Heritage Gateways

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

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1857 (age 17), McCune, Harry F. (from India via New York City)

Living in India
I, Harry F. McCune, was born on the 31st of May, 1840, in Calcutta, India. My father's name is Matthew McCune, he was born on the 23rd of July, 1811, in the Isle of Man. My mother's name is Sarah Elizabeth Caroline Scott, she was born on the 28th of January, 1812, in London, England. They were married on the 11th of April, 1835, and started soon after on their way to India; my father being an officer in the British Army. They were three months on the voyage in a sailing ship, steamships being unknown in those days.

My eldest brother, Alexander John, was born in Calcutta on the 21st of February, 1836. My only sister, Agnes Jane, was born on the 21st of March, 1838; she died on the 31st of May, 1839. Toward the last of February, 1843, my dear parents were plunged into great grief, my brother Alex then seven years old was bitten by a mad dog, and soon developed hydrophobia, and on the ninth day died a horrible death.

On the 8th of April, 1842, my brother Alfred Robert was born. On the 15th of September, 1844, my brother William Thomas was born. On April 2nd, 1846, they too died of cholera, one hour between their deaths, and at 4 p.m. the same day they were in their graves. I remember, though only six years old, the awful grief my dear parents were again called upon to bear, and I was once again their only child. I have awakened often in the nights following the death of my little brothers and found my dear parents" anxious faces bending over me. At that time hundreds of English soldiers and civilians died daily from that dreaded disease, Asiatic cholera. My brother George was born on the 27th day of December, 1846; Alfred William on the 11th of July, 1849, and Edward James on the 27th of September, 1851.

About this time the Gospel of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was introduced into Calcutta by a couple of English sailor boys, Benjamin Ritchie and George Barber. They were about 18 years old, and did not hold any priesthood, but they had with them some Gospel literature which they gave to my father and his friends. The result was that Father and two of his friends decided to send to Elder Lorenzo Snow, who then presided over the European Mission, for some Church works, which arrived three months later, and the consequence was they were converted and wrote again to Elder Snow, this time requesting that an elder be sent to baptize them. In due course of time a sailor by the name of Joseph Richards arrived in Calcutta and he baptized my father and mother, James P. Meik and wife, and Maurice White in the first of the year 1851. These were the first fruits of the Gospel in far-off India, and all five came to Utah in the early days and remained faithful to the end. So did Brothers Ritchie and Barber.

In the year 1852, war broke out in Burma, and my father's battalion of artillery was ordered to the front. I was then past twelve, and on the 14th of July my father baptized me. He then left for the war. Soon after his departure, thirteen Elders from Utah were announced in the papers as having arrived at the Sandheads to colonize India. I, being the only male representative of the Church in Calcutta, my mother sent me with several of our servants and four carriages to meet the elders at the river side. When I reached the river, I saw the ship coming in tow of a tug.

I engaged four large boats and went on board as soon as the ship dropped anchor, and was welcomed by the elders. One of them, Chauncey W. West, took me in his arms and said: "Brethren, this is the little man I saw in my vision last night." They then asked me what I had brought so many servants for. I informed them that they were to carry their baggage. They had a good laugh, for they were expecting to carry their own baggage. Among these elders was Amos Milton Musser, who, years later, became the father-in-law to my youngest daughter.

My mother bade them a hearty welcome, and appointed a servant to each elder, and a room to each one, for our house contained forty rooms. In a short time the elders left for their various fields of labor in different parts of India. A few stayed in Calcutta, but some could not endure the awful climate and soon turned their faces homeward; the balance of them did not stay very long.

Nathaniel V. Jones, the president of the mission, advised my father to get out of India as soon as it was possible for him to wind up his affairs, for the judgments of God were about to be poured out on India, a prophecy that was fulfilled to the very letter, for a few months later came the Great Sepoy Mutiny.

From India 1856-57 (age 16)
In 1854 the British troops had subjugated the Burmese Empire, and peace was proclaimed. My father sent for his family to join him in Rangoon. Soon after arriving in Rangoon, my father secured a commission for me as cadet in the British Navy, and I was assigned to the little gunboat Diana, in which I made one trip up the Irrawaddy River, and on my return was transferred to the Lord Wm. Bentick, a much larger vessel. In 1856 my parents decided that the time had arrived when we should flee to Zion, in accordance with the counsel given to my father by Elder N. V. Jones, prior to his leaving for home.

