Happy Pioneer Day!
Several years ago I did a post on some of our ancestors who crossed the plains between 1847 and 1868 - see it here - and this year I thought I'd see if I could add to it. It turns out I can, and there's too much information for just one post. So, here are the pioneers from the Whitaker side (Orson Adelbert Whitaker's grandparents and great-grandparents).
George Whitaker and his wife Eveline traveled with the Edward Hunter-Joseph Horne Company. You can find information about that company here. 197 individuals and 72 wagons were in the company when it began its journey from the outfitting post on the Elkhorn River about 27 miles west of Winter Quarters, Nebraska. They left June 17, 1847, and arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on September 29, 1847. Along the way, George and Eveline's first child was born, on August 27th near Independence Rock in Wyoming. They named him George William Robinson Whitaker.
Also in the Hunter Company were Eveline's parents, John and Abigail Parsons, and her younger siblings, John Jr., Sarah, Isaac and Lawrence. Lawrence was 9 years old and later here's what he had to say about their journey:
Through that winter we had a great deal of sickness in our family by scurvy, but no deaths; and in the spring of 1847 President Young counseled all who wished to cross the plains that year for the West to be sure and take provisions enough to last them eighteen months, and seed to sow and plant to raise a crop the next year.
My father acted according to that counsel, loaded his wagons and started and was among the first to land on the west bank of the Elk Horn river, which was about twenty-five miles from Winter Quarters. There we waited for further orders. As we were in a wild Indian country we had to move with some considerable caution[.] When the Saints had nearly all arrived, we were organized into companies of hundreds, fifties and tens. We were in Elder Taylor's company, and Bishop Hoagland's ten. Not being large enough to drive a team, and as father had some loose stock, I had to drive them. Bishop Hunter and myself drove the loose stock for the company most of the way, the Bishop riding a mare twenty-two years old.
I was baptized into the Church of Christ by Elder Taylor in the Platte river. We had some ups and downs crossing the plains but they did not try the people as they were tried in Illinois. Brother Joseph Horne was in our company, and also Brother Geo[rge]. Q. Cannon. I think the latter will remember a little pair of cows he drove in his team, which he called Jack and Gill.
We landed in Salt Lake Valley with that company in good order the first part of October, 1847, and we all went to work preparing for the winter.
LAWRENCE ROBINSON. (Here's the source.)
George Washington Hickerson was in the Willard Richards Company of 1848 with his wife, Sarah, and their oldest children. You can find the link to that company here and here. Once wasn't enough for Grandpa Hickerson! He served a mission and then traveled home again with the Benjamin L. Clapp Company of 1856. On that trip he helped his widowed sister, Catherine, make the trek as well. Here's what his 14-year-old niece, Elnora, had to say about their journey:
. . . . my father died May 15, 1855, leaving my mother with five children, my brother Lee being the oldest and I came second. We had to go into the fields and care for the crops my father had planted. That fall Uncle [George] Wash[ington Hickerson] came back from his mission, and my mother decided to come to Utah. On June 15, 1856 we left to make the trip to Utah. I was sick at the time with chills and fever, and had to be carried from the house to the wagon. My father's brother told mother she would have to bury me before long, however my uncle Wash promised mother that I would never have another chill, and I didn't. I drove a team across the plains.
We crossed the Missouri River the last time on Sunday, June 27, and there were 15 armed men who searched our wagon for arms and ammunition but we had none. We camped out along until we caught up with the train of wagons. After four days my uncle went over to the camp to see if it were a camp of Saints and found that the Captain of the train, Ben Clap[p] was his former missionary companion. Now we were all together with the Saints. I was fourteen years old and had never been well all of my life before I left home.
We enjoyed our trip across the plains, we never had any deaths but we had two births, Sister Eastmo gave birth to a girl, and Sister Corlile had a boy. My mother was very sick for a long time. We traveled with her for several weeks until she became so ill, that the Captain of the train said we would have to lay over for her. That being a Friday, the Captain asked the grown-ups to fast and pray for mother. Brother Billy Godby unloaded his wagon to find a bottle of oil to consecrate and annoint my mother. They promised her she would be well and reach Utah where she would have the privilege of embracing the gospel along with her children. This she did and this was my first testimony. She told him she was ready to travel again.
We traveled on all right until we reached Ash Hollow. There we had a big hill to drive down. Lee, my oldest brother was driving the buggy mother was riding in and it tipped over. Mother walked to the bottom of the hill with some of the women helping her. From then on she seemed to improve and was soon well and strong again.
We always laid over on Saturday so the women could wash and prepare for Sunday, which was a day for worship. On Monday we went on our journey. As we traveled along the Platte River we traveled four days through buffalo herds so thick that men were sent on horses ahead to part the herds so the train of wagons could pass through them, but our cattle never got scared of them even though, as far as you could see, there were buffalo. After we had gone through the herds there was hardly one spear of grass, our teams nearly starved to death. We saw many graves along the way, with no markers, just dead ashes of the camp fires.
On June 23, we formed a nice camp ground and our captain said, "We will spend the 24th of June here." The men and boys got busy clearing the ground and stretching wagon covers to make shade for the women, and they began to cook, and we had a good time. This was the first time since I left that I had tried to dance and I danced with Bill Godby, and the next day we finished our journey, rejoicing that our Heavenly Father had blessed us with the riches of good health and a safe journey to Utah.
(Here's the source.)