Reminiscence—Resume my wanderings—Lost again—Storm—Conversation—Suspicious characters—Lost in a swamp—Strange river—Retrace my steps—Cross the river—Wild scenery—Strange bedfellow—Dawn—Reach the Mississippi—Cross the river in a canoe—Land on an island—Entangled in the thickets—Reembark—Land in Illinois—An old acquaintance—Arrive at Quincy.
July 5, 1839–July 11, 1839
I suppose by this time the reader has either forgotten the circumstances in which he took leave of myself, or else is somewhat weary with the winding of the narrative and impatient for it to come to a close. The only apology I have to offer for the many digressions and wanderings through which he has been led is, that I consider it impolite and disrespectful to get myself out of a bad place until I have first seen my friends all safely out. True, I did not strictly observe this rule of good breeding in the escape itself; therefore it becomes me to take the more care to observe it now, when there is no danger, excepting that of being deserted by some of my readers before I am safely out. However, if you still wish to accompany me in all the windings of my wearisome and dangerous adventure we will now turn to the happy valley, where you recollect leaving me on the morning of the fifth of July in the act of breakfasting on a small biscuit, while, to all appearances, I was lost to myself and to all mankind. 1
After resting a few minutes I arose and travelled onward, without any way to determine the course I was travelling. After some miles, I came to a house in the woods, and ventured to inquire of the woman the way to Columbia, and what course it lay from there. By this means I learned that I was fourteen miles distant from the prison in a northerly direction. I then took a course directly opposite to her directions, and soon found myself among settlements, and in a kind of road, but very indirect and winding among fields and woods, or in the language of that county, among “clarens” and “timber.” I paid but little respect to the road, but rather wandered around among the forests, and made my course as well as I could without being seen.
At last the clouds thickened and it began to rain. In the meantime I had again plunged into the depths of an unknown forest, and lost all idea of the true point of the compass. The air now became dense with thick clouds and mist, and the rain was pouring in torrents. At first I thought that rather than expose myself by another inquiry, I would sit down at the bottom of a large oak and wait patiently for the clouds to break away, so that I could see the sun, and thus determine my course, as to travel in uncertainty would exhaust my strength for naught. I accordingly sat down; but after waiting for a length of time, I found there was no prospect of seeing the sun, moon, or stars for some days to come. In the meantime I was becoming wet and cold, lame and stiff jointed from the effects of my exertions the night previous. I was also aware that hunger would soon be preying upon me, as I already felt very much in need of refreshment. I, therefore, arose and wandered on till I saw another house in the distance. I there ventured another inquiry, by which I was enabled to make my way through the windings of the forest, and finally to enter upon a vast prairie or untimbered plain without inhabitants. Through this plain there was a direct road to a place called Paris, which was now some twenty miles distant and directly on my way. 2 Here I could travel in solitude, and have no difficulty in finding my way either by night or day; and should I chance to meet a traveller in pursuit, I could see him for some miles distant in the day time, and have time to leave the road and hide myself in the grass before he could be near me.
It was now drawing towards evening, and the rain was still pouring in torrents, while the wind blew almost to a tempest. I was weary and exhausted with fatigue and hunger, and chilled and benumbed with the rain and wind which had drenched me for some hours. It had been my intention to travel through the night, but I now saw it was impossible. I would be obliged to rest my weary limbs somewhere; and to sit or lie down without shelter in such a tempest, and benumbed as I then was, would be death; or at least it would be what I could not endure; and to lodge at any house would expose me to be discovered and taken by my pursuers. As night approached I hesitated for some time whether to continue to brave the tempest and to pass the night in the rain, or to run the risk of being taken by turning off the road and going a mile or two through the wet grass to a settlement which was in sight, in the borders of the wilderness, on the left of my road. At last I was compelled by the severity of the storm to choose the latter. I accordingly made for a house; but how was I to account for being a traveller, and on foot—as nearly all men in that country travel on horseback? However, my ingenuity soon prepared me a way to account for this suspicious circumstance.