My mother and three brothers preceded Father and myself, going to Calcutta in July, while we followed in October. On the 10th of December, 1856, we left Calcutta for New York in the sailing ship Escort, Captain Alfred Hussey. Just after Christmas I was taken very ill with typhoid fever and was very low for many days. My parents despaired of my life, and I caught them in tears more than once by my bedside.

At last one morn we were becalmed and our good ship rolled fearfully, and I could hear the sails flapping against the masts, when the man at the wheel suddenly shouted down through the skylight, "Captain, there is a large shark following the ship!" My heart immediately seemed to stop beating and I made up my mind that I must die. I was perfectly conscious but speechless. The captain was sitting at his breakfast, with my father and brothers. My dear mother was weeping by my bedside, when Father jumped up and looking at me he said, "He shan't have you Harry!"

He reached up to the ceiling and took down a harpoon and went on deck and in a few minutes we heard a great noise of splashing in the sea, and cheering by the ship's crew. My life was spared, the shark was harpooned and my heart began its proper functions. In a few weeks I was on deck again. The sailor's old superstition is that if a person is sick at sea and a shark follows the ship that person is sure to die. I knew of this superstition, having followed the sea for two years, and believed in it; therefore, I believed my time had come, but the Lord willed it otherwise, and the great shock was the turning point of the disease.

New York City, 1857
On the 28th day of March, 1857, we arrived in New York; a hundred and eight days from pilot to pilot. My father rented a house in Williamsburgh, now Brooklyn, No. 75 Grant St., and we moved into it on a Saturday evening. Sunday morning came, and with it, the first trial of my young life. You must know that I was raised an aristocrat, as my beloved parents were before me, but they in their wisdom were doing their utmost to overcome their false pride and desired that their children should follow their example; but it was born and bred in us. As an instance, on this particular Sunday morning, Father called me early and requested me to go down into the kitchen and start a fire in the stove, which I eagerly started to do as there appeared to be some fun in it, and besides that there would be no one to twit me and touch my dignity. I got to the stove, which was an old-fashioned step stove and I found two doors in the thing; one opened into a very small place, which I afterwards learned was the fire box. I thought that was entirely too small a space to make a fire in, so I chose the larger one, the oven, and filled it as full as it would hold with paper and kindlings and set it afire. You can imagine the result. My father came downstairs in his nightie.

"Harry, whatever is the matter?"

I couldn't answer for coughing and sneezing. Father was no wiser than his son, who thought he knew it all. Finally the servant arrived on the scene and when she saw what was the matter, she rushed to the door and laughed and screamed, which made me very angry and I scolded her for her impudence, which made her laugh the more. I began to realize that I was in the free land of America, where Jack is as good as his master.

Next moment, Father handed me two buckets and told me to go across the street to pump and bring two buckets of water. For the first time in my short life I refused to obey my father. He did not get angry but reasoned with me, but to no purpose. Finally he picked up the pails and started to go out. Oh, how dreadfully humiliated I felt to see my aristocratic father bemeaning himself so. I watched him as he walked deliberately to the pump where a dozen or more servant girls were awaiting their turn.

What do you suppose that dear aristocrat, my father, did? He went to work and pumped water for all those girls while they were giggling and snickering all the time he was pumping. It made me mad all through me, to think that my father would so disgrace himself as to pump for those servants. But he finished his task, and filled his own two pails and brought them to the house brimming full, and the girl soon emptied them. "Now, my boy," Father said, "you try it."

Well, I couldn't refuse after seeing him do it, so I very reluctantly picked up the pails and ran across the street to the pump, waiting until some girls had filled their vessels, then I pumped vigorously and filled the buckets full and carried them on the run to the house, and when I set them down they were only half full. I had spilled half of each pail in my rush, but thank the Lord in due time I got over such foolishness.

