Holt, James, 1844-1846, 1852, Emmett and other companies
[NOTE: The Emmett Company left Nauvoo after the death of Joseph Smith and against the wishes of Church leaders. Brigham Young, in 1846, sent two men to find this company and persuade them to join with the rest of the Saints at Council Bluffs. This is the account of one of the members of that company.]
I, James Holt, was born February 10, 1804, in Halifax County, North Carolina. When I was five or six months old, my father started with a colony of his kindred, and others, and traveled to Tennessee and settled in Wilson County, near Lebanon. My grandfather, Icom Davis, was also of the colony.
James Emmett came after me to go with him.
He said he had been appointed before Joseph's death to choose a few families and travel among the Indians; to go on to the Rocky Mountains; to preach to the Indians along the way and prepare them to receive the Saints in the valley of the mountains. Bishop Miller testified to me that Emmett had been appointed by Joseph, and said that he had the privilege of choosing whom he pleased to accompany him. So I decided to go with him. He also chose John Butler to go. He wished us not to reveal it to anyone, not even to our wives, where we were going, for everything was in such an uproar that he was afraid a great many would follow and it would cause suffering.
John Butler had a friend by the name of (Billy) Edwards, whom he told, and this Edwards told others. Emmett was to go by boat and I was to travel by land and meet him at a certain place up the Iowa River, but before we met, it got rumored around to such an extent that a white settlement on Bare Creek joined us. We traveled on up the Iowa River and all met five miles above Kitchen's Settlement, which was the largest settlement at that time on the Iowa River. There my wife died, in October, and was buried. The doctors gave her a dose of lobelia when her stomach was too weak to take it, and it caused her death; and I must say I have ever since been opposed to anyone administering drugs. My wife left a child about two months old, which William Kartchner's wife took to nurse. She died on the 10th of February 1845. I lost another child at this camp, above Kitchen's Settlement. It was my oldest son Leander. He died about a month after my wife, in the month of November. I must here state that I cannot give dates and particulars as I would wish, for in my moves I lost my journal and I have to tax my memory to a great extent, to remember even one hundredth part of all which I would like to relate.
We here organized the company which had increased to upward of 25 or 30 families. Emmett was appointed trustee in trust for the company, and I was appointed bishop with Henry Hinman and Jackson Steward as my two counselors, and we all came under a covenant to divide up everything equal. We sold everything which we did not need, and bought corn and teams, and everything was divided out equal. The provisions were rationed out daily, and each person received only haft a pint of corn a day. On the first of January 1846 we started again, and still traveling up the Iowa River, we went somewhere between fifty and one hundred miles where we stopped to rest awhile. Here we made a good deal of sorghum. It was a good place for our cattle to browse and rest. Here we also had a visit from Brother Lyman, who was sent by Brigham Young to stop us from going any farther at present and to have us come back, as he thought there were too many following us which would bring great suffering. Emmett agreed to go back and consult with the Twelve when he got his company in a place where he was certain they would be safe, as he didn't feel they were safe here traveling in an Indian country.
I married Parthenia Overton on the 11th of February 1845. Great was the suffering of all the camp. The men hunted as much as possible and when they killed anything, it was divided among them, even a squirrel. When an ox died from fatigue or starvation, it was divided out to the people. They were greedy for it as if it was the best of beef. No one can have any idea of the suffering of this company, except those who experienced the same. Women and children suffered great starvation and fear, not knowing when they would be massacred by savages or unprincipled whites. Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 13, p.474 In the month of March we again started on our journey and went to the Vermillion, which was a French trading post, but before we arrived at this place, we were spied by the French and the Indians, who came out to meet us and find out our intentions. After they found out, they escorted us to the fort, where we arrived the 7th day of June. The next day Emmett went about 15 miles to see the Indian chiefs, who were drying buffalo meat for their winter provisions. They were of the Sioux nation. When he told them his business, being able to converse with them in their own tongue, he returned accompanied by seven of their chiefs. Now there was one of their chiefs by the name of Henry, who had been to Petersburg to college and had quite a good education and had settled down in this place. Emmett and those seven chiefs went to Henry's house to hold council. I must here state that the chiefs brought us several bales of dried buffalo meat for a present, which was very acceptable.