As I drew near the house the owner stood in the door looking out upon the tempest and watching my approach—it being rather strange to see a person from the open plain amid such a tempest. As I drew near, all wet and dripping, I cried out very sociably, saying: “Sir, can you entertain a drowning man here this terrible night?” The answer was, “I reckon we mout: come in, stranger, you seem in a mighty bad fix.” I hobbled in as well as I could, being very lame with walking, as well as benumbed with the storm; and without giving time for any more inquiry, I began to complain of the fatigue of walking, and how it had lamed me; at the same time observing that my horse had played a very bad trick with me; he had got away from me and strayed into the timber, where I could not find him. “Ah,” said he, “how did you happen to lose him?” “Why,” said I, “I am from Indiana, and have been out in your wild woods back here looking for land. I had been in the habit of letting my horse bait a little occasionally, as he never seemed inclined to leave till, last evening, he of a sudden wandered out of my sight in the woods, and dark coming on, I could not track him, and finally lost him; and, what is worse, he carried off my clothing and all the fixings I had with me, even to my shooting irons and ammunition. I shall now have to go clear to Paris on foot, and then remain there a few days till I can advertise him and obtain him again.”
“Oh!” exclaimed he, “it’s a pity you should have such a heap of trouble. Where did you stay last night?” I replied “the devil himself could hardly answer that; for in hunting my horse I got benighted, and lost myself instead of finding him; however, I made my way out to the first cottage I could find, and took up with very curious fare, I assure you.” “What part of Indiana are you from?” continued he. “From near Terre Haute,” replied I. “What is the price of land in that country now?” he inquired. I replied that it had risen very much since the completion of the great national road; “indeed,” said I, “as a specimen of the rise of property, I could now take twenty-five dollars per acre for my little place in the backwoods, which a few years ago only cost me three dollars and seventy-five cents, so I thought I would just mount my nag and ride west here, and take a look in Illinois and Missouri, and if I could suit myself I would go home and sell out, and come out here and purchase.” “Well,” said he, “I reckon you must do a heap better here than there, as we’ve a smart chance of land here that’s very cheap, besides,” continued he, “we can make corn here so easy; and then, agin, there’s a power of range for cattle and horses.” In this kind of conversation the evening passed off very sociably. After eating a hearty supper I retired to bed.
In the morning I awoke much refreshed, and found the storm had subsided, and the sun shining in his strength. I tarried to breakfast, which consisted of a good cup of coffee and a fowl, with some corn bread or “dodger.” After breakfast I vented my spite once more, with angry and impatient words about my poor horse; grumbled sorely at being so lame, and regretted very much at having to go on foot all the way to Paris; “and,” said I, “I get so hungry and faint in walking over these lonesome plains, where the houses are a dozen miles apart, I believe, with your leave, I’ll just pocket the remainder of the dodger and chicken.” “O, yes,” said the good woman, “take it and welcome. You mout want it, and then agin you mout not; and although its coarse fare, yet we’ve seen a heap o’ times in this new country that we couldn’t get as good.” I thanked her, and then settled my bill with her husband, and making her a present of a quarter of a dollar, I took leave, and soon found my way back to the road I had left the evening before. On arriving at the road I found a fresh horse track had been made since the rain, and immediately concluded one of my pursuers had passed in pursuit, which I afterwards learned to be the fact.
