Autobiography of Asa Smith Hawley
Contributor: Ted L Jensen Created: 3 years ago Updated: 3 years ago
I was born in the District of London, Province of Lower Canada, on the 30th day of June, 1835. I am a son of Wm. And Ellis Smith Hawley of Revolutionary stock. Major Wm. Hawley fought under the great Washington. John Hawley was killed at the battle of Cowpens when I was but a babe in my mother’s arms.
My parents moved to the Territory of Iowa where they made their home on the Fox river. My father owned a great deal of land with horses, cattle, sheep and super abundance of hogs, and was in a very prosperous circumstance. All went well with us until the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith and the expulsion of the Mormons from Nauvoo, Illinois.
The road leading to Council Bluffs led by my father’s farm. The scenes I there witnessed would beggar description; of men, women and children flooding the way with all manner of teams and vehicles, many in a famishing condition for the want of food. The Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian and Campbellite ministers, all united to warn the people not to let the Mormons camp on their land. They came to my father. He told them he had bought his land off the Government and that he was an American citizen, and for them to mind their own business and he would attend to his. This brought down their wrath upon him and he was ranked with the Mormons. From this time on it would seem that all the fiends of the infernal regions were turned loose against my father. Trumped up charges were brought against him with out the least semblance of truth. He was brought before courts and judges but they always made a dismal failure. Twice he was shot. At many times mobs surrounded his house. Nothing saved him but his indomitable courage, and I think also, the hand of providence. During this time, they robbed him of every corner. Stealing his horses, driving off his cattle and shooting his hogs by the hundreds. Finally, we found ourselves stripped of everything. All this because my father had the manhood to stand in defense of a god-fearing people in their great afflictions and tribulation.
All of this, I blush to say, was instigated and led on by sectarian ministers. No darker deeds could men or devils know, yea, not since the days of the Inquisition. Ah, you would-be followers of the meek and Holy Jesus, Look on your hands and see if they are not stained with innocent blood, and see if you can escape the damnation of Hell. How will you appear when you stand before the great tribunal? God is just. You will receive that which you merit.
About this time my parents were baptized secretly. I was a little boy, the only other one of the family to witness it. I remember well such prominent men as Charles C. Rich and Orsen Spencer. My father’s place was a regular campground for the poor wanderers. The word went all down the line: “When we get to Captain Hawley’s place we will find a welcome.” We fed many hundred hungry souls. Father was a lawyer of some repute and when a poor Mormon would get into trouble, he would go the rescue at the risk of his life. The final results were that we found ourselves bankrupt. All, comparatively, had been taken by those fiends in human shape. By letting our big farm go we succeeded in raising barely enough to move us back to Illinois on the Mississippi river where we went into the wood business and where we prospered and flourished. In five years we were fully recuperated.
In the spring of 1851, we started west with five wagons, four and five yoke of oxen to a wagon. All were well loaded and in the back we had an abundance of everything. The Lord had blessed us exceedingly. Our first stop was at Council Bluffs, the resting place of our people. We wintered our cattle in Rush Bend on the Missouri River, also on the Elk Horn and Loupe Fork. In this we made money, as there were many emigrants going to California.
Early in July, we started for the valley, going through many pathetic and thrilling scenes. The cholera broke our in our camp, and many died. The most sorrowful to me was the death of Sister Winters, one of God’s noble and courageous woman. We buried her on the Platte River opposite Scott’s Bluff. Great was our sorrow in having to leave her there. She has gone to her rest. Thousands of buffalo were in sight every day and their bellowing of a night was one continuous roar. Here, I believe, was a scene that to me was the most grand I had ever witnessed: Four hundred Sioux warriors in their war paint, draped in gaudy apparel, all mounted on fine horses and young fine looking men they were, going down to fight the Pawnees, their old enemies.
It was after many trials and hardships that we arrived in Salt Lake Valley in October (1852 in the Snow Company). Going south, we settled in Pleasant Grove, Utah County. In 1853 the Indians went on the war path under their great war chief, Walker. On the 27th day of April 1853, I enlisted as minuteman in Captain S.S. Whites’s company, but served during the summer under Captain Sidney Willis of Lehi Ward.
It came by express that the little town of Palmyra was surrounded by Indians, and that the people were in great danger of being all killed. With little delay we mounted our horses and went to the rescue, getting there about 3 o’clock in the morning. We were none to soon. The Indians had them completely surrounded. The women and children were gathered together in a log house about 16 feet square. Mothers with tears running down their eyes, clasping their babies to their bosoms. Young girls sobbing and weeping, paralyzed with fear. One good old sister exclaimed that the Lord had sent these brave boys to save us. We threw out strong guards and as daylight appeared on the horizon the Indians fell back, but a few shots were exchanged. We remained in the south part of Utah County for some days. Scouting along the base of the mountains and watching the passes. All seemed quiet, no sight of Indians. As we expected, it was the calm before the storm.
Ah, my friends, those were strenuous days. It seemed we would not be able to hold the country, in spite of all our efforts. The Indians were very numerous and very hostile, led by such cunning, crafty chieftains as Walker, Aropean, Satoroorin, Seriet and Tabby and other equally famous. Our settlements extended for a distance of some two or three hundred miles north and south, rambling off into Sanpete County. We were in our poor way unable to protect ourselves. We had strict counsel from President Young not to kill an Indian if it could be avoided. Is it any wonder that at times we felt gloomy with all these things starting in the fall.
We will now go back. Well did we know that those crafty Redman were planning a raid, but where would they strike was the question. We were soon relieved of our suspense. A horseman in great haste bringing news said that the people of Nephi were surrounded by the Redman under Aropean. “To the rescue, to the rescue of our Brethren” was our battle cry. By hard riding we got there in time. We got there in the night, to the great joy of our friends. Strong guards were thrown out. When morning came we had quite a battle with them and succeeded in driving them off. They fled up Salt Creek Canyon. It was not thought wise to follow them.
