Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sister Gabbott: England to Grave Hollow, Part 2

Looking west into Grave Hollow on Monday, August 23.

The first installment of Sarah Gabbott's story ended during early October of 1846 when a rescue company of some 20 wagons and a like number of men captained by Orville M. Allen reached the "poor camps" along the Mississippi above Montrose where Mormons driven from Nauvoo during September had found refuge --- of a sort. The wagon train had left western Iowa on Sept. 17 and, traveling light and rapidly, backtracked on the Mormon Trail through Chariton over the course of 20 days, picking up provisions, volunteer teamsters and additional wagons along the way.

By some estimates, more than 600 Mormons driven across the Mississippi from Nauvoo during the second half of September had found refuge in these scattered camps stretching for perhaps two miles. A few had wagons and some provisions but were too sick to travel. Others had nothing more than what they could carry and the makeshift tents under which they sheltered. Others had only the clothes they were wearing. By the time the Allen company arrived, an estimated 300 remained, others having found shelter elsewhere.

A view southwest toward hills rising west of Grave Hollow.

Sarah and Edward Gabbott and their two children, John and Sarah Ann, were among those still camped here.

Also camped nearby, but with wagons, were Thomas Bullock, his wife, Henrietta, four children, and other family members. All were too ill to travel, sick with "the ague and fever" for more than a month.

During late October on the trek west, Thomas would record in his journal Sarah Gabbot's death at Chariton and burial the next morning in nearby Grave Hollow. Whether or not the families had known each other before leaving Nauvoo can't be said.

Capt. Allen had received specific instructions from Brigham Young to fetch Bullock and his family --- Thomas's services were needed in Winter Quarters, on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River. In some other cases, wagons, teams and men had been volunteered for the relief effort in return for promises that efforts would be made to locate loved ones and evacuate them. But other families and individuals were gathered into the wagons, too; and those with wagons and oxen of their own were welcomed into the company.

Looking northwest from a little farther down in the hollow.

Surprisingly, Allen was forced in some instances to cajole refugees into joining the company. Rumors had spread along the Mississippi that fall --- facilitated by dissident Mormons contesting Brigham Young's right to head the LDS church --- about threats from natives along the Missouri River, where living conditions were reported to be worse than they were in eastern Iowa. These rumors were not true.


Like the Gabbotts, the Bullocks were English --- but more affluent and, in Nauvoo and later in Utah, considerably more influential.

Thomas was born during 1816 in Leek, Staffordshire. He left school as "second-best scholar" during 1830 and went to work as a clerk in the Leek law office of John Cruso, a position he remained in for eight years. He then was appointed exciseman for the government of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria, a well-paying position he held until leaving England with his family some years later.

Thomas had married Henrietta Rushton and they were converted by LDS missionaries at Leek and baptized there on Nov. 20, 1841.

During late February of 1843, Thomas and Henrietta and their family along with her parents set sail for America on the ship Yorkshire, arriving in New Orleans during May, then traveling upriver to Nauvoo by steamboat, arriving on May 31, 1843.

In Nauvoo, because of his skills and experience, Thomas snagged the plum position of personal clerk to Joseph Smith Jr., Mormon prophet and president, which he held from October, 1843, until Smith's assassination on June 27, 1844. After that, Thomas went to work as deputy recorder for the city of Nauvoo, a position he held until the city dissolved into chaos.

Both the Gabbotts and the Bullocks had remained in Nauvoo until the bitter end. The Bullocks, too ill to leave voluntarily and plagued by unspecified personal difficulties, were driven out and finally managed to get their wagons across the river on Sept. 20, 1846. It isn't known when the Gabbotts left, but Sarah's youngest brother, William, was baptized in Nauvoo on August 20, 1846, suggesting that the extended Gabbott family may have been forced out during September, too.


Orville M. Allen, captain of the relief company that had returned to the Mississippi from western Iowa during late September and early October, 1846, was a native of Missouri who married Jane Wilson during 1825, converted in Missouri during the late 1830s and arrived in Nauvoo in 1840. He had served for a time as a bodyguard for Joseph Smith Jr. and also as an officer in the Nauvoo militia.

The Allens were among those who had crossed the Mississippi during February of 1846 and moved west with Brigham Young and the 500-wagon Camp of Israel, beginning in March.


The Allen relief company arrived at the poor camps near Montrose on Oct. 7. Three days earlier, Bullock had counted 17 tents and eight wagons in the immediate vicinity of his encampment, but other encampments were scattered nearby.

