I was born in San Bernardino, California, August 29, 1855 to Price Williams and Lydia Ann Lake Nelson. My father left California at the time of the big move and located in Payson, Utah, in 1857. My father’s family numbered five at the time: my father and mother, my brother Edmond, my sister Samantha and myself. Two sisters, Lydia and Lorina, were born shortly after. While we lived in Payson my father took up the trade of chair maker. They were made with rawhide seats. The rawhide was woven back and forth to form the seat and would last for years. They were known to last until the wood was worn off the rocker where it joined the chair leg.
We lived there about two years, then moved to Franklin, Idaho. Soon after we got there I met with a serious accident, having my fingers cut off by my sister, Samantha, while we were playing around the wood pile with the ax. They were both sewed on. One grew and the other mortified and had to be taken off. My father took me to Logan, a distance of twenty-one miles. The wagon was drawn by an ox team, old Pat and Guts, to a quack doctor, Dr. Dilley. He cut off the bad finger with a pair of shears.
I remember how numerous the sea gulls were in Franklin. When my father was plowing and breaking up the soil, they would follow in great flocks going back and forth and gathering the bugs that were in the soil.
A favorite food of the Indians in that area was red ants. We could tell when they had eaten red ants because it would make them change color and become red, somewhat like the ants. We children soon noticed this and when we would see an Indian that had changed color, we would say, “He’s been eating red ants.”
In 1864 father moved from Franklin to Logan. While there he operated a saw mill for Apostles Benson and Thatcher. We were very poor and during the cold winter we had to stay indoors most of the time for want of proper clothing. If I went to the corral or to a neighbor, I had to go through the snow barefooted. We suffered much from the cold weather. Just below our sawmill was a grist mill operated by a man named Cord. Flour was $25.00 a hundred. He sold the flour to the mines and starved the people.
The mining men the roughest, most profane set of men I ever saw, had teams of big oxen which they would name after the authorities of the Church. When they were going past the Mormon homes they would call out at the teams, using slang and the most terrible oaths. They drove big, broad prairie schooner wagons, each one with a bucket of pine tar and a paddle hanging behind. They used this to grease the wagons.
In those days cloth was made in the home on hand looms. Mother used to send me after thrums or loose ends from the looms, which she used for sewing thread. Mother did a lot of spinning and knitting, too. While we were there in Logan I saw the first sewing machine that came into the area. It was owned by Apostle Thatcher’s mother and everyone thought it was a marvelous invention. It was run by a little crank.
We gathered saleratus from the west fields of Logan to make our bread. Once mother sent us with a small sack to gather it, but we got into a fight and tore the sack in half. We tied a string around the torn end and came back with both halves full.
The country was too cold, so Father decided to move south were it was warmer. We moved to Muddy, a long way south. We got in St. George the winter the Whitmore boys were killed out near Pipe Springs. It was a very severe winter with a lot of snow. We camped three weeks at Orson Starrs and fed our team straw and chaff. I think it was about this time the telegraph came into the country. We children used to wonder how the newspaper could get past the poles. They told us that news came over the wire, so of course we thought it must come on a newspaper.
I wonder now why we never did help mother cook. We all sat around and watched her do it. While traveling, she would make flapjacks or bread rolled into cakes, which she would cook in the frying pan. She would brown the top from the coals. When she had a stack of bread made, she would fry some bacon and make gravy out of the grease with scorched flour and water. This was our fare every day but I think no food has ever tasted so sweet. Later we often ate whole boiled wheat. We had very few dishes and mother had to serve directly from the dutch oven or the iron stew pot or the frying pan. We had hardly any bedding so I slept in the straw or in a bin of cotton that had not been ginned. In the absence of food we would chew and suck the oil from cotton seeds.
