I want to write a short sketch of my history and life from the time I embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ to the present, and also of my travels and journeying in the wilderness in connection with my brethren and sisters in the Church, that my children may look at it in a day to come to see what their parents had to go through for their religion.
I, George was the fifth child of Thomas Whitaker and Sophia Turner. I was born at Blakedown, Worcestershire, England, on the 18th day of March, 1820. My parents taught me to do right from my early childhood. They were not very religious, although they professed to belong to the Church of England. They were good moral people and tried to bring up their children in the fear of God, according to the best light they had. I always had a desire to do right and to do good. I was taught those principles by my parents. I belonged to the same church as they did. I believed there was a God who inspired us to do good, and also in His Son, Jesus Christ, who was the Redeemer of mankind. I also believed in an opposite power that inspired us to do evil. I tried to be honest in all my dealings with those I had to deal with. I was very punctual with those I had to do with, -- never tried to deceive anyone.
When I had grown up to the age of seventeen or eighteen, I began to think seriously about heaven and hell. I did not think I was good enough to go to heaven and to go to that other horrible place where there was no end, and to be always in torment throughout the endless ages of eternity (as we were taught there was eternal happiness on one hand or eternal misery on the other) made me feel very miserable. When they told me that I should have to stay in hell as many years as there was blades of grass, and that would be only a beginning to my torment, I could not endure the thoughts. I had read that God was full of love and mercy and I could not see there was much love and mercy in our Heavenly Father in sending His children to an endless hell. I thought I would be more religious and join some other church. I had no idea but what some of the churches were right. A friend of mine took me to the Catholic Church. This was something new to me and I thought I would join it. I was then about 21 years old. It was about this time that my brother and two sisters, who were at Liverpool, had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
About this time my mother died very suddenly with heart disease. My father sent for my sister Sophia from Liverpool to come and keep house for him. She soon began to teach me the principles of the Gospel taught by the Latter Day Saints. I soon fell in live with these principles as they perfectly agreed with the doctrines taught by Jesus and His apostles, which are recorded in the New Testament. I was then ready to receive these doctrines. I could see they were quite different to any doctrines I had heard before. She told me I could be baptized only by one who had authority. Not long after, I heard that Parley P. Pratt was coming to Birmingham to preach. As it was only about fourteen miles from where I lived, I thought this was a good opportunity for me to be baptized. The next Sunday morning I started early and got there by meeting time. Elder Alfred Gordon preached in the morning. He took his text from the third chapter of John's Gospel, where Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night. I thought I never heard anything so plain and so easy to be understood in my life. It seemed to me that I had known it all my life, yet it was something new. I was then ready to embrace it. After the evening meeting I gave in my name for baptism. I was baptized that same evening by Elder Thos. Tysom. I was confirmed the Tuesday evening following. I returned home rejoicing in the truth.
I then began to read and study the scriptures. Everything seemed plain and easy to understand. I felt as though I could convert everybody. I thought they would see it the same as I did, but to my great astonishment they could not see it but rather ridiculed it. This caused me to wonder and ask myself the question, "What is the reason they cannot see it as well as I can?" The answer came like this. "They do not want any more light. They have all the religion they want, but you have desired more light and have embraced My Gospel: Therefore, I have given you My Spirit. Your light is growing brighter, and you are able to discern the darkness more plainly."
I was at home about three months. I did not see an elder or hear any more preaching except what I could get from my sister. In about three months an elder by the name of Hawkins came to work in a little town close by. We opened our house for preaching. We held meetings on Sundays for about two months. Very few came to hear and none were baptized. About this time I was ordained a Priest. Elder Hawkins opened a house for preaching in the town of Kidderminister, about three miles from my home. We soon began to baptize and quite a number came into the church. I was ordained to the office of an Elder. Some others of the brethren were ordained to be priests and teachers. We opened several more places for preaching in the country round about and took our turns in preaching to the people on the Sabbath Day. The gifts of the spirit were given unto us. We had the gift of healing the sick, the gift of prophecy, the gift of tongues, and many other blessings. We were a blessed and happy people, but notwithstanding, our happiness and blessings we received, the enemy was on our track and wanted to make inroads among us. We were young in the church and had but little experience, and did not understand when and how the enemy would attack us.I will relate a circumstance that happened at one of our meetings. We had gathered together at our meeting house to have a tea party (which was quite common in those days among the Saints), about forty or fifty in number. We had finished our eating and drinking, and were feeling very good, and had commenced our Prayer Meeting, when all of a sudden one of our sisters was taken in a fit, and fell on the floor. This was about five o'clock in the afternoon, and she was speaking in tongues at the time. We did not feel alarmed at the time, but thought she would come around in a little while. We administered to her and she seemed some better. There was a wild look in her eyes which did not seem natural to us. We administered to her again. We called upon the Lord in the name of Jesus Christ that if there was any evil spirit there to make it known unto us, which was done very soon. We found she was under the power of evil spirits, which soon made themselves manifest to us. When we commanded the spirits in the name of Jesus, her whole body would shake and tremble, and then she would swoon away and become still for a while. When she came to herself, she told us what she had seen while in that stupor. She saw the devil, her father, and the minister of the church she once belonged to. She also saw a fire. The devil told her if she did not leave the Mormon Church he would put her into the fire and many other things. Her father and the minister said what they would do if she did not leave the Mormon Church (her father had been much opposed to her joining the church). The devil told her he would be there again in three hours, and she was to make up her mind by that time. At the time appointed, he came. We administered to her again and rebuked him in the name of Jesus, and told him to leave. He told us he would not. He answered us many questions, told us his name, and seemed to be quite familiar. We had found out by this time what we had to contend with. We told him, and also made a covenant with one another, that we should not leave her till he was gone. He said he should not leave, -- that he had a right there. We told him we did not think he had, and that we should stand by her until he left. She would then go into a stupor and become quiet, for a while. In those spells it would take two or three to hold her. When she came out of her stupor she told us that he had told her he would come again at a certain time. By this time we began to get familiar with it, and prepared ourselves for the battle.
In this way we labored all that night, rebuking and commanding in the name of Jesus. We did not relax in our faith; we could not leave her in that state as we did not know the consequences, and therefore, we were determined to hold on to our faith. As I said, we labored all that night. She was lying on a bed in an upper room. She was weak and worked out, and not able to struggle as she had done. A sister and myself were in the room with her, and although she was quiet I knew that the evil spirit was still there. My brethren and sisters were in the room below consulting among themselves what was to be done. We could not leave her and we said we would not. We understood the power we had been contending with, and we believed that God would give us power to overcome it. We were all more or less tired out. The evil spirit had kept her mouth closed; he would speak in her throat. We could not understand distinctly, yet we understood many things. As I said, I was alone with another sister, I told her to get something to open the mouth of the sister who was afflicted, as I felt like administering to her. She brought me a spoon which we got into the sister's mouth and held it there. I then asked the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to give us power to rebuke the evil spirit, which He did, and I commanded it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to come out of her. It obeyed but not without a great struggle. It was not over five minutes before I was called to go down to the other room, as the evil spirit had entered into one of the sisters. We laid our hands on her and commanded it in the name of Jesus to come out of her, which it did, but went into another sister. We laid our hands on her and commanded it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to come out of her and leave the house, which command it obeyed without any other resistance. We then separated, each one going to their homes, giving thanks to our Heavenly Father for the great mercies and blessings He had bestowed upon us in giving us power to command evil spirits and they obey us. Our sister was weak for a few hours after so much struggling and fighting. We kept this to ourselves and did not spread it abroad for fear of persecution.
I have been a little particular in relating this circumstance, as it has been one of the greatest manifestations of this kind that I have ever seen or heard of in this dispensation, and it was brought about by our great faith and union. It was not by our knowledge and experience, for we were all very young in the church. It tried the faith of some and strengthened the faith of others. After this great manifestation some few turned away from the Church. They had seen the power of God made manifest; they had seen and heard the voice and power of the devil; they had seen also that when commanding in the name of Jesus every part of her body shook, and they were frightened at the power and turned away. Having said so much in my experience of so great a manifestation, which took place within a year after I was baptized into the church.
In the fall of 1842 my brother Moses and sister Mary Ann and husband, emigrated to the gathering place of the Saints, Nauvoo, Hancock County, State of Illinois. I was not prepared to go at that time. I was saving up a little money out of my small earnings knowing it would take me some time to get enough to emigrate. I had to be very economical. I gave my savings to my sister Harriet to take care of it, against the time I should want it, more willing to trust her with it than to keep it myself.
I will relate here another manifestation of the Spirit to me. This was in the fall of 1844. I had worked all my life with my father. My mother had died in 1841. Father had married again. My step-mother was opposed to the principles of the Gospel and we did not get along very well. She did not want me at home where I had been all my life, and this caused much unpleasantness between her and father. I concluded to leave home. Father gave me recommendations to men with whom he was acquainted to get work. I started out with a sad heart to seek for work. I had two trades. One was edge tool grinding, and also running circular saws, but I had never been from home before, which made me feel bad. I had only got about a mile from home when a voice said to me, "Go to America." I turned around to see the person but it was the voice of the Spirit. I was about to go home, but I thought I would go and see the men that father recommended me to. I did not want any work. I made up my mind then and there to go to America. I went on my way pondering on the things that I had heard. I called on the first man and asked him for work. He told me he had just employed a man, but was sorry that I did not come a week before as he knew my father to be a good working man and thought I would have suited him. I felt very glad that he did not employ me. I traveled on a few miles and called at another place. I inquired for work. The gentleman asked me who I was. He was well acquainted with my father. I took tea with his family. He told me he was not ready for me then, but to come in about two weeks and he would employ me. I bade the family good day and went home. I told my father of my success and also told him that I was going to America the first opportunity. I had about enough money saved up to take me there, although I wanted to stay another year to go with my sisters, as they would be ready by that time. But the voice of the Spirit had said to me, "Go to America," and I felt that now was the time. (If I had stayed another year I might have spent what little money I had and would not have been able to go).
I wrote to my sister Harriet, who lived in the town in Birmingham, to write to Liverpool and let me know when the next ship would sail with the Saints to America. I soon got an answer. The vessel was to sail in about two weeks. I went to work to get ready for that long journey. My sister helped me to get ready and prepared something nice to eat and drink while on board ship. I bade a good-bye to my father, brothers, sisters, and friends, and on the 21st day of January, 1845, we left the docks of Liverpool and set sail for America.
In sending my baggage from Birmingham to Liverpool, being inexperienced and never having traveled before, I forgot to get my ticket to receive it at Liverpool. When I got there I saw my freight and was going to take it. They asked for my ticket and I told them I had none. My name was on my boxes. I did not know what to do; the vessel was going to sail next morning. I had no friends, nobody that knew me. They asked me if I had a letter in my pocket with my name on. I happened to have one which I showed to them. They were satisfied and let me take my baggage. I had felt that I would go if I had to leave it. I got it safely to the ship.
I did not know anything about taking a berth. They seemed to be all taken up so I sat upon a box all night. The next day things were regulated. I shared a berth with another young man. I got along very well for sleeping after that. Brother Amos Fielding was President over the Saints. There were about three hundred and fifty in number. I soon became acquainted with him and ever after he was a friend to me until the day of his death, which took place thirty-three years after.
of Babylon that we be not partakers of her sins, and that we receive not of her plagues. Then I felt glad that I had left my native country, the place of my childhood and all its surroundings.
We saw some curious sharks, porpoises, flying fish. They could get out of the water and fly over the ship.
