Came the duration of darkness, and the slow-growing awareness of
other things and of another self. First of all, in this awareness,
was dust. It was in my nostrils, dry and acrid. It was on my lips.
It coated my face, my hands, and especially was it noticeable on
the finger-tips when touched by the ball of my thumb.
Next I was aware of ceaseless movement. All that was about me lurched
and oscillated. There was jolt and jar, and I heard what I knew
as a matter of course to be the grind of wheels on axles and the
grate and clash of iron tyres against rock and sand. And there came
to me the jaded voices of men, in curse and snarl of slow- plodding,
I opened my eyes, that were inflamed with dust, and immediately
fresh dust bit into them. On the coarse blankets on which I lay
the dust was half an inch thick. Above me, through sifting dust,
I saw an arched roof of lurching, swaying canvas, and myriads of
dust motes descended heavily in the shafts of sunshine that entered
through holes in the canvas.
I was a child, a boy of eight or nine, and I was weary, as was
the woman, dusty-visaged and haggard, who sat up beside me and soothed
a crying babe in her arms. She was my mother; that I knew as a matter
of course, just as I knew, when I glanced along the canvas tunnel
of the wagon-top, that the shoulders of the man on the driver's
seat were the shoulders of my father.
When I started to crawl along the packed gear with which the wagon
was laden my mother said in a tired and querulous voice, "Can't
you ever be still a minute, Jesse?"
That was my name, Jesse. I did not know my surname, though I heard
my mother call my father John. I have a dim recollection of hearing,
at one time or another, the other men address my father as Captain.
I knew that he was the leader of this company, and that his orders
were obeyed by all.
I crawled out through the opening in the canvas and sat down beside
my father on the seat. The air was stifling with the dust that rose
from the wagons and the many hoofs of the animals. So thick was
the dust that it was like mist or fog in the air, and the low sun
shone through it dimly and with a bloody light.
Not alone was the light of this setting sun ominous, but everything
about me seemed ominous--the landscape, my father's face, the fret
of the babe in my mother's arms that she could not still, the six
horses my father drove that had continually to be urged and that
were without any sign of colour, so heavily had the dust settled
The landscape was an aching, eye-hurting desolation. Low hills
stretched endlessly away on every hand. Here and there only on their
slopes were occasional scrub growths of heat-parched brush. For
the most part the surface of the hills was naked-dry and composed
of sand and rock. Our way followed the sand-bottoms between the
hills. And the sand-bottoms were bare, save for spots of scrub,
with here and there short tufts of dry and withered grass. Water
there was none, nor sign of water, except for washed gullies that
told of ancient and torrential rains.
My father was the only one who had horses to his wagon. The wagons
went in single file, and as the train wound and curved I saw that
the other wagons were drawn by oxen. Three or four yoke of oxen
strained and pulled weakly at each wagon, and beside them, in the
deep sand, walked men with ox-goads, who prodded the unwilling beasts
along. On a curve I counted the wagons ahead and behind. I knew
that there were forty of them, including our own; for often I had
counted them before. And as I counted them now, as a child will
to while away tedium, they were all there, forty of them, all canvas-topped,
big and massive, crudely fashioned, pitching and lurching, grinding
and jarring over sand and sage-brush and rock.
To right and left of us, scattered along the train, rode a dozen
or fifteen men and youths on horses. Across their pommels were long-
barrelled rifles. Whenever any of them drew near to our wagon I
could see that their faces, under the dust, were drawn and anxious
like my father's. And my father, like them, had a long-barrelled
rifle close to hand as he drove.
Also, to one side, limped a score or more of foot-sore, yoke-galled,
skeleton oxen, that ever paused to nip at the occasional tufts of
withered grass, and that ever were prodded on by the tired-faced
youths who herded them. Sometimes one or another of these oxen would
pause and low, and such lowing seemed as ominous as all else about
Far, far away I have a memory of having lived, a smaller lad, by
the tree-lined banks of a stream. And as the wagon jolts along,
and I sway on the seat with my father, I continually return and
dwell upon that pleasant water flowing between the trees. I have
a sense that for an interminable period I have lived in a wagon
and travelled on, ever on, with this present company.
But strongest of all upon me is what is strong upon all the company,
namely, a sense of drifting to doom. Our way was like a funeral
march. Never did a laugh arise. Never did I hear a happy tone of
voice. Neither peace nor ease marched with us. The faces of the
men and youths who outrode the train were grim, set, hopeless. And
as we toiled through the lurid dust of sunset often I scanned my
father's face in vain quest of some message of cheer. I will not
say that my father's face, in all its dusty haggardness, was hopeless.
It was dogged, and oh! so grim and anxious, most anxious.
A thrill seemed to run along the train. My father's head went up.
So did mine. And our horses raised their weary heads, scented the
air with long-drawn snorts, and for the nonce pulled willingly.
The horses of the outriders quickened their pace. And as for the
herd of scarecrow oxen, it broke into a forthright gallop. It was
almost ludicrous. The poor brutes were so clumsy in their weakness
and haste. They were galloping skeletons draped in mangy hide, and
they out-distanced the boys who herded them. But this was only for
a time. Then they fell back to a walk, a quick, eager, shambling,
sore-footed walk; and they no longer were lured aside by the dry
"What is it?" my mother asked from within the wagon.
"Water," was my father's reply. "It must be Nephi."
And my mother: "Thank God! And perhaps they will sell us food."
And into Nephi, through blood-red dust, with grind and grate and
jolt and jar, our great wagons rolled. A dozen scattered dwellings
or shanties composed the place. The landscape was much the same
as that through which we had passed. There were no trees, only scrub
growths and sandy bareness. But here were signs of tilled fields,
with here and there a fence. Also there was water. Down the stream
ran no current. The bed, however, was damp, with now and again a
water-hole into which the loose oxen and the saddle-horses stamped
and plunged their muzzles to the eyes. Here, too, grew an occasional
"That must be Bill Black's mill they told us about,"
my father said, pointing out a building to my mother, whose anxiousness
had drawn her to peer out over our shoulders.
An old man, with buckskin shirt and long, matted, sunburnt hair,
rode back to our wagon and talked with father. The signal was given,
and the head wagons of the train began to deploy in a circle. The
ground favoured the evolution, and, from long practice, it was accomplished
without a hitch, so that when the forty wagons were finally halted
they formed a circle. All was bustle and orderly confusion. Many
women, all tired-faced and dusty like my mother, emerged from the
wagons. Also poured forth a very horde of children. There must have
been at least fifty children, and it seemed I knew them all of long
time; and there were at least two score of women. These went about
the preparations for cooking supper.
While some of the men chopped sage-brush and we children carried
it to the fires that were kindling, other men unyoked the oxen and
let them stampede for water. Next the men, in big squads, moved
the wagons snugly into place. The tongue of each wagon was on the
inside of the circle, and, front and rear, each wagon was in solid
contact with the next wagon before and behind. The great brakes
were locked fast; but, not content with this, the wheels of all
the wagons were connected with chains. This was nothing new to us
children. It was the trouble sign of a camp in hostile country.
