Following on from our last installment of Mr. Johnson’s tale …
“On the morning of June 1st, I was up at five o’clock making all preparations for moving on. My neighbors were not yet up, so I hollered out, ‘Strangers, I am all ready to leave you. If you have any message to send East, now is your time!’ The old gentleman answered, ‘Hold on a minute! Stranger, you are going East and I West, we shall never meet again, so here is luck and prosperity to you, hoping you will have a good voyage.’ He drank and urged me to drink. I said, ‘Friend, I am not in the habit of doing this, but to please you, I do so. I really think it does more harm than good. Good morning; I hope you will succeed on your long journey,’ I remarked. ‘Good morning; I hope you will get along all right, you have a hard road to Laramie.’ I left them soon after five o’clock; it was a very fine morning and a good trail, all were in harmony.
“About eight o’clock we came to a creek, and I allowed my cattle to take as much water as they pleased, making but a short stop. Had I company, how pleasant it would be, but my animals are my only company. I talk with them as though they were human and think they understand me; I have no doubt about this.
“This is my seventh day from Green Bridge city, about half-way to Laramie. I am now in sight of Platte Valley. [You can see some photos and old images of the North Platte River and the Platte Valley here.] I have been descending since making the summit of the hill yesterday. A good road is cheering, such as I have had for the past two days. One hour more, and I shall be on the banks of the river. I see smoke in that direction, also teams, any quantity of them. There appears a large camp close by the river; there is grass and horses feeding. ‘Come, Fanny, go on; we will soon be there,’ I said. At a distance, she saw the horses and whinnied loudly.
“We made for the camp and as I made it was completely taken in; men, women, and children surrounded me asking many questions. ‘Stranger, where in h–l have you come from, from the West, have you not?’ ‘I have come from the West, but your first question I am not able to answer. I don’t know that place, I never was there; I have heard of it, perhaps you can tell me where it is? Oh, I came through it my first day from Green River city; you will find it before you get there,’ I remarked. ‘You will, surely before you get to Laramie. I will bet you are a Yankee,’ was answered. ‘Well, you are a good guesser. I am. I would like to stop here tonight; you may ask me any questions you like. I am from California, just as you see me, with horse, carriage, cow, and dog. I can make it interesting to you; I want my horse and cow to have some grass. I see there is plenty of it for all. I will let them both loose to fee, at the same time I will give you a history of my travels. Have you had your supper?’ I asked.’No, we have not,’ said the stranger. ‘All right, I want some hot tea or coffee; I have plenty of it. And not only that, I have yonder cow; she has given me milk all my way from California to this place, just one year today. The first of June 1882 we left Eureka city, Humbolt county, three hundred and three miles north of San Francisco; following the Central Pacific Railroad from there to Ogden, arriving at the latter place on the 23rd of September. On the 14th of May last, we left Ogden and have traveled to this very place, North Platte River.’ ‘About how many miles have you traveled since you left California, stranger?’ was asked. ‘On my arrival in Ogden, I found that I had traveled fourteen hundred and twenty-seven miles.’ ‘Where are you going to, stranger?’ ‘I am going to Massachusetts; when I get there I am home.’ ‘About how far is it from here, stranger?’ ‘About two thousand five hundred miles.’ ‘More than four thousand miles you will have traveled. How far has that cow come with you?’ ‘She has come all the distance; I left with the same outfit I now have.’ ‘I saw last fall in some paper of a man coming from California and going to Massachusetts, and you are the man. Well, well, you are a brick; you will be well-burned by the time you get to Massachusetts. We shall weary you all out asking questions. Our supper is ready, come with me and get some hot coffee, stranger.’ ‘Thank you, I will.’
“After supper, I asked, ‘How large a camp have you?’ ‘We have twenty-one wagons, forty-eight horses, and one hundred and one persons, all told, bound for Washington Territory. Now, how shall we go, to get there?’ asked the captain. ‘What part of the territory are you intending to settle in?’ I asked. ‘The western part, about one hundred miles from the Pacific Ocean.’ ‘Only a few days ago I was asked about the same question, with one exception, that was Oregon; about the same distance from the ocean, only farther north. Now, suppose I give you a route, due west, within one hundred and fifty miles of the Pacific Ocean; that would be to Sacramento, your road is a great thoroughfare. There is but one trail to central California, that is Fremont’s, all other trails lead out of this. We will start from this very spot, North Platte River and go to Green River city, Evanston, Ogden. From Ogden, follow the Central Pacific Railroad to Carlin, there leave the railroad and cross over the mountain to Beowawe, and on to Reno. At this place leave the railroad trail and take the Henness trail to Graniteville, Grass Valley to Marysville. At this last place you are on the great highway for Oregon; about one hundred and fifty miles from the Pacific Ocean. From here to Green River city it is a very disagreeable road, but had I had company it might have seemed different, traveling alone makes things look dreary. I have met many teams, most of them from Kansas. Where are you from, captain?’ ‘We are from Kansas.’ ‘I think you are making it a rough road for those in your rear.’ ‘We do cut it up badly.’ ‘It makes an awful road for me. How is it from Laramie to here?’ ‘It is very good, but the rivers and creeks are awful to think of. The worst place was on our first day from Laramie, about fifteen miles out. It is a flat, wide plat of meadow, adjoining a river, which you have to ford three times in less than twelve rods. Before we came to this river, we came to a store and a post office. About a mile this side of the store is an awful muddy hold. It took us nearly all of the afternoon to get through. About half of our teams got through, the rest we had to double up to get them through. The fording of the river was not bade, a good bottom, but deep water; many things in our wagons got wet. Just this side of the river was a hill; we stopped on this ascension to let the water drop out, which it did to some extent. We have forded but one river since, crossed three bridges and one creek. The creek not four rods across, was the worst of all, more mud than water. All of this you will have to encounter. Stranger, you do not know what you have to pass through before reaching Laramie; you should have someone with you at those places. Your next three days will be good. On leaving here you will follow the river to the bridge, and cross on a good, substantial bridge, built by the government. After crossing, and going a short distance, you will come to the store, where you can buy most anything you wish — grain, flour, bacon, pork, sugar, tea, coffee, and a large variety of canned meats. It is a great accommodation store. While in Laramie this store was made known to us,’ said the captain. ‘When I was in Green River city,’ [I replied,] ‘I was told that I could not get anything that I should need until getting to Laramie. They told me a big lie, you see. When you get there, tell the grain dealer that you met the man with the horse, cow, and dog, and he sends his compliments, and says he could have got all the grain he wanted at the bridge over the Platte River, near Warm Springs.’
“‘It is about time to retire. We place a watchman over the camp at night to look around while we are sleeping. Should anything happen, it would be made known to us and we should be prepared for any emergency.’ said the captain.”
… to be continued …