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

Previous | Next

Jenson, Andrew, 1866 (age 15), Part 2: Crossing the Plains

Problems at Wyoming, Nebraska
On Sunday, July 29th, we arrived safe and well at the landing, below the village of Wyoming, Nebraska, which was the outfitting place for the Saints crossing the plains that year. At that village we could breathe the fresh air more freely than upon any previous occasion since we commenced our long journey. Both on ship board, and in the railroad cars, we had been confined to narrow quarters, but here on the grassy hill of Wyoming we had plenty of room to spread out and inhale the fresh air and drink the pure water as it gushed forth from the hillside. Here our family also met some acquaintances from Vendsyssel, Denmark, who had spent a year at Wyoming.

On Monday, July 30th, our baggage arrived at the Wyoming landing and was partly carried by hand and partly by teams to the camp ground on the top of the hill, where we were permitted to pitch our tents on any of the unoccupied land lying adjacent to the village. Those of the emigrants who had no tents, made themselves temporary shelter of brush and branches cut from trees in the neighboring woods. While enjoying these conveniences we spent several days busily engaged in washing clothes and otherwise preparing for our journey across the plains. Several of the Church trains sent from the Valley this year after the poor were encamped near Wyoming and when we arrived, had waited for us several days.

Between four and five hundred wagons with three or four yoke of oxen to each wagon, were sent this year by the Church, to the Missouri River after emigrants, most of whom, including our own family came expecting to cross the plains with Church teams. While stopping at Wyoming we could draw provisions from the Church store house, which had been erected on the camp ground. On receiving our baggage at Wyoming, we found that many of the boxes had been opened and robbed of their contents, and thus some of the emigrants lost all their clothes and traveling outfits.

While the emigrant companies were encamped near Wyoming, that little village assumed an air of importance. Regular camps of tents and family boweries were erected by the pilgrims. Some of our company were taken sick with fever, a few very seriously. At least five of our company died before our family left Wyoming, namely: three from the Vendsyssel, one from the Aalborg; and an old lady from the Copenhagen Conference.

On Wednesday, August 1st, another company of Scandinavian emigrants, consisting of about three hundred souls, arrived at Wyoming. This company had sailed from Hamburg, June 2nd on the sailing vessel Humboldt, under the presidency of Elder George M. Brown. Several companies of British Saints preceded our company and were already on the plains when we arrived. The total number of emigrating Saints from Europe in 1866 was 3,327, of whom 1,213 were from the Scandinavian countries. All the companies came by way of Wyoming and most of them crossed the plains with Church teams.

Some of the emigrants who had crossed the ocean in the ship Kenilworth commenced their journey across the plains from Wyoming August 2nd, with Capt. Joseph S. Rawlins" train, and others left with Peter Nebeker's Church train on August 4th. Our family, having decided to go with Capt. Andrew H. Scott's train, moved our effects on August 5th to the place where that train was encamped near the Church store, and the next day we were assigned to our respective wagons, ten or twelve persons to each wagon. Our train consisted of 46 wagons and the company comprised British, Norwegian and Danish emigrants. George M. Brown, who had led the Humboldt company from Hamburg to Wyoming, was appointed our spiritual leader in crossing the plains.

Captain Andrew Scott's Company
It was the intention that our company should roll out of Wyoming on August 7th, but a terrible rainstorm, accompanied by thunder and lightning, such as none of us from Scandinavia had ever experienced, visited the camp. The rain poured down in torrents nearly all day and the following night. The ground was thoroughly soaked by the downpour and while the storm was at its worst the whole village seemed to be a perfect lake. Such storms occurred frequently in this locality in July and August every year. Wednesday, August 8, 1866, will always remain a red letter day in my recollection. At 10:00 o'clock in the forenoon, as passengers in Capt. Andrew H. Scott's ox train, we left Wyoming to cross the plains. Our teams pulled out slowly, traveled five miles out on the prairie and encamped on the brow of a hill where we remained until the next day. A meeting was held in the camp during the afternoon, at which we were more fully organized for traveling and the necessary officers were appointed. George M. Brown, already mentioned, was an American by birth who had performed a mission in Norway, and he, as our spiritual leader was also to act as interpreter for the Scandinavians who did not understand the English language.

With our departure from Wyoming, that village was almost reduced to normal conditions, being left with its very limited number of inhabitants, save a few emigrants and Elders who were waiting for the season's last company of emigrants to arrive. Capt. Abner Lowry's train of Church teams were kept back to bring this last company across the plains. This ox company was known as the Sanpete train, as most of the men and teams in it hailed from Sanpete Valley.

