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Pioneer 1848-1868 Companies

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1862 (age25), Wood, William (Unique Background/Trek Experience)

The Journal of William Wood, oldest son of William and Elizabeth Gigney Wood, is one of the most unusual ever published by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers. [He was born 1 May 1837.] As a lad of seventeen, he joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after hearing the gospel preached by Charles W. Penrose, and as was so often the case in the early days of the Church, many of his friends and relatives then turned against him. He could have joined the multitudes of converts who were emigrating to Utah, and thus enjoy the promised peaceful life, but he chose instead to fulfill the age-old tradition of his homeland by joining the British Navy. For nearly six years thereafter he sailed the seas, encircling the earth in his travels. [He fought in the Crimean War.]

[His story about his travels back and forth around the world is most interesting, but we'll skip to the end of his military experiences, which helped him numerous times in the following years.]

On December 22nd [1860] I received my discharge and pay; the latter amounted to eighty pounds sterling. I received a pass to Sheerness and arrived at my parent's home in Queensborough at I p.m. The family had just sat down to their Christmas dinner and in a short time we were all having a very good time over a sumptuous feast.

After having been home about 2 weeks, I made ready to go to our meeting at Sheerness. My sister thought I was going to see my sweetheart so I told her to come along and she did. The meeting was held in a little upstairs room in a dirty back alley. On going into the room, President George Wager gave me a hearty reception, and the Saints who knew me did the same. In a few moments the meeting opened and I was invited to speak and I related briefly some of my travels, and offered a testimony to the truth of the Gospel. You can imagine the surprise of my sister at finding me still a Mormon and hearing me preach, as she called it. My desire to come to Utah had increased. I secured a position with a Mr. Bilby, a butcher in Sheerness, and after having worked for him for two months I received a letter from my old employer Mr. Blaxall, asking me if I would return and work for him. This offer I accepted and went to Maldon, whence I found many of the old Saints had emigrated. I had placed my money in a bank and was adding to it all I could save.

Preparations to Immigtrate from England
I was now twenty-four years of age and began to think of selecting me a wife. I became quite intimate with Mrs. Blaxall's sister, a Miss Gipp. She was not a member of my church, however I used to influence her as much as possible but as her relatives were all against it I could not accomplish much. Mr. Blaxall called me in and talked the matter over with me. He said "Why do you want to go to such a bad place as Salt Lake City?" He said he had a proposition to make to me if I would relinquish that detestable Mormonism and stay in Maldon. He said that if I would stay and marry Lucy he would start me in a good business. I told him that I never could do that, because I knew Mormonism was true, and that I would never marry a non-member of the church.

It was now 1862. Brother Francis M. Lyman and Brother Geo. Taylor were traveling Elders in Essex Conference. So I thought no more of Miss Gipp, and formed an acquaintance with Elizabeth Gentry. Brother Gentry was president of the Maldon Branch, and all the family belonged to the church. I had now made up my mind to gather and to bring my young lady, to whom I was now betrothed, with me to Zion. I had enough money to pay all expenses to the frontiers, so I gave Mr. Blaxall a month's notice, after which I stayed at Father Gentry's and made preparation to leave for the Valley by May 18th in the old sailing ship William Tapscott. Brother F. M. Lyman had counselled me in everything, and particularly as to the journey. Miss Gentry accompanied me in visiting my father and mother and all our kindred. They all treated us very kindly, but expressed their sorrow that we were led away by such a disreputable people as the Mormons.

After our visit we returned to Maldon and took farewell of Father Gentry and all our Maldon friends, gathered up all our baggage and proceeded to London, meeting the Saints to start for Liverpool. When we arrived we boarded the William Tapscott. It was an interesting sight to see the Saints boarding the ship with all kinds of tin utensils tied in bunches and some were carrying their straw mattresses on their heads, while others were loaded down with all kinds of parcels and lunch baskets. Some had old pieces of furniture, such as a tea-caddy or teapot or some old picture of great-grandparents.