Upon arrival in the camps, Allen began to organize those ready and willing to leave immediately, assigning those who had no wagon to one of the 20 brought from western Iowa and placing families with wagons, like the Bullocks, in the lineup. When all was said and done, there were 28 wagons and 157 people plus an assortment of livestock in the wagon train that moved west across Iowa commencing two days later, on October 9.

Friday, Oct. 9, is remembered, too, in LDS lore for an event recorded by Thomas Bullock in his journal and referred to since as "the miracle of the quails." On both the morning and afternoon of the 9th, according to Bullock and the accounts of several other people, flocks of apparently exhausted quail flew near and into the camps, landing there and elsewhere along the Mississippi by the hundreds. Some were so exhausted, they could be picked up. Others were easy targets for sticks.

Once these birds were dressed and cooked, the departing Saints had all the meat they could eat for a change --- and a powerful omen. Capt. Allen directed that the saints harvest no more quail than they could eat and about 3 p.m., the train headed west.


Because of Thomas Bullock's trail journal, we are able to track the Allen Poor Camp Company across southern Iowa to Chariton during that long-ago October.

On the evening of the camp's Oct. 9 departure, after a new camp had been established some three miles west, Bullock wrote: "Captain Allen called out my Wagon to take up the line of March for the West, when I left the banks of the Mississippi, my property, Nauvoo and the Mob for ever, and started merrily over a level prairie, amid the songs of Quails and Black Birds, the Sun shining smilingly upon us, the cattle lowing, pleased at getting their liberty. The Scene was delightful, the prairie surrounded on all sides by timber. All things conspired for us to praise the Lord. The company traveled three miles and then camped for the night."

The following day, the company reached Sugar Creek --- departure point in the spring for the Camp of Israel --- and Bullock noted that "The trees begin to cast their leaves and begin to show like autumn."

On Sunday, Oct. 11, a beautiful autumn day to begin with, the company reached the banks of the Des Moines River at Bonaparte in pouring rain, crossed and camped on the far side. The company remained in camp because of heavy rain on Monday morning, then when it cleared some of the men went into Bonaparte to purchase supplies and, in camp, women washed clothes.

On Friday, Oct. 16, still traveling and camping in Van Buren County, a woman named Joan Campbell died overnight after giving birth to a stillborn infant. Capt. Allen sent men back to Bonaparte for lumber, a coffin was constructed and mother and babe were buried together along the trail on Saturday, the 17th. A worship service was held that evening, ending as those assembled sang, "How Firm a Foundation."

The first snow of the season fell Friday night, but melted; and the first hard frost of the season was evident when the travelers arose on Sunday morning, Oct. 18.

Monday, Oct. 19, was largely wasted as a day of travel because of a persisting problem --- cattle and oxen straying from the camp during the night. It turned into a beautiful day, but the missing cattle weren't found until 3 p.m. and by then it was too late to travel.

The party passed through the tiny pioneer village of Mechanicsburg, due west of Keosauqua not far from the Van Buren-Davis county line, at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 20. Some two miles beyond, Bullock noted something he thought remarkable:

"After a mile or two journey, an extraordinary sight came in view --- a whirlwind was passing over an immense field of corn. It was curious, yet wonderful to see the blossoms, leaves and pieces of Corn Stalks shoot up in the air some thirty feet, as if shot from some gun, and then whirl away round and round to about 200 and 300 feet high, keeping aloft like so many Sky larks and then again descend with a whirling motion to within 20 or 30 feet of the ground, when they would again reascend, and repeat the same whirling journey."

In the afternoon, the company passed Richardson's Point and continued to a camp site on the Fox River

On Friday, Oct. 23, the Poor Camp Company reached the current site of Unionville in northeast Appanoose County, descended precipitous hills to cross Soap Creek and camped on the other side. A company meeting was held the next morning, Saturday, Oct. 24, and Capt. Allan gave the men work assignments that were carried out during the remainder of the day --- blacksmithing, hunting, trading, etc. The company remained camped on Soap Creek through Monday, Oct. 26, continuing work assignments in preparation for the next leg of the journey.

The company departed Soap Creek at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 27 ---  climbing steep hills from the creek valley into woodland and heading west-northwest along the prairie ridge to the current site of Moravia. Leaves now were fully turned and the prairie still was smoking from a recent fire.

The company traveled some 15 miles that day, passing through the current site of Moravia and camping at sundown to the west, on the trail --- more or less now Appanoose County Road J18 just to the north of Lake Rathbun --- to what now is Iconium.

