Abraham Day III was born September 24, 1817 at Winhall, Vermont. His parents were Abraham Day II, born at Winhall, Vermont, 1772 and Hannah Sawyer, born January 20, 1786 at Swanzey, New Hampshire. Grandparents Ephriam Day born at Colchester, Connecticut, July 10, 1741 and Sarah Ackerley, born of Abraham Day I and Irene Foote, born of John Day, Jr. and Grace Spencer, born of Robert Day, born in England, 1604, and immigrated to America in 1634 and settled in Hartford, Connecticut, whose wife was Edith Stubbins.
Abraham’s father died when he was about six or seven years old, leaving his widow, Hannah Sawyer, and his children, Flavella, Maranda, Eli, Ira, Albert, Dorothy, and Abraham.
Hannah Sawyer Day married again, one Henry Bartlet who was a widower with at least one child, Eli Bartlet, who became a very strong, active man, though he was of about medium size.
It seems that Abraham went to work for himself when sixteen or seventeen years old. He was a man of strong character, and great self-control. He was six foot tall, had good health, his hair was medium brown and cropped, and his eyes were steel gray.
When but a young man he went to a new place to work, and in a few days his head began to ache and grew steadily worse for a few days.
“Have you been used to drinking tea?” asked the lady of the house.
“Yes,” said Abraham.
“Then, if you will drink some tea it will cure your headache.”
“Is tea what has caused my headache?”
“Then it will cause it no more!” and he quit tea at once, and the effect of his former tea drinking gradually wore off.
Another time he was with some other young men sporting and drinking, and for the only time in his life he got drunk. He was quite sick the next day and like with the tea, he vowed to himself to never drink again.
A short time after that he was again with a crowd sporting, but refused to drink, when a big fellow was going to make him drink, and was abusing him to compel him to do so. Another powerful fellow came to the crowd (a friend of Abraham’s) and said,
“What is the matter here?”
“Why, Day refused to drink with me.”
“Well, he doesn’t have to drink with you unless he desires to.”
A quarrel and a fight ensued, when Abraham’s friend struck the other man on the point of the chin which knocked him down and locked his jaw with his mouth wide open, and they had to send ten miles to get a doctor for him.
So far as I know, Abraham Day never took a drink of liquor after that.
Abraham worked a great deal in the timber and became an expert ax man. I heard him say that he was never beat in a contest at chopping. He was working for a gruff old deacon of the Methodist church, and was the best chopper among a number of young men the deacon employed. The neighbors in that vicinity used to have chopping bees, at which the men in the vicinity all took part, passing around to one neighbor and then another.
“At the next chopping bee my cousin will be there and he will show you what chopping is and take the conceit out of you,” said one of the deacon’s hands.
“That may not be difficult to do,” said Abraham.
“Well, he is the fellow that can surely do it.”
The evening before the coming bee, Abraham got the best ax on the place and was sharpening it when the Deacon came along and said,
“What are you going to do with that ax?”
“I am sharpening it to use at the chopping bee tomorrow.”
“Well, who told you to take the best ax on the place?”
“Tom’s cousin is coming there to beat me in a contest tomorrow, and if I can not take the best ax, I will not go.”
“Take it along, take it along,” said the gruff old Deacon.
The first tree felled the next day was a large and very tall tree that was nearly the same size for many feet up, and when it was trimmed, five or six men jumped upon it to cut it into lengths for proper handling. And Abraham got the first length or the butt cut. Nothing had been said about making this the contest, but “my cousin” got the cut next to Abraham, and all started to chopping at once. Abraham took a large chip, one that would cut the log more than half off, and having the butt cut he led the stroke. All swung their axes in time, all axes striking the log together.
Before Abraham finished his first chip he heard the next man turn around, and taking a peek he saw that “my cousin” was working very hard and sweating profusely. He soon finished his first chip and turned around to chip on the other side. He was listening for some of the smaller cuts to fall, but heard none until his butt fell, and three strokes later “my cousin’s” butt fell. The others had been so absorbed in watching these two that they all had fallen behind, watching the champions, though this had not been set as the contest, yet it settled the question for that day.
He was very expert as a ball player. He told me that he had often snatched the ball, when he was catcher, from in front of the batter’s club, and had sometimes got his hand skinned in doing it.
Abraham was an apprentice to learn a trade, but ran away from his master, which probably took him south into New York.
Abraham very likely met Elmira Bulkley in Tiogoa County, New York where he courted and married her, and heard and received the gospel in June before he became twenty-one in September. They very soon moved to Pike County, Illinois.
Another account says he met and married Elmira Bulkley in Pennsylvania.
