The Diary of William H. Freshwater

Here’s the diary of William H. Freshwater that I mentioned in my last post.

. . . May 8, 1862: I, in company with my father, William Freshwater; mother, Martha Freshwater and sister, Valora L. Freshwater, and Hertford, England, my native city and country with several other Latter-day Saints, all en route for Utah, U.S. A. We arrived Watford at 1:30 p.m., went to W. Kaffal and stayed all night. We went in a cart from Hertford to Watford. I am not quite ten years old.

10th. We left Watford at 8 a.m. by railroad. We passed through several tunnels, in one of them Mother fainted. We had a good trip to Liverpool where we arrived at 6 p.m. We took a berth on a sailing ship named William Tapscott which was bound for New York, America. This ship was chartered to carry the Mormon emigration this year.

13th. The ship raised anchor and left the dock with seven hundred and eighty five Mormons on board and went into the River [p.248] Mersey. There were thirty more Saints came on board while we lay there. Two accidents occurred today; one, a boy fell from the main deck to the lower and broke his leg very bad; the other, a woman in coming down the hatchway, slipped and spilled some boiling water on the face of a child. There were twelve more came aboard this morning. The vessel was towed out of the river by steam tug into the Irish Sea. The weather is beautiful and warm.

15th. A few of the passengers are a little seasick. There were two boys found in the hold and Captain Preston is going to make them work their passage across the sea.

June 8th. (Witson Sunday) In the morning, wind very fair but during the day it increased until the sailors had to tie ropes about the ship to hold themselves on. They spiked all the hatchways down and would not let any of the passengers go on deck at all. The captain told us it was the worst storm he had ever witnessed although he had made many trips across the ocean.

9th. A child of three years died on board this morning of consumption.

10th. Wind favorable but foggy. If there had not been any fog we could have seen Newfoundland as it lies but a short distance off.

11th. Very cold and foggy, still on the banks but going all right. We are now 1012 miles from New York. There have been a few grampus seen ― they are a species of the whale about five feet long.

16th. Head winds till noon. We have made, since yesterday noon, 126 miles, being the best run since starting form Liverpool.

17th. Wind good, at noon log shows 176 miles in 24 hours.

18th. Wind dead against us. We are now going through the gulf, a place where three currents meet; the sea is very rough. By the log we have traveled 200 miles since noon yesterday but only twenty-four towards New York.

21st. Wind dead against us. We saw a great many whales today.

22nd. A pilot came aboard. A man died on board today.

23rd. We saw a lot of blackish, the sailors claimed a sure sign of a bad storm. Weather pleasant and had been a dead calm all day. Saw a great many porpoises in the evening. They are a very ugly looking fish, three to five feet long and about as thick.

24th. Fair wind all morning. Only fifty more miles to New York. For the first time since we left Liverpool we heard thunder. At three o’clock the wind sprang up in the right direction and we soon left the fog behind us. We arrived in the mouth of the Hudson River at four o’clock and dropped anchor at five. This is a very beautiful port. Far excels Liverpool.

25th. We were all up at the first peep of day and anxiously awaiting the arrival of the examining doctor who came at 8 a.m. and pronounced us all well except two who remained on board the ship, the last we heard of them. The steam tug took us to Castle [p.249] Garden, the New York emigrant landing where one can stay for ten days only.

26th. Today is Father’s birthday; he started in the new world in a new year to him. Uncle George, Father’s brother, came to Castle Garden early and we were glad to see him. He came to this country last year. We hired a dray and took our trunks, etc., through New York and over the East River on a ferry boat to Brooklyn where George lived. We did not have much time with George for he left today on the 6 p.m. train to go west. We had to stay in New York because we didn’t have sufficient means to come on to Utah this year. Father hired the same house that George left.

28th. We moved to 136 North 2nd Street, Williamsburg. We stayed there about a month then we moved to Conselea Street, Williamsburg, where we stayed eleven months until we left for Utah during which time Father worked for a plumber by the name of William Cozer of Williamsburg.

June 26, 1863. In company with my father, mother and sister, Valora, I left Williamsburg, New York with a company of Mormon emigrants for Great Salt Lake City, Utah. Just before we arrived in St. Joseph, Missouri, the rebels, or bushwhackers, fired two cannon balls through our train, one shot went through the passenger car exactly eight inches above the peoples’ heads and the other through a baggage car destroying a great amount of baggage. We stayed in St. Joseph three or four days, afraid to go on because of the rebel soldiers being all throughout the country. While we were there, some fifteen rebel soldiers were taken prisoner, right from among our company, by the northern soldiers. Two companies of Union soldiers surrounded the depot and made the rebels surrender or they would have killed them. I can truly say I saw a little of the war between the North and the South. We went from St. Joseph to Florence (Nebraska) by steamboat up the Missouri River. We stayed at Florence (which was three miles above Omaha). Omaha had six houses and Florence, seven, all of which were trading posts.