Food/Routines (easier for teen-agers)
On Aug. 9th, Capt. Scott's train broke camp at 8:00 o'clock a.m., and traveled until near noon, when we stopped about four hours, during which provisions were distributed to the passengers for the first time. The rations allowed consisted of 1 1/2 pounds of flour and one pound of bacon each day for each adult besides sugar, molasses, dried fruit, and other eatables, all of which we were to cook and prepare ourselves to suit our respective tastes. Some of us found the baking of bread and the cooking of meals in the open air a somewhat difficult task, as we had never done the like before, but after a few days" practice we mastered the situation, and life on the plain soon became quite natural and pleasant to those of us who were young and hearty. To the older members of the company, and to those who had large families of children, the case was quite different. Our daily routine was something like the following: We generally broke camp at 8:00 o'clock in the morning and traveled from 12 to 20 miles a day. As a rule we stopped about two hours at noon to rest and feed ourselves and our animals. The task of walking as much as possible was enjoined upon every young and able-bodied person, in order to lighten the burden of the animals. Only the old and weak were privileged to ride to any great extent. Of course, I, being a strong, healthy lad, was among those who walked nearly all the way across the plains, and I rather enjoyed it. At noon and at night, when camping, we all had our busiest time. First, we pitched our tents and gathered fuel and fetched water, then we made fires, baked bread, cooked food, and finally ate our meals around the camp fires, sitting on the grass or rocks. For us Europeans it was indeed a new life, but we soon got used to it. At times we found our energies taxed to the uttermost. Wood was sometimes a very scarce article and in such cases we resorted to the use of dry manure, which we called buffalo chips. This served our purpose very well when we got used to it, and we never complained when we could find enough of it. Frequently we had to tramp long distances to get water, and in some instances we had to make dry camp; that is, we camped in places where there was no water. Often we had to cook our meals when the rain poured down in torrents and drenched us to the skin and put out our fires. At other times the wind blew so hard that our tents fell and our food in course of preparation became spiced with sand to a greater or lesser extent, as the wind raised the soil and enveloped the camp in a cloud of dust. But we soon learned to look on these things as unavoidable difficulties in crossing the plains in teams and we bore them without murmuring or fault-finding.

Making Camp
In making our camp, our usual "Mormon" method of forming two half-circles with the wagons was observed, so that a corral was made into which the oxen would be driven to be caught and yoked up anew in the morning. Our tents were pitched outside the enclosure, each tent opposite the wagon to which it belonged. The oxen and such loose stock as we had along were herded during the night by special herdsmen but the regular night watch in the camp was taken in turn by the emigrating brethren. Public prayer was offered in camp every night in which everybody was expected to participate. After the prayer, the captain, or some other leader, generally made remarks of encouraging and instructive nature; the essence of such remarks, if important, was translated into Danish for the benefit of those who as yet had not learned the English language. Before we reached our journey's end, I had acquired a sufficient knowledge of the English language to be independent of such translation, though I could speak but very little English yet.

From Wyoming we traveled across the prairies of Nebraska in a northwesterly direction to the Platte River, on which we camped for the first time at noon Aug. 16th, at a point about thirty miles east of Fort Kearney. Thence we followed the Platte River, by way of Fort Kearney to a point near Fort McPherson, following the so-called Oregon Trail. Thence we crossed the highland from the South Platte to the North Platte, reaching the latter stream at the mouth of Ash Hollow. Thence we traveled along the North Platte by way of Chimney Rock and Scott's Bluff until we reached Fort Laramie. From that fort we crossed hills and streams until we reached the mouth of Deer Creek, a tributary of the Platte, thence we traveled westward to the upper crossing of the Platte, crossing that river on a bridge, where the "Mormon" emigrants of 1847 built a ferry, near the site of the present city of Casper. Continuing the journey in a southwesterly direction we passed Independence Rock and Devil's Gate and thence followed the Sweetwater about seventy miles to the Continental Divide. Near that point we left the Oregon Trail and followed the Mormon Pioneer Trail, crossing Little Sandy, Big Sandy, Green River, Ham's Fork, and Black Fork to Fort Bridger. From there we traveled on a well beaten road by way of Bear River, Yellow Creek, and other streams, to the mouth of Echo Canyon and up Weber River ten miles via Coalville and Hoytsville to Wanship; then through Silver Creek Canyon, Parley's Park, over the mountain and through Parley's Canyon, at the mouth of which we entered Salt Lake Valley.

At several points on the journey we came in friendly contact with Indians, but we only saw a few buffaloes, for many of these noble animals had been wantonly destroyed by white hunters, thus wasting the food of the Indians, which made them very angry, and while the Sioux and other tribes showed hostilities to travelers generally, they usually distinguished between the "Mormon" caravans and others, and would steal from other travelers when they would leave the "Mormons" alone.