Their first child was named Joseph Smith Day, and blessed by Hyrum Smith. Their next three children, Melina Anna, Harriet Jane, and Amelia died in infancy.
They moved to Montrose in Iowa down the Mississippi, a little below Nauvoo, where Elmira Janette was likely born April 7, 1845 and where they were located when the saints were driven from Nauvoo.
While living in Pike County, or at Montrose, Iowa, Abraham became very sick, probably with chills and fever, and lay for two and a half days in a coma state, some people believing that he was dead. But he recovered, very likely being one of those who were healed on that wonderful Sunday when Joseph Smith arose from a sick bed, and went up and down the Mississippi and healed all who were sick, on the East side, as far up as “The Stone House,” and the West side down as far as Nauvoo. Juliette Day Bonney’s children told me that they understood that Father was restored to health at that time by Joseph Smith.
Abraham told me that while in that country he recovered from a severe sickness which left him swelled up with dropsy, and weighed the most he ever did in his life, and while in that condition he went to a barn raising and he was the only man there who dared get up on the top of the timbers to put them in place as the different spans were raised.
While living at Montrose, Iowa, Abraham went with Joseph Smith and a few others to visit some Indians who heard of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon and had come a long way to see the book. They went some distance up the Mississippi and crossed in a skiff, which Abraham helped to row.
Joseph Smith preached to the Indians in their own language. A very old man, Chief Wolf said his grandfather had promised him that he should live to see a book that would tell of his forefathers, and the Book of Mormon he knew was that book, and now that he had seen it, he was ready to die.
After the Twelve took the lead of the Church and were completing the Nauvoo temple, Abraham was ordained a member of the 26th quorum of Seventies and received his endowments in the Nauvoo temple when it was nearly completed.
Abraham began the westward trek when the saints left Nauvoo in 1846. When the emigrant companies were organized, Abraham was made a captain over a group of saints.
He was on the plains of Iowa when the U. S. government called upon the Mormons to furnish five hundred men to go to fight the Mexicans.
The Saints were feeling very sore about being driven from their homes, and Abraham said when he first heard of the call, “Here is one man who will not go, dam’um.” But when Brigham Young talked to the brethren the next day, he volunteered.
Think of their condition. He left his family, his wife and two children, Joseph, a boy of eight summers, and Janette, a mere babe of about one year, and his father-in-law and mother-in-law, old people, the old gentleman having lost part of his right arm, on the open plain in a covered wagon, with no very large amount of provisions. But they were left in the hands of God with the promise of the Prophet Brigham Young that they would be cared for, which promise was fulfilled.
This was early in July 1846, and in three days the Mormon Battalion of five hundred and twenty men was recruited, and a few women.
Before they left, a great ball was held in a very large bowery at Council Bluffs, in honor of their going. I quote from the History of the Mormon Battalion, page 80. “There was no sentimental affectation at their leave taking. The afternoon before was appropriate to a farewell ball, and a more merry dancing rout I have never seen…In one of these (bowery) was gathered now the mirth and beauty of the Mormon Israel…with the rest attended the Elders of the Church within call…their leading off the dancing in great double cotillion was the signal to have the festivity commence…French fours, Copenhagen jigs, Virginia reels, and like forgotten, figures executed with the spirit of people too happy to be slow or bashful or constrained.”
Why was this battalion called? Again I quote from the same history, page 111. “Oregon at that time was in possession of the United States and President Polk had recommended to Congress that stockade forts be built along the overland route to that distant land as a protection to emigrants. In anticipation of a law being passed to this effect the Saints endeavored to secure the work of building the forts.” President Young also wrote to Elder J. C. Little who was presiding over the Saints in the New England States, on the 26th of January, 1846, as follows: “If our government should offer facilities for emigrating to the Western coast, embrace those facilities if possible. As a wise, faithful man, take every advantage of the times you can. Be thou a savior and a deliverer of the people.”
But President Polk was switched to the idea of calling for soldiers to conquer California in our war with Mexico.
History of the Mormon Battalion, page 117. President George Q. Cannon writing says, “Captain Allen did not inform the people…for the reason, probably, that he knew nothing about it…. what the design was in case the Battalion was not raised. The secret history of the transaction is as President Young was afterwards informed, on the best of authority, that Thomas H. Benton, U. S. Senator from the state of Missouri, got a pledge from President Polk, that if the Mormons did not raise the Battalion of five hundred, he might have the privilege of raising volunteers in the upper counties of Missouri to fall upon them and use them up.”
President Young promised the Battalion if they obeyed orders and kept the commandments of God, they should not have to fight with men, but would fight with wild beasts.
July 16, the Battalion marched eight miles to the Missouri River to purchase blankets and other necessities, which the government paid for.