Apostle John Taylor was in New York, when we landed there, publishing the Book of Mormon, and he was very kind to us. The Church meetings were held in Brook's Assembly Hall. I have forgotten the name of the street. On the occasion of a social given by the Saints in this hall, we boys saw for the first time in our lives snow. During the party a light snow had fallen and my younger brothers thought it was sugar and shouted in Hindustani, "Dako cheyney hai," (look, it is sugar!) and grabbed a handful each, but their joy soon turned to grief as the cold snow nipped their fingers.

To Council Bluffs, Iowa, 1857
We left New York about the first week in May for Iowa City, the outfitting point. In passing through Chicago, my father purchased two wagons from Peter Schuttler for himself and many more for other members of the company who were on their way from Delaware. These people joined us later in Iowa City. A few days after our arrival in Iowa City, our wagons arrived by rail and were dumped out on the prairie, three miles out of town, and we had to put them together. Then our cattle arrived from Missouri; about half of them were young unbroken steers. Then the fun began, matching the teams and breaking them into work, which in due time was done, and about the end of May we started on our long journey to the valleys of the mountains. My father drove one of our teams and I the other. We were about a month on our way in reaching Council Bluffs, on the banks of the Great Missouri River. By this time our young steers were getting quite tractable, and worked nobly in their yokes, and I had become quite adept as a teamster.

To Utah (age 17), Captain Hoffheins" Company
Our captain and guide for the journey was a German by the name of Jacob Hoffheins who was the only man of our people Apostle John Taylor could find who had had any experience on the plains. He had recently returned from a mission in Germany, and had also been a member of the Mormon Battalion. We crossed the Missouri River on a ferry, there being no bridges in those days across the great river. The cattle were made to swim across, which was a very difficult task, but was finally accomplished safely, and we camped on the historic ground, Winter Quarters, now known as Florence. We remained here about a month; during that time we were joined by a company of Saints from St. Louis under the leadership of Elder James Hart. Apostle John Taylor thought it best for the two companies to join under the leadership of Hoffheins, as Captain Hart had never crossed the plains. Our conjoint company now consisted of sixty wagons. I was 17 years old at this time.

We left Winter Quarters, or Florence, on a beautiful June morning for the Great West. All went well as we traveled on towards our future home until we came to the Loup Fork River, a very dangerous stream which we had to ford; being full of quicksand made the river very difficult fording, especially as we had to go up the bed of the stream for over a mile. We put twelve yoke of oxen onto a wagon and were obliged to keep them in quick motion all the way over or the wagons and oxen would sink and be lost. It took us all day to ford the sixty wagons across this treacherous stream, but it was accomplished without accidents, and everybody was happy.

We were now in the buffalo country, and we encountered tens of thousands every day for weeks. We often had to stop and let large herds of them across the road before we could move on. Our hunters, my father being the chief, kept us well supplied with fresh meat, and we dried quite a lot and brought it into the valley so that we had dried or jerked meat all the following winter. The only trouble that we encountered with the Indians was the stampeding of our cattle by which our company lost forty head of our youngest oxen, two of that number were my father's, which crippled us greatly. We followed their trail for two days and it lead us into a great desert, where we were obliged to give up the chase as our horses were ragged out, and there was no feed nor water. So we were obliged to return empty-handed, tired out and very sleepy, having had no rest or sleep for two nights....

In due time we arrived at Fort Laramie, where we found some French traders who had a big herd of cattle, supposed to be cattle stolen from other companies by the Indians, with whom they were in league. My father purchased a yoke of oxen from them, to replace the yoke that was run off by their emissaries, the Indians. The plains in those days were teaming with game, from buffaloes to prairie chickens and rabbits, deer and antelope in droves. So we had all the fresh meat we could wish for, but we did not kill for sport, only just what was needed for our daily use. That was President Brigham Young's counsel to all of the emigrants.

About the first of September we arrived at a place called Deer Creek, where we met Elder Nathaniel V. Jones for the first time since he left us in India, and it was a very happy meeting. He was dressed in a buckskin suit, and looked grand, as he was a tall, handsome man. He kindly let us have a yoke of big fat oxen, which helped us greatly and for which we were grateful, as our faithful cattle were drilled down very thin and weary, and were very sore-footed.