After we had been sailing about five or six weeks we fell in with a vessel that had been in a great storm. She had lost her masts and was leaking badly. She had been floating for 21 days. The men had been at the pumps all the time and were tired out. If they had not fell in with us they would have been lost. They were bound for St. Thomas Island of the West Indies. Our captain picked them up and they came aboard our ship. There were eight in all, three white men and five blacks. They had a valuable cargo but they could not save the vessel. They set fire to her and left. We watched her as long as we could see her. She was laden with silk. I thought it a great pity that so much valuable property should be destroyed. The sailors brought some silk shawls and sewing silk on to our vessel, all of which had to be smuggled on account of the insurance. I bought a few silk shawls, giving a few shillings each for them. The black sailors although they were saved from a watery grave, felt very bad because they were to be landed at New Orleans, and they would have to go to prison on account of slavery as no free blacks were allowed to be there unless they could show their freedom.
Not many days after that occurrence we came in sight of land. When we got the word we all rushed on deck to behold land once more. We were very much pleased at the sight as we had not seen land for almost six weeks. It was one of the West India Islands. We went through the passage called The-Hole-In-The-Wall, and it was not long before we were sailing across the Gulf of Mexico. In ten days we got to the mouth of the Mississippi River. A pilot came to meet us and piloted us into the river. A tug boat then took us to New Orleans. I thought I never saw anything so beautiful as the sights going up the river. This was in the beginning of March. Everything looked fresh and green -- the oranges were hanging on the trees. I thought I would very much like to live there.
We arrived at Orleans in about three days. This was the first time I had set my foot on land for almost seven or eight weeks. We stayed there one day. I sold some of my shawls and got a good price for them. We met some of our brethren from Nauvoo who had come to work there through the winter. They did not give a very pleasing account of things at Nauvoo, which discouraged some few of the Saints, and they remained there.
President Fielding chartered a boat to take us to St. Louis, and in a little less than two weeks we arrived there. I found some few friends that I had known in the old country. They seemed to be doing very well and wanted me to stay. I told them I did not come with the intention of staying at St. Louis, Nauvoo being my destination, and that I was going there by the help of God. They told me I could make a better living there than at Nauvoo, or as it was a very poor place to make money. I told them I did not leave my home and friends with the expectation of making money, but that I had come for the purpose of gathering with the Saints, and was willing to share with them in their poverty. Quite a number of the weak-minded Saints remained there.
We bought some provisions and got on board of a smaller boat. President Fielding and myself were mess-mates. In about four days we landed in Nauvoo, on the 27th day of March, 1845, at 11 o'clock at night. President Young and Wm. Clayton met us at the landing. We got our baggage off the boat and placed it on the landing. President Young placed a guard over it until morning. I had friends in Nauvoo, but I did not know where to find them. Brother Fielding asked me to go with him to Sister Hyrum Smith's. We stayed there that night.
Early next morning I was down at the boat. I waited there some hours trying to find out where my brother lived. At last I found a man who knew him and who had a team. I put my boxes into his wagon. We had about two miles to go. While on our way I met my brother Moses coming to meet me, and it was indeed a very happy meeting. I arrived at my destination and found my sister Mary Ann, Her husband, Richard Harrison, and family all well. They were very pleased to see me and treated me with great kindness, which I shall never forget. My sister, her husband and brother Moses had immigrated two years before. They had a place of their own which consisted of a log house and lot. My brother-in-law, Richard Harrison, had left a good situation and home in Liverpool. I did not know the circumstances and poverty the Saints had to go through until I became an eye witness. My money had almost run out. I was willing to work and do anything I could. They told me I could live with them. I felt at home and did not want to leave. My sister was more than a mother to me and I shall never forget her kindness. Spring had opened and there was plenty of work to be done. I went to work in the garden, put in the seeds, milked the cows, and did everything I could to make myself useful as my sister was not very strong.
About this time the saints in Nauvoo were threatened by a mob, and guards were placed all around and through the city. Not many months had elapsed since the murder of Joseph Smith and Hyrum in Carthage Jail. They were not satisfied with this but wanted to get some more victims. I attended the meetings of the brethren. Every able bodied man was called to take a turn on guard. I was willing to go into the ranks and do the best I could, although it was quite a new business to me. I got me a gun and took my turn watching for the mob. They dared not come in when they thought we were ready for them. This was all quite new to me but I soon began to find out we had to take care of ourselves.
At April Conference we were counseled to plant all the corn we could, even to plow up some of the streets that were not used and plant corn. I did not know why such counsel was given, but I soon found out. My brother Moses and myself worked together that season. We took some land in the Big Fields on shares, about three miles from Nauvoo, hired a team and put in several acres of sod corn, that is plowed up the sod and put the corn in with an ax, as the sod was so tough we could not put it in with a hoe. We did not expect to raise more than half a crop, and did not.
My brother-in-law, Richard Harrison, went to Burlington to work at his trade about the last day of May, and my sister went to Burlington too. They left us to keep house. We had two cows and garden to attend to. My brother owned a lot about a quarter of a mile from where they lived. He wanted to build him a house that fall so we concluded to make a kiln of bricks on his lot. We went to work making brick. It took us the greatest part of the summer. We worked very hard. We had to carry our water in buckets about one hundred yards. It was a new business for me. The country and climate were new also. I was put to digging and tempering the clay, which was the hardest work. I was willing to do it as I was young and strong and not afraid of work. When we had our kiln made, which contained about seventy thousand brick, we then wanted the wood to burn it. We had not the ready money to pay for it. I had a few spades and scythes that I had brought from England, and with what little trading my brother we got enough wood to burn the kiln. We expected to sell a large portion of our bricks to buy other material for my brother's house.
It was now getting towards the fall of the year. The war clouds began to gather around. The mob threatened and swore they would drive the Latter Day Saints from Nauvoo. The Legion was called together often, and the guards were sent out in greater numbers. They (the mob), were afraid to come to Nauvoo as they knew we were ready for them, but they began to harass our brethren in the outside settlements by burning their houses and stacks of wheat, threatening women and children, and frightening them and driving them from their homes. Their husbands and fathers had to get out of their way or they would have been killed. Hundreds of families came into Nauvoo destitute. We prepared ourselves for self defense the best we could, but the mob dared not come into Nauvoo. They were afraid some of them would get hurt. They knew they were in a bad cause. The Latter Day Saints were on the defensive to protect themselves, their wives and children and their property. Business was paralyzed, excepting the work on the Temple, which was going on very rapidly. The authorities of the Church felt determined to get the walls up and the roof put on. Hundreds of men were working on it. Some of the leading men of the state and the authorities of the Church held councils. It was agreed that the mob should cease the hostilities and that the Saints should go somewhere beyond the Rocky Mountains when the spring opened. After this treaty was made, the mob to some extent ceased their burnings and drivings in the outside settlements.
At the October Conference a great many people gathered together. We did not know until then what the authorities of the Church had done. We knew that some important business would be transacted. We were told that the spirit of the mob was so bitter against us that we would have to leave the confines of civilization and go beyond the Rocky Mountains into Mexican territory. It was better to leave our houses, our lands, our temple, and our beautiful city than to stay there and fight the mob, and many of us perhaps would lose our lives. They thought the life of a good man was worth fifty bad men's lives. This was put to a vote, and we all voted to leave; if they gave us anything for our property to help us out it was all right, but if they did not we would go anyway. Counsel was given to go to work and finish the temple according to the revelation given to Joseph Smith, so that we might receive our washings and anointings and the keys and powers of the Holy Priesthood, and also the Holy Anointings and Sealings that the power of God might rest upon His servants. It was also prophesied that in less than five years we would be a great deal better off than we were at that time, and many more things were told us that came to pass according to the words that had been spoken. The name of the city of Nauvoo was changed and called the city of Joseph, being called after the Prophet Joseph Smith. A great many things were done at that conference that I cannot write. Suffice it to say, the Spirit of God was with the people and the blessings of the Almighty were upon them.
When the conference was over we went to our homes and began to prepare the great journey before us. The thing on hand was the finishing of the temple. There was a great deal of work to be done in a little time. Meetings were called in different parts of the city to organize companies for manufacturing wagons. Men went into the woods to get out timber, and seasoned it the best way they could, while every man who could use a tool worked at some part of the business. My brother Moses went to work in the blacksmith shop making the irons and setting the tires on the wagons. I went to work on the temple. I turned all my labor in on tithing.
The greatest portion of our summer's work was lost. The kiln of bricks which we had made we could not sell. Everybody wanted to sell their property, therefore nobody wanted to build or improve their property. The Saints in Nauvoo were as a general thing very poor. Some thousands had emigrated from England and from the Eastern States, and had spent most of their means in getting here. We lived mostly on corn meal and milk, vegetables, and sometimes a little meat and flour. Our enemies tried to starve us out by stopping everything they could from coming into Nauvoo. Money was very scarce. I never got one cent in money from the time I arrived at Nauvoo until I left.
About the last of November the temple was so far along, having the upper rooms finished, that they began to give endowments. Those who had paid their property tithing, that is, one tenth of the property they had brought with them, and also one-tenth of their increase or labor, had the privilege of going through the temple. Everyone seemed to be trying to work and settle up their tithing that they might have the privilege of getting their endowments and blessing in the temple. Many thousands got their blessings and endowments in the space of about ten weeks. I paid my property tithing and also my labor tithing and got my receipts for it, and had the privilege of going through the temple and getting my endowments a few days before they closed. They were at work night and day from the time they commenced until they closed, which was about the sixth day of February, 1846.
About this time the Twelve Apostles and all those who had teams were making preparations to cross the Mississippi River into Iowa. I with two other young men was working at Brother Parley P. Pratt's. He came to us and said he wanted two or three young men to drive teams for him to the Rocky Mountains or wherever the Saints were going. He told us he could not give us any wages, but would give us something to eat. We all told him that we would come. He then told us to bring what bed clothes we could as he had a large family and needed all the bedding he had. He told us to be there next morning. This was rather short notice for me to start on so long a journey, but I had told him I would come and I was going to do as I had agreed.
I went home and told the folks what I was going to do. They were a little surprised but concluded that it was a good thing for me to do as I was single and had nobody to take care of but myself. My brother Moses had got married. We were all living at my sister's. They were not prepared to go at this time and they thought it would be best for me to go as I would be a pioneer for them. I got my clothing in a large box I had brought from England. My brother gave me his temple garments as I did not have any, and also a mattress. My sister gave some bed clothes. I left a few things with them that I had brought from England, circular saws, scythes, and spades, and also a box of clothing which my sister Harriet sent with me. I left the kiln of bricks and told my brother he was welcome to what he could make out of them. I bade them good-bye and was down at Brother Pratts in good time in the morning.
I was the only one of the three that came. I did not know them and never saw them after. Brother Pratt had a horse team ready for me. I had never driven a team in my life before, but I thought I could drive as they did not seem to be very spirited. Brother Pratt got into the wagon to show me how to drive as he knew by this time that I was an Englishman and had never been used to handling the lines. we went around gathering up some things that we needed for our journey. He then sent me alone to get some more things. I thought I could drive as well as he could. He told me not to whip the horses and let them take their time. I go along very well until I began to think they were not going fast enough. I gave them a little whip which made them start up in a hurry, and the first thing I knew they were on the full gallop. I thought they were going to get away with me, but I held on to them with all my might until finally I brought them to. This was one of my first lessons in driving a team. When I got to Brother Pratt's he asked me how I had got along with my team. I told him I got along very well after that. We were very busy in loading up our wagons. All was hurry and bustle. Brother Pratt looked at my large English box. He thought he would not be able to take it, but he finally put it into the wagon. I thought a good deal of my box and the things that were in it, but it was not long before I had to leave it behind.
