Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
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Pioneer 1847 Companies

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Sperry, Charles, 1847 (age 18), J.M. Grant Co., Life in Utah (1848)

I was born in Mecca in the state of Ohio, June 30, 1829. My father moved to Ohio from New York State when Ohio was a new country, where he opened up a farm and built a sawmill. We lived there until the spring of 1836 when he with his family moved to the state of Illinois, arriving in Adams County where my brother John had moved the year before. That same fall we moved to Laharpe, Hancock County, where I spent my boyhood days. My father bought a small farm, but built a house on the townsite, for it was a small place at that time. He worked at carpentering and millwrighting. During the winter he worked in the shop making spinning wheels and doing other mechanical work. I worked with him and learned the business.

In the summer of 1839 Father and part of the family joined the Mormon Church. There was a large branch of the Church built up in that town. During the trouble before and after Joseph Smith was martyred, mobs threatened to come and burn the town. It kept us constantly on the watch, guarding the roads to keep the mob out and I, although just a boy took my turn guarding the roads. [Search Sperry for the 1846 period]

It was understood that the pioneers would start early in the spring to find a place somewhere west of the Rocky Mountains to locate the Mormon people. On New Year's Day, 1847, my father called his children about his sick bed, exorting them to follow the Saints in their migration, then he died. One sister had married and gone east, but the remainder of the bereaved family, with two wagons and four teams of oxen and some cattle, set out in the second company to cross the plains that year.

It has always given me a great deal of satisfaction that we kept our promise to our father. We soon began preparing our wagons for starting the journey. We left Highland Grove, Iowa, about the middle of June. We crossed the Missouri River the third day out and made our way to Elk Horn, forded the stream on a log raft. Left there about the last day of June. The companies were organized into hundreds, fifties and tens. We traveled in the J. M. Grant Company, and Willard Snow's fifty, then we took our journey westward. There was a guard called out to go with the cattle when we camped. Sometimes there were so many companies camped together it was necessary to travel in two or three colonies. Sometimes the cattle remained out all night, but very often were brought up and corraled. We kept near camp as well as to our cattle. We traveled up the Platte River for hundreds of miles. Fort Laramie was about five hundred miles from Elk Horn and we crossed the Platte River for the first time at that place. The emigrants going to Oregon traveled on the south side while we traveled on the north side until we came to Fort Laramie then we traveled on the south side, then crossed over a ridge and struck the Sweetwater. We traveled up stream for some distance then crossed the backbone, passed Pacific Springs, after that the water ran west. We had a number of stampedes on the way out, the cattle would get frightened, break out of the corral and run off. At one time about twenty-five head broke away and went back to the Missouri River, which was about 150 miles. One of our oxen was with the bunch and he was brought out the next year. Sometimes the whole train of 50 or 100 oxen would stampede, then everyone would have to look out for himself to keep from being run over.

We arrived in Salt Lake Valley about the 5th of October, with five oxen, three cows and two wagons. It was a dry looking country to settle in. The land looked as if it hadn't been watered for twenty years. We went to work making adobes to build our houses with. All the adobes that were made then were eighteen inches long, nine inches wide and four inches thick. It was as much as a man wanted to do to lift one. After we got them made we didn't know how to lay them up as there were very few brick masons in the country. I went and watched a man at work for a few hours then went home, made me a plumb stick, got a line made and went to work laying up the house. All our houses, at that time, were flat on the top because it looked as if it never rained. We put on poles and dirt for covering. We had a very pleasant winter and it was quite warm. Our stock did quite well, considering they were poor when they came in. After we got our house finished I was a full-fledged mason and had all the work I could do. The next summer I was building on city lots. After we got into our house we seemed quite comfortable. During bad storms the roof leaked and at one time an entire side of the house caved in.

I was baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about the last of January 1848 by James G. Willey. The Saints got comfortably and sociably through that first winter. Then came the grasshopper plague when their resources were almost exhausted, threatened them with actual death from starvation. They were living on sego and thistle roots and game. We used to have dances and other amusements. At about this time I gave my attention somewhat to Miss Emily Miller; that made things a little more pleasant than they otherwise would have been. Our company seemed to be quite agreeable to both and on February 2 I st, 1848, we were joined together as husband and wife by Apostle John Taylor. We commenced housekeeping although we had no home of our own. We rented a farm and went there to live. Our breadstuff ran very short and I, with Daniel Miller and others, spent most of the summer hunting for a living. We found lots of game and raised some wheat and corn that year. In the summer quite a number of us went with wagons, crossing the Weber River into Echo Canyon. Among the number was my dear wife, Sister Eliza Snow, Sister Holmes, Father Miller, Daniel Miller, Isreal Hoyt and myself. We killed many antelope and the sisters gathered berries, so we lived on meat and berries. Isreal Hoyt and I came into Salt Lake just after harvest and when we rode through the Fort gate we saw a man winnowing some wheat on a wagon cover. We stopped, got off the horses, felt of the wheat, let it run through our fingers, and tasted it. I felt so thankful to see wheat that had been raised in the Valley that big tears ran down my face. Our folks had thrashed some, and we got about a bushel and a half, had it ground and started back to the canyon. We found the folks all well and there was great rejoicing in camp to learn that we had brought some flour or graham from wheat raised in the Valley. The sisters got a piece of cloth, sifted some graham and made some pie crust, made pies of the berries and currants and baked bread. We had a joyful time that night, had music and dancing. Sister Eliza R. Snow danced and felt full of joy. We stayed a few days longer and then returned home.

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.