They crossed the summit of the Sierra Nevada mountains just as the snow storm was starting in, which a few days later imprisoned the ill-fated Donner party at the lake which bears their name, where half a hundred people perished from starvation.
At another point on the road the entire company barely escaped being massacred by the Indians, who had been enraged by a rash act of one of the emigrants, and who threatened them in overwhelming numbers.
The losses on the way were one yoke of oxen that gave out and perished, one cow that died from "hollow horn or hollow stomach" as my father relates, one cow that
was shot by the Indians, one mule that was drowned while trying to swim the Sacramento river, and faithful Old Buck, the large Newfoundland dog, who perished from thirst while crossing the 80 mile waterless desert a little west of Salt Lake.
However their teams had been greatly reduced by reason of having to furnish a fellow emigrant by the name of Fowler with oxen, all of whose cattle had died on the 80 mile desert. Also their supply of food was almost entirely exhausted, owing to the fact that they had divided with others whose supplies had given out.
There were many interesting incidents connected with his
frontier life, some of which illustrate the self reliance and resourcefulness of the early pioneers.
For example, in 1834, while removing his father and stepmother and the younger members of the family from Morgan to Jo. Davies County, Ill., when they came to Rock River they found that the ferry-boat had been sunk.
The family were all sick with chills and fever, so my father was left to overcome the difficulty alone, as best he could.
With almost no assistance he raised the boat to the surface, bailed out the water, and then got a pole with which to push it across the river.
He then proceeded to ferry first the loose stock across. When this was accomplished, he put the family all on board, with the wagon
and one yoke of oxen.
When they were about half way across, one of the oxen discovered a loaf of bread which was exposed in a bake kettle just before him. The old fellow made a start for it when the plank on which he stepped pushed off from the bottom of the boat, and in came the water with a rush.
They beat the ox back from the loose plank, put it in place as best they could, and his father threw his overcoat under the principal leak, while he worked with all his might at the pole.
With a strong current, and the water about 12 feet deep, and the boat rapidly filling, it became a race for their lives, with fearful odds against them.
In spite of all their efforts, when they were still 20 rods from the shore, the boat went to the bottom with all on board. But fortunately they had reached a sandbar, where the water was only four feet in depth, and no lives were lost.
In the next year-1835-my father again made the trip from Morgan to Jo.Davies County with a party of eleven men, women, and children, included among whom was brown-eyed, fourteen year old, Rebecca Jane Williams, for whom it would have taken a little stronger word than admiration to correctly express his feelings at this time. But let that
pass, The old-fashioned love making that took place in ox wagons was just as delicious as that which transpires today in carriages and automobiles.
They were all traveling in two large covered wagons drawn by oxen, when one day they came to a rapid stream called Green River, so swollen by recent rains that it could not be forded.
Being a hundred miles or more from any dwelling they were thrown entirely on their own resources, and were obliged to improvise a ferry-boat, which they did by taking one of their wagon boxes, nailing it together securely, calking it with tow, and then making the seams water tight by covering them with tar scraped from the hubs of their wagon wheels.
Having completed the boat, they tied bed cords together until they had made two ropes, each long enough to reach across the stream, and then attached a rope to each end of the wagon box. My father then tied the loose end of one of these ropes around his body, and by great effort performed the dangerous feat of swimming with it to the opposite bank.
He then drew the boat over with Rebecca Jane Williams' brother Elias in it.
It was then drawn back by his brother Orville and his future brother-in-law John Deeds, after which they drew it back and forth with passengers and freight, until all had been safely transported.
Finally they swam their cattle across, put their wagons together again, reloaded their freight, and went on their way rejoicing.