"From Utah and the Plains," St. Louis Luminary, 4 Aug. 1855, 147.
The last Weston Reporter publishes a letter from a recent traveler across the Plains, which contains a good deal of interesting information. The writer left Salt Lake City on the 29th May, at which time business was very dull, and the prospect for crops very poor, owing to the dry weather and the destruction of almost every thing by the grasshoppers.—Many of the fields of wheat were entirely eaten off, and the ground looked as bare as when it was first ploughed. Even with the most favorable change, the crop would not come to one-fourth of an average, as the grasshoppers were increasing and the weather dry.
Mr. Holman, District Attorney of the United States for Utah, was left at South Platte. He is on his way to Washington, and is bearer of dispatches from Col. Steptoe to the War Department.
The roads were in fine condition, but the grass was very poor until the party got to Fort Bridger, beyond the grasshopper region.
No Indians or whites were met on the road until the party reached Sweetwater river. There, they found some thirty or forty persons exploring for gold, where it is supposed it will be found in pretty large quantities.
"Gold signs were seen and particles of gold had been found, but not in qualities satisfactory to seekers. They were, however, at work very energetically, confident of full success. Mr. C. L. Craig of St. Joseph, Mo. was at the head of the principal party, all of whom were Mormons from the Valley, and were industriously engaged at damming and turning the bed of the Sweetwater. This is a portion of the Indian country where I would fear as many Indian troubles as any other. In fact, a few miles below, at Devil's Gate and Independence Rock, the traders were much alarmed, having had several threats from the Indians about the time we passed. Every animal about Independence Rock had been stolen by the Sioux.
I saw a letter to C. L. Craig, from one of the gold-seekers, who was one hundred miles from the body of the party, and near the Devil's Gate, which stated that he had found large quantities of silver, and that a man in that vicinity had taken $40 worth of gold in a day. There is no doubt in my mind but rich deposits of gold will be found in the Sweetwater country. Numbers of the emigrants last year found it in passing up that beautiful stream. I saw and brought home some of it with me.
Gold has also been discovered on the Medicine Bow, a stream South-west of Fort Laramie."
A band of two hundred Arrapaho Indians were encamped a short distance from Medicine Bow river. They were peaceable, but told Mr. Archambeau, the Indian trader, that they were waiting the arrival of the troops from the States, if war took place between the Sioux Indians and the troops, they intended to join the strongest party.
Emigrants were first met at Platte Bridge, about the 9th of June. They were in good health, and getting along well. The Sioux Indians had stolen twelve horses from them at Ash Hollow.
Indians were first seen at Deer Creek, where the party "met Mr. John Richard, with a number of mountaineers, half-breeds and friendly Sioux Indians, returning to Platte Bridge, to build a fort for the protection of this bridge. At Leabonte Creek about fifty miles above Laramie, near the trading-post on that stream, we met a small war party of Sioux, who let us pass without interruption. They informed us that they were impatiently waiting for the United States troops to arrive, and had stated that if they did not arrive within ten days they would not come at all, or did not intend to come, and that they intended to kill every white man they found on the road from Laramie to Devil's Gate. I mentioned this threat to several of the old traders as I came down, who seemed to place but little confidence in their carrying it into execution.
"We proceeded towards Laramie on the upper road, and while we were encamped about twenty miles this side of Leabonte, a party of Sioux came up to us and professed to be friendly. They view-our horses very closely and proposed several trades with us, which we refused. We made them a small present of flour. They then told us that on that day they had seen a portion of the savage band in the vicinity who murdered the soldiers of Laramie, and they had dodged out of the way. They warned us to be on our guard, as they were satisfied of the bad intentions of that party. We took the hint. Fearing more from those who were warning us than those whom we were warned against—having no doubt that it was the intention of the Indians to come upon us that night and steal our horses—we left and encamped until after dark, and after a short rest we started and traveled all night, dodging their evil intention. Arrived at Fort Laramie on the 13th, found a few lodges of friendly Sioux encamped near Ward and Garins. We were informed that sixty lodges of Sioux were encamped at Ash Hollow, waiting until the troops came up, but did not see them; we saw only one at that point, who seemed to be watching the road.
We had in company with us a man by the name of Thompson, from San Francisco, who said his home was in Philadelphia, from which city he had been absent for five years, and where he had a family. This man was traveling alone when we overtook him, very bare of clothing, without money, nor had he anything to eat. I first saw him at Salt Lake; he had then just arrived from California; he left the Valley some time before us, and up to the time we overtook him he had traveled alone. He had eaten but a few times, going as much as three days at a time without anything. This man we took in as one of our party; he encamped, with us at Ash Hollow, and, as usual, when we were about breaking up camp he started in advance of us. After we had started and traveled a short distance, seeing the single Indians on the watch, it caused inquiry for Thompson. We looked for his track and missed it; we went back and found that he had taken a road which led to a crossing lower down on the South Platte. We, however, supposed that it led around the hill, and that it fell in to the road a short distance ahead; after this time we did not see or hear anything of him, though we made every inquiry possible.
We met emigrating parties at the crossing of the South Platte, who were from Illinois and South-western Missouri, getting on well. The grass was good from the head of the Platte to that point. The immense numbers of Buffalo from there to within five miles of Kearney, had eaten the grass very bare. Met Woodward & Marshall's corn train near Cottonwood Springs; Majors and Russell's first train thirty-five miles above Fort Kearney, getting on well, and also Mr. Patterson, in charge of a train for Messrs. Livingston & Kincaid, Salt Lake City. Passed Ward & Guernier's and Maj. Gratiot's trains laden with furs, coming down same day; they were bound for Fort Leavenworth. Met Majors & Russell's second train at Fort Kearney, where it had been lying for ten days; a number of their cattle stampeded with the Buffalo.
Left Fort Kearney on the 25th, met the Dutch train of California and wagon emigrants at a point ten miles below, in good health. Between Kearney and the Blues, met several trains of Mormon emigrants. No sickness on the road except amongst the Mormons. One of the Texas trains had lost thirty by Cholera. Met Gilbert and Garish on the Little Blue, and T. S. Williams & Co.'s train at Big Blue, all well.
"The number of emigrants on the road this year and cattle for California and Oregon are very small, and the whole number of cattle will not number four thousand head.
"We had comparatively a very fortunate trip, until we were within one day's drive of this city, when our highly esteemed friend and fellow-citizen, Mr. James F. Loan, who went out and returned with us, was taken suddenly and violently ill of cholera. He died in a few hours.
"In the loss of Mr. Loan, Platte county has lost one of its most moral, upright and honorable young men and his wife a devoted husband."