Jesse B. Martin Company (1857)
Jesse Bigler Martin was an elder of wide experience. He was part of the 1846 exodus from Nauvoo, Illinois, joined the Mormon Battalion, and made the long march to California, where he worked for a while at Sutter's Mill. Later, he traveled to Utah, married, and served as a "Minute Man" in several Indian skirmishes. From 1853 to 1857 he served as a missionary in Great Britain. Now he was returning home. Upon reaching Iowa City he became captain of the emigrant company that bears his name. When it left Iowa City, June 1, the train consisted of 31 wagons. The teamsters were green and had to be trained. The oxen were wild and had to be tamed. In the process an axle broke, one wagon overturned, and another collided with a tree. Days were hot, and fleas plagued the company.
On June 8, heavy showers kept the train in camp longer than usual. At Westfield the party learned, via letter, that members of a handcart company that was ahead of them were all healthy and happy. In Martin's party there was a quarrel between two individuals, probably over another overturned wagon, and the captain admonished everyone against finding fault. The train passed through Newton where Mormon apostates harassed and insulted the emigrants. June 11, a few members of the company became lost temporarily. The train camped on the Des Moines River, two miles from Fort Des Moines. Each wagon then paid 30 cents to be ferried across. The emigrants received a visit from eastward bound Joseph and Brigham Young, sons of President Brigham Young, who brought cheering news from Utah. The train camped outside Adel; rumor had it that smallpox was in the town. The group tried to pass through Adel quickly, but local dogs frightened some of the oxen, causing them to turn suddenly. An occupant of one wagon tumbled out but was not seriously injured. A downpour of rain made crossing the Middle Raccoon difficult and turned the road into a quagmire. One pair of oxen was lost. The ground was so wet on the 17th that the train remained in camp. It was very cold. Canadian bound missionaries brought more news from the Salt Lake Valley.
The emigrants paid 30 cents per wagon to be ferried across the West Nishnabona River. A child died of black canker and was buried near Silver Creek. The emigrants camped near Council Bluffs. A wagon overturned in a creek, nearly drowning a baby, and an ox died from heat exhaustion. But the train successfully crossed the Missouri and reached Florence, Nebraska Territory, June 24. At about this time the emigrants learned of Apostle Parley P. Pratt's death. Over the next two days the travelers acquired supplies, repacked the wagons, and washed clothes, preparing for plains travel. It was hot. Rain and strayed cattle delayed departure until June 28. The train camped on the Little Papillion but stopped short of the Elkhorn because a party of apostates was camped there. While Captain Martin was making arrangements to ferry the wagons across the Elkhorn, apostates visited the train "swearing & raising all manner of threatening," even vowing to kill the captain. A terrible thunderstorm on June 30 scattered the company's cattle; it was two o'clock in the afternoon before they could be gathered and yoked. Apostates claimed that they were responsible for scattering the animals, and they threatened to do so again.
After the train crossed the Elkhorn, about eleven o'clock at night, apostates appeared at the emigrants' camp with a violin, a flute, and a horn, apparently planning to make good on their threats. But Captain Martin, with pistols in hand, quickly aroused several of his men and the intruders left. July 1, while workmen repaired a broken axle, the company buried a man who had died. Mosquitoes were a problem. After passing through Fremont, the party camped on the banks of the Platte River. Here, a government exploring expedition visited them and Apostles John Taylor and Erastus Snow and their escorts caught up with the train. A boy fell under a wagon wheel and was severely bruised; his arm was broken, too. A member of the company set his broken arm.
