Arrival of Missionaries from Utah—News from the Plains
Florence, October 28, 1856
Elder Orson Pratt.
Dear beloved Brother,
I take the earliest opportunity to inform you of my arrival at Winter Quarters on the Missouri river; and will give you a brief sketch of our travels, so that the friends and relatives of the emigrating Saints may obtain the earliest information of them.
On Sunday, the 10th of August, the following persons were called by the Lord, through the voice of His servants, the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to go as missionaries to England, namely, T. Bullock, Bernard Snow, Charles Hubbard, T. Pierce, John R. Tippitts, Wm. Brown, Ezra T. Clark, James G. Browning, George Gates, and Samuel P. Neslin. They were directed to prepare themselves to be in readiness to start by the middle of September.
On Sunday the 17th, Daniel Page, Jun., Samuel Roskelley, George Taylor, Henry Harris, James W. Stevens, Andrew P. Shumway, and Wm. Bevans were also called to be under the direction of the Presidency of the British Isles. On the 6th of September, the above persons received their blessings, and were set apart as missionaries; together with several others who were sent on mission to the United States, among whom was your brother, Elder P.P. Pratt.
On Wednesday, the 10th of September, the day appointed by the Presidency for us to leave G.S.L. City, Thomas Bullock, Bernard Snow, and George Gates, blessed our families, dedicated them to the Lord, and immediately started for Emigration Kanyon, and the remainder followed, we met in Echo Kanyon and the camp organized by electing a captain, sergeant of the guard, chaplain and secretary, and we have continued traveling every day until the present time, on an average of twenty-two miles each day, having been most signally blessed of the Lord in being favoured with beautiful weather, with the exception of the 12th of October, when it rained through the day, and until the afternoon of the 13th, when it cleared up. The rain water remained in pools on the road, and caused us heavy traveling for three or four days afterwards; but the heaviest rain was on the 23rd of October. When we crossed the Loup Fork, which was the most difficult portion of our trip, we had nothing but “a dug-out canoe,” and had to make many trips for the company with their luggage; the boxes were taken from the wagon, and stripped of their covers, and dragged across the stream; some of the wagons turned over several times, and on the last trip of the canoe Elders Snow, Shumway, Hubbard, add Huffaker, were capsized by the boat striking on a large snag in the river, but they were all saved.
We have also been highly favoured in not having any nocturnal visits from the marauding tribes of Indians, especially when we consider that about the 9th or 10th of September a company of United States’ troops shot down fifteen or sixteen Indians, of the Cheyenne tri be, while they were eating corn in the road near Fort Kearney. The Cheyennes in a few days retaliated and killed Mr. A.W. Babbit, Thos. Margetts and his wife,–Conady and his wife, four of Mr. Babbitt’s teamsters who had been continually cursing and swearing at the “Mormons” when they were at prayers, a Mrs. Wilson and her child, and four or five persons from California, who passed through Great Salt Lake City, and swore considerably because they could not get flour from the “Mormons” for their journey, at a time when thousands were living on half a pound of bread a day, and some hundreds had none at all. The Indians also took two women and one boy prisoners, and afterwards killed one of the women, because she could not ravel fast enough for them. They were willing to give up the other woman, and a child, to the United States officers in exchange for an Indian in their possession.
On the 15th of September we met, near Bear river, twenty-three wagons, with over 250 Danish Saints, led by Captain Peterson; and fourteen wagons with English Saints. On the 17th we met the advance company of St. Louis Saints. September 18th, we were very agreeably surprised by suddenly coming upon the advance train of hand-carts, composed of about 300 persons, traveling gently up the hill west of Green river, led by Elder Edmund Ellsworth. As the two companies approached each other, the camp of missionaries formed a line, and gave three loud Hosannahs, with the waving of hats, which was heartily led by Elder P.P. Pratt, responded to by loud greetings from the Saints of the hand-cart train, who unitedly made the hills and valleys resound with shouts of gladness; the memory of this scene will never be forgotten by any person present. We inquired the reason why we had not heard any word from them, and they answered, “We have out-traveled every other company, not one has passed us, no, not even a solitary horseman, so we have to carry our own report, and we should have been here sooner if the teams which carry the heavy luggage could have traveled any faster.” They were very cheerful and happy, and we blessed them in the name of the Lord, and they went on their way rejoicing. The same day we met a company of hand-carts, led by Elder D. McArthur; and a company of Saints from St. Louis, led by Elder John Banks, whom we missed seeing, on account of our traveling on a cut off to the Big Timber on the Sandy, where we met the rear company of St. Louis Saints; and we were made to rejoice through hearing of the well doings of those we had missed seeing. On the 20th we camped on Pacific Creek, west of the South Pass, near a company of upwards of 650 Saints from England and Wales, with hand-carts, led by Capt. Bunker. On the 22nd, a company of Saints from the Southern States, led by Capt. Croft, camped near us. 24th. When we had come to a halt near Independence Rock, 333 miles from Great Salt Lake City, we were gladdened by the arrival of Elder Franklin D. Richards, accompanied by the following missionaries, who were returning to their beloved homes and families, in the values of Deseret, viz., D. Spencer, C.H. Wheelock, G.D. Grant, W.H. Kimball, J. Ferguson, J.A. Young, J.D.T. McAllister, J. Van Cott, C.G. Welsh, W.C. Dunbar, N.H. Felt, and J. McGaw, they were in excellent health and spirits and rejoice that they had completed the mission allotted to them. From these brethren we learned the particulars of the killing of the Cheyenne Indians by the United States’ soldiers, near Fort Kearney, and their subsequent retaliation by their killing those above mentioned. They also blest us with comforting words to prepare us for the duties that may be expected of us, and to prepare our minds for the trials that await us from a wicked and perverse generation.
