My Pioneer History

Part of my mission packet instructs me to prepare stories of my ancestry and a pedigree chart of 4 generations of my family tree.
So, here is a newspaper interview between my 5th great grandmother and the Wood River News Miner, which was a weekly newspaper. She tells her story of being a pioneer, joining the church, and the trials she endured as she chose to follow the prophet Brigham Young across the plains to Salt Lake City.



Sophia Dalton Bell Braasse was born on January 2, 1835 and died at the age of 99 in the homestead she and her 2nd husband, John Braasse, had built together. Their home still stands today just outside of Ketchum Idaho next to the Wood River. This is her story:

from the Wood River News Miner Newspaper Published At Hailey Idaho
Friday, January 25, 1913
(text is an exact copy)

Eighty-three years young , a remarkable women, possessed of an indomitable spirit which has lasted her throughout a lifetime of vicissitudes and adventures. A hale, buxom woman yet is Mrs. Sophia Brasse, of Hailey, born January 25, 1835 in the tiny hamlet of Whyseck, Pennsylvania. And today she shows traces of youthful comeliness which, no doubt, caused many heart burnings among the young men of her neighborhood in her girlhood. And the story of her life as she told it to me of the long years which have passed over her head was an intensely interesting one. A story well worth listening to, for all her faculties are unimpaired and with a memory accurate as to dates I will endeavor to give it to the public as nearly in her words as she spoke them, her blue eyes, keen and snaping as she recounted choice bits of her history.

"I was born in Whysock, Pennsylvania, January 2, 1835. The name of the county I never knew. We left there and went to Wisconsin when I was quite small where we resided for a few years. Then we journeyed to western Illinois and settled in Nauvoo, on the Mississippi river. We stayed there until i was 10 years old. My parents had, in the meantime, embraced the belief of the Latter Day Saints, as preached by Joseph and Hiram Smith, both of whom I knew well. Indeed many happy hours I spent romping along the river with Joseph Smith's son, who also was called Joseph.

The religious convictions of our people were not received kindly by the Gentiles in the vicinity and we were subjected to many outrages and indignities by them. Finally our persecutions culminated in the murdering of Joseph and Hiram Smith during the month of June, 1844, while they were in Carthage jail.Many of our leaders and church elders were assassinated and our homes burned over our heads. We felt we could no longer endure our ill treatment and on April 1, 1845, under the guidance of Brigham Young, who, after the death of the Smith brothers, became our head, a wholesale exodus took place among we Mormons. We bade Nauvoo farewell and the temple which we had begun to build. All through the summer we journeyed. By easy degrees, however, for many of the pilgrims were old and feeble and many of them died and were buried by the way. When autumn arrived we went into winter quarters at Florence, Missouri where we passed the winter preparing for the long journey ahead.

The first day of April, 1846, Brigham Young called us all together for prayer and told us the time was at hand and 500 families were chosen to go ahead with him to the promised land.

Each family head was allowed to take two yokes of oxen, one cow, one yearling steer, three pigs, three chickens, 3 cats and provision sufficient for two years. I remember how my father, John Dolton, rigged up a harness for our pigs beneath the wagon and they were quite a help to us. Why they pulled like good fellows. Every morning before our start the housewives filled their churns and stowed them away in the wagons. The rough jostling along the ground throughout the day caused the butter to gather. That was the manner in which it churned. They were but five in my family, father, mother, two brothers, and myself, the youngest child. We had plenty of sour milk to spare. It was one of my tasks to supply the pigs with a panful when we stopped. They grew to look for their refreshments and would squeal and strain at their harness when they saw me coming with bucket and pan.

On the plains the baffaloes roamed by thousands and our young men kept us well supplied with fresh meat. Once the beasts stamped a part of our train and a team ran away breaking the hip of a woman who lay inside the wagon with a new born baby. Once day each week we made stons to jerk the meat we had and afterwords we had a dance in the evening. I was always fond of dancing and it has only been within the last few years that I have quit attending so many of my neighborhood frolics. Life was meant for us to enjoy.

When we came to the Platte river we entered a dangerous country. The Indians were plentiful and the emigrants kept closely together. Each day 12 men were picked to ride ahead of the train and locate the best mail for the rest of us. An upright stick driven into the ground with a white rag fastened securely in its forked end told us the way was good: two white rags meant that we would be compelled to ford a creek, and three white pieces of cloth told us a river was in front and we must bridge it. 

Now, there was fastened beneath the bed of every wagon a sort of boat and when we arrived at a stream requiring bridging the wagons were taken apart and the running gears shoved out into the water with the boats alternating and all jashed together. Then the wagon boards were laid upon this foundation and the women and children crossed over to the opposite side with our household goods, the men following with the stock and in a little while we were again on the way. 

When evening came the wagons were placed tongues to the rear of the wagon beds just in front in such a way as to form a huge circle, in the center of which a fire was built and the stock driven inside. Wood there was none, and the women and children, an hour or so before the night halt-scattered themselves along on both sides of the train with bags and sacks to gather buffalo chips with which to cook and heat the camp.

My first view of Salt lake was July, 1847. There it lay before my eyes, a beautiful sight, to we weary pilgrims it was indeed the promised land, for we believed Brigham Young implicitly. We were several days getting down into the valley for the mountain benches were heaped with boulders. Time and again the emigrants lowered their wagons over cliffs with ropes and the stock led down by a roundabout way.