One wagon only was left out of the circle, so as to form a gate
to the corral. Later on, as we knew, ere the camp slept, the animals
would be driven inside, and the gate-wagon would be chained like
the others in place. In the meanwhile, and for hours, the animals
would be herded by men and boys to what scant grass they could find.
While the camp-making went on my father, with several others of
the men, including the old man with the long, sunburnt hair, went
away on foot in the direction of the mill. I remember that all of
us, men, women, and even the children, paused to watch them depart;
and it seemed their errand was of grave import.
While they were away other men, strangers, inhabitants of desert
Nephi, came into camp and stalked about. They were white men, like
us, but they were hard-faced, stern-faced, sombre, and they seemed
angry with all our company. Bad feeling was in the air, and they
said things calculated to rouse the tempers of our men. But the
warning went out from the women, and was passed on everywhere to
our men and youths, that there must be no words.
One of the strangers came to our fire, where my mother was alone,
cooking. I had just come up with an armful of sage-brush, and I
stopped to listen and to stare at the intruder, whom I hated, because
it was in the air to hate, because I knew that every last person
in our company hated these strangers who were white-skinned like
us and because of whom we had been compelled to make our camp in
This stranger at our fire had blue eyes, hard and cold and piercing.
His hair was sandy. His face was shaven to the chin, and from under
the chin, covering the neck and extending to the ears, sprouted
a sandy fringe of whiskers well-streaked with gray. Mother did not
greet him, nor did he greet her. He stood and glowered at her for
some time, he cleared his throat and said with a sneer:
"Wisht you was back in Missouri right now I bet."
I saw mother tighten her lips in self-control ere she answered:
"We are from Arkansas."
"I guess you got good reasons to deny where you come from,"
he next said, "you that drove the Lord's people from Missouri."
Mother made no reply.
"... Seein'," he went on, after the pause accorded her,
"as you're now comin' a-whinin' an' a-beggin' bread at our
hands that you persecuted."
Whereupon, and instantly, child that I was, I knew anger, the old,
red, intolerant wrath, ever unrestrainable and unsubduable.
"You lie!" I piped up. "We ain't Missourians. We
ain't whinin'. An' we ain't beggars. We got the money to buy."
"Shut up, Jesse!" my mother cried, landing the back of
her hand stingingly on my mouth. And then, to the stranger, "Go
away and let the boy alone."
"I'll shoot you full of lead, you damned Mormon!" I screamed
and sobbed at him, too quick for my mother this time, and dancing
away around the fire from the back-sweep of her hand.
As for the man himself, my conduct had not disturbed him in the
slightest. I was prepared for I knew not what violent visitation
from this terrible stranger, and I watched him warily while he considered
me with the utmost gravity.
At last he spoke, and he spoke solemnly, with solemn shaking of
the head, as if delivering a judgment.
"Like fathers like sons," he said. "The young generation
is as bad as the elder. The whole breed is unregenerate and damned.
There is no saving it, the young or the old. There is no atonement.
Not even the blood of Christ can wipe out its iniquities."
"Damned Mormon!" was all I could sob at him. "Damned
Mormon! Damned Mormon! Damned Mormon!"
And I continued to damn him and to dance around the fire before
my mother's avenging hand, until he strode away.
When my father, and the men who had accompanied him, returned,
camp-work ceased, while all crowded anxiously about him. He shook
"They will not sell?" some woman demanded.
Again he shook his head.
A man spoke up, a blue-eyed, blond-whiskered giant of thirty, who
abruptly pressed his way into the centre of the crowd.
"They say they have flour and provisions for three years, Captain,"
he said. "They have always sold to the immigration before.
And now they won't sell. And it ain't our quarrel. Their quarrel's
with the government, an' they're takin' it out on us. It ain't right,
Captain. It ain't right, I say, us with our women an' children,
an' California months away, winter comin' on, an' nothin' but desert
in between. We ain't got the grub to face the desert."
He broke off for a moment to address the whole crowd.
"Why, you-all don't know what desert is. This around here ain't
desert. I tell you it's paradise, and heavenly pasture, an' flowin'
with milk an' honey alongside what we're goin' to face."
"I tell you, Captain, we got to get flour first. If they won't
sell it, then we must just up an' take it."
Many of the men and women began crying out in approval, but my
father hushed them by holding up his hand.
"I agree with everything you say, Hamilton," he began.
But the cries now drowned his voice, and he again held up his hand.
"Except one thing you forgot to take into account, Hamilton--a
thing that you and all of us must take into account. Brigham Young
has declared martial law, and Brigham Young has an army. We could
wipe out Nephi in the shake of a lamb's tail and take all the provisions
we can carry. But we wouldn't carry them very far. Brigham's Saints
would be down upon us and we would be wiped out in another shake
of a lamb's tail. You know it. I know it. We all know it."
His words carried conviction to listeners already convinced. What
he had told them was old news. They had merely forgotten it in a
flurry of excitement and desperate need.
"Nobody will fight quicker for what is right than I will,"
father continued. "But it just happens we can't afford to fight
now. If ever a ruction starts we haven't a chance. And we've all
got our women and children to recollect. We've got to be peaceable
at any price, and put up with whatever dirt is heaped on us."
"But what will we do with the desert coming?" cried a
woman who nursed a babe at her breast.
"There's several settlements before we come to the desert,"
father answered. "Fillmore's sixty miles south. Then comes
Corn Creek. And Beaver's another fifty miles. Next is Parowan. Then
it's twenty miles to Cedar City. The farther we get away from Salt
Lake the more likely they'll sell us provisions."
"And if they won't?" the same woman persisted.
"Then we're quit of them," said my father. "Cedar
City is the last settlement. We'll have to go on, that's all, and
thank our stars we are quit of them. Two days' journey beyond is
good pasture, and water. They call it Mountain Meadows. Nobody lives
there, and that's the place we'll rest our cattle and feed them
up before we tackle the desert. Maybe we can shoot some meat. And
if the worst comes to the worst, we'll keep going as long as we
can, then abandon the wagons, pack what we can on our animals, and
make the last stages on foot. We can eat our cattle as we go along.
It would be better to arrive in California without a rag to our
backs than to leave our bones here; and leave them we will if we
start a ruction."
With final reiterated warnings against violence of speech or act,
the impromptu meeting broke up. I was slow in falling asleep that
night. My rage against the Mormon had left my brain in such a tingle
that I was still awake when my father crawled into the wagon after
a last round of the night-watch. They thought I slept, but I heard
mother ask him if he thought that the Mormons would let us depart
peacefully from their land. His face was turned aside from her as
he busied himself with pulling off a boot, while he answered her
with hearty confidence that he was sure the Mormons would let us
go if none of our own company started trouble.
But I saw his face at that moment in the light of a small tallow
dip, and in it was none of the confidence that was in his voice.