We made a feast for them, giving them the best we had. Emmett handed Chief Henry the Book of Mormon to read and after he had read the preface and explained it to his comrades, they all gave a great shout for joy. They danced, sang, shouted and had a joyful time. Emmett asked them why they were so happy. They told him that their great chief who had died twenty years ago had told them that the whites would bring them in this year the record of their forefathers. They had almost forgotten it until he had presented him with this book. They felt to rejoice because the words of their Prophet had come to pass. Emmett told them he was traveling through their country to preach the Gospel that was found in that book, and that his intentions were to travel on to the Rocky Mountains where his people wished to go and settle. They told him that it was a long way to the mountains; that he would have great waters to cross and great plains where there were no waters and when he got to the Rocky Mountains, he would find no buffalo; and his women and children would starve. They wished him and his people to stop with them and teach them to farm; anyway, he must not go any farther this season, for it was late and he was perfectly welcome to take his men and hunt and kill all of the buffalo they wished. They could help him and they should not be molested in any manner. We went out in a few days and killed two or three loads of buffalo which greatly helped us in our provisions. After Emmett had been promised protection by the Indians, he took John Buffer and went back to Nauvoo to have a council with the Twelve as he had promised.
We had peace while he was gone; the Indians treated us very kindly. When he returned, he told me that he had made everything right with the Twelve, that he had been baptized again and Brigham had blessed him with all the blessings that had before been conferred upon him and also conferred upon him greater blessings than he had hitherto held. There were a couple of brethren who came back with him; Brother Sherwood and another brother. They both confirmed his words and we were all re-baptized by them. John Butler did not come back at this time, but came the following spring. The brethren that came back with Emmett concluded to go back by water if we would fit them up a boat and they could sell their horses, which belonged to the Church. There was no one to buy their horses, but a Frenchman who kept a station nearby for a fur company offered them $30 for one and $35 for the other, but Emmett thought the sum too small and he concluded to buy them for the company, giving $50 for one and $60 for the other, taking the means to pay for them out of the company treasury. He told the brethren, when he met the Church that it could have the horses back if it so wished, by returning the same amount to him. After these two brethren had gone, the Frenchman who wished to get the horses, got very much offended because we had bought the horses and he couldn't get them. So he got the Indians together and got them drunk, and hired them to come kill us all off. The station where they gathered was about one-half mile from our camp. The Indians started toward us to put in execution the bloody orders of the Frenchman, but the head chief came on ahead to have a council with Chief Henry at his cabin. They asked him if it was right to kill us. "Yes," said Henry, "Go and kill them who brought us the record of our forefathers; kill all the women and little children who have never done us any harm, and get a big name." Said they, "Are you making fun of us?" "Yes," he said, "Go and stop your warriors and don't let them hurt a hair of the whites, at your peril." This sobered the chiefs and they in the company with Henry, came on a run to intercept the Indians and met them at our camp in the act of raising their guns to shoot us down. The chiefs ran in among them, knocking their guns right and left, and shouting at them to stop. They nearly had a war between themselves, before the chiefs were able to stop them, as the Indians were so drunk that they were hard to control by their own leaders; however, they were brought under subjection before they shed any of our blood, but our people were greatly frightened, especially our women and children who cried and screamed thinking wewere all going to be massacred. But the hand of God seemed to be over us, and we escaped by almost a miracle, for during the skirmish between the chiefs and Indians, there were a great many guns discharged and the bullets whistled among ourwagons, some over and some under, and several in close contact to the inmates of our camp.
