LIFE STORY OF PRICE WILLIAM NELSON
WRITTEN BY HIMSELF:
PRICE WILLIAM NELSON
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.
I remember a place out west of Logan on the banks of the river where fire arms were made. There were great piles of steel shavings on the floor. This was about 1866.
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 shavs. 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.
Note: Little information is available for the years between 1870 and 1885. Some is found in the life story of Lydia Ann Lake Nelson, mother of Price William. She writes:
"During the seven years we lived there (Glendale) three children were born to us. They were Levi - April 4, 1872, Wilford Bailey - April 26, 1874, and our last child who lived only three weeks, Philamelia - February 20, 1876. Brother Nelson and the boys constructed a shingle mill which tey operated about four years and did fairly well financially. My son, Thomas G., died while there and four of the older children were married: Edmond to Mary Caroline Brinkerhoff, Samantha to Warren Johnson, Price William to Louisa Elder, and Lydia Ann to David Brinkerhoff. During our residence in Long Valley (Glendale) a general move of settlers to Arizona was in progress and people were being called to assist in building the country south of us, also to help in the Indian Mission work then being conducted in Northern Arizona. Edmond was called to assist Warren Johnson at Lee's Ferry. We went on to Moon Cope' (Moenkopi) and were among the first settlers of that place...The saints were making settlements in Mexico and my husband, desirous to assist in opening the new country, was induced to break up our home and move south, choosing Cave Valley as a destination."
And on with Price William's narrative:
I spent the year 1885 at Lee's Ferry, working for my brother-in-law, Warren Johnson. My wife and children were with me. While there I married my second wife. In March 1885 we started the long trip to Mexico. We went as far as Moiaba and remained there until in the fall then we continued our journey over to the Gila. There I met my father with a herd of cattle, all headed for Mexico. We traveled up the Sansamon Valley to Anmas Valley. Here we made camp. The loose stock giving out, we left them by the roadside to die. We lost nearly all of them. There was much dry grass but no water, the watering holes being few and far between. Father was very much broken up over it but he went on into Mexico with his family while I and my brother, Mark, remained with the stock that was left behind. While in this camp we were frightened by the outlaw Apache Indians who had broken away from the reservation. They killed everything and everybody they could find. While alone in camp, which was by a creek, I saw some Indians coming. I jumped down under the bank for protection, with my rifle ready. They saw my position and turned aside about 200 yards off, got off their horses, took a drink, shot a cow, cut off a chunk of meat, and were on their way. They went on into a sheep camp and shot the herder in the leg. Then they made a fire in this camp stove and laid his wounded body across it, holding him there until he died. After they passed on, we harnessed the team and hurried on to the nearest ranch. At this ranch Brother Henry Erving and Eli Whipple came along. We joined with them and went on our way Mexico.
Price William and Mary Louisa Elder Nelson and family
We passed on to the colony of Juarez, rested about two weeks, and went on into the Sierra Madre Mountains over very rough road. Many places we had to make a road. We came to the Camel Saw Mill, which was being constructed. This was the first mill to bring lumber to the colonies in Mexico. This mountain area was known to be the strong-hold of the Apache Indians and no one was considered safe to go out alone. After remaining at the sawmill for about ten days, a number of families joined us and we all moved on together down what is called Boulder Canyon, going very slow and making road as we went.
We were the first families to locate in this part of the Sierra Madras. We were there on 1 April 1886, the day of the great earthquake. The whole face of the country was broken up and deep canyons were filled. The mountainside seemed to be rolling down into the bottom of the canyon. Everybody was grasping for something to hold on to.
It was a very peculiar sensation. Great clouds of dust went up into the air. In the lower country, houses were torn down, ordinary people were killed. In one old church building where people had gathered for protection, some sixty people were killed.