On the 9th of February, about noon, we started. We had four wagons. We got down to the river and found it frozen over. We crossed over it with our wagons on the ice. It was full three quarters of a mile across the river. After crossing the river we camped for the night. The snow was three or four inches deep and still snowing. We set up a large tent and swept the snow away. We did not make any fire or cook any supper although it was very cold. Brother Pratt had six or seven wives and quite a number of small children. Everyone seemed to be cheerful, although complained a little of the cold. We ate some cold victuals and laid our beds down in the tent. Most of the family slept in the tent that night. We went to bed at an early hour. I did not sleep very warm as my bed was by the tent door and the wind blew in very cold. I did not say anything as I thought I would get used to it in time. We all go up about daylight next morning. Brother Pratt was up and around the first. He asked us how we had slept. I did not hear any complaints. I did not make any myself. We made a fire and got our breakfast. We all felt to rejoice and felt first-rate. Bro. Pratt had very recently built him a large and commodious brick house. It seemed as though there was something more than human nature which caused them to feel so joyful and happy to leave their comfortable homes and to go out in the dead of winter with so many young children to face the cold and the storms, and not even knowing where they were going. It seemed to me that we must be in possession of some power besides the power of man.
I soon got acquainted with the women folks. I tried to do all I could for them and in return they were very kind to me. I was very quiet. I did not say much. They would often ask me questions. Sometimes they would think I felt bad, and would ask me how I was feeling. I always told them I felt first-rate which cheered them up and made them feel good.
We were late before we got a start that morning on account of the snow and cold. The women were a long time packing up and getting their children comfortably fixed. I thought if we did not make more headway we would be a long time getting to the Rocky Mountains, but finally we made a start. We traveled slow. Sometime in the afternoon we reached the tithing office in Iowa, where there was a branch of the Church. There was plenty of corn there and we thought we would stay. We were then about four miles from Nauvoo. That was our first day's travel. We drove our teams into the yard and gave our animals something to eat as they had had but very little since we had left Nauvoo. The women and children went into a log cabin. There was already a good fire made for them and we spent the evening very comfortable. It was quite different to the evening before, which we had spent on the banks of the Mississippi River. We spent the evening in talking and chatting and looking forward to the time when we should be at the end of our journey. There was nothing said in regard to our homes and our pleasant places we had left in Nauvoo. We had given them up never to see them again. We felt we were going to a better country where we could live in peace, free from mobs and strife, where we could worship God according to our own conscience, none to molest or make us afraid.
We had a very good new milch cow, which gave ten quarts at a milking. Brother Pratt gave her in charge of me. We lived on milk and cornmeal. We would have milk and corn dodger for breakfast and mush and milk for supper. I got to like it so well I could sooner have it than anything else. The fact was, there was very little of anything else for us.
President Young and the main body of the camp had crossed the river a dy or two before us. They were about four miles ahead of us camped on a little stream called Sugar Creek. He intended to stay there until the weather moderated so that we could travel with more comfort, and also to stay until the companies had gathered up that were gong that winter. He was organizing them into companies for traveling, and placing over them captains of fifties and captains of ten, and also a company of men to go ahead as pioneers with axes and spades to cut down the brush and make the roads, and also a company of men to guard the camps.
Brother Pratt and family were still at the tithing office in Iowa. Brother Pratt went often down to the camps to counsel with the Twelve. He would come back in the evening. After supper we would all sit around the room on our boxes or anything we could get for a seat and Brother Pratt would them begin to talk to us and teach us a great many good things. He told us some of his experiences in the Church, about his early history, the persecutions of the Saints in Missouri, the expulsion of the Saints from Jackson County, the great phenomena that was seen in the heavens in the shouting of the stars on a bitter cold night as they were camped on the banks of the Missouri River, men, women, and children, without any covering but the heavens, driven by a ruthless mob. He told us about the Exterminating Order of Governor Boggs, how they had to leave the state of Missouri -- the murders and robberies that were committed, their expulsion in midwinter, their hardships and poverty He told us of the massacre at Hauns Mill, how that eighteen men and boys were shot down in cold blood and many more were wounded; how they had to be thrown into an old well with their clothes on, while those who remained had to get away fearing the mob would return and kill them. He also told us of the battle at Crooked River where David Patten was killed and other brethren. He told us how he and other brethren were taken to prison and their miraculous escape, how he traveled many days in the woods and by paths with very little food until he got to the Mississippi River. All these things were very interesting to us. I thought he was the best man I ever saw. I felt that I would like to stay with him all my life. He told about the Rocky Mountains and California and spoke of the prospects of the future, and also prophesied of the final destiny of the Latter Day Saints. We listened to what he said with great satisfaction. We felt to thank God that we had left our homes and got away from our enemies. Brother Pratt would then call upon us to take the lead in singing a hymn. We would then have prayers and retire to rest.
As I had nothing much to do, and only about four miles from Nauvoo, I thought I would like to see the folks before the camp moved away from Sugar Creek, as we expected to move on in a few days. I told them I would like to go over to Nauvoo and see my brother and sister before we went away. They rather got the joke on me as they thought I wanted to see someone else besides my brother and sister. That was true. I was engaged to a young lady, Eveline P. Robinson. I had taken her through the temple and we had got our endowments. Her father went to the state of Maine to get some money he had there. They expected to start in May, and we had agreed to get married when we met again. We could not tell when that would be, but we hoped to meet again. This was all arranged before I left.
After eating breakfast one morning I started on foot for Nauvoo, I came to the river. It was still frozen over. I got over the river very well and made for my sister's about two miles distant. I found them all well. They were very glad to see me. I stayed two days and as I had promised not to stay over that time I bade them all farewell, hoping we would meet again sometime in the future. I wended my way towards the river. Upon arrival there I found the ice had broken up. I could not cross and I did not know what to do. I thought it would not do to go back home as I had stayed my full time. They would be expecting me at the camp, and the Saints were almost ready to start when I left. I wanted to go with them. I had no desire to go home. The camp of the Saints was my home. Where they went I wanted to go. I had the spirit of emigration and there was nothing in the world that would stop me excepting sickness or death. I walked up and down the banks of the river for some hours watching for a skiff or boat to cross the river. Many thoughts passed through my mind. I was sorry that I had left the camp and crossed the river. I was worried, and being a stranger I didn't know how to apply to get over. I waited for hours, until finally I saw two men some distance from me up the river. I made for them. They had a little boat and were going across the river. I asked them if they would take me. They said they would if I would pay them. I told them I had no money, and they said they could not take me. I told them my circumstances, how I had left the camp to go to Nauvoo to see my folks, and I had promised to be back in three days. I told them who I was living with, and that I expected the camp was ready to start. I told them that anything I had on or about me they could have. The most valuable things I had in my pocket were silver penholder, which I had brought from England, and a pocket knife. They said they would take me over for the penholder. I was very much pleased with the trade. I got into the boat and we made our way to the other side. We were a long time getting across on account of the ice. I felt to thank God that I was safe across. I made the best of my way to the tithing office. It was night before I got there. I found them all well. Brother Pratt and family were pleased to see me back. I was very glad to get back. I gave them a little synopsis of my visit -- how I was detained on the banks of the river through the breaking up of the ice, and how lucky I was in getting across. They laughed at me, they thought I had very little experience, and that I had a great many things to learn, as I soon began to find out.
When I got back I found that Sister Mary Ann Pratt, Brother Parley's first wife, had packed up her things and gone back to Nauvoo to see her father and mother. She had said she would come back again. Brother Parley went over to get her before the camp started, but she would not come; she said she would come along in the spring with her parents. She had three little children, two girls and a boy about six months old. So far as I know her she was a very good woman. When we had started for the West she had asked that I should drive her team. Some ten years after she came to Salt Lake.
While we were staying at the tithing office we had overhauled our wagons and provisions and put everything in a better shape for t raveling. We had three horse teams and one ox team. Brother Pratt's family consisted of seven wives and quite a number of small children, three or four under one year old. His mother died about the time he was born. another family was with us by the name of Rogers, his wife and two children.
They came from New York. They had money and helped to get the necessary outfit, such as horses, oxen, and wagons, and provisions for the journey. There were two teamsters besides myself, Wm. Pratt, Parley's brother, being one of them. Brother Laffinwell, who kept the tithing office, and family concluded to pack up and go with us. It had been about three weeks since we had left Nauvoo. I had become very well acquainted with Brother Pratt and his family. I did everything I could to make them comfortable, and they thought a great deal of me. They did everything they could for me. If I had been their brother or their son they could not have done more.
On the first day of March 1846 we started, drove to Sugar Creek, about four miles and camped. We found that President Young and company, about fifty wagons had gone. Quite a number were there and preparing to go. Next day we caught up with Brother Young. It was very cold and had been snowing. The pioneers hade gone ahead and had prepared a camping place. As there was plenty of wood and timber there they had hauled it in piles. When we got into camp about dark, there were thirty or forty large fires burning, which cheered us up very much. Each family or two or three small families would be put to one fire. Everything was arranged in the best of order. I went to make the mush. We had not traveled above six or eight miles that day. When our supper was ready and we had taken our mush and milk, we all got around the fire and talked about our day's journey and had the prospects before us. We all felt very happy and joyful. Our camp ground took up some acres of ground. We could see grouped all around the camp fires men, women and children; some were singing, some were dancing, some were playing music, everyone seemed full of life and joy. We felt as thought we had been released from bondage and were free, where there was no one to make us afraid.
After we were through with our conversations, Brother Pratt called upon me to start a hymn. They were all good singers and we made a very good choir of ourselves. After singing we had prayers, every family in camp doing the same, as we were all instructed to call upon the Lord morning and evening, that he would bless us with health and strength and that he would lead us and guide us to the place of our destination, and also to bless our cattle and horses that they might be strong so that they might perform the work that they had to do, which was very hard. The men put down their beds in the tent on the wet ground. The women and children slept in the wagons. We had a large family wagon fixed so that six or seven could lie cross-ways in the wagon. We all slept soundly. At daybreak when we got up, the whole camp was astir in making fires and getting breakfast and preparing for our day's journey. The cow was milked. We had corn dodger and milk for breakfast. After breakfast we took down our tent, put all our things into our wagons, got our teams hitched on and all ready to start. The pioneers rolled out first and went ahead so as to look out and make ready a camping place for the night. I should judge there were about one hundred wagons. It was late in the forenoon before they had all left camp. We traveled about the same distance that day as we did the day before, and camped at night in the same way. Our progress was rather slow on account of our heavy loads and bad roads.
On the fourth day we came to the Des Moines River and also a little town called Farmington. The river was from seventy-five to one hundred yards, while it was not more than two feet deep. We forded the river as there was no bridge. We all got safely across and camped a few miles from town. We traveled a few days in this way. We were making very slow progress on account of so many wagons in one company. some were heavily loaded and had very poor teams and seemed to be in the way of others that had good teams. We had to travel in line one after another. Very often the wagons that had the poor teams would get stuck in a mud hole and would have to be helped out, as no one was allowed to pass another thus situated. Therefore it became very trying to a good many. We all need a great deal of patience. Things did not go along as pleasantly as some had expected. It was a new thing to most of us, and we found many things to contend with. It seemed very pleasant to me. I was young and strong and always willing to put my shoulder to the wheel and help my brethren.