After we left St. George and settled on the Muddy it was decided that a town corral should be built to care for the cattle so the Indians would not steal them. Each one had to herd a day for each cow he put in. My father made arrangements with some of the owners to let me herd for them so I spent much of my time at this business. I usually took them up and down the Virgin River where the most feed could be found. There was a lot of green for them to eat and they gave lots of milk. We had much trouble with them out getting one leg out at a time sometimes tying it up under the animal and sometimes putting a long plank or log under and raising the cow out of the sand. Many cows we never got out.
For some years our teacher in school was Wellington P. Wilson, a very lazy man. Our school was made of adobe with a loose sand floor. Ou teacher had to have a sleep every day and he would ask one of the students to teach a class for him and he would tip his chair back on the two back legs, put his feet up on his desk, fold his arms and soon fall asleep. Just as soon as the students thought him asleep they would all drop down on the floor and begin to play mumble peg. Sometimes he would give a loud snort and how the children would scramble for their seats to find him only snoring in his sleep and they would soon be back on the floor as excited as ever over their game of mumble peg. Each day our teacher would make us recite and it was always the same little verse: “Twinkle, twinkle little star, How I wonder what you are, up above the world so high, Like a diamond in the sky.” We had to put a great deal of expression into the lines, raising our arms up high and putting them from side to side with expressional gestures.
Later we had a teacher from the North. We learned much from him for he was a very educated and wonderful man. His name was Warren Johnson and he taught us in the same little adobe school house only it had a door put in it and had been repaired. He went back to Farmington later and got himself a wife, Familie Smith. He then came back to Nevada to teach. Later he became my brother-in-law by marrying a second wife who was my sister, Samantha.
My parents were hard working, industrious people, and I thought a lot of them, but like many children I was disobedient at times. But as I grew older I learned to love and respect them. When I was younger I was very humble and prayerful, but as I grew I got out of the notion of praying altogether. I was never taught to pray at home.
My playmates used to call me an Indian because I looked so much like one. My grandmother was a half-breed Cherokee Indian, so I was pretty much mixed up with these people and I always sought their company.
The Indians on the Muddy were very troublesome stealing and killing cattle and horses. A treaty with them was finally made. When they stole they were to be whipped five lashes for the first offence and doubled every other time. As long as the treaty was kept up there was little trouble with the Indians. The while people caught stealing from the Indians were to receive the same punishment. There was an old Dutchman by the name of John Eaten who stole a piece of canvas from an Indian. The Indian interpreter tied John’s hands to the top of a wagon wheel with a rope and took a heavy black whip and gave him five lashes, which was very hard on the old Dutchman.
There was an old Indian named Toquapp. He caused the people a great deal of trouble by stealing so much and he said he would continue stealing cattle and hoses all the time so the people decided to hunt or chase him down and put him to death. They spent days and weeks before they got him. The way they got him, he was described to some California emigrants camped at the California crossing on the Muddy. He came to beg for bread and to pilfer around. They knew him by the description. They took him and tied him up and sent word that they had him. Father and John Merril and others had been out a long time hunting him and when they returned they had him in chains. He was fastened to the center post of the bowery, our out-of-doors meeting house made of bulrushes with his hands tied behind him and his feet chained. Old Toquapp knew they would kill him so he tried to get me, a small boy, to let him loose. The people held a council and decided to hang him, but being unable to make a scaffold as they had no timber, they took him out in the sand hills a long ways on an old trail. Two men went ahead well-armed, two loosed him and followed on the winding trail through the sand hills covered with a thicket of mesquite, a thornbush. When they got the old outlaw about two miles out he gave a war whoop, the most blood-curdling sound I ever heard and started to run. But they got the old buck. He gave the signal for help and he ran with great speed, jumping sideways, running and jumping and giving the war whoop. he came nearly getting away. They fired many shots before they got him. They dug a hole in the sand and covered him up but the coyotes soon dug him out and ate his flesh. Great fear was felt but no more killing was done at that time. The Indians were afraid of the white men with their better weapons.
The people hired an Indian to herd all of the work animals for safety but one morning the herder reported that one horse had been stolen during the night. So father and others started out in search of the missing horse and the Indians. They trailed them about fifteen miles in search of the missing animal and found where the Indians had killed the horse. They had tied him down and cut his throat taking what they could carry of his flesh and went on. But they never found the thieves.
