Robert and Frances POTTS MICHIE Family

Overland from Boston to Utah

Joseph Horne Pioneer Company, 1861

The names of Robert MICHIE and his family have not yet been found on any of the Mormon Pioneer overland travel lists. However we know a few facts about their journey that provide some clues about which group they could have traveled with: they started from Boston; their child, Eliza Ann Helena, died 26 August 1861 "near Sweetwater"; and they arrived in Salt Lake City "about six weeks before" their son, Robert Moroni, was born in Sugar House, 11 Nov 1861. (See the histories for Robert MICHIE and for Frances POTTS.) Using those clues while studying information about the wagon trains that arrived in Salt Lake in mid-September of that year, I have concluded that the most likely pioneer company for the MICHIE's would have been Joseph Horne's. My posting of this record is based on that conclusion. If anyone has more accurate information, please contact me. Thank you. ~Venita, June 2009

Family members leaving Boston, 10 June 1861:

Robert MICHIE, age 41
Frances POTTS MICHIE, age 25
Agnes Catherine Harriet MICHIE, age 3
Eliza Ann Helena MICHIE, age 14 months
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Journal History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
13 Sept. 1861, 1b-1h. Joseph Horne

"The following [is a] narrative concerning the emigration of 1861, and mostly from the branches of the Atlantic States, writer: Capt. Joseph Horne's train of emigrants, is from the pen of an unknown."

"Welcome was the news in 1861 that reached the Saints composing the flourishing branches of the Church in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and other parts of the Eastern States, when amid the excitement of the breaking out of the late great Civil War between the North and the South it was announced that the Saints in Utah would send to the frontiers two hundred teams suitably equipped to aid in transporting across the Plains those not otherwise provided with means for the journey.

The company of Saints from the Boston (Mass.) Branch numbering fifty to sixty persons commenced their journey Monday June 10th, 1861, traveling to New York via Stonington, arriving at New York early the next morning by steamer, landing near Castle Gardens, thence by steam-tug to Jersey City; here they were crowded into a small waiting room in close proximity to a regiment of New York State Volunteers waiting for transportation to the seat of war. Some abuse was received by the Saints at the hands of several of the soldiers, but a heavy shower of rain coming on, together with the persuasions of some of the better minded troopers, caused the riotous soldiers to desist and go to their quarters. Erie Steam Engine

At 7 p.m. the New York Saints in large numbers arrived, and by 10 p.m., with the Boston Saints forming one company, were en-route to Dunkirk, via N. Y. & Erie Railroad; and the following evening on their arrival at Elmira, Pa., the company was still further augmented by being joined by a large number of the Saints of the Philadelphia Branch, forming a company so large that many had to ride in freight or cattle cars fitted up with a single bench placed around the sides. Riding in one of these cars was a Brother James Slack, a man of powerful build, wife and family. At night no light could be had save that of a candle furnished by the passengers who had to lay on the seats and floors. About midnight Sister Mary Slack who was lying on the floor, near the door, discovered a man near her whose actions indicated no good motive. She screamed out murder! The cry aroused her husband, who grappled with the intruder, and together they went struggling through the door. By the time Sister Slack gained the door she saw her husband, whom she recognized by a white vest he had on, falling down the embankment. Giving the alarm the train was finally brought to a stop, it then being 11:40 p.m. President John D. T. McAllister, who had charge of the company, and Brother John Blakemore and some train hands went back with torches to find the men, and the train went on to enable other trains to pass them.

In terrible anxiety Sister Slack and family traveled on with the company until 6 o'clock the next morning, when she was telegraphed to return to her husband who was too badly hurt to be moved. She started on her melancholy errand Easterward and the company proceeded onward.

