"The Plains," The Mormon, 31 January 1857, 2.
ON the assurance of a telegraphic dispatch, we announced last week the arrival of the Salt Lake mail at Independence, but by correspondence we learn that it was only the conductor, Mr. Ferguson, that had arrived there on the 29th Dec.: the mails having been left at Marysville through a Mr. Marshall, by some process of law, attaching the mules for some affairs between him and Magraw—the proprietor and conductor. How long the mails were detained or what have become of them we know nothing, but this much we do know, that we have not received either letters or papers from Utah since the above announcement. We regret exceedingly that anything should have prevented the speedy deliver of this mail, as many, with ourself, are deeply interested in receiving definite intelligence of the true position of the late emigrants on the plains, and the circumstances attending the latter part of their journey. We have read of the sufferings of travellers and surveyors on the plains and in the western territories from the early fall of snow, piercing cold of an unusually severe winter, and are apprehensive that the latter portion of our emigration has not escaped. The accounts of The Mormon suffering on the plains, are written with such rejoicing and unmistakeable enmity to Mormonism that we entertain the hope that the calamity is much less than our enemies wish it. As the Saints are ever deeply interested in the well being of their brethren we shall, in the absence of Salt Lake advices, quote from an outsider:
INDEPENDENCE, Jan. 4, 1856.
The arrival of the Salt Lake mail here, on the 29th of December, I neglected to mention when I last wrote you. From the conductor, Mr. Ferguson, I have obtained a statement of the trip, which, considering the character of weather and amount of snow on the plains was one requiring no little fortitude on the part of those in charge of the mail, to bring it (or any part of it) safely through. Accompanied by Mr. Briggs, and a few others, the conductor left Salt Lake on the 1st of November. A few miles from the city, at the cañon of Wasack [Wasatch] Range, they found snow to the depth of two or three, and even eight feet, through which they were compelled to travel for some distance, and, after much detention, reached Fort Laramie on Nov. 19. They desired an escort, but none being provided, they pushed on; at Cottonwood Spring met the outward-bound mail, under the charge of Jones, a little after which they encountered a snow-storm of much violence, impending their progress, so much so that they were seven days in making eighty-five miles; they arrived at Fort Kearney December 11. While delaying on account of a storm at Kearney, a man in the employ of Mr. Dyer, the Sutler, was driven before the storm while going from the store to his quarters, and doubtless perished, as he has not been seen since. Quite a number in and around the post have been injured by the extreme cold of the season. Accompanied by Lieut. Kelton, Q. M., and Dr. Page, of Fort Laramie, the mail party left Kearney and reached here without much interruption on last Monday. On their way in, near Bear River, they met the third hand-cart train of Mormons going west.
The fourth and fifth trains were met at the three crossings of Sweet Water, in a very different condition from those in advance. They were suffering beyond measure for the want of provisions and on account of the cold. They were very badly clothed, and in consequence of the hardships, many of them were dying; in one camp they buried fifteen in one day. The mode of burial, since they cannot dig the frozen ground, is to lay the bodies in heaps, pile over them willows and heaps of stones. Gov. Brigham Young, learning something of their condition, dispatched some men and provisions to their relief; but these were met by the mail party returning to the city again, having been turned back by the violence of the storms they encountered. What the poor creatures will do, or what will become of them, it is hard to tell. Under delusion, they have left their homes in foreign lands, and to satisfy a whim of the Governor, under took a journey of thousands of miles, not half provisioned or fitted for a trip that, even in good weather is difficult enough, let alone at this inclement season of the year.
No local news of interest. Thermometer six degrees below zero on Saturday morning last.
The spirit of the above is manifest to every one; of that, therefore, we take no notice; but while we think it very probable that numbers of the Saints have died on the plains, as by recent despatches, we are certain that others have, through being caught by an early winter, we think it quite as probable that the losses will turn out to be much less than such a gloomy account would warrant us to apprehend.
The mail conductor says he met the third company at Bear River, the fourth and fifth companies at the three crossings of the Sweet Water—the two latter in a very bad condition. Previous to meeting them, he says that he met the teams with provisions, clothing, &c., from G. S. L. City, returning, because of the violence of the storms they encountered, leaving it to be inferred by: "What the poor creatures will do, or what will become of them;" that the two last companies had been abandoned to their own impoverished resources. This may be true, but we don't believe it. In addition to the confidence we have in the perseverance, the bravery, the humanity of the Utonians, we have information that confirms our doubts in the mail conductor's or correspondent's conclusions.
The Western Standard, of San Francisco, Cal., publishes a letter from President Wilford Woodruff, of G. S. L. City, dated Nov. 5th, five days after this mail conductor left, in which he states that two men had arrived in the city from the third company, and that before they left, the assistance from Salt Lake City had arrived. Though we cannot dispute the assertion that the mail conductor met a company returning, we are confident that out of nearly two hundred and fifty teams sent out from the city with provisions, blankets, clothing, &c., some of them would fulfil their mission. There is, in our mind, on this no manner of doubt. The conductor says that the fourth and fifth companies were met at the crossings of the Sweet Water, and they were travelling west, which, being placed with the fact that the assistance had reached the third company, which was only some days in advance, there is not the slightest doubt that the emigrants would get assistance. Another thing should be borne in mind, that the last company, Capt. Hunt's had fifty wagons. These, no doubt, had both extra provisions and clothing.
We are prepared to hear of deaths by the way; but of starvation from lack of food we don't believe it. Our opinion, which we have more than once expressed before in this paper, was and still is that the emigrants started too late; but we sincerely hope that when all is known things will be much better than some anticipate.