Mr. Johnson’s trek

First, before we continue with Mr. Johnson’s tale …

A commenter asked whether (and if so, where) she could buy a copy of Mr. Johnson’s book. The copy I’m “reading” from belongs to the CMA Library here in our office, but I’ve never actually seen the book for sale anywhere. I did just look it up online and Abe Books has ONE copy for sale here.

Now to pick back up with Mr. Johnson.

“About two o’clock I met a train of four wagons and I asked them ‘How far is it to water?’ ‘We have seen none since leaving camp this morning, stranger.’ ‘How far have you come, think you?’ ‘About twelve miles I think. Stranger, how far have you come?’ ‘About the same distance.’ ‘When did you cross any rivers or creeks last?’ I asked. ‘We have seen none for many miles.’ ‘How far from the road were you camped last night?’ I asked. ‘Oh, not far; about forty rods, not more. We turned in on our right and made a high bluff, around the bluff we found both water and grass; you will see our tracks, we have made some deep ones today, stranger.’ ‘Where are you from?’ I asked. ‘We are from Colorado. Where are you from, stranger?’ ‘I am from California.’ ‘What, you all the way from California?’ ‘Yes, all the way.’ ‘That beats the devil. Have you brought that cow all the way from California, stranger?’ ‘No, I did not say that I brought that cow from California, but led her all the way. She has walked all that distance,’ I said. ‘Where are you going to, stranger?’ ‘I am going to Massachusetts.’ ‘Oh, hell! Where are you going, honest?’ said the stranger. ‘Honest, I am going East, to Massachusetts. Where are you going?’ I asked. ‘We are bound to Washington Territory.’ After this conversation we bade goodbye and went on our several ways.

“About six o’clock I came to the tracks made by the teams I had met. I turned in and followed the tracks around the bluff and came to water. Here I stopped and made my camp for the night. I detached the horse from the wagon, removing her harness and let her loose, the cow also. The horse went in for rolling, the cow for grazing. I went gathering sage brush for fuel and having gathered a large pile, I set it on fire, prepared a hot supper and ate it. After supper I brought in my cattle, securing them and gave them their evening meal, made up my bed and lay down to rest.

“As I lay down on my bed my attention was drawn towards my horse. She was looking steadily towards the bluff, and continued to for some time. I looked in that direction but could see nothing; still she kept looking all the same. All at once I saw what had attracted the attention of my horse. It was a herd of deer coming down the bluffs for grass and water. They were not more than twenty rods from us. I did not trouble them, and told them to remain as long as they wished, and they did remain. I did not let my fire go out as I thought there might be something more than deer around.

“It has been my custom at nights to tie my dog to the wagon, since I was so near to losing him when I was traveling among the sheep ranches and was annoyed by coyotes. They were around me continually; I did not know what to do to stop their infernal noise. One morning I was up early and saw one a short distance from me. I set the dog on him and the coyote turned on the dog. I tried to call the dog off, but the little boobee was only the more courageous, and since that time I have been more particular about setting him on to the wild animals.”

Someone commented here recently that the old photos and trip reports I’ve been sharing were all well and good, but that she really wanted to catch up with Mr. Johnson on his cross-country trek. Fair enough. We left him, quite some time ago,¬†having just met up with a wagon train bound for Utah.

“On the morning of the 30th [of May, 1883], all hands were up before the sun. A detail was made and sent in search of wood, but nothing but sage brush could be found, and enough of this was found to boil all the water that was necessary to make coffee for breakfast for the whole camp. I milked the cow and contributed it to the general stock, and the company were much pleased to taste milk once more. At six o’clock all had finished breakfast and got ready to break camp. It was decided to do so on account of the scarcity of fuel and grass, but we had plenty of good water, such as we shall not find for many miles.

“As we were about to part, the captain of the camp, John H. Standly, said, ‘Stranger from California, bound East to Massachusetts, we sincerely hope that you will succeed in your great undertaking. Traveling alone as you are, not knowing what you may have to encounter (perhaps, it is as well you do not), we know, and can’t help but think of you daily. We would like to know whether you succeed in getting through your journey safely.’ I answered, ‘Strangers from Kansas, I thank you kindly for your sympathy in my behalf, hoping that you all may reach your destination in safety. I know what you will have to encounter. Moving as an army, if you get into a tight place you can get out of it; you are not alone as I am. Strangers, I bid you all goodbye.’ As I left them, they gave three cheers for the man from California, bound East to Massachusetts.

“It was half-past eight o’clock when we broke camp, each going his separate way. It was a delightfully warm morning, but hard traveling for my horse, as she kept slipping. But as the day advanced, the traveling improved. About twelve at noon, I stopped and gave the cattle a feed of grain. No water for them as warm as it had been in the morning; it was rather hard on them. My stop was short as I wished to get to some water.”

… to be continued

… continued from Friday’s post …

“When I entered this valley, besides the herd of horses, I found twelve wagons, twenty-four horses, and sixty-three persons — men, women, and children — all for Ogden. The other two teams were for Salt Lake city. It is six o’clock in the evening and time to prepare for the night. Supper comes first, but there is no wood of which to make a fire. I have kerosene oil, but I use it for my lantern and lighting a fire, and have found it very convenient many times for this purpose.

“Of these teams, there are two which have no men with them. They are conducted by two women and eight children, four boys and four girls — ten persons in all. These women are Germans, and they had brought with them the spare wood from last night’s camp, and they were the only ones who had any wood. This wood made tea and coffee for the whole camp.