At 10:15 a. m. Thursday, June 13th, they arrived at Dunkirk on the shores of Lake Erie, and were dumped, with their baggage, into the streets. The call of the government for means for transporting the troops had left but a few spare cars, and these could take but a part of the company, the remainder having to wait some 22 hours, exposed to the jeers and taunts of the drunken and others. After this wait, however, accommodations were obtained on a special, and a six hours' run brought them to Cleveland, Ohio, and fifteen minutes given them to change cars, and shortly after coming up with the main body arriving in Toledo where three hours were spent in getting ready their train ready which now consisted of two engines, eight freight and twenty passenger cars. Civil War soldiers

The feverish condition of society consequent upon the breaking out of the war was indicated to the Saints the next day, when they saw a gallows furnished with a noose and an inscription which read "Death to traitors."

Chicago, Illinois, was reached on Saturday afternoon, and here another tedious wait in a large warehouse of nearly six hours, subject to the profanity and abuse of a number of drunken men, so that it was a welcome relief to be in motion again, bound for Quincy, Ill. Sunday afternoon found the company pleasantly engaged in a large wood, making tea and chatting merrily with one another and having a general good time. The opportunity was occasioned by the breaking of the engine, causing a six-hour stop-over. Arriving at Quincy the next morning the company were transferred to the steamer "Black Hawk". Steaming down the Mississippi River to Hannibal, Missouri, where they unloaded their baggage into a large shed by the river's edge. At this place a glimpse of the realities of the war was experienced. The "Home Guards" (loyal) were at their quarters guarding a cannon captured from the secessionists and one of the rebel officers confined in a room of the depot.

Excitement filled the air and reports of the doings of large bodies of rebel troopers in the interior of the State in burning bridges, firing into railroad trains, &c., were rife.

Governor Jackson was endeavoring to carry the State out of the Union, and the people were much divided in their sentiments. Amid these scenes some of the brethren of the company ascended a hill in the rear of the town and held an impromtu meeting expressing their sentiments on the condition of the country, and times, and their hopes and desires concerning the future.

The wait at Hannibal continued until the following morning, Tuesday, June 18th, and enabled the Saints to replenish their provision baskets by the purchase of eggs fresh, hard and soft-boiled, bread, garden stuff, milk and meats.

The run of some two hundred miles from this place, Hannibal, to St. Joe's, across the State of Missouri, was an exciting one, as most of the towns through which they passed were under guard, as also the railroad bridges, the presence of Union troops alone preserving the latter from destruction at the hands of the Secessionists. Nearing Chilicothe, now under martial law and presenting the appearance of a captured city, all business being suspended, streets patroled by armed soldiers, drunkenness, profanity and obscenity running riot, the train was stopped and army officers and guards inspected the train, and then stationing sentinels at each door allowed us to proceed. The cheering (?) information being imparted to us that a train a few hours previously had been fired upon, and we saw some of the bullet-riddled cars.

The road-bed was in such a horrible condition that passengers and boxes were thrown around and shaken as if on shipboard. During the night we arrived at St. Joe's, and in the heat of a sultry morning removed our baggage from the cars to a large building by the river's edge, where lay the steamer "Omaha", which was to convey us up the Missouri to Florence, Nebraska.

The day was spent in getting aboard the freight, &c., which with nearly all the passengers was destined for Salt Lake City. At St. Joe's, as at other places in Missouri, was found a divided community, a secession flag having been hoisted just previous to our arrival, by its supporters, and after much excitement pulled down by the Unionists.

Suspicion and antagonism prevailed; citizens were armed and no man's life seemed secure.

Here Sister Slack and Brother J. Blakemore again joined the company and from them we learned the particulars of the sad death of Brother Slack, which cast quite a gloom over his many warm friends in the company.