On Saturday, July 18, President Young and five others of the Twelve Apostles met with the officers of the Battalion and gave them their last instructions, promises and blessings.
Company “E”, to which Abraham Day belonged, having been filled up, overtook the command on Mosquito Creek.
July 20, the members sent money from their wages, back to their families, and some to help gather the Saints left in Nauvoo. July 23, Samuel Boley was buried, he being the first man who died in the Battalion. He was wrapped in a blanket, in a rough lumber coffin.
Colonel Allen believed in moderate marches, but Adjutant Dykes urged long marches. He had a horse to ride. Colonel Allen consented, believing that the men desired it. But these long marches over did many of the men and sickness was the result, but the men were healed by the anointing with oil and the laying on of hands and went on their way rejoicing.
July 25, they ran out of flour, and got none for two days. A Missourian then brought the flour, but refused to deliver it to the quartermaster because he was a Mormon. He would deliver it to none but the Colonel, who when he heard it ordered him to deliver it to the “Mormon” upon pain of being put under guard.
They passed by many Missouri mobbers who said they were sorry for their mobbings and wished they had their “Mormon” neighbors back. They supposed, so they said, that the Mormons would refuse to enlist and were surprised to see them marching through Missouri in good order. Thus they passed through Oregon City over the Nordway River, St. Joseph, Bloomington, Weston, and crossed the Missouri near Fort Leavenworth, where they received their tents. When they drew their arms, August 3, quite a crowd gathered around the arsenal door, when Colonel Allen came up and said, “Stand back boys, don’t be in a hurry to get your muskets, you will want to throw the damned things away before you get to California.”
The guns were flintlock muskets, with a few cap-lock for sharpshooting and hunting. They also received camp equipment and provisions. It took two or three days for all to receive these various supplies.
On the 5th day of August, they drew forty-two dollars each as clothing money for the year. Most of this money was sent back to their families.
The paymaster was much surprised to see all the men sign their own names for these supplies, while the Missouri companies at the same time and place could sign only one in three.
While at Leavenworth, Colonel Allen was taken ill, but he sent the Battalion on under the command of Captain Jefferson Hunt.
On the 15th the Delaware and Shawnee Indians ferried the advance companies of the Battalion over the Kansas River where they experienced a severe rain storm and found that the rain beat through their tents. A little farther on, on Stone Coal Creek, they were overtaken by companies D and E and while here they experienced a severe storm; first wind, which blew down ninety-five of their one hundred tents, then terrible rain, with awful thunder and lightening. It took six men to hold a tent. Three heavy wagons were blown over, one buggy blown some distance before the wind, and men were also blown before it.
Many hats were blown away. Mrs. Hunt and her babes were having chills and fever, and being saturated with the rain, it was feared they would be worse; but instead, the chills and fever left them. Many others were also cured of the chills by this rain bath. The storm lasted some twenty minutes.
The Battalion left “Hurricane Point” on the 22nd and soon came to a small stream that it took about fifteen men to each wagon to help the teams over. All were over about noon and the sick had much improved.
About this time word came that Colonel Allen was dangerously sick and many prayers went up in his behalf, for the men had been much endeared to him in this short time.
On the 25th they were visited by Kaw Indians. Next day a wagon with six sick men and several other men in it was upset in a deep stream. Others soon rescued them, but not until they were thoroughly soaked, having been thoroughly immersed.
Word here reached them that Colonel James Allen passed away, August 23.
The Battalion marched on under the command of Captain Hunt to Council Grove. While there, Lieutenant Smith, Dr. Sanderson and others came up to them and took command, and on August 31, they started on to Diamond Springs, where they were mustered and inspected by Captain Smith.
Dr. Sanderson’s “Cure All” was calomel and arsenic, which he gave in very large doses. It was believed that many men were made worse by taking it, and that some even died of it. Abraham Day’s teeth became loose and some dropped out, not many years later, and he thought that the calomel and arsenic at least partly caused it.
I quote page 146, “About this time, quite a number of the Battalion took sick of the chills and fever, and were administered to by Dr. Sanderson out of an old iron spoon. After this it was customary every morning for the sick to be marched to the tune of “Jim Along Joe” to the doctor’s quarters, and take their portion from the same old spoon. It may, however, have descended from the doctor’s ancestors and been preserved by him as a precious heirloom.”
So determined was Dr. Sanderson that the men should take his calomel and arsenic (these being all or nearly all the medicines he used, except a decoction of blackberry bark, camomile flowers as strengthening bitters to the convalescent) that he threatened with an oath, to cut the throat of any man who would administer any medicine without his orders.
Dr. MacIntyre, a good botanic physician, had been appointed assistant surgeon by Colonel Allen on the day of our enlistment, yet under pain of this threat he must not administer one herb to his afflicted friends and brethren.
