John Jaques, "Some Reminiscences," Salt Lake Herald-Republican, 22 Dec. 1878, 1.
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SALT LAKE CITY, Dec. 21, 1878.
In my last week's letter Captain [Edward] Martin's handcart company of emigrants was brought along to Devil's Gate, and to camp at Martin's ravine, on the north side of the Sweetwater, and about three miles on this side of Devil's Gate, to which last named place the wagon companies of Captains [William B.] Hodgetts and [John A.] Hunt were also brought. This was on the sixth of November (1856). I may here say that in speaking of the cardinal points of the compass, in this relation. I do it not with mathematical exactness, but rather with reference to the source of the route taken by the company from east to west.
When the wagon companies had come up to Devil's Gate, it was decided to store most of their freight in the log houses or huts which constituted the fort or trading post or mail station, or whatever it was, at that point, for the winter, which was done, and twenty men were left, under the direction of Daniel W. Jones, to take care of the goods. Those twenty men had a hard time of it before they were relieved the following summer and the goods brought along to this city, for there were not sufficient supplies that could be spared to provision the men with the amount and variety they ought to have had. The freight was left behind because the teams were unable to haul it further. The great object now was, as in Napoleon's retreat from Russia, to save as many of the people as possible, to which everything else must give way, and the lives of the people depended in great degree on the lives of the teams and on their strength, so that it was essential to spare the animals all unnecessary labor.
The handcart company rested in Martin's river [ravine] two or three or more days. Though under the shelter of the northern mountains, it was a cold place. One night the gusty wind blew over a number of the tents and it was with difficulty some of the emigrants could keep from freezing. One afternoon Captain Martin and two or three other men started to go from the camp to Devil's Gate, but a snow storm came on and they mistook their bearings and lost their way. After wandering about for several hours, they came near perishing. In their exigency they endeavored to make a fire to warm themselves. They gathered some cedar twigs and struck match after match to light them, but in vain. At length, with their last match and the aid of portions of their body linen, they succeeded in starting a fire. This was seen from the handcart camp. From which, after all their anxious and weary wanderings, they were only about half a mile distant. Help soon came to the benighted wanderers and the "boys" carried Captain [Edward] Martin who was nearly exhausted, back to camp.
I am told that the rations went as low as ever while the company was encamped in Martin's ravine, but such is not my recollection. At length, preparations having been completed for a final start from Devil's Gate and vicinity, the handcart company left the ravine. The precise date I cannot give, but I think it must have been about the 10th of November. It could not be far from that date. I cannot remember the handcarts after leaving the ravine and my impression is that none were taken from there, but some persons of the company think that a few carts were taken along several days longer. Be that as it may, by this time there was a sufficiency of wagons to take in most if not all of the baggage of the company, and to carry some of the people. It was a trying time that day in leaving the ravine. One perplexing difficulty was to determine who should ride, for many must still walk, though, so far as I recollect, and certainly for most of the company, the cart pulling occupation was gone. There was considerable crying of women and children, and perhaps of a few of the men, whom the wagons could not accommodate with a ride. One of the relief party remarked that in all the mobbings and drivings of the "Mormons" he had seen nothing like it. C. H. Wheelock could scarcely refrain from shedding tears, and he declared that he would willingly give his own life if that would save the lives of the emigrants. After a time a start was effected and the march was recommenced along the valley of the Sweetwater toward the setting sun. The subsequent camps in the Sweetwater country I do not remember with distinctness, except one, in a quaking-asp grove in a ravine, a mile or two to the south of the road, and another and on this side of the Three Crossings of that river, among the rocks to the north of the road, and a very cold place. At the aspen grove camp, I have been told, sixteen corpses were interred, the largest number at any one camp. While on the Sweetwater, Eph. Hanks was met one day. He had left his wagon behind him and come on alone on horseback, and had managed to kill a buffalo. Some others of the relief parties, further this way, had come to the conclusion that the rear companies of the emigration had perished in the snow, but Eph. [Hanks] was determined to go along, even though alone, and see for himself. William U. Kimball left Salt Lake again, November 11, with Hosea Stout, James Ferguson, and Joseph Simmons, and met the handcart company four miles beyond the first station on the Sweetwater, but I forget where that was. By this time the shoes of many of the emigrants had "given out" and that was no journey for shoeless men, women and children to make at such a season of the year, and trudge it on foot.
