Thursday, March 27, 2014

David Nathan Thomas (Part 7)

Part 1 (Introduction and Index)

The men who drove the wagons “down and back” were sometimes volunteers and sometimes called by church leaders, but whatever, they were regarded as missionaries and were expected to maintain those standards. For their efforts they were given tithing credit and allowed to profit by reselling the products brought back from Omaha. One young wagon master, Albert Jones, wrote: “…my load came to $450, my expenses $65, leaving $305 to my credit.” [32] The wagon trains were also a great blessing for the immigrants as they did not have the expense of buying wagons and oxen, and they did not have to learn to drive the oxen, nor did they have to individually gather and purchase the provisions needed for the trip.

David and his children and Adeline had the good fortune to be assigned to the Homer Duncan Company which left Florence, Nebraska on July 22, 1862, with 500 people in the company. [33] The company was broken down into small groups of 20 to 30. Each group was assigned to one of the 41 wagons that made up Homer Duncan’s company. Many of the men who drove the wagons had made the journey more than once and were experienced and knowledgeable about the trail. The company under the efficient and caring leadership of Homer Duncan made the trek in record time for ox teams—130 days.   “…with few deaths, one man, one woman and one child died on the journey, and this loss was made up by the birth of five children, in one case twins.” [34]

Compared to earlier treks to Zion, these immigrants encountered few hardships. By 1862 fifteen years of wagons passing along the trail, some going to California, some to Oregon and many to Utah had turned the trail into more of a road with traffic jams. Albert Jones, one of the wagon masters, relates that at one point in the journey the wagon train met up with the Murdock Company and 95 wagons stretched out along the trail. [35] So many wagons had travelled the trail that one of the biggest hardships the immigrants of 1862 had to endure was the heat of August and the dust and the boredom of the step-after-step, mile-after-mile, day-after-day walk across the flat plains of Nebraska.  On August 2 a severe storm of wind, hail, and rain leveled most of the tents, damaged some of the wagons and turned the dust into foot-deep mud.

On Wednesday, September 24, 1862, the wagons drove into Salt Lake City late in the afternoon. Margaret remembered her disappointment when they first saw Salt Lake City.  They had walked 2,000 hot, dusty miles, eagerly anticipating the wonderful city of Zion and when they saw it, it was only “a mere village.” [36] The immigrants stayed in Salt Lake City for a few days and then were scattered north and south, over all the Utah Territory. 

[32] “Trail Excerpt”, Jones, Albert, Journal, in Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 24 Sept, 1862. Source of trail excerpt: Albert Jones, Autobiography, in Mormon biographical sketches collection [ca.1900-1975], reel 5, box 6, folder 5, item 1, [4].

[33] Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847-1868. The list of immigrants in Home Duncan Company wagon train of 1862. Adeline Sparks is also listed in the Lewis Brunson company, but since it left Omaha on 14 June 1862 and she did not arrive in New York until June 1, it is not probable that she was in the Brunson’s company; also there is no Thomas family listed in the Lewis Brunson company and family stories state that Adeline travelled to Utah in the same pioneer company as David Thomas.

[34] Albert Jones, “Trail Excerpt,” Journal, in Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Source of trail excerpt: Jones, Albert, Autobiography, in Mormon biographical sketches collection {ca.1900-1975], reel 5, box 6, folder 5, item 1, 4.

[35] Jones, “Trail Excerpt.”

[36] Delphia Rees Despain, “History of Margaret Thomas Price.”


Rigby, Helen. "A History of David Nathan Thomas and his wives, Mary, Adeline & Frances." Utah: n.p., 2011.

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