, proclaimed on every isle, echoed on every sea and whispered in every breeze; and the "kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ," even so, Amen.