After leaving our company to go to her husband's side, Sister Slack traveled East until noon and on a stretcher in the station with a quilt thrown over him swollen, bruised and cut, with his skull laid open, lay Brother Slack unconscious, unable to recognize wife or friends. In his delerium he spoke of what was coming to pass in the nation. "Why", said one of the stationmen present, "that is what Joe Smith says." Medical aid had been procured by President McAllister, and tenderly Sister Slack nursed her dying husband, while Brother Blakemore rendered unremitting and valuable aid, and his kindness is, to this day, stamped deep in the memory of the widow, as Brother Slack lived only until the next day, and was laid to rest on the hillside of Hornellsville, Steuben County, New York. The villianous author of this tragedy was never discovered. River Steamboat

At 6:35 p.m. Wednesday, June 19th, all being ready, we cast off and steamed slowly up the large, deep, dirty and swift-running Missouri River, carrying on its bosom a quantity of logs, brush and debris. The boat was densely crowded, every available spot being occupied by men, women, children, freight, cordwood, &c. The tedium and intolerable heat of the next day was relieved by the excellent musical abilities of several of the Saints in discoursing sweet music, vocal and instrumental; also the sight of some Indians on the banks of the river. A heavy thunderstorm coming on in the evening necessitated the tying up of the boat for a while.

Reaching Omaha the next day [June 20, 1861] a few cabin passengers were landed and after encountering sand bars, snags, &c., we arrived safely at Florence, and the "Church teams" were soon busy hauling the passengers and effects to the many deserted and unfurnished houses in that vicinity; houses which proved very acceptable places of shelter and were free to all, not even having a "To let" in sight.

The following Sunday the Saints gathered beneath a bowery and were addressed by Elders Joseph W. Young, Jacob Gates, and others relative to the next stage of the journey, and the arrangements therefor and regulations to be observed.

The next week was spent by the emigrants, teamsters, and presiding officers in arranging the details of the company organization, purchasing supplies, oxen, wagons, manufacturing tents, breaking in cattle, collecting such cash from the emigrants that they could advance to purchase needed groceries, bacon, &c.

The furious thunderstorm with lightning, wind and rain of this locality caused some inconveniences to the new-comers. Other companies of Church teams also arrived from the Valley, so that by Sunday, June 30th, the meeting in the bowery was filled to overflowing, remarks being made by President Joseph W. Young, Jacob Gates, and several of the valley brethren.

The next day the loading up of the various trains commenced, and we will now particularly follow the fortunes of Captain Joseph Horne's Company of Church teams. The passengers assigned to his train having their baggage taken to the bowery, there weighed and properly loaded into the wagon, and then driving out some three miles to the place of rendezvous, there taking their first lesson in camp life, such as getting water, fuel and cooking with the camp fires.

On Tuesday, [July 2] the river steamer "West Wind" arrived at Florence, with the remainder of the Saints who had crossed the Atlantic on the "Monarch of the Sea". An independent company, as those who had purchased their own teams and outfits were called, rolled out the next day, while the 4th of July, "Independence Day" was duly observed at Florence, by the firing of cannons, and a prairie ball in camp, in the evening.

The organization and fitting out of Capt. Horne's Company continued the remainder of the week.

A large drum being used to call the people of the camp to prayers, and on Sunday Apostle Erastus Snow, Elder Jacob Gates and Joseph W. Young held a meeting instructing us further in relation to our journey, treating on things temporal and things spiritual. Our almost daily hurricane blew over several of the tents, and on Tuesday, July 9th, all things being in readiness we rolled out and traveled 10 miles to Reed's ranch and camped, making the Elkhorn River the next day. Here, in this Campers' Paradise, we remained until Saturday morning, gathering wild grapes, shooting wild ducks, bathing in the river, washing our clothes, having an abundance of wood, water, grass and shade, and being visited by a number of friendly Pawnee Indians. Leaving Winter Quarters

Breaking camp at 6:50 a.m. we followed in the wake of Capt. Murdock and Capt. Eldredge's trains. After the noon halt starting out ahead of the former and through to the corral formed by the wagons of the latter company.