Quite a number of people in our company died on the plains but I failed to make a record of them, as I yet was an amateur in record-keeping. During the early part of our journey we had plenty of food and some to spare, but on reaching the mountain country, where the temperature was colder, our appetites increased and yet our daily rations were cut down until we suffered for the lack of food, owing to the fact that the provisions which Capt. Scott's train had cached at different points on the road to be taken up and used when the train returned with emigrants, had been stolen by Indians, or perhaps renegade whites so we were put on half rations which made us go hungry at times. Before we reached places where our stock of provisions could be replenished, we suffered considerably, and I, who was a robust and growing boy with a good appetite, could at times think of nothing more desirable than to live long enough to enjoy a square meal, or to have my appetite satisfied.

On September 19th we encountered terrific snowstorms near the South Pass. During the previous night it had snowed considerably and the weather was very cold. To add to our suffering, we could find no fuel to start our fires, the snow having covered all the brush and scattered wood. The inexperienced emigrants felt themselves helpless to cope with such situations, but the teamsters soon built a huge camp fire, and in spite of the falling snow, small camp fires were started all around. Snow fell all day and it was truly the coldest and most unpleasant day on the whole journey. Towards noon the teamsters succeeded, after much labor in getting the hungry and half frozen cattle hitched up and we traveled a few miles to a more sheltered place where we made a new encampment in a snug little valley, while it was still snowing.

Telegram to Brigham Young - Need Help
From South Pass, on Sept. 21st, Capt. Scott sent the following telegram to Pres. Brigham Young: "Encountered a very severe snow and wind storm for twelve hours while passing from Sage Creek over the Rocky Ridge. Some cattle were badly frozen, eight head died and fifty more were disabled. The snow was six inches deep, feed covered up, heavy wind from the northwest very cold. Today fine weather, cattle looking better. Camp in good condition. Shall move from here tomorrow."

Arrival in Salt Lake Valley
On the 7th of October our train emerged from the mouth of Parley's Canyon. As soon as we entered the Valley I joined some of my young fellow travelers in ascending the bluff or bench a short distance above where the Utah Penitentiary is now located. From that point of vantage I enjoyed my first view of Great Salt Lake City.

The city appeared grand and beautiful, as it nestled in the full blaze of the afternoon sun. Together with my companions I shouted for joy as we felt that our fondest hopes and anticipations had been realized. As long as I can remember I had prayed and hoped for the opportunity to gather to Zion. Now, at last, the chief city of the Saints was in sight and our dreams were about to come true. After getting out of the mountain pass we traveled through the Sugar House Ward, crossed the State road and encamped for the night on the Church Farm.

On Monday, Oct. 8th, we traveled about four miles northward and arrived in Great Salt Lake City. Our train immediately went into the Tithing Yard where everything was unloaded, and then the train started off again for the south with those of the emigrants who expected to locate in Utah County, where most of the teams in Capt. Scott's company belonged. Our family, which had not decided where to make our permanent home, remained in the city for the time being. Hence we bade our fellow-travelers an affectionate farewell. They scattered to different parts of the country, where they had friends or relatives, or where more settlers were wanted. The Deseret News of Oct. 10, 1866, announced the arrival of our train as follows:

Capt. A. H. Scott's train of 49 wagons and about three hundred passengers got in on Monday morning, the cattle of the company looking well and the passengers, as a general rule, in good health, although a few were sick. This company of people is reported as one of the finest that has got in for a long time. They are mostly from Norway in Europe, from a highly respectable class of society and have a fine choir of twenty-five singers.

The day after our arrival in the city a man by the name of Isaac Hunter came to the Tithing Office Yard looking for a boy of my size to work for him. I accepted his proposition and worked for him two weeks, during which I added to my knowledge of the English language, having already learned considerably from the teamsters in crossing the plains. In the meantime, the so-called Sanpete train in charge of Captain Abner Lowry, arrived in the city. The emigrants in that train had suffered with cholera and many of them had died crossing the plains.

Our family now having decided to go south in search of a place to make a home, made arrangements to go with Abner Lowry's company to Sanpete Valley, but on the second day out we met a number of old acquaintances from Denmark, at Pleasant Grove, Utah County, and so Mother, my younger brother Joseph, and I stopped off in that town, while Father continued his journey to Ephraim, Sanpete County, but in December following, his family followed him to Ephraim, where we spent the winter of 1866-67. There I was employed by a Bro. Frederik Julius Christiansen, whom we knew in the old country to take care of his stock during the winter.

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.