We stayed in Corralitos for some time. Every family planted gardens but it was a late spring and freezing every night. We all became discouraged, so I went downstream to see if I could find a more favorable location. I went some seven miles to what is known as Cave Valley. Here, the ancient people had lived in the caves of the mountains. These caves contained piles of old corn cobs. The saltpeter dust had preserved them. They had built terraces and walls up the mountain side, which showed that many people had depended upon these little gardens for a living.
Many moved to Cave Valley within the next few days. I selected a piece of ground, about 100 acres, cleared it of ground vines, marked the ground by hand, and planted it in corn. We had been there about three weeks when Apostle Snow came see us. He gave us quite a scolding for not having made better roads. He called the people together and I was chosen as Elder to preside over the twelve families living there.
The families were all destitute and hungry. There was no way to get clothing or food, except wild turkey and deer. Our clothes were ragged but clean when we assembled for church. I was barefooted. My pants had been patched so much it seemed as though there wasn't room for anymore. I put on two pair, turned one backward so the holes wouldn't match, and in this condition I presided over the people. But we were happy.
The dry grass was waist high in this place where we camped. A forest fire soon broke out. The whole side of the mountain was on fire. We all narrowly escaped being burned to death. The flames leaped over some of the cattle but none were burned to death.
The corn was late coming up that year. The season was short so the corn froze before it matured. It soured, so we again had to make corn meal from sour corn, but we were thankful to get that. It was a very trying time for us that winter; not much shelter, food or clothing. We ate venison and beans without salt.
There was a family close by who were milking twenty cows, feeding hogs, dogs and chickens with the left-over sour milk. My wife took a quart cup and went to ask again for some of the sour milk to mix with our corn meal. They refused claiming they could not afford to give it away. It wasn't long until this man denied the faith and left the church.
We continued in this condition without succeeding in our farming for about three years. I would have given up but the women said,"Stay a little longer." I got hold of some Mexican potatoes which were about the size of hens' eggs and we planted three acres of them. We were unable to get water to them and after they were up and growing, they wilted right down. I was ready to give up and leave the place, but again the women begged me to stay a little longer. The helped me gather poles with a fork in them. We set them down in the river and to the height as near as we could. I chinked the cracks with turf from the swamps and water flowed into the potato patch that day. In the fall I gathered twenty-seven thousand pounds of potatoes from that small patch. I traded for our first cow and from then on we started accumulating and in a few years I had thirty head of cows. We were soon pretty well-to-do. Through our faithfulness and prayers everything came to us that was right for us to have.
I would like to relate the story of the Thompson family massacre, which happened in 1892 while we were at Cave Valley. Many of the families had scattered out taking ranches along the rivers and valleys, getting themselves pretty well-fixed up. There were also a lot of American Indians and Mexican outlaws and murderers roaming over the country. They were beyond the reach of all laws.
It was known by the authorities in the valley that the Apaches were out and they sent word to me to be on the lookout. Tully Richards and Charlie Whiting had their families out in the mountains nearby where the murdering was done but the Indians had never located them. That was all that saved them. It was in the fall of the year 1892, and we were harvesting our corn. I was coming from the field to lay down to rest. Tully came to me, he had just received the word that morning, and called me and said, "Brother Nelson, the Thompson family was all murdered."
This family was living on a ranch, making butter and cheese, getting along fairly well. The father was away from home, leaving the mother, two grown sons, and a little 6-year-old granddaughter whose mother was dead. Some Apaches, six braves and two squaws, located themselves around the house. The boys went out to feed the pigs. The oldest, twenty-years-old, was pouring the feed into the pen when the Indians fired a shot, killing him. The sixteen-year-old boy started to run for the house, they shot him through the body, and he fell. They thought him dead. The mother, on hearing the shots, came running out of the house. They fired four shots into her body, but still she lived. They took a stake about two feet long, two or three inches in size and crushed her skull, but still she lived, turning her head back and forth. They then picked up a rock that weighted about 12 pounds and crushed her head. The little girl started to run away. They caught her. She fought and screamed, her dress sprinkled with blood from her grandmother's hand. The Indians then robbed the house of all the supplies, all the bedding and clothes they wanted. The feather bed was torn open and feathers scattered all over the house and yard. They then went to the stable, got two horses and loaded their loot on them. During this time the squaws sat on a hill watching everything that was going on. In the meantime the wounded boy had crawled inside of a little pole chicken coop. They failed to find him. They kept dragging the little girl around, slapping her, while looking for the boy. As they got by the coop, they let loose of the girl and for some reason ran for the horses and left. When the Indians were gone, the wounded boy sent the little girl for help, a half mile across the valley.