So it was that I fell asleep, oppressed by the dire fate that seemed
to overhang us, and pondering upon Brigham Young who bulked in my
child imagination as a fearful, malignant being, a very devil with
horns and tail and all.
Long before daylight the camp at Nephi was astir. The cattle were
driven out to water and pasture. While the men unchained the wheels
and drew the wagons apart and clear for yoking in, the women cooked
forty breakfasts over forty fires. The children, in the chill of
dawn, clustered about the fires, sharing places, here and there,
with the last relief of the night-watch waiting sleepily for coffee.
It requires time to get a large train such as ours under way, for
its speed is the speed of the slowest. So the sun was an hour high
and the day was already uncomfortably hot when we rolled out of
Nephi and on into the sandy barrens. No inhabitant of the place
saw us off. All chose to remain indoors, thus making our departure
as ominous as they had made our arrival the night before.
Again it was long hours of parching heat and biting dust, sage-brush
and sand, and a land accursed. No dwellings of men, neither cattle
nor fences, nor any sign of human kind, did we encounter all that
day; and at night we made our wagon-circle beside an empty stream,
in the damp sand of which we dug many holes that filled slowly with
Our subsequent journey is always a broken experience to me. We made
camp so many times, always with the wagons drawn in circle, that
to my child mind a weary long time passed after Nephi. But always,
strong upon all of us, was that sense of drifting to an impending
and certain doom.
We averaged about fifteen miles a day. I know, for my father had
said it was sixty miles to Fillmore, the next Mormon settlement,
and we made three camps on the way. This meant four days of travel.
From Nephi to the last camp of which I have any memory we must have
taken two weeks or a little less.
At Fillmore the inhabitants were hostile, as all had been since
Salt Lake. They laughed at us when we tried to buy food, and were
not above taunting us with being Missourians.
When we entered the place, hitched before the largest house of
the dozen houses that composed the settlement were two saddle-horses,
dusty, streaked with sweat, and drooping. The old man I have mentioned,
the one with long, sunburnt hair and buckskin shirt and who seemed
a sort of aide or lieutenant to father, rode close to our wagon
and indicated the jaded saddle-animals with a cock of his head.
"Not sparin' horseflesh, Captain," he muttered in a low
voice. "An' what in the name of Sam Hill are they hard-riding
for if it ain't for us?"
But my father had already noted the condition of the two animals,
and my eager eyes had seen him. And I had seen his eyes flash, his
lips tighten, and haggard lines form for a moment on his dusty face.
That was all. But I put two and two together, and knew that the
two tired saddle-horses were just one more added touch of ominousness
to the situation.
"I guess they're keeping an eye on us, Laban," was my
father's sole comment.
It was at Fillmore that I saw a man that I was to see again. He
was a tall, broad-shouldered man, well on in middle age, with all
the evidence of good health and immense strength--strength not alone
of body but of will. Unlike most men I was accustomed to about me,
he was smooth-shaven. Several days' growth of beard showed that
he was already well-grayed. His mouth was unusually wide, with thin
lips tightly compressed as if he had lost many of his front teeth.
His nose was large, square, and thick. So was his face square, wide
between the cheekbones, underhung with massive jaws, and topped
with a broad, intelligent forehead. And the eyes, rather small,
a little more than the width of an eye apart, were the bluest blue
I had ever seen.
It was at the flour-mill at Fillmore that I first saw this man.
Father, with several of our company, had gone there to try to buy
flour, and I, disobeying my mother in my curiosity to see more of
our enemies, had tagged along unperceived. This man was one of four
or five who stood in a group with the miller during the interview.
"You seen that smooth-faced old cuss?" Laban said to
father, after we had got outside and were returning to camp.
"Well, that's Lee," Laban continued. "I seen'm in
Salt Lake. He's a regular son-of-a-gun. Got nineteen wives and fifty
children, they all say. An' he's rank crazy on religion. Now, what's
he followin' us up for through this God-forsaken country?"
Our weary, doomed drifting went on. The little settlements, wherever
water and soil permitted, were from twenty to fifty miles apart.
Between stretched the barrenness of sand and alkali and drought.
And at every settlement our peaceful attempts to buy food were vain.
They denied us harshly, and wanted to know who of us had sold them
food when we drove them from Missouri. It was useless on our part
to tell them we were from Arkansas. From Arkansas we truly were,
but they insisted on our being Missourians.
At Beaver, five days' journey south from Fillmore, we saw Lee again.
And again we saw hard-ridden horses tethered before the houses.
But we did not see Lee at Parowan.
Cedar City was the last settlement. Laban, who had ridden on ahead,
came back and reported to father. His first news was significant.
"I seen that Lee skedaddling out as I rid in, Captain. An'
there's more men-folk an' horses in Cedar City than the size of
the place 'd warrant."
But we had no trouble at the settlement. Beyond refusing to sell
us food, they left us to ourselves. The women and children stayed
in the houses, and though some of the men appeared in sight they
did not, as on former occasions, enter our camp and taunt us.
It was at Cedar City that the Wainwright baby died. I remember
Mrs. Wainwright weeping and pleading with Laban to try to get some
"It may save the baby's life," she said. "And they've
got cow's milk. I saw fresh cows with my own eyes. Go on, please,
Laban. It won't hurt you to try. They can only refuse. But they
won't. Tell them it's for a baby, a wee little baby. Mormon women
have mother's hearts. They couldn't refuse a cup of milk for a wee
And Laban tried. But, as he told father afterward, he did not get
to see any Mormon women. He saw only the Mormon men, who turned
This was the last Mormon outpost. Beyond lay the vast desert, with,
on the other side of it, the dream land, ay, the myth land, of California.
As our wagons rolled out of the place in the early morning I, sitting
beside my father on the driver's seat, saw Laban give expression
to his feelings. We had gone perhaps half a mile, and were topping
a low rise that would sink Cedar City from view, when Laban turned
his horse around, halted it, and stood up in the stirrups. Where
he had halted was a new-made grave, and I knew it for the Wainwright
baby's--not the first of our graves since we had crossed the Wasatch
He was a weird figure of a man. Aged and lean, long-faced, hollow-
checked, with matted, sunburnt hair that fell below the shoulders
of his buckskin shirt, his face was distorted with hatred and helpless
rage. Holding his long rifle in his bridle-hand, he shook his free
fist at Cedar City.
"God's curse on all of you!" he cried out. "On your
children, and on your babes unborn. May drought destroy your crops.
May you eat sand seasoned with the venom of rattlesnakes. May the
sweet water of your springs turn to bitter alkali. May ..."
Here his words became indistinct as our wagons rattled on; but
his heaving shoulders and brandishing fist attested that he had
only begun to lay the curse. That he expressed the general feeling
in our train was evidenced by the many women who leaned from the
wagons, thrusting out gaunt forearms and shaking bony, labour- malformed
fists at the last of Mormondom. A man, who walked in the sand and
goaded the oxen of the wagon behind ours, laughed and waved his
goad. It was unusual, that laugh, for there had been no laughter
in our train for many days.