After remaining a few days until all seemed quiet we returned north, but the Redman had not been idle. They had made raids on Pleasant Grove, Provo, and Spanish Fork all at the same time and had driven off a great many of the horses and cattle, besides killing and scalping five of our men.
At this time, George Smith was appointed commander-in-chief of all the Southern Districts, from Salt Lake City to the extremity of our southern settlements. I was elected as one of his escort, to go with him on his first trip through the settlements. I am ready to say that I enjoyed this trip very much, setting around the campfire every night hearing the words of counsel and wisdom falling from the lips of this great and mighty man, George Smith. They made an impression that will remain with me as long as life shall remain.
On our return we thought we were to have a few days rest, but alas, all our hopes were indeed vain. An express come from Fillmore with the news that our people were in great peril. With that accustomed swiftness as characteristic of the minutemen of the Revolutionary War, we mounted our horses and reached there in due time. Their conditions was truly desperate. The Indians had them hemmed in on every side. They could not go after a load of wood and they dared not go outside the fort. The Indians were so bold that they went into the public corral and drove off their cattle. We soon turned the tables on them and made then skedaddle. This was in July (1853 or 1854). Their grain was ripe. We remained there for some two weeks. We cradled, raked and bound their wheat and then guarded them until they hauled it home.
All was again peaceful and the people seemed more cheerful; we started home. We traveled quite casually. Nothing of much importance how occurring on the way. Between Springville and Provo, as we were traveling we found an old brother and sister stalled in a very deep gulch. They were not able to pull the wagon up the steep bank. The front guard and the main company had gone on leaving them there. I was in command of the rear guard that day. As we rode up, I said to the boys, ”We cannot go on and leave those old people there!” They cried with one voice, “No, No!” As we rode down by them, I said, “Be of good cheer, we will have you out of the gulch in a few minutes.” There were twelve of us in number. We rode across the gulch to the bank. Two of the boys held the horses. The rest of us ran back and told the old gentleman to keep his oxen out of the way and we would push his wagon up—and so we did, to the great joy of the old people. The good old sister, with tears in her eyes put her arms around my neck and gave me a good motherly kiss, saying at the same time, “I know you have a good mother.” I said, “Yes, and so do all of these boys.” She saluted all in the same way. The old gentleman, with a heart too full for utterance took us by the hand.
With the party bidding us, “God keep you,” we mounted our horses, happy in the thought that we had done a good act, and rode on. On nearing Pleasant Grove, Captain Willis formed us in to a hollow square and thus addressed us, giving us great praise for our good discipline and soldierly appearance. He said he hoped we would now have a rest as we had been three months in the saddle. He further cautioned us to be ready at a minute’s notice. It took eternal vigilance if we would have a country. Captain Willis was a brave, prudent officer and we all loved him. Ah, my comrades, I think of you then in all the strength of your manhood. Alas, time and Indian bullets has thinned your ranks. I could not count you on the tips of my fingers, but you are all remembered.
Our next call was to Sanpete. The Redman was up to his old game, killing the men and driving off stock. We drove them out of the valley and remained there until all was peaceful, for the time being at least.
About this time Clark Roberts and his companion were seriously wounded. Two men were killed in Salt Creek and others were killed in Fountain Green.
Why should I write more of this? It would only be repetition. We were continuously under the strain and this continued until the snows of winter. We were very busy fortifying and making our places of retreat more secure, for well did we know that when spring come the Redman would be on us again. In the spring, President Young succeeded in making a treaty with them. Hostilities ceased for a while but we did not release our vigilance. The minutemen were continuously in the saddle scouting, watching carefully, guarding al the places. Again I went as escort to George A. Smith as far south as Iron County, The then southern extremity of our settlements, remaining there for sometime and thus did the summer pass away without anything of very serious nature occurring. Again the snows shut then out and we had a little relaxation from our arduous labors.
To add to our troubles, the grasshoppers had devoured our crops. Coming in such dense clouds that the sun was darkened in the heavens.
The condition of our people at that time was trying in the extreme. Our calamities following quickly upon the heels of another. It was truly a struggle for existence. In all of this our people were cheerful and full of faith, and further, we were unified. When one suffered, all suffered. In fulfilment of the Psalms of David, they cried unto the Lord and he delivered them out of their distresses. This was their hope, this was their faith unfeigned, that the Lord had not led us out here to perish, but that the clouds of gloom and tribulation would dissipated and that we would emerge, yet, triumphantly into the light of day, all the more purified by what we had suffered at this time.
As if to take advantage of our suffering condition, the Indians came upon us from the southwest by the way of Rich and Cedar Valleys, which they had never done before. We were taken entirely unawares. As soon as we could get ready we on the march to the rescue of our friends. It was dark when we got to Lehi. A few of the boys who had rushed out from Lehi thinking to hold the Indians there in check were ambushed, with to us at least, the most heart-rendering results. The Indians had killed five. Two of the Carson boys, George, Win and John Carling, and Young Hansacer. Win a Carling, whom the Indians had scalped, had just been brought in to Lehi as we got there. The Carson’s were taken to Cedar Fort, and Hansacer, we never knew what became of him only he was gone. We immediately repaired to the place where we found our comrades cold in death, their bodies perforated with the bloody scalping knife. Ah, my comrades, how can I control my feelings while I speak of you; but yesterday, full of life and vigor, pouring out your generous blood like water and that before you knew whether you would be able to retain the country or not.