The slow traveling did not suit Brother Pratt and a number of others. They thought they would make a company and go ahead of the others. I suppose it was the counsel of President Young. I should imagine we had traveled then about forty or fifty miles. About twenty or thirty wagons started out, Brother Pratt in the lead. We soon got ahead of the main camp, but there seemed to be a serious difficulty before us. We were getting where the old settlers were not so think and only a log house here and there. The pioneers had got some money from the camp and had been buying corn to feed our animals, and as we did not expect any grass for two or three weeks that our stock could feed on, it would not do to get out of the settled country altogether. We had but very little money with us and we thought we would stop a few days, rest our teams and try to get some work from these settlers to get corn for our teams, as they raised little else but corn. We soon found some work in building log houses and barns. Corn was only about $.15 or $.20 a bushel. We could put up a log house in a day and this would buy corn enough to last us several days. Brother Pratt thought that he would overhaul the wagons to see if there was anything that he could leave behind that we did not really need, as our teams were becoming very weak and he was afraid they would give out. He soon came across my big box that I thought so much of. He told me that he could not carry it any further on account of the weakness of the teams, and that I must put my things in sacks. I could see that there was reason in this and I consented. A brother that was there said he would bring it for me, but that was the last I saw of it. Sister Elizabeth Pratt gave me a very small old trunk and I put the rest of my things in sacks. The main camp did not come up with us. I suppose they were stopping for the same purpose.
After staying two or three days we again stared. We were now getting to the outside settlements. We had to make our own roads as there were none. We traveled in a western course as near as we could. It was now about the middle of March. We had only traveled about sixty miles. The weather was cold and very rainy. It rained almost every day. Brother Pratt and myself had to be out in the rain mostly all of the time. Fires had to be made, water had to be brought, cows had to be milked, the cooking had to be done, and the teams had to be seen to. The women could not get around much on account of the rain and mud, although they wanted to get out of their wagons and help around, but I told them I would get supper, which consisted in cooking a large kettle of mush. I was willing to do all I could for the comfort of the women and children. The other men did not feel so interested as they might have done. They kept in their wagons as much as they could to keep out of the rain. Brother Pratt was always around doing all he could and when he wanted help he always called on me. He was always in a good humor and would be singing and talking and encouraging us all he could. I always felt very cheerful, although it was very cold and disagreeable. We would go to bed in our wet clothes as there was no chance of drying them. It seemed as though the Lord was with us and His angels around about us to keep us from getting colds and from sickness, as we were all well and hearty.
We were traveling through a rolling country, and we had to cross little hollows and valleys. As our company was in the lead we had to pioneer and make our own roads, traveling west as near as we could. In crossing these little hollows, having had so much rain, our wagons would sink down and there we would have to stay until we were helped out. Some of the wagons would turn out of the track and try to cross at another place, but would sink down and there were times when there were as many as half a dozen stuck at once. We would then double teams and get the company across, and then get those out that were stuck in the mud.
We traveled in this way all through the month of March and part of the month of April. The rains were almost incessant. We could only travel a few miles a day. Our teams were weak and we made very slow progress. We would travel a few days and then would stop and rest our teams a day or two if it was a good camping place. As Brother Pratt was always busy and wanted to be doing something, he would have all hands turn out and cut down some timber and build a log house or two. He said it might be a resting place for somebody. He was thinking about those who would follow, and as there was good land there, he thought perhaps some persons who could not get any further would stay there and cultivate the land and the houses would come in very useful, and which we found out afterwards was the case.
At one of these camping places on a small river called the Sharidon, Brother Pratt, Brother Rogers, and myself, thought we could have a day's shooting, as there seemed to be plenty of game in that neighborhood, such as ducks, geese, and wild turkeys. We took our guns and ammunition, crossed over the river, traveled two or three miles until we came to a small lake. There were plenty of ducks and geese on it, and we thought that this was a good place to try our skill at shooting. I had never learned how to load a gun and that was about all. I thought I had a nice little rifle that shot bullets and had great faith that I could kill something as we stood in great need of something of that kind. We separated and got around the lake at different points and lay down waiting for chances. There seemed to be plenty of chances and plenty of shooting, but we could not hit anything. We frightened all the game away, waited several hours and then concluded we had better go to the camp. I had expected Brother Pratt and Rogers to get something, but I had not to do much. I was not satisfied -- I did not want to go to camp without anything as they were expecting to have a feast on what we should bring home. Brother Pratt and Rogers said they would go home as they were tired. I told them I would go into the woods and get a turkey and take to camp. They wished me success and went home. It was getting towards evening when I struck into the woods, about the time the turkeys were going to roost. I had thought but very little how I should find my way back to camp. I was very anxious to take a turkey home. I looked up in every tree as I went along. It was getting dark. I happened to see a fine turkey on the top branches of a small oak tree. It was a splendid shot. I rested my rifle on one of the low branches and taking good aim I fired away. The turkey rose as though there was nothing the matter and flew away. I thought surely there must be something the matter with my gun as it would not shoot straight. The greatest difficulty then was to find my way to the camp. I wandered about for about two hours, and as luck would have it, I came in sight of the camp fires. I came down to the river opposite the camp and called to them, and they sent over a little boat and took me over.
We had a small cooking stove in one of the wagons to keep the children from freezing. Brother Pratt thought they could do without this stove as the weather would soon be getting warmer and it would lighten our load a little. Our horse teams were getting very weak as we were out of the settlements and could not get any more corn, and the grass had only just begun to spring up. We had to cut down cottonwood trees for our cows and cattle to browse on, and thus they were kept alive for two or three weeks. Our horses could not stand it so well as our cattle, so what little corn we had we gave to the horses. Brother Pratt thought we had better trade our stove and a span of horses for some corn. We hitched up a span of horses to a wagon, put the stove into it (although the women were very loath to part with it) and traveled about twenty miles. We came to a farm house. They had a good farm and plenty of everything around them that they could raise on the farm. They were a long way from any market and from settlements, and only here and there a farm house. We drove up to the house and told them our business. they were pleased to see us as they had not seen anybody for a long time. They took care of our horses, and gave them all the corn they could eat. We told them that we wanted to trade the stove and horses for some cattle. They seemed to want the stove very badly as they did not have any. We had not seen a stove in any of the houses of the settlers throughout that country. They had large, open fireplaces where they could roll in logs and make large fires.
It was late in the afternoon when we got there. They invited us into the house and seemed very pleased to see us as they did not see strangers very often. We had supper there, which consisted of pork and dogger (corn bread), butter and milk, which was quite a feast to us. This was pretty much what they lived on all through that country. We did not see any flour bread and very few vegetables. They made us very comfortable for the night. About the middle of the night we were awakened by the family. It explained that a skunk had gotten into the house and was under the floor. I did not know what a skunk was. I thought it was some horrible beast that would kill some of us, but I soon found out what kink of an animal it was. After getting the skunk out, we returned to our bed and slept until morning.
After breakfast we began to talk business. They did not want the horses but they very much wanted the stove. They finally concluded they would give two yoke of oxen for the horses and stove. We decided to accept the offer as we had no choice in the matter and we could not go anywhere else to trade. We yoked up our oxen and started for camp. Brother Pratt was pleased with our trade. They had been there several days; the cattle had browsed on all the cottonwood trees and they wanted to move.
Next morning we broke camp and moved on. Brother Pratt went ahead on foot to look out the best road. We traveled on the ridges or along the divide as much as we could as the land was much drier and our wagons went easier. My wagon made the first track following after Brother Pratt, he traveling west as near as he could. We traveled this way for a number of days bridging small streams as we went along. The way we bridged the streams was by putting strong poles across and brush and dirt upon that. It would not take us more than two or three hours to bridge a small stream.
About the first of April we camped in a beautiful place. The timber was scattered and it looked to me like an English park. Everything was looking green and beautiful. The grass was three or four inches high. We thought there would be green for our stock from this time on. Brother Pratt named the place Paradise. Brother Pratt thought we had better stop there until the main camp came up, as we had not heard from them for some time. While staying at this place some of the people concluded to send some things they thought they could spare down into Missouri to trade for some cows, as we needed milk and butter. Sister Rogers sent her feather bed. Sister Pratt sent their crockery and many other things. A man was appointed to go and do the trading. Some other men, little Parley Pratt, a boy about nine years old, and myself were appointed to go with him. We were camped on the Madison River, a branch of Grand River that ran through the state of Missouri. We loaded up two wagons with such things as they thought they could spare, although we had nothing that we could really spare, but we had to get some more cows as we mostly depended on our cows for a living.
We started on our trip. There were no roads to the settlements. We got on the ridges or divide and made our way as we thought towards Grand River, where we expected to find some settlements. In four or five days we came to Grand River. We found some few scattered farm houses. We traded our things with the settlers and some had nothing left. We had taken things that the settlers needed, and they sold very readily, while we were well satisfied as we had about twenty cows to take back. We started back to the camp Nothing particular happened on our way back. Sometimes we would have to go out of our way to get across the head of a crack or bridge it over.
One little incident I will mention. There were a great many rattlesnakes in that country, I had charge of little Parley Pratt, his father having given me particular instructions to take care of him and to bring him safely back. As we were traveling he found a large rattlesnake. He got a short stick and began to play with it. The snake curled up and began to strike at him. I happened to see him and took hold of him and pulled him away, telling him that if the snake had bitten him he would have died. He did not seem alarmed. I took him away and let the snake go. The man that had been appointed to do the trading was taken very sick. He was so sick that he had to leave his horse and ride in the wagon. A day or two after arriving at camp he died. We had been gone about ten or twelve days. The people were well satisfied with their cows. We then had plenty of milk and butter for our corn meal. We had traveled a little more than one hundred miles through mud and rain, making a new road and bridging the streams. Our horses and cattle had stood the journey very well. None of them had died although they had been very much exposed to the rains and storms and were very poor in flesh. We would tie them to trees at night and in the morning they would be up to their knees in mud; but the season had come when everything began to look fresh and green, and our animals began to do better, and it also put new life into the Saints as the weather became warmer. They felt happy and rejoiced in the Lord their God./p>
It was now getting toward the middle of April. The main body of the camp had come up and had passed along before we came back from trading. Brother Pratt was very anxious to be on his way to catch up with them. We gather up our teams, hitched them to our wagons and started out. We traveled along on their trail about six or seven days, traveling about 50 miles and caught up with them at a place which President Young called Garden Grove. It was a beautiful place for a settlement. The Twelve held a council and decided to stay there about two weeks and make a settlement for the benefit of those who were coming who could not get any further that season.
The whole camp was then reorganized. It was concluded that we would fence in a large field of about six hundred acres and plant it in corn and vegetables. Every man was put in his proper place to work. Some worked at cutting house logs, some at building houses, some at cutting timber for rails, some at splitting rails, some at plowing, some at planting corn and vegetables, while others commenced to put up the fence, and a certain number were sent out to herd and take care of the stock. Every man went to work with a will. There were no idlers amongst us. We were all full of life and spirit. We had almost forgotten our trials and troubles of our two months journey; how we had traveled through cold and snow and rain and mud, and that we had traveled only about 150 miles. When we had completed our work for the day and had finished our suppers, we would have music and dancing, singing and any other recreation that we thought proper. The weather was splendid and all was joy and happiness. In about 14 or 15 days we had quite a little town built up. We had about 600 acres of land fenced in, plowed and planted. The brethren kept coming in about every day.
