Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
sponsored by the Utah State Board of Education, the BYU-Public School Partnership and the Utah Education Network

Pioneer 1848-1868 Companies

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1857, Freight Wagons
(As described by William Chandless, British Overlander and Mormon Observer)
(Utah Historical Quarterly, 1986, Vol. 54, #2, p. 120)

Between 1836 and 1860, approximately 230 British travelers published accounts of their American tours; however, the Missouri River was as far west as most journeyed. Accounts of the land out west only appeared in significant numbers after the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869.

William Chandless left Cambridge University with an M.A. degree in law and decided to make a trip to the United States.

In St. Joseph, Missouri, William Chandless decided to go further west and hired on as a teamster for a freighting and livestock undertaking associated with Salt Lake City merchants, Livingston and Kinkead. His pay was less than a dollar per day. He changed his "smooth" clothes and "donned a woolen shirt and shooting jacker, still as it seemed, fragrant of last year's heather." Chandless and forty other cattle drivers joined a venture consisting of thirty-eight freight wagons carrying 3,500-4,500 pounds each, three supply wagons, an office wagon, and over 400 head of cattle. There were five yoke of cattle to a wagon. The teamsters from the time they engaged had no more expenses. They were issued two blankets each and slept on the ground or in the wagons. They ate biscuits, bacon, and coffee supplemented only occasionally by fresh buffalo meat and rarely by fresh milk and vegetables. The duties were herding and watering the cattle, forming corrals, yoking up, driving, and cooking. A main duty of all was night watch. Chandless complained that "keeping guard half of every other night is hard work, and worst of all being hard at work from midnight to noon without any rest or a morsel of breakfast."

Chandless, in his book, A Visit to Salt Lake, depicted continuous interaction with other groups along the trail to Salt Lake City. There were Mormon emigrant and freight trains, the Overland Mail, Indians, General Harney's (later Johnston's) Army heading towards Utah, army deserters, traders at trading posts, military forts, and settlers. In his own train, men were fired, left behind, stayed behind because of sickness, or died. They would be replaced by new hands along the way. Among the hired hands were Irishmen, Frenchmen, Italians, Germans, a Mexican, and a Scotsman, as well as Texans, Missourians, and other Americans. The men were allowed to group themselves into messes of ten. One mess consisted chiefly of "professional teamsters;" another of "American" mechanics; others - relics or combinations of the rest. Teamsters had strong negative feelings about Mormons emigrants on the trail, even those from the same country. Gentile travelers increased the negative remarks as they got nearer Salt Lake City.