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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1852 (age 22), Gillespie, John (Steamship)

John Gillespie, son of Peter and Martha Scott Gillespie, was born March 27, 1830, in Glasgow, Scotland; was baptized into the L.D.S. Church in 1843 and emigrated to America in 1849, crossing the sea on the ship James Pennell. Arrived in Utah September 12, 1852, where on November 16, 1852, he was married to Catherine Ross, daughter of Daniel and Agnes McKellar Ross. To them were born twelve children:

  • Agnes Ross, Jan. 22, 1854, Tooele
  • Peter Ross, Oct. 22, 1855, Tooele
  • John Ross, Oct. 12, 1857, Salt Lake
  • William Ross, Sept. 5, 1859, Tooele
  • Mary Ross, Feb. 23, 1861, Tooele
  • Daniel Ross, June 25, 1863, Tooele
  • James Ross, Jan. 26, 1865, Tooele
  • Catherine Ross, Jan. 19, 1867, Tooele
  • Alexander Ross, Aug. 30, 1868, Tooele
  • Walter Ross, May 15, 1871, Tooele
  • Joanna Ross, May 17, 1873, Tooele
  • Margaret Ross, October 19, 1875, Tooele.

He wrote his life's story as follows:

Steamboat "Saluda" Exploded
I crossed the sea on the ship James Pennell and remained in the United States until the spring of 1852. Came up the Missouri River in the steamboat Saluda about two hundred and fifty miles, where I landed and traveled through Missouri, buying up cattle for the emigrants to cross the plains. Just before the steamboat reached Lexington, the boiler burst and blew the boat to pieces and all my clothing and tools were lost in the Missouri River. A great many people were killed and wounded, among the wounded was my sister-in-law Agnes Cook Gillespie. She was badly scalded and wounded and had to remain in Lexington for a long time under the care of a doctor.

My brother, Alexander who was with me about seventy-five miles from Lexington, went there and stayed with his wife and nursed her, while I went on traveling through Missouri buying up cattle and land in Cainsville about the last of May, and remained a short time. They proposed that we should all return to our father's home in Alton, Illinois, as Father and Mother had been writing to us, asking us to return, as my brother's wife was not able to cross the plains.

I did not wish to return, and I told them I would not. I told them they could remain in Cainsville until the last company of emigrants and I would continue my journey to Salt Lake City, and that I would come back to the plains and meet them.

So I started with two yoke of oxen and a yoke of cows. The first camp we made was on the west side of the Missouri River. While there cholera set in our camp and ten died and were buried before we could break camp. We traveled on, building bridges and making roads, and we finally reached Salt Lake City on the 10th of September 1852.

We then prepared and started back to the plains, on horseback on the 16th of September, to meet my brother and his wife, who were in the last company of emigrants. Traveled as far as Green River, meeting emigrants every day, and the last company I met told me they thought I would meet Kelsey's company in about a day's travel east of Green River.

I crossed the Green River the next morning and a very severe storm arose between the Big Sandy and Pacific Springs but I traveled on three days and three nights without eating or sleeping, and found the camp on the third morning before daylight, by the barking of their dogs; they were camped on Strawberry Creek and their cattle had all strayed off in the storm toward the Wind River mountains and the company were nearly all out of provisions so much so that some of them were eating the dead cattle.

I stayed with them two days and helped them gather up their cattle and got them started on the road to Salt Lake, then I came on to Green River on horse-back and purchased twelve sacks of flour and a beef steer from Old Bateas, who owned a trading post at Green River, and when the company reached Green River they had a jubilee of plenty to eat. My brother and his wife were in a wagon with another family and they were very heavy loaded and their horses were worn out. I traded my horse and saddle for a fine yoke of oxen, yoke and chain and I got me a light wagon and my brother put his freight into the wagon and my brother and his wife and I took the lead of the company and piloted them into Salt Lake City all right.

About the latter part of October, I bought a city lot in the Sixth Ward and built a house.

I was married to Catherine Ross on the 16th day of November, 1852. My brother, his wife, and my wife and myself lived in the same house and my brother and I commenced cutting stone for the Temple and continued working all winter, and as provisions were scarce we would receive ten pounds of flour once in two or three weeks. I have worked many a day with nothing but a few potatoes for my breakfast and the same for my supper.

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.