As the emigrants proceeded on their terrible journey, there was no appreciable mitigation of the piercing wintry cold, but its intensity rather increased. The Rocky ridge and the South pass were crossed on the 18th of November, a bitterly cold day. The snow fell fast and the wind blew piercingly from the north. For several days, the company had been meeting more relief teams, which had been urged on by the Joseph A. Young express, and as the company was crossing the south pass, there was a sufficiency of wagons, for the first time, to carry all the people, and thence forth the traveling was more rapid. But it was much colder to ride in a wagon than to follow afoot and a few of the sturdiest of the emigrants preferred to hold on to the wagons and walk behind them. One stubborn pedestrian held out as long as he was allowed to do so. The driver repeatedly urged on him to get up and ride. "O, I shall freeze if I do," he replied. "Well, we are going to drive faster, and you'll be left behind," said the driver. Finally, with such argument the emigrant was persuaded to get into the wagon. When he was seated the driver said, "There, now you don't get out to walk any more." That night the company camped in the willows at Pacific springs, about four miles west of the South pass, the snow still falling furiously, and with one to two feet of it on the ground. Here R. T. Burton took charge of the relief companies.
On the 19th the company camped at Little Sandy, having sagebrush for fuel, and on the 20th on the Big Sandy. Cold enough it was at all the camping places, but that was a most searchingly cold night on the latter river. It seemed impossible to get warm sleeping in a wagon. It was warmer sleeping with beds on the ground, where, if the biting frosty air got the upper hand of you, it could not get the underside of you as well, but it could do both in a wagon. On the afternoon of this day, George D. Grant and W. H. Kimball, who had been back to the wagon companies, left Pacific springs for Salt Lake, arriving there on the morning of the 24th.
The handcart company, all riding, was now traveling at the rate of twenty-five to thirty miles a day, and my narrative will naturally proceed more rapidly. On the 21st the company camped at Green river, on the 22d near the junction of Ham's and Black's forks, on the 23d at Bridger, on the 24th in the cedars at the Muddy, where good fires were had, and on the 25th at Bear river. At this camp there was an abundance of dry and fallen timber, and great camp fires were made of a cord or more of logs and branches at a time. Here Joseph A. Young and his brother Brigham were in camp. In passing along how the wagon tires did grind the hard frozen snow in the coldest places! The wheels fairly whistled as they rolled through the elevated Bear river country, especially at nights and morning.
The next camp on the 26th, was in a small cañon running out of the north side of Echo cañon, a few miles above the mouth of the latter. Here a birth took place, and one of the relief party generously contributed part of his under linen to clothe the little stranger. The mother did quite as well as could have been expected, considering the unpropitious circumstances. So did the father, who subsequently became a prosperous merchant of this city. The little newcomer also did well, and was named Echo, in honor of the place of her nativity. She is still a resident of the territory, is a happy wife and mother, and lives in the north country.
On the 27th the company camped on East Cañon creek, on the 28th the Big mountain was crossed and the company camped at its west base. At a spring here, Fera. [Feramorz] Little, Joseph A. Young, his brother Brigham and others, who had been busy in keeping the roads broken in that vicinity, had their camp. On the 29th the company crossed over the Little mountain, or part of it, and camped in Killian's cañon, near the head of Emigration cañon, and on Sunday the 30th passed down the latter cañon and arrived in this city about noon, driving into East Temple street as the congregation was leaving the old adobie tabernacle in the southwest corner of Temple block.
The meeting of the emigrants with relatives, acquaintances, and friends was not very joyous. Indeed it was very solemnly impressive. Some were so affected that they could scarcely speak, but would look at each other until the sympathetic tears would force their unforbidden way. In a short time, however, the emigrants were taken into the houses of their friends and made as comfortable as circumstances would permit them to be while they thawed the frost out of their limbs and recruited their health and strength. And this ended this unfortunate expedition. I think that none of the emigrants would be willing to endure another such a journey under any circumstances whatever. One in a lifetime is enough.
Two wagon companies were still behind. They crossed the South pass and camped at Pacific springs on the 20th. Isaac Bullock and all the men at Fort Supply, on Green river, went to the assistance of the wagon companies, taking all the oxen, down to 2-year-olds, in the settlement. On the 2d of December, sixty horse and mule teams, mostly two span, with provisions and forage, left this city to fetch in the wagon companies, which arrived here by detachments. It has been stated that they were all in, excepting a few persons who tarried at Fort Supply, by the 16th of December. Perhaps most of them were, but individuals who were there affirm that some of the wagons were arriving during most of the remainder of the month.
Although we have brought these companies to the end of their trying journey, yet I find that I have a number of notes remaining on various matters of interest connected with the company, but, lest I make this letter too lengthy, I will let those notes rest a week longer. Before concluding this letter, however, I will say a word concerning the mortalty in this handcart company. Many persons have entertained exaggerated ideas on this point. I do not know what the mortality amounted to. My general impression has been that it was about one in six, but others who claim to know put it at about 100, or about one-eighth of the entire number that left Liverpool in the ship Horizon in the spring.
[also in Journal History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 30 Nov. 1856, 28-32]