"Give 'm hell, Laban," he encouraged. "Them's my
And as our train rolled on I continued to look back at Laban, standing
in his stirrups by the baby's grave. Truly he was a weird figure,
with his long hair, his moccasins, and fringed leggings. So old
and weather-beaten was his buckskin shirt that ragged filaments,
here and there, showed where proud fringes once had been. He was
a man of flying tatters. I remember, at his waist, dangled dirty
tufts of hair that, far back in the journey, after a shower of rain,
were wont to show glossy black. These I knew were Indian scalps,
and the sight of them always thrilled me.
"It will do him good," father commended, more to himself
than to me. "I've been looking for days for him to blow up."
"I wish he'd go back and take a couple of scalps," I volunteered.
My father regarded me quizzically.
"Don't like the Mormons, eh, son?"
I shook my head and felt myself swelling with the inarticulate hate
that possessed me.
"When I grow up," I said, after a minute, "I'm goin'
gunning for them."
"You, Jesse!" came my mother's voice from inside the wagon.
"Shut your mouth instanter." And to my father: "You
ought to be ashamed letting the boy talk on like that."
Two days' journey brought us to Mountain Meadows, and here, well
beyond the last settlement, for the first time we did not form the
wagon-circle. The wagons were roughly in a circle, but there were
many gaps, and the wheels were not chained. Preparations were made
to stop a week. The cattle must be rested for the real desert, though
this was desert enough in all seeming. The same low hills of sand
were about us, but sparsely covered with scrub brush. The flat was
sandy, but there was some grass--more than we had encountered in
many days. Not more than a hundred feet from camp was a weak spring
that barely supplied human needs. But farther along the bottom various
other weak springs emerged from the hillsides, and it was at these
that the cattle watered.
We made camp early that day, and, because of the programme to stay
a week, there was a general overhauling of soiled clothes by the
women, who planned to start washing on the morrow. Everybody worked
till nightfall. While some of the men mended harness others repaired
the frames and ironwork of the wagons. Them was much heating and
hammering of iron and tightening of bolts and nuts. And I remember
coming upon Laban, sitting cross-legged in the shade of a wagon
and sewing away till nightfall on a new pair of moccasins. He was
the only man in our train who wore moccasins and buckskin, and I
have an impression that he had not belonged to our company when
it left Arkansas. Also, he had neither wife, nor family, nor wagon
of his own. All he possessed was his horse, his rifle, the clothes
he stood up in, and a couple of blankets that were hauled in the
Next morning it was that our doom fell. Two days' journey beyond
the last Mormon outpost, knowing that no Indians were about and
apprehending nothing from the Indians on any count, for the first
time we had not chained our wagons in the solid circle, placed guards
on the cattle, nor set a night-watch.
My awakening was like a nightmare. It came as a sudden blast of
sound. I was only stupidly awake for the first moments and did nothing
except to try to analyze and identify the various noises that went
to compose the blast that continued without let up. I could hear
near and distant explosions of rifles, shouts and curses of men,
women screaming, and children bawling. Then I could make out the
thuds and squeals of bullets that hit wood and iron in the wheels
and under-construction of the wagon. Whoever it was that was shooting,
the aim was too low. When I started to rise, my mother, evidently
just in the act of dressing, pressed me down with her hand. Father,
already up and about, at this stage erupted into the wagon.
"Out of it!" he shouted. "Quick! To the ground!"
He wasted no time. With a hook-like clutch that was almost a blow,
so swift was it, he flung me bodily out of the rear end of the wagon.
I had barely time to crawl out from under when father, mother, and
the baby came down pell-mell where I had been.
"Here, Jesse!" father shouted to me, and I joined him
in scooping out sand behind the shelter of a wagon-wheel. We worked
bare-handed and wildly. Mother joined in.
"Go ahead and make it deeper, Jesse," father ordered,
He stood up and rushed away in the gray light, shouting commands
as he ran. (I had learned by now my surname. I was Jesse Fancher.
My father was Captain Fancher).
"Lie down!" I could hear him. "Get behind the wagon
wheels and burrow in the sand! Family men, get the women and children
out of the wagons! Hold your fire! No more shooting! Hold your fire
and be ready for the rush when it comes! Single men, join Laban
at the right, Cochrane at the left, and me in the centre! Don't
stand up! Crawl for it!"
But no rush came. For a quarter of an hour the heavy and irregular
firing continued. Our damage had come in the first moments of surprise
when a number of the early-rising men were caught exposed in the
light of the campfires they were building. The Indians--for Indians
Laban declared them to be--had attacked us from the open, and were
lying down and firing at us. In the growing light father made ready
for them. His position was near to where I lay in the burrow with
mother so that I heard him when he cried out:
"Now! all together!"
From left, right, and centre our rifles loosed in a volley. I had
popped my head up to see, and I could make out more than one stricken
Indian. Their fire immediately ceased, and I could see them scampering
back on foot across the open, dragging their dead and wounded with
All was work with us on the instant. While the wagons were being
dragged and chained into the circle with tongues inside--I saw women
and little boys and girls flinging their strength on the wheel spokes
to help--we took toll of our losses. First, and gravest of all,
our last animal had been run off. Next, lying about the fires they
had been building, were seven of our men. Four were dead, and three
were dying. Other men, wounded, were being cared for by the women.
Little Rish Hardacre had been struck in the arm by a heavy ball.
He was no more than six, and I remember looking on with mouth agape
while his mother held him on her lap and his father set about bandaging
the wound. Little Rish had stopped crying. I could see the tears
on his cheeks while he stared wonderingly at a sliver of broken
bone sticking out of his forearm.
Granny White was found dead in the Foxwell wagon. She was a fat
and helpless old woman who never did anything but sit down all the
time and smoke a pipe. She was the mother of Abby Foxwell. And Mrs.
Grant had been killed. Her husband sat beside her body. He was very
quiet. There were no tears in his eyes. He just sat there, his rifle
across his knees, and everybody left him alone.
Under father's directions the company was working like so many
beavers. The men dug a big rifle pit in the centre of the corral,
forming a breastwork out of the displaced sand. Into this pit the
women dragged bedding, food, and all sorts of necessaries from the
wagons. All the children helped. There was no whimpering, and little
or no excitement. There was work to be done, and all of us were
folks born to work.
The big rifle pit was for the women and children. Under the wagons,
completely around the circle, a shallow trench was dug and an earthwork
thrown up. This was for the fighting men.
Laban returned from a scout. He reported that the Indians had withdrawn
the matter of half a mile, and were holding a powwow. Also he had
seen them carry six of their number off the field, three of which,
he said, were deaders.