The Indians now all swore vengeance of the Frenchman, whom they now called a murderer, and they went to kill him, but he kept forted up and dared not go out of the walls for some time. But they got a chance by fall to shoot him. They only wounded him and he was taken by his friends to a doctor where he recovered. He then started to return and when he got to the little Zion, he was again shot by them and this time killed. So he fell into the trap that he had set for us.
When spring opened up we put in garden seeds and were preparing to put in corn to raise a crop, but John Butler now returned from Nauvoo with James Cummings bringing word from the Twelve for us to meet the Church at the Bluffs, so we broke up camp and met the Church at that place. We went about twenty-five or thirty miles beyond and camped on Keg Creek and the brethren who were able went down the Missouri and worked around to obtain corn for our families to eat. We obtained a load or two and were about ready to start with it to our families when word came for us to hurry up and join George Miller's company which was waiting for us ready to proceed to the Rocky Mountains.
We came back and got our families and crossed the Missouri River in July joining in with Miller's company and we were making for the Pavanee, which was a trading station. But the men of the station had been driven out by the Indians previously and had started to return when they fell in with our company; Brother Miller promised to haul their effects. The day before we were to arrive there, those men went on ahead to arrange things at the fort for our reception. About noon, Emmett came to me and said he was impressed that something would happen to those men and he wished to get my horse to go and overtake them. I let him have the horse and he went on to the fort. He found that the Indians had all collected to kill them. He told the men to make a feast for the Indians and treat them well and they would not be harmed until he could go back to camp and return with help. He got back to our camp about 1 o'clock at night and called for a few men to go back to the fort with him immediately. About twenty-five or thirty men responded to the call, including myself. It was about fifteen miles to the fort and we were in wild Indian country, and nearly all of our able-bodied men were now called to leave their wives and children, the aged and infirm, to the mercies of the savages. It was quite a perilous night. Women were clinging to their husbands and trying to prevail upon them not to go and leave them in their present dangerous position, but we commended them to the Lord and departed on foot in the dead of night.
We arrived at the fort just at the first glimmer of dawn. We found the Indians all asleep in a circle around the dying embers of their campfire. We carefully approached, surrounding them, pointed our guns and were ready to fire at them at a given signal. Emmett spoke to the chief in their own tongue. The chief arose to his feet with the well-known "ugh" at which the Indians all arose, found themselves in such a trap, shook hands with us all around, led by the chief and silently took their departure, and thus we saved the fort without the shedding of blood.
We went back and met our teams, which had been hitched up by the men and women of the company, and started on the way to the fort. We took charge of our teams and arrived during the day. The station men were afraid to stop at the fort any longer, for they knew when we were not there, the Indians would come upon them again and massacre them. So they gave Brother Miller all the corn and grain they had here to take them and their effects back to the Bluffs. We stopped here about two weeks and harvested their grain, loaded up, and were ready to start again on our journey, when a dispute arose as to the leadership.
We had been increased, by this time, to two companies. One was led by Kimball and one company called Brigham's Company. Although they were all under the direction of Brigham Young, Miller wished to have the honor of being chief captain because he started out first. Some of the brethren wrote to Brigham Young at the Bluffs to settle the dispute and know what to do. He wrote for us not to go any farther this season as it was too late, but to find a suitable place and winter and he would advise us further in the spring. We turned off on the Missouri bottoms and camped at the mouth of Puncaw River and went to work building shanties to winter in. The grain we brought with us from Pawnee Fort was, now all divided by Brother Miller among the company; six bushels of corn, forty pounds of flour, and a few oats fell to my share. We made the oats into meal and tried to eat it, but it was very poor indeed. The most of the time, we pounded it in a mortar and made it into soup, seasoning it with squirrel's legs or a small piece of any other meat we might happen to obtain. We tried many experiments with different things to see if they were eatable. We searched out everything we could to sustain life. We even tried and experimented to make biscuits with elm bark, but it was a poor substitute. At one time we were poisoned by eating some "Gar Eggs" and we concluded it was not for the food of man. A great many roots that we obtained were good for food such as the lions root, artichoke, and hog potato. The rations which I received at Puncaw were very small for my family. I had at times five in the family, including myself, but going down the river to work and getting a few jobs around home and straining all my energy, we made out to live through the winter. Many things turned up for our sustenance which would look almost like a miracle to some. There was one time during the winter that the Lord opened a way for me to get a few pounds of flour without much exertion on my part. It was as thankfully received at that time as fifty times the amount would be at different times since.
