1853 (age 18), Henriod, Gustave Louis Edward (French - Trek Summary)
Life on the plains cannot be very well described with such a pen as mine nor imagined or appreciated by a stoic. You, my kind reader, will never know the sports and vicissitudes, joys and fears, gladness and disappointment, grief and delight, cravings and satisfactions, hope and despair, anxiety and contentment, pains and pleasures, all of which are familiar associates, or rather were in the year 1853 between Omaha and Salt Lake City. Yoking up half wild oxen every morning, staking down the tent every night, picking up buffalo chips to cook the food, loading and unloading boxes and bedding mornings and evenings, in the saddle or on foot guarding the stock every night and driving loose cattle in the day, digging trenches around the tents to keep from being drowned by the torrents, singing the songs of Zion, mending a broken wagon, carrying on your back across some deep stream about 140 lbs. of female avoirdupois without losing your feet on the rocky bottom of a river, washing your clothes everybody forgot a clothes line.
Some nights in a dangerous part of the prairies, we formed our sixty wagons into a round corral, putting the stock inside for safety and guarding outside for protection from Indians, for if the cattle are stampeded how will you reach either Omaha or Salt Lake? And if your scalp is lifted, where are you going? When there was danger on the plains from either fire or Indians, it was similar to the dangers of the sea, when you are threatened with fire or water; if you escape the one, the other gets you. One is the sea of water, the other a sea of earth. One is drowning, while the other is starvation. If there is a choice, then you certainly can take it. Being unfortunate by having a spare saddle-horse, Captain Cyrus H. Wheelock often detailed me as a pilot, being often several miles ahead of the traveling Caravan on the Great Sahara, so as to select a good grazing noon stopping place and another for our night camp of about 600 souls.
Indian Encounter While Scouting
Upon one occasion, having lost track of the road, I traveled for miles alone until late in the shades of evening, approaching a small stream running into a deep ravine surrounded by a beautiful cluster of lovely shady trees. Suddenly descending the banks of the creek, what was my terrible surprise in stumbling in the midst of a band of Sioux Indians who were busily engaged in jerking buffalo meat, they having just concluded a big hunt. What could I do? Hungry and tired, lost and alone, a youth sixteen years old, standing before about one hundred stalwart, ferocious powerful sombre kings of the prairies, ready to sacrifice human lives and torture a defenseless being, and that for the sport of having a living target and of placidly studying the dying expression of a human being while in the agonies of death. One hundred pairs of dark and devilish eyes were fixed on that youth, who but a few weeks before, was sitting quietly on his tripod, figuring percentage on some maritime policy in one of those offices pleasantly located among the largest thoroughfares of a large city in the commercial world.
There was a quick commotion among the moccasins, bows and arrows, the young bucks smacking their lips for the feast, while I the victim instead of quickly preparing for the sacrifice, had the cowardice of unmounting my pony and making of the poor frightcued steed a fortress, such as it was, to protect the also frightened rider from a shower of arrows. They never came. It must have been the transmission of that original and native Celtic blood into my arteries which gave the impulse of accelerated pulsation to my heart, that lighted up the spark of bravery in me at that critical moment. I carelessly fastened my horse to a young sapling then quietly stepped in the midst of the tepees and singling out one of the big Tycoons offered to shake hands with the great warrior who in return gave me a very unmusical grunt; having had a fair musical education my ear was not slow to catch the vibration of his dissatisfied growl. I pointed with a smile to the tempting broiling buffalo steaks, having a fear in my heart that I might be an unwelcome and uninvited guest, intruding among the Royal blood of princes and princesses of the forest.
No signs of approval from anyone. I helped myself to a good size chunk of half fried meat, this must have been a settler for my dark friends, they interpreted it as an act of great courage and bravery on my part and no one interfered with me while I partook of one of those lunches that would perhaps have caused Delmonico's chef de cuisine to blush as well as to my epicurean proclivities. They were all amazed. I managed by gestures and signs to make my red friends understand that I had lost my way. They pointed to me where to find the wagon road, and starting out in that direction about twilight, I reached our camp just before the break of day, my friends keeping up fires all night around the camping ground, so as to attract my attention in case I was still alive.
Every day of travel westward brings us nearer our destination and also finds our teams weaker and our weary immigrants nearly worn out with fatigue. The travel of the last few days is no longer on the plains, but through rocky mountains and rugged canyons. Now our bull-whackers have almost become experts and he must be a very dull student who cannot drive his wagon over every rock and stump on the road....
The year 1853 was noted for its large amount of immigrant and freighting wagons from the East to the West. They could have been counted by the hundreds; it would have been an interesting sight to an aeronaut speeding through the ethereal blue above us, to look down upon the plains that summer and photograph the long stretches of living masses wending their way towards the sunset as they were moving onward towards the shades of the evening; or when majestic Sol first began to shed his piercing flash upon the camps of the travelers either when resting, or rustling for the day's journey.
The many little columns of smoke, curling upwards and forming themselves into clouds hovering over the camping grounds long after the tenants had moved away, was a well fitted companion for the silence and the vast stillness of the plains after the departure of a train.
It was some little pleasure for me, when ahead of our company looking for a nooning place, to find written upon some buffaloes" bleached skulls, silent but encouraging message left as follows: "Capt. Duncan's Company of fifty wagons camped here last night, August 20th, 1853, all well." It was like a letter coming from home or some friend, it assisted in breaking the monotony of the quietness upon the plains. The reader cheerfully consoled himself in knowing that he was not alone in the desert, for others" footsteps were not very far before him. Such news was soon distributed throughout the train and everyone must read or see the welcome message.
At last we came rolling down Emigration Canyon and out into Great Salt Lake Valley. It was on the 6th day of October, 1853, the weather was beautiful and every heart seemed joyful, giving a sigh of relief and contentment in beholding in the near distance the "City of the Saints," the destined home and headquarters of the Mormons. It was a city, an embryo, not many houses, and those well scattered from each other. They were built of sundried adobes and with two or three exceptions one story high, but very few with more than two rooms. Shade trees had been planted on either side of some of the most important streets which gave the aspect of comfort and civilization to the tout ensemble of the picturesque scenery.
Arriving that day on the "public square," the wagons were driven into a line, the cattle taken away by herders, and people soon arrived looking for friends or relatives among the immigrants from many parts of the world; those who were fortunate to have such, were taken to their homes, while the rest or mostly all, were questioned by some bishops or leading men as to their occupations, wants, and intentions for the future, their prospects of finding positions or labor in the city. In a few days, all had been located, especially the girls, in town or in some settlement and thus were provided for.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.