I would here remark that some persons will perhaps be disposed to censure me for saying that which was not strictly true in all its points, in order to avoid discovery, and make good my escape. But I can say, from the bottom of my heart, that I feel perfectly justified in so doing, not only because it accomplished a good object, and seemed according to wisdom, but we have numerous instances in Scripture where God’s prophets and people acted in a similar way for a similar end. For instance, the New Testament justifies Rahab, and even commends her, and includes her in the sum of the faithful, because she hid the spies under the flax and deceived their pursuers by stating that they had left the city and fled to the mountains; and thus she became an accomplice, or an aider and abettor of the people and purposes of God. 3 David also, who was the Lord’s anointed, and a man after his own heart, 4 dissembled a number of times to save his life. At one time he deceived the national priest, and thus obtained both bread and armor, under pretense of being on the king’s errand, while he was in fact an outlaw, then in the act of fleeing for his life from that same Saul. And Jesus himself mentions this to the Jews, and justifies it. 5 At another time he feigned himself insane, by figuring on the wall and letting his spittle drizzle down on his beard, in order to escape the Philistine judges. 6 Oh, yes, says one, but he was the Lord’s anointed, and, therefore, had a right to save his life at all hazards to fulfill God’s purposes. To this I reply, that I am also God’s anointed, and have a greater reason for living and a more worthy object to accomplish than he had. That may be, says the objector, but who believes it? I answer, one hundred people believe me in the days of my trouble and humility where one believed David. And well they may; for I have a greater work to accomplish than he ever had. But the world may blame unjustly. I care not a straw for their judgment. I have one only that I serve, and him only do I fear. The hypocrite who censures me may yet be placed under similar circumstances, and then judge ye how he would act.
But, to drop the argument and resume the history; I now pursued my way until I entered upon a public road called the Louisiana road, as it was connected with a ferry on the Mississippi at a place called by that name. I had traveled that road before, and I was not a little rejoiced to find myself on ground I was so well acquainted with that I could travel by night without any danger of missing my way. I was now in a part of the State which was comparatively thickly inhabited, and, therefore, considered it unsafe to proceed in the daytime, as the news of our escape must by this time have spread far and wide. I, therefore, spent the day either in concealment among the thickets, or in slowly progressing on my journey with much caution and many deviations from the road, in order to shun plantations and houses; but at night I pursued my way with all the strength I had.
On the third or fourth day after my escape from prison I found myself in the neighborhood of a settlement where I had formed some acquaintances years before, and where once lived a small branch of the Church, but they had all moved West, and, as I supposed, were driven out of the State with the others. But I recollected a family by the name of Ivy, who would still be living on the road, and who had been members, but were now dissenters. I was now very hungry and wanted a friend, but was in doubt whether they would befriend or betray me, as they had once been my friends, and not only so, but their near kindred had suffered in the general persecution, and had shared the common banishment. I hesitated, prayed, and at length came to the conclusion that I would venture past their door in open day, and if no one discovered or recognized me I would take it as a Providence, and conclude it was wisdom in God, as I would not be safe with them; but if, on the other hand, I was saluted by them, then I would think it a sign which Providence had given me as a witness that I could trust to them. I accordingly walked past their dwelling on Sunday evening, about two hours before sundown. As I got nearly past, the little children who were playing in the front door yard discovered me and cried out with surprise and joy, “there is brother Pratt!” At this a young man came running out to me, who proved to be one of my acquaintances, who was still a member of the Church, and who had been driven from the upper country; but, instead of going to Illinois with the rest, he had come back and settled in his old neighborhood. I asked him where Mr. Ivy, the man of the house, was. He replied that he and his wife had gone to a neighbor’s, two or three miles distant, on a visit; “and,” continued he, “I also am here on a visit at the same time, and by this means I have very unexpectedly met with you; and I am very glad, for the news has just reached here that the prisoners had escaped, and that they burst a cap at one, and took another and carried him back to prison. The other two have not been found.” This was the first news I had heard either of myself or the others. I then requested him to go and charge the children strictly not to mention that they had seen me, and then come with me into the woods.
He did so. I then told him I was very hungry, faint and weary; and not only so, but so lame I could hardly move; besides, my feet were blistered, skinned and bloody. He said that his brother, who was also a member, and had been driven with him from the upper country, lived in an obscure place in the woods, some two miles distant, and that his brother’s wife and children were as true and genuine Mormons as ever lived. He then took me on his horse and conducted me through a pathless wild for two miles, and, coming in sight of his brother’s house, I dismounted and hid myself in a deep valley, whose sides were nearly perpendicular and formed of craggy rock, while he went to reconnoiter the house, and to get something ready for me to eat. He soon returned, informing me that his brother was out, and would not be in till dark; but the family wished very much that I would come in, as the children would hold their tongues, and it was thought to be perfectly safe. I declined, however, for the present, and he brought me out some bread, milk and cream, on which I refreshed myself till they prepared a more substantial supper.
