Chapter XII.


Myself and two Companions Sent to Search for Missing

Companies--We Find Them--Our Cool Reception at One Camp--Apathy Manifested--Terrible Sufferings

HAVING seen the sufferings of Brother Willie's company, we more fully realized the danger the others were in. The Elders who had just returned from England having many dear friends with these companies, suffered great anxiety, some of them feeling more or less the responsibility resting upon them for allowing these people to start so late in the season across the plains. At first we were at a loss what to do for we did not expect to have to go further than Devil's Gate. We decided to make camp and send on an express to find [66] where the people were and not to return until they were found.

Joseph A. Young, Abe Garr and I were selected. (Some histories give other names, but I was there myself and am not mistaken). With picked saddle horses and a pack mule we started out.

The first night we camped, our forces followed a band of buffaloes several miles; it was near noon the next day when we returned with them. We determined to get even with them so rode at full gallop wherever the road would permit. After riding about twelve miles we saw a white man's shoe track in the road. Bro. Young called out, "Here they are." We put our animals to their utmost speed and soon came in sight of the camp at Red Bluff. This was Brother Edward Martin's hand-cart company and Ben Horgett's wagon company. There was still another wagon company down near the Platte Crossing.

This company was in almost as bad a condition as the first one. They had nearly given up hope. Their provisions were about exhausted and many of them worn out and sick. When we rode in, there was a general rush to shake hands. I took no part in the ceremony. Many declared we were angels from heaven. I told them I thought we were better than angels for this occasion, as we were good strong men come to help them into the valley, and that our company, and wagons loaded with provisions, were not far away. I thought this the best consolation under the circumstances. Brother Young told the people to gather "up" and move on at once as the only salvation was to travel a little every day. This was right and no doubt saved many lives for we, among so many, (some twelve hundred) could do but little, and there was danger of starvation before help [67] could arrive unless the people made some head-way toward the valley.

After talking to and encouraging the people, they agreed to start on the next morning. We then started full gallop for John Hunt's camp fifteen miles further. On arriving no one noticed us or appeared to care who we were. Their tents were pitched in good shape, wood was plentiful, and no one seemed concerned. Joseph A. Young became offended, not expecting such a cool reception and remarked, "Well it appears we are not needed here." So we went down into the bottom and made camp for ourselves. After a while some one sauntered down our way, thinking probably we were mountaineers. These recognized Brother Young and made a rush for camp, giving the word; soon we were literally carried in and a special tent was pitched for our use. Everything was done to make "amends" for the previous neglect. I never could see where the amends came in, for no one happened to know us when we first arrived, and strangers were often passing, this being near where several camps of old traders were located.

About the time we were settled in our tent, Capt. Hunt and Gilbert Van Schoonhoven, his assistant, arrived from the Platte Bridge, also Captain Ben Horgett. They were rejoiced to meet us. Here I first met "Gib Spencer" and formed a friendly acquaintance with him which continues to this day.

These people were just on the eve of suffering, but as yet had not. Quite a number of their cattle had died during the snow storm which had now been on them for nine days

Next morning Brother Young and others went to Platte Bridge, leaving Brother Garr and I to get the company started according to agreement made to the even-[68]ing before. There was a spirit of apathy among the people, instead of going for their teams at once, several began to quarrel about who should go. This made us feel like leaving them to take care of themselves. We saddled up to do so. The clouds were gathering thickly for storm, and just as we were about to start it commenced snowing very hard. The heavens were obscured by clouds, excepting a small place about the shape of the gable end of a house. This opening was in the direction of the valley and the sun seemed to shine through with great brightness. We mounted our mules; Brother Garr, pointing to the bright spot in the heavens, said, "Do you see that hole? You had better all get out of here before that closes out, for it is your opening to the valley. We are going." The people, I believe, took this for a warning and soon started for their cattle.

Next morning they moved on. Brother Garr and I went back to where E. Martin's camp had been. They had rolled out and Capt. Horgett's wagon company were just starting.

We continued on, overtaking the hand-cart company ascending a long muddy hill. A condition of distress here met my eyes that I never saw before or since. The train was strung out for three or four miles. There were old men pulling and tugging their carts, sometimes loaded with a sick wife or children--women pulling along sick husbands--little children six to eight years old struggling through the mud and snow. As night came on the mud would freeze on their clothes and feet. There were two of us and hundreds needing help. What could we do? We gathered on to some of the most helpless with our riatas tied to the carts, and helped as many as we could into camp on Avenue hill.

This was a bitter, cold night and we had no [69] fuel excepting very small sage brush. Several died that night.

Next morning, Brother Young having come up, we three started for our camp near Devil's Gate. All were rejoiced to get the news that we had found the emigrants. The following morning most of the company moved down, meeting the hand-cart company at Greasewood creek. Such assistance as we could give was rendered to all until they finally arrived at Devil's Gate fort about the 1st of November. There were some twelve hundred in all, about one-half with hand-carts and the other half with teams.

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