Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Edwin Pettit Autobiography, Part 3

In the spring of 1847 we moved camp, and passed through Winter Quarters, where the main part of the Saints had been camped all winter. All the companies rallied to a place near a stream called Elk Horn, where they organized into companies of hundreds, fifties and tens, with a captain over each.

Bishop Edward Hunter was appointed captain of fifty: John Lowry was appointed captain of ten families in which all the Seeleys were members, my sister and myself with the rest.[1] I was thirteen years of age at this time. Most of the time we traveled in double columns—that is, two rows of teams in order to keep the company together and away from the Indians.

In camping over night our wagons were placed to form a circle, an opening being left at one end to drive the cattle in to keep them from the Indians, guards being place around the outside.


Fuel was very scarce most of the time and when we wanted a fire everyone would go out to gather buffalo chips, and some of the daintier sex instead of picking them up with their hands, used tongs to gather them with. Before we had gone very far, they got very bravely over this, and would almost fight over a dry one. We could see buffalo as thick as the leaves on the trees for miles around. We had a great deal of trouble from them, having to scare them away with guns in order to make a passage. 


We saw many Indians, but for the most part they were very friendly and peaceable. At one place on the Platte River, some of the boys and myself went down to swim at noon time, and I got beyond my depth and was nearly drowned.

We traveled mostly on foot, the wagons being used to carry the provisions. Sometimes an ox and a horse would be hitched together to make the trip. In the latter part of the journey, when our cattle began to get tired and footsore, sometimes lying down, it was a difficult matter to get them on their feet again. We had a calf that gave out, and we had to leave him one afternoon. The next morning, while the folks were getting breakfast, I was put on a horse and sent back several miles to bring the calf. One place where there was a double road, with a swamp in the middle I saw four Indians coming. I left one road and passed over into the other to avoid the Indians. When they saw me, they passed over into that road also to meet me. I was riding a good horse, and had a good half mile the start of them, but I did not think to turn and run back. I went right ahead and met them. They came up, talked to me a few minutes, and they let me pass right along. It is almost a miracle that they did not take my horse, as it was a very good one and I often think of it as being a very foolish act on my part. I was never afraid of the Indians, and I presume this is the reason I was not more cautious. However, I found the calf and returned to the company.

We traveled from day to day feeling as happy and cheerful as possible under the conditions, covering from ten to fifteen miles a day.

Our last camp before entering the valley of Salt Lake would be a short distance above the mouth of Emigration Canyon.


After a journey of about four or five months, we reached Salt Lake on the 19th day of September, 1847. We joined some of the emigrants on what is now known as Pioneer Square. It was then surrounded by a high mud wall as a protection against the Indians, with port holes on all sides and a large gate on each side. I lived near the northwest corner of the square, where my brother-in-law and sister and myself had two houses of one room each, for which my brother-in-law traded provisions. Many a time we have stood with an umbrella over the table to keep the water from coming through on our food, and tin pans set over the bed to catch the water that dripped through the mud roof. We stayed here for two winters.

We started to farming—plowed and put in grain, but it did not amount to much. We used to go through the wheat fields where all the grain had been taken off, and glean the fields, fan out the wheat and grind it through a coffee mill to make pancakes. If we got enough for one hot cake, we considered ourselves very fortunate.

To be continued...

Part 2 


[1] Edwin traveled in the Edward Hunter-Jacob Foutz Company. Here is a list of the members of the company, and all known accounts about the company, including Edwin's, which is one of the more detailed accounts.

C.C.A. Christensen picture of Winter Quarters from Wikipedia. Mormon Trail map from Wikipedia. Picture of the buffalo chip, with much thanks, from Tim Hettler at www.flickr.com/photos/timhettler/20349078/. Picture of the buffalo herd from www.flickr.com/photos/senzenina/685683188/#/. And finally about the photo of the mountains in autumn: yes, I realize that it's the mountains above Provo, but the picture was taken on September 20th, which was just a day later in the season than when the wagon train arrived in Salt Lake City. From www.flickr.com/photos/msn678/274134737/.

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