As evening came on, being pressed to come in, I finally consented. On entering, I was received with joy by the family, and sat down to supper. One of their neighbors, a young man, soon came in and seemed determined to tarry till the arrival of the man of the house, as he had some errand with him. This embarrassed me very much, for I was fearful that he would arrive and salute me as an old acquaintance, and call my name in the presence of the young man. But the little children (bless their souls) took good care for that matter, they watched very narrowly for the arrival of their papa, and when they saw him they whispered to him that brother P. was there, and, being just out of prison, he must not know him till
Mr.—— had gone.
The man came in, and I looked up with a vacant stare, or rather with a strange and distant air, and inquired if he was the man of the house? He nodded coolly in the affirmative. I then inquired of him if he had seen any stray “nags” in his neighborhood? I then went on to describe my horse which had strayed from me, and observed that I was out in search of him, and, being weary and hungry, I had stopped to get some refreshment with him. He said I was welcome to his house, and to such fare as he had; but he had not seen any nags, except what was owned in the neighborhood.
The young man soon did his errand and withdrew. We then shook each other by the hand most heartily, and, with a burst of joy and smiles, inquired after each other’s welfare. I told him I was well nigh exhausted and worn out, and, withal, very lame, but still I had some hopes of making my escape out of the State, and of living to see my friends once more in a land of liberty. I then begged of him to exchange with me, and take my fur cap and give me a hat in its stead, which he did, and then saddled his horse with a side saddle, as the young man who was in had just borrowed the other saddle, and, placing me on horseback, he ran before me and by my side on foot, to take me on my journey. In this way we travelled till twelve o’clock at night, when I dismounted, and he bid me farewell, in order to reach his home again before the neighbors would arise and find him missing.
He had given me directions which would lead to the Mississippi River much nearer than the Louisiana ferry, and also more in the direct course towards my family, who resided at Quincy, and, besides all these advantages, the route was more obscure, and, therefore, safer for me. I now pursued my course the remainder of the night with renewed courage and strength, although so very lame, foot sore, and so much exhausted that, in lying down to refresh myself, I could not again rise and put myself in motion short of extraordinary and repeated exertion, sometimes having to crawl on my hands and knees till I could get sufficiently limbered to arise and walk, and frequently staggering and falling in the attempt.
At length the day began to dawn, 7 and I must soon be under the necessity of hiding in the thickets, or making deviations from the road, in order to avoid discovery in passing the settlements. I, therefore, wished to push my way with all speed while it was yet too early for people to be stirring; but sleep now completely overpowered me. As I was walking along the road I could scarcely open my eyes for a moment to look my way for a few rods ahead, and they would then close in sleep in spite of all my powers. I would then proceed a few paces in my sleep till I stumbled, or till I had need to take another look at the road before me; then I would open my eyes and take one glance, and the lids would fall again as powerless as if I had no life. In this way I walked on, alternately sleeping and waking, till, I presume, I had more than fifty naps without ceasing to walk; and each time I opened my eyes and came to my senses I firmly resolved to keep them open and run no further risk; but while this resolution was still passing in my mind sleep would again steal over me, not exactly unawares, for I realized it each time, but had no power to prevent it.
At length the twilight gave place to the full blaze of the morning; the sons of the earth were again in motion; I therefore retired, like the owl, to the thicket, and took a morning rest. When I awoke the sun was high in the heavens, and, feeling somewhat refreshed, I arose from the ground and wandered slow and solitary amid the wilds of oak, interspersed with hazel and underwood—sometimes stopping to pick and eat a few unripe blackberries, and sometimes resting beneath the shade of a spreading tree.