After the English Saints were on board, several hundred Danish and Swedish Saints embarked, making a total number of eight hundred. There was a little confusion until after the doctor's inspection; however, it was remarkable how quickly the people settled down to the requirements of those who were selected as bishops over the respective wards. I do not think the same number of non-Mormons would have settled down to such order. Nothing but the Spirit of the Lord would produce such harmony. Songs of Zion were being sung, such as: Ye Saints Who Dwell on Europe's Shore; Come, Come, Ye Saints; Oh Babylon, Oh Babylon, We Bid Thee Farewell; I Long to Breath the Mountain Air, and others and a very divine influence seemed to prevail.

To America
We sailed from Liverpool May 13th, 1862, and the eight hundred people were organized into wards, and space with bunks allotted to each ward with a presiding officer. Brother Lyman had charge of the company. He was returning from his first mission, and because I had been on a British warship for five year, he requested me to look after the following persons: Sister Filer and her daughter from Braintree, Essex; Sister Coalbear and son David from Mundon, Essex; Sister Rose Liver-more from Maldon, Sister Elizabeth Gentry from Mundon and an aged Brother Perkins from Essex. I was to look after the above by way of getting their rations; also to see their food cooked and to render them any assistance that they needed. I was also appointed by Brother Ebenezer Farnes to assist in the serving out of the provisions. After the ship had got fairly out to sea the people were lying in all directions with seasickness. It was a severe trial to them, being so closely confined. However, they tried to bear up in a marvelous manner and called upon the Elders to administer to them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Brother William Gibson and a Brother John Clark rendered great assistance in regard to the governing of the company. We had head winds and double reef topsail breezes often, thus the good ship labored very heavily. We encountered a violent gale of wind on Whit Sunday which affected the people badly, and which they never forgot. Poor Brother Lyman was very sick.

After forty-two days we arrived in New York and were quickly hustled into Castle Garden and passed the inspection, after which we took train for St. Louis. On account of the Civil War we were routed and changed about a number of times. At one place we were hustled on board of a freight train. The cars had been loaded with hogs and they had not been swept or cleaned out, thus we were choked with the dust and we could taste it for days afterward. We arrived at St. Joseph on the Missouri River on the 4th of July. We camped in a large barn waiting for a steamboat. Everyone in the town was celebrating the 4th, and there was much excitement, as reports came that the Confederate Army was making toward the Missouri. We were hurried onto a small steamboat, the crew of which consisted of Negroes who were very rough. On arriving opposite Council Bluffs on a very dark night, the boat ran alongside of the river bank and landed the gangplank in a big bunch of willows and then pitched our baggage all into the willows. It was midnight and we laid about as best we could on the bags and bedding till daybreak when there was a hunt for baggage. I found mine easily enough as they were sailor's black bags with my name on them.

By eight a.m. Brother Joseph W. Young, who was our Church emigration agent that year, called a meeting and explained the circumstances, telling us that teams would be sent down to the river to haul up our luggage to a camping ground and provisions would be served out to all who needed it; and that tents also would be given to every ten or twelve persons. Thus we were again organized into tens, fifties, and hundreds. I was appointed Captain of the Guard.

The teams began to haul up our baggage and when about half of it was hauled onto the camping ground, a fearful tornado started with heavy rain and the most vivid lightning, just like those encountered in the tropics. It scared the cattle and they stampeded, doing great damage and running over Brother Young and nearly killing him. Those who were already on the camp grounds were almost drowned by the cloudburst. The volume of water washed gullies ten feet deep and in some instances washed away boxes and bags and buried them in the sand, some of which were never found. Three persons were struck dead by the vivid lightning, one being a teamster from the Valley and the other two were from the London Conference. Several others were badly injured. One sister was confined in the midst of it. I was Captain of the Guard so rendered her all the assistance I could by covering her with the tent that had blown down. Mother and babe both pulled through very well, and the dear woman settled in Bountiful, Davis County, Utah, and was always a fast friend. The boy grew up and traded with me for many years. A group of men was organized to assist all the women and children and old folks to the Church store. In two or three days we recovered from the terrible experience, but some never found their bags.

