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

1859 (age 31), Brown, James Stephens (Captain)

James Stephens Brown was born July 4, 1828 in Davidson County, North Carolina. When he was three years of age his parents moved from North California to Brown County, Illinois. It was here that the parents became converts of the Latter-day Saint Church. The family moved to Iowa where James, after hearing the leaders of the Church with regard to the raising of the Mormon Battalion, was baptized and immediately enlisted with that group in Company D and made the historic trek to the West Coast. After arriving in Utah he did extensive missionary work and also brought many emigrants to Utah. The following, relative to the trip in 1859, was taken from his journal:

On Sunday, June 12th, Elders Eldredge and Cannon visited the camp and held a meeting, then organized the company, naming James S. Brown for president and captain, the selection being unanimously sustained. George L. Farrell was made sergeant of the guard, William Wright, chaplain, and John Gordon, secretary. A captain was appointed over each ten wagons, namely: first, Win. Steel; second, W. Williams; third, Christopher Funk; fourth, Newbury; fifth, Kent; sixth, Girldens. These names were suggested by Messrs. Eldredge and Cannon, and were unanimously sustained by the company of three hundred and fifty-three souls. The outfit consisted of fifty-nine wagons and one hundred and four yoke of oxen, eleven horses, thirty-five cows, and forty-one head of young cattle that were driven loose. We had provisions for seventy-five days.

One June 13, 1859, the company set out for Salt Lake City, Utah. There were nine different nationalities of people represented, namely: English, Irish, Scotch, Welsh, Danish, Swedish, Norwegians and Icelanders; we also had some Americans from the Eastern, Middle and Southern States, all mixed together. Many of them had never driven an ox one mile in their lives, and the result was almost like herding a train on the plains. If it had not been for G. L. Fartell, James Nickson, Samuel Garnet and Willis Brown, all excellent ox teamsters, besides some five or six others that were quite handy, we would doubtless have had most destructive stampedes. As it was, the company did not have any serious mishaps. In a few days the train became regulated and we had more system and order in travel. For the first five or six days of the journey the stock seemed in danger of being destroyed by flies and mosquitoes, and the people suffered much from the same cause. On the 18th we passed Captain Rowley with the handcart company.

On June 19th the camp stopped on the Loup Fork, a tributary to the Platte River. There was a small town there called Columbus. On the 20th the company moved up the river and camped on a small stream, Looking Glass Creek. That afternoon I baptized and re-baptized eighty souls, and other Elders confirmed them, while some men of the company bridged the stream. On the 21st we proceeded to Genoa Ferry, where we were joined by Captain Walding's company of thirty-seven souls and ten more wagons, increasing my company to three hundred ninety people, with sixty-nine wagons, with cattle and other property in proportion. At that place we chartered the ferry boat from J. Johnston and did the work ourselves. We paid seventy-five cents a wagon, and it took fifteen hours hard labor to cross. The stock all swam safely over, and the company proceeded up the river.

9 We met with a company of Sioux Indians on the 24th. These formed a line of battle across the road ahead of the company, and sent two men to meet us. I was traveling in advance of the company, and although I had never been among the Sioux Indians in my life for an hour, nor had I ever been where I had an opportunity to study their language, I had not the slightest difficulty in talking to them, or they to me. Consequently, I learned at once that these Indians were on the war path, and were hunting the Omahas and Poncas. They were hungry and said they must have food from the company; so they were told to form a line parallel with the road, and to keep one-fourth of a mile back, so as not to stampede the train or frighten the women and children. They were allowed to send two men on foot to spread blankets where the company could put such food as we had to spare.

Meanwhile, I gave orders to the sergeant of the guard, G. L. Farrell, and the several captains to draw up in close order, have every teamster in his place, and all the women and children in the wagons, and for each man to have his gun where he could lay his hand on it without a moment's delay. Each family was to place some food on the blankets by the roadside. Not one team was to stop without orders. The wagons were to be corralled as quickly as possible, if they must be, at the first signal from the captain to do so; for the Indians appeared very warlike in their paint and feathers.

When the red men learned that it was a company of Mormons they had met, they readily complied with the captain's terms, and a number rode up and shook hands. As the company passed their lines of not more than one hundred and fifty warriors, there came fourteen buffalo in sight, quite close, and attention was turned to them so much that the Indians took what the company had placed on their blankets and we passed on without further interruption.

It was about this date that the teamsters had become acquainted with their teams and the latter acquainted with their drivers, so that things began to work more orderly than before. The camp was called together every evening for prayers, and for instructions for the next day.

About the 26th the company started across from the Loup Fork of Wood River. That night the stock took fright and gave some trouble before they were recovered; but the next morning the company resumed its journey, leaving Wood Birdno to pursue two valuable young fillies, one his own and the other belonging to Capt. Brown. Br. Birdno did not overtake the company till the fifth day.

One evening the company camped on a tributary of the Platte River, where Almon W. Babbitt was killed by the Sioux Indians some eighteen months or two years before. The company crossed the stream and camped just opposite where that terrible tragedy occurred, and just as the cattle were being unyoked the Sioux Indians flocked into camp, all well-armed warriors. I saw that it was quite possible that they meant mischief, as there were no Indian families in sight; so I called to the company to continue their camp duties as if nothing unusual had happened, but for every man to see to his firearms quietly and be ready to use them if an emergency should arise. Then I turned to the chief, and it being again given to me to talk and understand the Indians, I asked what their visit meant, if it was peace, that they go with me to the middle of the corral of wagons and smoke the pipe of peace and have a friendly talk, as myself and people were Mormons and friends to the Indians, and that I wished them to be good friends to me and my people.

