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Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
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Pioneer 1848-1868 Companies

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Peter Howard McBride, 1856 (age 6) - From Ireland
(Martin Handcart Company. His father crossed the Platte River 25 times helping others and died that night.)

Peter Howard McBride, son of Robert and Margaret Howard McBride, was born in Ireland May 3, 1850. He was the youngest son in a family of five children, his sister Jenetta and two brothers Heber Robert and Ether Enos, older than he, and a baby sister Margaret, three years younger. His father and mother, Robert and Margaret Howard McBride, lived on the shore of the island which is situated in the Firth of Clyde. He tells of his grandparents, Robert McBride and Jenett Sharp, who lived in Aukive, Ireland: "My grandfather was a sailor. I have heard him say he had landed in every port where a ship could stick it's hull. He had a fine home but was seldom there. I well remember one time my grandfather anchored his ship close to our home and launched a boat with his effects and rowed to shore, got a wheelbarrow and piled his things on it and hurried for the house. A wave struck us, grandfather put me on top of the load and by the time we were up on the hill the water stood thirty feet deep where we had just been." Items from the journal of Peter Howard McBride follow:

Grandfather, like a lot of the Irish at that time, believed in fairies. The country in Ireland is a paradise of flowers, grass, wooded land, with the heather blooming everywhere. They would arise early in the morning before the break of day, slip out into the wonderland of flowers in order to get a glimpse of the fairies before they scampered away. They had manv myths and great imagination. When I was three years old our family moved to Churchtown, England, then to Southport. When we reached Liverpool, our trunks were loaded onto carts and we were taken to the home of our grandparents where so many cousins and uncles and aunts had gathered to see us that we scarcely had room to move around.

We finally got settled in Southport where my parents first heard the Gospel, and lived there for three years. Father was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on the 1st of August 1837 by Orson Hyde, and mother was baptized the 4th of January 1838 by Heber C. Kimball. From that time, our home was open to the elders where services were held, the sacrament administered and many missionaries found a haven of rest. Mother held open house, always had something ready to serve hungry elders and a good bed for them to rest in.

To America
In the year 1856 my father and mother definitely decided to emigrate to America as they had heard of the wonderful place, America is. After leaving their home in Southport, we visited with my mother's people before going on our long journey. We were not treated so very kindly by them. My grandfather said, "I never want to see nor hear from you again. If you should write, your letters will be burned before we read them. I hope you will all be swallowed up in the ocean before you land on that cursed American shore. You bring disgrace to the family name by joining such a church."

We went from my grandparents" house in Manchester by railroad to Liverpool and waited two days for the ship which was to carry us across the ocean. It was a new ship, had only made one trip across the ocean, and was in command of Captain Reed. We sailed for America in April, landed in Boston, May 3rd on my birthday. Part of the Manchester Choir was on board and there was lots of singing. One song in particular being, "We, we won't marry none but Mormons," and when the ship landed, Capt. Reed made a speech to the Saints in which he said, "The song says, I won't marry none but Mormons," and I will say, if I ever bring immigrants again I'll carry none but Mormons."

The Trek
All was hustle getting past the customs officers and getting our belongings into the cars and started westward for Zion. We were permitted to ride on the train to Iowa City, the terminus of the railroad at the time. From Chicago, we had to ride in cattle and freight cars. The night we arrived in Iowa, there was the worst storm I ever have experienced, thunder, lightning, rain coming down in torrents. There were wagons to take our bedding and luggage to camp three miles away, but we had to walk. Parents lost their children and children their parents, but we finally got settled in tents for the night, but were all glad when morning came as the sun was shining brightly. It was warm and the people could dry their bedding and clothes. At this place, the company was delayed three weeks waiting for handcarts and the people got very nervous and uneasy at the long delay, as they realized the time was getting short for such a long journey before cold weather set in.

At last the two-wheeled carts were ready, and we were assigned one. It was afternoon when we started. Some grumbled at such a late start, but Captain Henry Martin explained it was wise to just go a short way at first to get the people used to such mode of traveling. Later they could see the wisdom. And so, we traveled across the Iowa plains, crossing rivers, and small streams until we reached the Missouri river at a place they called Council Bluffs. Went on to Florence where a ferry boat took us across the river where we waited several days for the Daniel Tyler Company. It was such a large company that we had to travel slowly across the Nebraska plains. We children and the old folks would start early so we wouldn't get too far behind at night. A great many handcarts broke down, oxen strayed away which made traveling rather slow. Quite an undertaking to get nearly a thousand persons who had never had any camping experience to travel and eat, and cook over a campfire. It took much patience from the captains to get them used to settling down at night to get started in the morning.

So, on we went till we got to the Wyoming line, then it got cold. Our provisions got lower. I remember some men passed us one day, stopped to talk. They gave my baby sister, Margaret (Maggy we called her) some little cookies. She carried them in her little pocket and I was always with her and would tease her for a bite. She would give me a taste once in a while and it was so good. No cake I ever tasted since was so good. My little sister and I were cut down to one ounce of flour a day. The exposure of cold, rain, sleet and snow and ice, pushing and pulling handcarts all day; the scarcity of wood and food, caused many of the strongest men to perish.

