This Week in 1856 – Fort Laramie – Mary Taylor

8 October 1856: (near Salt Lake City)

Rescuers moved out from their meeting spot at Big Mountain.

8 October 1856:

Mary Taylor’s father, Joseph Taylor (age 44) died, probably from the combination of not enough food and dehydration or heat prostration. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the campground.

From John Jacques:

The company arrived at Fort Laramie October 8th, and camped east of Laramie For, about a mile from the fort. Before reaching Laramie, the company met a fine looking and finely dressed friendly Indian chief on a fine American horse, and soon after, two dragoons on horseback, gave some sweetmeats to the children of the company and appeared immensely pleased to see the people.

On the 9th many of the company went to the fort to sell watches or other things they could spare and buy provisions. The commandant kindly allowed them to buy from the military stores at reasonable prices, biscuits at 15 1/2 cents; bacon at 15 cents, rice at 17 cents per pound, and so on. Some bought a few things at the sutler’s, but much higher prices rule at his store.

I believe the company left Fort Laramie the next day. Thenceforth, until the close of the journey, although noteworthy events were on the increase and some of them were indelibly impressed on the minds of the emigrants, yet they were so fully occupied in taking care of themselves that they had little time to spare to note details with exactness, and many notes that we made at the time, were lost and cannot now be found.

Up to this time, the daily pound of flour ration had been regularly served, but it was never enough to stay the stomachs of the emigrants and the longer they were on the plains, and in the mountains, the hungrier they grew. Most persons who traveled the plains with ox teams or handcarts, know well enough the enormous appetite which that kind of life gives. It is an appetite that cannot be satisfied. At least, such was the experience of the handcart people. You feel as if you could almost eat a rusty nail or gnaw a file. You are ten times as hungry as a hunter, yea, as ten hunters, all the day long and every time you wake in the night. And so you continue to your journey’s end, and for some time after. Eating is the grand passion of a pedestrian on the plains, an insatiable passion, for her never get enough to eat. . .

Well, at the time when this great appetite was fully roused up and had put on its strength, it was further sharpened by the increasing coldness of the weather.

Soon after Fort Laramie was passed, it was deemed advisable to curtail the rations in order to make the hold out as long as possible. The pound of flour fell to 3/4 a pound, then to half a pound, and subsequently yet lower. Still the company toiled on through the Black Hills, where the feed grew scarcer for the cattle. As the necessities of man and beast increased, their daily flour diminished. In the Black Hills, the roads were harder, more rocky and more hilly, and this told upon the handcars, causing them to become rickety and need more frequent repairing.


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