I had now great hopes of having to pass but one more night in the land of enemies, as I could easily reach a small town in the course of the day, which was then only two or three miles distant; and then, if I could by any means get on to the right track before night, I would only have about eight or ten miles’ travel for the whole night, which would bring me to a small town on the Mississippi. I wandered on amid the wilds, but at length about half a mile of open plain or prairie intervened between me and the town. To pass this in a public road, in open day, would be running a great venture, and to wait for the cover of darkness would perhaps keep me wandering another night, for the want of being started in the right road from the town before me to the landing on the river. I, therefore, concluded to venture across the plain, along the public highway, in the day time, and should I be discovered I would sell my life as dear as possible sooner than be taken back to prison. I, therefore, walked boldly on. I had proceeded about to the middle of the plain, when, on a sudden turn of the road, two men appeared on horseback, each with a rifle on his shoulder. They were then too near for me to retreat, or to make any other shift than to meet them. As soon as they discovered me they both halted as if surprised, and one said to the other, “there he is now.” They then rode on towards me, and I expected every moment that they would hail and attempt to stop me. In such a case I felt determined to seize one of their rifles, and overpower or frighten them, or die in the struggle.
I at length passed between them in the middle of the road, and looked as calm and unconcerned as if I hardly knew they were there. Either from this circumstance or some other, unaccountable to me, they never spoke to me at all, but rode on, and I saw them no more. I soon passed the plain, and made my way into a small thicket of trees which lay adjoining the little town. I then crept up near the court house, which occupied a public square in the centre, and endeavored, without being discovered or noticed by any person, to ascertain as well as I could, by my own judgment, which of all the roads would seem to lead off towards the river. After reconnoitering the town and the various bearings of the roads, I retreated back into the wilderness, with the satisfaction that I had not yet been discovered by the citizens; I had also the satisfaction of seeing the highlands and the hilly, broken country which evidently bordered on the Mississippi. The river, therefore, could be but a few miles distant, and as it was yet several hours to sundown I concluded that I could take my course, and, without any particular regard to roads, reach some spot on the river that evening, as nothing was to be so much dreaded as a public ferry—for there I knew my enemies would set their traps.
I immediately took my course, and after wandering for an hour or two, with great fatigue, among thickets of brush, briars and vines almost impassable, I at length descended a steep decline of perhaps two hundred feet, and then came down to what is called in that country the “river bottom,” covered with the growth of thick forest, and appearing in some places somewhat swampy and gloomy; but still I pushed on with all speed, supposing I was not many miles from the river Mississippi. After travelling for some distance in this disagreeable and swampy wild, what was my surprise and disappointment, when on a sudden I came to a dark, deep, and muddy looking river, some forty rods wide, 8 and rolling with a swift and turbulent current. This surely could not be the Mississippi; and yet it was something that intervened between me and that great river, and seemed to present an impassable barrier. I then heaved a deep sigh, and feeling exhausted and almost discouraged, I exclaimed to myself half aloud, how long shall I wander and find no rest? It does seem as though an enchanted ground lay between me and liberty. I turned round, and with the little strength that then remained I made my way back to the town. When I arrived again in sight of the town the sun was setting, and another wearisome night was approaching, in which I must reach the river, or I would probably be exhausted with hunger and fatigue, so as to be entirely disabled.
I now resolved to venture boldly into a public highway, and to ascertain the right road before it would be too dark to find my way or choose my course. There would not only be danger of exposure by inquiring, but although I knew there was a little town on the Mississippi, near the place I was then in, yet I had never heard the name of it; and to appear like a stranger who did not know the country, and yet be on foot and without a parcel or valise, or anything which travellers are accustomed to carry, and withal a beard near a week old, together with sweat and dirt over my clothes from lying and tumbling on the ground, would altogether make me seem like a very suspicious character; but yet I must venture an inquiry, which I determined to do the first providential opportunity which occurred. I walked along the edge of the town and struck into a public highway which seemed to lead the right course. I had not travelled far when I came to a branch of the same river which I had encountered in the swampy bottom. On one side of the road a mill was situated on its bank, and on the other side a dwelling house. Several persons were about the mill, and it was not yet dark.