It was now past the first of May and orders came that those who had a good outfit with provisions and teams could go west, and all those who were not provided with those necessities should stay there and reap the benefit of our labors and go when they got ready. Brother Pratt was a "go ahead" man, and he was very glad when the word came out to start. He and a small company were appointed to go ahead and look our another location as there were no settlements in that part of Iowa Territory. We got our wagons packed and everything ready to travel and soon started out taking the lead. Bro. Pratt had no horse to ride, therefore he went on foot ahead of the teams. My team was the first to follow him. Sometimes he would get into the wagon and ride for an hour or two and show me which way to go. I became so well acquainted with the country that I could travel for hours without his assistance. We always kept along the divides on the highest land when it ran in the right direction. We traveled this way for about eight days. We never traveled on Sunday. We always rested on that day. We would put on our Sunday clothes and have a meeting. We always tried to camp by a grove of trees on a Saturday night so that we could meet in the shade on Sunday. We enjoyed our meeting just as well as though we were in a fine meeting house. We had traveled about eight days through a beautiful open country with patches of timber near the small streams. We came to a place which Brother Pratt though would be a good location for a settlement. He was half a mile ahead of my wagon. He traveled back and met us and told us there was a good location for a settlement and he would call it Mt. Pisgah. It was at the end of a divide on which we had been traveling. We camped on the side of the hill. Below us was a small stream with plenty of timber near by. We concluded to stay here until President Young and the main body of the camp came up. The main body could not travel so fast as we were doing. All of our teams were good and could travel right along. The main camp did not travel so far in a day, as a good many of their teams would give out and they had to send back teams to get the others into camp. Brother Young would not leave any teams back, but would have them all in camp at night. A great many of their teams were overloaded, and they soon found out they would have to leave a great many things behind, as they were so overloaded they could not travel.
Brother Pratt said we had better commence to lay the foundation for a settlement. We commenced building houses, fencing in and making gardens as though we were gong to stay there. In about four days President Young and his company came up. Pisgah is about 100 miles from Garden Grove as near as I can recollect. After we left it became quite a large settlement. Brother Pratt had a son born to him at this place and he was named Heleman. He was the first child of Sister Mary Wood Pratt. Soon after he was born Sister Pratt wanted me to come and see him. Being young and bashful, it was sometime before I could find the courage to go into the wagon and see the baby, but when I did Sister Pratt seemed very cheerful and was glad to see me. I can say that the Sisters Pratt were all very good and kind to me and did everything for me that lay in their power just the same as if I was one of their own family, and also Brother Pratt was like a father to me. Neither Brother Pratt or his wives ever gave me one cross word, and I do not know that I was ever angry or cross with them.
President Young called a meeting of the brethren and spoke to them in relation to our traveling and getting over the Rocky Mountains that season. We had the been on the road about three months and had only traveled about 225 miles. President Young wanted the brethren to fit out the Twelve and make up a company large enough to travel in safety through the Indian country, cross the Rocky Mountains and form a colony that season, but the people did not see it in this light. They did not seem willing for him to go ahead without them, and he was not willing to go with such a large company, so many women and children, as he knew they were not fitted out for a journey of a thousand miles. Quite a number of the Saints could not travel any further, and so it was decided that a settlement should be made there and that it should be a resting place for the Saints until they were able to continue their journey. Brother Charles C. Rich was appointed to preside.
President Young and the rest of the company started out for the Missouri River which was supposed to be about 75 miles. It was now past the middle of May. We traveled about ten or twelve miles a day through a beautiful and well watered country. The streams were very much swollen on account of the great amount of rain that had fallen. It was very difficult to bridge some of the streams. It took a good deal of time and labor. One stream in particular we had to bridge several hundred yards as the river had overflowed its banks. We were three days bridging this stream with more than 100 men at work.
In July we arrived at Council Bluffs, overlooking the valley of the Missouri River. President Young and most of the companies camped on the bluffs. Brother Pratt and a few of his friends went down a hollow and camped by a beautiful large spring of water. Here we discovered acres of large wild strawberries. We could sit down and get our fill without moving far. This was a luxury that we had not thought of finding.
About this time Captain Allen of the U.S. Army, came to our camp with requisition from the President of the United States for 500 of our young men to go to Mexico to fight the battles of their country, as the United States was at war with Mexico. President Young told him he would try and raise the men, but it would leave the camp in a very bad condition, and that we would not be able to travel when so many of our young men were taken away. The camp then moved from Council Bluffs about two miles down to a small stream and set up what we called a Liberty Pole, raised a flag which consisted of a white sheet. The United States flag was planted under it. President Young, Heber C. Kimball and others went back as far as Pisgah and gathered up all the men they could. Quite a number of our old men enlisted, men whose heads were almost white. I enlisted in one of the first companies. Captains and Lieutenants were chosen by the authorities of the Church. The lower officer were chosen by the men. We were paraded by the officer every day. President Young returned and all the companies were made up to the number of over 500 men.
These men made up that famous battalion which marched through more than 2000 miles of trackless waste on foot and helped to take and maintain California, some of the members of which first discovered the gold mines of that country, and thus turned the world the other side up.
I was very anxious to go to Mexico. I had no idea of the difficulties I should have to encounter in traveling through a desert country on foot. I never thought for a moment of the danger of war, or whether I should ever get back again.
One evening on going home to the tent, Brother Pratt spoke to me like this: "George, I do not want you to go with the battalion. My men have left me - I have no one to take care of my stock and I don't want you to go. I will go and speak to President Young and see if I can't get you released." I told him that I was willing to do just as he said, whether to stop or to go. He went to President Young that same evening, came back and told me that I could stay with him.
Five companies were made up of our most able bodied men, 100 to a company, all officered by our own men excepting Captain Allen who now became Colonel of the Battalion. He marched them down the river to Ft. Leavenworth, where they were furnished their arms and equipment. From there they were marched through New Mexico, Arizona and to Southern California. They endured untold hardships, but most of them got through alive. They had to cross over mountains and trackless deserts without much water.
About this time also Thomas L. Kane, son of Judge Kane of Pennsylvania, came to our camp. He had heard of the expulsion of the Latter Day Saints from Nauvoo, had left his home and had come all that way to see them. He was a very fine young man and had great sympathy for the "Mormons". He was a Colonel in the United States Army. He thought it was very hard of the government to call for 500 men in the condition we were in, having been driven from our homes and become wanderers, not knowing where we were going. He had not been long in the camp before he was taken very sick with mountain fever and got so low that he was not expected to live. He was administered to by the brethren and nursed by the sisters for three or four weeks when he commenced to recover. After he got well he returned home to his friends. The city of Kanesville that was built near our camping place was called after him. (He afterwards proved himself a great friend to the Latter Day Saints. He has come to Salt Lake several times when the Mormon people have been troubled and tried to do the best he could for us.)
About this time the young lady whom I had taken through the temple at Nauvoo, arrived with her father's family. It was on Sunday after the meeting was over, I took her to our tent and introduced her to Brother Pratt's family. I asked her where her father was camped but she could not tell me. She thought it was two or three miles from there. I know the country around there very well, so we started to find the camp. We made for the large spring where we had found so many strawberries and we found them camped right by the spring. They were very glad to see me and made me welcome. Her father's name was John Robinson. He had been a sea captain and master of a vessel. They had started from Nauvoo in May with a good outfit consisting of three wagons, six yoke of cattle, some cows and quite a number of sheep. They had lost all but about six of their sheep and lost the remainder before they left the spring. I went back to camp in the evening.
I will now say something about the movement of the camps. The lateness of the season, the poverty of the people and above all, the taking away of the 500 of our best men, finally compelled us to abandon any further progress westward till the return of another spring. The camps therefore began to prepare for winter. We sent a small company of men down to the Missouri River to get lumber to make a flat boat to carry us across the river. Bro. Kesler, who was afterwards Bishop of the Sixteenth Ward, Salt Lake City, was appointed to superintend it. The camps all moved down to the river to a place which was called the Point, where some Indian agents lived who kept supplies for the Pottawatamie Indians, living about 30 miles east from there. They were the first Indians I ever saw and they seemed to be quite intelligent. They wanted to know where we were going. We told them we were going beyond the Rocky Mountains, that we were driven out from the United States and were seeking a home far away in the west. They seemed to be very friendly and thought it very strange that we could not live with the white people. We showed them the Book of Mormon and told them it was a record of their forefathers. They seemed very pleased and wanted to know more about it. Some of those Indians had been to Nauvoo and had seen Joseph Smith, who had told them a good deal about the Book of Mormon, that it was a record of their forefathers and that they were once a white people like unto us. They did not stay there many years after that as the Government took their lands and they moved to Indian Territory. (I have strayed a little from my narrative, but as I had missed this little incident I thought it was a good place to put it in.)
We went down to the Point, did a little trading at the store, camped on the banks of the Missouri about two weeks until the boat was completed, and then commenced to ferry across the river, which was about one quarter of a mile wide, being narrower there than in many other places. They kept the boat going night and day and still could not complete the crossing of the camps till late in the season. We had a very steep hill to go up from the river to get on the bluffs which made it very hard pulling. We traveled a few miles on the bluffs up the river and camped. As we were going to stay a few days, I concluded to cross the river, go back and get Miss Robinson, as we had agreed before I left Nauvoo that when we met we would get married. I spoke to Brother Pratt on the subject and he told me I had better go back and bring her along.
I took his horse and carriage, crossed the river and found them camped on the bluffs. I made my errand known to them and she was willing to go with me and share with me in anything we would have to go through. I stopped with them that night. Next morning she gathered up the few things that she had and put them into the carriage. We bade the old folks good-bye and started for the river. The boatman knew it was Brother Pratt's carriage. I told them I was on urgent business so they put me across in quick time. In going up the hill from the river we both had to get out and walk. The hill was very steep, our horses were not very strong and the carriage was very heavy. I began to fear we could not get up. I told Miss Robinson to drive and I would push behind and block the wheels, but as she was no driver that would not work. The carriage went back instead of going ahead. I got hold of the lines and told her to block the wheels. We managed to get along by going a few yards and resting, and in this way finally got to the top of the hill. We had taken the things out of the carriage and left them half way down the hill. I had to go back and carry then up. This took me sometime and I was very nearly exhausted, but we finally got started for camp which was only about three or four miles, arriving there safely. The Sisters Pratt were very pleased to see us and began to make preparations for our wedding. It was decided that Brother Pratt should marry us the next day. On the evening of the 27th of July, 1846, all of the family dressed in their best, and Brother Pratt performed the ceremony. Hymns were sung, a good supper was served, and we all felt happy.
As before stated, it was now getting too late in the season to pursue our journey to the mountains, and as we had eaten a good portion or our provisions and had to get fresh supplies, President Young thought we had better stay somewhere in that vicinity until another season. The object now was to find good winter quarters. We traveled about 16 miles further up the river and camped near a large grove of timber which place was called Cutlers Park in honor of Father Cutler. We remained there some three or four weeks, plowed and fenced in several acres of land and planted it with turnips which matured before the winter set in. This was about two miles from the river. President Young was looking for a location for us to winter. He did not think this place was suitable. He decided that we should go to the bluffs. We moved down there and pitched our tents. This was sometime in September.
The next great question was where we could winter our stock as we had several thousand head. The prairie grass was drying up and we could not feed them on that, and the only plan that could be devised was to send them up the river about 100 miles on the river bottoms and winter them on the bushes. Men were sent up the river to look over a good place, and most of our horses and cattle were sent away, with the exception of a few that were wanted for our immediate use, and also our milch cows. Quite a number of men went to cutting hay and stacking it up. The hay was not very good as it was cut too late in the season, but it was thought it would save the lives of some of our stock. Some of the men, including myself, were appointed to take some stock about 20 miles up the river to herd. A wagon was unloaded and some provisions put in. My wife and myself with some other families fitted out in the same way with horses to ride, went up the river to herd. It was a very nice place. We found plenty of honey made by wild bees in hollow trees. We always collected the honey at night when the bees were asleep. We had all the butter, milk and honey that we wanted to eat with our bread. It was that time of the year called Indian summer and it was very pleasant.
One evening I was gathering up the stock. I had strayed several miles from camp. It became dark and I lost my way. I wandered about for several hours. At last I saw a little glimmer of light. I went toward it and it proved to be the camp. I found my wife crying. She thought the Indians had taken me and that she would never see me again. The Indians on that side of the river were very bad. They would steal all they could put their hands on and if they caught a white man alone very likely they would kill him as they did in one or two instances.
