Indian Trails

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Sketches

On the morning of December 11, 1856, Ephraim K. Hanks, in company with his bosom companion, Feramorz Little, after receiving a blessing from the Presidency of the Church, started on their perilous journey to the East. From Benjamin Hampton, who was stationed at Devil's Gate that winter, it is learned that Hanks and Little passed there two days before Christmas, after encountering, near the Continental Divide, one of the most severe storms ever witnessed in that section of the country. After resting a few hours, they continued on their way in snow up to their horses' knees.

At Ash Hollow, three hundred miles further on, with their animals greatly reduced in flesh and strength, and after making good time, they were surprised to find eight of Major & Russell's snowed-in freight teams. The wagons were loaded with mail for the East, and in care of a Mr. Remick, who was in great trouble as to what to do, since his food supply was nearly exhausted. Eph assured him that his outfit could be taken to the Missouri River, and agreed to furnish the mail carrier with all the buffalo meat that his men would need while making the trip. The plan proposed was finally agreed upon and everything was made ready for an early morning start.

A large tribe of Sioux were encamped a short distance away, and Eph felt impressed to visit them. As soon as he reached their camp he made his way to the chief's tent, where he found no one present except an elderly female. Soon, however, the chief came and the lodge was filled with representative members of the tribe. As Ephraim took his place among them, the chief wanted to know who he was and where he came from. Eph answered that he lived in the mountains and belonged to the people who had pulled handcarts across the plains, that his chief's name was Brigham Young, who sometimes talked with the Great Spirit. The chief then wanted to know if Hanks himself could talk with the Great Spirit, which question the scout answered in the affirmative. The chief then spoke a few words to the assembled warriors, a number of them left the lodge and in a few moments returned, carrying an Indian boy in a blanket.

It seems that the boy, while out on a buffalo hunt, had been thrown from his horse. His back was so badly injured that he had not been able to move for months. The chief, pointing to the boy, asked Eph if he would talk to the Great Spirit in behalf of the injured lad, which Ephraim consented to do. After the clothing had been removed from the boy's body, Eph annointed the afflicted parts with consecrated oil, which he always carried with him, and then administered to him in the name of Jesus Christ, promising that he should be made whole from that very moment. The boy immediately arose from his bed of affliction and walked out of the lodge, to the astonishment of all who saw.

Eph informed the Indians that the company of freighters at Ash Hollow, which he was about to escort to the States, was nearly out of provisions and wanted to know what they could do towards replenishing their food supply. They told him that there had been no buffaloes in that section of country for months, and that their people were on the eve of starvation on account of it. Upon hearing this, it is related that the spirit of prophecy came upon Ephraim to a remarkable degree, and he promised them in the name of the Great Spirit, that within three days from that time the whole country for miles around would be overrun with buffaloes, which prediction caused a general stir throughout the camp. He then bade them goodbye and returned to his camp, but said nothing to his companions about what had occurred.

Next morning, as the company was about to start on its six-hundred-mile journey, about thirty prominent Indians formed into line on either side of the road and, as Eph passed by in the lead wagon, each of them gave him a package of the choicest kind of sausage, made from buffalo meat, which proved to be nothing short of a Godsend to them all. The Indians were anxious to learn when their pale-faced benefactor would return; for, by this time they had become intensely interested in the man whose prayer could heal the sick and who had promised them meat when they were in need of food. Ephraim informed them that he would return later in the season, and as he passed that way would call upon them. Tears were seen upon their dusky cheeks as he gave them another parting shake of the hand and bade them farewell.

Messrs. Remick and Little asked to know what all this meant, as this was the first time that they ever had known the Indians to give food away, and especially in times of famine. Eph told the boys that he had always been kind to the Redmen of the plains, and that they were a class of people who never overlooked a kind act. This answer did not satisfy his companions, as they were fully convinced that something of an unusual nature must have occurred the night before between Hanks and the Indians. The company continued on their way in snow almost two feet deep and arrived at Independence, Missouri, February 27, 1857, the Salt Lake boys having been on the road just seventy-eight days. As soon as they reached their destination, they were dumbfounded to find the air filled with rumors of war and government agents scurrying over the country in every direction, buying supplies for Johnston's army, who were about to march against the "Mormons," who had, according to Judge Drummond's untruthful stories, destroyed the Supreme court records of Utah.

Hanks and Little remained in the States for several months, and after gathering what information they could concerning the Johnston army they started for home about the first of June, with three wagons loaded with mail. When they arrived in the neighborhood of Ash Hollow they were greeted by the overjoyed Indians, who had been looking for Eph's return. They celebrated the fact that three days after his departure one of the largest herds of bison that had been seen in that part of the country had passed by and that the bison saved them from starvation.

Heart Throbs of the West, Kate B. Carter, Vol. 6, p. 422

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