When Tully told me the news of the murders, I said, "Give me that horse. Where in the world is your family?" And I ran after him to get the horse, but he wouldn't let me have it, and he went in the direction of the families, and I got on my horse and got there and helped to gather the dead and some of us went to find the families that were unprotected out in the mountains. We expected to find them all killed but to our great surprise the word had got to them and we met them coming down, all safe and sound. I said to the head man,"Give me the best horse and I'll go report about it." There was some more Mormon families and people living out ten miles away. He said, "You've got the best horse in the company." My horse was entirely given out and I could not get a man to volunteer to go with me, and I went on alone that afternoon, many times never expecting to live a minute, but nevertheless went on and reported the murderings. Sometime that night I saw a man of the range who had a Negro wife. He got in about nine that night and he had about thirty men in a round-up, gathering cattle, and we were after them to see if they wouldn't help locate the murderers. He said, "Wait until morning." I said, "Give me that horse and I'll go get those men out tonight." But he got on his horse and went off and got his men and went off that night to try to head off the murderers, but were unable to do it.
I got back home the next day. The bodies were laid out and I thought the boy that was wounded would be dead but to my surprise he was still alive and in two weeks was up and about. They said to me, "Your family is weeping for you. They think you have fallen into the hands of those murderers." I was a mile and a half from home and I went on home and found my family. We were all happy to get together again, alive. In the whole settlement there was about twelve families. We all gathered into three homes, made the beds and all slept in the houses and stood guard for many weeks, which was very inconvenient, but no troubles arose between us while we were in that condition and we united in building a fort by standing pine logs in the ground around the meetinghouse, with bastions in the opposite corners with port holes for protection. We stood guard and lived in that condition for many weeks but no more killing was done in that time, but there was great excitement throughout the country and everybody was on the guard and look out.
I was on the go night and day for days and days. My wife at that time had just got out of bed with a baby, which came nearly causing her death through the excitement and exposure.
That day and the next we got sixteen men together and started on the trail again to try to locate the Indians and we got out in the mountains nine or ten miles away and they said it was no use to go on until just I and the old Parson Williams were all that was left, and the others had gone back. The Indians, before this, had muffled the horses feet with rawhide sacks and they didn't make a mark. The only way we could trail them was where they had gone through the brush and knocked off leaves. Away to a great distance there was two points standing up in the mountain and I said to myself that was where they had gone. I rode hard all day by myself and when I got within a mile and a half mile of those peaks, I located the tracks of the murderers. I went within half a mile on the side of my horse. It was in the fall and I was high in the mountains. I had nothing to eat but I had a good rifle. I unsaddled the horse and tied him to a tree and something said, "Go right back." I listened to that, and went back and threw the saddle on my horse. I rode down into a deep canyon on the west of these points and down in there I found great numbers of fresh horse tracks. There was no mule tracks, as when I located the trail on the mountain, but it was where this bunch of men had been the day before.
