AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF WILLIAM K. SLOAN
I was born in Creetown, Kircudbright Shire, Scotland, January 1st, 1833. My father's name was James Sloan, my mother's name was Elizabeth McKean before marriage. The date of my father's death I do not know, but think it must have occurred in the fall of 1835.
Mother and myself emigrated to America in the spring of 1836. Mother located in Pittsburg, Pa. and I was placed with an uncle (David Murray) living on a farm called "Crown Run" about thirty miles West of Pittsburg on the Ohio river and three miles from a small town called Freedom.
In February 1838 my mother and uncle with his family consisting of three sons and one daughter, the oldest son being married and having two or three children, and myself started down the Ohio river destined for the state of Illinois; on board of one of the first if not the FIRST steamboats that navigated the Ohio; steamboats at that time usually on dark nights tied up to the bank, travelling only in daytime or on moon-light nights; two or three days after starting the weather became very cold and while tied up at the river bank we were enclosed by ice and forced to remain some two weeks waiting for a thaw, while thus waiting I made an examination of the boat and will here give a description of it as nearly as I can remember. It was a stern wheel boat, the cabin was on the same deck as the engine and boilers and consisted of a room about the length of an ordinary box car but some eight or ten feet wider; rude berths or bunks were arranged on each side three tiers high I think with calico curtains. In the center of the cabin was placed what was called a ten plate cooking stove being an oval shaped concern with a cast iron shelf placed horizontally about the middle of the stove, which was the oven for bread baking etc. The passengers (some twenty or twenty- five) furnished their own provisions and bedding and did their own cooking on this stove.
In April following we landed at Meridosia on the Illinois river, thence by ox teams to our destination viz. a tract of unimproved land situated about thirty miles from the Illinois river and ten miles south of Jacksonville, Illinois on the edge of what was called ''Looking Glass Prairie," a more desolate looking country than that was could scarcely be imagined, no fencing of any kind, the only improvement a small log cabin partially covered with shakes or hand made shingles. At my age only the most striking circumstances of my life at that time I remember. I certainly will not forget this fact, that the night we arrived, a severe snowstorm came on, all of our family ten or twelve in number were huddled in that little cabin and the following morning found us covered with five or six inches of snow.
The nearest neighbor to our young colony was five miles distant. The "usual work allotted to all new settlers in new countries had to be gone through, such as building cabins, fences, breaking land, clearing out under brush etc., a very few farmers at that time considered prairie land of much value, believing that where timber, such as walnut, elm, hickory etc. did not grow, wheat and corn would not.
It would be tedious to describe the routine on a farm of that kind, suffice it to say that I remained there until August 1844, doing daily what would be considered now a fair days work for a young lad of sixteen to eighteen years of age — up in the morning at five o'clock, to bed never later than eight o'clock; all our clothing was home made except boots and shoes. I was restricted to one pair of shoes annually and never permitted to put these on until snow fell — mother not liking farm life went to Jacksonville to live shortly after arriving in Illinois; and out of her scanty earnings managed to buy for me a few articles of clothing annually.
There were no schools at that time nearer than Jacksonville and my uncle's library consisted of a large family bible, Fox's book of Martyrs, Watt's hymns, and a few other books such as were permitted to be read by the members of the strictly orthodox Presbyterian church or Scotch dissenters, not to exceed a dozen all told, (no school books of any kind) but out of which I succeeded in learning my A. B. C.'s and to read. The family portraits were about four by six inches in size. During my sojourn on the farm from 1838 until 1844, I had the pleasure of visiting the great city of Jacksonville, (800 inhabitants) once on the day of William Henry Harrison's election. On that occasion I was treated to a fine piece of statuary representing General Harrison mounted as at the battle of "Tippecanoe" made of ginger bread (cost 10 cents) and some stick candy stripped red, and as I afterward learned flavored with peppermint; being the first ginger bread I ever remember seeing or tasting, I proceeded to eat General Harrison, horse and all, desert the candy; I was supremely happy that day.
It was agreed upon sometime in the spring or summer of 1844 that I had arrived at an age necessitating my attendance at school, consequently was taken to Jacksonville, Illinois, mother was then keeping house. A few days after my arrival I was introduced into the first school house I had ever seen a small building about 16 x 18. I entered with fear and trembling and when led up to the "school marm" (Mrs. Gough) I must say I was in a very nervous condition and wished myself back on the farm, and many times thereafter I wanted to escape. I had been into what to me was a new country, new associations, new language, having been brought up by Scotch, I could speak nothing but Scotch consequently I was mimicked and made the butt of every boy at school, I learned to speak American rapidly. I attended that school three months and learned to make "pot-hooks," write my name etc., after that went to school three quarters with a teacher named Spaulding (Splitshanks we used to call him), then two quarters with two teachers named Eddy and Collins. I then graduated or rather quit going to school, and secured a situation as clerk in a store kept by James H. and Horace Bancroft in Jacksonville at a salary of $50.00 per annum, board and clothed myself — it was my custom to arise at four o'clock sweep out the store, then study my former lessons I learned at school and advanced further by the assistance occasionally of my employer until breakfast time, after which the regular routine of country store work, counting eggs, weighing bacon, emptying sugar hogsheads etc., the first year. Second year salary $75.00 per annum work about the same, but permitted to wait on customers. Third year salary $150-00 per annum boarded and clothed myself, work — same, but larger latitude allowed as salesman, my favorite customers were Jake Strawn the great cattle king and J. J. Alexander afterwards the cattle king of Illinois, in fact of America. In August 1849, I left my employers the Bancrofts thinking probably the field was too small for my genius and ability.
I had heard glowing accounts of the great city of St. Louis the beautiful steamboats, immense river etc., and not having seen a steamboat for years had a great desire to see all those things and get a better idea of the great world; consequently I sold all my personal effects I could spare, consisting of hand sled, a small wagon, banjo, tambourine and some other articles all of my own make together with my books, skates etc., that with my salary due put $30.00 in my purse with which amount I bade mother good-bye and started out in the wide world arriving in St. Louis I proceeded at once to find a boarding house, paid a months board in advance ($15.00) after exploring the city for a few days realized the fact that it would be necessary for me to find something to do to pay my next months board. When I first started out to find a situation, I was gay as a lark and full of "great expectations," I had supposed that with my three years experience in a country store my services would be in demand by almost any respectable merchant especially as I had two or three letters of recommendation, but day after day I travelled up one side of the street and down the other applying in every store, "Do you wish to employ a boy?" with the universal answer. No! Thus I went on for a week returning at night to my boarding house, tired and discouraged, to cry myself to sleep and wish I had never left home when at last reduced in funds and only $1.50 in my pocket and another months board in advance nearly due, I succeeded in procuring a position in a retail dry-goods at a salary of $5.00 per month with board and washing included. For four months I remained there I might say in close confinement for no prisoner in the penitentiary was ever closer confined than I. I was locked in the store overnight, the proprietor would come to the store at 5:30 A.M. o'clock unlock the door, when I got up and began the labors of the day, first by carrying out goods to the front door for display in quantities sufficient to have supplied an ordinary country store; about the time that work was finished the other clerks or salesmen would be coming in, when I was relieved with thirty minutes for breakfast, at 12 o 'clock thirty minutes for dinner, at six o'clock thirty minutes for supper and then continuous work until eleven and very often twelve o'clock at night, the key turned on me, thus left alone too tired and sleepy to read, the only recourse was bed — during that four months I was permitted to leave the store three Sunday afternoons — in consequence of the solitary confinement and foul air of the store I became very puny and pale — and was meditating leaving and trying for another situation when fortunately a wholesale merchant of Main Street who had been supplying this house with goods, and who frequently came into the store called me aside one morning and asked me if I was well pleased with my situation. I answered very decidedly in the negative, and my intentions were to quit as soon as I could do better or as well elsewhere; the result was, my employment by the wholesale dry-goods firm "Little & Olcott"' commencing January 1st, 1850.
