Preston Thomas Company (1856)
In late February 1856 Preston Thomas was in St. Louis, Missouri, buying wagons and supplies and recruiting young men and women to accompany him to Texas, where they would help Mormon converts move to Utah. When the Mississippi River cleared of ice on March 2, Thomas left for New Orleans with his recruits by riverboat, then crossed the Gulf of Mexico to Matagorda Bay in south Texas. While finishing preparations for their journey, they camped five miles above Powder Horn. On April 7 they set off-12 people, 4 wagons, 8 yoke of oxen, and 3 horses. After they had traveled 150 miles, a family of 4 joined them. At La Grange they crossed the Colorado River on a ferry. Between April 18 and 20 another 18 emigrants joined the group. Each increment added more wagons and cattle to the company. On May 1 they crossed the Brazos River at Waco, Texas. The following Sunday, they were visited by a large number of non-Mormons who manifested a very bad spirit. On May 7 one man left the company to remain in Texas as a missionary. The next day, the train crossed Trinity River at Dodd's Ferry, and on the 15th, the Red River at Preston. It had rained a lot along the way. They found roads generally bad, sometimes sandy, but more often flooded or muddy; occasionally thick black mud clogged and stopped their wagon wheels.
North of the Red River was Indian Territory. The group crossed through the Choctaw Nation, passing Boggy Depot on May 18 and preached to some Indians a week later. After the group forded the Canadian River they found the Osage to be friendly. That tribe was at war with the Kiowas and Comanches, who lived farther west. Cautiously the company followed the Arkansas River westward. On June 28 about 1,000 Kiowas and Comanches surrounded the company, demanding food and gifts. Wisdom dictated that they comply. Later, when they passed a large Kiowa-Comanche town, they again fed many Indians. After stopping at Bent's Fort they headed northward, passing Pike's Peak. Five days after the groups celebrated the 24th of July, half the wagons, comprising 18 individuals, turned back, having been influenced by apostates from Utah. This left the remainder of the company without adequate supplies of food. The train reached the South Platte on July 31 and the North Platte on August 14. At Greasewood Springs some non-Mormons joined the company. Between Greasewood Springs and the Sweetwater, the company forged a new route. At the Sweetwater, they joined a merchant train from the east. Thereafter they followed the road to Utah. The train crossed the Continental Divide on August 30 and the Big Sandy on September 3. Two days later an all-day snowstorm stopped their progress. On September 8 they "nooned" at Fort Bridger and replenished their beef supply. Then Captain Thomas, anxious to get home, went on ahead. In Weber Canyon the company met Parley P. Pratt and other missionaries who were headed east. The company of 11 wagons arrived in Salt Lake City on September 16. There were no reported deaths during the journey.