There was a man by the name of Dalton who had a cow and had been hunting for it for two or three days. He came to me one evening and offered me sixteen pounds of flour if I would get her for him, so I arose early the next morning preparatory to getting ready to start out on the hunt for a cow. I looked out and it seemed a dismal day to take a tramp in the snow. While I was looking out I heard a cow bellow close to my shanty and I saw Dalton's cow close by. She seemed to be waiting for me to drive her home which I soon did and obtained 12 lbs. of flour. He thought I shouldn't have the full amount as I had not been to any trouble to hunt for her. However. I was very thankful for the small amount.
The next spring , Brigham sent for us to all come to the Bluffs. We were now all without provisions and Emmett took a horse and started on ahead to obtain means for us to get provisions. He agreed to meet us at a certain place but by the dint of much labor and fatigue in hunting wild animals and fowls we made out to keep from starving. When we got to the Bluffs, our company was broken up. Emmett and a few of us went down on the Waupause Creek in Fremont County, Iowa, and took up farms. We sowed some buckwheat and planted some potatoes and raised a crop. There was a settlement close by where we obtained employment enough to get provisions to keep us from starving until our crops matured. My first child by wife Parthenia died here on the 15th of August 1847.
After our crops were raised, we began to do very well. I stopped here for several years and began to accumulate means until I became very comfortably situated. One great drawback with this place was that it was very unhealthy. We had a great deal of sickness in our family but otherwise it was a rich place. There was all manner of wild fruit such as grapes, raspberries, blackberries, mulberries, strawberries and nuts of every kind which would grow in a cold climate, and a great amount of all kinds of timber. The land was very productive for everything but wheat, which didn't do very well. I generally raised other kinds of grain and bought what flour I wished by the barrel, which was brought up the river from other places. The Church went on to the Rocky Mountains.
In 1849 Brother Emmett started for California. He had some difficulty with his family and declared he would go where they would never hear of him. He left all his family but one daughter. He stopped a few days in Salt Lake Valley and Brigham had a long conversation with him trying to get him to stop with the Church, but for some cause unknown to me, he had rebelled and would no longer follow the Church. He went on to California where he died in 1854 or 55. His family never heard a word from him until his death although his daughter had written over twenty letters to him thus fulfilling his famous prediction. In 1850 Simpson Emmett, the son of Brother Emmett, started to Salt Lake Valley, taking with him his father's family. Simpson had married Catherine Overton, sister to my wife. I took his farm, giving him $200 for it and if I could sell it in the future for a larger price, I was to give him the remainder when I met him in the Valley, as I contemplated going there as soon as I conveniently could.
To the Valley. In the spring of 1852 I made ready to go to Salt Lake Valley, where the Saints were peacefully living. I tried to sell my place but could only get $350 for it, including the farm that I had got from Emmett. I sold to William Helloway and he was to pay me extra for everything else that I left and couldn't sell, but when I got ready to start he would not pay me another cent and I had to leave about 300 bushels of corn in the crib, a stack of oats, a storehouse full of meat, seven stands of bees, and several other things. But he never received much benefit from it, himself, for he bought a band of horses and started with them for California, thinking to get quite a sum for them; but when he got on the Humboldt River, a little over half way, he was killed by the Indians.
