1862 (age 14). Price (Kunkel), Isabella (Capt. Haight Company)
An Historic Letter
The following letter was written by Isabelle Price Kunkel to her daughter, Nellie May Doran telling of the family's journey to Utah in 1862. Mrs. Doran presented to the Daughters of Utah Pioneers her famous collection of dolls, honoring her pioneer mother.
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.450 Redondo Ave.
Salt Lake City, Utah
February 6, 1922
My dear Nellie May,
A few items or incidents that may be interesting to you that happened during our long journey to Utah, our grand old mountain home. I can't remember the time when the place was not talked about in our home, for we always planned to come some time. At last the time did really come.
Voyage to America
On Monday, the 14th day of May 1862, we left Birmingham for Liverpool, England, and went directly on board the ship, William Tappscott, commanded by Captain Bell (if I remember right, his name was William Bell). He was a fine man, bluff and ruddy but kindly and every inch a man. It was his third or fourth trip across the ocean with a shipload of Mormons, and he told my father that he never felt so safe or had better voyages than when he was bringing over a shipload of Latter-day Saints. This time there were eight hundred and fifty souls on board, including the crew. It was a sailing vessel depending entirely on the wind and sails to carry us across that big blue sea. We set sail about eight o'clock that same evening. How happy everyone was! As the ship began to move, hundreds of voices-men, women and children-began to sing: Come, Come Ye Saints; then Cheer Saints, Cheer, We Are Bound for Peaceful Zion, Cheer Saints Cheer for the Free and Happy Land; then Oh Ye Mountains High in the Clear Blue Sky, by Charles W. Penrose. It was one of the nights that I have never forgotten.
We were second-cabin passengers, the only accommodation to be had. Our cabin was a room with four berths in it. The light was from a large porthole covered with very thick blue glass. When the sea was not too rough, we had it open. Lorenzo used to always have a heavy fish line hanging out always hoping to land a big fish, but he never did. Our family consisted at that time of Father, Edward Price; Mother, Matilda Lawrence Price; and six children: Lorenzo age 16, Agnes 13, Walter 12, Linda 3, Eli 14 months and myself, Isabelle, 14 years. Matilda had come the year before in the care of some friends. She was 18 years.
There was a row of cabins similar to ours on each side of the ship, not all as large. They were numbered;ours was No. 1. In the center of the ship there were two long tables running down as far as the cabins reached. On each side of the table, long benches were secured safely to the floor. We had to do our own cooking. There was what they call a cooking galley. The stove in it was about ten feet square with a space about three feet all around it for the people to stand and hold on to their pans and sauce pans, for they would sometimes slide all over the stove, if the sea was a bit rough. That was my first initiation in cooking. Mother was seasick for two weeks. The night we set sail I don't remember that we had any supper; we had been too busy all day and too excited to think of eating.
It was lots of fun the next day to watch the sailors stow away the baggage for so many people. We youngsters all around the hatch-ways were watching them lower the trunks from the deck into the hold when all at once a little boy, a Welsh boy, leaned too far over and lost his balance and came tumbling down three stories to the hold. He just missed me. He almost struck me in the face as he passed the place where I was leaning over looking over too to see all I could. It was a wonder it did not kill the poor child. It broke his leg in two places. They put him in a cabin opposite ours. He was such a patient, jolly little fellow. When his leg did not pain him he used to sing: "Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel is a Motto for Every Man." He would sing at the top of his voice the chorus: "Drive care away, for grieving is a folly. Put your shoulder to the wheel is a motto for every man." That was our only accident during our trip on the ocean. Three babies died and were buried in the sea.
In the early part of June, we were in a dead calm for three days. The sailors said we had only traveled about three or four miles a day. It seemed so funny not to be moving after making good headway. It gave us a queer feeling to be so still. The sea was just as calm as a pan of water, not a ripple to be seen. Our ship had been traveling from 11 to 14 knots an hour. Then on the 21st of June we had a terrific storm of wind and rain. The waves were mountain high. As one end of the ship went down, you could not see over the top of the waves, the next minute the other would be down. It was the grandest sight that I ever saw, beautiful but awful in its grandeur. But havoc in the steerage and in our quarters too. The buckets, grips, pans and all kinds of cooking utensils and trunks were skating all over the place. A great many of the women and children were frightened nearly to death. Some felt sure we would be shipwrecked. It was after this awful storm that Captain Bell told my father he always felt perfectly safe when he had our people on board. There was no thought of cooking that day for no one was allowed on deck, but strange to say, we did not think of food or eating, not even (did) the children. About the 24th of June we arrived in New York and bid farewell to kind Captain Bell.