The transition from the one store to the other to me was the height of happiness. For over three years I remained with this establishment enjoying their confidence and regard and ever it continued. My salary was increased considerable. Annually in the fall and winter of '52 and '53 I made trips on horseback through northeast counties of Missouri collecting and soliciting trade for the house, in fact a drummer; the manner of commercial travelers at that time was to visit the county merchants at their respective towns spend a day or two in each town, make inquiries about the trade of the neighborhood, the extent of the corn, wheat and hog crops etc., and thus form an idea of the solvency of the merchants. When these merchants arrived in St. Louis to make their spring or fall purchases they would be besieged by a mob of drummers solicitating their trade.
The drummers usually visited the hotels in two's three's or four's each representing a different branch of business. I made rapid progress in the art or trick of talking the country men (or graybacks as we used to call them) into buying, and liked the business well on account of the excitement, but it told fearfully on my salary. It was considered necessary to hospitably entertain the country merchants, and between oysters, cigars and theatres, it kept my account nearly even with the house; wholesale merchants did not have a secret service fund for or allow percentages to their salesmen as of late years.
In May 1853 during my regular evening rounds through the different hotels examining the registers, I noticed a name L. Stewart from Salt Lake, Utah, he was pointed out to me by the clerk; I proceeded to interview him for the purpose of getting information in regard to Salt Lake and the route to California, never dreaming he was a merchant! (he looked more like a deck hand or "Bullwhacker") I had a very entertaining conversation with him that evening, and with the offer of showing him the city and introducing him to a number of merchants the following day, bade him good night, the result was, a favorable impression was made on him and I sold him a large bill of dry-goods for cash, which was a "feather in my cap;" not only was it the largest bill of the season sold to one party by the house — but cash — at a time when ninety-nine bills out of a hundred were sold on from six to twelve months time with a privilege of longer if the party had sufficient assets, at same time I was selling this bill of goods, I was contracting a fever — a western or California fever, at the time I began to consider that promotion was very slow or I thought so at least ; I noticed that the best and oldest salesmen were getting but from $800.00 to $1,200.00 per annum, and like myself living up to their income, spending half of it for the benefit of their respective employers. After hearing Stewart's account of the western country Utah and California, the immense emigration going through Utah en-route for California the briskness of trade, the enormous profits made on all kinds of merchandise, the immense amount of gold being found in California — so enthused me that I at once made up my mind to resign my position in the store and — "Go West" — on looking over my account after three and a half years work the balance due me was $37.00 — that settled it, Mr. Stewart coming, into the store about 7:30 the next morning, the morning of the day on which he was to start up the Missouri river, I approached him on the subject of my going along with him to Salt Lake, he readily gave his assent, if I thought I would be able and willing to drive an ox-team — certainly — I could soon learn and would too — what wages do you pay? Wages! We usually receive from $40.00 to $50.00 for the privilege of driving a team across the plains, have more men and teamsters now than I have any use for. That was a damper, but said I, you will want a competent clerk to assist you in the store when you arrive in Salt Lake — no he had all the clerks engaged, and it required no talk to sell goods there — I was stumped, but in a fit of desperation I remarked, I have no money and am determined to go to California — I will work for my board to Salt Lake, will work for you in Salt Lake on the same terms during the winter (or at least see that I do not go hungry) and assist me in getting a like position with some friends going to California in the spring, to which he assented.
When Mr Olcott and Mr. Little came into the office they were thunder struck when I informed them of what I had decided on doing, begged me to remain; that I bid fair to make a splendid salesman; my salary would be increased on the first of the year, that my conduct and services were satisfactory etc., their entreaties however were of no avail — I had made up my mind that go I would and go I did, that same afternoon after purchasing a few necessary articles and procuring a ticket ($20.00) for Council Bluffs, Iowa, I bid farewell to a few friends I had time to see and left St. Louis June 22nd, 1853, the name of the boat I have forgotten (Martha Jewett I think) my feelings at that time I cannot describe only I felt an utter sense of loneliness mixed with dread of being killed by Indians on the plains or dying with cholera which I had just learned from some of my fellow passengers had been very prevalent on the frontier. We arrived at Council Bluffs in due time and then commenced the work of unloading our merchandise out on the open prairie, no warehouse or house of any kind nearer than two and a half or three miles. Our goods were piled up in lots and covered with wagon sheets and tarpaulins until such time as we could store them away in wagons, our cattle and wagons had not yet been all bought, on procuring them and other supplies necessary for the trip we did not succeed in making a final start until July 24th, which was considered very late in the season to make the attempt to cross the plains and many predicted we would be caught in the snow and would have to winter in the mountains before reaching Salt Lake. Ours was the last train to start that season, before leaving Council Bluff or Kanesville as it was called then, I will describe it as near as I remember. The town consisted of not to exceed twenty or twenty-five log buildings situated on each side of a little ravine making out of the bluffs ; there were three stores, Donnell four saloons, the two most prominent were kept by Roberts Donnell was also a prominent merchant of St. Joseph and later Donnell, Lawson & Simpson Bankers of New York, three or four saloons, the two most prominent were kept by Robert Hawker (since a prominent and wealthy merchant of Central City, Colorado and Nebraska City) and William Martin; two blacksmith shops and several little catch penny concerns fitted up for the purpose of robbing unsophisticated emigrants. At the time we left there however the majority of that class of people had gone down the river to stop in larger towns such as St. Joseph, Weston and Independence until the next season's immigration set in.