I tried to trail them out and I followed down the canyon for a mile or so. It was becoming late and when I got out to the west, the night was on. It clouded up and rained, snowed, and sleeted and I was soaked through and through. I was just in my shirt sleeves. That night it was so dark I couldn't see the horse's ears. I went West and found a road there. Had I turned to the North I would have met up with sixteen men who would have followed my directions to the twin peaks and there is no question but what somebody would have got killed. Again, I was directed South and got out of the snow. Then, I found a cattle trail, but kept losing it. I would crawl around and find the trail again, but I couldn't follow it for long, and I decided that I would stay there until morning. I located a place under a couple of little trees and under them there were dry leaves. I unsaddled the horse, hobbled him, took a stick and dug out a trench. While I was doing this I was disturbed by two horsemen coming on the run right at me and it was quite excitable for me. I had my rifle on one knee waiting for something to develop. They came quite close to me. It turned out to be a couple of wild range horses, and as soon as they stopped, they gave a snort and ran.
I dug out the trench and lay on my back. I was wet through, cold, chilled and hungry. I lay down and pulled the wet saddle blankets over me and was soon asleep. I lay in that position until morning. At break of day I got up, saddled the horse and went for home. The company of 16 men located and camped at the foot of the buttes where I was the night before. We proved that the outlaws were out on the peaks. That was the Indians' custom; to stay on the peaks for days to rob and then go to their stronghold.
Sometime before this is a lot of the Apaches broke out of the reservation and made for the line across Mexico. It was a bunch of about ten or twelve men, women and little children. Whenever they wanted to catch those who had broken out, they would get some of their own people to trail the runaways through the mountains. The scouts would scatter out abreast and keep weaving back and forth, and every little bit, one would give a yip--a sign to go on. They would go on, miles andmiles, on the trail of the runaways. One day, the scouts got onto the camp of the runaways a little while before night. It appears that the men were all gone, but one was left with the women, or the bunch of squaws. When the scouts located the camp, the troops lay right down until dark, then during the night, they got on to the camp within a reasonable waiting distance and remained there until morning. Just at daylight the women were up and one hour and twenty minutes later the old outlaw rolled out. They had orders not to shoot the women. The troops shot, and down went the old Indian. They made a rush for the camp, leaving all their firearms behind. The wounded outlaw ran and got away from them. They rushed to the camp but never got a one of the Indians. They soon got on the trail and followed the outlaw, who died, and the squaws piled rocks on him. He had gone twenty or thirty miles before he died, and they never got one of the Indians alive.
The ones that got away came down close to where we lived and located up in the point of a big mountain. They had a pair of the finest field glasses made and located the troops the day before they arrived. The troops' scouts located the camp on the mountain and surrounded the mountain as soon as possible. In the morning the Indians were all gone and had left a little girl, six or seven years old, in camp. They had left half a water jug for the little girl and a piece of meat and told her they were going after meat and for her to remain there and when the troops came, the little girl fought them like a tiger with rocks.
The troops then came on over into the section of the country where we lived and they had the little girl with them. They trailed the runaways to right west of our little Mormon town, on a high peak where they could see four different states. The troops' Indian scouts would trail them by a little pebble turned over or a blade of grass turned over. The troops went on the mountain, located the camp and came back down to the colony, shooting a beef, cutting it up and carrying it back on the mountain with them. When the runaways found that the scouts were on their trail, they set fire to the mountains. Then, the troops came on down about ten miles to where we lived and the river was very high. It was impossible to cross. Father and I had a little skiff and we worked all day crossing the troops and horse over the river. We drowned one horse. Everything was crossed with safety but that. Then, they went on out to San Bernardino, their headquarters.
The bunch of seven men and two squaws, that same bunch that killed the Thompson family, were still around the country but were perfectly peaceable. We knew they had chances to take life but they had decided to cease that kind of work. They would come into the little town at night and take clothes off the line. We laid it to the Mexicans at first. That occurred several times.