Train Travel during Civil War
We stayed in New York one night and left for St. Joe, Missouri; that was as far as the railroad went at that time. We arrived there on the 4th of July. We were all dreadfully tired. We had not had a chance to lie down for nine days and nights. What sleep we had was taken sitting up or leaning back in our seats, but for one day and night we did not even have that privilege. You see, we came during the Civil War and railroad cars were scarce, and one place, I think it was just before we reached Chicago, all the trains of cars that our folks had rented had been burned by the Rebels, so there were none at the station to be had. The depot master offered to rig up some box cars, or we could wait in the depot for twenty-four hours or maybe forty. There was nothing sure about their being able to furnish enough, so they put it to a vote of the people and, of course, the vote was for the boxcars rather than wait. So they put heavy planks across the boxcars quite close together, no back to lean against, and very little foot room.
We had not gone more than seventy-five miles when we met with an awful jolt. Everybody tumbled into each other's lap either backwards or forwards. It was all the same there wasn't room to fall on the floor. It seemed to me I bounded up to the top of the car, then fell into somebody's lap. Anyway there was some tall scrambling. I suppose every car was the same as ours. Of course, the train came to a full stop and the conductor came through the train to find out how many of us were hurt or killed. He looked with wonder when he found there was no one hurt or dead, said it was a miracle that he could not understand. What caused the trouble, someone had tried to wreck the train by putting the section men's hand-car across the track. Our boxcar train broke it to smithereens and passed on as though nothing had happened. Only another instance of the Lord's protecting care which we all felt, and I hope, appreciated.
Preparations at Florence
As I said, we arrived in St. Joe on the 4th and camped on the banks of the Missouri River that night. Next day we took a steamboat for a two-hundred mile ride up the river to a little place called Florence, about six miles from Omaha. There were not enough provisions on the boat to supply so many passengers, so we could only buy a little cornbread; we had never eaten any before and it was not as appetizing as it looked. We got off the boat on Sunday evening and as it was too late to get our tent, we had to camp for the second time on the banks of the riverside. Next morning our camping place was old Winter Quarters where the Saints spent the winter after leaving Nauvoo. We got our tents early in the day. Father and the boys had it up and the bedding unpacked and soon made cosy and nice for us. Then Father started off to get us a supply of provisions and cooking utensils for we were all getting very hungry. He had not been gone more than an hour before a tornado struck our camp and one of the worst electrical storms that I ever saw. First a terrific wind, then thunder, lightning and rain. In a few moments there were just six tents left standing out of the fifty-two. Half an hour before it bad looked like a little white city. Ours was one of the six that did not blow over. My mother, Lorenzo, Walter, Agnes and myself were holding it down for dear life with all the strength we had, and only a few of the pegs came loose, but the havoc the storm caused was awful. Within a hundred feet of our tent there was a baby born in the very worst of the storm. Three or four of the sisters were holding quilts and canvas over the mother while others were taking care of the babe as well as the mother. A few yards from us on the other side, a gentleman from Liverpool named Whitmore was killed with the lighting and a girl friend of mine was knocked unconscious and was dazed for days. At the same time there was a man driving a team of horses across the river and was blown off the bridge where we had camped the night before. The poor fellow's neck was broken and the horses were killed. John [Joseph] W. Young, a nephew of Brigham Young and president of the Emigration Company, was riding beside him on the seat when the wagon went over the bridge, but Mr. Young escaped death though he was battered up and bruised very badly. As soon as the storm was over, which was in about two hours from the time it commenced, Mother made us children take off our wet clothes and go to bed. She gave us all a glass of spiced wine that she brought from home to give us in case of emergency, so we did not take cold.
We were very much worried over our father for we did not know if he had been hurt in the storm, but he came back about five o'clock perfectly all right. He had just reached the store when the storm broke and, of course, had to stay there until it was over and had bought our supplies, but he was nearly crazy with anxiety to know how things were going with us in camp.
That evening was a very busy time readjusting tents, clothing and bedding. Every available man and boy was helping. Finally everything around camp was in shipshape order; it looked like a little city, about sixty tents in all.
