"Interesting News from the Plains," Frontier Guardian, 24 July 1850, 1-2.
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Kanesville, July 7, 1850.
MESSRS EDITORS: Having just arrived from Great Salt Lake City, the home of the saints, with the mail, and being requested to give a brief synopsis of the news from the West, while waiting for conveyance further East, I cheerfully do so.
The last of the mail company left Great Salt Lake City on the morning of the 20th of April. Weather in the Valley mild and agreeable. Gardening and putting in spring crops, was the principle employment of the people. Grass was beginning to be plentiful. Early Pea Vines were up. Some fall wheat was jointed, though the spring was called a late one in the Valley of the Mountains.
On the same day we found ourselves over the first mountain and safely encamped on Kanyon [Canyon] creek, 12 1/2 miles from the city.
After beating a track through the snow to the summit of the second mountain and seeing the Platte River Ferry Company showe their waggons; at day dawn of the 24th we descended the mountain and succeeded in getting 2 miles down the East side, coming over snow (on the crust) drifted about 20 feet deep, on the East side of the summit. After other two days wallowing in the snow and shovelling a track upwards of a mile, we got to the mouth of Kanyon [Canyon] creek, four miles from the summit of the second mountain. Some were snow blind, others with swolen faces, most of the company having bad colds.
We found Kanyon [Canyon] Creek crossing very deep. The last crossing-three inches depth of water ran through our wagon beds. At Yellow Creek-two rods wide-the water so deep that it ran over our wagon beds into or wagons. Weber and Bear rivers were low; easy fording.
On the evening of the 8th of May, we found ourselves comfortably encamped at Fort Bridger, 113 1/2 miles from our city in eighteen days. Here we heard, from the Snake Indians, the welcome news that there had been but little snow East this winter; though there had been so much West of Bridger, even in the months of March.
Our cattle, while in the snow, and afterwards in the mud, were sustained by the dry and green grass on the South side of the mountains, which were generally bare and free from snow. We were informed at Bridger, cattle had wintered well in the vicinity of Hams Fork, about twenty miles east of Bridger. Mr. Bridger, Batteez, and other traders, had two or three hundred head of horses for sale. The Fort Hall express had just passed and bought two suitable for their trip at $50 each.
On the 11th we forded Hams Fork-four rods wide-swam our cattle over; put our effects &c., on boards laid across our projections, and by connecting chains reached our cattle on the East side; drew our wagons across in safety, and in very little time, having a lariett fastened to the ends of the chain to draw back again.
On the 13th we forded Green River-sixteen rods wide-in one place, for about a rod, swimming our cattle and wagons. The ferry company had not their boats ready.
On the 14th we passed Snake (Indian) village on the move. They had wintered on the Wind river; had much fur, peltry, skins &c., which they were taking to Bridger to exchange for ammunition, blankets, &c. &c.; all were on horseback, young and old; colts unable to travel, packed; dogs and eagles, packed; and we espied a rooster (which now they had packed up) and that had got so used to Indian life that we thought he seemed as graceful and dignified on horseback as if setting on the old barn yard fence at home.
On the 15th we met S. B. Craw's company, of Kendall county Ill., within 1 1/2 miles of Dry Sandy, over the South pass eleven miles. They were well and hearty; their animals were in good travelling order, much to our astonishment. But they had fed them grain and when that was exhausted they had fed their flour, depending on supplies at Salt Lake, which no doubt they would receive, being the first gold diggers on the road, and which would pass through Salt Lake this season. When our company left the city flour was plenty at $10 per hundred.
On the evening of the 16th, we encamped at the last crossing (to us the first crossing) of Sweetwater; found Capt. Denison, from Ohio, with a company of two hundred, who had just encamped; and in a few minutes a small company rolls up, crosses the river and encamps on the other side. The animals in Denison's company were much used up and not to be at all compared with those in Craw's company,
On the 21st we passed a few ox teams that had wintered at Laramie; also a man with a wheelbarrow (said to be a Scotchman.) He had been asked by several to join their company and they would haul his provisions and bedding. He thanked them kindly, but wished to be excused, as he could not wait on the tardy movements of a camp. He never was afraid of the Indians stealing his horses, and he never lost any rest dreading a stampede. One of our company, Bro. John O. Angus told him he had in beholding him, seen the fulfillment of a Mormon prophecy. Three years ago he had heard a Mormon prophet declare that they would travel the plains with wheelbarrows. Many camps now pass us daily-roads thronged three hundred miles from Great Salt Lake City; seven hundred and thirty one miles from Council Bluffs. Crossing of Sweetwater tolerable high; but wagon beds blocked three or four inches go over safe.
On the 25th we reached Upper Platte Ferry and forded. The road now was completely covered with wagons and emigrants for the Diggins. We found here some harness laying on camp grounds; some casks, axes, augers, stoves, &c.; but nothing at all in comparison to the amount of articles left and thrown away by the emigrants last season. We found the emigrants had learned wisdom by the things their friends last year had suffered, and come on in quite a different style. Light wagons, first rate horses and mules; in short; light loads and good teams, without any surplus property or clothing to leave for destruction on the plains. Here we found a Mr. Hickman and others from Missouri, who had succeeded in establishing a ferry boat at the old Mormon Ferry. Twenty of our company turned in and helped the old pioneers (ferrymen) to build and launch a couple of good substantial boats, while we traded our oxen for horses and recruited up a little for the journey. The last two weeks after being out of the snow and mud, we travelled with our ox teams two hundred and twenty six miles.