“After supper, preparations for the night were made. The ground is quite wet. The camp for the night had eleven tents, all arranged in a circle. In the rear of each tent is a wagon, and the horses are made fast to the rear of each. I was invited to come into the circle, but declined, having no tent — preferring to sleep with my cattle. This camp is under good discipline, and has a watchman for each night. This is essential; should anything strange or serious occur in or around the camp it is made known to all.

“Having the camp arranged for the night and while sitting around, one of the company said, ‘Stranger from California, we would like to hear from you, about your travels. We are going to Oregon, now give us a route thereto.’ ‘Captain, what part of Oregon do you intend to settle in?’ ‘We intend to settle on lands that have been cultivated to some extent, say in the vicinity of Portland,’ said the captain. ‘Portland is about one hundred and twenty-five miles from the Pacific Ocean. Now, I would go from here to Green River city, following the Union Pacific Railroad to Ogden, by way of Evanston. At Ogden take the Central Pacific Railroad to Corinne, Kelton, Terrace, Wells, Elko, Carlin. About five miles beyond Carlin, take the old Emigrant trail to Beowawe; there you are on the railroad again. Then to Battle Mountain, Golconda, Winnemucca, Humboldt, Wadsworth, Reno. Then take the Virginia city and Marysville turnpike to Webber’s Lake, Jackson’s Ranche, Graniteville, Nevada city, Grass Valley to Marysville. There you should take the California and Oregon road to Oregon.”

(I sure hope someone in the wagon train was copying down those directions!)

… continuing from yesterday …

“I had not been here more than an hour before a team came along the right trail and stopped when he got to me. I said, ‘Stranger, I have been trying to travel since the storm, but my horse slips so bad I am afraid she will injure herself.’ [He replied,] ‘I am in the same fix. It is dangerous traveling; I have been traveling an hour down the mountains, and my horse has been down twice. I am looking for water. Antelope Springs are not far from here. Have you come past them, stranger?’ ‘No, sir,’ I answered. ‘Then they must be on this [other] trail.’

“[I asked if he was alone.] ‘No, stranger; there is another team a little ways back.’ ‘Where are you from?’ I asked. ‘I am from Laramie. Where are you from?’ asked the stranger. ‘I am from Ogden.’ ‘You, from Ogden!’ I am going there and then to Salt Lake City,’ said the stranger. ‘What! Are you a Mormon?’ ‘No, I am not a Mormon. Are you?’ asked the stranger. ‘No, I am not, but I know something about them, as I have lived amongst them some eight months. I left Ogden on the 14th and have come so far since that time.’ ‘Where are you going to?’ asked the stranger. ‘I am going to Laramie,’ I replied. ‘How is the road to Ogden? What rivers have you forded?’ ‘I forded Bear river, Muddy creek, Hams Fork, and Bitter creek. These are all of any account; small creeks are the worst to cross,’ I answered. He went on up the left trail, I following in his rear.

“We had gone but a short distance when we came to a small creek, where we stopped and gave our cattle water. We then went on our way and came to a good valley where we found a herd of horses, ninety in number, in charge of them were two men, who were bound to Laramie.

“Here, we also found an emigrant train, twelve in number, bound for Oregon. Entering this valley, on our left are the springs, known as Antelope Springs. It is three o’clock and all propose to stop until we can travel. There is not much grass but plenty of water. The herd of horses have eaten nearly all the grass. I secured the cow with her lariat, the horse I dared not turn loose, nor stake her out. This is a wonderful place; not more than fifty acres in extent, almost surrounded by mountains. There are two entrances to the valley: one from the East and one from the West. A fine harbor it makes; only one thing is lacking, that is wood. Not a particle of fuel can be found, it has been so closely gathered up. I was informed that here was the best water to be found between Ogden and Laramie.

“Here I will say that, if I ever travel in this manner again, I will carry an oil stove for cooking purposes; it will save much labor in gathering fuel. You can gather sage brush, but wood is almost out of the question across the plains.”

When we last checked in with Mr. Johnson, he was just settling in for the night, after having shared a cooking fire with a group of fellow travelers he’d met on the trail.

“On the morning of the 29th, all hands around the camp were up early, making ready for a departure; it is a lively camp. Cattle were fed, wagons greased, and breakfast prepared. I was invited to breakfast with the rest of the company, all making the ground our table. The breakfast comprised bacon, eggs, warm bread and coffee. Remember, I have a cow that has given milk every day since calving, she is now four years old and has had two calves. On this occasion I found milk for all. After breakfast we made ready and moved on our respective ways.¬†It is six o’clock as I leave the camp. It is a fine morning and the road good.

“The wind is freshening up and clouds are gathering, it looks as if we are to have a change of weather; it is warm and sultry and begins to look like rain. I crowd on as fast as I can — remember, it is all walk and nothing else — after a while it began to rain the wind blew a gale. I stopped to make the things on the wagon more secure, as I could see no place for shelter or cover, we have to stand and take it. A flash of lightning and a peal of thunder startled us and set me thinking of my loneliness; sometimes this thought troubles me considerably. What if some serious accident happens to me?

“The storm did not last long, but it left the roads dangerous traveling. My horse could scarcely ascend a hill, but descending was even worse, on account of the slipperyness. I continued on, hoping to come to some place where we could stay, at least overnight. I came to a cross-trail, leading to the right and left. Not knowing which to take, I concluded to stop, as I have found such trails to my disadvantage.”

to be continued …

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