On September 5th, the Battalion saw their first buffalo. Several carcasses of them lay by the wayside, killed by Missouri volunteer companies that had passed along, and only the tongue had been taken, the rest left for the wolves. The next day they saw many buffalo and killed an old bull, whose meat was rather tough, but still they enjoyed it.
On the evening of the 9th, they camped on Pawnee Creek; to cross, the wagons were let down the bank with ropes, and on the opposite side they were pulled out by the teams, assisted by twenty to thirty men to each wagon.
About this time they heard that Santa Fe had surrendered to General F. S. Kearney without any resistance. They rather looked for a battle at Santa Fe.
Abraham bought a small pack mule, as did Newman Bulkley, his wife’s brother, which they led all the way to California and most of the way back.
Dr. Sanderson had discovered that the sick men were, many of them, throwing the powers away that he had put up in papers, and from then on made them take the medicine out of his old black spoon in his presence.
About noon on the 11th, they reached the Arkansas River. The water being very low, the men speared many fish with swords, and bayonets. They traveled up the river for about one hundred miles where a branch road led off to Santa Fe. Here they crossed and the next day marched twenty-five miles across a desert, and suffered much for water. They also this day saw their first desert mirage. At times it seemed to be rising fog and again to be lakes of water. It moved as they moved and stopped when they stopped. They passed one pond of water, filled with insects and wigglers, from which many buffalo fled when they came up. Of course, the buffalo tramping around in it made loathsome appearance more disgusting, still many of the thirsting men drank of it with a relish.
The next day a similar pond was all the water they got, and it was considered a great blessing to find it. They again made a dry camp that night, but got up at four o’clock and went on to Kimmerson Springs ten miles, where they breakfasted.
Colonel Smith showed very poor judgment on the last two hundred miles traveled and had worn down both men and teams. Lack of water, and poor feed had a bad effect on both men and teams, yet he had pushed them to the limit.
For three days they followed the Cimmeron, where they had to dig in sand for water, but of a poor quality, both for man and beast, but the third night they camped at a good spring. Many of the sick were salivated by the mineral medicine they were forced to take. They were also reduced to rations of just one half. Thus through lack of provisions, lack of water, hard travel and bad medicines they had a sorry and sickly time.
On the 25th they marched over a very rough road, to Gold Springs, a distance of twenty miles. It was good water, the first for several days, and they came in sight of the first timber seen for nine days, not even shrubbery for all this distance, where their only fuel was buffalo chips, and that was scarce.
On the 25th at Cedar Springs, they found cedar, spruce and cottonwoods, also elk, deer and antelope. Killing some of these helped out their rations. In the hilly country they were traveling over, the roads were very rough. They were now in sight of the mountains, many of them had never seen large mountains before. Their encampments generally covered near four acres.
They saw some bear and wild turkey in these low hills, but they were now out of the buffalo country. On the 29th, they traveled until nine o’clock at night because they found no feed for their animals, and were on the march again at four the next morning.
The battalion reached the Red River, October 2nd. On the 3rd, they camped at a large spring. Here the officers were called together and were informed that unless they got to Santa Fe by the tenth, they would be discharged.
Colonel Smith desired to take the abler half of the men and go on at forced marches. Some of the brethren opposed this for they had been promised the Battalion should not be divided. But it carried, and Dr. Sanderson went too with the advanced division, and the last division hurried on, and being separated from Sanderson’s doses of medicine and cursing, they improved in health.
They passed through several Mexican villages, the inhabitants treating them very well. While passing through San Miguel, they saw for the first time Spanish sheep and goats, and saw the milking of the goats, done from behind, which results were anything but clean.
The advance division arrived at Santa Fe, the 9th of October, and were saluted by the discharge of one hundred guns. The second division arrived on October 17th or 18th. Colonel Peter St. George Cooke took command of the battalion at Santa Fe.
Nearly one hundred men, women and children were sent to Pueblo from Santa Fe (because they were on the sick list), where they wintered and the next summer went on to Utah, where they arrived in August 1847.
At Santa Fe and other small Mexican settlements, Colonel Cooke and officers did everything they could to get supplies and equipment for the journey, of which they got little more than one half they needed for the journey. They traveled down the Rio Del Nor for some distance, passing several Mexican towns.
Cattle in good condition that had been bought for beef were kept for work animals, and only the worn out animals were killed for beef, and practically all of the animals were eaten except the bellow. In places as many as twenty men pulled on ropes to help the teams pull the wagons through the sand. So ended October.