I was now determined to pass by boldly, and if any one passed near me to speak to them and inquire the way, and then pass on so quick that they would have no time to have suspicion or to question me. Just as I was passing between the house and the mill, I said, “Good evening, sir. How do you cross this river?” He replied, “that the teams and horsemen ford it, but a footman may chance to cross it on the mill dam, yonder.” Said I, “is this the right road to—to—what the plague is it you call that little town yonder—your nearest landing on the river—what is its name; I can seldom think of it?” “Oh, Saverton—Saverton,” replied he. “Oh, yes; Saverton,” I repeated. “Yes,” said he, “this is the direct road to it.” I replied, “Thank you, sir. How far is it?” “Nine miles,” said he. By this time I was some distance past him, and in another moment I was balancing my clumsy and worn out body on the edge of the dam, while the waters were roaring and foaming beneath me.
I got safely over, and now pursued my way with increasing hope and certainty. However, I had not gone to exceed half a mile before I came to another fork of the river, larger and swifter than the one I had just crossed, and, withal, neither dam nor bridge. I soon forded boldly into it, determined either to sink, swim, or ford it. It proved to be about a yard deep, with a strong current, and several yards wide; but I forded it in safety, and still pursued my way. After wandering for a mile or two along the bottom lands, I ascended a high bluff of several hundred feet, and thus entered upon the high, rocky and unsettled wilds which intervened between the bed of the river and the great Mississippi.
It was now dark, and I was fairly under way for my night’s journey, which at most could not exceed seven or eight miles, and feeling extremely exhausted and also at leisure, I stepped aside from the road and laid me down at the foot of a tree, with a block of wood for a pillow, where I intended to sleep for an hour or two. It was a wild scene in which to slumber; no human abode was near, no voice or sound stole upon the stillness of the evening. The stars shone forth in unwonted splendor in the heavens, while wild and grassy hills, and rocky steeps pierced with deep vales and chasms, extended far and wide on all sides, as if reposing in eternal and undisturbed quiet and loneliness. Ah! thought I, as I lay in silent meditation and contemplated the scene, here is peace, here is rest, here is a solitude of grand and sacred repose, scarcely polluted by the bloodthirsty dwellers upon the degraded earth. And were it not for the ties of wife, children, and duties which bind me to society, how gladly would I seek a lone cavern or some unknown retreat amid these romantic wilds, and never more feel the ills and suffer the evils which now distract and disturb the peace of a poor, miserable world. As I had finished these meditations and was about to fall asleep I turned to my side and made a slight movement in adjusting my wooden pillow, when I heard the well known rattle of a rattle snake (eez, eez, eez,) close by my side, as if disturbed in his repose, or as if I had more than my portion of the bed. I then recollected the old proverb, that “travelling makes strange bedfellows,” and also the Scripture which says, “If two lie together there is heat, but how can one be warm alone?” 9 Said I, “old friend, I’ll not argue with you as my first mother did with your venerable ancestor, and rather than quarrel or keep you awake, we will part.” With this, I arose and very condescendingly sought out another bed, where I was so fortunate as to remain in undisturbed possession till the chill of the night air admonished me to be again on the move.
I then arose, and, after much exertion, became at length able to use my limbs, and thus continued my journey. Early dawn found me standing on a height which overlooks the little village of Saverton and the broad river, which was the only barrier between me and safety from my enemies. 10 As the rays of the morning began to expand with increasing light, the dark outlines of the wooded bottoms of Illinois were distinctly visible. I had now seen with my eyes the land of peace, and a land which contained family, friends, and all that was dear to me; but oh, if I should be intercepted at the ferry, and thus lose at once my labor and my hope! I now knelt down and prayed fervently to God for deliverance, and thanked Him for the past, and for His mercy and providence which had preserved me thus far.
I then descended from the height and entered the town, the people yet being wrapt in repose. I examined the shore and soon convinced myself that no public ferry was kept there. I was extremely glad to learn this fact—being fully aware that by this time all the ferries would be watched. I next tried to find some road or path up the river bank, so as to pass along and obtain the use of some chance canoe, but this was impossible. Huge rocks and mountainous steeps, with alternate ditches or patches of mire, rendered it impossible, even for a footman, to pass up the bank of the river. I then made my way down along the sandy beach which lay before the town, and just as the people were beginning to stir, I left the town and continued down along the river for some five miles, sometimes climbing steep and rocky spires of the bluffs, and sometimes wading through mire and marsh.