Crossing the Platte River (Casper, WY)
When we came to the upper crossing of the Platte, the river was flowing with ice water waist deep and quite dangerous to cross. Four of the strongest men were appointed to take care of each handcart. Lots of women waded the river all right but the children were put on the handcarts. A man by the name of Cyrus Wheelock, just returned from a mission to the Eastern States, was riding a horse. He carried a lot of the children over on it, even helped pull some of the handcarts by a rope fastened to his saddle. One time he had three boys on, one in front and two behind. I was the last boy on that side of the river, thought I would try to wade across. He told me to climb up behind the two boys and hold onto them, which I did. We crossed the river all right, then the horse leaped up a steep bank and I slid off just in the shallow water, held on to the horse's tail and came out all right.

That night the wind was blowing very cold and the carts were all sheltered behind a big cliff, but the snow drifted in the tents being covered up. My father died that night in our tent. He had worked all day pulling, pushing, wading through the icy river, and he made about twenty-five trips across the river helping to get all the people and carts across. My mother was sick all the way and my sister Jenetta Ann had all the worry of taking care of us children. She carried water from the river for cooking purposes; her shoes gave out and she walked through the snow barefoot, actually leaving bloody tracks in the snow. Father was a good singer. He had charge of the singing in our company. The next morning funeral services were held in our tent for him. Cyrus Wheelock was the speaker. Father was wrapped in a sheet, carried out by two men. They laid him on the snow. When they gathered all the dead, they just dragged them across the snow by the feet to the hole made on the river bank where they piled in thirteen men into one grave. They put dirt over them as best they could, then some logs to keep the wolves from getting the bodies.

The Rest of the Journey
We didn't travel far the next day. My mother was so sick and my sister Jenetta Ann worn out, but we couldn't stop long for anything. When we got to Sweetwater, we camped. A meeting was held and the people decided we could go no farther, snow so deep and no food. We were doomed to starvation all would stay here and die together. They gave me a bone of an oxen that died. I cut off the skin, put the bone in the fire to roast. When it was done, some big boys came and ran away with it, then I took the skin, boiled it and drank the soup and ate the skin and it was a good supper.

Later we had a terrible cold spell. The wind drifted snow into our tent till we thought we would freeze. I shivered so much I knew I would die. I heard freezing was an easy death. The wind blew the tent down, they all crawled out but me. I began to feel warm and the tent closed down around me, the snow fell on it, I went to sleep and slept warm all night. In the morning I heard some one say, "How many are dead in this tent?" My sister said. "Well there are five children Robert, Ether, Maggy and myself. My little brother Peter must be frozen to death in that tent." So they jerked the tent loose, sent it scurrying over the snow, my hair was frozen to the tent. I picked myself up and came out quite to their surprise.

That day we got word that some teams were coming to meet us from the valley. That night three teams came and reported more on the road and no one but a person having gone through that experience can imagine what a happy moment it was for this belated handcart company. Men, women, and children knelt down and thanked the Almighty God for our delivery from certain death. It put new life into all the people. The next day several teams arrived and there was room for us all to ride, but men had to dear the road of snow before the wagons could make the grade.

We were given food but were told that most of it must be saved for the men who had to get us to the Valley. Fires were made along the road so we could warm at intervals. And when the summit of Big Mountain was reached, everyone could ride down the long hill.

The wagon we were in belonged to Ebenezer Richardson of Ogden City. We finally arrived in Salt Lake City, November 30, 1856; our teamster took us to his sister's place where we were kindly treated. The next day we drove as far as Farmington. The snow was very deep. We stopped at another place that night and oh, how different the treatment. After the older folks were through with supper, there wasn't any food left for us hungry children and we were put to bed haft starved.

Next morning, we started for Ogden; we arrived about sundown and were taken to an old gentleman's house. His wife had been dead about two years. He told his housekeeper to fix us some food. We had plenty to eat that night; everyone in that part of the country was very poor, having been driven from their homes in the East and robbed of all they had. They were just getting homes started again and a few things around them.

Soon after stopping there my mother got a little house with a dirt roof and a dirt floor. A fireplace in one end and when it would rain, water and mud would run down the walls and on to our beds. And we children would say to mother, "Mother, is this Zion?" and she would answer, "Never mind children, the Lord will provide." I have thought many times how mother must have felt to live in such a place after having a comfortable home all her life, but I never heard her complain. Some men brought us some wood but had to grub sagebrush to keep the fire going. There were five mouths to feed and it was a hard struggle. I've heard my baby sister cry herself to sleep for want of food, and say, "Take me to my own home." Our diet that winter was squash, corn meal and salt. We got through the winter somehow and then we dug sego to help with the diet. Mother was sick most of the winter but when spring came she got better. Jenetta found work. Also the older boys, and conditions changed. My brothers went to school barefoot that winter as did many other boys in town.

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.