This is a continuation of the Joseph Rich Porter Story by his grandaugther Bertha Cragun Part 1 click here
J.R. was 3 years old when he, his parents, brother Sanford Jr., and most of his extended family began their journey westward. A most moving description of how the Porters would live for the next few years comes from the "Memoirs of John R. Young" "I remember hearing the ringing voice of President Brigham Young standing early in the morning in the front end of his wagon, he said"
"Attention, the camps of Israel. I propose to move forward on our journey. Let all who wish follow me; but I want none to come unless they will obey the commandments and statutes of the Lord. Cease, therefore, your contentions and backbiting, nor must there be swearing and profanity in our camps. Whoever finds anything must seek diligently to return it to the owner. The Sabbath Day must be hallowed. In all our camp, prayers should be offered up both morning and evening. If you do these things, faith will abide in your hearts; and the angels of God will go with you, even as they went with the children of Israel when Moses led them from the land of Egypt" Telling the story in retrospect, John Taylor described it this way: "We outlived the trying scenes. We felt contented and happy. The songs of Zion resounded from wagon to wagon, from tent to tent, the sound reverberated through the woods, and its echo was returned from the distant hills; peace, harmony, and contentment reigned in the habitations of the Saints. The God of Israel is with us, and as we journey, as did Abraham of old, to a distant land, we feel that, like him, we are doing the will of our Heavenly Father and relying upon his word and promises; and having his blessing, we feel that we are children of the same promise and hope, and that the great Jehovah is our God.
J.R. and his family spent the next winter at Winter Quarters Missouri, on the west bank of the Missouri river. Even here education was important and a school was formed to teach the children. J. R. was too young to attend yet, but no doubt he found amusement in watching such things as thousands of head of cattle driven across the river. Good swimmers would climb on the backs of some of the strongest oxen, slapping them on the sides of their faces would guide them into the current. Soon a string of cattle would reach the other shore.
J.R.'s mother Nancy, was not in good health. When they left Winter Quarters to cross the plains she was pregnant. With two children under 3 years old, traveling in a covered wagon was very difficult. However, most of the Porter and Rich clans were in this same company including maternal and paternal grandparents. The strong among them would help bare the trials of the weak.
Along the trail the children saw many animals, but the most exciting were the buffalo. Sometimes thousands of these huge animals stampeded and would run madly across the plains, leaving the air full of dust clouds. The wagons had to stop: and there was always danger that the herd would run right across their camps. sometimes they would come so close to the wagon trains that it was difficult to keep cattle and horses from mixing into the buffalo herd.
On September 4, 1847, as they approached the Sweetwater river in the Mexican territory, (Now Wyoming) Nancy went into labor and another son, John President Jr. was born. John was named after his maternal grandfather.
With John Presidents birth, both gladness and sadness came at the same time. There had been many cases of mountain fever. J.R's grandmother, Nancy Rich, had to give up helping with the birth of the new baby and go to bed with distressing pain in her back, bones, and joints. It was attended with hot flashes, cold chills, then hot flashes again. She had contracted mountain fever.
The decision to keep moving was especially difficult for Charles C Rich, the Captain of the company. His mother was at deaths door and his sister was newly confined. The miserable condition of the sick having to ride over mountain and boulder in a wagon bed seemed inhuman, but he had no choice and the company urged their animals and wagons on. In spite of sickness, new born babies, and the myriad other things that plagued the company, the feel of winter was in the air and they knew they must not stop or they would become snowbound in the mountains, never reaching their destination. The rugged mountains and poor trails they had yet to cross would be as bad or worse than any road previously traveled.
to be continued.