Salt Lake City
We arrived in Salt Lake City on the 21st day of September, 1857, and pitched our tent on the 8th Ward Square, now occupied by the City and County Building. The next day Elder Elam Ludington, one of the Utah missionaries to India, invited us to his home, where we were made very welcome by his good wife. He lived in the 11th Ward. We remained with them a few weeks, until Elder Truman Leonard advised Father to move to Farmington, where he helped him plow and put in fall wheat.

Utah War
We soon moved back to Salt Lake and it was not long before I was called to go out to Echo Canyon as a soldier to keep an invading army of the United States Troops from entering the Valley for the avowed purpose of exterminating the Mormons. I was stationed near Yellow Creek Ridge, at a place called Lost Station, under command of Major John R. Winder, and remained there until the 30th of May, 1858, when the U. S. Government agreed to the terms as outlined or laid down by Governor Brigham Young.

Our command marched back into Salt Lake on the evening of the 31st of May, the Government troops followed us three days later, and marched down South Temple Street across the Jordan River, and pitched their camp. When our command entered the city, every house was empty and the windows and doors were nailed up with lumber and slabs, and not a woman or child was to be seen on the streets; the city was deserted, and preparations had been made to set fire to every house, if the terms agreed upon were not strictly observed, which was that the troops were to march right through the city across Jordan and not to return.

There were about 500 of us hid up in the houses along South Temple Street, and with loaded rifles and our orders were "to let them have it" if they interfered with anything; then we were to set fire to the houses, and flee to the mountains. But the Government troops were very orderly and marched through very quietly. The people had all gone south, and I could not find out where my folks had gone until I had wandered about the city a month, when I happened to meet Colonel Thomas Smith, who, with his daughter, was freighting two wagons loaded with flour south of Provo. He was from Farmington, and told me that my folks were at a place called Salt Creek, now Nephi, and he would take me within eight miles of the place, and invited me to jump in and go along, which I gladly did, and drove the team which his daughter was then driving. His destination was Willow Creek, now Mona. In four days we arrived there, and the next morning I shouldered my rifle and blankets and started for Salt Creek. I arrived there about noon and was united with my beloved parents and brothers. I found them busy getting up hay, wild hay, there was no alfalfa in those days. From this on began a new era in my life, and that is farming. My father wanted his boys to be farmers and I couldn't see that there was anything else in this wild and woolly west, so farming it was, and farming it had to be.

My advent into Salt Creek was in the first week of July. A day or so after my arrival my father told me to go to Brother Isaac Grace and to ask him when we could have the water to irrigate a crop of wheat that my father had put in on a piece of land that Brother Grace had kindly let him have the use of for that season. The first person I met as I got to the door of the house was Brother Grace's daughter, Miss Elizabeth Grace, a lovely girl of fifteen years, and with whom I instantly fell deeply in love and who three years later became my beloved wife. She was standing by a spinning wheel, spinning wool yarn. She wore a short dress and was barefoot and right there, I knew that she was all the world to me. It was hard times with the people in those days. In fact, they were in the very depths of poverty as far as clothing and groceries were concerned and those who had a few sheep were fortunate. Brother Grace was one of these and he had a small flock of sheep. His daughter Elizabeth spun the wool into yarn and then wove the yarn into cloth, and her mother made it up into clothing for the family. After the army came in, clothing and many other commodities became plentiful, so the army, instead of exterminating us, proved a blessing in disguise. Truly, "God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform."

After harvesting our small crop of wheat in Salt Creek, Father and I went with our oxteam to Farmington and harvested the crop there, and returned to Salt Creek and began hauling up our winter's wood from the mountains. (End of Autobiography)

In 1861 Harry married Elizabeth Grace and to them were born thirteen children; eleven have survived them. He fought in the Black Hawk War. He was one of the first to plant an orchard in Nephi, and every tree the year after planting was pulled up by the roots by the Indian Chief Walker and some of his men. A member of Nephi's first brass band that often accompanied Brigham Young on his southern trips, Harry also held many other important positions both religious and political. He was a member of Juab Stake Sunday School Board for a number of years. The last thirty years of his life were spent as a temple worker. On his 80th birthday, he was ordained a patriarch in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by President Heber J. Grant. He died December 15, 1924.

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.