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Life On The Trail

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Freighting within Utah, 1858

Freighting within Utah, 1858
Richard John Moxey Bee was born the 6th day of February, 1835 to George and Janet Atchinson Bee. He left his native land of Scotland as a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arriving in the valley of the Great Salt Lake in the Henry W. Miller company of 1852. The following is his story of freighting experiences during the early days:

In the spring of 1858 that remarkable exodus of the Mormons from the city and all the settlements north took place. I took an active part as I was living in Lehi and all those living south of the city were called upon to assist those of northern settlements unable to move themselves, to move south. I made several trips to Farmington, 16 miles north of Salt Lake, and to other places, and to all spectators, they might have seen a motley crowd of people and all kinds of conveyances, on the road continually night. and day till the country was depopulated. Most of the exiles settled temporarily on what was known as Provo Bench, on the shores of Utah Lake, awaiting the decision of the "treaty." Peace was finally restored and in due time all returned to their former homes.

In the fall of 1858 I got a job freighting from a man who had the contract to furnish supplies for a company of soldiers, and provender for 500 mules the army was wintering in Sanpete valley, at Fort Ephraim. I sold him my teams of horses to be paid for the following February, and then hired him to drive the horses all winter freighting between Salt Lake and Fort Ephraim one hundred and twenty-five miles from the city.

I made regular trips during the winter till the latter part of January, 1859. When, on my last trip I reached Nephi at the mouth of Salt Creek Canyon, I was advised to stop a few days, as a family traveling up the canyon had been murdered by marauding Indians two days previous. I remained at Nephi three days and then I determined to make a start for Fort Ephraim thirty miles further as it had commenced snowing and I was afraid of being blockaded. The people remonstrated but being three or four days later than usual, I knew those in Sanpete would be uneasy regarding me. I started alone during a severe snowstorm with a heavy load and reached the last hill in the canyon before reaching the divide; had to shovel my way up to the top, then proceed over a seven mile divide. It snowed two feet while traveling that distance. It was then dark. I had a tired team and about given out myself. I could not travel any further having the road to break. I unhitched and tied the team to the wagon and fed them, then crawled into the wagon and sat up, being unable to have a fire, till the moon rose about midnight. I had still about 20 miles to travel with the Sanpete river between me and my destination. It was rather an uninviting and lonesome trip, being in the night during below zero weather and no one near provided I might need help.

I kept traveling as best I could, snow nearly to the wagon hubs. Finally I reached the river, which I had to ford. The ice extended 6 or 7 feet from the banks on either side and the water up to the horses' bellies. I made the attempt to cross after breaking the ice to allow the team and wagon to enter the water. My team was so [p.35] jaded and thirsty, being without water all day before and to the present time, that when I got in the stream I could not urge them forward. They drank to excess, and when they got through, I started a few feet then struck the ice on the opposite bank. The team plunged so trying to climb the ice but could not make it. I then walked to the tongue, axe in hand, got off as best I could and chopped away for the horses and wagon. The horses, not being shod, they could not climb out. I then walked back to the tongue of the wagon, unhitched them, calculating to go on to Fort Ephraim for help. It was just dawning day and yet nine or ten miles before I could reach the Fort, and I would have to keep on the move to keep from freezing, being wet nearly all over. While looking anxiously toward the settlement I perceived a dark object moving toward me. It proved to be a searching party sent to ascertain if anything had befallen me as I was about a week overdue. At last there approached six men, including my employer, with four horses and a sled. They saw me stalled in the river, the horses stiff with water, foundering, and myself nearly frozen. However, we were all thankful that things were no worse, and the lost one found. All hands started to unload, having some plank with them, we constructed a gangway between the shore and the wagon, and soon had the goods transferred to the sled. Then the wagon was pulled out and my team hitched. The four horses were hitched to the loaded sled, and then we were ready for the return trip.

Mr. Leslie, my employer, kept a store in Fort Ephraim and beside furnishing forage and supplies for the soldiers and their mules did a flourishing business with the settlers all winter. During the intermediate times between trips, I assisted him in the store and kept books for him, for which he allowed me extra to pay my wage engagement, which was to be $40.00 a month and furnishings from October to February following. When February came we were all blocked in with snow and no outlet to Salt Lake Valley only by traveling 100 miles to the south and west of us out of our direct way. I was very anxious to get home, and after settling up our affairs all satisfactory, I began to make arrangement to start for home. It happened there was another man whose home was in Goshen, located at the southwest of Utah Lake, he, also, was anxious to get home to his family, so we agreed to both make a break and endeavor to get through by the old road if we could follow it. I sold my wagon I had been freighting with, bought a pony and saddle, and after all debts were paid I had a pretty good stake to start home with $475.00 in gold. At last we started and traveled down the valley, snow being only 10 or 12 inches deep, till we struck the divide, where we encountered snow to the depth of 3 to 5 feet. We then traveled single file, taking turns in going ahead. Our horses being stout and fresh we plunged through the snow very well; sometimes we got into hollows going nearly out of sight; but knowing the direction we wished to go, we kept at it till we finally reached the summit, having traveled from Fort Ephraim 26 miles, then dark, and still had 4 or 5 miles to travel before reaching Nephi in Juab valley about 10 o'clock ... After being lodged and cared for royally we were ready when morning came to proceed on our journey. My road led northward by Provo, but the other brother's led northwest.

The Civil War was being agitated and rumors of its breaking out was keeping the troops stationed at Camp Floyd all in a frenzy, and preparations were going on to vacate the place, as General Johnston and his men, being Southerners, were expected to take part in the Confederate army if war took place. Camp Floyd was being broken up and sold together with all the army equipment. The buildings were sold mostly to Salt Lake parties; their animals, harnesses, and wagons were to be sold at auction in the course of a few days from then. The brother invited me to go home with him to Goshen that being on the direct road to Camp Floyd. I accepted his kind invitation, arriving at his house in the afternoon. I was hospitality entertained till the following morning. Goshen at that time was settled entirely by Danes, their houses being built of sod and adobes, or mud being placed in layers, and built on day by day as the mud dried. I started out the following morning intending to go by way of Camp Floyd, 15 miles, and attend the sale of their animals. I stayed overnight and attended the sale the next day. I bought a fine pair of well broken mules and their harness, with other equipment for a 4-mule outfit, for $150.00. I then loaded the whole outfit on the mules and put out for home twenty miles, reaching there about dark, took my folks by surprise, and proud of my mules and outfit.

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.