We next went to our camp very, very sad and disheartened, wondering who would be the next victim. As soon as day dawned we were on the march. The weather was very cold and disagreeable. We were thinly clad and very illy prepared for such and expedition. We went to the place where our comrades had been ambushed. Their blood was still staining the ground. Our feelings can far better be imagined than described. Here, I will say, if ever in my life I felt revengeful it was then. From there, we took the Indians trail and followed them with all the vigor possible. All our efforts were in vain. They had too much of a start on us. We followed them to the sinks of the Sevier. We succeeded in getting a few head of cattle that they had driven off. Here, I will say, had we if overtaken them there would have been a few Indians less; as a matter of fact, we were in our wrath and we were to the end of our tether. We had a very hard trip, the weather being very cold and stormy. Oft times faint with hunger, without blankets to keep us warm. It reminded me of Washington at Valley Forge when they got cold they would get up and throw on more wood and draw their blankets closer around them. We patterned after them; having been out 24 days, we were weary and worn and much disheartened. Our only alternative was to get home the best way we could. Our horses were give out. As a matter of fact we were helpless. Suffice it to say, after many marches we arrived home much sobered with our sad experiences.
Our people at this time were being tried to the very quick. Some because they were faint hearted went to California; the more stalwart remained, clinging fast to the iron rod, and happy in the thought that a just God would yet bring them safely out of all their tribulations and that indomitable faith would prevail.
During the summer the minutemen were continuously on the quievive (sp?) night and day, rain or shine. At the beat of the drum, we armed ourselves, mounted our horses and rode to the place of gathering, ready for any duty that was required of us. I would here state that I was married on the 15th day of Nov. 1854 to Mary Beers. Many times when I was called off she would say to me, “Asa, when will you be back?” and I would say, “I don’t know, but, little girl, rest assured that when I have performed my duty, I will gladly return to my little wife.” She was often overcome even to the shedding of tears. It saddened my heart to leave her thus, but duty called and I must obey whatever may betide.
In 1856 our brethren and sisters of the Handcart companies were caught some two or three hundred miles east of the Salt Lake Valley, having started from the Missouri too late in the season. Readily the call came for men and teams to go to their rescue. Once more the minutemen were called in requisition with their accustomed zeal so characteristic of the old days. There was no hesitation. We were determined to rescue our brethren or perish in the attempt. So this most perilous trip was begun, reminding me very much of the Bonaparte crossing of the Alps. Crossing the Big Mountains, going out, the snow was up to the tops of our wagon bows and being in the month of December it was extremely could. We ploughed our way through and went on . Some of the boys had their feet badly frozen. Some of them we left on the Weber River, some on Bear River, and others on Yellow River. The more able ones kept going on and on until we finally reached the goal. We met our friends almost buried up in snow. It was truly a happy meeting, but there was no time to linger. If we would save them and ourselves we must hurry back. We loaded them into wagons. Truly more helpless than children taking no thought of ourselves until all their wants were sufficed. We had given up our wagons to them. After arranging their beds as well as we could when bed time had come, we would carry them to our wagons. After seeing them to bed we would close the wagon covers thus shutting out all the cold possible. Thus we would leave them for the night. Then shoveling away the snow we would lay our scanty blankets down for a little rest, then up in the morning a long time before daylight, we would build a big fire and prepare breakfast. When all was about ready we would arouse our passengers, again repeating that which we had done the day before. When we were all seated we would again pass them their food. Breakfast over, all was now a hurry and bustle to be off. The days were short and we must improve the time. We again loaded them in to our wagons and traveled on. This was repeated night and morning all the way . On our return trip we found the boys where we had left them fully recovered. Great indeed was their joy on seeing us and to know that we had accomplished that for which we were sent. We had the proof with us. The boys were fresh and strong and took hold with a will, which relieved us very much. They had felt bad in having to stop on the way out but they made it all up coming back.
In crossing the big Mountain coming back we had a very strenuous time. The wind had drifted the snow over on to the north side making it very deep but after much hard labor we dug our way through. It was very easy for us to go down hill after we had passed the summit. When we got down in the valley between Big and Little Mountains, there we found to our relief that supplies had been sent to us. Consisting of hay, grain and provisions. To us it seemed a god-send, as we were in dire need of everything. Here we remained overnight, all feeling cheerful and fine. The next day we reached Salt Lake City before night and were received with great joy and gladness.
Our brethren and sisters whom we had rescued were taken in charge by Bishop Hunter and we were free to return home. On our arrival in Pleasant Grove, our Home, we were greeted with great joy. We all felt to give thanks to the Lord for His preserving care and mercy in saving our lives during our hard and perilous journey. I was overjoyed to again meet my little wife and baby boy, who was born on the first day of September, 1856. I remained at home the remaining part of the winter, having quite a rest, but in the spring I was called in to the Young’s Express Company as President.
Young had taken the contract to carry the U.S. Mail from the Missouri river to Salt Lake City. Our rendevous was then between the Big and Little Mountains where we awaited the arrival of all the company. As they came from the various settlements. We were finally organized, with Stephen Chipman as our Captain, and started on the 500 mile journey, I think about the first of May. Nothing of much importance occurred on our way down. We were forced to corral a few times by the Indians; once we were attacked just at daylight by the Cheyenne Indians, but we soon drove them off. There was a number of the old Indian fighters in our company and we were always on the alert.
Here, I will insert a few lines that I wrote when on the way down; of course, it is crude but it answered the purpose for the time.
We bid adieu to our homes and wives,
And sweethearts near and dear,
Across the lonesome plains did start
Each man resolved to do his part
As over the plains we did steer.
To our wives and our friends we bid adieu
As they dropped a silent tear,
With hearts as merry, so free and so bold
We were not aguard for silver no gold
But the Kingdom of God to help rear.
We traveled along by the Mountain-side
Mid scenes so dark and drear,
The towering cliffs above us rose,
The raveling mountaineers.
On Guard, on guard, came the command,
And let no light be found,
Here in the home of the wolf that dismal sound,
The Redman prowling round.
At dawn of the day the damp awoke,
The war cry did resound,
To arms, to arms, the Captain cried,
As they will us surround.
To cover! Be quick and take good aim.
And let your sight be clear,
We will teach those Cheyennes once for all,
The skill of the mountaineers.
The Redman quickly saw it was vain,
Our shots filled them with fear.
Retreat, fall back, their chieftain cried,
From the camp of the Mountaineer.
