Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
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Pioneer 1847 Companies

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Kartchner, Wiliam Decatur, 1846-47 (Mississippi Saint, San Bernardino)

Hartford, Montgomery, Pennsylvania was the birthplace of William Decatur Kartchner. He was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints May 8, 1843. Mr. Kartchner started westward with the Mississippi Saints, and failing to meet the pioneer company under Brigham Young as planned en route, he wintered in Pueblo, Colorado with other members of the company and the sick detachment of the Mormon Battalion quartered there. This group of southern Saints entered Salt Lake Valley a few days behind the vanguard company. Events described to 1855, inclding trek to San Bernardino

On the first day of March 1846, we started in what was known as the Mississippi company. Crossing at St. Louis we traveled up through Jackson county, Missouri to Independence, and soon after organized our company with William Crosby, Captain. About the middle of June we arrived at Grand Island on the Platte River, where according to previous agreement, President Young and the Pioneer Camp were to meet us. Not finding them after waiting one week, we concluded to go southwest between two and three hundred miles and wait, for we were at the end of our instructions.

When we arrived at Pueblo on the Arkansas River, we found small farms of corn cultivated by Indians mostly and traders, who had Indian squaws for wives, of whom we bought corn and prepared for winter quarters, building a row of log houses on the opposite bank of the river from Fort Pueblo. When we had about completed the houses a detachment of the Mormon Battalion composed of the sick and disabled, under the command of James Brown and Captain Nelson Higgins, hearing of our camp on the Arkansas, was sent by Colonel Cooke to our camp for a change of diet, as we were traveling emigrants and would have cows and plenty of milk; which was advised by the army surgeon, by whom we learned the cause of President Young's delay.

Allow me to retract a little, and go back to Camp Pueblo, where it was determined to winter. Brother Crow, by council of his wife, broke his obligations to furnish me and wife with provisions and turned us out of his wagon and withheld provisions. I made camp under a large cottonwood tree to the mercy of kind friends in an unsettled country. John Brown a brother of Sister Crow, gave us some flour and bacon and blessed us, and said we should have supplies in some way. On the 17th of August, 1846 our first little angel daughter was born, under that tree, under these destitute circumstances, not knowing where succor was to come from to make Brother Brown's promise fulfilled. When our babe was a week old, a messenger was sent from Bent's Fort, 80 miles below, for a blacksmith and the man brought a horse for me to ride. I recommended James Harmon as gunsmith who accompanied me.

We started next day, leaving my young wife and babe to the kindness of Catherine Holladay. Two days of hard ride to the fort. Our first day out we encountered a large grizzly bear and after a shot apiece from J. Harmon and myself, we broke him down in the back. He ran towards us dragging his hind parts, when Harmon drew his pistol and finished him. On arrival at Bent's Fort we were welcomed by Mr. Holt, the bushway of the Fort or boss. I went to work and made what is known in shops by the name of "Stake Horn" in lieu of anvil, on which Mr. Harmon welded the hubbands and other small work, while I welded the tires and set them and other heavy work. The work was mostly for the U. S. Army, under the command of General Kearny, then under way for the scene of action, the Mexican War.

We worked until late in the fall most of the time at $2.00 each per day. We lay hard and slept cold, so that I had another attack of rheumatism and returned to Pueblo sick, but with my money with which I was enabled to buy corn and an old wagon. During my absence the part of the Mormon Battalion who was sick under command of Captain Brown and Higgins, had come to our camp and built a row opposite our row of log cabins for winter quarters and placed over the doors signs for sport. One night an alarm was given that 500 Spaniards was close by marching into camp ... The camp of Spaniards proved to be a band of elk ... During the winter my wife went in snow knee deep many times to the grove 100 yards away and carried a limb from the cottonwood tree for fuel. During my confinement with rheumatism we received word that President Young and the Pioneers would start from the Missouri River early spring and we were to intercept their company at Fort Laramie and preparations for the journey made business for all. I repaired my wagon sitting on the bed before I could stand on my feet. My wife carried the parts of the wagon to me needing repairs, although kind friends helped us to get ready.

Sometime in April we were ready to start and Brother Sebert Shelton furnished us a second yoke of oxen. I was unable to walk and Jackson Mayfield and his brother, John, and Lysander Woodert or Woodworth hunted my team and yoked them day by day. In a few days I could get out by the wagon tongue, and by means of a small vise screwed to the wagon tongue, I, by use of files, did many jobs of blacksmithing for the brethren. Also fit up one pair of spurs I had forged at Bent's Fort. Arrived at the Chahely Poo River, a tributary of the Platte River.

Amasa M. Lyman, one of the Twelve, and Thomas Woolsey sent from the Pioneer Camp with a message from President Young, met us on the above river. On meeting them Brother John Hess ran, embraced and kissed Amasa for joy. When our camp arrived at Laramie, the main road, we were three days behind the Pioneer Camp and traveled about that distance from the main camp until we entered the Salt Lake Valley. President Young's health was poor. He, wife and three or four others lingered on the road, so that we caught up within a few miles of his camp.

We traveled a day or two behind the Pioneer Camp and arrived in Salt Lake City the 27th or 28th of July, 1847. President Brigham Young and H. C. Kimball and other men were our escorts and bid us welcome. We moved into the Pioneer Camp and soon conformed to the general rule of being baptized for the remission of sins. My wife, Margaret Jane, was sick with mountain fever, when we went to City Creek and was baptized by H. C. Kimball and was confirmed with all our former ordinations and blessings pronounced upon us.

