"Late from the Out-going Missionaries," Deseret News [Weekly], 21 Nov. 1860, 304.
We are in the receipt of a letter from one of the missionaries, who left for the east the last of September, dated at French's Ranch, thirty-five miles above Fort Kearney, on the 28th of October. Up to the 26th the company had been favored with excellent weather, no storm having occurred to impede their progress or render travelling disagreeable and uncomfortable. On that day they encountered a severe storm, the particulars of which may be learned from the following extracts from the letter to which we refer:
Early on Friday afternoon last, 26th inst. we were overtaken by a severe rain storm. The wind, also, which had blown cold and fiercely all day, seemed to increase. Coming from the north, as we dragged heavily along, with the windings of the road, the storm was alternately on our broadside or partly in our faces. Some of the wagons being rather poorly fixed for, to us, such an unusual occurrence, were generously saturated with the rain which poured down most copiously.
After some exertion we made a harbor under the lee of some hay stacks owned by Mr. Dan Smith, who kept a station there. Here we obtained hay for our animals, paying 30 cents per feed per head. We also procured some wood from him, as the timber was far off. It was quite difficult, however, to make or keep up a fire. Some of the Elders who had tents, succeeded in getting up a blaze, but the smoke was excruciating.
Towards night the cold grew more intense. Many had before this got thoroughly saturated, and had not a dry change, while their wagons afforded but an indifferent shelter. Night came on and with its darkness followed in increased fury of the storm. Many had no shelter whatever-nor was there any to be procured on any terms. Capt. Hooper, who, having become thoroughly wet was attacked with a severe chill just at dark, offered fifty dollars to the keeper of the house for a room in which to accommodate himself and family and those with him; but all to no purpose-the intensity of the storm having driven together, from all directions for miles around, the Pike's Peakers, both going and returning, with many others-some of whom presented a most pitiable, dejected, forlorn and deprecated aspect. The house was therefore crowded to its utmost capacity and rude couches covered every accessible nook and corner of the premises that was sheltered from the storm.
I will not attempt to describe the scenes of that night in the Elders' camp. In the darkest hour of the night and when the storm arose to its utmost fury, there was not one, that I know of, who was comfortless or in the least disheartened, even though shivering with cold, drenched with rain and sleeping without shelter in the midst of the storm.
The long, dark and dreary night at last passed away and revealed to our waking senses the first snow we had seen on the journey; and further, that, during the night, tents had been blown down; one of br. Van Valenburgh's mules had perished, besides one or two animals belonging to others; and that the wagon in which were sisters Foss, France, Williams, and Vost had been but a slight protection to them—they all being wet through, in which plight they had been compelled to remain, within that contracted compass, unable to recline for rest, till morning; which, indeed, brought them but little relief in that respect. The family of br. Van Valkenburgh, also, suffered somewhat from cold and wet-especially the little ones, and I am persuaded that none of this company would again, under similar circumstances, assume the risk and care of children on a long journey from home at such an inclement season of the year.
Snow continued falling (chiefly melting soon after), the gale increasing and slackening at intervals, until towards evening. I need not tell you that we remained in camp during Saturday, making ourselves externally as comfortable as possible, under the circumstances. In spirit, I believe I never saw the brethren feel any more cheerful, and even jocose.
The calm of the evening allowed opportunity for fixing whatever needed. During the whole period of the storm, both by day and night, our animals received every required attention; and I am fully persuaded that, upon the whole, tho occasioning a delay of one day, this "opposition" to the uniformly pleasant weather we had higherto, it has been most salutary in its effects upon our mules many of which had become leg-weary and worn with constant, rapid travel. Although the roads were wet, muddy and generally heavy to-day, we made good time and came along blithely.
The Elders and all others in their company are in generally good health, though a few have colds and chills, from the effects of their late exposures.