Breaking Cattle to the Yoke
We returned to camp and put up our tents and prepared for the long wearisome journey across the Great American Plains. While here in camp all who had the means bought wagons and cattle as they had to be broken to the yoke. The young tenderfoot men from the big cities were not much in it, and were generally out of the way when most needed. As my sea experience fitted me for the job, I was engaged by a man by the name of Cooper to break his cattle to the yoke and get everything ship-shape, and to drive a team to Salt Lake City for the hauling of my young lady and her baggage.

Kicked off the Train with his Fiance
We had got nearly to a stream called, I think, Loup Fork when Mr. Cooper said, "Brother Wood you are a young man and can do well to take up a farm at Wood River where I am going to stop, and I want you to stop with me." I said, "No Sir, I am bound for the valley of the Saints." "Well," said he, "if you will not agree to stop with me I shall turn you and your girl right out here." I said, "Sir, I will never agree to stop with you." So he went back to my wagon and pitched out my baggage and told my girl to get out, and he drove on and left us without bread or water. My dear girl wept bitterly, but I did not feel like weeping but rather like meeting the peculiar circumstances.

Threat on his Life over a Rope
Cooper drove on about half a mile and camped at a small stream. I remembered that Cooper had a fifty-foot rope that belonged to me, and I made up my mind that I would have that rope and so told Elizabeth that I was going to get it. She begged me not to, but I thought I would be a coward to let him get away with that rope so I started to the camp with a full deterermination to get it at any cost. As I approached the wagon Cooper said, "I thought you would change, your mind." I told him that my mind was still unchanged and that I had come to get my rope that he had staked his cow out with. He said that if I touched that rope he would shoot me. I replied that he could shoot but I was going to have that rope. He went into his wagon and drew a beeline on me with his old Yorker. I went straight for the cow and pulling her up hand over hand as near to me as I could. I cut the rope and away went the cow. I coiled the rope and returned to the wagon and Cooper did not shoot. I laid down the rope and said, "Mr. Cooper I am going to lay off my religion and give you a licking so that you won't forget me." So I went for him and gave him a good boxing. By this time my young lady was on the ground praying me not to hurt him.

Trip interrupted, Split from his Fiance
I left him and we returned to our baggage. While we were reflecting on our condition, we observed a big dust in the west coming rapidly toward us. In a short time it came up to us and proved to be elder Lyman and Apostle C.C. Rich. We were both overjoyed at the sudden and unexpected change in affairs. Brother Rich sat down and comforted us, telling us to be faithful and the Lord would bless us. While talking, we noticed a dust coming from the east. It proved to be a family that had crossed the sea with us. The result was that my young lady was continue on with them to Salt Lake City and I was to pay forty dollars for her fare, and I was to go to Florence with Brothers Lyman and Rich.

I think this was the greatest trial I ever underwent to leave my betrothed and go back. However, I submitted and kissed my girl goodbye and gave her a half sovereign, all the money I had in the world, and jumped into the buckboard and off we went, I with a sorrowful heart and a mind full of reflections as to the outcome of it all. Brother Rich found I was in tears and told me to cheer up and have faith and all would be well.

Return to Florence
On our arrival at Florence all was excitement. I was introduced to a number of young men fitting out a freight train, some of whom had crossed the sea with me and some who had come from the mountains who were dressed in buckskins fringed and tasseled, (rough looking Saints they seemed to me). In the evening they all gathered into the tent and D.P. Kimball called all to order. He called on one of those rough looking buckskin-clad fellows to offer prayer, which was done in very appropriate manner and words. During all this time my mind was rambling over many things, especially as to when I should meet my dear girl again. As the shades of night closed down upon us and we were all in the tent, the talk was principally about breaking steers, putting up wagons, and selections made as to duties required of each one. I was appointed grease boss and was to drive four yoke of cattle and stand guard half of every night until our arrival in the Valley. I was asked if I accepted of these conditions at $30.00 per month. It was explained to me that through my peculiar experience, Brother Rich had used his influence on my behalf and as I had agreed to, through his counsel, pay to Brother Wardell the usual fare paid by emigrants for crossing the plains I was to receive the amount mentioned above, I being the only one of the tenderfeet to receive pay. The others had to work for their passage only.

