December 17th, 2007
Occasionally I receive letters or e-mails from people who read my family history research online and are somehow related. A few weeks ago we got a letter from a woman in California who is related to John Scott, my third great grandfather. She shared an online source where one of John Scott's wives writes of their crossing the plains.
The original source is:
Scott, Mary Pugh, ["Life Story of Mary Pugh Scott,"], in Carol Cornwall Madsen, Journey to Zion: Voices from the Mormon Trail , 399-402.
It's interesting to read this and think of the lives these people lived, having been transplanted from green England to the deserts of western North America, all for their religious beliefs. Life must have been especially demanding of Mary, who was among the first openly acknowledged plural wives after polygamy became publicly known in Nauvoo.
Here is Mary's story.
"We went into Winter Quarters, now called Florence. John was called on a special mission to stay one more year and help prepare all for the trip. Finally May 30 1848 John Scott and Family started in Heber C. Kimballs Co. John was Captain over 10 wagons His company included 662 People- 266 wagons—150 loose cattle—25 Mules—737 Oxen—57 horses—299 chickens—96 pigs—52 dogs—17 cats—3 hives of bees—3 doves—1 squirrel
Rules of a camp: Each had a Captain, A captain of the Guard, a chapl[a]in and clerk.
All names were enrolled.
1. Noise and confusion will not be allowed after 8 p.m.
2. Camp will be called by trumpet for Prayer meeting morning and night.
3. Arise at 4:30 a.m. Assembly for prayers 5:30 a.m.
4. Card playing will not be allowed.
5. Dogs must be tied up at night.
6. Profane language will not be tolerated.
7. Each man will help driving the cattle
8. Rate of travel for Oxen 3 miles an hour. (The corral made by wagons will not be broken until all of the cattle have been yoked.)
John’s responsibility for ten wagons made it difficult at times to help his own Families. Elizabeth in one wagon had sons 4 [John William]—6 [Ephraim]—and 11 [Isaac], Daughters 8 [Louisa]—10 [Matilda] and a new baby [Elizabeth] too Mary had a son [Hyrum] 22 months old and Sarah 23 years old had a son [Joseph L.] 11 months old in her arms Yet here we two who have been raised in luxury, are bravely trying to drive a Mule Team across the plains, holding our Babies. We take turns driving. You can just imagine we three women climbing in and out over wagon wheels to cook on the camp fire and wash clothes.
We sleep in our Camp wagons or on the Ground along the swampy river bottoms. John helped a lot before leaving going among Non Mormons and asking for clothes, bedding and money for those who had every thing in the world taken from them. He also Converted three people to our Gospel. I am now 27 years old and trying hard to be a good wife. We cook in a camp kettle, it is an iron pot with three legs.
It had a heavy lid and could be set right on the beds of coals and biscuits corn bread or cake could be put in, then a shovel full of coals was put on top to bake them. Some who had no kettles cooked on hot rocks to do thier baking. Some of our meals were just broiled meat and bread. Other times all we had to eat was water gruel (a very thin mush)[.] One Wedding dinner on the plains consisted of fresh bread baked in a skillet, fresh butter and a piece of meat.
Milk and cream could be placed in a churn in the morning and by night you could have a pat of butter by the jolting wagon over rough trails. An English Emmigrant whose sense of smell had left him due to age, was one day hungryly out looking for food, found a strange animal and killed it. (it was furry and black and white) He skinned it and proudly brought it to camp. "a skunk" and to his amazement everyone fled as he approached and for some days he was an outcast.
Our daily exertions made hunger a constant companion. The quantity of food was limited and meals were usually scant. At other times fish was caught in streams and ducks, geese, turkeys and prairie chickens were shot. The men hunted for buffalo elk and deer and these added to our daily diet. Pig weeds, thistles and other greens were gathered at times and cooked to add variety. And some times if several [Buffalo] were shot the Saints woud stop over for a day or two and we cut the meat in strips.
This we dried for future meals. Some places an abundance of wild red and black currants and sometimes gooseberries were gratefully gleaned. Some of the Children while walking wore a bag and picked up buffalo chips and sticks to make fires for the evening meals. As soon as we camped everyone tried to share in the labors. Some carried water and gathered wood for fires. Big high sagebrush was used and in timber country we burned wood. But all was not desolation on the long journey.
We enjoyed the smell of the pretty wild roses. At some places beautiful wild flowers of all hues could be seen and we enjoyed the singing of the birds. Young girls tended weary babies until they could be fed and put to sleep[.] After prayers the camp retired for the night, with camp fires burning and the lights of lanterns in the wagons. The looing [lowing] of the cattle, bleating of the sheep mingled with the neighing of the horses in the corrals of wagons.
The howling of coyotes and wolves on distant hills and prairies mingled with the Half Hour Cry of the Faithful Guards, "All is well" "All is Well." Right.
There was always the dread of crossing dangerous streams and rivers. Yet many plucky women gathered up thier skirts and waded right through them. Some times large herds of Buffaloo crossed our path, so many that at times we had to wait one hour or two while they clumsily lumbered by. And there was always the danger of meeting Indians, some friendly and others hostile and dangerous and they almost always demanded some of our scant food supply. One day we nearly lost our lives.
One day due to a delay, our Family Wagons got separated from the main body of the Saints. Suddenly we were completely surrounded by a big band of wild Indains who enjoyed scalping people just for the fun of it. We sat terrified and motionless with fear praying silently that we would some way be spared a tragic end. Yelling and shouting wildly they rode around us. We shook with fear not daring to move or speak. They came closer and closer. Then they Gathered in a big group.
They held a big "Pow-Wow" minutes seemed like hours as we tried to keep our children quiet. They gestured and yelled louder and we grew more frightened as our fate seemed so hopeless. Again I breathed a prayer, Father I am so young, will I have to die here on the plains with my Family, now we are so near the end of our journey? Will I never see Zion after I have given my all for my religion? Then some of the Indians slid off their ponies and as they came nearer we saw a young white man.
He had been captured by them and forced to live with them—but he had recognized John Scott as a boy he had gone to school with in Canada. He begged and pleaded with the Indians to spare our lives and he finally persuaded them to go away. It was a miracle from God we always thought after, and today we owe all of our lives to that brave young man’s pleadings and to our kind Heavenly Father. Once during the journey the authorities gave John ten gallons of whiskey to pacify the Indians.
They were on the war path at that time. At last we near the end of the long, long journey, as we enter the Valley of the Mountains and look out over the vast land of Zion. I am dismayed by the very immensity of the view. The boundless Silence and I see miles of sage brush every where. Behind us now are the heart aches and many thousands of silent tears, that fell on the long unknown trail. I remember my dear home in England, of the flowers and trees and beautiful surroundings at that safe place.
And I am home sick for my Dear Mother and Father. But just as I have covered those endless hundreds of miles, so now I will begin work with renewed Faith, begin the task of building a good home in this new wilderness."