Sometime later, I was up a canyon about 12 miles from home. It was a deep canyon and had high mountains on one side. There was a clump of large ash trees, oak and poplar, that were the largest I had ever seen. Some were thirty feet in diameter. Right in midday it had the appearance of dusk. I was building a waterwheel in a little mountain stream for the purpose of making shingles. I went on up in there about six miles hunting deer and while I was trailing and hunting deer, I came on to the campfire of the murderers. It was night. The muscal stalks grown extensively in that area. It was as sweet as candy and the Indians would roast it and use it for food. I came onto the fresh fire. I had shot a deer and it had given them the signal and they made away. When I came on the fire, my animal commenced sniffing and snorting and I thought they would kill me. I just got out of the saddle and ran my hand through the coals and got in the saddle and went off as peaceable as I had come. I went down and reported what I had seen. Old Colonel Malia Casa Lisea of the people of the State of Sonora, and he was the law, had told me he had killed men for stealing a cow. They had been on the trail of these Indians and I sent word to him that I had them located and he sent word to me to return and I returned and took a posse of men the next day. We located the Indians on the trail and found the nine of them on the roof of a cliff all chewing muscal. We came on them at noon and they were just ready to go on. Old Tom Allen, a half-breed from Oklahoma, and Martin Harris, were the two men who did the shooting. We didn't have to go to the Indians; they began to come to us along the trail. As they started to come, Old Tom said, "We've got to keep calm." A young squaw was in the lead and all had the packs of corn they had stole from our fields the season before. An old chief and squaw were the next two, then the five young bucks. When the young one saw Brother Allen, who had stopped out, she gave the signal and they all stopped. She whirled and they all went to run but the two old Indians. When the others whirled and ran, the two old ones rustled for the guns which were tied on the saddles. When the old chief reached for his gun, old Tom shot him in the breast and he reared back and laid on the horse. He had a little boy behind him. When he heard the excitement, the boy stuck his head out and got one bullet in the neck. They both fell dead. Then the old woman was still trying to get her gun and Old Tom shot and killed her. The others were not seen but some of the horses were found with the packs of corn on their backs.
Right at that time, Pres. Ivins and Owen Woodruff were down visiting the colony. First they thought they would report the killings but decided not to. President Ivins and Woodruff and all the company of men went out next day right to where they had killed the Indians. They dug graves in the rocks and covered up the dead. The men that did the killing got some of the old relics that many would buy. It was reported to the Casa Lasca Agrandras authorities and they sent a bunch of men and they dug up the graves to strip the clothes off for relics. They demanded the reward but no one paid them, neither the U.S. nor Mexico. That ended the trouble with the Indians in that part of the country.
During these few years at Cave Valley, my two wives lived together peaceably and ate at the same table and were very happy. We united in carrying the turf and raised and gathered the potatoes and we would go into the corn field and hoe corn and take the babies to the field and put them in a box and keep moving them up to the work so as to protect them from the varmints.
Our three baby girls were born by the first mother and two baby boys by the second. While we were there, Father and I plowed and scraped out a mill race about one mile in length and four feet on the bottom for the purpose of putting in a water wheel to operate a shingle mill and a chair factory and a run of corn burrs. We completed the mill race, succeeded in putting in the penstock, and water wheel and in time the power was ready and in operation.
The first we did was to build and put in operation the shingle mill. As it was a new country and people coming in daily and a lot of building going up shingles were in great demand. We got $3.50 a thousand. We ran and operated the shingle mill for a year, making about fifteen hundred thousands each year. And in time we started making the frame type, rawhide bottom chairs. We sold them for $3.50 and in time we got the corn mill in operation and we had a wonderful paying business. There was my father, myself and four brothers. In time we divided up and sold out and settled up with each other. My allotment was four hundred thousand shingles. When I got those shingles sold we had a nice herd of cattle which we had started to accumulate from the first crop of potatoes. At the time of the harvest that year, I made three trips to the city of Chihuahua with potatoes, a distance of 250 miles, and got a good price for them which furnished us with furniture for the house and general supplies for the family. Right about this time I was afflicted with a felon on my hand. It was corn-harvesting time and sorghum-making time and I was perfectly disabled. But we had a good team and wagon and the women cut and hauled the cane and made the sorghum, which was a perfect success. The community turned out as a whole and hauled the corn, filled the barn and piled a lot outside. The barn was 40 feet long and 16 feet wide. It was filled to the cone.