Wrong Luggage - Lady's Underwear
After this business, we began to turn in. I had occasion to go to my bag for some clothes and in taking out what I expected to be white duck sailor overalls and holding them up and examining them they turned out to be some sort of ladies" unmentionables trimmed and adorned with lace. The eyes of the crowd caught onto it, and in all the long years that have passed, in meeting any of the old friends and comrades who were there that night, this circumstance would be rehearsed and has caused many a good laugh. I had made a mistake and got my sweetheart's bag instead of my own. Of course you can imagine the remarks that followed. Some claimed that they had a full rigged lady aboard. Everybody was now turning in and someone asked me where I was going to sleep. I told him I was provided with an outfit. I had rolled up into quite a small parcel a hammock and blanket of my own manufacture. The others who all slept on the ground came out to see me sling my hammock and get into it. This was the way I slept for three months; when it stormed I would just throw a canvas over me. I fastened my hammock from wagon wheel to wheel.

Grease Boss; Problems with Young, Inexperienced Men
In a few days we rolled out. My duty as grease boss was to see that every wagon in the train was greased every sixty miles. Our little troubles began soon, especially with the young men who were indeed tenderfeet and inexperienced. Their ropes and chains would often break and they could not toggle a chain nor splice a rope, and it was a week or two before they could manage their teams. They got into the queerest predicaments that you can imagine. Our first trouble was a terrible thunderstorm, then in guarding the cattle at night some of the men would doze and the cattle would get away. It was some time before they could realize the responsibility of watching, as well as praying, which latter was attended to night and morning.

Difficulty Crossing Stream
Our first great difficulty was when we came to a swollen stream and no bridge. The water was deep and the banks abrupt and we had thirty wagons, a very small train, but they were loaded to their full capacity, four thousand pounds. Of course they were the old-fashioned kind, built expressly for cattle. D.P. Kimball was an experienced pioneer. He ordered all hands to fell timber. Some had never taken an axe in hand; however, enough timber was felled to build a raft. The next thing was to cut down the banks of the stream so that the wagons could be run down onto the raft. In this way we succeeded fairly well and ferried all the wagons over, then the cattle and a few horses were forded.

Routine, Boredom, Food
By this time we had become inured to the great change in our circumstances, and as we drew further west day by day the scenery and weary travel became very tiresome. We often saw antelope and black-tailed deer and occasionally a few buffalo. Brother Kimball sometimes went with two or three other mountain men on a hunt and never failed to bring in meat or game of some sort which always came in very acceptable, especially as our ham and bacon were becoming low. The rations of our camp life were good. We laid over on the Sabbath and sometimes a day to wash clothes or repair wagons and shoe cattle. As we approached what is called the Chimney Bock our cattle became affected with murrain, and day after day we sustained losses which curtailed our travel, and shorter drives were the result, which tended to lengthen out our journey, and we missed reaching a cache of flour and thus were on half rations.

Sickness, Anxiety, Bones, Communication
About this time, on account of strong saleratus bread, I was taken with bloody flux, and the worry about my young lass all had a bad effect upon me, although I stood my ground and never gave up. By this time we had reached a locality where the plains were strewn with dead carcasses and the bleached bones of horses, cattle and mules. Upon these bones much writing was left by the trains, and information given as to the health and success and ofttimes a few words from some lover would be written on the rib of an ox and stuck in the ground alongside of the trail telling the oncoming lover or friends of the incidents of travel, and much interesting matter. However, not a word from my lass did I find, although I had learned that she had not forgotten me. Of course it was a kind of lottery business whether the identical bone would be found by the right person. Something like this would be picked up: "Miller's train, July 24th, Mr. John Ford is to be married to Miss Sue Brown on arriving at Plum Creek," and on another, "Miss J. Jones has made love to Simon Hicks." I began to be afraid that someone would pick up a rib with "Miss E. Gentry has made love to someone or married someone or is to be married to someone."