We broke camp on July 24th, in a heavy rain with mud axle deep and were three days making the first sixteen miles on the east side of the Missouri River to a point called "winter quarters" (New Florence) where we ferried our wagons and swam our cattle over the river — occupying two days. The train consisted of nineteen wagons and twenty-three men. The ferry boat was a scow made from hewed puncheons and handled with oars. We now bade a final adieu to the last vestige of civilization, a little log hut occupied by the ferrymen. Owing to the heavy rains the streams were all up and necessarily had to ferry the Papillon and Elk Horn river, paying therefore $3.50 and $5-00 for each wagon. I had been roughing now so long that I became more reconciled to my condition, and could relish "flapjacks" beans and coffee as well as any of the men, but could not then or now stomach side bacon (or sow belly) as some of the boys called it. After leaving the Elk Horn the country was one vast prairie with low bluffs to the right of us, the monotony occasionally broken by the sight of a few cotton-woods and underbrush skirting the banks of the little streams we crossed, the country was covered with a luxuriant growth of grass.
Arriving at the south fork of the Platte River we again had to ferry. This and the ferries at Elk Horn and Papillon were owned by William Martin, a saloon man at Council Bluff. Nothing of interest took place until we came to Wood River, a tributary of the Platte, usually a small stream but owing to heavy rains was now over its banks and a raging torrent when we reached it. To make matters worse there was no bridge or ferry, the only two things to be done was either to wait for the stream to fall or build a pontoon bridge, the latter was decided upon and it was a laborious undertaking. We had to go a mile or more up stream to procure timber with which to construct it. The timber, cotton-wood logs, cut and floated down the stream to place of construction, there were only five of us in the party who could swim consequently nearly all of the work fell on us — here I will say in regard to our crew, there never was a poorer lot of ox drivers (except three or four) got together to take a train over the plains. They were a mixture of English, Scotch and Welsh factory hands direct from the old country, who never saw an ox (only dead or at a fair) in their lives and further more seemed to take no interest in the progress of the train or making the least effort to learn to drive a team not realizing the fact that delays are dangerous and being caught in a snow storm in the mountains isn't fun; which some of them found out afterwards. Our pontoon was finally completed and crossed in safety then we met the first Indians; while crossing the Wood River a few stragglers were watching our crossing, but Stewart said they were Pawnees and friendly, nothing more was thought of their presence at the time except natural curiosity to look at and scrutinize the first wild Indians the majority of us had ever seen. Our curiosity was soon to be turned into dismal forebodings of what would be in store for us.
After getting our teams yoked up and fairly on the road again, little bands of Indians would come up from behind small knoles on the prairie, the numbers increasing until several hundred were travelling with us some on foot, the majority on their ponies and a great many could be seen coming from towards the Platte River; Stewart being really the only experienced man with Indians began to show some signs of alarm and with good cause as it proved shortly afterwards that the Indians some five or six hundred in number all bucks who had been travelling with us the past few miles were waiting for their chiefs to come. I was driving next to the head team in the train the Chiefs coming up asked for the ''Captain" he was pointed out. They interviewed the "Captain Stewart" at once, and retired some fifty yards from the train to have what I learned since was a "Medicine talk," he, (Stewart) being able to speak a little Indian and the Indians a little English.
The train was ordered to halt until the conference was over, the result being Stewart could not comply with their demands for provisions, they stated first; that buffalo were plenty towards the west and the Pawnees had gone on their annual hunt but were driven back by their enemies the Sioux after having a fight with serious loss in killed and wounded and driven from their hunting ground; second they were hungry and our cattle were eating their grass and traveling through their country. Orders were given by Stewart to move on, no sooner had we fairly started than the whole band of Indians raised the "War-Hoop" riding backwards and forwards the whole length of the train at full speed, leveling their guns, bows and arrows and lances at the drivers, occasionally pricking the oxen with their lances, until finally they succeeded in stampeding the whole train, upsetting a number of wagons, breaking out the tongues and doing other serious damage; resistance was useless against such numbers so called another "Talk" with the Chiefs and were permitted to go on by giving them fourteen sacks of flour (1,400 pounds) one hundred pounds of sugar; one hundred pounds of coffee, a quantity of powder and lead and some shirts for the Chiefs; the loss of the flour was very serious as it left us barely enough to last us until we reached Fort Laramie nearly six hundred miles east of our destination, and little prospect of getting a fresh supply at any point on the road.
On the above compromise we were again permitted to proceed, this raid on us was perpetrated within plain sight of Fort Kearney a four company post, the flag of which we could see distinctly about eight miles distant; we attempted repeatedly to get messengers through-to the fort, but all were intercepted and brought back by the Indians to our camp, with threats that if we sent any more they would be killed. The entire band of Indians numbered about twenty-five hundred and were camped on the north bank of the Platte River, between us and the Fort. We were all greatly relieved when we lost sight of the last of that band of Indians, It being the first experience the most of us had had with redskins, you can well believe we were much frightened and excited, and I for one was alarmed lest some one of our party might shoot an Indian through excitement. If such a thing had occurred, a general massacre of the whole party would have been the result, the Indians were ripe for such an act and the least provocation on our part would have precipitated it.
About sixty miles west of Fort Kearney we encountered the first buffalo, at first a few scattering ones, increasing in numbers as we advanced for one hundred or more miles, at one time extending over the vast plain on both sides of the river as far as the eye could see, here we had our first fun and fresh meat since leaving the Missouri River, except occasionally a prairie dog or prairie chicken - We killed quite a number of buffalo, "sun-drying or jerking" the meat that was not immediately used; by doing so it helped out our short supply of flour.
Nothing worthy of mention occurred after leaving the buffalo until within about one hundred miles of Fort Laramie when in passing over a series of sandy bluff's a distance of some ten or twelve miles the country seemed to be alive with rattle-snakes. I think we must have killed two or three hundred that day along side of the road. Stewart said that back in the hills off the road they were more numerous, I saw enough without further investigation. We drove until after midnight to get beyond their range for fear of losing cattle. Arriving at Laramie we remained there two days shoeing some cattle and repairing wagons, were disappointed in not getting a sufficient quantity of supplies, the commissary claimed to he short themselves, having had to furnish others who were ahead of us, more than was expected. We had to be content with two barrels of mushy pickled pork, three sacks of flour and one sack of beans even with this supply added to our previous short rations made the prospect rather gloomy. I will state that at Laramie on account of the proficiency I had acquired in ox-driving and handling a team I was promoted to be assistant wagon master the position was purely honorary however, my wages were the same (my board), still it was a satisfaction to me to know my services were appreciated and to be "a Boss” for the first time in my life was something to be proud of.
We rolled out from Fort Laramie on the 8th day of September entering the Black Hills on the south side of the north fork of the Platte, heretofore we had been travelling on the north side.