We were wonderfully blessed. We paid our tithing and were united. We lived in peace and love together as a family. We went to Cave Valley in the spring of 1888 and left there in 1895. In 1895, I sold out, gathered the loose stock, and left Cave Valley, Chihuahua, for the state of Sonora and located on the Bivispi River, three miles above the town of Oaxaca. I immediately went to building dams and ditches, clearing land and bringing land into cultivation. The soil was very rich. It was all "made" land. The only draw-back to our stock raising was the mountain lion. For the first several years they got all the colts and many of the grown horses. A horse never got so strong and active that a lion couldn't handle him. They got in the trees along the watering trails and would soon tear the life out of the largest horse. The horses and deer were the food for the lion. They fed off of the calves some, but not so very much, and the stock increased beyond all expectations.
The mountains were full of wild cattle and our home stock would drift away and mix up with them and be lost. I saddled my horse one day and went in search of some missing stock in the rough mountains. I spent the whole day and was belated and had to lay out. I happened on a flock of turkeys. I shot a very large gobbler. It started to rain and just as it was coming dark I came down in a very deep, rough canyon with great massive boulders thrown down from the high mountain lodges by the earthquakes that were so common.
I came in the canyon and it was raining and just coming dark. I discovered a fresh lion track in the sand and decided to hang up under a boulder. I hobbled the horse and hung the turkey in a tree. As night set in, it went to snowing and I hunted shelter under an overhanging boulder for protection from the storm. I made a small fire and lay back under the boulder in constant fear of the lion. I thought he would scent the turkey, which endangered myself. I was afraid he would kill my horse too. Then to add to my nervous condition, in the middle of the night it seemed to me the whole mountain side turned loose right above me. I don't think I was ever so frightened. I thought the falling rocks would bury me and it was impossible to run away from the danger. All I could do was to stay under the boulder and wait the result. But the great mass of boulders crashed down in the canyon just below. The night passed and I was thankful that I was spared again. As soon as it was light I found my animal all right and was soon on my way.
Some time later, I located up in Pulpit Canyon about 15 miles from home, a deep canyon with very high mountains on the east and west. There was a very heavy growth of large timber, cottonwood, poplar, ash, oak and a jungle of underbrush with different kinds of berries. Cranberries were very numerous. Bear, deer, turkey, and the javelina hogs fed on the berries in the canyon. First, I cleared a piece of land, planted a patch of potatoes, then I built a mill. First, I cleared a piece of land, planted a patch of potatoes, then I built a mill race and built an over-shot water wheel for the purpose of running a shingle mill and a turning lathe. But I made a failure. While at work in the canyon, I pitched camp under an old juniper tree right in the mouth of a very large cave. One could drive in it with a team and wagon and turn around in the cave. It was about 40 feet high, the crown oval rounding. One night while I was asleep under the tree, lying by a little pile of lumber, I was awakened by something licking the frying pan right by my head. I carried a good rifle and it was lying by my side. I took hold of it, located the animal, placed the muzzle of the rifle as near as I could to where the varmint was licking. I was still lying on my back. Not knowing what it would be, I pulled the trigger and shot him right through the head. I knew from the noise and scuffling that I had him. I threw the cover off and with rifle in hand ran around the tree and I soon had hold of him, a little red fox. This was all in the darkness of the night. I was pretty badly scared about this time. In the morning I found that a bear had been padding around the camp. I went and got my horse and followed the trail. About five miles up the canyon my animal snorted at the scent the bear had left on the brush and at times almost refused to go on. I tied my horse up and came to where the bear had gone into a thick jungle. I found where he was gathering berries. He would take an armfull of the brush and berries in his mouth and strip them of leaves at the same time, and that's the way he gathered his berries. I knew he was there. I took a thought of myself there in that thicket and I thought the rifle was too small and I got right out of there, which I thought was a very good decision. If I had run onto him, he would of slapped me down and I went right back to camp.
