Mr. Johnson’s trek

After his and the other travelers’ dramatic crossing of the Black Fork River, Mr. Johnson picked up his tale the next morning …

“On the 24th, on the banks of the Black Fork River, I was up making ready to move on. While getting my own breakfast I allowed my cattle free range of grass and then a feed of grain. I left camp about six o’clock; it was a fine morning as I left the Black Fork River, and having a good trail I went on my way with merry glee.

“About eleven o’clock we came to some good water where we stopped; I gave water and grain to my cattle and took a dish of cold coffee myself; this was all I cared for. I did not stop long and as my journey continued the road grew rougher. About three o’clock in the afternoon I met a train of six teams. I stopped and passed the compliments of the day, saying, ‘Gentlemen, where are you from and where going?’ ‘We are from Kansas and have not decided finally where to locate. We started, however, for Oregon, but it is a long road, and a rough one at that. Stranger, where are you from and where are you bound to?’ ‘I am from Ogden and going East.’ ‘How far East, we would like to know, stranger?’ ‘I can’t say for certainty, no more than you, but should I have luck, I may go as far as Massachusetts.’ ‘Massachusetts, the devil you are, that is almost the jumping-off place.’ ‘How far have you come today?’ ‘We have come from Green River City, about twelve miles I think.’ ‘How far is it to water?’ ‘About three miles, I should think.’ … After bidding each other goodbye, we went on.

“On coming to water, I gave my cattle water and grain and concluded to camp here for the night. My surroundings look rough, and not a house in sight. I gathered some sagebrush for fuel, made a good, rousing fire, got supper and made everything ready for the night. As I lay on my bed, to the right of me, I heard the whistle of an engine, then I knew that we were not far from the railroad. After a time, I was lost in a sound sleep.”

to be continued …

The next day, Mr. Johnson wrote, …

“On the morning of the 23rd, I was up and around looking to my cattle, doing this and that, not knowing what the next would be. I went to the river and looked at the marks made last night, and found the water four inches lower and went back to the camp and turned the cattle loose, that they might eat plenty of good grass, made a fire and got me another ‘poor’ breakfast. Then I went back to the river, being anxious to see some team coming from the East crossing the river, to see if it was fordable.

“About one mile east of us is Grange station, which is a junction of the Union Pacific and the Oregon Short Line, running within twenty rods of my camp. About nine o’clock, the express train from the East passed by. After the passing of this train, I saw four teams coming from the East. Three were heavy wagons and one a light Eastern wagon on springs, drawn by two horses each. On coming to the river, they stopped; their trail from Granges was close to the railroad track, and not more than forty feet from the bridge. As they got to the bank, the men, women, and children, to the number of twenty-three, got out and made for the river. I was some distance from them and went to the junction of the two rivers, opposite to them. We tried to talk across, but the roar of the waters prevented us from hearing one another.

“They went back to their wagons; two horses were then taken from one of the wagons, unharnessed, and two men mounted them and rode down into the river and out on its opposite banks, then they rode on about eight rods and down into the larger river and across to where I was. The first river was about four rods across, the second about eight rods. As soon as they got to me, they commenced asking me, where I was from, where going, and how long had I been at the river? I told them where I was from and where I intended to haul up, and so on. I told them that I reached this river yesterday, and had been waiting there since that time, and now I will cross with them.

“They re-crossed the river, I following close after and got over all right.

“The teamsters now got ready to cross with their wagons, and I watched them at a distance of twelve rods. They drove their largest wagon first down to the river, the two men on horseback leading. As the big, heavy team went into the river, the wheels sunk deep into the mud, but the horses were game and pulled it across the two rivers all right. The second wagon got across with the same good fortune and [they] returned for the third team, which was the covered light carriage, with springs, the horses were fine and spirited ones. In this carriage were four women and two children. As they were going down into the river, the bank being cut up by the other teams in crossing, the horses stepped deep into the mud and began to act meanly. The driver, however, was an excellent horseman and spoke to his horses sharply, and led them out safely. One of the women, however, was so badly frightened that she lay unconscious for over two hours.

“The fourth vehicle was got across all right. It was eleven o’clock when we all had forded the two rivers, and seeing them safely across I went on my way, and about three o’clock I came to another river. I followed this river for several miles, until coming to a fine plat of grass where I went into camp for the night, turning my cattle loose to graze. I made a fire and got my supper, and after bringing the cattle and fastening them up for the night I went to bed.”

Continuing from yesterday …

“On the morning of the 22nd, I did not awaken as early as usual, my rest of the night having been broken. While I was making my breakfast, I gave the cattle another chance at the grass and then gave grain, after which we moved on.

“It was six o’clock when we left the camp; my road was very rough. Can my carriage stand it? It is doubtful. I led the horse over every stone that I thought would strain the carriage, but as I progressed the road improved. I traveled as fast as I dared and soon came to a small creek; just what I wanted, as the cattle were very thirsty, here I gave them some grain and then moved on and soon came to the railroad, which after crossing I came to a large river, but did not learn its name.

“There being plenty of grass, I concluded to go no further and went info camp, turning the cattle loose to eat as they pleased. I went to the river prospecting and found a junction of two rivers, and made marks to ascertain whether the river was rising or falling. As I went back to the camp I gathered some fuel and made a good large fire, and got me ready a good supper; that is, what I called good. I carry a variety of eatables, so that I had the stuff for a good meal.

“Well, here we are, the four of us: horse, cow, dog, and self. It is just seven o’clock in the evening, on the banks of a river unknown. I secured my cattle, gave them grain, made up my bed, and was about to lie down, when a train of cars came along from Ogden.”