From now on the roads were hard and gravelly and grass very short and scarce which told seriously on our cattle delaying often to shoe lame oxen and set wagon tire, which on account of the dry atmosphere would become loose; a hundred and twenty miles west from Laramie we again crossed the north fork of the Platte but on a bridge the only one we had seen since starting, this bridge was built by a Canadian Frenchman named John Richard (pronounced "Reshaw”) the winter and spring preceding, and certainly was a good investment, the bridge cost not over $5,000.00 dollars and his receipts that season were over $40,000.00 from the bridge alone. There were quite a number of mountaineers located about the place and all very thirsty, from some of the men they ascertained that we had a five gallon keg of whiskey aboard the train, they must have it, price was no object. Stewart finally agreed to let them have it, in consideration of our crossing the bridge free, which was equivalent to $125.00 dollars for the whiskey; Richard and his party however made it back easily, we had several head of oxen too lame to travel farther, and it was necessary for us either to leave them on the road or sell them which we did to Richard at $2.50 per head, paying him $100.00 per head for fresh and fat ones to take their place. As Stewart had refused to turn over the whisky until we were ready to leave with our train we probably avoided some difficulty as I heard afterwards the whole party got on a glorious spree.
Shortly before reaching Richard's bridge we overtook and passed a Mormon train consisting of about seventy-five wagons and three or four hundred Mormon emigrants, which had left Council Bluffs some two weeks in advance of us. On leaving North Platte nothing worthy of note transpired except our cattle daily becoming poorer and weaker and progress necessarily slower and rations shorter; we reached the South Pass and went over it without being aware of it the most of us expecting to go through a deep gorge or divide, instead of which, it proved to be an open plain with an almost imperceptible incline and decline over the summit of the Rockies, no high ranges nearer than twenty or thirty miles and those to the north.
The nights for the week preceding were decidedly cold; from necessity (want of water) we were forced to camp almost on the summit of the divide between the waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific at Pacific Springs the waters of which flow westward. That night we had a snow storm September 26th, in which we lost several head of cattle perishing from cold and hunger.
The outlook was very gloomy indeed, cattle dying, and our supply of food very short. At this time Stewart decided upon sending a messenger through to Salt Lake to order a load or two of provisions to meet us. Before our man started however a mountaineer overtook us on horseback with a pack animal destined for Salt Lake and the message was intrusted to him. At the crossing of Green River we had used the last of our flour, our beans had disappeared a week before, our only food for the next ten days was rusty pork, dried apples, sugar and coffee; when within five or six miles of Fort Bridger we met the wagon sent to us with supplies, which by the way was entirely inadequate for our needs the team expected to meet us within fifty miles of Salt Lake instead of which we were one hundred twenty-five miles distant; the supplies consisted of a few sacks of potatoes, one side of beef and a few sacks of flour; on meeting the wagon the train was stopped instantly — a grand rush was made for the potatoes, and half of them were eaten raw in less than thirty minutes. I am confident I ate four pounds skins and all. For several days previous there had been considerable discontent among the men and Stewart and myself were apprehensive lest the men should abandon the train, after filling up however they felt better disposed and performed their duties more cheerfully.
That same day we camped at Fort Bridger; it was not a military fort but simply a string of log houses built in the shape of a quadrangle with a gate on one side opening into the square, the doors and windows or rather openings were on the inside. The place at the time was occupied by a number of mountaineers the majority of whom had lately come from their trading stations along the immigrant road, to spend their winter at the Fort, drinking and gambling. Among the principal ones were old Jim Bridger, Jack Robinson, Vasques and Marrianna; I first met the notorious Bill Hickman and Porter Rockwell there. From Fort Bridger on to Salt Lake Valley the roads were terrible, rain and snow nearly every day and freezing at nights, grass very scarce, cattle perishing daily from fatigue and hunger; but our long journey was fast coming to a close and all thoughts were concentrated on our mecca. When we reached the summit of what was called the big mountain twenty miles from Salt Lake City we had the first view of the valley of the Great Salt Lake. Columbus on the discovery of land could not have experienced greater delight than we did at the sight of the lake, and cheer after cheer went out from twenty-three happy and stalwart throats, made so by yelling “Whoa Ha and Gee," for eighty-five days at contrary oxen.
From this point it required three days more, instead of going to Salt Lake City direct we diverged from the mouth of Immigration Canyon and went South to Stewarts farm on Big Cottonwood where the train was to be unloaded and the goods sold; the reason for going there was that there were only two or three stores in Salt Lake City and all occupied that is, by the proprietors and clerks. There merchandise had been all sold or nearly so some time before, and so Stewart rented a vacant school house close to his farm residence for a store room; we reached our destination on Friday evening October 20th, 1853, eighty-eight days from Council Bluffs; after a hearty supper, a good night’s rest and breakfast we commenced unloading our wagons, when done the men were discharged.
I was still retained to assist in marking and arranging the goods, preparatory to disposing of them. The merchants in Salt Lake had sold out nearly all their goods a month before we arrived with our train — the Mormons had plenty of money, obtained by supplying the California immigration with their surplus produce, cattle and horses, and were very destitute of clothing and groceries consequently when they heard of our train arriving they flocked in from all parts of the Territory to purchase our goods; the farm was completely covered with campers, some of them being there a week before we came in, it gave the vicinity the appearance of a huge camp meeting.
We were ready to open on the following Tuesday to the crowd; but Brigham Young, Orson Hyde, Heber C. Kimball and Daniel H. Wells came down from the City in the morning and necessarily they being the leaders of the church must make their selections and have their wants supplied before the lay members got a chance, we sold them about $4000.00 worth. As I said before the store was the log school house and the counters were two carpenters work benches.
On Wednesday we opened for the people, and such a scramble for goods I never saw before or since in any store. In buying no attention was paid to making change, a person wanting a bolt of calico would throw down a $10-00 gold piece and take the first piece handed him or her regardless of color or style, the same with boots or shoes if they wanted sixes, sevens or eights would skip out satisfied with any size up to elevens. In three or four days the most of the stock was gone, and on the 5th of November the last article was sold excepting one dozen linen shirt collars and all for cash; the profits ranging from one hundred per cent to one thousand per cent net profit.
The question then arose, what about next year’s operations. I had no expectations of being retained, and expected only to chore about the place until spring and avail myself of the first opportunity of getting through to California. Stewart was very much elated with his success and proposed to continue in the business. I had known all along that Stewart was a Mormon, but did not know that he was a polygamist until I was introduced to Mrs. Number one and then Number two, and he told me confidentially in the course of a month or so he expected to have number three, a sister of number two; the fact of his being so much married and expecting more connubial bliss, changed my plans for the future in a very marked degree. To my surprise Stewart asked me one evening how I would like to return to St. Louis in early spring and purchase and bring out next year’s stock, as he was satisfied from what he had seen of me and knowing I was pretty well acquainted in St. Louis, it was his belief I could attend to the business as well or better than himself; I was aware of that fact myself. He was a good honest man but deplorably ignorant of the mercantile business, that being his first attempt in that line. I hesitated some time before replying, as I dreaded making a winter trip across the plains, for more disagreeable months to travel in than February and March could not be well imagined, and that would be the time I would have to start, however, I accepted his proposition, which was very liberal, I could have my choice of two, a fixed salary of $2000.00 per year and all travelling expenses or a one third interest in the business. I chose the former with the privilege however of taking the latter if I felt so disposed on my return to Salt Lake.