Oxen Dying/Wagons Breaking Down
1862 was the year that the telegraph poles were erected from the frontiers. One day we came across a stranded played-out cow. The poor brute had been left to perish. She had just the power to wink her eyes. I butchered her very quickly and hoisted her to a pole. She was almost a skeleton. However, as we had been on half rations then a number of days, we thought it a Godsend, so we feasted, with the result that a number were very sick. We were by this time nearing the south pass. Our oxen were continually dropping down until I had only three left out of my eight, and so we doubled up, leaving some of the wagons, and would then lay over and go back the next day and pull them to the main camp. Of course in the midst of this, many incidents occurred; such as wagons breaking down, tongues getting broken, tires coming off, and we had to be our own blacksmiths and set them. We had an emigrant train overtake us more than once. It was then that we would have dances, and sometimes good sermons were preached encouraging us to bear all the trials and Zion would soon be reached. These spurred us on, as we believed that our Father in Heaven was ruler over all these circumstances and that our promises and blessings were sure. And thus we journeyed on in the faith that we were obeying the principle of the Latter-day Israel and felt we were going up to the House of the Lord God of Jacob to learn of His ways and to walk in His paths. These circumstances were happening to almost everyone. I remember Mr. Turner who was driving the next team in the rear of mine fell from the tongue of his wagon. I saw him fall, and both wheels of the wagon pass over his head, and to my astonishment he got up without help and shook the sand out of his curly hair. No injury was sustained, probably due to the fact that it occurred in a sandy place. It was to me a marvelous escape. He came to Utah and raised a family.

Help from the Valley Needed at Ham's Fork
By this time we were reaching Ham's Fork and we had to send a horseman to report that we could travel no further without assistance. So we laid in camp till aid came from the Valley in the form of four-span mule teams laden with the fruits of the promised land and with meats and cakes and pies like those from home, also blankets, overalls, wagonsheets and every imaginable thing to comfort the tired and weary pilgrims. They came with mules enough to take in half of the train; we then had cattle enough to double up and take the remainder.

Echo Canyon, Military Fortifications
We were now getting into the mountainous part of the west. Fort Bridger and Bear River were passed and in a few days the noted Echo Canyon was reached where just a handful of Mormons held back the army of General Johnston and kept them at Bridger all winter to pick bones of many a starved mule. There are prominent bluffs or rocks that project into the canyon around which the Mormon boys made trails in sight of the Army's reconnoitering parties and the boys kept circling the rocks at these points until the soldiers concluded that there were thousands and tens of thousands of the Mormon army in the canyon, when in fact only forty or fifty men were there. The canyon is a nearly impregnable pass and well adapted for a stronghold or a defense.

Passing this formidable place, we emerged on the Weber River where we were in the fastness of the Rocky Mountains proper. There had just been new dugways and roads opened that year which, however, in many places were left unfinished, so that it was dangerous, especially to inexperienced drivers and teamsters, and we had quite a time pulling through. While going up Silver Creek a rock bluff projected, so that it formed a corner or bend in the creek, and in rounding this I did not keep in and hold the cattle enough and the result was that my wagon stalled against the rock. Nothing was broken, however, and when the boss missed me he came back and through his skill as a teamster I soon got out of the difficulty.