While out on this trip they saw smoke a long way off. Supposing it to be the thieves they went to it and found a camp of young bucks and squaws and papooses. But before they reached the camp they all stopped but two. These two went on to see who was in the camp so as not to create any excitement among them. They found the camp as I have said. The Indians had just killed a cow belonging to George Paton and had the meat all out to dry. The two men got right on the camp before the Indians saw them. They were determined to get away, then the two men rushed to the Indians and told them they would be killed if they didn’t stop then they held all of them but two ran and jumped off a high bank into the Virgin River and got away. It was about two hours before the rest of the party came up. They took all of the bows and arrows and destroyed them. Then they made the Indians tell who shot the cow. They ordered the young buck to load the cowhide in a rabbit net and put the net over the top of his head then they started out with the ten young bucks, including the one carrying the hide. They drove them the ten miles on a shack-of-a-trot with squaws and papooses following behind to see what they were going to do with them. They were brought into town and put under heavy guard. They stripped the one who killed the cow down to his breech cloth, tied his hands to the top of a wagon wheel and whipped him nearly to death with a heavy black whip. They gave him some fifty lashes. They whipped the rest according to the age of each. They were all stripped and tied as the first. When they were all through those whipped crawled off and laid for hours before they could move but they all agreed not to steal again. When they were all liberated they pitched their camp close to town and remained there until they got well. The one they whipped so hard was crippled for life.
Time passed and the Indians became more troublesome. They continued to whip them for stealing till the treaty was broken by a Mormon stealing form the Indians. He paid a twenty-five dollar fine and they let him off.
The old chief, Toshob, went hunting rabbits down on the Virgin River near the Salt Mountains with his bow and arrows and his old negro leg rifle. He has a sack of bullets that were quite heavy. He hung them up in a mesquite bush by the side of the road. While he was gone an Italian man by the name of Daniel Bonelo came along. He was going to the Salt Mountains after salt. He saw the sack of bullets and took about half of them. The Indian found the bullets had been taken when he returned, so he set out to hunt the thief. He came to town and asked who it was that went down that way. The Indian found out who the thief was. He wanted to whip the man but Bonelo begged so hard not to be whipped that the Indian agent let him off by having him pay a twenty-five dollar fine. After that no Indians were whipped and they became very troublesome. They would come in at night and steal chickens form the coops.
An old Indian by the name of Yambo stole horses and cattle for years. They tried to catch him to kill him but he agreed to behave himself if they wouldn’t kill him. He came into town but was so saucy and mean that at one time they thought they would have to kill him anyway. About two years later he was herding for some emigrants. He stole a mule one night, drove him for several miles and penned him up in a sand wash by building a wall of rocks. He returned to the emigrants and told them next morning that the mule had been stolen. The men of the camp tied him to a wagon wheel and went in search of the missing mule. They soon found the trail, followed it to where the mule was penned and soon returned. For what he had done, one of the party gathered a neck yoke and beat the Indian to death, which ended old Yambo.
During this time there were a great many prospectors traveling through the country. Among them was a man by the name of Moony, who was arrested for stealing horses. He was held in custody for several weeks by the sheriff but there was nothing proved against him so he was turned loose. He went away for a while, took sick and returned to get care and was treated with the greatest of kindness. But when he got well he went away again and stayed for some time and he got hold of a six shooter and returned with the intent to kill. He went to the place where he was cared for while he was sick. He watched his chance and shot two men through the body. He got on his horse and started for California. Crossing the Muddy he went to Las Vegas, 55 miles over a sandy desert. It was there he was trailed and caught. The company of men which were after him caught him and killed him. They buried him in the sand.
The Indians of this section were nearly starved and sometimes had to subsist on old carrion and filth that one would think a human would never digest. Rabbits, rats, mice, snakes, and lizards were what they had to live on until the Mormon people came and taught them to plant. Whenever any of their animals would take sick and die, they would always eat the flesh from the bones. One day my father had a horse die that he thought very much of and being afraid that the Indians would get at it he buried it at the lower end of our lot. They came for it but we would not let them have it.