The next thing to do was to get a party together to make the trip in safety; Stewart and myself went next day to Salt Lake City nine miles, my first visit; we remained over night and while there made the acquaintance of the merchants who were there, and ascertained there was a party already formed to go the states via the Southern route to Los Angeles and San Francisco, thence by steamer to New York and expected to start November 10th; and also another party was being formed to go overland to Independence, Missouri, in February 1854. I of course preferred the former route, and fortune again favored me; Stewart like many Mormons was very superstitious, a great believer in dreams, fortune tellers and prophecies and before making up his mind which way I should travel, concluded to consult an old astrologer named Job living in Salt Lake City to ascertain what the fate of the two parties would be. Stewart came back highly pleased with his interview with the astrologist, and feeling as though he had saved my life and his money. The astrologer after figuring up the horoscope or whatever he called it stated as a sure thing that a party would leave Salt Lake ere long destined for California and New York, and would experience a great many hardships from severe cold weather and deep snows for the first three or four hundred miles, after which they would have to traverse deserts very sandy and water very scarce etc., but would reach San Francisco in safety and have a safe and prosperous voyage to New York, with a probability of encountering one or two severe storms, all of which of course was very natural to expect. Mr. Job was posted a little on the route Stewart was not and these prognostications were gospel to him. The other party would start out in February or March encounter terrible snow storms between Salt Lake and Laramie, suffer intensely, lose the majority of their animals and have to purchase fresh ones at Laramie, afterwards would be attacked by Indians lose more of their animals and a portion of their treasure, but would finally reach their destination; some point on the Missouri River in a very forlorn condition. This report settled the matter with Stewart at once. I should go by the way of California, I applied for permission to travel with the party, they were already organized and paired off so the only show for me was to buy a riding animal and pack-mule to carry my provisions and bedding and travel in their company — my acquaintance had been so short and my cheek at that time limited on account of youth and bashfulness. I refrained from asking favors unless entitled to them. Stewart returned to Big Cottonwood to prepare for my trip, I only had two days to spare; first to make out a list as to what goods were to be purchased, next how to carry the money to pay for them, next to procure animals to carry me through to California; the first was easy enough the second was a problem; there was no exchange in the country, what little had been there in the shape of Federal Officers and Indian Agents drafts on the different departments at Washington had all been picked up by other merchants long before, at from five to ten percent premium. The only resource left was to carry the money gold coin with me ($40,000.00) over two hundred pounds, it could not be done with safety; at that time I had but slight acquaintance with the party with whom I was to travel. It would be a strange proceeding to go East to purchase a stock of goods and say our money was all in Salt Lake and would be got there as soon as possible, in the spring — a happy thought struck me, Livingston and Kinkead had been in business some three years in Utah, and were well known in St. Louis, Stewart was well known to the firm as being a man of his word. I had Stewart place his money on deposit in their safe, one of the Kinkeads was of the party going to California and St. Louis, he was cognizant of the fact that the money was there — on his corroboration of my statement in regard to money matter I was to buy our stock of goods; at the same time it was thoroughly understood that as early as possible say 20th of March or 1st of April, Stewart was to start overland with an ambulance or spring wagon and escort, for the Missouri river, bringing the treasure with him to meet our obligations, and it was decided I should take coin enough with me to pay my expenses enroute, that question settled satisfactorily, the next was an outfit to travel with, everything in the country near Salt Lake in the shape of a mule or horse in condition to travel had been disposed of to emigrants — the only animal I could find at all suitable was a long haired grizzly old mule, but in good condition, as for disposition the English language is not strong enough to describe it. At the out start some of our party named him (Balaam), he redeemed his character however in the estimation of all before we got through. About fifty miles south of Salt Lake I secured a saddle pony.
The weather was very cold and snow deep the first three hundred and fifty miles until we got over the rim of the basin into Southwestern Nevada when the weather became quite warm. The route traveled was known as the Fremont trail, a hard road to travel owing to the sandy condition of the country we passed through and great scarcity of water which was drinkable, we traveled principally at night the last three hundred miles; we finally reached San Bernardino; at that place we disposed of our outfits, the animals were in a very feeble condition and sold at low prices; from thence to Los Angeles and the seaport of San Pedro we went by stage and by schooner to San Francisco arriving there Christmas eve. The only incident of note occurring was while becalmed off the Catalina Islands a large school of whales came very near us some of them rising within one or two hundred yards of the vessel. Some of our party remained at Los Angeles, other at San Francisco, four or five of our party after remaining about a week in San Francisco took the steamer "Brother Jonathan" for New York via the Nicaragua route, had a pleasant trip going down the Pacific coast, stopping at Acapulco and Manzanilla for coal, landing at San Juan del Nort thirteen days out from San Francisco. The water of this bay is shallow close to shore. The passengers had to disembark from the steamer into small boats and when within one hundred yards or so of the shore would bestride the backs of natives and be carried to dry land. It was rather a ludicrous position to assume, especially for the lady passengers, there was no other alternative however either that or wade; there were no wharfs or piers at any of the Pacific ports south of San Francisco, from San Juan-del-Norte baggage, passengers and freight was transported on burros and little mules over the mountains a distance of fifteen miles to Virgin Bay on Lake Nicaragua where we again took steamer across the lake to the mouth of San Juan river where we again transferred into small stern wheel steamers of very light draft running down to the Castillo Rapids. There is a portage of about three miles at this point, passengers are again transferred to still smaller steamers at the foot of the Castillo Rapids.
The San Juan is a small sluggish stream, rank and brilliant colored foliage growing to and overhanging the water, the water in places being very shallow especially at its mouth where there was quite a sand bar and wherever there were sand bars, except upon this one at the mouth they would be covered with alligators basking in the sun. In order to get over the sand bar at the mouth of the river to reach Greytown a number of the passengers took off their shoes and stepping off the boats assisted in lifting them over.