The chief readily responded, and called his peace council of smokers to the center of the corral, where they seated themselves in a circle. I took a seat to the right hand of the chief and then the smoking and talking commenced. The chief assured me that their visit was a friendly one, and to trade with the emigrants. I inquired of him why, if their visit meant peace, they all came so well armed. He answered that his people had just pitched camp a short distance back in the hills, and not knowing who we were had come down before laying down their arms.

By this time it seemed that there were about three Indians to one white person in the camp. I told the chief that it was getting too late to trade, my people were all busy in camp duties, and I was going to send our stock to where there was good feed for them. It was my custom, I said, to send armed men to watch over them, and the guards always had orders to shoot any wild beast that might disturb them, and if anybody were to come among the stock in the night, we thought them to be thieves and our enemies. If they attempted to drive off our stock, the guards had orders to shoot, and our camp guards also were ordered to shoot any thief that might come prowling around camp at night. I said that, as we did not desire to do the Indians any harm, we wished the chief and his men to go to their camp, as it was now too late to trade, but in the morning, when the sun shone on our tents and wagon covers, not when it shone on the mountain tops in the west, they could leave their arms behind and come down with their robes, pelts and furs and we would trade with them as friends; but he was not to allow any of his men to visit our camp or stock at night. The chief said that was heap good talk, and ordered his people to return to their own camp. They promptly obeyed, to the great relief of the company, which had been very nervous, as scarcely one of them except myself had ever witnessed such a sight before.

Next morning, between daylight and sunrise, the Indians appeared on the brow of the hill northeast of camp. There seemed to be hundreds of them formed in a long line and making a very formidable array. Just as the sunlight shone on the tents and wagon covers they made a descent on us that sent a thrill through every heart in camp, until it was seen that they had left their weapons of war behind, and had brought only articles of trade. They came into the center of the corral, the people gathered with what they had to trade, and for a while great bargaining was carried on. For once I had more than I could do in assisting them to understand each other, and see that there was no disturbance or wrong done in the great zeal of both parties.

The trading was over without any trouble, and there was a hearty shaking of hands, and the company resumed its journey up the river, passing and being repassed by numerous companies moving west to Pike's Peak and to Utah, California or Oregon. There were gold seekers, freighters, and a host of families of emigrants and as the company advanced to the west we met many people going to the east. They were traveling all ways, with ox, horse and mule teams, as well as by pack trains of horses and mules; while some were floating down the Platte River in small row boats.

I have omitted many dates, but feel that I must say that some time in July we came up with Captain Horton Haight, who started two weeks ahead of us, with a Church train of seventy-one wagons of freight. Both trains passed Fort Laramie that same day. Mine camped seven miles above the fort on the river, where we laid over the next day, and had our wagons unloaded and thoroughly cleaned from the dust and dirt; then they were reloaded so as to balance their loading anew. All sick cattle were doctored, while the female portion of camp washed and did considerable baking. The next day we proceeded on to the Black Hills, in good spirits, the people generally well and encouraged. The road then began to be rough and gravelly, so that the cattle began to get sore-footed, and that changed the tone of feelings of some of the people.

We went on in peace over hills and dales to the Sweetwater, thence up that stream to what we called the last crossing, where we stopped one day, and again overhauled our load, doctored sick cattle, baked, etc. From there we crossed the summit of the great Rocky Mountains to Pacific Springs, so called because their waters flow down the plains and saleratus deserts, to the Little Sandy, then to what was called the Big Sandy, and thence to Green River, the last hundred miles being the most soul-trying of the whole journey, owing to being sandy and poisonous to the stock. We traveled day and night, all that the cattle could endure, and, in fact, more than many of the people did endure without much complaint and fault-finding.

After a day's rest on the Green River, however, and being told that there was no more such country to cross, the train entered on the last hundred and fifty miles of the journey, crossing over to Ham's Fork, then to Fort Bridger on Black's Fork, and on to the two Muddy's and to Quaking Asp Ridge, the highest point to be crossed by the emigrant road. From there we went down into Echo Canyon, thence to Weber River, crossed it and over the foothills to East Canyon Creek and to the foot of the Big Mountain, where we met Apostles John Taylor and F. D. Richards. A halt was called to listen to the hearty welcome and words of cheer from the Apostles. Then the company passed over the Big Mountain to the foot of Little Mountain, where we camped. Many of the people were sick from eating chokecherries and wild berries found along the roadside.

2 Next day we proceeded to the top of Little Mountain. When I saw the last wagon on the summit, I left the Sergeant G. L. Farrell, in charge, and went ahead to report the approach of my company and their condition, as there were one hundred or more without food for their supper. I called first on General H. S. Eldredge, and took dinner with him. He received me very kindly, and accompanied me to President Brigham Young's office. The President welcomed us as cordially as a father could. After he had inquired and was told the condition of the company, he sent word to Bishop Edward Hunter to have the tithing yard cleared for the cattle, to have cooked food for all who needed it, and to have the company camp in Union Square.

When steps had been taken to carry out these orders, I called on my father-in-law in the Fourteenth Ward, where I learned that my family was well. Then I went back, met the company on the bench east of the city, and conducted it down to the square where we found Bishop Hunter and a number of other Bishops and people of the several wards, with an abundance of cooked food for supper and breakfast for the whole company. Several of the Twelve Apostles were on the ground to bid the company a hearty welcome, and delivered short addresses of good cheer.

Next morning, Orson Hyde, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, Ezra T. Benson, Charles C. Rich and Erastus Snow of the Twelve Apostles, Bishop Hunter and other prominent officers of the Church, came to the camp, called the people together, and again bade the Saints welcome to our mountain home. They advised the people where to go, and what to do to support themselves for 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.