"Emigration," Deseret News [Weekly], 13 July 1854, p. 2.
- Related Companies
- Company Unknown (1854)
From the East to the Pacific, and the Land Sharks of Utah.
Thus far, this season, very few emigrants have passed thro' G. S. L. City, en route for the west. This course has been a benefit, blessing, and real gratification to every valuable and correct thinking inhabitant of Utah; and an advantage to the passing travelers.
So far as I have noticed, and heard, with but few exceptions, the emigration of this season have conducted with unusual propriety, judgment and harmony; so much so, that a casual observer would hardly take them for strangers, unless he chanced to notice their travel-soiled apparel. It is not certain whether this good conduct has arisen from a higher toned morality than that possessed by former companies; but may be accounted for by the circumstance, that in all or nearly all the trains there were one or more in company who had previously passed over the route. This is an excellent policy, and should be pursued whenever practicable; as it affords a great advantage in traveling, and camping, with regard to the proper, or necessary distance for the day, and the quantity and quality of grass for the night; more especially when grazing has to be sought some distance from the road.
As it takes a long, and indefinite time, with our present and past mail facilities, for information to go from here, and become generally disseminated in the States, it may not be amiss to extend to future emigration the benefit of my judgment, experience, and reflection on a few main points; an attention to which will materially aid their movements, increase their comfort, and advance their interests.
On leaving the frontiers, provide yourselves with good wagons, in sufficient number to make each load reasonably light, both for the wagon and team; and with at least enough animals to fill up the gaps which may be made by disease, fatigue, and loss. Then load in such groceries, medicines, plain clothing, flour, &c., as you presume will last you to your place of destination. The quantity of each you can readily learn at the different outfitting points, should there be no one in your company who has been through. When your outfit is loaded, if you still have extra room and team, it will pay you well to lay in groceries, and light staple articles, to sell on the way to those who may need, also to the inhabitants of Utah, should you pass thro' any of her settlements, and enable you to keep the club in your hands when you meet the land sharks.
The early emigration will be still more independent if each company will fit up two boats about sixteen feet long; and so arranged as to be placed upon wheels, and used as wagon beds when not needed for crossing streams; for Utah has no law against persons ferrying themselves, and their effects.
The policy of this course, and the disinterestedness of this advice, will be obvious to all, who are familiar with the greatly advanced price of wagons and stock in California, even above present high rates on the frontier, and have noticed that immense herds are annually driven to that market with great profit, when the stock and sales are managed with prudence. And besides this market is very fluctuating, and uncertain,-flour varying from 4$ to 50$ per hundred and fat animals being held at enormous rates, when it is supposed they are in necessitous demand.
After you are fairly started upon the ocean plains, with a toilsome journey of some 2000 miles before you, it will be highly necessary to bear in mind that patience is one of the virtues you will have the most use for, be the oftenest tried in, and the most difficult to retain. Hence, you must use the strongest efforts to keep cool. If you can accomplish this effectually, you are as well prepared as your judgment will permit, to fulfil the next most important requirement, viz! the proper use and care of your animals, upon whose good condition so much of your welfare depends. To effect this, it will be well for you to keep in mind, that upon the plains, and in the mountains, and deserts, the old adage, "the more haste the less speed," is likely to prove almost invariably true.-Therefore you will need be careful that neither weariness, shiftlessness, over anxiety, indolence, nor any other controlable cause induce you to driving your animals above a reasonable speed and endurance, nor prevent your furnishing them access to the best grass and water the circumstances will admit of, and allowing them sufficient time to graze, and rest. And when you are about to cross such places as those between the North Fork of the Platte and the Sweet Water, and the Sink of Mary's river, start on them with your teams in as good plight as possible, take all advantages, and when over, rest a short time on the first good grass.
What further benefit will arise from a strict compliance with these friendly and timely suggestions? You will be able to travel comfortably and independently get thro' in good season, and above all, avoid being shaved by the land sharks who swarm on the route, ready to take the utmost advantage of any necessity arising from your crippled condition, or wants.
Presuming the foregoing to be so plain that all concerned can understand it, and so manifestly prudent and correct that no one will neglect it for fear of partiality, or an interested undercurrent of concealed motive, it will now be necessary to put you on your guard against the Land Sharks, that you may be armed at all points against avoidable loss, and disappointment, and be better able to realize, and profit by the ideas already advanced.