November 2nd, some empty wagons were sent back to Santa Fe and three hundred poor sheep bought of Mexicans. November 20th, they laid over, and sent out scouts to make smoke signals of distress on mountains, which were answered by some Mexicans who reported that they could get over the Rockies some fifty miles south. Cooke decided to take that route.
David (Father) Pettegrew, with a chosen few, went out to a secret place and held a prayer circle, and petitioned God to change the colonel’s mind. That night most of the battalion sent up heart felt petitions for the same.
After traveling about two miles next morning, November 21st, the Colonel ordered a halt, and among other things he said, “I started for California, and by ___ I am going there if I die in the attempt.” They then turned west. Father Pettegrew involuntarily said, “God bless the Colonel.” The Colonel heard, looked at Father Pettegrew and his face softened and showed satisfaction. Thus the battalion was saved from being caught in a trap set for them by the Mexicans, but they had to pass over mountains where there was no pass.
Now they began the custom of having men march in files ahead of the wagons, to tramp, in files so far apart that the wagon wheels moved fast over this crude road. They took turns so that all shared this added burden.
They had been many hours without water, and the guide reported no water until about noon the next day. So they continued to travel all night.
Abraham said, “About ten o’clock, I heard someone shouting, ‘Heave on her,’ and I heard a mule splashing in the mud. I went with my canteen to see if I could get water. When I arrived, the mule was out, and after waiting a short time I pressed my canteen down into the mud for a short time then put in to my mouth, but there was no water in it. I waited a short time and pressed the canteen again into the mud when I heard the water gurgling in. I soon put it to my lips and tried to suck the water through my teeth, but it was too thick so I opened my mouth and let it go down, mud and all.
“I then waited a short time, filled my canteen with water, went and drew my flour ration for the next day, mixed and baked my bread, but when daylight came I saw my bread was more like adobe than bread.
“Some of the weaker men did not get in until early next morning, and the battalion had been without water for about forty-eight hours, about twenty-four of which they had been on one continuous march.”
Abraham Day passed through these things with but little sickness, but he remarked in later years that he believed the calomel he was compelled to take by Dr. Sanderson caused his teeth to loosen, and he picked some of them out of his mouth with his fingers, though they were still sound.
On November 28, they came to the backbone of the Rockies. It took ten men with ropes to each wagon to help the teams up and down the mountains, but two wagons got away and rolled down and smashed to pieces.
Here they found all kinds of game plentiful, from the great grizzly bear down to small birds.
On the west side of the Rockies they found the country very beautiful for some distance, and began to see wild cattle. On the mountain where they were for three days (November 29, 30, and December 1), the weather was very cold, but in the valleys on the west, the weather was very pleasant. Many wild cattle, also some bands of wild horses were seen as they traveled for several days, and they had plenty of meat, and in great variety.
Although they were, after a few days, ordered to travel with unloaded guns, most of them did not obey, for fear of the wild cattle.
December 11, on San Pedro Creek, they encountered a large herd of wild cattle in a canyon where they had the famed bull fight. One bull was shot six times, through the body, the sixth one through the brain brought him down. He would have soon died of either of the others. Assistant surgeon William Spencer did the shooting.
Corporal Frost was on foot near Colonel Cooke when a large black bull charged them. The Colonel told him to load his gun, which was already loaded. He then ordered him to run, but he stayed to defend the Colonel. When the bull was only a short distance away Frost shot him through the brain, and he fell almost at their feet.
The Colonel afterwards said Frost was one of the bravest men he ever saw.
Day and Bulkley took refuge in a wash from the charge of a bull, and shot him as he jumped over them. One bull fell near Robert Harris, a butcher. He ran to cut its throat, but the bull quickly rose and lunged at Harris, catching his cap on a horn and ran along, with Harris after him shouting, “Stop, stop you thief; you stole my cap, I’ll have some beef.” The bull soon fell and Harris ended the battle with his knife. Amos Cox was tossed into the air by a bull, but not badly injured.
Albert Smith was run over by a bull and had some ribs broken. One mule was killed, and some sixty bulls were killed and many more wounded. For some unknown reason, the bulls seemed to take fright and disappeared.
The battalion marched on and camped a few miles from Tuscon, Arizona, and made a dry camp. Next day they marched onto Tuscon, the small army of Mexicans having become frightened by false rumors, having fled, and taken their artillery with them.
Some of the soldiers could not have gotten into Tuscon had not they been assisted by the inhabitants, most of whom had fled with the army.
The Mexicans gave some of them water and fruit, thus refreshing them. Colonel Cooke ordered that no private property should be disturbed, but helped himself to the public stores, mostly wheat, and many of the soldiers bought some flour and took along with them. They passed through Tuscon on a Sunday and camped a short distance from the town.