At length I came to a dwelling on the banks of the river, and saw several canoes lying in the water before it. I entered the house and inquired of the lady whether I could get a passage over the river in a canoe. She replied that her husband sometimes set people across, but owing to the swift current, and a large island several miles in length, which lay in the middle of the river, it was a tedious job, for which he never charged less than a dollar; but, however, he was very busy in the harvest field, about a mile distant, and owing to the hurry of the harvest, she did not think he could be prevailed on to do it at any price. I was now ready to faint from extreme heat, and exertion, and hunger, and to walk another mile and back upon an uncertainty was altogether out of the question, to say nothing of the danger of the exposure to which it would subject me.
I cast my eyes towards the canoes and they looked very tempting, and I know not but I might have been tempted to charter one without the leave of the owner, but just then I saw a boy of ten or twelve years of age playing about the water. I asked him if he was accustomed to paddling a canoe. He replied, yes. I then offered him a good price if he would set me across the river. He refused to do this, saying that his parents would whip him for so doing. “But,” said he, “I will set you over on to yon big island, which is one mile from here; you can then walk a mile or two through the woods and come to the opposite shore of it, and then shout and make signs to the people on the Illinois shore, who will come across their half of the river and take you from the island.” He observed that people had often crossed over in this way. I hardly believed him, but still I thought an uninhabited island was preferable to staying another minute in Missouri.
The boy soon set me over and left me on the shore of the island, pointing out my course as well as he could. I paid him well, and then commenced my overland journey, among nettles, flies, mosquitoes and heat. I was soon entangled in thickets of hazel, thorn and grape vines, which made my progress very slow, as well as extremely laborious and difficult. These, however, were soon intersected with sloughs of mire and water, which could only be crossed with the utmost difficulty, by picking my way on old logs and wood, and sometimes wading in mire and water. After crossing several of these I at length came to one much larger, which I judged was navigable for a steamboat, and I now found, to my inexpressible horror and disappointment, that he had deceived me. I had now no alternative left but to make my way back through the same difficulties I had just passed, and to the shore where he had just left me, and then I should have no other chance but to call and make signs to the Missouri shore, which I had just left with so much joy, and, as I hoped, forever. This was at length accomplished, and I had the inexpressible joy of seeing my sign answered by the same boy, who soon came paddling to me. As soon as his canoe touched the island I bounded into it, and said to him with a determined tone and manner, “you have deceived me, my boy, so now you have to go to the opposite shore if you never went before, and I will then pay you another dollar, which will pay you, even if your parents chasten you for going.” We now headed up the current, and, after a painful and laborious exertion of an hour or two, we doubled the cape at the head of the island, and shot off across the river at a rapid rate.
We soon landed in the woods in a low bottom, with no signs of inhabitants, although while crossing I had seen some houses on the shore a mile or two below. I now paid the boy his dollar, and he pushed off and commenced his way back exceedingly well pleased. I immediately stepped a few paces into the woods, and, kneeling down, kissed the ground as a land of liberty, and then poured out my soul in thanks to God. 11 I then arose and made my way down the river for some two miles through woods and swamps, and finally came to a house. I entered it, determined to call for something to eat; no one was in but a little boy, but he said his mother would be in in two or three minutes. I asked him for some milk, and he gave me a vessel which was full, probably containing between one and two quarts. I intended only to taste of it to keep me from fainting, and then wait till the woman came, and ask her leave to drink the remainder, as it was all she had; but once to my famishing mouth it never ceased to decrease till it was all swallowed; I now felt somewhat abashed and mortified at what I had done, but concluded money would pay all damages. Hearing the footsteps of the woman at the door, I was fixing my mouth for an awkward apology, when I heard a sudden scream; on looking up, Mrs. Sabery Granger stood before me, with both hands lifted up in an ecstacy of amazement. I said to her, “be not afraid—handle me and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as you see me have.” 12 She exclaimed, “why, good Lord, is that you? Why all the world is hunting you—both friends and enemies; they had almost given you up.” She then flew around, scolded the children, talked to the ducks and chickens to keep out of the house and out of the garden, and not stray off. She washed my feet, gave me some clean stockings, got me some dinner, told me a thousand things about our friends, asked five hundred questions, laughed, cried and again scolded the children and chickens.