Among the various classes of society, the following subdivisions will sometimes be heard, viz: "the Lord's poor," "the devil's poor," and "poor devils." The two latter classes exist to a certain extent in all communities, and of course it is not reasonable to expect that Utah is able to claim entire exemption; hence, fortunately, or unfortunately, she is reasonably well supplied with that class called "poor devils," in spite of all her efforts to rid her borders of such an annoyance. Inasmuch as "poor devils" are not necessarily, and invariably actually poor in this world's goods, but often quite wealthy; to prevent being misunderstood, and to carry out our present design plainly, we shall call them "Land Sharks," and confine ourselves to the land sharks of Utah; both those professing to be "Mormons," and those who make no profession but to serve themselves.
While the emigration is passing, these characters line the road from the Sweet Water to the summit of the Nevada; and like the wreckers on the sea-board, lie in wait to prey upon the misfortunes, carelessness, and ignorance of the traveler-having no eye to pity, and, unless at the utmost rates of extortion, no disposition to save.-Like their namesake of the deep, and like the turkey buzzards and prairie wolves upon land, they note their victims afar off, and hang upon their course with a perseverance worthy of a better cause. The main outfit stock in trade is raw whiskey, and vile beer, varied occasionally by a little money, one or more animals, and now and then a few pounds of butter. Thus equipped they bivouac along the line of travel, constantly on the alert to ply their vocation by driving hard bargains for such animals as have become a little jaded, foot sore, or otherwise temporarily unserviceable.
Successful in the first move, they are on the high road of gain, which they endeavor to aggregate like the rolling snow ball, by recruiting in a few days, many of the animals first secured, and exchanging them for others as good, or better, except for immediate use, at the rate of one for three, four, or half a dozen; or one for two or more was the fair price still further multiplied by cash, groceries, or clothing as boot. When slightly unsuccessful in their cut throat trade, or when their inordinate thirst for gain with little labor is not fully gratified, many turn to stock drivers and herdsmen with this peculiarity, that the animals they take such good care of are not their own.
As the emigration reaches the settlements they fall into the hands of the hay, grass, butter, cheese, and flour sharks, each of whom has accured, and hoarded larger or smaller quantities with which to bite and devour and in most cases with the extra characteristic of having withheld their stock in trade from its necessary and proper channels-thus retarding our public works, weakening the hands of the righteous, and sorely oppressing the honest poor.
One branch of this class practice what they deem a slyer dodge, and one requiring less travel, and labor. These buy articles of the emigration at very fair rates, and then extort on the necessities of their brethren. And still another branch, when they have nothing to buy or sell, advise others, who are selling high enough for the hardest conscience, to sell still higher, like a young man in the 17th ward who undertook land sharking, but had no skill and energy sufficient to make a fortune from the misfortunes of the emigrants in one season.
From information brought in by the last California mail, the emigration, on leaving Bear river, must prepare to run a still harder gauntlet, for it is reported that a numerous and well organized band of white highwaymen, painted and disguised as Indians, infest several points on the road, and drive off stock by wholesale; and recent murders are rumored from that quarter. It is presumed that the Arkansas murderer, and a large number of associated outlaws, and fugitives, compose this robber band; men who have heretofore been in the habit of killing Indians, and probably some whites, for the sake of their stock, and a little booty.
The purpose of this article does not permit a minute detail of all the distinguishing characteristics of the class and its branches, or in other words, of all the marks and brands of the animal; but the observation of those interested will readily supply the deficiency.
These miserable wretches are a blight, a steady drawback, and a standing curse in any community; and as yet the precept and example of the virtuous and honorable, and the mild administration of the laws, in the few cases where testimony backed up indictments, are all the influences that have been brought to bear to rid ourselves of this horrible incubus, which taints all well earned fame, and even threatens the lives of all the upright where it harbors.
In all communities there are crisises when forbearance ceases to be a virtue; and the time is now fast approaching when words and grass will be laid aside, and sterner methods adopted to clear the moral atmosphere of Utah. And while she is truly grateful to the emigration of this season for giving the land sharks so small an opportunity to ply their vocation, she is anxious that future emigration will so profit in their outfit, and mode of travel, as to be abundantly able to pass all land-sharks with impunity, and silent contempt.
To still further enable them to co-operate in the accomplishment of this worthy object, they are recommended to take the Sublette Cut Off, between the Dry and Little Sandys, whenever practicable; and if they pass that, to take McKinney's cut off, or the Fort Hall route; and if they pass that point for turning off, and come on to the Weber river, it will be best to deflect northerly, at the head of the kanyon, to the north of Ogden city.
Should the future emigration conduct as widely, honorably, and uprightly as the present, and the worthy portion of the inhabitants of Utah be vigilant, and united, it is self evident that our borders will soon be too strait for the mischief and murder working and sharks, scoundrels, and thieves, who do not take the hint, and leave, or reform in season; for their occupation will be gone-and judgment must be laid to the line and righteousness to the plummet.