The force at Tuscon, in a fort with artillery, and some of the inhabitants to assist them, was larger than what was left of the battalion, 360 men, with reinforcements coming from nearby towns to help them, but God had promised them through his prophet that they should not have to fight men, but only wild beasts and he now made his promise good.
The battalion left the vicinity of Tuscon, December 18, traveling seven miles where they passed the last water, and continued on until nine o’clock, and made a dry camp; but the hungry, thirsty men kept staggering into camp all night.
December 19, the battalion marched on over roads of clay, with stretches of sand. No water all that day, but what was found in small puddles, mostly mud. The first to the puddle got the best. No cooking, but to parch a little wheat. Thus, hungry and thirsty, they staggered on, with but short rests, until December 20, at noon they found water. After quenching their own thirst, many took canteens of water, on mules, and rode back to help the others in, many of whom would never have got to camp without the water thus brought to them. Terrible was their suffering, but not one hundredth part of it can ever be told; nor can it be understood by those who have never traveled over hot sands, but half fed, and almost without water. Abraham Day was one of those who was best able to stand such suffering, and often was in the lead and returned with water to those less able to endure than was he.
I presume it was at the Gila, the following happened, as told by Abraham Day. “We expected to get to the river about noon. Soon after we started in the morning, Newman and I slipped away from our company and started on, leading each a little mule, our own. I heard someone say, ‘There Day and Bulkley have left us and gone on.’ We got to the river about ten o’clock, ahead of all others. I told Newman to loosen the latigo strap of his packsaddle, but he did not, but put his mouth to the water to quench his thirst. I loosened the latigo strap on my mule’s saddle, and then lay down to drink. When I had drunk all I thought it was safe for me to do, I got up, but Bulkley was still drinking. I told him to stop it or he would kill himself, but he went right on drinking. I then pulled him away from the water. When he went to take off the saddle from his mule, it was so puffed up with water he had to cut the latigo strap to get it off. We then filled our canteens and went back to meet and treat our companions. Cooke had the men strip and go into the water, to make it safer for them to drink and not be injured by it.”
On the 20th, they struck the Gila River about noon, where about two thousand Pima Indians visited the camp, but stole nothing. No more honest tribe of Indians were ever known. They found these Indians as they passed through their villages to be prosperous and happy and industrious. Colonel Cooke was very kind to them, taking to them small presents and gave the chef three ewes that would soon have an increase. And it is said that this was the beginning of a new industry among them.
The soldiers bought some edibles of these Indians for buttons and small trinkets and pieces of worn clothing. To these men traveling on less than half rations, this was a great boon. How hungry were they? Hungry enough to eat all of a worn out mule but its bray!
One day, Abraham Day received as his share of a slaughtered animal a piece of its entrails. When he had it cleaned and was holding it up by one end, a hungry comrade passed by, took hold of the lower end and hacked it off close to Day’s hand. Another comrade said, “That is pretty tough.” Day said, “Well, maybe he needs it worse than I do.”
They continued on and on, and the 23rd met three pilots from San Diego, who told them they were one month ahead of General Kearney’s reckoning and that the conquest of California depended much upon their getting to California quickly.
That evening, Colonel Cooke ordered the men to leave all privately purchased provisions behind or pack them themselves, as the teams were unable to haul any more. Thus, much of the privately purchased provisions were left behind by the starving men, who had sacrificed some needed clothing to buy them.
That night and the next day they were at a large village of Maricopa Indians of two thousand. Colonel Cooke suggested this would be a good place for the Mormons to settle, and the Indians seemed to be pleased with the suggestion. They were very friendly. General Kearney had left some goods and animals for the Battalion to get as they came along, and they were voluntarily delivered to them.
Christmas Day was spent on the march, up hill, sandy roads, to a dry camp. Traveling on the 26th, twenty-three miles, they camped near the Gila River. Traveling down the river, over very sandy roads they went about ten miles a day and the men had to help pull the wagons.
They were again brought to the eating of the skinny oxen and sheep, and Dr. Sanderson told the soldiers if they continued to boil the flesh instead of frying or roasting it, they would die like rotten sheep. But he was not heeded. Here they found rocks covered with hieroglyphics and pictures.
To ease the burden of hauling, some of the provisions were put in an improvised boat, of two wagon boxes lashed together and floated down the river, but because of sandbars, these provisions were lost and rations necessarily reduced, to almost the starving point.
On the seventh, the quartermaster found they had only four days provisions left. That day, because of bad roads, they traveled but seven miles, working the roads before them. During these days the men picked and ground seeds growing on a variety of mesquite. They ground the seeds in coffee mills, and made cakes of the meal. But it proved to be so constipating that they had to stop it; but they picked the seeds and fed it to the mules.