Golden Pass Route from the Weber River
We passed through all kinds of barriers while going through Parley's Park, a place of high altitude and among big timber. We were now within twenty-five miles of the Valley of Salt Lake and it was down hill all the way. Passing through Parley's Canyon we emerged into the graceful and enchanting valley with the Great Salt Lake in the distance, and the many homes of the Saints in the foreground, the City, with its wide streets laid out by the points of the compass. Imagine if it is possible, our feelings of joy and thanksgiving to God whom we acknowledged as the means of our safe arrival to the haven of our hopes.

Salt Lake City/Locate Fiance/Get Settled
It was on Saturday evening and the sky was illumined in, many colors by the setting sun which to me was sublime, indeed I have not the language to express the gratitude of a thankful heart to the Almighty. On passing down the bench to our destined camping place we were passing a log cabin and from the door a lady advanced to the trail. She recognized me and called to me, and who should it be but Sister Wardell, the mother of the family with whom my betrothed crossed the plains. Of course, I was excited and very anxious to know about my girl. The first news from the old sister was of a crushing, heartbreaking nature. She told me my girl was going off with an "old polygamist." I could gather no further news or information, and this was like a bolt of thunder to me.

However, as I had to go to camp, I arranged to return and spend the evening at the old lady's place. At this the old lady tried to persuade me that my lassie had made love to her son and that she did not think any further effort on my part would regain her affection and she thought it best for me to think no more of her but to make up to her daughter Emma who thought the world of me, and that I was the most suitable young man that could be found among the Saints. All this flattery did not sink any depth in my feelings. I formed a resolution that I was going to have the "love of my youth." I returned to camp with a rather depressed spirit, but with a determination to ferret out the problem.

The next day, Sunday, October 19th, 1862, everything was excitement from the fact that Connor's Command had entered the City of the Saints. The California Volunteers were organized to take part in the great struggle between the United States and Mexico. Through the excitement, our train laid until Wednesday and in the meantime I hunted up my young lass, going to Centerville, twelve miles north of Salt Lake City, to some people who were from Maldon, Essex, and with whom I had corresponded before leaving Maldon. After a tedious hunt and walk I found them, and to my great joy the girl of my heart was found lying asleep on an old home-made lounge and looking fine although almost in rags. She woke and her joy was unbounded. Mrs, Wardell had her mind fixed on having her son marry Elizabeth but as it did not work she turned her out and kept all the clothes and bedding until she got the forty dollars that I owed her, and as clothing was very dear, Elizabeth was still wearing the bloomers she had crossed the plains in. Their Marriage

I returned to camp and had to drive my team yet sixty miles to Springville, as I was loaded with the first carding machine that was planted in Utah County, I delivered the goods and walked back with my wages in my pocket and went to the tithing store where the Wardells had all our belongings, paid the forty dollars and took possession of the bags and bedding and was lucky to get a ride from Salt Lake to Centerville. By this time it was Friday, November 6th, and on Sunday we attended meeting and Bishop W.R. Smith preached to the newcomers. After meeting he called me aside and told me to marry my betrothed the next day. I told him I would, and the following morning we were married, and that without the first piece of furniture, although we had bedding and a good supply of clothes. All the neighbors came with their old-fashioned squash pies and ground-cherry tarts, and the old home furnished sweet cake and roasted all their roosters, and had roast pork and roast bear, and lots of other good things. Now I was a full fledged husband and quite aware of the responsibilities that I had assumed, and commenced to prepare for the future.

I took a yoke of oxen on shares from the widow Chase and commenced to haul oak and maple from the mountains. In this I encountered a great many difficulties as we had to climb a very steep and rugged mountain taking four or five hours to get to the timber with just the oxen and no wagon. It was impossible to even haul up two wheels, so we hauled our wood and made a drag of it, four of which would make a cord, and a cord would sell for about twenty dollars in Salt Lake at that time. It generally took about five or six days to get to the market with it.

As time passed I became better acquainted, and the people found they had a professional butcher in their midst, and eventually I had all that I could do in the slaughtering of hogs and beef. The people would tell me to help myself in taking tell, and in a short time I had quite a quantity of dried beef and pork, besides having given my friends all they needed.

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.