On the 29th, we met Elder Porter Rockwell, in charge of seven wagons, four of them having the remnants of Mr. Babbitt’s goods, and which he had successfully brought through the country of the hostile Indians; and shortly afterwards we met Elder A.O. Smoot, in charge of a train of forty-two wagons containing among other things, a steam engine for President Young, books, and dry goods from England, and some other articles which had been cached or stored away in previous years; he was assisted by Elders Ira Eldridge and Brigham H. Young. October 2nd: I visited a short time with over 450 Saints, under the charge of Elders Atwood and Willie with hand-carts, about ten miles west of Fort Laramie. 3rd: We passed, at the Indian agents, sixteen miles east of Laramie, eighteen lodges, comprising the Cheyennes who had killed the whites. As they had killed the number of whites that had been killed of the Indians, by the United States’ troops, they were willing to be at peace. They made overtures to give up a woman, supposed to be Mrs. Margetts, or Mrs. Wilson, and a boy, in exchange for an another Indian, in custody of the troops. 4th: Elder Edward Martin, with over 700 Saints, as I was informed, with hand-carts, and Capt. Hawkins, with a company of Saints from the Cape of Good Hope, and other places, passed up the river road; we missed seeing them, on account of coming over the mountain road; we lay by half a day, on the 5th to send letters to Elder Martin and others, but our messengers returned without seeing them. In the afternoon of the 5th, we passed Capt. Hunt, with a company of 50 wagons, encamped a few miles to the west of Chimney Rock or about 580 miles from Great Salt Lake City; they were tarrying to bury a small child. This was the rear company of this season’s emigration, and the last of them who I took by the hand was brother Linforth, from the Office in Liverpool, who desired to be remembered to Elders Pratt, Benson, Calkin, Kay, the clerks in the office, the Saints in Liverpool.
On the 12th and 13th we had heavy rains, when the weather again cleared up, and we had a view of the moon, when partially eclipsed; for a few days afterwards the roads were heavy for traveling, many pools of water remaining thereon, and on the 23rd and 24th, we had crossed the Loup Fork; the road was still bad, but the remainder of the journey has been as fine and favourable as our hearts could well desire. I may say that we have been blessed by the Lord God of Israel with beautiful weather for our journey; He has blessed us with exceeding good health, not one having been sick a day; He has preserved our animals unto us that not one has fallen by the way, or been stolen by marauding thieves. He has blessed us in enabling us to pass through the barren wastes inhabited by Indiana, a few of whom have been shot down by United States troops, while peaceably eating corn, and who were according to their natures and traditions bound by the laws of honour to send as many whites to the Spirit land as they had lost, and were therefore in hostile array, to such an extent that the Postmaster at Fort Kearney said he does not send the United States mail, stating it could not go in safely, although escorted by a company of United States dragoons; and although several apostates, Gentiles, and a few traders joined us at Horse Shoe Creek and Fort Laramie, in order to go through in safety; still we have come through in peace, for they had to submit to the laws and regulations of the missionary camp; neither have we had much difficulty in crossing the various streams, except the Loup Fork. Therefore we ascribe the praise and glory to our Father in Heaven for His preserving care over us while traveling across these deserts, and trust in Him to open the way before us for the remainder of our journey.
Pray for us, brethren, Saints, that we may be prospered on the remainder of our journey; that we may soon be with you to help you roll on the cause of our God on earth; that the day may be hastened that the honest in heart may b e gathered together from the four quarters of the globe; and Zion built up, and a place prepared that the Son of Man may come and bless his Saints, and reign triumphant over the earth.
In the bonds of everlasting covenant,
I remain, dear brother Pratt.
Your obedient servant in the Lord,
[Millennial Star, 18:811]
[Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Oct. 28, 1856, 1-2]