Greytown was rather a small place. About fifty small farm houses and a number of native huts built of cane and small sticks and thatched with palm leaves. We remained there two days transferring passengers aboard the New York steamer on the Caribbean Sea, we experienced some rough weather and most of the passengers were sea sick but we landed at Havanna for coal and fruit; remaining here only about eight hours when we sailed for New York; when off Cape Hatteras about midnight and very dark our steamer ran into a small schooner bound from New York to Norfolk, Va., sinking her, but we saved her crew consisting of the Captain and four seamen. The collision created intense excitement for a while among the passengers, myself and several others were still up discussing the best manner of handling cattle on the plains, the majority of passengers having retired — the concussion produced a queer sensation, to myself and others who were with me it felt as though we had struck a sunken reef and the ship's bottom was grating on it for a few seconds. Being near the hatchway, we were soon on deck, it being an understood plan with our little party that in case of wreck we were to gather around the chicken coop (which was lashed to the upper deck) cut loose the fastenings throw it over board chickens and all, and jump after it; not having occasion to adopt the plan can't say whether or not it was a good idea. In a few seconds after we reached the deck, other passengers began you might say to fall up stairs, nearly all of them in night clothing and crazy with fright until it was ascertained what was the cause of the trouble, some would have jumped overboard if they had not been restrained by their friends; this occurrence gave me a good idea of the state of feeling that would exist among a crowd of passengers in case our vessel had been the one to sink.
Arrived in New York February 9th, 1854, remained there two days then started for St. Louis. On arriving there my old acquaintances would not have been more greatly surprised if I had arisen from the grave; I had written no one during my eight months absence, and few ever expected to hear of or see me again — after a fortnights rest and visiting old friends, answering innumerable questions about my trip and the Mormons, I went up the Missouri river to make arrangements about the transporting of our goods across the plains. I had learned however before leaving St. Louis I would experience difficulty in getting the goods on the representations I had made and corroborated by Mr. Kinkead and with the assistance of my old friends and employers Little & Olcott.
At Independence Missouri I contracted with a firm of freighters — the Barnes Brothers (two of whom had travelled with me from San Francisco) to haul our goods to Salt Lake at 12½ per pound. I returned to St. Louis to complete my purchases, and by the 12th of April 1854, had everything aboard the steamer F. X. Aubrey and started that night up the Missouri river for the landing four miles from Independence, our destined starting point.
The same routine was again gone through of packing our goods into wagons etc., but we had a much more convenient place to load up. Independence being a town at that time about two thousand inhabitants, and a very pretty town too. On May 1st 1854 we began to move our train, this was the day that Stewart was to reach Independence with the money to meet our purchases, but no Stewart; the next day the same and the next, and the next, the train still moving along slowly as usual on the first starting; I began to be alarmed, could it be possible that Stewart had been intercepted by Indians and killed or waylaid and robbed by white men, my feelings at that time were indescribable, I viewed all from the dark side, anticipating the worst I was in a fair way of going crazy, when on the morning of the 7th of May while some distance in advance of the train I noticed a couple of ambulances coming over the prairie with a party of eight or ten men on horseback, and to my great relief it proved to be Stewart with the money and U.S.Mail — happier man never existed than I was just then; after a short conference with Stewart it was decided I should return with him to St. Louis, which I did; after depositing our money in the State Bank, Stewart and myself started out cheque book in hand paying up our debts. No one ever walked with a prouder step than I did in going from store to store.
Our credit was established — the only dread I had was in buying too many goods. Quite a number of new merchants hearing of the fine trade in Salt Lake had entered into the business, among whom were the great firm of Horner, Hooper & Williams, it being reported they were taking out a stock of $250,000, that Livingston and Kinkead were doubling their purchases, and a great many others buying heavily which induced me to believe that the trade would be over-done, however, we bought $13,000 worth of more goods on credit and again started. I travelled with Stewart until we overtook the first train with which I remained until we reached Fort Bridger, Wyoming.
Nothing unusual transpired on the trip. Buffalo were very scarce that season on the Platte, seeing only some thirty or forty, three of which we killed. On this trip a young friend and former schoolmate went along, named Louis P. Drexler (since become a millionaire in Virginia City, Nevada and San Francisco) he had about $400.00, I advised him to invest it in a small stock of notions, I was in the partnership with him in the enterprise buying about $1,200 worth of goods and freight — in same train with Stewart, he Drexler driving a team. The wages of teamsters was $20.00 per month — emigrants over-land were not so plentiful and freighters required a better class of teamsters, experienced ox drivers making more than the difference in wages between nothing and $20.00 per month in wear and tear of cattle and wagons.
At Fort Bridger I left the train going to Salt Lake to see what arrangements had been made in the way of a store; I rode the entire distance on a mule 113 miles (by taking cut-offs 12 miles shorter than the road) in fifteen hours, found Stewart had made arrangements for a store or building rather on the North-West corner of Eighth Ward Square in which to open out, all other buildings having been engaged. Horner, Hooper & Williams had leased the Tithing House. Livingston, Kinkead & Company their old stand opposite the present Coop; Gilbert & Garrish the Museum Building opposite the Tabernacle. Branham & Norris a building where the present Deseret Bank now stands. William Nix a store adjoining Bockaday & Barr and store where the London Bank was afterwards, John Kimball on the corner of First South and Main William Nixon, first house south of Salt Lake House, T. B. Brown & Sons next door to Nixon's South, and several other small concerns were doing business in the town the names of whom I have forgotten.
Our train arrived but not until after a number of others had reached the city, and as the emigration for California had mainly taken a more Northerly route that year (the Sublette cut-off via Soda Springs and Snake River) money was not as plentiful as anticipated and a general cut in prices of merchandise took place, prints 18 to 20 cents per yard, sugar 30 to 33U31;. Dr. Hart was Indian Agent and Supt. of the Indian Farm and D. H. Armstrong was Agent for the Western Indian located near the line between Utah and Nevada. It was now nearly time to arrange for next year’s business, after seeing the mistake I had made in not taking an interest in the business, I now concluded to accept one — consequently a partnership was formed for the 1855 trade of Stewart, his brother, Louis P. Drexler and myself, and I was again to go East to make the purchases and shipment arrangements were made to start on January 1st, 1855, taking the same route I had taken the year before; among the party on that trip were Captain W. H. Hooper, John M. Hockaday (a West Point Graduate and class mate of the ever to be remembered Lieut. Derby (John Phoenix) and some ten or twelve others, a jovial party. We had a very cold trip but nothing of importance transpired different from the former trip. We arrived in San Bernardino in about thirty-five days from Salt Lake (a distance of about nine hundred miles) dirty and ragged; as a steamer would leave San Pedro in two days for San Francisco, we concluded to postpone our change of wardrobe until arrival there, on boarding the steamer "Senator;" Hooper in the lead headed for the cabin, we were intercepted by the steward who insisted in showing us the way to the steerage, and could hardly believe his eyes when we produced first cabin tickets. Hooper indignantly asking him if we looked at all like steerage passengers; had a nice trip to San Francisco and a pleasant time while there; Hooper and Dick Hopkins being old time Mississippi and Missouri River steam-boat captains we naturally fell in with like men, who were running the San Joaquin rivers, and for a week we were dined and wined in good style. On the 15th of February 1855, took the steamer "Golden Age" for Panama, concluding to try a different route, not that the Nicaragua was not preferable but disliked going over the same route twice. Stopped at Mazanillo and Acapulco as before, at the latter place had a whole dav visiting the Fort Cathedral and other places of interest, the town did not amount to much; it looked as though it was obliged to be over-run with revolutionists annually, and as earthquakes had occurred before, were likely again to sink the city at any time — we had quite a strong gale off the mouth of the gulf of California and again crossing the Gulf of Tehunantepec, but as we were in a warm climate I felt no alarm — in case of wreck I fancied I could swim ashore on a plank: reached Panama, a beautiful bay but rather large and open for safety — in landing there we had the same process to go through as at San Juan-del-Norte, taking small boats as far as they would go, then riding the natives ashore. A rather amusing incident occurred there, I was in the last boat of passengers leaving the steamer among whom was a very corpulent Irish woman weighing not less than two hundred pounds. When the small boat reached the shallows where it was necessary to bestride the natives, every one naturally selected the strongest and largest of natives to insure a safe ride to the beach, there happened to be just enough in number of natives to carry the passengers; and the two most diminutive specimens were left for the Irish lady and myself, she expressed serious doubts about the little fellows capacity to carry her, finally she mounted the little fellow, away he went and all would have been well, and would have landed her safely but she became nervous, and he probably excited or mischievous, fell down both sprawling in the water, he skipped for shore with the woman's blessings following in a streak that made the air blue.