To gather grass seeds the Indians would make a basket of squaw bush, seal it with pitch pine by rubbing a hot rock over it, then gather seeds in it. I have seen them many times with a little wooden paddle like a beaver’s tail knocking the seeds into the basket, which they held under the grass heads. They would also gather the long beans from the mesquite and the short curled beans from the mescrew bush, dry and powder them into a kind of flour. They would catch the locust as they came out of the ground in the spring and eat them alive, though they sometimes roasted them and kept them. There was also a long green worm which they would dry and roll into rolls. The loose apples were gathered and preserved in baskets. One time I found a cache of them buried about where the Lost City now stands. They would also gather and dry yant and roast it for food. Yant would form heads about as large as a cabbage.
I remember once when we were clearing land and burning brush an old Indian came to our fire, he looked nearly starved and was naked all but his breech cloth, he had a big rat which he threw into the coals to roast. When it was done he skinned it and ate the skin, the head came next, then the entrails, then the legs and meaty parts, he ate every bit of it.
When the Indians learned to plant they would raise wheat and squash. At harvest time they would eat and eat and eat and eat until some of them actually died from eating too much.
I knew of one old squaw who sold her baby son for a little of nothing to some emigrants going to California. The child was afraid at first and cried and tried to get her not to let them take him, but she did not take any notice of him. The people took him, cut the string that held his breech cloth, bathed him, put on some nice clothes, made a very nice looking little fellow out of him. She did not see him for two years when the people happened to be going through the country and brought him back to see his people. The poor mother then cried for him to come back to her but he took no more notice of her tears than she had of his when he was taken.
In those days soap was very scarce and we soon learned that by digging oso roots, pounding them into a pulp then placing the pulp into water, it would soon become a nice sudsy substance and very good to use, especially to wash hair. The women used to save all their cottonwood ashes, put them in a barrel, pour water over them and let them stand a few days, this would soften the water and make it very nice to do their washing with. The water from the Virgin River was so hark that they could not use it for that purpose unless they treated it with cottonwood ashes. Also they would let barrels of these ashes leech and combine it with waste grease to make soft soap. In those days if a woman had a barrel of soft soap, she was very happy.
We had no music in the colony at first but our bishop, Jimmy Leithead, was an expert drummer, so the people sent for one bass drum, two snare drums, and four fifes. The first night they came the bishop played the drums until all the Indians round about became frightened. They did not know what had happened. I was given one of the fifes, it wasn’t long before I could play many of the tunes. We had a good little martial band in the settlement.
At one time an Indian stole some blasting powder. He thought he would grind it up to make powder for his gun, but it exploded and burned him badly.
I remember a fight over a squaw. There was a big camp and the fight lasted three full days. Andrew Gibbons, the interpreter had to interfere several times when they got to pulling the squaw until it looked like they would kill her. I went to watch it, but I was not there at the end so I never did now how it came out.
The worst tragedy that happened in the Muddy Mission was that of the Davidson family. I knew them all well, played with the boy hundreds of times. I remember the incident. Old man Davidson and his wife were old country folks, not used to the ways of the desert. They started out with the company to go to St. George, but they were driving a one-eyed balky horse on a buggy with shaves. The horse balked on them and they came back. Ben Paddock, their son-in-law fixed a tongue on the buggy, got them a mule to make a team and they started again, this time all alone. After they were out on the desert their buggy started to fall apart, for they found where they had tried to wrap the tires with wire and parts of the lines to hold them together. They evidently tied the mule to one wheel when they camped and it got frightened and broke the wheel all to pieces, running off through the country with the tire fastened to his rope. They found his tracks and later found him alive on the river bottom. Well, the old folks and the thirteen year old boy were stranded on the desert without water and where no one would pass for days. They sent the boy ahead to find water. He fainted, fell off and died in the sand. The horse went on to water. Some men were digging a well and the horse came into camp during the night. They watered it and tied it up and the next morning went back on the trail until they found the boy. I could never understand why they didn’t go on to the buggy, but they didn’t for Lorenzo Young was the first to find the old couple. They had hung sheets for a shade, made down their bed and were both dead. He thought the sheet had frightened the coyotes, so the bodies were not disturbed.
