466 West 1st South, Logan, Utah
Dec 6 1913
C. L. Wedgewood,
A great friend, just received your emmince check for which, accept my acknowledgement.
I was never asked before to give my experience as an Indian war veteran. I mearly stood with the balance as a home guard. My first experience was crossing the plains in 1864 at the close of the American War. I drove 4 yoke of cattle, 2 yoke wild and 2 poorly broke. At least, we were nearly all broke before we hitched up for the first month. It was for Kimble and Larence. Our trains consisted of 40 wagons with 3 overseers. We were to get 50 dollars per month in greenbacks and as green backs were only worth 50 cents on the dollar, it amounted to 25 dollars per month. This season the Indians were quite troublesome. We heard of parties being killed before and behind us nearly every day. So we had to take turns in herding the cattle and standing guard every night but through the Blessed love of our Heavenly Father, like most all the early experience of the first Mormon settlers, we generally excaped without fighting. We crossed at times in water. But we was supplied with some good pure Whiskey for refreshments.
Our main Captain, Mr. Murrick, was a very course man and a great bragger. Some of our boys, 11 in number, crossed the ocean together on the MONARCH OF THE SEA. Some of them had worked at needle making. Factory hands was their life's work in England, and made very poor drivers. In fact, I heard of one putting on the brakes going up hill and taking it off going down. This made the big boss mad and he commenced rising the black marks on a few of them, this was resented. He took the liberty of telling the Captains of other Gentile trains how he was whipping the Mormon boys. One of the Captains told us if we wanted to leave him he would take us through with his train. It got worse and worse until we could stand it no longer. So I got the boys together and said let us quit right here. I was the only one that had a pistol in the bunch. And of course I felt as big a man as the Captain with his revolver. When our captain saw our determination, he tired to down us by saying, "you will have a hard time of it " and many other things. I will state that my pistol was a small single barrell affair given me by one of my old masters in England with a nice long cloak, telling me at the time it would do for me to stand guard on the plains. One of the missionaries that was staying with us at the time in England told me he would stand across the street and let me shoot at him all day with it, so it was not very dangerous. When the Captain saw we meant it, he cried like a little babe, and said if we would only stay with him we would not hear another oath out of his mouth. And he would get us fresh beef, so we concluded to stay and from then till we got into Salt Lake it was a pleasure trip. But the beef was rather too fresh for some as it caused many to be seasick at the wrong end. I would like to mention 2 storms we encountered. One night the thunder was so loud that our 40 wagons shook like an aspen leaf. Most of the boys got in my wagon so we did not mind it much. Our Captain Merrick said he had crossed the plains 50 times and he had never known such a storm before. One day at noon there were some tremendous black clouds rolling up from the Platt right on the ground. It looked so desperate that we unhitched all the cattle, but in about an hour it all passed off so we journeyed along again.
When we got to Salt Lake they gave us a fine meal. It was the first time we tasted tomatoes and I have no doubt most of my readers will recollect the pleasant taste of the same on first acquaintance.