On the 9th, they came to the Colorado River. At this point it was as wide but not so deep as the Missouri. Here some of the men who had been sent back to try to recover the lost provisions caught up with the command with about four hundred pounds of flour. They ferried the river in pontoon boats made of wagon boxes. Men, mules, sheep and oxen forded the river, though in places the animals had to swim, and the water took the men to their chins. There were about one hundred and thirty skinny sheep left. They traveled fifteen miles to a well dug by General Kearney. On these sandy roads, the starved teams of many gave out, and though privately owned, the animals were pressed into service; three wagons were left behind, and the baggage packed on mules. Kearney’s well was dry, and the men were set to deepen it, and others to dig a new one near by. When they got to water in the old well, the quicksand ran in so profusely that but little water could be obtained, and it was dangerous to dig deeper. Hope of getting water from the old well was given up. The new one was two feet deeper than the old, but no water in sight, but Cooke in desperation, ordered the men to dig it deeper. In half an hour they struck water, and soon had enough to supply the camp. Cooke said of this, “It was like a great light bursting on darkness and gloom.” Details of men were sent ahead on this march over the deserts of southern California to dig wells to get water for men and animals, but several nights dry camp had to be made. Two more wagons were soon abandoned and nearly twenty mules had to be left behind to die, probably from thirst and hunger.
Abraham Day was sent out one morning with a detailed group to dig wells to get water for the coming command. By this time, they had learned to use willow baskets in the well to keep the sand from running in and filling up the well, so no water could be gotten. He was down in the well, about noon, dipping up water, which was hoisted with ropes, and poured into vessels for the coming men and animals. All at once a commotion arose near the well. “What is the matter?” said Day. “Some of the officers have arrived and are letting their mules drink.” “Draw me up out of here,” said Abraham. They did and he entered sharply into the altercation against mules drinking before men. Cooke soon arrived and said, “What’s the matter, Day?” He answered, making the military salute, “There are men letting their animals drink, and I think the men should be first served.” “Present bayonets and keep them back,” was all Cooke said, which command was quickly and roughly obeyed.
Some of these days, the men, many of them were so thirsty for water that they could not speak, and many, at times, would have perished by the way if they had not been helped into camp by others. But Abraham Day always got in without help.
December 15, on arriving at Ponzo Honda wells, a guide who had been sent ahead met them with thirty-five mules, and beef cattle, in good condition. “I suppose they had fun, breaking in these wild mules, and pleasure in eating a little fresh beef, what?”
On these sandy deserts, the nights were cold and the days very warm, so they had the varieties of winter and summer nearly each twenty-four hours. Some night Abraham said the wind blew nearly a hurricane, and wolves could be heard howling for miles on the one side, while the guard would see them come close on the other and could see them open their mouths and howl, but the sound was carried away by the wind.
December 18, Cooke said, “I went through the companies this morning. They were eating their last four ounces of flour; of sugar and coffee there have been none for some weeks.” On that day the command laid over, and that evening the men who had staggered into camp from exhaustion, starvation and thirst were playing the fiddle and singing merry songs. This day, messengers arrived in camp, the Alcalde of San Phillpe and a companion saying the scouts sent ahead had arrived at San Diego, and the governor would send them supplies, and bid them welcome. They brought word also of several battles between American and Mexican forces in California. The Colonel prepared the battalion to meet any force of Mexicans retreating to old Mexico.
On the 19th they crossed a very bad rocky ridge, and on up a rocky ravine, which became so narrow, that the rocks from the sides were so close together, the wagons could not pass through. Few of the road tools were left, but they went to work with a few axes and picks, and literally chopped a way between solid rocks. Here the Colonel lent a hand and the wagons, being unloaded, were dragged and lifted through by the men, all but two light ones that were dragged through by the mules. This was finished about sundown. Day did his share in these labors.
On the 21st of January they saw the first house, Warner’s Ranch in California. Here they purchased two fat beefs for three dollars and fifty cents, but Warner kept the hides. Rations were now four pounds of beef a day.
January 25th, orders were received from Kearney to march to San Diego. In Temecula Valley that day, they met the San Louis Rey Indians, who took the battalion for Californians (Mexicans) and visa versa. Both sides formed for battles but the mistake was discovered before they clashed.
In San Louis Valley they found mustard growing, which they cooked for greens, and it was a luxury with their only ration of beef. January 26, rations were increased to six pounds of beef daily. The writer of the history of the Mormon Battalion asserts that mush and milk is much more satisfying to the appetite than beef alone.
On the 27th they got their first sight of the Pacific, and it filled their pilgrim’s souls with joy and gladness, for that was the ending place of their tedious and trying journey.