The train reached Loup Fork on July 4. At the town of Columbus, the emigrants saw men celebrating Independence Day. Near Beaver (Genoa), the company crossed Loup Fork by double-teaming the wagons. In the process, a woman was run over. From here, the Taylor-Snow party pushed on ahead. Later, an overturned wagon had to be righted and the train passed a sign made by members of the handcart company indicating that all was well with them. Martin's people found a stray yoke of oxen. The captain's wagon tipped over near Wood River, but little damage resulted. There was a severe thunderstorm and another wagon overturned; this one had to be repaired. The train camped at Elm Creek, then Buffalo Creek. Again there were heavy thunderstorms. Now the travelers saw large buffalo herds and the cattle stampeded, trampling a member of the company. After a two-day search for the runaways, all but nine animals were recovered. Again the cattle ran off. Seven of these strays were never recovered. This left the train short on cattle and gave Captain Martin an excuse to send discontented families back east. During a later dispute over animals, teams bolted, breaking several yokes, crashing two wagons, and killing two individuals. Other emigrants were injured. After all this, the captain called upon the travelers to make a covenant with God that they would heed counsel for the remainder of the journey. All agreed, and then they buried the dead and repaired the broken wagons. A different spirit seemed to prevail in the company after this.
The train met more apostates. Three Sioux Indians came into camp wanting to trade a horse for a white woman. Instead, Captain Martin exchanged some sugar for moccasins; other travelers gave the natives food. On July 22 the train crossed Bluff Fork. Flies were troublesome and sandy roads slowed progress. Near Camp Creek the company found another message from the handcart company on a buffalo skull reporting that several handcart women were sick. Again, the wagons had to double-team to get through sand hills. The company met a party returning from California. Opposite Castle Bluff the train left the main road, staying close to the Platte. Unfortunately, 20 or 30 women took the wrong road and lost about two hours travel time. The train passed an Indian camp. On July 28, by climbing a bluff, emigrants caught their first glimpse of Chimney Rock, but rain and sandy hills hindered progress. Another stampede injured three more women. The train camped opposite Scotts Bluff. By crossing the Platte here, a member of the train was able to visit a trading camp and exchange his worn-out oxen for fresh ones on a two-for-one basis. Other party members simply re-shod their tired animals.
On August 4, Captain Martin and others left the train temporarily, riding ahead to Fort Laramie, where the captain had his horse shod and purchased bacon at 25 cents per pound and leather for shoeing cattle at a dollar per pound. The price of flour was $20.00 per 100 lbs. A rough road again required double-teaming. August 9 and 10 herdsmen drove the cattle back and forth across the Platte so they could graze on the south bank. A gun accidentally discharged, narrowly missing several persons. August 11, the handcart train was camped south of the river opposite Martin's wagons. The carts would cross the river at the upper crossing and there await the wagon train. The two companies would then travel together, or in close proximity, all the way to the Salt Lake Valley. Martin's company had stayed north of the Platte all the way. The wagons camped one mile west of the Platte Bridge, near modern-day Casper, Wyoming, then at Willow Springs, at Greenwood Creek, and at Devil's Gate. From the Mormon outpost at Devil's Gate, the company purchased flour at $12.00 per 100 lbs. About this time the emigrants learned of the military expedition sent out by the United States to "compell the Saints to submit to them and to hang President Young and punish polygamists." The train crossed the Sweetwater and Rocky Ridge.
On August 26, it was at Pacific Springs. Here the emigrants met 70 men from Salt Lake who were headed east to protect later emigrants. The next day 50 men from Provo, on the same mission, passed by. There was more trouble with strayed animals. Martin's company camped at Green River. It also stopped at Black's Fork, at Ham's Fork, and at Fort Bridger. Here the emigrants purchased potatoes, turnips, and beef. On September 6, at Bear River, a quartermaster from the "invading" army overtook the emigrants and camped with them. Later camps were on Echo Creek and at the Weber River. Here the company met 20 yoke of oxen going east to help later emigrants. Camp for September 10 was just east of Big Mountain. Crossing this barrier took all of the following day, but on the 12th the company negotiated Little Mountain, descended Emigration Canyon, and entered Salt Lake City with 192 people, 34 wagons, 130 oxen, 7 cows, and 1 horse. Four people had died during the journey.