CROSSING THE PLAINS
IN 1856- THE HELM FAMILY(page two)
By Frances Helm McClure
(Written for my great-grandchildren,
Byron Keever Lighty, Jr. Charles
McClure Lighty and Louis Porter Guth, May 13, 1934)
submitted by Carol Lackey
We had to cross some rivers that were pretty deep. The Platte River was
so deep we had to stay there all one day, while the men cut down big
trees. They lashed these together, making a raft to ferry the wagons
Ropes were tied to the trees and the raft was guided with these, and
wagons kept them from going down stream. They had to swim the stock
We moved slowly, we were in sight of Pike's Peak for many days. In
one place, we could see it so plainly that it didn't seem far from our
road, but it must have been miles.
At another place, where we camped, there was a spring of cold water,
and about three steps from it, a hot one -- so hot that it would burn
finger. There were no holes dug, where these springs were, the water
just running out over the top of the ground. All of us children had a
of fun playing here. My sister, Melinda, and I always had to mind the
children, whenever we camped, and we were never allowed to go farther
a few feet from the wagons, for fear of Indians.
Even when we were gathering "buffalo chips" or sagebrush limbs to cook
with, we had to stay close to the wagons. But we were all young enough
to have a good time playing every chance we had.
I think it was at the same camp, where the hot and cold springs were,
that we saw the rock pile they called the Devil's Gate. It wasn't far
our camp, and when the grown-ups went to see it, all of us children
That is how I happened to get the chance to walk through it. It was
a lot of rocks, with an open space between them, and with a long rock
across the top -- like a gate, with an arch over it. All of us walked
it, before going back to camp.
For miles we would travel and see nothing but sagebrush. And, the
prairie dogs would come up out of holes, like squirrel holes and bark
us, then dodge back underground again. They were as cute as could be.
also saw lots of coyotes and a few mudhens. We never killed these,
for they weren't good to eat.
One time, the train had stopped to water the stock. (They didn't all
water at one time, but after the first one got through, they would
out a ways and stop there and wait until all of the wagons had taken
This time, a man and his wife, who had been before our party, drove
out a little distance from us, and stopped to wait. I was out of our
and I saw that this woman was holding a baby her arms. So I went to
wagon and stood looking up at the baby. The woman then held the baby up
so that I could see it plainly and asked me if I'd like to get in the
and hold it for a while. I told her, "Yes," and up I got. I was happy
could be, for I always like babies.
I, straightway, forgot all about time. Soon my mother was looking
for me. She didn't know where I had disappeared to. In her search, she
came and found me up there in the wagon, still holding the baby. These
people had been with our train once before, though, and she knew them
knew that they were nice and had meant no harm and would have let me
of the wagon when it was time to move on. The baby was pretty and cute,
and I remember the woman kept saying to her husband, as she looked at
"Oh, isn't she pretty? She looks just like your little sister."
n all those months we were on our way, I don't think the fear of
ever really left us. And, our fears were not groundless. One time, my
Louisa, was riding horseback a short distance ahead of our slow-moving
wagons. She had a fine saddle horse, and liked to ride with my
Wesley and Allen -- who were driving -- whenever our father would
let her. This time, my brothers happened to see the Indians. They told
my sister to ride as fast as she could to get to the wagons. The
had been hiding in some brush, waiting for us to come up to them.
When my sister started back toward the wagons, they took after her.
Father saw her coming and saw what was happening. He jumped out of the
wagon and started on a run to meet her. And he was just in the nick of
time, for as he grabbed the reins on one side of her horse's head, one
of the Indians grabbed the other side.
In a flash, my sister was off the horse and ran to get in the wagon.
If the Indian had beaten my father to her, they would have led her
on a run into the brush and taken her captive. That was what they had
to do, because that was one of their tricks.
As soon as the men saw what was taking place, they stopped the wagons
and got out their guns ready to fight. But when the Indians saw that,
fetched a blood-curdling whoop and turned and went away -- disappearing
in the brush.
That was the last we saw of them, but it wasn't long afterward that
we knew there was going to be more trouble. For three days we knew that
our train was being followed and watched. There were gulches and rocks
and brush all along our road -- and during these three days, now and
the men of our train, or the boys who were driving the loose stock,
see an Indian's head raise up, out of a gulch, or peer around some
or brush. And then, on the third day when we had stopped to
and eat dinner, quite a few of them appeared and came right into camp.
At first, they pretended they had come in to try and trade for tobacco,
bacon and powder for their guns. But the men could see that they were
in everything about our train -- seeing what we had and how many of us
were in our party and all.
The place, where we had stopped, was near a creek. I don't know if
it was dry of not. I don't remember going near it, to see if there was
water in it, for the Indians scared me too badly to be at all
for a long time. But I did remember that there was high grass all
This had made our train stop at that particular place so that the stock
could feed and rest while the women-folks were busy cooking and we all
had our noon meal.
My father and mother had two small, light sheet-iron stoves. These
had been set up on the ground, a fire made in them and mother and my
sisters and sister-in-law were busy about them, getting our dinner
We had lots of provisions with us, and always had plenty of good hot
to eat. Dough would be "set", and bread baked in the stoves; and we had
lots of dried fruits and cans of honey for sweets.
I remember watching the Indians as I helped take care of the smaller
children. The Indians were all stark-naked, except for a breech cloth.
They came right up to our stoves, shoving themselves in among our
who were cooking and kept peeking into the pot that was boiling;
whatever food that was being cooked for our meal.
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