Crossed the Isthmus from Panama to Aspinwall on the rail-road — did not have time to see much of Panama; reached Aspinwall at 3.00 o'clock P. M. remained over that night and next day leaving before dark on board the steamer Philadelphia for New Orleans via Havana — this vessel was a miserable old tub, a poor sailor and filthy; on account of some apprehensiveness of some filibustering expedition of Americans by the Spaniard against the Island of Cuba, we were off Cape San Antonio brought to by a Spanish Man of War, first by a shot across our bows the next over our vessel, we hove to, and after examination were permitted to proceed. Arrived at Havana and remained there three days, making a trip out to the Bishop's Gardens, one of the most beautiful suburbs of the City, visited the Cathedral where it was said the ashes of Columbus were deposited in a stone urn near the Altar, attended the opera one night at the "Teatro Facon, " visited a number of the largest cigar factories, imported cigars sold at that time in St. Louis and New Orleans at 6¼ cents each, were worth in Havana $14.00 to $18.00 per M., duty 40% besides transportation; attempted to visit Moro Castle but the authorities would not permit us to approach the fortifications, nearer than about half a mile distant. Started for New Orleans on same steamer became lost in a fog off the Balize, and brought up near Galveston Harbor before we could get our reckoning.
Arrived in New Orleans March 12th, 1855, remained in the city two days and started for St. Louis in the steamer Michigan. On deck were some six hundred Mormon emigrants, mostly from England, Scotland and Wales, under the charge of Ballyntine & McGraw, two Mormon elders returning from their missions making prosylites to the faith. On reaching St. Louis I first learned of Indian troubles on the plains, which had broken out the preceding fall between the Sioux and Cheyennes and whites, preparations were then being made to send General Harney out with troops in the early spring to re-enforce the post at Fts. Kearney and Laramie and prosecute a vigorous campaign against them. After remaining a few days in St. Louis I started up the Missouri river to make arrangements for transportation, after nearly a month’s endeavors I found it impossible to get any freighter willing to take the risk of crossing the plains with a train except at exorbitant prices, and I would have to take the entire risk of the loss by the Indians. I concluded therefore not to start a train that season and wrote my partners in Salt Lake to that effect, on receipt of my letter they bought out two remnants of stocks in Salt Lake, enough goods to keep a little trade going during the year. I returned to St. Louis and to pass the time and pay expenses I took a clerkship in the house of my old employers Little & Olcott, and remained there during the summer of 1855 and winter of 1855 and 6. During the summer and fall Harney succeeded in whipping the Indians badly but still they were unsubdued. I think only two trains of merchandise succeeded in getting through that season to Salt Lake, both suffering heavy losses in cattle. I received two or three letters from my partners stating that the trade had been very fair considering the stock they had. During the winter I made arrangements to buy our own cattle and wagons and freight our goods instead of contracting as the year before. I made an arrangement to freight out in connection with Gilbert & Parrish, we bought up two trains of twenty-six wagons each and loaded to from six to seven thousand pounds to the wagon. This year 1856 our starting point was Atchinson Kansas, a new town just starting into existence having at that time not to exceed 150 inhabitants, but owing to the political troubles just commenced in Kansas between the pro and anti slavery parties the territory was being filled up rapidly through the instrumentality of Northern and Southern emigration aid societies.
A portion of the emigrants who came from both sections were pretty hard cases and while loading up at Atchinson they annoyed us considerably by stealing our cattle and committing other depredations. We finally got started, I think about the 20th day of May 1856. Thomas D. Pitt was wagon master and Frank B. Gilbert assistant of our train, and John C. Green and Andrew Bigler of the other having some business in St. Louis I returned there, with the intention of overtaking our trains at or near Fort Kearney, at least before they got among the hostile Indians, but was delayed longer than I anticipated. On my return up the river I purchased me a good mule, with the intention of starting alone to reach my train. I was informed at Atchinson that a party consisting of A. W. Babbitt, Secy, of Utah Territory, Thomas Sutherland and a number of others would leave for Salt Lake in the course of a week; they requested me to wait and travel with them, I declined doing so and Sutherland decided to go with me, but only went as far as Mormon Grove some six miles when he changed his mind and turned back. Starting the way I proposed traveling he thought would be too fast for his animal consequently I went on alone, having nothing but my mule, the clothing I had on, one pair of blankets, picket rope and iron picket pin and Colts revolver. The distance to Kearney is about three hundred miles from Atchinson and there was but one place between these points where anyone lived, that was on Big Blue River (Frank Marshall now of Colorado kept a trading post there then), the only provisions I carried was a small sack of butter crackers, frogs were abundant in all the little sloughs and creeks, and whenever I found a lot of good sized ones would kill them and fasten them to the pummell of my saddle for use when hungry, so with crackers and frogs legs broiled on a stick and water to drink I got along very comfortably. I usually traveled at a brisk gait for one and a half or two hours, then stopped and grazed my animal from a half to an hour going in that manner day and night with the exception of a few hours at night when I would spread my blanket on top of the picket pin, and the friction of the rope under my back prevented me from sleeping too soundly; I soon became accustomed to waking promptly on time, thus I travelled to Ft. Kearney without seeing a human being except at the Big Blue, although war parties of Cheyennes or Arapahoes were liable to be met with at any time after leaving the Blue, I saw none. I had expected to overtake the trains at or near the Fort you may imagine my disappointment on finding they had passed there seven days before, they were making good time and it was thoroughly demon
In Provo there were but three Gentiles besides myself; in Salt Lake there were probably from two to three hundred and not to exceed fifty in all the rest of the territory.