Then over and around the mountain side,
In pursuit of the rambling deer,
Where stormy clouds in fury rise,
Through many a forest his footsteps glide,
The rambling mountaineer.
The sun it goes down behind you hill,
In the western hemisphere,
The night winds gathering old and chill,
The fire burns bright beside the rill,
Reposes the mountaineer.
But when the sinter begins to break,
And summer smiles appear,
Our Deer Creek home we will forsake,
We will wend our way for the Great Salt Lake,
The home of the mountaineer.
And when that land of peace we reach,
Joy each heart will cheer,
With wives and sweethearts there to meet,
Our friends and kindred kindly greet.
The return of the mountaineer.
We arrived on Deer Creek in due time, where we found Captain Jones who had gone on to build our station. It was truly a fine location. Plenty of grass and water and timber some two miles up the stream from the Platte River. We went to work with a vim so characteristic of the Mormons of those days. We first dug and ditch bringing the water down to where we proposed to build our station. We then built a large stockade corral and commissary room. Here, I would say that we had not been in camp but a few days until Captain Jones came to me and said, “Brother Asa, I want you to select from the band any horse that may suit you and have him tied to your wagon, with saddle, bridle, and your gun always in readiness, and when I knock on the wagon-box, be ready to ride.” You see, I was a minuteman yet. I would here state that I had never met Captain Jones until I met him here. He was a grand noble man possessed of a master spirit. I am proud to call him my friend. He has long passed to the great land; peace, peace to his memory. We established two camps up in the pine woods where we were busily engaged cutting, hewing, and getting out logs, preparing to build a home station to accommodate the mail service. About this time word came that one of our handcart companies was at or near Fort Laramie. Captain Jones sent me there with two ox-teams to help them up. I took with me a young man by the name of George Merrill. We met them in due time. This was truly a joyful greeting. Brothers and Sisters who were trailing their way across the plains, a distance of a thousand miles. Greater faith and courage I never saw manifested all of this for the love and for the sake of the Gospel. And then I thought of those whom we had rescued from death hardly a year ago. In this company of Saints there was forty young women. As a rule we would camp early, after supper was over, we would all gather around the fire and hear those girls sing the songs of Zion. There were good singers amongst them, and some of them sounded most excellent to me. I would say it was to me exhilarating. When it was time to retire, the Captain would call them together for prayers. There they would kneel upon the ground with hearts filled with devotion, giving thanks to the God in Heaven for His care over them. This for on their long tedious journey, also thanking Him for His sending their brethren to help them on their way, and this was repeated every night until we arrive at our station on Deer Creek, all feeling fine and in the best of spirits. I had been gone about two weeks. The company remained some three days, then we helped them up over the ridge and they went on their way rejoicing.
A few days after this a company of Saints arrived at our station with ox-teams, in which was Thomas B. Marsh, at one time very prominent in the Church. I heard George A. Smith say a one time that Thomas B. Marsh apostatized in Missouri over a pint of strippings. We would go out to their camp of an evening to hear the Saints sing, also to see and hear Marsh talk. He said to us on one occasion, “Boys, you see in me the fruits of apostasy.” Truly he was a wreck, reminding me of the ship that had been stranded upon the rocks and beat to pieces by the waves of the sea. He had a limp in his walk he was clad in raiment of rags and tatters, and his form was bent and haggard. I pitied him from bottom of my heart. This made a great impression on my mind which has always remained with me. I thought if that was the fruits of apostasy, I never wanted to apostatize. I have known others, like Johnson for instance, who turned against the Prophet Joseph and became is most bitter enemy. Also an enemy of the Saints of God. He was on the first twelve that was chosen. He finally saw the condition he had placed himself in and was again admitted into the Church of Christ after a sore repentance and poor luck. He was never anything of his former self he had betrayed his trust, he had lost the confidence of the people, he had trampled his apostleship in the dust, in fact he was an object. After Lynn Johnson (probably Luke Johnson), one of the other of the first twelve also turned away. In after years he went to Nauvoo. There while talking to some of his former
associates of the twelve he remarked in words something like this: “If I today owned the world and all its contents I would freely give it to feel as I once felt.”
Again I think of Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris. Compare these and the others of whom I have spoken with Brigham Young, Hebert, C. Kimball, the Pratts, the Snows, Orson Hyde and many others who have remained faithful. Joseph the Prophet truly said: “He that keepeth his trust should be honored,” and our love should increase for him day by day. The people of the Latter day Saints hold those noblemen in the greatest esteem, in fact, their confidence in them has ever been on the increase; while oblivion has come for the apostates and great has been their fall.
Here let me say to my children and my grandchildren, in fact to all my relatives and even to all who may chance to read these words, “Listen to the voice of an aged parent whose limbs do now tremble on the verge of the grave, who you must soon lay way in the cold, cold ground. See to it that you grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, honor and magnify the Holy Priesthood and may it be placed upon you, be true to every trust, hold fast to the tree of life that you may partake of the fruits thereof and be saved in the kingdom of God. Have your wives sealed to you that you may have them in eternity, for in Heaven there is neither marriage nor are any given in marriage. In this life is the time to prepare for the future. Oh, how merciful is our God in restoring again the fulness of the gospel, with authority to do and act in the name of Jesus Christ, and it is ratified in the heavens.”