This over and dinner eaten, she on with her bonnet and accompanied me to her husband, who was clearing a small spot of land near by. (I had forgotten to say that this woman had been one of our nearest neighbors in Ohio for several years.) Her husband now dropped his work, and accompanied me as a guide for five miles across a wet, low, untimbered bottom, covered mostly with high grass and stagnant water, and entirely destitute of shade or refreshment of any kind. The air was now extremely sultry, and the sun poured in scorching beams, while we could get no water to drink, nor any rest or retreat for a moment. To sit down in the tall grass under these scorching rays, without a breath of wind, would be overwhelming.
I had not proceeded more than a mile or two before I became so weak and faint that I could hardly speak or stand, and parched with a burning thirst. I was upon the point of lying down in the hot and stagnant water, but he took me by the arm and partly supported me, and drew me along for some distance, exhorting and begging of me to try my utmost to hold up a little longer. In this way I finally reached the upland and the shade of a fence, within about half a mile of a settlement of the Saints and other citizens, which extended along the bluff. I dropped down under the shade of this fence, and fainted entirely away; the man ran to the house of a Brother Brown and got some cool spring water and a little camphor, and was returning with it. Sister Brown, who had never seen me, came running before him to my relief; while they were yet distant I had partly come to, and feeling a dreadful faintness at my stomach, and a raging thirst which knew no bounds, I made an effort to arise and run towards them, at the same time making signs for them to hasten; I staggered a few paces like a drunken man, and again fell to the earth. This singular appearance, and my dirty clothes and long beard so frightened the woman that, instead of hurrying, she halted till the man came up with her, and then she exclaimed, “It cannot be Elder Pratt, of whom I have heard so much—it must be some old drunkard.” But the man assured her it was me, and they then came on together. They bathed my temples and wrists in cold water and camphor, and finally gave me a spoonful or two at a time to drink. In about half an hour I was so far revived as to be able to arise and be led to the house. I then shaved and washed myself, and borrowed a change of linen, and got into a comfortable bed.
Next morning I felt quite refreshed, and, after resting through the day, I was so far recruited as to be able to mount a horse at evening and ride towards Quincy, which was still twenty-five miles distant. Brother Brown furnished me a good horse and saddle, and himself another, and we started for Quincy in high spirits just as the sun was setting. We rode on at a brisk rate, and arrived in Quincy at about two o’clock the next morning. Riding up to the dwelling which (from the partial recollection of Mr. Brown, as well as from the fact of my two Missouri cows lying before it quietly chewing their cud) we judged was my wife’s residence, we dismounted and gave a gentle knock at the door. She had watched for four successive nights and most of the fifth, and had now just lain down and given up all for lost. On hearing the knock she sprang from bed and opened the door, and in another instant I had clasped her in my arms. 13
1 Parley seems to take delight in occasionally personalizing his manuscript. Though this entry was likely written years after the incident, he brings the readers back to the moment at hand by talking personally to them.
2 Paris, Missouri, is about thirty-five miles northeast of Columbia. Parley had come fourteen miles.
3 Hebrews 11:31; Joshua 2:1–24.
4 1 Samuel 13:14.
5 Matthew 12:3–4; 1 Samuel 21:1–6.
6 1 Samuel 21:10–15.
7 July 8, 1839.
8 660 feet.
9 Ecclesiastes 4:11.
10 July 9, 1839.
11 It had been eight months and eight days since Parley was incarcerated on November 1, 1838.
12 Luke 24:39.
13 Parley and Mary Ann were reunited July 11, 1839.