The lady and baby were moved to a room over the Church store and everybody vied with each other in taking care of her, but there were no supplies delivered at our camp until Tuesday noon. The strange part of it was that we never thought of eating, not even the children asked for a piece of bread and butter. When we sat on the ground to eat our first meal at camp, we all remembered that we had not eaten anything since Sunday noon and now it was Tuesday evening, so you can imagine that it tasted good. I suppose there was too much excitement going on to think of eating.
We were camped at old Winter Quarters for four weeks waiting for teams to arrive from Salt Lake to take us on the rest of our journey, but I think the rest we had at camp helped to give us strength for the remainder of our long tramp. About the first of August we started on our journey across the plains. Our company consisted of fifty-two wagons and about sixty tents. I forget the exact number of people, but there were not so many wagons as was expected, so we were rather too crowded for comfort. There were fifteen people to each wagon and twelve to each tent, and by the time our trunks, bedding and provisions were packed, there was no room for any one to ride except the small children, of course, they had to ride.
Crossing the Plains
Mother felt pretty bad at having to take strangers in with us, but there was a widow with three children, two little boys and a baby girl. Her husband died about a month before we left home. She had a brother in Utah and he had sent for her, so the captain asked Father if he would take her in our wagon and we did so. She always slept in the wagon and our family in the tent, but oh my! she would not walk a step, she just sat and brooded and fretted from morning "till night until she lost all ambition for anything. She got so she had no strength or energy to take care of her children. If we had not cooked her meals and fed her babies, I fear they would have gone hungry. Once in a great while she made an effort to cook them a meal, but it seemed like she was glued to the wagon. I don't believe she would ever have attempted to crawl out, but I guess the poor soul was fretting for her husband most of the time. Her poor little baby died just for the want of a little care and exercise. It went when we were about half way here.
Our company was in charge of Herton Haight. He was a fine captain, had been over the plains a number of times, so knew every mile of the way. He and two or three of his aides had horses. They would start out about half an hour before the wagon train, sometimes an hour before, and all those who could walk, men, women and children, would start at the same time. They did that so that they would be out of the dust of the train and could sit down and rest once in a while. There were not very many men walking ahead for most of the men were driving the oxen; of course, there were some, but mostly elderly men and boys. In the first part of our journey I walked over two hundred miles, then my feet and limbs began to swell again so I had to ride and take care of baby Eli, but I always cooked our lunch so that our mother could rest and be ready for a long afternoon walk. In all, she walked over eight hundred miles.
We used to travel about fourteen or fifteen miles a day. It all depended on the best places to camp, where we could get water and feed for the cattle. We sometimes had to go as far as eighteen or nineteen miles before there was a good feeding place with lots of water. When we did it was ten or eleven o'clock at night before we made camp, almost too tired and weary to make down our beds to say nothing about supper. That did not happen very often only five or six times in all the way. We often had very pleasant evenings. As a rule it was cool, and we did our cooking for the next day, and when not busy we had some singing and dancing.
Music, Wash/Cook Day
George Careless, the music professor, had come with the teams from Salt Lake to meet his mother who was in our company. He brought his violin with him and did much to break the monotony. He was always willing to play for those who wanted to dance. Then sometimes we would have to do a little washing of an evening, bathing, etc. About once in ten days we used to camp for half a day, that was usually when we came to a river or where there was plenty of water. We stopped in order to have a general wash and baking day. It was a big fine holiday for the men and boys, in fact, for all the youngsters.
Discovering Dead Indian
Once a group of us girls and boys took a walk to see what we could find. In the distance we saw a small clump of trees and they were something that we had not seen for some time for we had only feasted our eyes on sagebrush, sunflowers and dust. So, of course, we had to go out and look. Soon we saw something red in one of the trees. On looking to see what it was, we discovered that it was a dead Indian. He was wrapped very roughly in his blanket and tied securely to the branches of the tree. Beside him were his bow and arrows and a tomahawk and some corn in a bag. Some of the children were scared and ran back, but the older ones investigated. We found a deserted log cabin, probably the home of the dead Indian.
Twice we saw a large herd of buffalo, not very far away either, and three or four times we camped near where there had been an Indian massacre, I suppose of some small company of people. There were stacks of ashes and pieces of wagons, spokes of wheels lying among half-burned and blackened cooking utensils. The captain said that the reason the Indians never attacked the Mormons was because we always traveled in large numbers.