After this digression I will now proceed with my narrative. After the company of Saints had recruited (recuperated) somewhat, they started on their way to the valley. We resumed our work as usual though in a somewhat gloomy spirit, the reason for which we knew not, but it came to us like a clap of thunder from a clear sky. Word came to us that Parley P. Pratt had been shot in cold blood and unprovoked by a man by the name of McClain in the State of Kansas (Arkansas). This news created a great sensation. A feeling of gloom and sadness seemed to prevail throughout our entire camp. He was a man we all greatly admired; peace, peace to his memory. A few night after while lying in bed in my wagon there can a loud quick rap on the wagon box. As I stated, I kept a horse tied to my wagon when in camp. I readily jumped out of bed, where I found Captain N. V. Jones,. He said to me, “Asa mount your horse and bring in the horse herd as quickly as you can.” I didn’t stop to ask questions. I mounted my horse and rode like the wind. It was a beautiful night, the moon shone in all its grandeur. Our horse herd was up Deer Creek some two or three miles, being well guarded. I soon found the boys and we rushed the horses down in the valley in a hurry. Soon, we had them in our large stock corral. Captain Jones was there apparently waiting. I was something of an expert with a lasso and soon had them caught and tied up again. The Captain said, “Select four of the best harnesses you can find and hitch onto the best wagon in camp.” All of this and yet I did not know what was up. I said, “All right, Captain, but it will take me some time alone.” He said, “Go and wake up any of the boys you wish to help you.” so I went and woke John Carlos, also a noble fellow. We rummaged around till we got the outfit together that we thought would answer the purpose. After circling around to see that was right we drove inside the corral up in front of the commissary room where much to my surprise out of the house stepped apostle John Taylor, Erastus Snow and Jim Gammel. After they were seated in the wagon Captain Jones said to me, “Asa, I want you and John to take these brethren up to the upper timber camp and there remain with them until further orders.” It was feared they were being followed by men who wished to kill them, as they had Parley P. Pratt. At that time there was great excitement in the East against the Mormon people. All the flood gates of Hell seemed to be open, springing forth its venom and hatred against the Mormon People, the Latter-day Saints. You could even hear its rumbling afar off. We did not stop at the timber camp, but went a short distance above, where we found a nice spring in a grove of pine timber. A fine place for a camp. We were very diligent in guarding our brethren. This was a very interesting time for me, sitting around the camp-fire hearing the apostles talk and hearing Elder Taylor sing the Mormon Car, a song he had composed while editing a paper in St. Louis. Finally, word came from Captain Jones that all was safe and to bring the Apostles down to the station, which we did. And the next morning they started on their way to the Valley.
Then came the word that the last train of the handcart companies had arrived at or near Fort Laramie. Again, I was sent down with some teams to meet them and render them assistance with which I cheerfully complied. We met them in due time finding them full of faith and energy and in good spirits and greatly pleased to think that we had come to their assistance. We loaded the most of their luggage into our wagons, also the aged and the most feeble, and again turned our faces westward. As a rule we would camp early so as to get supper over before dark. Then we would gather around the campfire and our brethren and sisters sang the songs of Zion. They would often sing the at old familiar hymn, “We find the land which God for us prepared, far away in the South (West).” Oh, how pleasant it sounded way down there on the Platte River. The shades of night were gathering again around us. Even now when I hear those songs sung in our meetings tears will come in my eyes in spite of all my efforts to control them.
It was during my absence that word came that we were released to return home. “Yes,” He said, “the company starts home in the morning, but you and I have another mission to perform. We are called to go back and find out where the soldiers are, or whether they have passed Fort Laramie of not” On arriving at the station, Captain Jones came out greeting me very kindly giving much praise for the fine shape I had brought everything back in. On seeing the Saints all cheerful and happy he seemed to be very much please; taking me to one said he said to me, “Asa, this may be hard to you but I want you to go back and ascertain for a certainty where the soldiers are and whether they have passed Fort Laramie or not.” He then told me he had selected Dan Calhune, Lige Masefield, Alma H. Bennett and myself to go on this mission. He also stated that he had appointed Dan Calhune as our captain; then looking me straight in the eye he said in a very impressive way, “Asa, I depend on you.” At this remark, my thoughts passed through my mind. I was the youngest one of the bunch. There also being a captain appointed over me, upon whom, as I thought, the responsibility should rest, but a sequel will show. All being ready, the company started for home the next morning, the four of us remaining at the station. We lingered for four days to give the solders time to pass Fort Laramie if they were coming. On the fifth morning, we saddled our horses and started on our downward trip, traveling leisurely down the Platte River that day and also the next day until noon, where we met John M. Murdock’s freight train loaded with goods for Salt Lake. He told us there was no doubt that the government was sending a large army to Utah and it was his opinion they had already passed Fort Laramie. After remaining with Murdock perhaps for a couple of hours, resting our horses and refreshing ourselves with something to eat, we thought it time to ride on. We were in no hurry going down as we were taking our time. As we were saddling up, strange to relate, Captain Dan Calhune, took very suddenly ill and concluded to remain with Murdock. You see we had lost our Captain. That left but three of us. But nothing daunted, we started on.
We rode perhaps a half mile, singing, as though misfortune would never come. Then if you could call it a misfortune, Lige Masefield took very, very, sick, as he claimed, and feared he would not be able to go on. I says to him. “Well, Lige, we do not want any sickness with us.” Bennett said, “Lige you had better go back and stay with Dan” He remarked, “I believe I will.” and went. After he started back Bennett and I had a laugh, not thinking we had lost anything, while it is true we were left, but the two of us felt ourselves safer. We were determined to do that for wich we were sent. It now began to dawn on me why Captain N. V. Jones made the expression, “Asa, I depend on you.” I do not believe the boys were sick. I did not believe it then and do not believe it now. What Murdock had told us to the effect that the army was surely coming and that he believed they had already passed Laramie, had a very depressing effect on then. For be it from me to say anything that would reflect on the men.
This was a time and place that tried men’s souls, for well did we know that we were riding directly into the lion’s den. Gladly would I have turned my face homeward had my mission been fulfilled.
After Masefield left us we rode on down the river until nearly sundown; then coming to a nice patch of grass on the bank of the river, we concluded to camp for the night. After eating our supper, which consisted of dried buffalo meat straight, we thought we would wander down to the camp of a man named McGrow—he being in charge of a surveying party— and have a chat with him. Here I would state that this McGrow was a very bitter enemy of our people. In fact, one of the main factors in planning and executing the death of Parley P. Pratt.