On Wednesday, Oct. 28, the company traveled 18 miles, passing Dodge's Point west of Iconium and turning northwest into the southeastern corner of Lucas County where camp was made by moonlight in a wooded area. The vast prairies of what now is Washington Township had burned recently.

The next day, Thursday, Oct. 29, the company got off to a late start because of runaway livestock, but started northwest at 10 a.m. and traveled 12 miles across blackened prairie to reach what Bullock called Wild Cat Grove along the east flank of the Chariton River --- now more commonly referred to as Chariton Point --- in the evening. "In many places," Bullock reported, "the burnt prairie is covered with the webs of Spiders which has a pretty gauze like appearance.”

In the grove at Chariton Point, the Poor Camp Company found "five new log houses which had been recently built by some Saints." In the evening, a cow was slaughtered, cut up and the meat distributed to the camp and  Capt. Allen called the camp together for a meeting.

It is worth noting here that according to Lucas County lore those five cabins shouldn't have been there during October of 1846. The prevailing story is that members of the Nickerson family party, after becoming stranded at Chariton Point while tempting fate while traveling west some weeks after the Poor Camp Company had departed, were forced to overwinter on the Chariton River bottoms, then came up into the groves along the east flank of the river during the spring of 1847 to stake claims and build the first dwellings at Chariton Point. I'll write more about this another time.

After breaking camp the next morning, the Poor Camp Company rounded Chariton Point on Friday, Oct. 30, and descended to the north shore of the river to water its livestock in the river. It was while exiting the river valley later that morning that Sarah Gabbott was killed.

Here, again, is the excerpt from Thomas Bullock's journal describing that event.

"... (Edward Gabbott's) wife Sarah Gabbut (sic), attempting to get back into the Wagon, laid hold of a churn dasher which being cracked, gave way, and she fell against the Oxen, which so startled them, that they started off at a full run. She fell to the ground and the Wheels of the Wagon passed over her loins or kidneys. She exclaimed 'Oh dear, I am dying.' She lingered until 5 min. to 1 and breathed her last. We continued over hill and dale until we came to one of the tributaries of the 'White Breast'... Laid Sister Gabbut out in her robes, and part prepared a grave."

Sarah's family and fellow travelers finished the grave and buried her the next morning in what has since been known as Grave Hollow.

Looking east from half way up the big hill on the west side of Grave Hollow.

To make their way out of the hollow, the company had to climb what was described as the steepest hill encountered thus far on the journey west from the Mississippi River, then most likely traveled southwesterly down the narrow ridge above it to a junction with the main route of the trail. After 10 miles, traveling with a prairie fire in sight across hills to the south, the company camped for the night at White Oak Spring.


To carry the journey west forward more rapidly now, the Allen Poor Camp Company reached Mt. Pisgah on Nov. 4 and Winter Quarters on Nov. 27. Two other rescue companies had been sent back to the Mississippi to gather up remaining poor Saints and take them to shelter before winter set in --- one from Garden Grove and another from Pottawattamie County.

The extended Gabbott family, including the widowed Edward and his two children, remained at Winter Quarters until the spring of 1848 when they set out for Utah, arriving at Salt Lake City on Sept. 22. Included in the 224-member company with which they traveled were Edward's mother-in-law, Susannah Rigby, and other Rigby children and grandchildren. Little Sarah Ann died at Salt Lake City during 1851, but son John lived to age 84.

In Salt Lake City, Edward married as plural wives the widowed Jane Schofield Smith in 1854 by whom he had another son, Amos Smith Gabbott, and Elizabeth Haslam in 1859. He died a highly respected pioneer at his farm in Sugar House Ward on July 22, 1876, age 73, and was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Upon arrival in Winter Quarters, Thomas Bullock went to work as a clerk for the church leadership, including Brigham Young. During early spring, 1847, Young assigned Bullock to accompany the First Pioneer Company to cross the Plains as company clerk and to track the journey in a journal. He departed Winter Quarters during April and arrived in Utah during July.

In Utah Territory, Bullock served Salt Lake County recorder, clerk of the Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company, clerk to the Utah Territorial Legislature and was an occasional clerk to Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He also served as chief clerk in the church historian's office. From 1856 to 1858, Bullock returned to England as a missionary for the church.

Bullock died Feb. 10, 1885, in Coalville, Utah, age 68. His plural wives were Henrietta, who accompanied him from England, Lucy Clayton and Betsy Howard. Henrietta, who was first, outlived them all, dying on Oct. 19, 1897, age 80. All are buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. There were 23 children, 13 of whom survived to adulthood.

A covered wagon of another sort climbs out of Grave Hollow on Monday, August. 24.

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