Towards the last of October I was called to go to the main camp, or as the place was called, Winter Quarters. Although I had spent a very pleasant time herding, I was glad to go back. I took all the honey that I could collect back with me. They wanted me at Winter Quarters to help them to erect houses as they were preparing for cold weather.
I will say that before I went up to the herd, Brothers Pratt, Hyde, and Taylor were called to go to England to settle some difficulty in relation to Elder Hedlock and the joint stock company. It had caused a good deal of trouble and dissatisfaction among the Saints in England. Brother Van Cott was left in charge of the family.
When I arrived at Winter Quarters I was greatly surprised to see over 500 log houses put up, making quite a city, as when I had left to go with the herd there was not a house of any kind. The streets were laid out at right angles which formed it into squares. Brother Pratt's houses were not put up. Two or three men, including myself, went up the river, made a raft by boring holes and fastening them together by pegs. When we had secured enough, we got on the raft and floated down the river, landing opposite the city. It took us about four days. We then hauled them to the place where we were going to build and were soon working on the houses. White cloth was used for windows as we did not have any glass. We thought the houses were very comfortable as we had been without houses for nine months.
It was now getting towards the last of November. We had very fine weather, but now it began to get very cold. The snow began to fall and it froze very hard at night. Brother Pratt and 21 in his family and I was the only one to see to things out of doors. There was wood to be hauled and chopped up to keep the fires going, and many other things to do. Our provisions also were getting very scarce and little or no money to get any more. As Brother Pratt was away in England, the family had to do the best they could, and although Brother John Van Cott was left in charge, yet 21 in a family was a great many for him to see to as he had a family of his own. He was a cousin to Brother Pratt and was well provided for. He had not traveled with us through the spring and summer, but had come right along from the states with three loaded wagons, and had overtaken us at Winter Quarters. The brethren and sisters kept coming along all summer as fast as they could get teams, wagons and provisions to fit themselves out. Some came to Winter Quarters while others remained on the Iowa side of the river choosing for themselves the best location they could find. They were scattered for a good many miles up and down the river.
Some time in September the mob that had been gathered around Nauvoo to the number of about 1500, knowing that the great body of the Saints had left and nobody but the poor and those who could not get away were left, thought they would come in and drive those that were there across the river. The few able bodied men among the Saints gathered themselves together to the number of abut 75, armed themselves as well as they could, and felt determined to keep the mob out. They placed themselves at the edge of the city and waited there until the mob came on. The mob maneuvered around for several days, going from one point to another. They were well armed and had several cannon. They were very cowardly because they knew their cause to be an unjust one. They would send a few shots from their cannon when they saw a good chance. Our brethren did not have any cannon, but they soon made some. An old steam boat shaft was lying on the bank of the river. They sawed it in two, plugged up one end, made a hold for the priming and made preparations for using them. They had a few shot, and when they were used loaded with the best they could get. The mob kept drawing nearer. Some of our brethren went into a corn field under cover of the corn. They got very close to the mob and fired a few shots, and then retreated. This alarmed the mob very much and they were more careful afterwards. The fighting lasted for several days. The mob had fresh men coming every day and our brethren were about worn out. They knew that they would have to give up and let the mob come in.
D. H. Wells was a Justice of the Peace in Nauvoo. He did not belong to the church at that time, but he took a prominent part in trying to keep the mob out. He and several others of the leading men had to leave and flee for their lives. They came to Winter Quarters and told us the particulars concerning the battle.
When the mob got into the city they went to the temple and made that their headquarters. They then went through the city frightening and threatening women and children, and taking all the arms they cold find. A good many of the brethren had to keep out of the way or they would have been killed. They drove them all out of the city and over the river under the penalty of death.
The Saints were now penniless, houseless and homeless. Many were sick as that was the unhealthy season of the year. What little stuff they had in their gardens and fields they had to leave. Great distress was among them. Winter was staring them in the face and they could not move. A great many were without food until by some miraculous power or providence, large flocks of quail came and lit down in their camp, and as they could easily catch them they had plenty to eat.
President Young hearing of their situation sent back all the teams he could get to bring them along. Quite a number went to the neighboring settlements and got work while those who were left were taken to Winter Quarters. The cold weather had not set in. It was the hardest winter that had been known for years. The ice on the river was three feet thick. Teams traveled back and forth across the river for three months.
When December arrived we had used up most of our provisions. We had a little corn that was not ground, and there was no mill within 100 miles. Brother Van Cott had brought with him a large coffee mill. We set a post in the ground and the mill was fastened to it and was used by the Saints to grind their corn. We had no more flour until the next spring. The corn meal was very course, but when we got used to it, it went very well. The greatest trouble was that we did not have enough of it. Sometimes we would have a little molasses to eat with it, sometimes a little butter and milk. It was quite hard to be out grinding corn when the thermometer was several degrees below zero. I spent most of my time through the winter hauling wood and grinding corn. President Young and those who came from Nauvoo when we did lived in about the same way as far as I could learn. We never tasted vegetables from the time we left the Mississippi River until we raised some in the valley of Salt Lake. When we became very hungry we would go down to the river and dig a few artichokes and what we did not eat raw, we brought home and cooked, and thought they were very nice. I do not know how we would have lived through the winter if the soldiers who had joined the Battalion had not sent us some money. When the Battalion got down to Ft. Leavenworth they had a certain amount of money given to them out of their pay to send to their families, which amounted to several thousand dollars. It was sent to President Young late in the fall. He thought it would be the best plan to send some competent man down to St. Louis and have him bring things that were needed for the camp. Bishop Whitney, who was the first bishop in the Church, was selected for the purpose. Besides this money there was some collected from persons who had it, as they thought money would be of no use to them after leaving the frontier. Bishop Whitney went down to St. Louis and purchased a boat load of goods and provisions and returned early in the spring.
There was a great deal of sickness in the camp during the winter, partly on account of not having the proper food and partly from hunger and exposure. The disease of scurvy was prevalent. Hundreds died and were buried on the hill above the city. It was a time of mourning among the Saints. A great many of the middle aged and old people were taken from us.
Bishop George Miller undertook to take a company over the Rocky Mountains that fall independent of Brother Young. The company consisted of those who had lately come along and had plenty of provisions. They thought they could make it. They had gone about 100 miles when Pres. Young sent after them and told them to stop and Bishop Miller was told to return to Winter Quarters. They were camped on the Punkhaw River, or the section of country occupied by the Punkhaw Indians. Brother Young knew that they could not cross the mountains that season, and if they were allowed to go on they would all perish. Brother Young was the man to lead the camp of Israel and not George Miller. Brother Miller was a great man to go ahead and wanted to get to the end of his journey, but he was not the man to lead the camp of the Saints. President Young knew that if he himself went ahead at that season of the year that thousands of the Saints would follow him whether they had enough provisions or not, and that they would perish in the desert. That is the reason why he remained at Winter Quarters, as it was not so very far to go to get supplies for the ensuing season. Bishop Miller came back with most of his company. When he arrived President Young told him that it was not his right to lead the people. Brother Miller did not like what the President said to him and never felt right afterwards. He took his teams, went down the river, never came back, and apostatized.
Sometime in February I was sent to the herd, about 30 miles up the river on the opposite side, to get a horse and to take one up there that was almost starved. I started as early as I could and crossed the river on the ice. I had never been up there and had to find my way the best I could. I thought I could get there by dark, but my horse was so poor that I could not get him along. After traveling about 20 miles, I found that I could not get to the herd that night. It was no use traveling after dark as I did not know the place, and there was no road. I had been directed to travel along by the edge of the timber, as there was timber all up the river about a mile, while outside of that was open country. As I could not make the herd camp that night, my horse being tired out, I turned into the timber. The snow was on the ground about six inches deep. I had a buffalo robe with me. I tied my horse to a tree and selected an old dry log to camp by. There was nothing to eat for myself or horse. I gather up some dry wood and made a fire. It was now dark. The wolves began to howl around me. I became quite alarmed. I had nothing to defend myself with, neither gun nor pistol. It was the first time I had ever been alone, and I had to make the best of it. I had read that wild animals would not approach where there was a good fire. I knew that would be the only thing that would save me. I gathered some more wood, as there was plenty all around. I got my horse that I had tied some little distance away, tied him pretty close to the fire. I sat on the log for some hours listening to the howling of the wolves. Many thoughts passed through my mind. I did not feel afraid, although I felt very lonely. The howling of the wolves began to cease a little. I began to get sleepy. I knelt down by the side of the log and asked by Heavenly Father to protect me from the wild beasts. I put my buffalo robe by the side of the log, lay down on it, wrapped myself up, and in a little while I was fast asleep. I slept until an hour before daylight. I got up, found my horse all right, made up a good fire, warmed myself, saddled my horse and started out. I found I was about six miles from the herd camp. I got there about 10:00 o'clock and turned my horse loose to get something to eat as he had not had anything from the time we left Winter Quarters. I remained there that day, found the horse I wanted, started for home early the next morning, and managed to reach there about dark.
We had many meetings through the winter. Our meeting house was a double log cabin that would hold from three to four hundred. We received excellent teachings from President Young and from the Twelve Apostles. Meetings were held once or twice a day on Sundays, our house being so small it would not hold nearly as many as wanted to attend. A great many quorum and council meetings were held to find out the best course to pursue in regard to our organization and travel and coming season. There were now some thousands gather at Winter Quarters and many hundreds camped up and down the river and on the bluffs. All were anxious to know what they should do. Spring was now opening upon us. A great many of the Saints had lost part of their stock during the winter, some of it having been stolen by the Indians and some having died. This naturally broke up the arrangements of a good many who had intended to cross the plains that season, and they were compelled to get what little stock they had left and go to farming or anything else they could do and wait until they could get another outfit.
A brother by the name of John Neff and family from Pennsylvania, came to Winter Quarters early in the spring. He was a miller and farmer, and had acquired considerable means. President Young thought it would be a good plan to build a grist mill on a little stream that ran on the north side of the town, as it would make work for a great many men who had nothing to do and very little to eat. The mill was needed to grind our wheat and corn that we were to take with us the ensuing summer. He wanted Brother Neff to take hold of it and build it, which he agreed to do. Accordingly, quite a number of men were wanting to go to work. There was a dam to be built across the creek to hold the water. Brother Frank Pullen and myself were appointed to superintend that work. There was also a mill race to be dug, two or three hundred yards long and from eight to twelve feet deep. Carpenters, millwrights and sawyers were employed. They had to saw all the lumber by hand or what we would call pit sawing. This work seemed to revive and stimulate people. We now had more provisions and the people felt better as the spring opened. It had been a very severe winter, such a winter as I Had never experienced before and have not since, over 30 years.
On the sixth day of April 1847, the annual conference was held. Many thousands were gathered together to know and understand what was to be done the coming season. President Young said he wanted a company of men with a good outfit to go with him as pioneers to find a location for the gathering place of the Saints. He had but very little idea of where he should go as he knew nothing about the country, but thought he would locate somewhere beyond the Rocky Mountains, and he wanted to start as soon as the company could be gotten ready. He chose a good many young and middle aged men, including all of the Twelve that were there, as the Brothers Pratt, Hyde and Taylor had not returned from England. Quite a number volunteered, and the company was made up numbering 143 men and three or four women. About the 12th of April they started on their journey.
We were looking for Brother Pratt and the brethren that were with him to return as we had heard they were coming and were not far away, and that my sisters were with them, Harriet, Sophia and Elizabeth. In a few days after the pioneers had left, Brother Pratt came home. Everybody was very pleased to see him. All our troubles, tribulations and privations which we had suffered during the long cold winter were for the time forgotten. Now life and joy rested upon us. He had been away just about nine months. He found an increase of one in his family.