We started from the ferry on the 3rd of May. Passing a continual train of emigration, we reached Fort Laramie on the 10th. We avoided most of the Black Hills and came the river road from the La Bonte, which, although the longest way, we preferred on account of the better road. The travel generally this season has went the river road. The feed, we must say, was much better than we anticipated. Having been on the route now for three successive years, I feel safe in saying it was much better that the two previous seasons; though the emigrants could hardly be made to believe they were on good feed, not being acquainted with mountain grasses. Here Mr. Somerville, the Clerk at Laramie, appointed to keep the statistics relative to emigration, presented us with the following schedule:
"Total number of emigrants passed this post up to June 10th, 1850, inclusive. Sixteen thousand nine hundred and fifteen, men; two hundred and thirty-five, women; two hundred and forty-two, children; four thousand six hundred and seventy two, wagons; fourteen thousand nine hundred and seventy four, horses; four thousand six hundred and forty one, mules; seven thousand four hundred and seventy-five oxen; one thousand six hundred and fifty three, cows.
On the 12th of June we encamped at Robidou[x]'s Trading Point, by Scotts Bluffs. Here we came into the cholera. Robidou[x] says the Sioux Indians have all gone over to White river, afraid that the white men would bring cholera among them this year as they had last. From this point to the South Fork of the Platte, which we reached on the 18th, we passed mostly ox teams with several hundred head of loose stock, (oxen, cows, heifers, and yearlings,) en route for California. We forded with our horses and wagons with little difficulty, having to boat our effects about four miles below what is called the Upper Crossing. We felt thankful indeed to get over so easily; our effects secure; and passing down nearly one half miles through camps with many cases of cholera, we encamped on the East bank by sunset, having spent the day profitably in finding so convenient a ford and a kind Welchman, (Mr. Pritcher) who voluntered the services of his boys and his tight wagon bed for our convenience. Several of our company were attacked with the disease; but feeling unskillful in using medicine prepared by strangers, and realizing that God had not changed, and, furthermore, believing the scriptures which read thus: "Is any sick among you let him call for the Elders o[f] the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith shall save the sick." They had hands laid on them and all recovered, though we were daily meeting and passing right through cholera in its most fearful stages. Graves by the wayside were common; sometimes two side by side, and three, yes five; and as many as seven have we seen side by side, right by the road. Two cases did we see of bodies we believe, not interred two feet deep, which the wolves had dug up, and their bones were bleaching in the sun. We noticed it was mostly from Missouri, and some from Illinois, (who were late and generally with oxen) in whose camps cholera had made its most direful ravages. We soon came into camps which we now (20th) met much more scattering, who called themselves Oregon emigrants; however many of them were unsettled as to their destination; but anticipated they could go to Oregon this season easier than California and winter their stock better; then in the spring have their choice whether to continue there or proceed to California and settle. The cholera had proved fatal among them. We could not refrain sometimes from sympathizing with some of the sufferers. Captain Haight bought some tea from a woman who said she had just seen her father, mother, and sister interred within a few days. We saw a wagon alone on the river bank-mess all reported to have died. The road here runs a couple of miles from the river. Bought some sugar of a gentleman who said he was alone in his mess, his two friends had died. The emigrants had called this, or somewhere in this vicinity, "the valley of death." Graves by the wayside were reckoned at an average of one per mile; and who can tell the number on camping spots along down on the river banks!
On the 21st musketos and horseflies became numerous; and to give a correct account of the annoyance they gratuitously bestowed upon us and our horses, I feel inadequate to the task.
On the evening of the 24th, we camped with Bro's. Lorenzo Young and Charles Decker, having passed an unorganized company of saints in the morning, gathered from St. Louis and other places.
On the 25th we reached Fort Kearney, where Livingston & Kinkade's [Kinkead's] train were encamped, and also Capt. Lakes Fifty.
From this Fort, we have met, we may say, all the "Mormon" emigration, numbering about eight hundred wagons. They were generally in good health and spirits, though cholera, or, in other words, death, had penetrated their camps also. Bro. Appleton Harmon believes that sixty two were reported to him to have died; the names of many of them he has in his journal.
When we came to the camps of our brethren we had an alphabetically arranged list of our letters, which we read to the camps, and in a few minutes were able to hand them out, as they were also arranged and tied up alphabetically.
We were just in time to deliver to President Hyde his despatches and letters, at Hyde Park, on the evening of the 4th of July, and to accompany him to Mr. Brownings, on the morning of the 5th, where his company were waiting his arrival, and to bid him goodbye and wish him good luck on his mountain trip.
Now, Messrs Editors, I have had but a couple of hours to sit down and comply with your requisition; but what I have written I have written in my own style. If you it will do any good; be interesting to the saints, or instruction to mankind, you can use it, and I'll back it all up by signing my name under it all.
What has first come to my mind you have, and as to my heart, it's filled with good will and kindness towards my brethren of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.