Chapter XIV.


We Kill our Cattle to Keep Them from Wolves--Visit from two

Brethren--Letter from President Young--A Mail Company Nearly Perishes

I LEFT the company feeling a little downcast, to return to Devil's Gate. It was pretty well understood that there would be no relief sent us. My hopes were that we could kill game. We had accepted the situation, and as far as Capt. Grant was concerned he had done as much as he could for us. There was more risk for those who went on than for us remaining.

On returning to camp, I found that the cattle left were very poor. The weather had moderated and we hoped to get them on good feed and recruit them a little. Over two hundred head of cattle had died in the vicinity of the fort. Along the road each way for a day's travel were carcases. This led droves of prairie wolves into our camp, it was almost impossible to keep them off from the cattle in the day time. We were obliged to corral them at night. Once in the day time a small bunch was taken and run off in spite of the efforts of the herders to stop them. In fact, it became dangerous to [76] face these wolves, they were at times almost ready to attack men.

We soon found it would be impossible to save the cattle. Already some twenty-five had died or been killed by the wolves within a week. It was decided to kill the rest, some fifty head. A few were in living order, but many would have died within twenty-four hours. In fact we killed them to keep them from dying. We had a first-class butcher from London, who dressed everything in the best style. Everything was saved that we thought might be eaten. We hung the meat up. The poorest of it we did not expect to eat, but intended to use it for wolf bait further along when the carcases were all devoured, provided we could get traps from the Platte Bridge, which we afterwards did. We never used our poor beef for wolf bait as we had to eat the whole of it ourselves, and finally the hides were all consumed for food.

After killing the cattle we had nothing much to do but fix up the fort and look after four ponies we had left. Brother Hampton and myself had our saddle horses yet in good order.

There were plenty of guns and ammunition left with us, also dishes and cooking utensils. After thoroughly repairing the houses, chinking and daubing them, we overhauled the goods stored away.

While storing the bales and boxes the snow had drifted in among them. There was nothing but dirt floors and the goods had been tumbled in without any regard to order. Having cleaned out everything, we took ox yokes, of which there were a great many, and made floors of them and then piled the goods on them. While handling the goods we found some coffee, sugar and fruit, also a roll of leather. These we kept out and [77] put in our store room for use. We also found a box of soap and candles. These goods were marked F. D. Richards, Daniel Spencer, John Van Cott, James Fergeson, William Dunbar, Cyrus Wheelock and Chauncey Webb; most of them John Van Cott. We were told by Captain Grant to use anything we could find to make us comfortable.

During this time we were at a loss what to do, men's minds did not run much upon property, the main interest was to save life. One prominent Elder became very liberal. He had several large trunks filled with valuable stuff. He opened his heart and trunks, making presents to several of the boys from the valley of socks, shirts and such things as would help to make them comfortable. He left his trunks in my rooms, giving me the keys and telling me to use anything there was, not to suffer for anything that could be found, and asked God to bless me.

I told the boys who remained with me that we had better not open this man's trunks, that when he got to the valley and had time to think, he would change his mind and would doubtless be thinking we were using his goods, and if we touched anything belonging to him we would be accused of taking more than we had. Later occurrences proved this to be a good suggestion.

With the cattle killed that were fit to eat, and what provisions we had on hand, we managed to live for a while without suffering, except for salt. Bread soon gave out and we lived on meat alone. Some of us went out hunting daily but with poor success.

A day or two before Christmas, Ephraim Hanks and Feramorz Little arrived at the fort, bringing mail from the valley with the following letter of instructions from President Young:



"Dec. 7th, 1856.

"Brothers Jones, Alexander and Hampton, in charge at Devil's Gate, and the rest of the brethren at that place:

"DEAR BRETHREN: Quite unexpectedly to us we have the opportunity of sending you a few suggestions, as Judge Smith, the post master here, has concluded to forward the eastern mail by Brothers Feramorz Little and Ephraim Hanks.

"Being somewhat aware of a natural disposition in many to relax their vigilance after a temporary and unaccustomed watchfulness, more especially in case no particular cause of alarm is of frequent occurrence, I feel impressed to write a few suggestions and words of counsel to you all. You are in an Indian country, few in number, blockaded by the snows, and far from assistance in this season of the year. Under such circumstances you can but realize the necessity of all of you being constantly on the alert, to be firm, steady, sober-minded and sober-bodied, united, faithful and watchful, living your religion. Do not go from your fort in small parties of one, two or three at a time. But when game is to be sought, wood got up, or any other operation to be performed requiring you to travel from under the protection of the fort guns, go in bands of some ten or twelve together, and let them be well armed; and let those who stay by the stuff be watchful while their comrades are out. And at all times and under all circumstances let every person have his arms and ammunitions ready for active service at a moment's warning, so you cannot be surprised by your foes nor in any way be taken advantage of, whether in or out of the fort. Always have plenty of water about the buildings, and be very careful about fires, and the preservation from damp, fire or other damage of the goods in your care. Unless buffaloes and other game come within a reasonable distance, you had better kill some of the cattle than run much risk in quest of game. Use all due diligence for the preservation of your stock, [79] and try to so ration out your flour as to have it last until we can send you relief, which, as before stated, will be forwarded as early as possible in the spring, but may not reach you until May, depending somewhat on the weather snows and spring weather, of which you will be able to form an estimate as the season advances.

"We will send teams to your relief as early as possible in the spring, and trust to learn that all has been well with you and the property in your care. Brothers Little and Hanks will furnish you with items of news from the valley, and I will forward you some packages of our papers by them.

"Praying you may be united, faithful and protected,

"I remain, Your brother in the gospel,


From this letter is plain to see that Brother Brigham was not apprised of our condition. He afterwards said if he had known our situation he would have relieved us if it had taken half the men in the valley. I never felt to complain. The brethren who left us knew but little about what was left to provision us. The supposition was that the cattle would have furnished us in case game could not be killed.

Brother Alexander and I were out for several days, killing some game on this trip. We were much disappointed on our return to find that Brothers Hanks and Little had gone on east without us seeing them. Brother Little looked around at our supplies, telling the boys to take care of the hides, that they were better than nothing to eat. This proved good advice.

Soon after, the MaGraw mail company came along under the charge of Jesse Jones. They left their coaches, fitted up with packs and started for the valley, Brother Joseph L. Heywood, United States Marshal for Utah, was a passenger. They went as far as the South [80] Pass. This storm setting in so severely they could not face it, they came near freezing to death; it was with great difficulty that Brother Heywood was kept alive.

The day they returned to our camp we had killed a buffalo some twelve miles distant, it took all hands three days to get it into camp. This buffalo I shot at the risk of my life. He was coming toward me in a snow trail. I lay on the trail with nothing to protect me. If I had not killed him he would doubtless have run on to me; but he dropped at the first shot. We were about out of anything fit to eat and it did not require much bravery to take the risk, for almost anyone will take desperate chances when hungry. We wounded two others, that we expected to get, but about the time we commenced dressing the one killed, there came on a regular blizzard that lasted several days. We had hard work to save the lives of the men getting the meat into camp.

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