Death of a Mother and her Baby
The saddest thing that happened on our trip was the death of Sister Holly. She and her husband, John, and ten children left Scotland, took passage on the William Tappscott and were in our company across the plains. One day when we stopped for lunch she was taken very sick. She perhaps had been bad all day. She had a baby born and her life was the price. It happened to be one of the days when we had to make so many extra miles. I shall never forget those poor children when told that their mother was dead. I don't think the oldest was more than sixteen years. The captain said that he would hold the train for one hour while they buried her. So she was laid away before she was cold. No coffin or box, just rolled in sheets. In less than one hour after giving birth to her babe, she was in the grave. All the camp was sad. I believe the babe died a week or so later. We reached Fort Laramie a few days after. We stayed over one day in order to replenish our stock of provisions, then we commenced our journey through the Rocky Mountains.
It was not so hot but much more dangerous traveling. Sometimes mountains were so high on one side of the road that we could scarcely see the top and on the other side, it was fifty or a hundred feet deep into beautiful canyons. Usually a pure stream of water was running along the bottom to tantalize our parched throats. I used to often wonder how my father could find room to walk beside his oxen to drive them. One night when we had to travel very late, one of the wagons slipped too near the lower side and went rolling down the precipice almost to the bottom of the mountains. There was a girl in the wagon at the time named Ruth Jones. She was about fifteen; her leg was broken in two places. The oxen were not killed; the wagon was battered but was fixed up.
Mother almost died of thirst
We crossed the Platte River five times, sometimes in the wagon but mostly on horseback. Those men who had horses to ride used to take the women and children over one or two at a time and go back and forth until all were over. I remember once or twice the water was so deep that the horses had to swim. And through all this my blessed little mother walked day after day in the hot sun and dusty roads with never a murmur of complaint. She was always at the camping place when the train of wagons arrived. If Lorenzo was with her, he would have wood gathered ready to make a fire for our supper, but one dark night we reached our camping place about ten o'clock and our mother was not there. No one seemed to know what had become of her. We inquired from one end of the camp to the other. Finally we found someone who had been walking with her and she said that Mother had become so exhausted that she had sat down on the roadside to rest and wait for our wagons so that she could ride into camp. Those who had horses, together with Captain Haight, rode back to find her. She was almost dead when they brought her back to us. Her tongue was so swollen it would not go into her mouth, she was so thirsty. She never heard the train pass; so I suppose that she had fainted, but she was all right in a few days. Father would not let her walk so much after that and the swelling had nearly gone from my legs, so we used to take turns walking.
The next water to cross was Sweetwater River which was quite deep. We crossed at two different places. We had met quite a number of Indians since entering the mountains. Whenever we camped for a half day, a half dozen or less would come to beg or trade beads or something. After awhile we came to Fort Bridger. We camped there a day and had our first meal of vegetables since leaving home, and my, our dinner did taste good! During the day old Jim Bridger visited our camp. A fine old man he was, too. Soon we came to Green River which was our last river to cross.
A few days afterward we neared the end of our long journey. On Sunday morning we entered Emigration Canyon. We were met nine miles up the canyon by my sister Matilda and brother George Bourne. Matilda was stopping at his house, and he brought her to the head of Emigration in a buggy. They just stayed with us long enough to greet us all. They picked up my mother and took her ahead of us to the city. It was Sunday, the 19th of October when we arrived in Salt Lake City, just five months and five days from the day we left home. It was very fine weather for a month after we arrived here.
Matilda had rented us a house. It was not quite finished, so we stayed at the Bournes" for two weeks. Two days after we arrived Father got his first job at digging potatoes. He had every seventh bushel. By the end of the week we had earned enough potatoes, carrots, onions and turnips to last us the winter.
In 1856, I think it was, President John Taylor was in England and stayed some time at our house. When he was leaving for home, Father showed him some guns that he owned. He said, "Brother Price, if you will let me have one now, I will pay you for it when you come to Utah." So Father let President Taylor have one. After Father had earned his potatoes, he went to see John Taylor and he paid Father 300 pounds of flour for the gun.
We soon learned to make our candles, soap and vinegar. Lorenzo got a job with Mr. Dinwoodey, and Mother did some very fine embroidery for Mrs. Dinwoodey. I earned a bedstead and two chairs, and I made some nets to stretch over frames to dry glue on, so I earned a table. We got a few store boxes to sit on and that is how we started housekeeping in Salt Lake City.