From time to time, during the morning of that first day, we observed
clouds of dust that advertised the movements of considerable bodies
of mounted men. These clouds of dust came toward us, hemming us
in on all sides. But we saw no living creature. One cloud of dirt
only moved away from us. It was a large cloud, and everybody said
it was our cattle being driven off. And our forty great wagons that
had rolled over the Rockies and half across the continent stood
in a helpless circle. Without cattle they could roll no farther.
At noon Laban came in from another scout. He had seen fresh Indians
arriving from the south, showing that we were being closed in. It
was at this time that we saw a dozen white men ride out on the crest
of a low hill to the east and look down on us.
"That settles it," Laban said to father. "The Indians
have been put up to it."
"They're white like us," I heard Abby Foxwell complain
to mother. "Why don't they come in to us?"
"They ain't whites," I piped up, with a wary eye for the
swoop of mother's hand. "They're Mormons."
That night, after dark, three of our young men stole out of camp.
I saw them go. They were Will Aden, Abel Milliken, and Timothy Grant.
"They are heading for Cedar City to get help," father
told mother while he was snatching a hasty bite of supper.
Mother shook her head.
"There's plenty of Mormons within calling distance of camp,"
she said. "If they won't help, and they haven't shown any signs,
then the Cedar City ones won't either."
"But there are good Mormons and bad Mormons--" father
"We haven't found any good ones so far," she shut him
Not until morning did I hear of the return of Abel Milliken and
Timothy Grant, but I was not long in learning. The whole camp was
downcast by reason of their report. The three had gone only a few
miles when they were challenged by white men. As soon as Will Aden
spoke up, telling that they were from the Fancher Company, going
to Cedar City for help, he was shot down. Milliken and Grant escaped
back with the news, and the news settled the last hope in the hearts
of our company. The whites were behind the Indians, and the doom
so long apprehended was upon us.
This morning of the second day our men, going for water, were fired
upon. The spring was only a hundred feet outside our circle, but
the way to it was commanded by the Indians who now occupied the
low hill to the east. It was close range, for the hill could not
have been more than fifteen rods away. But the Indians were not
good shots, evidently, for our men brought in the water without
Beyond an occasional shot into camp the morning passed quietly.
We had settled down in the rifle pit, and, being used to rough living,
were comfortable enough. Of course it was bad for the families of
those who had been killed, and there was the taking care of the
wounded. I was for ever stealing away from mother in my insatiable
curiosity to see everything that was going on, and I managed to
see pretty much of everything. Inside the corral, to the south of
the big rifle pit, the men dug a hole and buried the seven men and
two women all together. Only Mrs. Hastings, who had lost her husband
and father, made much trouble. She cried and screamed out, and it
took the other women a long time to quiet her.
On the low hill to the east the Indians kept up a tremendous powwowing
and yelling. But beyond an occasional harmless shot they did nothing.
"What's the matter with the ornery cusses?" Laban impatiently
wanted to know. "Can't they make up their minds what they're
goin' to do, an' then do it?"
It was hot in the corral that afternoon. The sun blazed down out
of a cloudless sky, and there was no wind. The men, lying with their
rifles in the trench under the wagons, were partly shaded; but the
big rifle pit, in which were over a hundred women and children,
was exposed to the full power of the sun. Here, too, were the wounded
men, over whom we erected awnings of blankets. It was crowded and
stifling in the pit, and I was for ever stealing out of it to the
firing-line, and making a great to-do at carrying messages for father.
Our grave mistake had been in not forming the wagon-circle so as
to inclose the spring. This had been due to the excitement of the
first attack, when we did not know how quickly it might be followed
by a second one. And now it was too late. At fifteen rods' distance
from the Indian position on the hill we did not dare unchain our
wagons. Inside the corral, south of the graves, we constructed a
latrine, and, north of the rifle pit in the centre, a couple of
men were told off by father to dig a well for water.
In the mid-afternoon of that day, which was the second day, we
saw Lee again. He was on foot, crossing diagonally over the meadow
to the north-west just out of rifle-shot from us. Father hoisted
one of mother's sheets on a couple of ox-goads lashed together.
This was our white flag. But Lee took no notice of it, continuing
on his way.
Laban was for trying a long shot at him, but father stopped him,
saying that it was evident the whites had not made up their minds
what they were going to do with us, and that a shot at Lee might
hurry them into making up their minds the wrong way.
"Here, Jesse," father said to me, tearing a strip from
the sheet and fastening it to an ox-goad. "Take this and go
out and try to talk to that man. Don't tell him anything about what's
happened to us. Just try to get him to come in and talk with us."
As I started to obey, my chest swelling with pride in my mission,
Jed Dunham cried out that he wanted to go with me. Jed was about
my own age.
"Dunham, can your boy go along with Jesse?" father asked
Jed's father. "Two's better than one. They'll keep each other
out of mischief."
So Jed and I, two youngsters of nine, went out under the white
flag to talk with the leader of our enemies. But Lee would not talk.
When he saw us coming he started to sneak away. We never got within
calling distance of him, and after a while he must have hidden in
the brush; for we never laid eyes on him again, and we knew he couldn't
have got clear away.
Jed and I beat up the brush for hundreds of yards all around. They
hadn't told us how long we were to be gone, and since the Indians
did not fire on us we kept on going. We were away over two hours,
though had either of us been alone he would have been back in a
quarter of the time. But Jed was bound to outbrave me, and I was
equally bound to outbrave him.
Our foolishness was not without profit. We walked, boldly about
under our white flag, and learned how thoroughly our camp was beleaguered.
To the south of our train, not more than half a mile away, we made
out a large Indian camp. Beyond, on the meadow, we could see Indian
boys riding hard on their horses.
Then there was the Indian position on the hill to the east. We
managed to climb a low hill so as to look into this position. Jed
and I spent half an hour trying to count them, and concluded, with
much guessing, that there must be at least a couple of hundred.
Also, we saw white men with them and doing a great deal of talking.
North-east of our train, not more than four hundred yards from
it, we discovered a large camp of whites behind a low rise of ground.
And beyond we could see fifty or sixty saddle-horses grazing. And
a mile or so away, to the north, we saw a tiny cloud of dust approaching.
Jed and I waited until we saw a single man, riding fast, gallop
into the camp of the whites.
When we got back into the corral the first thing that happened
to me was a smack from mother for having stayed away so long; but
father praised Jed and me when we gave our report.
"Watch for an attack now maybe, Captain," Aaron Cochrane
said to father. "That man the boys seen has rid in for a purpose.
The whites are holding the Indians till they get orders from higher
up. Maybe that man brung the orders one way or the other. They ain't
sparing horseflesh, that's one thing sure."
Half an hour after our return Laban attempted a scout under a white
flag. But he had not gone twenty feet outside the circle when the
Indians opened fire on him and sent him back on the run.