During the following nine days we came to the Platte River, experiencing the heavy dews of this locality, crossed Loup Fork with its sand bars, passed by a ranch where hostile Indians had run all their cattle off, met U. S. troops from Fort Kearney en route to the seat of war.

On Tuesday, July 23rd, Apostle Orson Pratt, Erastus Snow and Elder Joseph W. Young came into camp bringing letters for some of the company.

On Pioneer Day (July 24th) Elders Pratt, Snow, and Young held a meeting with us, and after our day's journey of 18 miles, Elders Gates and Spencer joined us and after suitable remarks from them, a ball in honor of the day was held, the teamsters carrying off the honors. The next two weeks our journey was by the Platte River, over sand hills with its denizens of lizards, ground squirrels and rattlesnakes.

Partaking of the grateful water of the Pawnee Springs, gathering wild cherries, fighting mosquitoes, viewing fortunately the distant prairie fires, and finally coming in sight of the Chimney Rock, to which some of the "green uns" allured by its seeming nearness waded the river and toiled on and on until weary and faint they reached its base, and after carving their names on the rock, giving three cheers for President Brigham Young and the Pioneers, and experiencing other adventures they overtook the camp.

A few days brought us to where we could again obtain wood in lieu of "buffalo chips" for making our camp fires.

Laramie Peak, like a distant cloud, is in sight, and we pass Fort Laramie to encounter rough roads, scarcity of feed and cross and re-crossing the river.

The Overland Coach with its mail and passengers in a cloud of dust goes dashing past, and with interest we see workmen setting the poles for the Overland Telegraph, while Indians visit our camp to "swap" their pelts, buckskins, &c., for sugar, flour and trinkets.

At Deer Creek we replenished our stock of flour at a log store-house, flour deposited by the trains when coming to the frontiers. On Aug. 21st leaving the head waters of the Platte, and while passing along a rocky road a fatal accident occurred to a faithful old lady - Sister Mary Ann Foreman, from the Dover, Kent, Branch, slipping from the wagon and being run over, living but an hour after.

The same evening, without change of clothes, no coffin or box, and in a shallow grave hard by a running stream, was laid this Pilgrim Saint. A few words of consolation, a short prayer and a buffalo skull with a pencilled epitaph to mark for a brief time her resting place, and by the starlight the train again rolls out while the moon rises over a distant hill. The frosty air gives brilliancy to the camp-fires of a large body of U. S. troops, traveling from Camp Floyd, Utah, to the seat of war. We finally make camp at 1:30 a.m. During our next stage of three weeks duration we crossed and re-crossed the Sweetwater River and passed those well known land-marks, Independence Rock and the Devil's Gate around the Saleratus Lakes, occasionally shooting a deer and rabbits, being visited by Elder Orson Pratt and Erastus Snow. Bacon getting scarce, an ox is killed and distributed.

Snow-capped Wind River Mountains in sight and with interest look upon the waters of Pacific Springs wending their way westward and finally emptying into the Pacific Ocean.

Crossing Green River we make our first camp in Utah Territory, and then wend our way by Ham's Fork, Fort Bridger, across Bear River, through Echo Canyon, East Canyon to the summit of the Big Mountain, where the emigrants obtain, with varying emotions, their first sight of, to many, their long sought for promised land, Salt Lake Valley. At the foot of the Little Mountain, Elder A. Milton Musser and others as agents of the Church met us and took promissory notes of those indebted for amount due for their emigration.

On Friday morning, Sept. 13th, 1861, Capt. Joseph Horne's Company broke camp for the last time, and rolled into Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City 1860
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Family members arriving Salt Lake City, 13 September 1861:

Robert MICHIE, age 41
Frances POTTS MICHIE, age 25
Agnes Catherine Harriet MICHIE, age 3


More information:

Thomas C. Griggs' Journal account of the Joseph Horne Company

Return to:

MICHIE Emigration from England

Robert MICHIE's History

Frances POTTS' History


Return to Histories Index


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