Tales Along the Way

[This is another excerpt from pioneer biography. In this case, an account by Erastus Snow Carpenter of an incident during the journey by wagon train undertaken by his parents (John Steel Carpenter and Margarett McCullough Carpenter) in 1857.]

John Steel CarpenterMother had the desire to gather to Utah, then the gathering place of the Saints. Through the kindness of an uncle, Joseph Crossgrove, husband of father’s sister Rachel, she was permitted to gratify her wish. Nothing particular or out of the common transpired up to the time we prepared to go to Utah. In the spring, I think April, 1857, we took took steamer at Wilmington, Delaware, for Philadelphia. From there, we took the train to Iowa City. Near there our outfit was assembled to cross the great plains, some 1300 miles to Utah. Joseph had three wagons, with two yoke of oxen to each.. One of them was for the accommodation of Mother and her family. Ours was an independent train, that is, the individuals who composed it owned their own wagons and teams. A returning missionary, Jacob Huffiness was selected as captain, as he had been over the route and knew more about the country than any of our company did. There were two or three handcart companies being got up at that time.

We traveled along for some time, one ahead and then the other. Everything went well until we got pretty well up the Platte River. We had lost an ox now and then, but nothing serious. After we got some distance up the Platte, our oxen became uneasy and would stampede frequently. Thinking to make them more secure, the wagons were made into a corral, as was the custom of all trains crossing the plains. The cattle were then driven inside. During the night they made a rush to get away and tipped over one wagon, hurting one or two persons who were sleeping under the wagon. Shortly after this, we had another stampede, when some seventy of the oxen got away. Some of the men followed them for three or four days, but couldn’t overtake them. They found three head on the trail, but they were so nearly given out that they didn’t amount to much. This was a great loss to the company, and although their loads were somewhat lighter than when they started, they had to hitch up everything they had in the company. There were several cows that were put into the yoke and made to do service; One young man in the company, who had white cow in his  team, said the cow was the best ox he had.

Soon after this, the teams stampeded with the wagons toward the river which was half or three-quarters of a mile away. Before reaching there, they all stopped suddenly of their own accord, and stood perfectly quiet. There were three or four wagons jammed in side by side so close that they couldn’t pull them apart with the teams. Men had to lift term apart in order to move them. Not a thing was broken.

Source: Erastus Snow Carpenter Family Association, Erastus Snow Carpenter (Provo:  Community Press, 1985), 3

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