About 50 steps from the big cave was a small one about ten feet wide and twenty deep. It was up a right-steep hill and through a heavy thicket of squaw brush to the mouth of the cave, a wonderful place for a camp. I made a trail up the hill through the brush and pitched camp in the cave, building a little bunk for a bed.
Leaving home late one afternoon with my horse and saddle, two quilts and my supplies for a few days work in the canyon, I was caught in an awful hail and rain storm. The storm continued till all of the little washes and gullies were so full it was impossible to travel and I was held up till some time in the darkness of the night. The storm continue and the floods roared and all the way I could travel was by the flashes of lightning. When I came to the foot of the hill in front of the little cave, my animal refused to go up to the cave sniffing and snorting. I got off and led the horse up the hill to the mouth of the cave. (Note: the story ends here. It is not known if part is missing or if this was intended to be the end.)
It was very warm country there and we could raise three crops on the same ground each year; a crop of wheat and two crops of corn. All kinds of fruit was a perfect success but tropical fruit. It was claimed that $80 could be taken from one fruit tree. We were within 18 miles of a very rich mining camp, the Altefra Mine, which brought us a very high price for everything we could produce.
The Bivispi river was a very treacherous river and would overflow when least expected. There came a general rain in all the mountains and raised the river about 20 feet above low water mark, and the natives said it was the highest in 100 years. Great groves of cottonwood and other species of trees were all carried away and great bed of boulders left exposed. The river carried away pretty near the whole town of Oaxaca. Where those large two-story dwellings, orchards, and vineyards were, nothing was left to mark the place but beds of boulders. The loss was very great I moved back in Oaxaca after the flood and bought some property that had been protected from the high water. When we got located we were very happy.
I leased a sawmill at the Altegra Mine, a distance of 18 miles. For operating the mill I drew $10 a day and board. Then a little later I leased the mill and we were getting $55 a thousand for our lumber, cutting on an average of 3,000 feet a day with expenses out. It left us a wonderful profit. During the time that we lived here, but before the flood, old Mr. Clemens moved in and bought an old out-of-date saw mill for the purpose of sawing cottonwood lumber and he made a failure. I bought the mill for the sum of $1500 in property. I went to Chuichupa on the head waters of this treacherous river, an altitude of 7300 feet, and got help and teams to move the mill, as there was a new colony being established and no mill to make their lumber. They came with four wagons and 22 head of horses and we delivered the mill in Chuichupa back to Oaxaca.
It was here we lived when I took the contract to move the piano to the Polaris mines in the tops of the high mountains for the sum of $250. I put a frame on a wheelbarrow wheel. The piano weighed 600 pounds. I wrapped it in quilts, then canvas. Then I soaked two cowhides, laced them around it, laid it on its back, and lashed it to the platform. I hired four men, put a mule in the harness and delivered it in three days. And here was where we were living when the war broke out when we lost all our life's earning. It was here I was thrown from the horse in the river, lit on my back in the river and was hit in the chest by both the horses' hind feet. I was in quite a bad condition. It was here I lived when I mixed bread in my shoe. I had been off on a trip and found that all I had in the wagon was my bed and a sack of flour. With nothing to mix bread in, I looked around a little, took off a shoe, put flour and water in it and soon had the dough mixed. I made a fire and wrapped the dough around a stick and soon had bread. I mixed and baked and ate repeatedly till I was satisfied.
During the 30 years in Mexico, I worked and constructed shingle mills in different places, as this had always been my business and my father's before me. I put up one of the largest shingle mills in the Republic of Mexico. It was while cutting shingles that I lost several fingers.
I was living in Oaxaca, Sonora, Mexico, at the time of the rebellion in 1912. The Mexican rebels soon after destroyed my whole life's earnings. I was pretty well-to-do at the time. I had a beautiful home right on the shores of the Bavispi River. The Mexican troops remained in our area about three weeks, taking me prisoner when they left, leaving my family penniless. After some time I was released to return to my home and family. On the twelfth of August 1912 we left our beautiful home and everything we had, never to return.