I had a brother, William, living in the 10th ward who came across the plains with another brother Henry with hand carts in ' 59. Wiilliam was hawling wood for camp Douglas at the time and thought I would like to do the same as I had some experience with cattle. I went with him on one trip into the Cottonwoods. He generally hauled about 2 cords to 2 and 3/4 each load of Quaking Asp, but on the way home generally 3 or 4 teams would be together to assist one another. They had to lock the wheels for about 8 miles down the steep hills with scarcely any thing of a road. In some places they would have to get together and hang on to one side of the load to save it tipping over. I thought if that was the way they hauled wood, I'd have none of it. So I concluded to go to Franklin, the farthest settlement north at the time. My brother Henry and Charles were living up there. I had only been in Franklin one or two days before Henry's wife ran for me to get my gun, as there had been one or two Indians and some of the brethern killed. In writing to one of my old masters of this circumstance I told him I thought I had to commence this kind of business rather early as I had only been in the settlement 2 days. It turned out to be the Wasikee with four hundred wariors with squaws and papouses were camped just under the settlement on Cub River, as most of the brethern were in the fields at the time harvesting, some of the Indians came into the settlement and went to the store and demamded whiskey of the women. The women being scared had to let them have what they wanted. One of the Indians got drunk and commenced whipping a woman on the street with a club. I believe his name was Aldis. One of the brethern coming by at the time took his pistol and shot the Indian. As soon as he had done this he started South and called at each settlement as far as Wellsville and told what he had done. As soon as the Indians heard that Washikee's son had been shot there was a tremendous excitment. All the women and children of the settlement of about 40 families were placed in the old log meeting house with a few of the oldest men with their guns to guard them. The rest of us was placed at the three approaches coming up from the River. The squaws left the Indian camp and set fire to the grass on the hills north of Franklin. A sure thing of fight with the Indians. There was a threshing machine running on the bottoms near the Indian camp. The men I believe all made their escape but one, his name was Robert Hull, a Scothman and a very nice fellow. The Indians as near as I can recollect cut all the harnesses from the horses and committed other depredations. They took their prisoner into camp, which happened to be just under my crowd, laid him on his back and drew their bow knives and was about to slay him. We could hear his cries for mercy. So Bishop Lorenzo Hatch with an Indian interpretor and one of the others went down to their camp and pled for his life. After pleading for some time with them, Washikee said that he would not of cared so much if they had given the Indian, his son, a clubbin instead of shooting him. Brother Maughan told him he would shoot any Indian that was beating a woman with a club and thought the man justified. I will just state that I never saw the man again after shooting the Indian. The grass that the squaws set on fire burnt for miles and miles over the hills. In about 4 or 5 days the main body of Indians left, but there were a few remained and hid in the brush and at night would fire into the settlement trying to get one for the Indian that was shot, which caused us to take turns in standin guard for weeks in snow 3 or 4 feet deep and bitter cold. Robert Hull who was taken prisoner finally got shot 20 or 25 years after while traveling through the Indian settlement in Malad River Valley.
My next experience of any mention I will say there was always Indians around and they would come and press their faces against our windows while we were eating and plead for food, which was not over plentiful, but we always gave them some taking the council of President Young that it was better to feed them than fight them. They was much more numerous than the whites. In those days our cows was herded out on the range a few miles north of the settlement. One day word came in that the Bannocks was stealing them. 3 of the brethern started out on horses, there was several lodges of Shoshones camped on the bottom near town. The chief of which came into town and said if a white man would go out with him he would take his braves and fight them. He could not get anyone to go. I told one of the brethern if he would let me have his horse I would go with him. "All right", he said, so me and the chief started out and just as we got to his village, he hurried and told his pals what was up, and then we rode off. Before we got to the other bank of Cub River all his braves caught us giving their Indian yells and their hair flying behind them. We was making good time. After we got a mile or so from the settlements, we met the 3 brethern coming back and they looked on us with great astonishment and told us it was a false alarm so we all returned feeling fine. 2 of the brethren was Jos Chadwick and Lot Webster and I forgot the other one.
One night it was reported that the Indians was stealing stock north of the little mountain just north of Franklin, me and Brother Samuel Parkinson and a few other of the brethern started out on horse back. It got so dark that we could scarcely see our hand before us and after scattering about in the early evening, as we would meet one another later we did not know whether it was Indians or a white man. I often thought we was taking desperate chances. My brother William thought as all his brothers with mother and two sisters was all in Franklin he would come also. So he sold his little belongings and started with 2 yoke of cattle, poor old things that some man lent him to keep for the winter. I went to Salt Lake and came up with him. As we neared Franklin, one of us would drive team while the other was on the lookout with a big revolver expecting an Indian to be under most every sage brush. As we got near the settlement it was getting quite dark, and we could just see one green light which consisted of a little wick set in a saucer of grease, as electric lights had not quite started yet.
We were glad to go home safe, of course it was quite late in the fall. This was one of the pleasantest winters I ever spent. The snow fell so deep that we could not do very much work except getting wood from the canyons and going to meetings and dancing.
James Thomas Hobbs died 29 October 1920 at Logan, Utah.