This Week in 1856 – Her Husband Dies – Mary Taylor

From John Jacques:

The next day after crossing the Platte, the company moved on slowly, about ten miles, through the snow, and camped again near the Platte, and at the point where the road left it for the Sweetwater. It snowed three days, and the teams and many of the people were so far given out, that it was deemed advisable not to proceed further for a few days, but rather to stay in camp. It was hoped that the snow and cold would prove only a foretaste of winter and would soon pass away and the weather would moderate, but that hope proved delusive.

From Hodgett Wagon Company, Jesse Haven, clerk:

Wednesday, October 22, 1856:

Went back today to Brother Hunt’s camp. It is about 10 miles back. Took Brother Upton to see doctor. He had a bad arm. He is some out of his head.

Thursday, October 23, 1856:

Cold last night. Brother Upton died this morning about 10 o’clock. Came back to my own camp in afternoon. Snow melting some. The Handcart Company came up to us tonight and camped [100 yards from] us. Many dying in that company.

From Hunt Wagon Company Journal:

Thursday, October 23, 1856:

The weather was very cold and frosty. William Upton who arrived from Capt. Hodgett’s company the previous evening by Jesse Have to consult Dr. Wiseman, died of mortification of the hear age 34 years. The camp was still detained because of snow. By this time several of the cattle had died.

There is some confusion about this entry and some believe that this is a different William Upton than Mary’s husband. But no other William Upton can be found in searching the records. So the conclusion is despite the different age recorded by the Hunt Wagon Company, this is our William Upton. We also don’t understand how he came to be part of the Hodgett Company. Some have thought that he was enlisted to drive for the Hodgett Company when several of their drives left the company earlier in the journey. William’s symptoms may have indicated a heart attack or maybe hypothermia from assisting in carrying people across the river. Mary, her mother and her aunt are left to carry on alone.

From Samuel Openshaw:

We are now seeing the storms increasing upon us in the midst of an inclement and howling desert, far away from human succor and having only a few days rations in the camp, we summoned all our strength  and efforts to make another move, but our oxen, having died off, and our strength being over much reduced, the snow, cold and the blasting winds, it seemed impossible for us to travel. In fact, we were traveling all day cold, hungry, and fatigued, and only traveled 5 miles. We put up our tents, and then shoveled out the now and put it around the bottom of the ten, in order to keep out the winds and to make ourselves somewhat comfortable.

From John Jacques:

It was expected that help from Salt Lake would soon reach the company, which cheering expectation was shortly realized. In this camp, the company stayed, resting and recuperating as well as could be under the circumstances, the snow remaining on the ground the the frost being very keen at night. Her, the flour ration fell to four ounces per day.

This was the extremity of their privations as to food, but not the end of their sufferings, for the injurious effects of their privations told upon them during the remainder of their journey, and for some time after. Indeed, with some of the company, relics of these effects remain, of one sort or another, to this day. In addition to the four ration, considerable beef was killed and served to the company as had been the case most of the journey. But the cattle had now grown so poor, that there was little flesh left on them, and that little was as lean as lean could be.

The outlook was certainly not encouraging, but it need not be supposed that the company was in despair, not withstanding that the situation was rather desperate. Oh, No! A hopeful and cheerful spirit pervaded the camp and the “songs of Zion” were frequently heard at this time, though the company was int the very depths of its privations. Thought the bodies of the people were worn down, their spirits were buoyant, while at the same time, they had become so accustomed to looking death in the face, that they seemed to have no fear of it, nor of the corpses either, the bodies of the dead having become such familiar sights as to lose their ordinary influence on beholders.


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