July 9th: We started across the plains with a train of fifty wagons drawn by three to five yoke of cattle, some of them were trail wagons. The captain of this company was W. B. Preston who was from Cache Valley. The Platte River was very high. We had considerable trouble in crossing several streams. We had several heavy storms, one I remember was near Chimney Rock, a lot of lightning and thunder. Our cattle stampeded and started running away. The teamsters unyoked them as best they could ― some of them two and three yoked together. Three of the oxen were dragged to death. That night, herders went after them on horses. Devil’s Gate was quite a scenic place. The train went around and up a canyon but most of the passengers went over the mountain. When we got over and into the valley on the west, the sagebrush was as large as fence poles and eight to ten feet high. [p.250]

We arrived in Great Salt Lake City Thursday, September 15th, 1863, just as the peaches were ripe. We stayed in Salt Lake thee days and visited all the main places. The temple was then about four feet high. We left Salt Lake for Provo with a man by the name of Ira Tiffany who lived in Provo. We traveled in an ox wagon, the same kind we crossed the plains in. We arrived in Provo, Utah County, where George Freshwater lived. Stayed with him a few days when Father hired a house of Joh E. Booth were is now First West and Fifth North. We lived in Provo four years, then moved to Spanish Fork where we stayed about four months. We did not like the place; terrible winds down Spanish Fork Canyon, so we moved back to Provo.

June 19, 1867. The army of grasshoppers lit in Provo this afternoon by the millions. Everything in the way of vegetation was eaten and destroyed before night. We had several large tobacco plants growing and they were covered with hoppers in a few minutes. Father cut them and ran into the house and saved most of his tobacco. We also saved some other of our stuff by taking it in the house and shutting the doors. Our chickens ate so many hoppers they could hardly move. We saved our green corn which was in good roasting ears.

About half the grasshoppers raised in a cloud and went off in the southwest direction. Our garden looks almost as bare as it does in winter. About the only thing the hoppers didn’t clean was rhubarb. They ate part of that. Mother put up quite a lot.

August 24th, Saturday. The Provo meeting house, located at the corner of University Avenue and Center Street was dedicated today. The building is eighty-one feet by forty seven feet with a tower eighty feet high.

May 27, 1870. In the fore part of this summer a few companies of United States troops were sent to Provo to establish a camp. After considerable trouble a site was located immediately north of Provo River and just below Provo bench, being about one and a half miles northwest of Provo City. My father and Thomas Clark had contracts for building chimneys, bake ovens, and so forth, for the soldiers. The first troops cam from Camp Douglas under Colonel Hugh and only a little while when they were replaced by several companies from the East under major Osborn. The soldiers appeared peaceable for some time when the citizens and soldiers had several disputes and trouble appeared in the wind.

September 22nd. The soldiers (or part of them) from Camp Rawlins intended having a big supper and dance in town tonight which ended in a row and can better be described as follows.

Telegram sent to Salt Lake City:

Provo, September 23, 1870 A company of about forty U.S. troops from Camp Rawlins made a raid on our city last night between twelve and one o’clock and before the police could rally and check their progress they broke into the residence of Alderman William Miller, firing several shots into his bedroom, smashed in his doors and windows and took him prisoner and marched him about an hour or so. Thence passing up Center Street (7th) they stove in the doors and windows of the Co-op Boot and Shoe store (the old McKinsey building) and tore down the sign and stoned the doors of the Co-op store. They surrounded the residence of Councilor McDonald, who was away from home, and completely demolished every outside door and window on the first floor and scatted the furniture over the yard and sidewalk.  Alderman E. F. Sheets’ residence shared nearly the same fate. Their progress was here partially interrupted. They, however, proceeded to the meetinghouse, broke in the shutters of one window attempting to fire the building. The raiders were armed with U.S. needle guns with bayonets and revolvers, and during their foray they captured several citizens, parading them through the streets, some of whom were severely beaten and bayoneted before they could get away.  [p.251]

William Henry Freshwater died in Provo, Utah, January 27, 1937. His wife, Sarah Ann, passed away January 11, 1924, in Provo.

– Beulah Freshwater Spencer

Freshwater, William H., Diary, Our Pioneer Heritage, comp. By Kate B. Carter, vol. 7 (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1964) pp. 248-52. (L)

Most of this excerpt can be found at: Mormon Migration

6 Replies to “The Diary of William H. Freshwater”

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