Just before sundown I was in the rifle pit holding the baby, while
mother was spreading the blankets for a bed. There were so many
of us that we were packed and jammed. So little room was there that
many of the women the night before had sat up and slept with their
heads bowed on their knees. Right alongside of me, so near that
when he tossed his arms about he struck me on the shoulder, Silas
Dunlap was dying. He had been shot in the head in the first attack,
and all the second day was out of his head and raving and singing
doggerel. One of his songs, that he sang over and over, until it
made mother frantic nervous, was:
"Said the first little devil to the second little devil, 'Give
me some tobaccy from your old tobaccy box.' Said the second little
devil to the first little devil, 'Stick close to your money and
close to your rocks, An' you'll always have tobaccy in your old
I was sitting directly alongside of him, holding the baby, when
the attack burst on us. It was sundown, and I was staring with all
my eyes at Silas Dunlap who was just in the final act of dying.
His wife, Sarah, had one hand resting on his forehead. Both she
and her Aunt Martha were crying softly. And then it came--explosions
and bullets from hundreds of rifles. Clear around from east to west,
by way of the north, they had strung out in half a circle and were
pumping lead in our position. Everybody in the rifle pit flattened
down. Lots of the younger children set up a-squalling, and it kept
the women busy hushing them. Some of the women screamed at first,
but not many.
Thousands of shots must haven rained in on us in the next few minutes.
How I wanted to crawl out to the trench under the wagons where our
men were keeping up a steady but irregular fire! Each was shooting
on his own whenever he saw a man to pull trigger on. But mother
suspected me, for she made me crouch down and keep right on holding
I was just taking a look at Silas Dunlap--he was still quivering--
when the little Castleton baby was killed. Dorothy Castleton, herself
only about ten, was holding it, so that it was killed in her arms.
She was not hurt at all. I heard them talking about it, and they
conjectured that the bullet must have struck high on one of the
wagons and been deflected down into the rifle pit. It was just an
accident, they said, and that except for such accidents we were
safe where we were.
When I looked again Silas Dunlap was dead, and I suffered distinct
disappointment in being cheated out of witnessing that particular
event. I had never been lucky enough to see a man actually die before
Dorothy Castleton got hysterics over what had happened, and yelled
and screamed for a long time and she set Mrs. Hastings going again.
Altogether such a row was raised that father sent Watt Cummings
crawling back to us to find out what was the matter.
Well along into twilight the heavy firing ceased, although there
were scattering shots during the night. Two of our men were wounded
in this second attack, and were brought into the rifle pit. Bill
Tyler was killed instantly, and they buried him, Silas Dunlap, and
the Castleton baby, in the dark alongside of the others.
All during the night men relieved one another at sinking the well
deeper; but the only sign of water they got was damp sand. Some
of the men fetched a few pails of water from the spring, but were
fired upon, and they gave it up when Jeremy Hopkins had his left
hand shot off at the wrist.
Next morning, the third day, it was hotter and dryer than ever.
We awoke thirsty, and there was no cooking. So dry were our mouths
that we could not eat. I tried a piece of stale bread mother gave
me, but had to give it up. The firing rose and fell. Sometimes there
were hundreds shooting into the camp. At other times came lulls
in which not a shot was fired. Father was continually cautioning
our men not to waste shots because we were running short of ammunition.
And all the time the men went on digging the well. It was so deep
that they were hoisting the sand up in buckets. The men who hoisted
were exposed, and one of them was wounded in the shoulder. He was
Peter Bromley, who drove oxen for the Bloodgood wagon, and he was
engaged to marry Jane Bloodgood. She jumped out of the rifle pit
and ran right to him while the bullets were flying and led him back
into shelter. About midday the well caved in, and there was lively
work digging out the couple who were buried in the sand. Amos Wentworth
did not come to for an hour. After that they timbered the well with
bottom boards from the wagons and wagon tongues, and the digging
went on. But all they could get, and they were twenty feet down,
was damp sand. The water would not seep.
By this time the conditions in the rifle pit were terrible. The
children were complaining for water, and the babies, hoarse from
much crying, went on crying. Robert Carr, another wounded man, lay
about ten feet from mother and me. He was out of his head, and kept
thrashing his arms about and calling for water. And some of the
women were almost as bad, and kept raving against the Mormons and
Indians. Some of the women prayed a great deal, and the three grown
Demdike sisters, with their mother, sang gospel hymns. Other women
got damp sand that was hoisted out of the bottom of the well, and
packed it against the bare bodies of the babies to try to cool and
The two Fairfax brothers couldn't stand it any longer, and, with
pails in their hands, crawled out under a wagon and made a dash
for the spring. Giles never got half way, when he went down. Roger
made it there and back without being hit. He brought two pails part-full,
for some splashed out when he ran. Giles crawled back, and when
they helped him into the rifle pit he was bleeding at the mouth
Two part-pails of water could not go far among over a hundred of
us, not counting the men. Only the babies, and the very little children,
and the wounded men, got any. I did not get a sip, although mother
dipped a bit of cloth into the several spoonfuls she got for the
baby and wiped my mouth out. She did not even do that for herself,
for she left me the bit of damp rag to chew.
The situation grew unspeakably worse in the afternoon. The quiet
sun blazed down through the clear windless air and made a furnace
of our hole in the sand. And all about us were the explosions of
rifles and yells of the Indians. Only once in a while did father
permit a single shot from the trench, and at that only by our best
marksmen, such as Laban and Timothy Grant. But a steady stream of
lead poured into our position all the time. There were no more disastrous
ricochets, however; and our men in the trench, no longer firing,
lay low and escaped damage. Only four were wounded, and only one
of them very badly.
Father came in from the trench during a lull in the firing. He
sat for a few minutes alongside mother and me without speaking.
He seemed to be listening to all the moaning and crying for water
that was going up. Once he climbed out of the rifle pit and went
over to investigate the well. He brought back only damp sand, which
he plastered thick on the chest and shoulders of Robert Carr. Then
he went to where Jed Dunham and his mother were, and sent for Jed's
father to come in from the trench. So closely packed were we that
when anybody moved about inside the rifle pit he had to crawl carefully
over the bodies of those lying down.
After a time father came crawling back to us.
"Jesse, he asked, "are you afraid of the Indians?"
I shook my head emphatically, guessing that I was to be seat on
another proud mission.
"Are you afraid of the damned Mormons?"
"Not of any damned Mormon," I answered, taking advantage
of the opportunity to curse our enemies without fear of the avenging
back of mother's hand.
I noted the little smile that curled his tired lips for the moment
when he heard my reply.
"Well, then, Jesse," he said, "will you go with Jed
to the spring for water?"
I was all eagerness.
"We're going to dress the two of you up as girls," he
continued, "so that maybe they won't fire on you."
I insisted on going as I was, as a male human that wore pants;
but I surrendered quickly enough when father suggested that he would
find some other boy to dress up and go along with Jed.
A chest was fetched in from the Chattox wagon. The Chattox girls
were twins and of about a size with Jed and me. Several of the women
got around to help. They were the Sunday dresses of the Chattox
twins, and had come in the chest all the way from Arkansas.