The day after he got home he told me he wanted me to go and meet my sisters and to get the carriage ready and he would go with me. He had brought two young ladies from England whom he intended to make his wives. The next morning I got everything ready, and we started on our journey down the river. He traveled some 25 miles and stopped for the night. The next day we had not traveled a great distance before we met them traveling with a team. It was a very happy meeting and almost unexpected. I knew they had made their calculations to emigrate to Nauvoo in one year from the time I left England, but as we had been driven from Nauvoo and were in the wilderness and traveling to an unknown country I did not know when I should see them again. I did not know that my youngest sister was married until I met them. She had married a young man by the name of Joseph Cain about the time they left Liverpool. Brother Pratt put his two young ladies in the carriage and drove towards home, leaving me to return with Brother Cain and my sisters. We traveled slow and got to Winter Quarters in about three days. Soon after we got to Winter Quarters my Sister Sophia was married to John Taylor. My sister Harriet and Brother Cain and his wife went to live in a dugout which one of the brethren had left. As many as could fit themselves out and could follow the pioneers were making preparation.
About this time Brother Pratt told me that it would not be convenient for him to take my wife and myself across the plains as he had many wives and children of his own and my wife was likely to be confined in a short time and would want a wagon and he would not have any to spare. He said he was very sorry to lose me as I had been of so much help to him and his family, but that circumstances had changed. He thought I would be able to get some help and would get along all right. I thanked him very kindly for his good feelings towards me and was glad to hear that he was satisfied with my labors.
I had been working on the mill dam and helping to dig the mill race for five or six weeks and was making a dollar and a quarter a day. I had taken that home to the family and it was a great help in supporting them, but now that work was all done. We gathered together what few things we had at Brother Pratt's and took them to my wife's father's who lived a short distance from us.
I now began to study what I should do. I could not see any way open for me to go that season. I did not think my sisters had any more than would take them. Brother Cain had just returned from a mission to England and he had but little or nothing. My wife's father did not make me any offer, nor give me any encouragement and my wife and myself were too independent to ask him for any help. I was young and strong and able to work, and I thought I could get along very well, although I wanted to go very much and would go or sacrifice anything to go. I had been a Pioneer from Nauvoo and I would very much like to go with the first companies, but my way did not seem to open up. I had nothing to do at this time. I wanted to get at work. I commenced to dig up some land for a gardener and put in some seeds such as radishes, lettuce, peas and many other small seeds. I could not get it out of my mind but that I should go, still I couldn't see any way by which I could go. I had no provisions, no money to get any with, no team and no wagon. My clothes that I had brought from England were pretty much worn out, and I was not in a very good condition to go a long journey, but those things did not trouble me if I could get a chance to go.
It was now about the first of May. I went over to my sister's and we began to talk about the journey. She said Brother Cain and herself were going to try to go, and they would like it very much if I could go with them. She knew my circumstances and knew I wanted to go. She suggested that my wife's father would probably help me some and she would help me and I should do all I could to help myself. I then began to feel that I was going. My sister and her husband had some things they could part with that they had brought from England and also a little money. It was concluded to fit out a team and go to Missouri and trade those things away and get our provisions and some cows and what we needed for the journey. We got up a company consisting of five or six wagons. My wife's father sent a wagon and one of his sons. I was to go with the outfit with Brother Cain. My mother-in-law gave me $5.00 and my wife told me to get some sad irons, bake kettle, shovel and tongs.
The company started down to Missouri about the beginning of May. We traveled down to St. Joe about 150 miles. Nothing particular transpired on our way. We would trade as we went along, if we saw anything we wanted. Sometimes we would go out of our way to farm houses to see if they had any wheat or corn for sale. So many of the brethren had been down there before us that the country had been pretty much cleaned out for grain. Brother Cain offered a saddle for sale. They said it was the very thing they wanted. Brother Cain wanted $10.00 for his saddle. They told him they would give him 60 bushels of corn for it. He soon closed the bargain and we got our corn. We also got our wheat, took it to the mill and had it ground into flour, bought two cows, did our other trading, loaded up our wagons and started back for Winter Quarters and arrived there about the first of June.
On arriving home we found my sister Harriet very sick. She had been chopping some wood and had broken a blood vessel which caused her to come very near dying, but by the administration of the elders and the goodness of God, she got well very fast.
The grist mill that we had expected to use in grinding most of our wheat did not begin to run before the first of June. It was lucky for many that they got their flour down in Missouri, or they would have been very late in starting. The mill did very good business for one run of stones. When they got it going they kept it running almost night and day.
We now began to prepare for our journey west. We had but one wagon and two yoke of oxen. My sister Harriet traded different things for another wagon. We then wanted two yoke of oxen. Joseph Cain made out to get one ox. My wife's father saw that we had done all we could. He then furnished us with three oxen, making all together two yoke for each wagon. We had to get so many pounds of flour for each individual, 350 pounds for each person, if not, we were not allowed to go. There were men appointed to inspect each wagon to see if we had the requisite quantity. We knew that we were going into a country where we could not buy any. We had to take enough to last us fifteen months, or until we could raise it. We had to take our seed grain, farming implements, cooking utensils, and such things that we could not do without. Some would take a few chickens fastened on behind the wagons, and some would take a little pig. We had our wagons all loaded up and inspected and pronounced all right.
On the 10th of June we left our Winter Quarters, traveling about ten miles on to a large open plain. There we remained two or three days to be organized into companies. Brothers Pratt and Taylor were with us. They took a prominent part in the organization. Before President Young had left he had appointed some of the captains of hundreds. We were organized into companies of hundreds, fifties and tens. To each of those divisions was a captain. Bishop Edward Hunter was the captain of our hundred. Brother Joseph Horn was the captain of our fifty and Brother Abraham Hoagland was the captain of our team. The name of the heads of Families in our ten were as follows:
Abraham Hoagland, Captain, John Robinson, Joseph Cain, Joseph Barker, George Whitaker, Samuel Bennion, Ezra Oakley, John Bennion, Thos. Mackay, Thos. Tarbett
Brother John Taylor traveled with our fifty. I will say that those brethren whom I have named traveled together all the way and settle down very near together, and have loved one another as brothers ever since.
After organizing as thoroughly as we could, we had six full companies numbering over 600 wagons. As soon as we were organized the companies started out. We traveled about fifteen miles and came to the Elkhorn River. We found the river to be too high to ford it. We made a raft and put the wagons over that way and swam the cattle. It made it very tedious and took some days, but we all got over.
We were now coming to some Indians who, we were told, were hostile to the whites. They were the Pawnee tribe. Some thought we would have a fuss with them as they did not want us to go through their country. We were now traveling in a level country and we wanted to be as compact and travel as close together as we could, instead of traveling one after another, as we did not know but what the Indians would cut off some part of our long train. It was thought best to travel six wagons abreast so our train would only be one hundred wagons long instead of six hundred. We had three cannon with us, which we place in different parts of the train, and appointed men to handle them if they were wanted. We did not know but what we should have to fight the Indians, and we prepared ourselves as well as we could. When we came to the Pawnee Village we could not see an Indian. They had all left and gone into the buffalo country to hunt.
We had been traveling six abreast for some days. It was very unpleasant and disagreeable, as the dust would blow from one wagon to another but we traveled in this way for safety. We then traveled four abreast for a few days, and then two, following the track of the Pioneers.
We now came to a river called the Loup Fork. It was about 200 yards wide. We traveled up that river several days until we came to the place where the Pioneers had forded it. It was not very deep, from two to four feet with a sandy bottom. It took us a day to cross the river. We had wade it and kept our wagons rolling. If our wagons stood still they would sink down as it was a quicksand bottom. We got all our wagons across with some difficulty and some little loss. The Loup Fork makes a junction with the Platte River some forty or fifty miles below where we crossed. It was from ten to fifteen miles from the Loup Ford across to the Platte River. We had to get on to the Platte River before we could find any water. When we got on to the Platte we camped. The companies had been traveling all together and had made very slow progress. A good many of the brethren became a little dissatisfied. They thought the way they were traveling they would not get over the mountains that season and it was very important that we should make all the speed we could.
On the banks of the river Platte, all the companies camped together. A council was called by Brother Platt and Taylor and all the captains of companies to devise the best plans for our future traveling and progress, and to form all of our men that could bear arms into companies for the protection of the camp, and also to organize our night guard. We were in an Indian country and did not know whether they were our friends or our enemies, and wanted to be ready for any emergency. It was concluded that the companies should travel in fifties, that they could travel faster and easier and that there should be a blacksmith, a carpenter, or wheelwright in each company, so that if any of the wagons got out of repair they could fix them as we had a good many wagons that were old and not likely to stand the journey. This encampment was near Long Island, about 150 miles from Winter Quarters.
It was now sometime in July. The company that could travel the fastest and get out of the way had the privilege to move on. Company after company moved out by fifties until we were all on our way. We traveled much better and faster and with more pleasure than we had done. We would travel from fifteen to twenty-five miles a day very easily, so we would try to get into camp early, un-yoke our cattle and send them by our herdsmen to the best grass. We placed our wagons in a circle open at one end, and after our cattle had finished eating would bring them in and put them within the circle.
There was but very little wood up the Platte River, and we had to use buffalo chips to cook with, which was a substitute for wood. After supper we would gather in groups and sing the songs of Zion. Sometimes we would have music and dancing and enjoyed ourselves the best we could. We always laid by on sundays to rest our cattle and to hold meetings. Our brethren could preach to us on those things which were for our best good. Although not knowing where we were going, yet we felt well and happy, always in hopes that we would find a good country, settle down and live in peace, willing to leave our homes and the comforts of life and get away from the iron hand of our persecutors and go to a country where we could worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience. We traveled this way for several weeks by the side of the Platte River, through a level flat country. There was plenty of grass for our cattle and our cows gave us plenty of milk. The way we got our butter was by putting the morning's milk into the churn and after traveling all day we would find little lumps of butter in the churn. One day while we were traveling we saw a horse at some distance from the train. Three or four of our brethren got on horseback and went after it. The horse had become wild. After a long chase Brother Taylor finally captured it and brought it to the camp. It was a fine American horse and very fat. The horse had got away from some trapper or trader and was lost. It was a good horse and afterwards became very gentle.
We were now getting into the buffalo country. We felt that we wanted a little fresh meat. Three or four of our brethren were appointed to go and kill some buffalo. They went a few miles over the hill until they found some, killed two or three and sent to the train for a wagon to bring them in. We stopped the train, unloaded a wagon and brought them in. They were then divided among the companies according to their families, which gave us meat for several days. The buffalo beef is not so good as tame beef, being hard and tough. We were now fairly into the buffalo country. There were tens of thousands of them, the hills perfectly black with them.
We had gone into camp one evening very close to the river, and had all retired for the night except the guard which we always placed around the camp. A noise was heard from the other side of the river, like distant thunder. We all got up, not knowing what it was. We soon heard a splashing in the water. We then knew what it was. It was large herd of buffalo crossing the river. We were frightened as they were opposite our camp. We were afraid they would run over our camp and stampede our cattle, which would have caused us a good deal of trouble and taken us some time to find them. We all got down by the side of the river and shouted to try to turn them. They turned a little on one side of our camp and passed by without doing us any harm. The buffalo travel in this way from one place to another in very large droves and nothing can impede their progress. After our fright we all went to bed.