Matters were getting worse and worse daily, a Gentile did not consider himself safe after dark on the street of Salt Lake, quite a number of whom boarded at the Salt Lake House; (on my visits to Salt Lake I stopped there). When leaving the hotel for their respective places of business after nightfall they would usually go up or down the middle of the streets in companies of three or four together, revolvers in hands ready for use, Salt Lake streets were very quiet except when the "Bill Hickman," Lot Hintington and Danite gang" turned loose, usually two or three nights in the week when all outsiders kept very shady. The climax was reached in February 1857 Brigham and his councilors had concluded that all who were not Mormons must leave the territory, that the country was theirs, they found it, and settled on it in 1847. The first intimation I had of what was coming, was a letter from Drexler about February 15th, 1857 stating that orders had been issued by Brigham Young that all Gentiles must leave the country. Two days after Mr. Stewart came down to Provo and corroborated Drexler's letter and that he (Stewart) was a direct messenger to me from Brigham Young, ordering all Gentiles to leave the territory before June 1st, unless they joined the Mormon ranks.
I, of course, declined; but insisted on knowing why Drexler or I should be banished from the country, had we not always been upright and fair dealing with the people? He simply replied, such were Brighams orders, that he was a strict Mormon and knew that Joseph Smith was a Prophet, and Brigham Young also was one and his successor, the idea at once arose in my mind that this was a game to get possession of Gentile property and concluded not to submit, so plainly told Stewart that everything that I possessed was in Utah, I had worked hard for it and really had made him what he possessed, as far as I was concerned, did not propose to be robbed in any such manner, I intended to stay and fortify myself against any encroachments on my rights or property to the bitter end — Stewart having any such intentions on his part and considered himself free to purchase out Drexler and my interest in the business and wished it done peaceably and amicably, so a meeting was agreed upon in Salt Lake, the question talked over and price and payments agreed upon, Drexler and I sold out, getting St. Louis cost and 18 cents per pound, for freight added; of course it was a great loss to us but what could we do — our stock inventoried nearly $30,000, nearly the amount of the St. Louis purchase on which we received no profit but in cleaning up our whole business Drexler and myself had about $16,000 as our share (taking cattle at the Utah valuation) over and above all liabilities.
Unfortunately for us, however, we received in part payment of our interest nearly $10,000 of Brigham Young drafts on the Interior Department, as Ex Officio Supt. of Indian Affairs, which were not paid until some ten years thereafter and only realizing about 12½ cents on the dollar face value, we had plenty of opportunities to exchange these drafts in Salt Lake for cattle, but Drexler insisted that Indians or disease might destroy our cattle, and by having this cash "Nest egg" as he called it, we would have something to fall back on in case of accident. I on the contrary thought there could be no possible loss in cattle if properly handled, and we could handle six hundred as easily as three hundred head, the result proved I was correct in that instance at least, as we made one hundred per cent on all the cattle we drove through to Carson Valley. Immediately after the merchandise was transferred to the Stewarts, Drexler and myself began gathering our cattle near Box Elder or Brigham City, from which point we were ready to start Westward May 1st, 1857, all other merchants in fact all Gentiles had been in the meantime ordered to leave the Territory. Gilbert & Garrish, Livingston, Kinkead & Company, and several others besides ourselves driving bands of cattle West. Gilbert & Garrish sold their merchandise to John Kimball and H. W. Lawrence, Livingston, Kinkead & Company, to W. H. Hooper and Brigham Young; a considerable portion of these sales were on time. Other traders made sales as best they could to Mormons, most of them taking horses and cattle in payment; all of us with cattle had to use great caution in preventing estrays from getting into our herds, our camps were visited at all hours of the day by armed bodies of Mormons, and had an estray been found in our herds, if it had been there only an hour, would have caused us heavy damages, the Mormons' object being to fleece all Gentiles out of every cent they possibly could, we took the precaution to have a bill of sale of all stock purchased by us.
We started from Brigham City May 4th, 1857, taking the Humboldt route. Following near the line of the present Central Pacific Railroad, we had about four hundred head of cattle.
Nothing of importance occurred on the trip except an Indian attack on herd one morning in which they killed five head of large oxen for us, and a few mornings after we had an Indian scare, caused by one of our night herders taking the morning relief guard for hostiles, some of whom fired into them wounding one man. Before reaching Carson Valley, we met quite a number of small trains composed of Mormons who had located in Carson, Washoe and other valleys on the Western slope of the Sierra Nevada, and had made themselves comfortable homes, but were ordered by Brigham Young and the authorities at Salt Lake to abandon everything and gather in Zion to repel any invasion that might be made by the United States Government on the Salt Lake Valley.
The Mormons who located in Washoe Valley were a thrifty lot, had made good improvements and owned good farms, but sacrificed and abandoned all at Brigham Young's request.
We reached Genoa Carson Valley June 20th, 1857, making our camp on the East Fork of Carson river, remaining there with our cattle until the following November, when Drexler and myself sold our beef cattle (160 in number) to a butchering concern in Mokeloumn Hill, California; cows and young stock were left in Carson Valley to be taken care of by Drexler, while I took the steamer for the East with the intention of buying more cattle to be driven across the plains and add to our herd, we having in the meantime located on a tract of land in the vicinity of Steamboat Springs, and in close proximity to what was shortly after the great Comstock Mine. I left San Francisco some time in December, 1857, for New York and St. Louis, during that winter (57-58) I left St. Louis early in February on a mule riding through a great portion of Southwest Missouri and Indian Territory, not finding cattle to suit in price, and Mormon trouble still pending I proceeded to Fort Leavenworth and instead of driving cattle as I had intended, I took a sub-contract under Russell, Majors and Waddell to freight two hundred thousand pounds for the Government. I loaded up and started from Fort Leavenworth in 1858 making only a partially successful trip, the weather being unusually rough scarcity of grass and great number of teams blocking the road. In the spring of 1858, the Mormons, on hearing that General Johnson was moving on Salt Lake with his entire army, at once evacuated the city completely, men enough only being left to burn the city on Johnson's arrival. The flight of the people and burning was all obviated, I regret such was the case; if the three U. S. Commissioners sent out to confer with Brigham Young had not reached there for two months later, the Mormons would have been easily vanquished and the destruction of the city would have been the loss of only three or four hundred hovels, as soon as peace was declared the Mormons returned to their respective homes. I look upon this as the worst blunder ever perpetrated by the government in the settlement of the vexed Mormon question. Well enough for commissioners to be there, but in reserve not in front. Everyone there knew the Mormons were in rebellion and should have been handled for a time by the military. After recruiting a week or two, I again started for San Francisco to buy goods and make the trip via Los Angeles.
— Contributed by A. C. Sloan, son of W. K. Sloan.