In her anxiety mother left the baby with Sarah Dunlap, and came
as far as the trench with me. There, under a wagon and behind the
little breast-work of sand, Jed and I received our last instructions.
Then we crawled out and stood up in the open. We were dressed precisely
alike--white stockings, white dresses, with big blue sashes, and
white sunbonnets. Jed's right and my left hand were clasped together.
In each of our free hands we carried two small pails.
"Take it easy," father cautioned, as we began our advance.
"Go slow. Walk like girls."
Not a shot was fired. We made the spring safely, filled our pails,
and lay down and took a good drink ourselves. With a full pail in
each hand we made the return trip. And still not a shot was fired.
I cannot remember how many journeys we made--fully fifteen or twenty.
We walked slowly, always going out with hands clasped, always coming
back slowly with four pails of water. It was astonishing how thirsty
we were. We lay down several times and took long drinks.
But it was too much for our enemies. I cannot imagine that the
Indians would have withheld their fire for so long, girls or no
girls, had they not obeyed instructions from the whites who were
with them. At any rate Jed and I were just starting on another trip
when a rifle went off from the Indian hill, and then another.
"Come back!" mother cried out.
I looked at Jed, and found him looking at me. I knew he was stubborn
and had made up his mind to be the last one in. So I started to
advance, and at the same instant he started.
"You!--Jesse!" cried my mother. And there was more than
a smacking in the way she said it.
Jed offered to clasp hands, but I shook my head.
"Run for it," I said.
And while we hotfooted it across the sand it seemed all the rifles
on Indian hill were turned loose on us. I got to the spring a little
ahead, so that Jed had to wait for me to fill my pails.
"Now run for it," he told me; and from the leisurely
way he went about filling his own pails I knew he was determined
to be in last.
So I crouched down, and, while I waited, watched the puffs of dust
raised by the bullets. We began the return side by side and running.
"Not so fast," I cautioned him, "or you'll spill
half the water."
That stung him, and he slacked back perceptibly. Midway I stumbled
and fell headlong. A bullet, striking directly in front of me, filled
my eyes with sand. For the moment I thought I was shot.
"Done it a-purpose," Jed sneered as I scrambled to my
feet. He had stood and waited for me.
I caught his idea. He thought I had fallen deliberately in order
to spill my water and go back for more. This rivalry between us
was a serious matter--so serious, indeed, that I immediately took
advantage of what he had imputed and raced back to the spring. And
Jed Dunham, scornful of the bullets that were puffing dust all around
him, stood there upright in the open and waited for me. We came
in side by side, with honours even in our boys' foolhardiness. But
when we delivered the water Jed had only one pailful. A bullet had
gone through the other pail close to the bottom.
Mother took it out on me with a lecture on disobedience. She must
have known, after what I had done, that father wouldn't let her
smack me; for, while she was lecturing, father winked at me across
her shoulder. It was the first time he had ever winked at me.
Back in the rifle pit Jed and I were heroes. The women wept and
blessed us, and kissed us and mauled us. And I confess I was proud
of the demonstration, although, like Jed, I let on that I did not
like all such making-over. But Jeremy Hopkins, a great bandage about
the stump of his left wrist, said we were the stuff white men were
made out of--men like Daniel Boone, like Kit Carson, and Davy Crockett.
I was prouder of that than all the rest.
The remainder of the day I seem to have been bothered principally
with the pain of my right eye caused by the sand that had been kicked
into it by the bullet. The eye was bloodshot, mother said; and to
me it seemed to hurt just as much whether I kept it open or closed.
I tried both ways.
Things were quieter in the rifle pit, because all had had water,
though strong upon us was the problem of how the next water was
to be procured. Coupled with this was the known fact that our ammunition
was almost exhausted. A thorough overhauling of the wagons by father
had resulted in finding five pounds of powder. A very little more
was in the flasks of the men.
I remembered the sundown attack of the night before, and anticipated
it this time by crawling to the trench before sunset. I crept into
a place alongside of Laban. He was busy chewing tobacco, and did
not notice me. For some time I watched him, fearing that when he
discovered me he would order me back. He would take a long squint
out between the wagon wheels, chew steadily a while, and then spit
carefully into a little depression he had made in the sand.
"How's tricks?" I asked finally. It was the way he always
"Fine," he answered. "Most remarkable fine, Jesse,
now that I can chew again. My mouth was that dry that I couldn't
chew from sun-up to when you brung the water."
Here a man showed head and shoulders over the top of the little
hill to the north-east occupied by the whites. Laban sighted his
rifle on him for a long minute. Then he shook his head.
"Four hundred yards. Nope, I don't risk it. I might get him,
and then again I mightn't, an' your dad is mighty anxious about
"What do you think our chances are?" I asked, man-fashion,
for, after my water exploit, I was feeling very much the man.
Laban seemed to consider carefully for a space ere he replied.
"Jesse, I don't mind tellin' you we're in a damned bad hole.
But we'll get out, oh, we'll get out, you can bet your bottom dollar."
"Some of us ain't going to get out," I objected.
"Who, for instance?" he queried.
"Why, Bill Tyler, and Mrs. Grant, and Silas Dunlap, and all
"Aw, shucks, Jesse--they're in the ground already. Don't you
know everybody has to bury their dead as they traipse along? They've
ben doin' it for thousands of years I reckon, and there's just as
many alive as ever they was. You see, Jesse, birth and death go
hand-in- hand. And they're born as fast as they die--faster, I reckon,
because they've increased and multiplied. Now you, you might a-got
killed this afternoon packin' water. But you're here, ain't you,
a- gassin' with me an' likely to grow up an' be the father of a
fine large family in Californy. They say everything grows large
This cheerful way of looking at the matter encouraged me to dare
sudden expression of a long covetousness.
"Say, Laban, supposin' you got killed here--"
"Who?--me?" he cried.
"I'm just sayin' supposin'," I explained.
"Oh, all right then. Go on. Supposin' I am killed?"
"Will you give me your scalps?"
"Your ma'll smack you if she catches you a-wearin' them,"
"I don't have to wear them when she's around. Now if you got
killed, Laban, somebody'd have to get them scalps. Why not me?"
"Why not?" he repeated. "That's correct, and why
not you? All right, Jesse. I like you, and your pa. The minute I'm
killed the scalps is yourn, and the scalpin' knife, too. And there's
Timothy Grant for witness. Did you hear, Timothy?"
Timothy said he had heard, and I lay there speechless in the stifling
trench, too overcome by my greatness of good fortune to be able
to utter a word of gratitude.
I was rewarded for my foresight in going to the trench. Another
general attack was made at sundown, and thousands of shots were
fired into us. Nobody on our side was scratched. On the other hand,
although we fired barely thirty shots, I saw Laban and Timothy Grant
each get an Indian. Laban told me that from the first only the Indians
had done the shooting. He was certain that no white had fired a
shot. All of which sorely puzzled him. The whites neither offered
us aid nor attacked us, and all the while were on visiting terms
with the Indians who were attacking us.
