Letter Written by Harriet Decker Hanks

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My husband was a Nephew of President B. Youngs — and they were intimate and congenial to each other — consequently he was called by his Uncle to drive His Family carriage when they were ready to cross the Mississippi River — We started at night on the 12th of Feb crossed the River on the Ice — made our first camp at Sugar Creek Iowa — the last Wagon crossing the river broke through the ice — My husband in helping to get the wagon from the river got very wet and took a violent cold that settled on his lungs from which he never recovered — He died six weeks later and was buried by the roadside between two large trees to mark his resting place — I was then 20 years old — a widow — a baby boy a few months old — Left to get along the best I could — I had been tenderly cared for 4 years of my married life — but was-Inexperienced in this and many things I was called to go through — and you that have lost a kind loving husband and protector — even when surrounded with home comforts know the sorrow and loneliness of heart — but homeless and traveling I knew not where I felt desolate indeed — I was not friendless there were many to sympathize with me — but except their circumstances were not much better than mine — I cannot dwell longer on the unhappy scenes I had to pass through — It was a horrid nightmare from that time until we arrived at Council Bluffs now called Omaha — We spent the Winter there and in April 1847, The original company of Pioneers consisting of one hundred and forty-three men and three women and two children — my Mother — My Sister Mrs. Clara D. Young, Wife of Brigham Young, Mrs. Ellen Saunders Kimbal and my youngest brother left Omaha for the Promised Home of the Saints — arriving here on the 24th of July of the same year —

On the 13th day of June of the same year a company of one hundred persons of which my self and baby were numbered left our winter quarters to cross the plains — Jedediah M. Grant was captain of the company — I was given the honorable position of driving an ox team — My wagon was loaded with mill irons that was put into the first mill erected in Utah — the walls of the old mill still stand as a land mark-in our beautiful Park. My little boy and myself slept on those irones for 5 months — there has been a vast improvement in bed springs since that time — We had a long tiresome journey — but we had some very pleasant evenings after our wearisome day was over we would have songs and prayer and thank our Heavenly Father that our lives had been spared from the cruel Indian and wild beasts that were often seen on our way — But we had all we could endure both men and women as well as the poor cattle — I drove my oxen through the day — milked 5 cows at night and morning — Baked the bread for fifteen persons eleven of them men — done everything that came to me to do my yoke my oxen — I was asked to do that by the Captain of the ten I was traveling in — but I drew the line at that request — and on measuring the yoke with me the odds was in my favor — I could not lift the yoke — my weight at that time was 80 pounds — But with all our hardships we were blessed with good health and looked on the cheerful side and the months passed away and we were nearing the valley as it was called — Theres one more — incident that occurs to my mind — I had never heard of a cloud burst — but I was called to witness one that nearly cost myself and baby our lives — We had camped in Emigration canyon for noon lunch — I started with my little boy for a walk — I had not got far from the wagon when I heard a very unusual sound — and looking back across the canyon the mountain seemed to be coming down into the road — and the roar was deafening. In less time than it takes to describe it — the water was-upon me — I started for my wagon — but the water came to my waist — I had my babe in my arms — I found my strength leaving me — I could not stand — I was near a stump — I placed my baby on the stump and held him and myself from being swept away in the current — until and old gentleman seeing my danger came to me — I took baby in my arms and he took us both to our wagon — by this time the water was running into my wagon box and logs, stones and other debris were hurled in every direction — but the blessed mill irons saved the day — they anchored the wagon and kept it from oversetting — But the End was not yet — after the flood had passed — we had no road left — we had to stay two days until the road was made safe — and on the evening of the 5th of October 1847 we arrived in Salt Lake Valley and camped in what was called the North Fort — the place that was to be my abiding place for the next year —

Hanks, Harriet Decker, [Letter], in Golden Leone Jackman and Teton Hanks Jackman, comp., "Descendants of Ephraim Knowlton Hanks and His Wives."


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