Iowa was a very unhealthy place; my family was sick a great deal, and I, myself, was greatly afflicted with the ague. I don't think that I could have survived much longer had I continued to stop there, but the Lord saw fit to bring upon me those afflictions in order that I might be gathered with the Saints. We started about the middle of July and went to Key Creek about 8 miles. I left some of my stock including a yoke of steers and my three oldest children who were to stop and see to things until the next morning. I was calculating to go back after them, but I felt a presentiment that something would happen to them and I couldn't rest, so I took my team I'd just previously unloaded. I started back about dark and I got back before day, and I learned that William Alma, the youngest of the three, had broken his arm. Those steers, before mentioned, were yoked together and left in the corral, and while his sister was milking the cows, William got to climbing upon their backs. He was thrown off; his arm was broken between the wrist and elbow. His wrist and elbow were both put out of joint. The joints had both been set and the arm splintered by those who had bought the place.
I now started back to Key Creek, taking my children and all my effects which I could take, where I arrived before night. The next day I got an old lady to attend to my son's arm. In a day or two I started again, and got as far as Mesquite where I stopped about one week waiting for Dr. Wm. Smith to get ready to accompany me. This Smith was not a Mormon; he was going to California and wished to cross the plains with a small company. We were also joined by a Brother Levi who was going to the Salt Lake Valley. There were only three families of us nearly the whole of the journey. We crossed the Missouri River on the 27th of July. We got to Ash Hollow in two days having traveled all night the second night, as there was a camp of Indians on the South Fork. The doctor thought it wiser to travel in the night in order to get as far from them as possible. The next day we traveled only seven miles, and on the next morning, which was the 31st, my son Franklin Overton was born, and the next day, we continued our journey; most of the traveling this year was on the north side of the Platte so we took the south, thinking it would be the healthiest, as there was a great deal of cholera on the north route. We had no sickness to amount to anything during the whole trip.... .
There was another alarm when we were in a very unsafe place, as the Indians in that part of the country were a very bloodthirsty set. It occurred to us one evening as we had camped. In the distance we saw a lone horseman making his way toward us. We soon found it to be an Indian, so the doctor thought he would start a little strategy to frighten him away, for he had no doubt but what he was sent for a spy. There was a boy in the camp, one of Brother Lewis's sons, who had a very freckled face. The doctor had him get in the wagon as quick as possible, he then put a little flour on the boys face and put him in bed between two white sheets. He looked almost like a corpse. The Indian came up and the doctor told him we had smallpox in that wagon. The Indian took one look at the boy and struck for the plains for dear life. He thought the boy had smallpox and they were afraid of the disease. The doctor gained his point and we never saw an Indian after that for two or three weeks.
We finally arrived in Salt Lake Valley and went about 45 miles north of Salt Lake City to the bend of the Weber River in Weber County, where Simpson Emmett lived. We arrived there on the 27th of October being just three months on the way. I built me a house close to Emmett's when we stopped during the winter. We had not been here long when my wife took sick with the mountain fever and continued most of the winter, being so low that her child could not nurse, and it had to be raised by hand. My eldest daughter, Mary Ann, was also taken sick with the same complaint, and the rest of us had our hands full. It kept me busy tending the sick; my son LeRoy did the housework, and William tended the smaller children; my wife's sister, Simpson Emmett's wife, did what she could for us, but she had small children and she didn't have much spare time. My wife hung between life and death for several days, but the Lord again blessed her with health.
Before spring, I went to North Ogden and bought a farm from Aciff Rice for three hundred and fifty dollars, selling some cattle to make the first payment. The place was about ten miles from where I wintered, and being 6 miles from Ogden City, which at that time consisted of only a few farms with people living upon their own farms. I raised a very good crop. In the fall the people in different parts of Utah were counseled by Brother Brigham to build forts in order to protect themselves against Indians. The people of North Ogden selected a place which was north, and joining upon my farm, so it didn't put me to the trouble of moving. This place was presided over by Bishop Thomas Dunn. The people of the place began to gather and it was not long before we had a settlement, but the wall around it was never built because the Indians around here were not considered very troublesome, and the settlement was laid off in the form of a town, with building lots and streets at right angles.Source: Pioneer Handcarts 1856 - 1860 © Steve Pratt