Next morning found the thirst harsh upon us. I was out at the first
hint of light. There had been a heavy dew, and men, women, and children
were lapping it up with their tongues from off the wagon- tongues,
brake-blocks, and wheel-tyres.
There was talk that Laban had returned from a scout just before
daylight; that he had crept close to the position of the whites;
that they were already up; and that in the light of their camp-fires
he had seen them praying in a large circle. Also he reported from
what few words he caught that they were praying about us and what
was to be done with us.
"May God send them the light then," I heard one of the
Demdike sisters say to Abby Foxwell.
"And soon," said Abby Foxwell, "for I don't know
what we'll do a whole day without water, and our powder is about
Nothing happened all morning. Not a shot was fired. Only the sun
blazed down through the quiet air. Our thirst grew, and soon the
babies were crying and the younger children whimpering and complaining.
At noon Will Hamilton took two large pails and started for the spring.
But before he could crawl under the wagon Ann Demdike ran and got
her arms around him and tried to hold him back. But he talked to
her, and kissed her, and went on. Not a shot was fired, nor was
any fired all the time he continued to go out and bring back water.
"Praise God!" cried old Mrs. Demdike. "It is a sign.
They have relented."
This was the opinion of many of the women.
About two o'clock, after we had eaten and felt better, a white
man appeared, carrying a white flag. Will Hamilton went out and
talked to him, came back and talked with father and the rest of
our men, and then went out to the stranger again. Farther back we
could see a man standing and looking on, whom we recognized as Lee.
With us all was excitement. The women were so relieved that they
were crying and kissing one another, and old Mrs. Demdike and others
were hallelujahing and blessing God. The proposal, which our men
had accepted, was that we would put ourselves under the flag of
truce and be protected from the Indians.
"We had to do it," I heard father tell mother.
He was sitting, droop-shouldered and dejected, on a wagon-tongue.
"But what if they intend treachery?" mother asked.
He shrugged his shoulders.
"We've got to take the chance that they don't," he said.
"Our ammunition is gone."
Some of our men were unchaining one of our wagons and rolling it
out of the way. I ran across to see what was happening. In came
Lee himself, followed by two empty wagons, each driven by one man.
Everybody crowded around Lee. He said that they had had a hard time
with the Indians keeping them off of us, and that Major Higbee,
with fifty of the Mormon militia, were ready to take us under their
But what made father and Laban and some of the men suspicious was
when Lee said that we must put all our rifles into one of the wagons
so as not to arouse the animosity of the Indians. By so doing we
would appear to be the prisoners of the Mormon militia.
Father straightened up and was about to refuse when he glanced
to Laban, who replied in an undertone. "They ain't no more
use in our hands than in the wagon, seein' as the powder's gone."
Two of our wounded men who could not walk were put into the wagons,
and along with them were put all the little children. Lee seemed
to be picking them out over eight and under eight. Jed and I were
large for our age, and we were nine besides; so Lee put us with
the older bunch and told us we were to march with the women on foot.
When he took our baby from mother and put it in a wagon she started
to object. Then I saw her lips draw tightly together, and she gave
in. She was a gray-eyed, strong-featured, middle-aged woman, large-
boned and fairly stout. But the long journey and hardship had told
on her, so that she was hollow-cheeked and gaunt, and like all the
women in the company she wore an expression of brooding, never-
It was when Lee described the order of march that Laban came to
me. Lee said that the women and the children that walked should
go first in the line, following behind the two wagons. Then the
men, in single file, should follow the women. When Laban heard this
he came to me, untied the scalps from his belt, and fastened them
to my waist.
"But you ain't killed yet," I protested.
"You bet your life I ain't," he answered lightly.
"I've just reformed, that's all. This scalp-wearin' is a vain
thing and heathen." He stopped a moment as if he had forgotten
something, then, as he turned abruptly on his heel to regain the
men of our company, he called over his shoulder, "Well, so
I was wondering why he should say good-bye when a white man came
riding into the corral. He said Major Higbee had sent him to tell
us to hurry up, because the Indians might attack at any moment.
So the march began, the two wagons first. Lee kept along with the
women and walking children. Behind us, after waiting until we were
a couple of hundred feet in advance, came our men. As we emerged
from the corral we could see the militia just a short distance away.
They were leaning on their rifles and standing in a long line about
six feet apart. As we passed them I could not help noticing how
solemn-faced they were. They looked like men at a funeral. So did
the women notice this, and some of them began to cry.
I walked right behind my mother. I had chosen this position so
that she would not catch-sight of my scalps. Behind me came the
three Demdike sisters, two of them helping the old mother. I could
hear Lee calling all the time to the men who drove the wagons not
to go so fast. A man that one of the Demdike girls said must be
Major Higbee sat on a horse watching us go by. Not an Indian was
By the time our men were just abreast of the militia--I had just
looked back to try to see where Jed Dunham was--the thing happened.
I heard Major Higbee cry out in a loud voice, "Do your duty!"
All the rifles of the militia seemed to go off at once, and our
men were falling over and sinking down. All the Demdike women went
down at one time. I turned quickly to see how mother was, and she
was down. Right alongside of us, out of the bushes, came hundreds
of Indians, all shooting. I saw the two Dunlap sisters start on
the run across the sand, and took after them, for whites and Indians
were all killing us. And as I ran I saw the driver of one of the
wagons shooting the two wounded men. The horses of the other wagon
were plunging and rearing and their driver was trying to hold them.
It was when the little boy that was I was running after the Dunlap
girls that blackness came upon him. All memory there ceases, for
Jesse Fancher there ceased, and, as Jesse Fancher, ceased for ever.
The form that was Jesse Fancher, the body that was his, being matter
and apparitional, like an apparition passed and was not. But the
imperishable spirit did not cease. It continued to exist, and, in
its next incarnation, became the residing spirit of that apparitional
body known as Darrell Standing's which soon is to be taken out and
hanged and sent into the nothingness whither all apparitions go.
There is a lifer here in Folsom, Matthew Davies, of old pioneer
stock, who is trusty of the scaffold and execution chamber. He is
an old man, and his folks crossed the plains in the early days.
I have talked with him, and he has verified the massacre in which
Jesse Fancher was killed. When this old lifer was a child there
was much talk in his family of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The
children in the wagons, he said, were saved, because they were too
young to tell tales.
All of which I submit. Never, in my life of Darrell Standing, have
I read a line or heard a word spoken of the Fancher Company that
perished at Mountain Meadows. Yet, in the jacket in San Quentin
prison, all this knowledge came to me. I could not create this knowledge
out of nothing, any more than could I create dynamite out of nothing.
This knowledge and these facts I have related have but one explanation.
They are out of the spirit content of me--the spirit that, unlike
matter, does not perish.
In closing this chapter I must state that Matthew Davies also
told me that some years after the massacre Lee was taken by United
States Government officials to the Mountain Meadows and there executed
on the site of our old corral.