I remember when Lorenzo Young brought the word to the colony that the old couple was dead. The people at once started to make two rough lumber boxes to bury them in. I wanted to go back with Father and the rest when they went after them. Ben Paddock gave us the old balky horse and we kept him for years.
The people on the Muddy had trouble with the state of Nevada over their taxes, so it was decided by President Young that the settlement on the Muddy would be abandoned so we moved to Berrys Valley or Glendale, Utah, in 1870. We suffered with hunger and cold while making the move, I was about fifteen. Father agreed with the people of St. Thomas to drive all of the loose cattle and twenty-five head of horses. The horses he delivered at Beaver Dam where we wintered. We herded the cattle days, corralled them nights and went on early in the spring. There were three of us. Father, brother Ed, and myself. We went on from Beaver Dam to Glendale in company with old Father Asy and family who had the cattle from the other settlements, Overton and St. Joe. His family numbered himself and wife, and four sons, Teets, Aaron, Al, and Amos. They had about one hundred and fifty head of cattle.
The cattle were all managed on foot, as we had no horses to ride. We had only one team and there were nine in the family. On account of heavy sand roads Father and family would walk behind the wagon for days, pushing to help the team along, which nearly caused father’s death. It took many hard days of travel for men and beast. It was decided that five of us should start out and go on with the loose cattle, expecting to reach water that day. We went on foot without food or water traveling until late at night and no relief. We were hungry, thirsty and cold. It was early in the spring and there was snow in the mountains and in the shady places so we decided to turn the cattle up toward the mountains where there was snow and let them care for themselves and we would do the same. We began planning for the night and it was decided that the two older brothers should return for food, while we three younger boys stayed in camp. The two older brothers went back to the wagon, got their supper and went to bed, leaving us to take care of ourselves.
We made a fire and curled up around it till we got an Indian scare and ran from the fire, one wanted to return to the fire one wanted to curl up under the trees and the other wanted to return to camp, which we did and found the other boys in bed. We reached camp sometime in the later part of the night, hungry tired and cold, there was no water in camp, nothing cooked and the older ones were too tired to get up and cook anything. We made a fire and rested a little while then we took some pans and went to look for snow and were gone about an hour. We returned with snow, then melted it, mixed bread and baked it and had some to eat. It was nearly daylight when this was done, then we had two hard days of traveling with the wagon before getting to where we had left the cattle.
The cattle were so scattered that it took us about two weeks to gather them. When we had accomplished this and had gotten down to the river, we were happy. Camp was pitched under some very large cottonwood trees, the ground was damp and cold, a fire was built to warm a place to sleep, the scanty bedding was spread, and the six of us rolled in. The steam from the damp ground soon got us wet and it went to raining in the night, so we were well soaked that night.
In the morning we left and traveled a few more days and we were near to our journey’s end, delivering everything we had started with except three head, and a calf that got its leg broken. Father hauled it several days but it soon died. The three cows were left in the sand hills.
After we made the hard trip on foot, driving the cattle, we suffered very much for food and clothing. We planted a crop of corn but it was the late kind and it got frosted before it matured. So we lived on sour, frostbitten corn and the only way we could eat it was to make mush. We had to depend on our neighbors for our milk. We went barefoot and ragged.
I remember my father got hold of a heavy old piece of tenting and mother made us boys some pants out of it. It was so stiff and hard that mother had to use an awl to make them and after they were made they would stand alone. After I had worn mine a few days they broke in two across the seat, by the pockets, in front of the knees, and across the back. You can well imagine how I looked but I cared very little about it as I was used to rags.