It’s been a while since we checked in with Mr. Johnson. When we last met up with him on his cross-country trek, he’d just forded a swollen river. …

“The morning of the 21st [of May 1883] found me up early, as usual, making ready to move onward. I fed my cattle on grain, no grass, nothing but sage bushes around. I made a fire, got some coffee, and sat down to breakfast. The box from which my horse eats her grain serves me as a seat when not otherwise in use.

“After breakfast I moved on. My road is not as good as usual, it is rough and stony. About ten o’clock I came to a small creek and gave the cattle water; they were thirsty, drinking as though they had not seen water since crossing the ford, and there they did not stop to drink. ‘Come, Fanny, we must go on,’ I said.

“About one o’clock I saw two teams approaching. As we met, of course we stopped; we do not have to stop more than once a day. ‘Good morning, gentlemen,’ I said. ‘Where are you from, excuse me asking?’ ‘Oh, yes; that is all right. We are from Green River City.’ ‘Where did you camp last night?’ ‘About ten miles from here.’ ‘Did your cattle get grass?’ ‘Oh, yes; where we stopped the grass was good.’ ‘About ten miles. How is the road that distance?’ ‘Very rough.’

“We then went on and at three o’clock, stopped and gave my cattle grain. After eating we again went on until coming to the grass of which I had been told, and went into camp. It was not yet time to go into camp, but there being grass we must stop, as going on we might not come to any more for many miles. I turned the cattle loose, allowing them to have their fill, then I made them fast for the night. While they were eating, I gathered some wood for a fire, got my supper ready, ate it, and went to bed.

“In the night, I was awakened by the horse. I knew then there was something around. I got up and saw the horse looking a given direction, and on turning that way I saw a herd of deer feeding. I went back to bed and did not awake until dawn.”

I had an email this morning from Andreas Nemitz (of the fabulous-looking Coaching in Bavaria horse-drawn tours).

He said that, over the last couple of days, as he was reading Mr. Johnson’s story of trying to cross a swollen river, ┬áit reminded him of one of his crossings of the River Ombrone in Tuscany. (There were two horse-drawn vehicles on the trip, so people on each vehicle took photos of the other.) …






Mr. Nemitz assures us that the crossing looked far more dramatic than it actually was.


… continued from yesterday …

“About twelve o’clock I came to a road that ran at angles. To the right is Fort Bridges, nine miles, and to my left is Bridges station, one mile. Here I stopped, fed my cattle on grain, no hay or grass, [and fed] myself on bread, milk, butter, cheese, and salmon, a very good dinner. I had just finished my dinner when the three teams I had left at the river came up. I asked, ‘What luck crossing the river?’ ‘We came across as you did, but got badly wet. It was much deeper than we supposed; our wagon was under water. It has made work for us; we will not cross another creek as we did that. It is taking too many chances and won’t pay. We shall have to overhaul our trunks and dry our clothing.’

“Leaving them at dinner I went on and about six o’clock these teams overtook me. They passed me but soon after went into camp, and I camped with them; no grass or hay, feeding our cattle wholly on grain. I gathered some sage brush for fuel, making a fire, got some coffee and ate my supper. If you asked what it consisted of, I would say hot coffee, cold salmon, boiled eggs, butter, cheese, milk, and crackers for bread. My neighbors having gone through the same routine, they overhauled their trunks, taking out their clothing and got ready for a dry-out. I have a box which is watertight that contains my clothing, sugar, tea, coffee, and other things that water affects. On the top of this box are my blankets, covered with a rubber blanket.

“At half-past eight, it was time to make up my bed, so I made fast my cattle to their several posts, made up my bed and laid down for a good night’s rest.”

When we last checked in with Mr. Johnson, he’d been obliged to camp for the night at a post office, as the nearby river was too high to cross.

“On the morning of the 20th, I was up in due season and made ready to move on. I went down to the river to see how it looked and found it about the same as yesterday. I turned back rather blue, and went to the post office, where I found the proprietor, to whom I remarked, ‘I have been to the river; but saw no change in its condition. What can I do? My only chance is to go back and ford the river.’ ‘The river can be forded, but it will be a hard job. It is a deep and powerful current; you may be able to ford it, but you should not be alone,’ she answered.

“As we were talking, three teams came up to where we were and the drivers asked the road to Green River City. The postmistress said to me, ‘Now is your time.’ The teamsters were answered, ‘There are two roads: one you can’t go and the other you can if you dare ford the river.’ ‘Which road is that?’ asked the teamsters. ‘The left road.’ ‘What is the matter with the other way?’ they asked. ‘A heavy wash-out; a bridge to be built before it can be traveled. Rivers and creeks are very high, it seems.’ ‘They are high; we are on our way to Green River City, and still further east across the plains,’ said the teamsters. ‘I came to the river yesterday but found it so high I dared not cross, and came here to take this road, but find it impassable, so here I am as you see,’ I said. ‘Get ready and go with them and cross as they do,’ said the postmistress.

“We all went back to the river, and as we got there saw on the opposite side a herd of horses with three men in charge of them. They rode up to the creek, looked at it a moment and then rode down the bank and over the opposite — in no time. ‘That was quickly done,’ I said. ‘How shall I get across with my carriage?’ I asked. ‘Drive down into the river, that is the way to cross; you can’t do it while on that bank,’ said one of the horsemen. ‘If you will ride across, I will follow you,’ I said.

“He rode down into the river and I followed close after him and got across all right, but my wagon was full of water, but it soon ran out. I went on and did not stop to see how the three teams got across. In crossing, my feed got wet, but it did no other damage.” …

to be continued …

« Previous PageNext Page »