Up to this time we had seen but very few Indians. As we were traveling along one day we saw a great many Indians coming out of the hills toward us, some on horseback and some on foot. They were all armed with bows and arrows. We did not know whether they were for peace or war. We called our train to a halt, got our wagons in the best position we could, loaded our guns and prepared for the worst. By this time they had come up. They were a fierce set of looking men. They rode right up to our wagons and talked as though they wanted something to eat. We had no one among us who could interpret. They seemed very independent. There were several hundred of them with some squaws. We did not think they were a war party as they had some squaws with them. We gave them something to eat. They wanted to look into our wagons, I suppose to satisfy their curiosity. We had one cannon with us. We were ordered to put a blank cartridge in and fire it off, which we did. They seemed very much surprised and frightened at the report of the cannon. I suppose they had never seen anything of the kind before. They were dressed very fine in their way in buckskin and moccasins, all beaded over in very fine style. After we had given them something to eat and traded with them and told them we were going a long way out of their country, they began to feel better and made signs that they would dance a little for us. They formed into a circle and commenced dancing, the young men and squaws performing. They danced for us about half and hour and went away seeming well pleased. We were well pleased too that things had turned out as they did. We had not heard much from other companies. Those that were ahead of us kept out of our way, and those that were behind did not catch up with us. We traveled along much better in smaller companies. We would have to stop sometimes to set a fire or mend a wagon. The roads were good until we came to the sand hills and then it was very heavy going for about thirty miles. It was very hard upon our horses and cattle rolling through the heavy sand, but we got through without much loss.
We were now drawing near to Ft. Laramie. We had seen Laramie Peak in the distance for about two weeks. When it was over 100 miles away it looked so near that we expected to reach it many days before we did. The atmosphere was so clear that we could see a long way in the distance. Every large object seemed to be very close, but it would take us days to get to it. It was so with Laramie Peak.
We had been traveling up the North Fork of the Platte as far as Laramie. We now had to cross over on the south side and leave it. The river was low and we could ford it. There were quite a number of Indians around Ft. Laramie, but they did not trouble us much, although we had to keep a good look out or they would have stolen everything we had. While coming up the Platte we met two of our brethren who had received their discharge from the Battalion and had traveled all the way from California and were going to Winter Quarters to their families. They were traveling alone, having two Indian ponies. The way they were evading the Indians at night was by traveling till dark and pretending to camp, after dark they would leave that place and go half a mile from the road, then would lie down and sleep till morning. They told us they were watched by the Indians and that is the way they evaded them. One of them was Jonathan Pugmire who lived as a neighbor to me for many years after we reached Salt Lake. His father was in our company. He expected his father would bring his family along, but they did not come and he had to go to Winter Quarters to get them, and they came along the next season.
We had now left the flat country at the Platte River and had to travel through the Black Hills one hundred miles. It was a very hilly country, but the roads were good. We had by this time got used to traveling, and our horses and cattle were in pretty good condition. Our loads were getting a little lighter and we seemed to travel with more ease. We would average about one hundred miles a week. We had left the buffalo country where we could get plenty of game in the Black Hills, such as deer and elk, and some smaller game. Brother Harker was a good shot. He would leave his wagon for his wife to drive and take his rifle and kill a deer, which always came in very good. He would divide it among his friends as far as it would go.
Up to this time we had beard nothing from the Pioneers. We were traveling on their trail. They measured the distance as they went along by a wagon wheel. Every mile they would set up some kind of a mark. Sometimes they would leave a little note with the day of the month. While we were crossing the Black Hills we met Ezra T. Benson and another brother who had been sent back by the Pioneers to meet the companies. They told us they had found the place in the valley of the Great Salt Lake. This was about the last of August. We were then over 400 miles from the valley. This news filled our hearts with joy and seemed to put fresh life into us. We asked them a great many questions about the country. We also called a meeting for them to talk and tell us all about the country. They tried to tell us something about it, but I suppose they did not know much about it themselves. They thought it was a good country and gave us all the encouragement they could, but I learned afterward that they did not find anything but a dry, barren and parched up desert, a few naked Indians and armies of large black crickets that had eaten up everything that had been green, but we were very well satisfied with the report they had brought. We traveled on being pleased to see and hear from our brethren who had been to the valley, and had seen the place of our destination.
We came to the upper crossing of the Platte. The river takes a circuit between Laramie and the upper crossing. We had to cross an alkaline desert, about forty miles, to get to Independence Rock on the Sweetwater. When we got to the Sweetwater quite a number of our cattle died from the effects of drinking alkali water, as there was not other for them. We were not aware it would be so injurious to them or we could have prevented them drinking. Millions of tons of good saleratus could have been taken from these alkali beds. The cattle would swell up and die in a little while. A great many were sick, but recovered after we had given them something that would operate against the poison. It crippled us in our teams. We had to make it up by yoking up our cows. I was very fortunate in saving my team.
The first night we arrived at Independence Rock, my wife was blessed with a fine boy. We stopped over the next day on account of so many of our cattle being sick and dying. It was also very lucky for my wife as she needed a day's rest. We were now at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. We had about 100 miles up hill to get to the summit of the mountains or the South Pass. My wife got along very comfortably and in about three weeks was able to go out.
On the ninth day of September when within about thirteen miles of the South Pass, on a very cold, stormy day, we met President Young and the Pioneers going back to Winter Quarters. We wee very much pleased to see the President after an absence of some five months, and at finding him and his company all well. We stopped over all that day as we could not travel for the storm. We were then in a high altitude, 10,000 or 12,000 feet above sea level. We thought if winter had set in at that early period we should never reach the valley. There was six or eight inches of snow on the ground, our cattle could not get anything to eat all that day and they were all drawn up with cold. We could not get out of the wagons to make a fire or cook anything, and everything looked very gloomy. President Young told us we would not have a dozen days like that in the valley all through the winter, and his words proved true. President Young and company remained with us that night. The next morning the sun shone brightly. We bade the Pioneers good-bye, they traveling east and we west. It was not long before the snow was gone. When we came to some grass we stopped to let our cattle graze. We traveled thirteen miles that day, having journeyed over a very rough and rocky road, mostly up hill, camping at the Pacific Springs. We were now on the summit of the Rocky Mountains. The water instead of running east into the Mississippi River ran west into the Colorado.
It was now getting towards the middle of September and we had over 250 miles to go. We wanted to get to the valley by the first of October. As we were now going down hill we could travel faster. We camped next night on the Big Sandy, about twenty miles from the summit. There was very little water in it. In three or four days we reached the Green River which is the main branch of the great Colorado. We laid over one day to rest our cattle. There were a great many wild currants there, mostly black. We gathered a great many as we thought they would be very good for stewing and making pies. I took some of them to the valley, planted them and raised a great many bushes. It was the first fruit we raised in the valley, although it was very inferior, it was the best and only fruit we had for some time.
Green River is a deep rapid river in the spring of the year when the snow comes out of the mountains, but in the fall of the year it is low so that it can be forded. We all got across the river safely and made our way for Ft. Bridger, about fifty miles. Ft. Bridger was owned by an old trader by the name of Bridger. He had been there many years. It is said that he was an outlaw and fled from justice. Ft. Bridger consisted of a few log cabins and a stockade built around. Mr. Bridger told the Pioneers that it was folly for them to think of settling down in Salt Lake Valley as they could not raise anything. He said there were frosts there every night in the year. He told them he would give a thousand dollars for the first bushel of corn they could raise. He had a squaw for his wife. There were a number of Indians. That was the central point for trade for miles around. He would buy up their robes and buckskins and send them to St. Louis, and would pay them in trinkets such as beads and butcher knives, and such things as the Indians took a fancy to. He made enormous profit by cheating the Indians and no doubt became very wealthy. Ft. Bridger is 116 miles from Salt Lake.
Our company pushed on and came to Bear River. We left Bear River and got into Echo Canyon. There was another birth. A boy was born to Sister Harker. We traveled down the canyon twenty miles and came to the Weber River, went down the river a few miles, crossed over the hills and came on to East Canyon Creek. We were now at the foot of the Big Mountain which was very steep towards the summit. We had to double teams to get up to the top of this mountain. We then had the first sight of the valley, which caused feelings of joy to think we could see the place of our destination. We got down the mountain and camped between the Big and Little Mountains. The next morning we crossed the Little Mountain and went down Emigration Canyon which opened out into the valley. This was on the second day of October. In coming down the canyon one of the wheels on my wagon broke down and I was obliged to stop. I waited there two days for them to send a wheel so that I could come in. Finally a wheel came along. I put it on to the axle and we rolled into the valley.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
On account of the delay, the entry to Salt Lake Valley was about the 4th of October, and it was very agreeable to the travelers to find such a spot, surely hid by the Lord as a resting place for His Saints. The Valley, with the river running through, later named the Jordan, and in the distance could be seen the Lake, which was visited a few days later and named the Great Salt Lake. After the long journey with the hardships and privations endured in making it, they felt in their hearts to praise and acknowledge the Lord for preserving them and leading them to where they could be free from the persecutions of their enemies. How long had they looked forward to such conditions where they could worship the Lord according to the dictates of their own conscience. They still had the remembrance in their heats of the cruel mobbings and persecutions they had endured and all because they desired to live according to the plan of the Almighty, which had been made known to the Prophet Joseph.
They now commenced to locate and prepare to make homes for their families to live in. The Old Fort, or Pioneer Square as it is familiarly called, was the place first built and where they concentrated in order to protect themselves from the Indians.
The lot was given Grandpa to build his house upon and he labored diligently and persistently to this end. The city was laid off under direction of President Brigham Young, consisting of ten acre squares containing eight city lots, and broad streets 92 feet wide and sidewalks of 20 feet each, making 132 feet from property line to property line. The lot was located on Third South Street between West Temple and First West Street, containing one and one fourth acres, ten rods facing Third South and twenty rods deep. Such lots were assigned so that they could raise their vegetables, etc. Before he had completed his house, and while using the wagon box for a bedroom, on the 14th of July, 1849, his wife, Eveline, presented him with a little daughter, who was later named Arzella. At last the little home was finished and attention given to making of adobes, a tan dried brick, which proved lucrative, earning means that provided comfortably for the family. A great many of the adobes in the wall around the Temple Block were made by Grandpa. Other children were born to them named Eveline, Cassandra and Orson.
The marriage of Elizabeth Comish to Grandpa Whitaker resulted in births of five more children named, Myron, Silas, Joseph, Charles and Hattie.
I recall some of the incidents that my grandfather used to relate to me when he would visit us each week, as he did regularly until the last two or three years of his life when he lost the strength of his legs. At times he would tell us of the potato he had carried with him across the plains, how he saved it until he was able to plant it, and from which he raised a peck of potatoes. They did not eat any of those but planted them the next year and this time raised a bushel. Even now though they were much wanted to eat some they kept them until the next year and planted them and from that time on they had plenty to eat and for planting. Also during the first spring when the pest of the crickets was upon them how he would fight the crickets all day long and was thus able to save some of his corn and other crops, while everything in his neighbor's garden was destroyed.
The health of Grandpa was generally very good until the year of 1906 when he became very feeble and early in March 1907 he passed away and was buried from the Seventh Ward Meeting House, Bishop Margetts presiding. Speakers were Bros. Sampson, John Brown, A. Henry Wallace, Bishop Thorn, David McKenzie, Jos. R. Taylor and President of Stake, McLaughlan. Closing remarks Bishop Margetts. Beautiful solos rendered by J. D. Bowers, Mabel Cooper, Ladies Quartets and selections by choir.
A. W. S.
* * * * *
Put text here
Census Records | Vital Records | Family Trees & Communities | Immigration Records | Military Records Directories & Member Lists | Family & Local Histories | Newspapers & Periodicals | Court, Land & Probate | Finding Aids