We started down to his camp alright, but fortunately or otherwise we were headed off by a dead slough backing up from the river. It then being dark, we had to return to our own camp where we rested for the night. Getting up in the morning and partaking of our menu. Which required no cooking, we saddled our horses and again started on our way. We had concluded at the same time that we would not linger in McGrow’s camp but would pass quietly by. But in this we found ourselves mistaken. When coming opposite his tent he stepped out and hailed us, first inquiring where we were from. We told him we were from California. He then wished to know if we came through Salt Lake and what them G--d Mormons was doing there. Stating further that if he caught a Mormon in his camp he would string him higher than Gildiray’s kite. We then told him we had to ride on as we wished to reach Fort Laramie that night. He then remarked, “You are a couple of fine Boys— to come from California alone.” Then stepping back into his tent he brought out bottle of brandy of which he made us a present. We thanked him very much and bidding him good-morning, we rode on. Here I would state that he told us he expected to go down to Fort Laramie himself that afternoon.
We had gone but a short distance when we met a government freight wagon train. We had a chat with the wagon-master. He told us the soldiers were but a short ways behind. He also showed us the wagon that was loaded with rope which they intended to hang all the Mormons with, except the women, who they would preserve for their own convenience. Passing on we soon met another train, and passed it. A short distance on, form the top of the ridge we beheld the advance guard of the army. Knowing that the goal had been reached and that the army had passed Laramie, for we had seen them with our own eyes, and that there was nothing more to be gained. We could conscientiously turn our faces homeward; but we could not go back the same way we had come down. Our only alternative was to cross the Platte River and take up on the northern side, which we did without much difficulty, the river being low at that season of the year.
On getting up into the road, my partner, Alma Bennett, took out his watch saying, “Asa, it is now just 15 minutes after 10, and we start for home.” Then produced the bottle of brandy that had been given us by Mr. McGrow, proposing we drink to his health, up to this time we had not touched it, having something else to think about. Thus feeling quite jolly we started homeward, our aim being to travel four hours and stop two. We traveled the rest of that day and that night and the next day until two o’clock. We came down onto the Platte again. Then we stopped, I was feeling quite unwell. Alma said he thought he had a little tea and he would make me a cup, which he thought would make me feel better. So took our little coffee pot and went to the river and got some water. In the mean time he had started a fire. I then laid down on my saddle, for indeed, I was feeling quite logy. I had stayed there but a few minutes when Alma gave a low whistle. I immediately rose to my feet, at the same time picking up my belt and pistols, and buckling them around me. Two men were onto us heavily armed, whom we readily recognized that we had seen in the McGrow’s camp the morning before. We were not altogether taken by surprise for we had surmised that as soon as McGrow got to Fort Laramie and found we had not been there it would arouse his suspicions, which it evidently did and he sent those two men to follow us and capture us. When they rode up we saluted them by saying. “How are you, gentlemen?” The asked us if we were Mormons. We told them yes. By this time our tea was steeped and we very graciously invited them to come and partake with us. Our menu consisted of dried buffalo meat, but on this special occasion we had tea. It reminded me very much of General Marion Dining with British officers on sweet potatoes served on pine bark. Our menu was spread out on a saddle blanket, consisting, as I stated before, of dried buffalo meat. The tea was poured out. All being ready we sat down to partake. Myself and partner on the one side; the other gentlemen squarely opposite to us. This was a very peculiar condition, for we knew by intuition that they were only waiting to get the drop on us. You can better imagine it that I can describe it. The were desperate looking fellows. Their pistols outside their scabbards sticking loose in their belts, but we were ready for them in any move they might make. I never will forget that meal; talking and laughing and at the same time watching each other like hawks. I finally said to my partner, “Had we not better ride?” He answered, “Yes, we better be moving on.”
Our friends seemed to be of the same mind. I put my hand on the one sitting nearest to me and said, “Let’s you and me go after the horses,” to which he consented readily. He seemed quite anxious for me to go ahead of him but that was one time I was in no hurry. We finally got the horses into camp.. Alma caught his horse and began to saddle. Our friends seemed to make no effort in that direction. I, too, was too busy watching them for anything else. When Alma had saddled and mounted his horse he rode out a short distance, then turning around he said to me, “Why don’t you saddle?” He was then in a position to watch while I saddled. I then rode on to where he was, turning around and had something to say to our friends. Alma, in the meantime had moved on. Thus we worked ourselves out of pistol shot. Riding up over the ridge, we took out our pistols, putting on fresh caps, and feeling that we were not done with those fellow yet. We rode on for a while, then upon looking up we saw a great dust. As it drew nearer, we discovered it to be the McGrow men. As they came up, I jumped off my horse turned around,
and met then in the road. They asked me if I knew what six men it was coming back there. I replied that I did not stating that it might be some of our boys, as we had plenty of them strung along. Of course, this is a canard, we well knowing that there were no Mormons anywhere near.
The gentlemen passed us and went on. We rode on until we came to the Labonte Creek. Here we found quite a clump of cottonwood trees, all springing up from the same root; a splendid place for defense, not being sure what those men were about to attack us. Also knowing that they were our enemies, and right here we would give them battle.
You must not give us too much credit for bravery, for that fact of the matter was that we could not have fled had we been ever so much disposed to; our animals being weak and worn out, and well did we know our fate if we were captured. We would die the death of a spy. So we broke off some choke-cherry and currant bushes, the fruit being ripe and plentiful. And got up into the forks of the cottonwoods, there to await results. After remaining there perhaps an hour and nothing showing up we concluded to ride on. From Labonte over to Laprill Creek it is not over on mile with quite a ridge between. On gaining the Laprill and going up to the top of the ridge we looked down on our right where the Laprill empties in to the Platte, and there to behold were our enemies. If anything was lacking to convince us McGrow had sent them to capture or kill us, surely this clinched it. We had answered their questions so very frankly without equivocation. They seemed to be non-plussed and they dare not show their hand. As soon as we stopped, they also halted. When they discovered us on top of the ridge, they immediately took the road ahead of us. Traveling quite slowly. It was then getting dusk, but we could see their dust until long in the night. We had no doubt but that they intended to waylay us. We were then drawing near to Box Elder Creek, which was fine place for their purpose, in bushes where they could readily conceal themselves. In fact this was a favorite place for the Indians to rob the mail and emigrant trains as they passed.
