Ellen's Top Matches
About Ellen Wasden
"...Our companies were organized into tens with a captain over each division. My father [Thomas Wasden] was head of the first company and we were the first to set out upon the trail. We aimed to make fifteen miles a day, but often covered from eleven to twenty miles from one water hole to the next. Once we traveled all day and found no water, and tired and parched we had to bunk down until day light.
The pilot was a man chosen to go ahead and select camping places and mostly always he was a person who was familiar with the route and acquainted with the good bedding grounds; but at times even the ingenuity of the pathfinder could not guide us to water holes and grass for the oxen. Often the downpour of rain sank our wheels to slow moving and the accidents of flood and field caused a great many oxen to become lame and to expire on the roadside. There was pluck and perserverence and a faith in the good God above that pricked up jaded spirits and revived the failing strength, so that days came and went in good season and each day brought us nearer to the mountain tops.
There were nights when the memory of merry England came back and contrasted desperately with the awful lonesomeness of the barren unbroken plains; the terrible despair of the howling wolves; and the terror of the snakes skurring [scurrying] around us as we shifted our feet into the baked sand dunes. I was often so weary and footsore when I lay down on a quilt thrown upon the ground that I could not sleep. The food was so poor that it left a nightmare memories of the bacon and flour masquerading in ghostly forms over the sandy mirage.
There were dried apples for the sick women and some ought to have fallen to my lot, but I never let them know how I coveted the precious morsels. There were relief depots along the way where flour was stored for those who needed it when the supply in the wagon gave out.
I remember when the supply of flour gave out and we were one days journey from Fort Bridger. We decided to make a collection of trinkets and jewelry to purchase flour when we reached the commissary of the plains.
At Ft. Bridger we met the mountaineer and the trader and exchanged our jewelry for the staff of life. Then we pushed across Green River and Weber River through Big and Little Mountains down Emigration Canyon to Salt Lake City, where we arrived August 26th after two months and three weeks of travel.
The journey has many and varied memories. The rivers, sometimes swollen, had to be forded by pitiable diligence, and at times, the women found water above their waists as they trudged thru the streams. We had to recross the Platte River, at least three times.
When we came to Weber River, we camped long enough to "do out" a washing and I used a bar of soap I brought from England. The process of washing at the Creek is painfully laborious. We first selected a rocky place, then culled out a rock lined basin and pushed the clothes thru and thru the clean loose rocks as we rubbed them vigorously. Even then the color of the garments as they hung upon the bushes to dry in the sun would not make a neighbor envious.
There are many old by-gones which come to my mind. Things which came into our experience as we ploughed along thru the waste, for instance we met the Pony Express as he galloped away toward the horizon; then occasionally we came upon the Overland Express; but more often, we met tribes of Indians or droves of buffalo. Both of these tenants of the plains gave us some anxiety for we never knew when the spirit of the untamable wild might take possession of them, impelling them to sweep down upon us in fury. A stampeding band of buffaloes strikes as much terror as the war whoop of the Red man and was equally to be feared.
Once a handsome buffalo broke into our circle of wagons and brought about a reign of terror, but the beast evidently was as much panic stricken as we were for he dashed headlong from one side of our baracade of wagons to the other until he found an outlet, then he scampered off to the plains.
At another time a band of Pawnees swooped down upon us. They had been the victims of a ruthless trader who had given them "fire-water" and it took unusual tact and courage to prevent a massacre, but we succeeded in buying our safety.
Usually the Indians were friendly and followed us to beg "mormon" bread and trinkets, sometimes offering dried fruit to us in exchange, but they were crafty buyers, holding their stuff at many times its worth.
Cooking a meal upon the plains, simple as it usually was, demanded much pains. There was no timber nor brush for firewood and part of a day's toil was to gather "buffalo chips" along the road side for fire use. Often the fire making called for a great deal of manipulation and care. Then the flour was mixed with saleratus and baked in thick cakes in the "bake skillet" or Dutch oven. A hole was dug in the ground then lined with hot "chips" and the "skillet" placed within, the whole affair heaped over with blazing "chips" and left to bake the cakes to a "turn". We possessed only a frying pan as our outfit of cooking utensils and found my young and green experience quite unequalled to producing a meal out of nothing but flour and with a frying pan. So many times we went hungry and thought of the times in England when we had had plenty.
But in spite of all the hardships we sang as we journeyed and many are the songs we fashioned to cheer our spirits. I do not remember the tune but this is the chorus: "Some must push and some must pull, As we go marching up the hills; So merrily on our way we go, Until we reach the valley, oh!" . . .
We traveled all day and sang at night. Our prayers were said every night and we held services on Sunday and special days.
When we came into Salt Lake City, it was a small "city" then, we camped on 8th Ward Square, where the City and County Building now is. We drew our wagons into a circle and the Saints hailed our coming by the band playing, "Home, Sweet Home."
I shall never forget how my tired and weary body and soul responded to that song. We had reached our goal, worn and hungry, with nothing but the strength of a mighty purpose to support us. There were no comrades we had known before and the solemn primal curse, "Earn thy bread by the sweat of thy brow", was upon us..."
SOURCE: Wasden, Ellen, [Autobiography], "Two Pioneer Stories," 2-5. Retrieved from http://www.lds.org/churchhistory/library/source/1,18016,4976-6153,00.html