At length we were settled. And here our sufferings started anew. The winter that came on was terribly severe and those of us that survived its rigors were placed on bread rations by Brigham, else we had all died of scurvey. For years we were thus restricted. Had it not been for the elk, the antelope and mountain sheep all over the mountains there would not have been left one soul to tell the tale of our going.

Every morning my mother baked a pan of cornbread, the largest piece goin to my father, the next size to my mother and the smallest portion I received. My brothers were not with us. They had left to enter the army shortly after our arrival at Salt Lake. Both of them served in the Mexican war. All the vegetable food we had mother and I gathered -thistle roots and sago lily bulbs, which we boiled in milk. The people of today do not know what it is to endure the hardships we did. 

When the spring of forty-eight arrived we rejoiced and planted our grain. But the late frosts killed the better part of our crops and little was raised to tide us through another winter. Mother had brought from Illinois a small quantity of potato seed (taken from the green potato balls which form on the plant after the blossoms drop) and we planted them. ...(portion of text missing)... we had potatoes that were the envy of everyone who saw them. From that small beginning came the potatoe supply of the whole community. 

The grasshoppers descended upon us the third year and they ate everything green. Not a stalk was left standing after they passed through. But Brigham sustained us during all our trials. The plagues that beset us we were told were intended to tea us and to fail would prove us unworthy to inherit our kingdom. So the third year rolled around and with it monstrous crickets to devour our harvests. A unique method of destroying these pests was revealed to us. Deep trenches were dug around the fields and the women and children armed with leafy limbs, marched through the grain fields driving the crickets before them right into the trenches. Dry grass was piled upon the squirming insects and then set afire.

Bur the fourth year. Ah, that was good. We have plentiful harvests and our days of privation appeared to be over. More emigrants arrived during the fifth year. We had much trouble with the Indians that year. They killed the 4-year-old son of a neighbor of ours-their only child-by impaling him upon a sharp stick and leaving him up in a gulch to slowly die. For that wicked deed, however, they were thoroughly punished. Our men fell upon one of their camps and exterminated them. Not one did they leave alive. After that we were left alone by them. 

Silver creek ran through where Salt Lake city is now, emptying itself into the River Jordan a few miles south. I have seen bunch grass in the valley long enough to bring up over the back of an ox and tie in a bow knot. It was that rank and tall. There were great canebrakes along the river bottoms and there the settlers pastured their cattle to keep the Indians from stealing them. Women milked the family cows in the brakes and once I became lost among the cane. The more I wandered about the deeper I penetrated the brakes. Soon I was completely confused and lost all sense of direction. But with me I had our old dog whom we had brought across the plains with us, and in my fear turned to him for it just struck me that he could deliver me. Catching hold of his tail I struck him a smart lick over the back telling him to go home. Out of the brakes he tore with me hanging fast to his tail. My mother had become very alarmed because of my long stay and as the old dog and I burst out form the cane we ran right into the midst of all our neighbors who had gathered around mother to help her in search of me. Poor mother. Her's was a sad life. And withal she lived to be 103 years old.

I was married when 17. My husband's name was Phylander Bell. He was Brigham Young's foreman. Father and Mr. Bell helped to lay out Salt Lake City. We were married by Brigham and I lived for some months after my wedding in the prophet's household. I will say that during the time my husband and I were under that roof we never heard Brigham Young raise his voice in anger. He was kindly to every one within his home. 

Eight children were given us and while they were still young I was left a widow with them to provide for. But I was wiling and strong and, taking my family I left Utah, going to Nevada to a railroad junction. We worked there, the children and myself. From the first month of March to the last of August we earned $1000. But the necessaries of life were so expensive. You think flour is high. Well, I paid $14 for every hundred-pound sack I bought. 

Afterward I became acquainted with with Mr. Henry Christian Brasse, who had lately emigrated to American from Germany. ...(portion of text missing)... he treated them exactly alike. I have been the mother of 15-boys and girls. Many of them have passed on to a better world and I am pretty much alone now. My dear husband died of pneumonia eight years ago and I feel his loss as keenly today as I did then. The children remaining to me are my blessings and I am proud to be their mother. Six of my grandsons are in the war. I receive letters frequently from them. They are fine boys. My grandchildren who are at home with their parents sometimes tell me there are no good men and women in Germany. But I tell them they are wrong. The land that bred Mr. Brasse has bred other children equally as good. I know that it must be so. But they laugh. However, they care too much for grandma to hurt me intentionally and we smooth the matter over. I know, of course, that we will win this war. I shall live to see it. Perhaps, who knows. I may be here long enough to hold great-grandchildren upon my knees as I held their fathers and mothers in the past. I enjoy good health, save for a touch of rheumatism occasionally." Mrs. Brasse sighed softly. One knew her memories were pleasant ones. 

"Now, there is but one more question Mrs. Brasse," I said gently. "Tell me, where you were educated. Were there any public schools in Utah when you were a girl?" ...(portion of text missing)... And looking at her... over in my mind the many stirring incidents which she had just told me, I was fain to agree unreservedly. Wouldn't you?


1 comments:

  1. What an amazing example she has left for her posterity to follow!

    ReplyDelete

 

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Hi there :)

This is me, Sister Kari Kane, and this is the story of my journey in becoming a Sister Missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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