When we got to the edge of the brush we got off our animals, driving them ahead of us. I was riding a white mule and here I will say that by watching a mules ears in the night he will warn you of any danger that may be a menace to either man or beast. Also, I was quite well acquainted with the country, and I knew of a dim trail that led off from the main road and was a short-cut to our station on Deer creek, a place that you any rest assured we were very anxious to find. We thought we needed it in our business. So Bennet watched the mule’s ears, and I watched for the trail, which was hard to locate in the night, but the kind hand of providence favored us. We found it, much to our satisfaction, before it had gone far into the brush. Then taking the trail, we bid goodbye to the McGrow men and arrived at our station on Deer Creek just at sun-up.
The stations was then owned by a couple of Frenchmen. One of their names was Durock, a man who was very kind to us, supplying us with dried buffalo meat and he also have us a pan of flour which we baked up into cakes to carry with us. We also traded our mule for a pony. All being ready we saddled our horses and feeling greatly relieved, for we had been keyed up to the highest pitch of a number of days not knowing what might happen to us at any minute, or time. We were now fully on our way for Salt lake. At Devil’s Gate, we met Col. R. T. Burton with a company of fifty men, who had been sent out from Salt lake to retard the progress of the army as much as possible. Truly this was a happy meeting. After delivering our message to Col. Burton, also receiving one from him to take to Major McCallister who was with a battalion on Rocky Ridge, we change horses and started on. Burton told us that McCallister would have a man stationed on silver Creed to pilot us to camp which was off the right of the road. When we got there we found no man. We fired our pistols to try to arouse them but all in vain. Here we lost several hours having to wait until daylight. When it came light we rode off to the right. Getting of top of a ridge we saw smoke from their camp-fires and readily went to their camp, delivered the message, changed horses and again took the trail. Here, also, we met many friends.
Now we could ride without anything to bother us. On arriving at Green river, we caught up with our company from Deer Creek. There also we found Capt. Calhune and Masefield. Here we stopped only long enough to eat a few bites and changed horses. Capt. Calhune joined us here for the rest of the journey. I must say I felt sorry for him... He looked so ashamed as though he felt bad about something. It was getting dusk when we started. At Hams fork we passed Capt. Vanulet’s camp, he having gone on to Salt Lake. We arrived at Ft. Bridger about 2 o’clock the next day, where we found Louis Robison who kindly supplied us with fresh horses. There was no stopping. Now all aboard for Salt Lake, which we reached the next day just as the sun was coming up over the mountains. We rode immediately to President Young’s office and delivered our message. General D. Howell took us then to a restaurant and gave us our breakfast. We were then a liberty to go home. Calhune’s home was near by. Ours was at Pleasant Grove, some thirty-six miles south, where we arrived about midnight, happy in the thought of ones more meeting our wives, our kindred, and our friends.
Here I will state that we had ridden from Fort Laramie to Salt Lake City in five days and nights, a distance of 520 miles. Truly we were weary and worn out and in a fit condition to enjoy a little rest and realization from our arduous labors. It had been thought by many that the army would not pass Fort Laramie, but the word we brought settled the question for all time. The feeling amongst our people at that time was truly intense. Here was a great army coming upon us with all their camp followers, the scum of the earth, a heard of gamblers, cut-throats— in fact all that is equal in nature with intentions of destroying us and all this without any just cause. We were well aware that all this was brought about through false reports circulated by such miscreants as Judge Syles, Cummings Cradelbough and others of like ilk. Wretches who would murder and drive an innocent people as they had done before. They accused us of being in rebellion against the government of destroying the territorial records, in fact, of every crime against the government on the calendar. All of this was false and malicious. While on the contrary we were a people that loved our country and all of her institutions, knowing as we do and have ever been taught that the men who conceived and gave to the world the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, that Glorious palladium of liberty, were inspired from on high, and were dictated by the spirit of Almighty God. See you the condition of the Latter-day Saints. We were not a war-like people. We revolted at the thought of shedding the blood of our fellow men, but you see a great army was coming upon us with those herds of miscreants and vandals filled with hatred, swearing vengeance upon us. We could only judge the future by the past. We had not forgotten the cruel wrongs we had suffered in Missouri and Illinois. They had burned our houses, ravished our women, shot down our brethren in cold blood. Our children were torn from our arms and if we dare call for justice we were answered by the lash. In Illinois, they shed the blood of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum with many others. From there they drove us into exile, thinking we would perish. Perish with hunger, or be destroyed by the Redman. Then under these conditions could we lay down knowing we did that they were coming upon us and were going actuated by the same spirit? Our whole souls revolted at the very thought. The blood of our Revolutionary ancestors surged through our veins. The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and been bequeathed to us by our fathers. We would not stultify it as Americans. We would stand for our rights and in defense of our wives, our children, our aged fathers and mothers, our homes, our fire-sides and more—our God and our religion. We were strong and armed, in right we had a claim on our Heavenly Father. Our faith was that he would carry us through all our trials triumphantly. We would pick up our guns. And meet them in behind the deep gorges of the mountains. There we would hold them in check. They would not enter these valleys at least until they had changed their hellish intentions.
Here I will inset a song I wrote about that time. It is very crude indeed, but is seemed to answer to those days.
Come all you good people, I’ll not keep you long,
About the Mormons I’ll sing you a song,
The gentiles have tried it again and again,
To kill all the Mormons and blot our their name,
For to kill all the Mormons and blot out their name.
We’ve been hunted and driven, winter and storm,
They’ve plundered our houses, they thought it no harm.
They have murdered our Prophet, they have taken our rights.
