Among the most authentic histories of these bands of early pioneers which
undertook to make the passage of this region thirty years since, when it
involved such difficulties and dangers, is the following:
In the year 1846, soon after the commencement
of the Mexican War, a party of emigrants undertook to cross the Continent,
with the intention of settling on the Pacific coast. The party consisted
of J. F. Reed, wife, and four children;
wife, and seven children; William Pike, wife, and two children; William
Foster, wife, and one child; Lewis Kiesburg; wife, and one child; Mrs.
Murphy, a widow woman, and five children; William McCutcheon, wife, and
one child; W. H. Eddy, wife, and two children; W. Graves, wife, and eight
children; Jay Fosdicks, and his wife; John Denton, Noah James, Patrick
Dolan, Samuel Shoemaker, C. F. Stanton, Milton Elliot, James Smith, Joseph
Rianhard, Augustus Spized, John Baptiste, Antoine, Walter Herring, Luke
Hallerin, Charles Burger, and Baylie Williams, making a total of
sixty-five souls, of whom ten were women, and thirty-one were children.
Having supplied themselves with wagons,
horses, cattle, provisions, arms, ammunition, and other articles
requisite for their enterprise, they set out on their journey from the
Mississippi, and, after a toilsome march of many weeks across the
prairies, they reached, late in the summer of that year, the
foot-hills of the Rocky Mountains. Resting for a few days in a grassy
valley, and, gazing with wistful eyes on the mighty peaks which
towered beyond them, they girded up their loins for the novel toils
and perils they were soon to encounter, and pushed on, expecting to
follow the great military route which would conduct them, before the
winter snows, to the sunny slopes which are fanned by the breezes of
the peaceful ocean.
They reached the
Sweet-Water River, on the eastern side of the mountains, late in
August. While in camp there, they were induced, by the representations
of one Lansford W. Hastings, to take a new route to the Pacific coast.
Relying on the truth of these statements, and full of hope that they
would thus shorten their journey, they left the beaten track and
started onward through an unknown region. Long before they had reached
the valley of the Great Salt Lake, they began to encounter the
greatest difficulties. At one time they found themselves in a dense
forest, and, seeing no outlet or passage, were forced to cut their way
through, making only forty miles progress in thirty days.
In September, they
were passing through the
Valley, since occupied by the Mormons. Here death invaded their ranks,
and removed Mr. Hallerin. This and an accident to one of the wagons,
detained them two days.
Pursuing their march,
they were next forced to travel across a desert tract without grass or
water, and lost many cattle.
At this point of the
journey, the gloomiest forebodings seized the stoutest heart. They
were in a rugged and desolate region, far from all hope of succor,
surrounded by hostile
Indians, their cattle dying, and their stock of provisions
lessening rapidly, with the sad conviction hourly forcing itself upon
their minds, that they had been betrayed by one of their own
Some of the families had already been
completely ruined by the loss of their cattle and by being forced to
abandon their goods and property. They were in complete darkness as to
the character of the road before them. To retreat across the desert to
Bridger, was impossible. There was no way left to them but to advance;
and this they now regarded as perilous in the extreme.
The cattle that survived were exhausted and broken down; but to remain
there was to die. Some of the men, broken by their toils and
sufferings, lay down and declared they might as well die there as
further on; others cursed the deception of which they had been the
victims; others uttered silent prayers, and then sought to raise the
drooping spirits of their comrades, and encourage them to press
forward. Of these last were the females of the party--wives, who never
faltered in these hours of trial, but sustained their husbands in
their dark moods; and mothers, who fought the dreadful battle,
thinking more of their children than of themselves.