Note: I neglected to publish this post in its proper chronological order (1852-1853), so I will post it now. I have found such a wealth of information about James Gammell that it's difficult to manage it all. (A great blessing...not a curse!) Thank you to Reed Russell, who sent me the Biographical Sketch of Feramorz Little in March 2010.
Feramorz Little left Salt Lake City with the eastern mail on November 1, 1852, accompanied by a Canadian Frenchman named David Contway, four passengers, and an outfit of pack and saddle animals. The weather was bitter cold when they arrived at Fort Laramie, and the mail from Independence, Missouri, had not arrived. They waited twenty days for the eastern mail, which was delayed by severe snowstorms.
On November 25, Little sprained his ankle. The army surgeon at Fort Laramie advised him that if he attempted to travel with his injured leg he would probably lose his life. But he was determined to be home in time for the birth of his child, so the company headed west as soon as the mail arrived. An Indian called Yodes, who was experienced in mountain travel, accompanied them.
The snow falling at Laramie was a sign of trouble for the return trip. They were ten days getting to Devil's Gate, and the country was full of snow. The second night from Devil’s Gate they encountered a terrible snowstorm. By this time Little’s ankle was badly swollen, and he had to use a crutch. For the next several days they fought strong winds and drifting snow. Despite the difficulties of traveling, Little's leg soon improved, and he threw away his crutches. On December 23, the party left Green River and started for Fort Bridger. As they traveled on, “the snow was immense, even for that country. Each of the party had a saddle horse, but seldom rode. The saddle horses led the way and made the traveling easier for the pack animals.”
At Fort Bridger, Feramorz Little and his party met up with James Gammell, who was snowbound at the fort along with Robert Holliday, and Major Holman, superintendent of Indian affairs for Utah, and his attaches. All were on their way to Salt Lake City and “had considered themselves snow-bound for some time. Their courage revived when they saw the success of the mail carriers, and they concluded to proceed with them.”
On the first day out from Fort Bridger, James and the mail company traveled only five miles. As they set up camp in the cedar timber, another severe snowstorm set in. It was intensely cold. Mr. Little's experience had taught him the folly of standing around a fire under such circumstances:
He [Little] proposed that the company go to bed at once, as the falling snow would soon cover them and they would be warm and comfortable. No others of the company appeared to comprehend the wisdom of the advice. Large fires were made and the clothing on the side of the body next to the fire soon became saturated with melting snow. As that side was turned from the fire the clothes froze hard, and by this change of alternately freezing and thawing, the outer garments became such a cake of ice that it could not well be gotten rid of. By getting into bed in this condition the heat of the body would thaw the ice and thus thoroughly water-soak both clothing and bedding, making the future far more uncomfortable than the present. After a while it seemed impracticable to go to bed at all, and the night was spent around the campfire.
Morning found the men in a very uncomfortable condition. Their outer garments were so stiff with ice that it was difficult to get into their saddles without breaking the cloth. Major Holman, thinking it impracticable to proceed, was desirous of returning to Fort Bridger. In the meantime, Mr. Little had learned that a Frenchman there [at Fort Bridger] had two Flat-head horses. These animals were raised in a country where snow falls deep in the winter, and for this reason were accustomed to traveling in it. He did not like the idea of going back, but he knew the capabilities of this breed of horses in the snow, and the hope of getting the two [horses] at Bridger to assist him home [in time for the birth of his baby] induced him to go back.
The Flat-head horses were purchased at a high price, and, after remaining one day at Fort Bridger, the party of nine men, with sixteen horses, turned their faces once more toward Salt Lake. With twelve days of severe labor they reached the mouth of Echo Canyon, seventy miles west of Fort Bridger, the Flat-head horses usually leading the outfit. At that place [Echo Canyon] in an isolated condition, lived a Mr. David Lewis and family. They had not much to eat and the travelers could only obtain a little elk meat. On the morrow Mr. Little and his assistants attempted to go down the bed of Weber River, with a view of reaching Great Salt Lake in that direction. This proved to be an undertaking of great difficulty. In shallow water the stones in the bed of the stream were covered with ice, making them very slippery. In the eddies the ice was strong enough to bear the animals but, since it [the ice] was weak around the edges, it was difficult to get the animals on to it. The sharp edges of the ice cut their legs severely, often exposing the sinews and causing profuse bleeding. The second day it was evident the animals were becoming exhausted and only about one mile had been made. The plan was given up as impracticable. The snow was too deep to attempt to get through it with exhausted animals.
That night they made camp near the road, gathered enough fuel to build a fire, and slept a little. The next day it became obvious that Gammell was showing signs of hypothermia and was fading quickly:
|Deseret News, January 22, 1853|
- Orson Hyde first dedicated the Holy Land on October 24, 1841.
- James A. Little, Biographical Sketch of Feramorz Little, published by The Juvenile Instructor, Salt Lake City, 1890, pp. 22-35.