Odell, Thomas George, to Gregory Fleman Odell, 2 January 1862, in Departed Builders of Weber County.
This company started from near Florence Neb. on the 25th of June, 1861, at 11 o'clock, and camped at Little Papillon at 4 o'clock. This was but a short distance, and served as a trial journey, giving an opportunity, if anything had been forgotten, to procure it before we left the abodes of civilization to cross a desert 1200 miles in extent, a journey occupying three months. During the encampment at this place, the male portion were called together and addressed by the Captain. A resulution was passed that this company sustain and help each other in case of sickness, distress, accident, attack from Indians, or other disaster, till their arrival in Great Salt Lake City. Firearms and other weapons of defence were examined, and the company ordered to prepare for an early start in the morning. The duty of the Captain was to guide the company across the desert and the rivers, and to find places for camping where wood, water and grass could be easily got. The Captains of tens were to overlook those under their charge, and to see them safely through difficult places. The sargeant had to appoint the guard and see that they were at their posts. The guard consisted of two men from each ten, every man in the company taking his turn as his name appeared on the roll. the first guard was from 8 P.M. till 11 P.M.; the next from 11 till 2 A.M. and the next from 2 A.M. till 5 A.M. He had also to appoint two men from each ten wagons to drive up the cattle in the morning. The Chaplain's duty was to call the camp to prayer every night and morning, the secretary's to record the events of the Day's journey. x x x I shall content myself with describing one day's journey together with any interesting events that occurred on the route. At daybreak on the 26th, the camp was astir, fires were lighted, breakfast made, tents struck, and every one was busy for we had orders for an early start. In this, we were disappointed. The rain which had been falling all night still continued, and the grass being so high that in many places it reach to the waist, made everything wet and comfortless. Some of the cattle which had been fed for some weeks past at farms a few miles distant had strayed. After hunting for some time the missing cattle were brought back, and the start was made. The country in this part was very hilly and muddy and the cattle having been idle for some weeks, were stubborn and awkward, and but few of us being acquainted with driving ox teams, rendered the days' travel very trying to the patience of all concerned. We got through without any accident of consequence, and camped at 4 o'clock, lighted the camp-fires, made our coffee, and chatted over the events of the day.
"I do not know any sight more imposing than to see fifty wagons, some with eight, some with six, and others with four oxen attached, and here and there a horse and mule team, forming a line more than a mile in length, journeying across these desert plains' with men women and children walking by the side, some riding in the wagons, others on horseback, and the loose cattle bringing up the rear. The camp at night is formed by driving the wagons up in a circle leaving about a yard between each. This answers several purposes, - it provides a corral to drive the cattle into in the morning for yoking up, it renders the company more compact in case of an attack; and is more convenient for communication.
"On the 27th, the team belonging to the cart stampeded, upsetting it. No damage done, but the owners frightened. A wagon mired in a mudhole. Several extra yoke had to be hitched on to pull it out.
"On the 30th, we met with a band of Pawnee Indians who were going to fight the Sioux. They were painted over the face, chest and legs, with feathers on their heads, and looked extremely savage. There were several thousand of them camped alongside the Platte river. We gave them some flour and some bread and a few other trifles.
"July 2nd, we crossed the Platte which is about a quarter of a mile wide. The wagons were gotten over on a kind of raft, the cattle were driven in, and had to swim. One heifer was drowned.
"July 4th, Three of the brethren were ill with fever, and a sister getting from a wagon fell, the wagon passing over her body.
"July 8th, Weather very hot, and the cattle hardly able to travel.
"July 9th, Reached Wood River Centre and stopped a day for repairs and to recruit. At this place there is a store, where they sell almost everything at a very high price; a blacksmith shop and one other house.
"On the 11th, there was a severe thunderstorm; and on the 16th, some Sioux visited the camp all well mounted on horses. On the 18th, we passed over three creeks, having to walk through them, there being no bridges here.
"July 23rd, Two large eagles shot and several rattlesnakes killed. This day we had to double all the teams to get over a sand hill, the sand being so fine the wagons sank in to their hubs.
July 24th, This being the Anniversary of the entrance of the Pioneers into the valley of the Great Salt Lake, we made but a short drive, and camped at 10 A.M. Here we spent the day in rejoicing and amusements, and in the evening with dancing, singing and music.
"Aug 4th, Crossed the Platte at Fort Laramie, had to wade in water up to your middle.
"August 5th, Repacked many of the wagons, casting away much to lighten the loads. We had now nearly 700 miles to go.
"Aug 12th, Crossed the Platte, reaching deer Creek at 12. This is a trading post for the Indians, and consists of a store and one or two houses. I traded away two hundred pounds of flour and some oat meal for three buffalo robes, some tobacco, and a little whiskey.
"Aug 20th, Met 800 U.S. soldiers horse an foot, guns and baggage returning from Utah. This day a child [Annie John] died. On the 22nd, passed the Tree Crossings of the Sweetwater, and on the 25th, passed over the rocky ridges known as 'Sublette's Cut off'. On the 31st, we camped at Green River; on Sept. 1, Black's fork; and on the 4th, passed through Fort Bridger.
Sept 5th, Two teams gave out; we had to unload their wagons and distribute their goods throughout the camp and their wagons were hauled the remainder of the journey empty.
"Sept 8th, Camped at the mouth of Echo Canyon; and on the 9th, on the Weber where one of my cows died.
"Sept 13th, Crossed the Little Mountain, and arrived in the public square, 8th Ward, Great Salt Lake City, at 4 in the afternoon in good health and spirits.
"We journeyed along more like a company bent on pleasure than one crossing a desert. During the day those not engaged in driving or other duties made up small shooting parties, and many hares, ducks, sage hens, rabbits, prairie-chickens and antelopes were shot and brought into the camp at night and cooked. Also after camping, which was mostly beside a stream, fishing parties would be made, and dancing, music and singing formed amusements which served to beguile away the time. Everything was done to render the journey pleasant. We had very few accidents and little sickness, and all had the opportunity to enjoy themselves if they would. I only heard of two or three who tried to be miserable and endeavored to make others so. Of the cattle, one heifer was drowned, four oxen died, five cows died, and two calves. The sick recovered before the end of the journey. One child [Annie John] died and two children [Ellen Gillespie and Bertha Penrose] were born. On the arrival of the company in Great Salt Lake City, a great many of the Citizens came to see the people, some on foot, some on horseback and some in Carriages.