(Note: Some additional information on the years between 1912 and 1917 can be found in the life story of George Smith Nelson, son of Price William.)
I left Grafton, Washington County, Utah June1, 1917 for Durham, North Carolina. I landed in Durham the night of June fifth broke. I thought I would have no trouble in getting work. In that I was disappointed, although I got some work in the cotton factory at a very small wage. I met my future wife the night I landed in Durham. I also met three of the missionary elders from Utah and and slept with them that night (Note: the "future wife" was a mail-order bride who came to be called "Aunt Annie" by her step-grandchildren.) Almost invariably the people lived in frame house and the bed bugs had possession. The punishment they gave me is hard to describe. It was in the time of World War and all strangers thought I was a spy. I looked so different to their own home people. After I was there some weeks, I took my grip [a small suitcase] and hiked out afoot and alone in the country, looking for work. I traveled, inquiring for work saw milling or working in the timber, but I was spotted as a spy and turned down everywhere I went in the country, looking for work. One afternoon I traveled till dark. It went to drizzling rain. I called at a farmhouse and asked permission to go in the barn out of the rain, but they said, "No." My blouse was wet through, but I went on through the woods and came to a number of farmhouses and I asked at every house to just let me stay on the porch. Night was setting in, dark and stormy. I was refused everywhere. I still went on in the dark and alone, hungry, soaked and chilled. I came on and turned to one side in the woods looking for shelter and in the dark I was directed to an old sawmill ahead. By the engine block I found some dry bark, bark chips, and sawdust and a piece of an old burlap sack by feeling around in the dark. I leveled off a place, lay down, put the sack under my head and dropped to sleep. I was awakened by the loud noise of a bull frog bellowing. It was the loudest noise I think I had ever heard, and while I was dozing and listening to the frog, I was disturbed by two men with a search light. They had trailed me out and found me lying there on that pile of bark in the dead of night. It was a very great surprise to me. I knew I was not guilty of any crime so I was not afraid. The secret of it was the people that turned me away. They had phoned to the city of Durham and reported me as a suspicious character, and they sent two officers after me and found me lying on the chip pile. They were kind to me in their talk but showed me no favor. They questioned me very close and searched me for papers and fire arms and all the encouragement I got from them was to just keep going.
Will and Sons
It was still drizzling rain. I went to the highway and traveled on in the dark. I felt lonesome and outcast in the darka stranger in a strange land, 3,000 miles from home, and not a penny. I had come on a very sacred errand and I prayed for the protecting care of our good Father as I went on in the dark and rain. I continued to pray and I was directed to a lone farm house to one side of the wood. It was still raining. I never saw the house till I came right to it. I rapped on the porch floor and said, "Hello." The answer came back, "Hello, Mr. Nelson, come in." A man got up lit a lamp, opened the door, took me by the hand and said, "Come right in. I will fix you something to eat, then I will show you to a bed." He asked me no questions. I prayed and wept for joy for the answer to prayer; I was guided to a friend.
I will relate a dream that I had while there:
"I dreamed that I was in a very large field of yellow, waving grainthe most beautiful sight one ever witnessed, I thought. I remained there till I saw it all gathered in large stacks and I had a desire to go through and inspect the sights of the beautiful field of grain. I asked permission and the assistance of a guide. The grain was bound in very large sheaves. As we walked on, I asked the guide to give me a sheaf and he said, "Take two." I said, "No, one is all I want." And I looked down to my side and I saw the most beautiful little white lamb that I had ever seen, following along with me and I felt so happy."
I landed in North Carolina in June. In August we were married by one of the missionary elders. Then we had to remain there till December waiting for money from home. It finally came, and we landed in Salt Lake on the 13th of December, and on the 14th we went to the Temple and were sealed as husband and wife on the 14th of December 1917.
Will (Price William) Nelson died 17 May 1946.
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