They have called on our soldiers, their battles to fight,
And they have called on our soldiers, their battles to fight.
Oh. Land of Missouri, a renown not of fame,
A blot on your pages will ever remain,
Oh land of Missouri, now hark to the sound,
The blood of our people now cries from the ground,
The blood of our people now cries from the ground.
Illinois, Illinois, you will soon cease to bloom,
The deeds you committed it has sealed your doom.
You have drove the poor Mormons without restrain,
And caused them to wander far over the plain,
And caused them to wander far over the plain.
You people of Carthage you may well bewail,
Our Prophet and Patriarch was slain in your jail.
You have sealed yourself up to eternal damnation,
You have spilt the best blood of this generation,
You have split the best blood of this generation.
We have traversed o’er hills, o’er deserts, o’er plains
Till these peaceful valleys we did obtain,
Now if you pursue us to drives again.
Your bones they shall molder and beach on the plains.
Your bones they shall molder and bleach on the plains.
We will clean up our rifles, or pistols and swords,
And we will ever be ready to march at the word.
We will trust in the Lord and take good aim.
And the Kingdoms of Heaven will it maintain
And the Kingdoms of Heaven will it maintain.
One morning quite early as we were eating breakfast we heard the beast of the drum.. ‘Well did I understand its import. To arms, to arms; they come they come; the Greek, the Greek, strike the bold. The war dogs are howling, already they eagerly snuff at their prey. The red clouds of war through the forest are scowling. Peace spreads her wings and flies away.’
On getting up from the table I remarked to my little wife. I would go down and see what was wanted. I went down by the home of my old comrade, Alma H. Bennett, and we walked down together. When we arrived on the ground there was quite a crowd. Bishop Walker, on seeing us approach, stepped out to meet us. Telling us at the same time that a hundred men were wanted for Echo Canyon at the three settlements of Lehi, American Fork, and Pleasant Grove; and saying at the same time that he hated to call on us, as he knew that we had just returned from a very strenuous labor, saying further, “You are the very kind of men we need in these critical time,” but that he could not insist on us going. We told him readily that we were ready and willing to go, and felt it our duty to go and defend our homes. Bishop Walker was a feeling man. On seeing our willingness he was moved to tears. In order to complete our organization the men from the three settlements had to meet at American Fork. There we were fully mustered as a battalion by Col. David Evans; Wm.. Hyde as our Major. Here I would say in passing that I was ordained a seventy under the hands of Canute Peterson. Its was thought best at the time of all those who went into the army to have the Melchizedek Priesthood bestowed upon them.
Wagons were furnished to take us as far as Salt Lake City, where we camped on the Public Square. On the morning of the third day after our arrival in Salt Lake, we received marching orders for Echo Canyon where we arrived in due time. We went into camp with a great many others. Building wickiups after that fashion of the Indians, only we built of poles and brush. After preparing our camp and making ourselves as comfortable as possible under the circumstances, we devoted our time to drilling daily and learning a soldier’s duty. A deep ditch was dug from one side of the canyon to the other. Strong embankments were thrown up to make our positions as strong as possible. We also piled up thousands of tons of rocks on the edge of the cliffs that towered above on the northwest side of the canyon, Many of them weighing a ton. Already to hurtle down on many enemy that might menace us. Thus we were in quite a good shape to defend ourselves from any who might approach us with hostile intentions.
A soldier’s life in camp is monotonous. Thus did the days and the weeks pass away without any apparent change in the program. During this time I wrote a number of songs. The boys would sing them. It was something for a change and thus did the time pass with us but we were destined to a very sudden awakening. The express came bringing the news that the soldiers had really passed Fort Bridger and were in full march for the valley. All was then bustle and excitement. Orders came from Gen. Willis’ headquarters to the various commands to be in readiness for an attack. There was but very little sleep in the entire camp that night. Myself and comrade, Alma Bennett, retired quite late. We were sleeping in a wagon-box. After retiring I lay awake, well, I do not know how long, meditating and thinking over the stirring events that were transpiring and what would be the final outcome. I thought of my little wife and my baby boy, my aged parents and in fact, of all our people back in the valley, wondering if they had heard that the soldiers had passed Fort Bridger and if so, how great must be their anxiety. With those thoughts in mind I fell asleep. Or at least it seemed so, and I imagined myself back near Fort Bridger. Which part of the country was familiar to me. I was very anxious to see the soldiers. I finally beheld them this side of Bridger. They were standing still. I could also see their officers, they seemed to me like men in very deep thought. In a quandary, not knowing which way to go or what to do. Most earnestly did I watch their every move. Finally there was a stir amongst them and they took up their line of march and to my surprise they started back toward Fort Bridger. Then my mind seemed to go back to the narrows of Echo Canyon, which were a short ways above our camp.. In the bottom of the canyon I saw a small blaze of fire start which spread very rapidly.. A lurid red flame in great billows of fire much resembling the waves of the sea. Up and up it went until it towered above the top most cliffs. There was no opening in the flame; it was a solid wall. All of this I beheld while laying in a wagon-box in Echo Canyon, one of the deep gorges in the Rocky Mountains, fifty-five years ago, and this day it is as vivid in my mind as if it were yesterday. I woke up awfully tired and exhausted. My comrade, Alma Bennett,
was sleeping soundly and I did not wish to awaken him, so I lay there ruminating and wondering in my mind what it all meant.
Here I will say that it was borne in upon me with much force that the solders were not coming; in fact I was well convinced in my mind. Finally there was a stir in camp and my partner roused from his slumbers. When he was fully awake I says, to him.” Alma, the soldiers are not coming.” He laughingly replied, “They sure are; they were seen on the march this side of Fort Bridger.”
“Yes,” I said, “that is so, but they have turned back.” He then wished to know what reasons I had for saying so. I then told him all I had seen in the night’s vision, or dream, requesting him at the same time to say nothing about it to the other boys, and we would soon see how it would work out.