We were directed to build a fort surrounding ten acres of land. We ploughed a narrow strip outside of the line designed for the wall, turned on the water and tromped it with the oxen and made adobes and built the outside wall very thick with occasional portholes. We drew our lots or space inside to build our houses. My house was the third house north of the west gate of the old Fort. A Liberty pole was erected on the east side of the middle of the Fort. A short time after its completion, one of the Mormon Battalion boys by name, Daniel Brown, had his hands tied high to the pole and with shirt off had several stripes administered on his bare back for stealing a lariat. Burr Frost was the first blacksmith who put up a shop and worked. My shop was the second in the valley, which was on the east side of the Fort, and tools furnished by Thomas S. Williams who never paid me a cent for my winter's work in the shop.

Spring arrived, we were to farm as we had traveled, by tens, fifties, and hundreds. The land our ten drew was on a high bench six miles southwest of the city and our captain, John Holladay, Sr. He asked permission from his captain for us to locate three miles farther south at the large spring. It was granted, and soon we moved out there, built a row of small houses and fenced a field. My rheumatism had now settled in my ankles and feet and I stood on my knees to do the ditching, and my portion of that fence.

During this time our breadstuff gave out. We had our last ox killed, an old favorite of mine. Our last bread was of a bushel of wheat I bought from our beloved Brother Parley P. Pratt, who had refused ten dollars in gold, and took one ton of hay for it. We could obtain no more for love or money. I went to town and bought four pounds of flour at 50 cents per pound for our little girl, our only child.

One lovely morning, latter part of June, 1848, our captain John Holladay, came to me holding a quarter of a skillet loaf of bread in his hand, eating at the same time of it and said."Brother William, what under heavens are we to do for bread?"

In March was a very pleasant spell of winter. On the tenth William Matthews planted his corn, urged me to plant my morsel of seeds, but as our next year's bread depended on the good use made of the few kernels of corn, I waited. A cold spell of weather set in, April, and Mr. Matthews seed corn rotted in the ground. He had other seed corn to supply and plant a second time and a third time replanted the same patch and he was put out with my slow actions. My corn ground was ploughed ready waiting for one month and on the 10th day of May, I planted the long saved seed. It soon sprouted and came up. It grew finally and to my surprise began to shoot near the ground as I never saw Spanish corn grow before, and had from six to eight ears to the hill, and we had sufficient for bread for three families.

In October of 1848 I went back to Emigration Canyon to meet my father-in-law and family. I met them on the Big Mountain. Soon after their arrival we all moved to Amasa's Survey, built a two story log house with two apartments for the two families. We hauled my abundant corn crop and shared equally and had some to spare for others. Next season we made a light crop of wheat and some corn. Winter of 1849 the settling of San Pete Valley was agitated and father-in-law wished to go on account of good range for his cattle. Early spring, after a hard winter and deep snow in San Pete he came to visit us and during his stay one of his oxen was driven to Salt Lake by some general drive being made ... he never got his ox. The winter of 1850, a project was set on foot by some of the Church authorities to plant a colony in southern California and some of the families were chosen by Amasa Lyman and others by Charles C. Rich. Myself and family were chosen by the former. I declined going. When Amasa heard it he said, "that if I refused to go he would cause me to have a worse mission," which scared me as I had not received endowments. I thought I would be excused on that ground but on February 8th, I was notified to be at the Endowment House for the purpose.

On arriving was ordained into the Quorum of Seventies by Jedediah M. Grant, afterwards placed in the 19th quorum and received endowments preparatory for the mission south. Met other families of the mission in the Endowment House. The winter was spent in preparing to start on the 13 of March, 1851; started and when arriving at Peteetneet, afterwards called Payson, we had organized into two companies, known as Parley's company and Lyman and Rich company. It seemed a great many more than was called was moving with us and President Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball called a meeting at this place and Heber preached and discouraged many from going. The teams of our company were mostly oxen unshod and became footsore when on the desert and many were left behind sore looted and for want of water. Brother Parley's company had mostly horses and mule teams and gained a month on us in traveling to California. In order to raise some money, two wagons of Parley's company was sent back with light loads of groceries to Mohave to meet us, which worked well. They raised considerable money to pay their passage to Valparaiso, South America.

First of July we camped in Cajon Pass and was counseled to remain there until a place could be purchased. Some few disobeyed and went to settlements. We remained in camp until September 1st instead, during which time I worked at blacksmithing under a sycamore tree, setting wagon tires. As no one was making anything the brethren burned coal for this work and was charged twelve and one-half cents per tire. During our stay in camp a stake was organized with David Seeley as president and Samuel Rolfe and Simmion Andrews, counselors. Bishop, William Crosby, with A. W. Collins and William Matthews, counselors, so that when we moved to the ranch we were fully organized. The sycamore tree after was known as the "Conference Tree" while it lived. The writer passed there in March, 1861, on a business trip returning to Beaver, Utah and saw the tree was dead, being burned at the roots.

In October we held the harvest feast in the meeting shed called Tabernacle, where the different kinds of produce were exhibited corn stalks sixteen feet long, melons 38 lbs. and mammoth pumpkins. A public dinner and dance and general good time for all.

During our seven years stay, many pilgrims came from Australia, mostly on their way to Salt Lake City, Utah, the gathering place of the Saints.

Source: Our Pioneer Heritage © Carter, Kate B., ed. 20 vols. Salt Lake City: International Society, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958-1977. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or by any means without permission in writing from the publisher. Documents and images are exerpted by permission from the LDS Family History Suite CDROM from Ancestry.