“Where are my loved ones?” That was the question in Abraham’s heart. “Ah, they are in the tender care of our loving Father in Heaven,” and he traveled on rejoicing. Most of their beefs had wandered off, and the Indian scouts were told to gather up some more, and brought in several hundred head, which caused a laugh at the scout’s expense.
While passing through Arizona, Cooke asked Major Cloud if he could rely upon these Mormons in case of an attack. Cloud answered, “The Battalion will follow where you dare to lead.” And Cooke was sure of this before he saw the Pacific, where he congratulated the battalion in a military order and said, “History may be searched in vain for an equal march of infantry. Thus marching, half naked and half fed, and living upon wild animals, we have discovered and made a road of great value to our country. Arrived at the first settlement of California after a single days rest, you cheerfully turned off from the route to this point of promised repose, to enter upon a campaign and meet, as we supposed, the approach of an enemy; and this too, without even salt to season your sole sustenance of fresh meat.”
February 1, the battalion started for San Louis Rey, arriving on the third. The battalion was very destitute of clothing, but very prolific of beards, some over a foot long, but now they had to lose them by order of the colonel. Henry Standish writes, “February 6, I went into the garden and washed my shirt and a pair of pants, which I had made out of an old wagon cover, all the clothing I had. A fair sample of the others.”
Nearly every Sunday the battalion was called out on dress parade.
On the 8th of February, they commenced squad drill, which they learned in about twenty days.
Whenever possible, they held Sunday services, presided over by Captain Hunt, Father Pettegrew, or Levi W. Hancock. Also, Seventy meetings were occasionally held, always presided over by Levi W. Hancock, who was one of the first seven presidents of Seventies. Abraham was a Seventy.
Beef continued the only food until February 19, when they obtained some graham flour and beans. They then got over a pound of flour and two and a third gills of beans, but less beef for daily rations. On the 26th they received flour, soap, sugar, coffee, and candles, shipped to them from the Sandwich Islands.
They had garrison duty in California. Roll call at daylight, sick call at 7:30 a.m., breakfast call at 8:40, drill at 10:00 and 3:00 p.m., roll call at sundown, taps of drum at 9:00, after which lights must be out except only in sickness.
March 2, 1847, a part of the battalion returned to San Diego to protect the town and the depot of provisions and other property.
March 19, Abraham with most of the battalion started for Los Angeles, where they arrived on the 23rd.
May 6, the battalion petitioned Cooke and Kearney to disband them and let them return to the aid of their families on the ground that the war was over in California, but the under officers (Mormons) never presented the petition to Cooke and Kearney.
Fremont’s battalion was disbanded about this time, and scattered false reports about the Mormon battalion, the worse of which was that they were cannibals, and particularly fond of children. Therefore, the Mexicans and Indians seemed to fear them. The only reason they let the Mormons alone, was that they feared them and went no further than to make threats.
The battalion now protected the ranchers and other Californians from the Indians, and Colonel Mason of Kearney’s first dragoon, gave the battalion the praise of being the best in the manual of arms of any volunteers he had ever seen.
April 18th, the Seventies of the battalion organized themselves into a mass quorum with Stephen M. St. John as president, and excommunicated John Allen.
April 25, the battalion commenced a fort on a hill east of Los Angeles, and prepared for a supposed attack from Indians and Spaniards. All the battalion was gathered here as soon as convenient, as the other outbreak of the Californians were expected. They threatened to take no prisoners and show no quarter. Cooke’s orders were “take no prisoners and show no quarter, nor ask any.” They now had artillery, which had been obtained from Fremont’s disbanded battalion.
Some of Kearney’s dragoons were with the battalion and were very friendly with the battalion. When any of Fremont’s men came around and offered insults to the Mormons, the dragoons would say, “Stand back, you are religious men, and we are not; we will take all of your fights into our hands. You shall not be imposed upon by them.”
May 4, Cooke would have disbanded the battalion if they would re-enlist for five years as U. S. Dragoons.
May 5, Colonel Stevenson was appointed by General Kearney to take the command of Southern California, so that Cooke could return home.
General Kearney arrived on the 9th with other officers. He gave the battalion great praise as patriots and obedient soldiers and promised to speak of them well to the President and to Congress. Twelve of the battalion were detailed to escort Kearney back to Leavenworth.
The battalion being permitted to take jobs of work that would not interfere with their soldier duties, Abraham Day availed himself of this privilege, thus earning a little money.
July 4, was fittingly celebrated by the battalion. The time now being nigh for the discharge of the battalion, a strong effort was made to get the battalion to re-enlist for another year, even the people petitioning and soliciting them to remain, they were of so much use in building up the country.
July 16, they were discharged. Enough men re-enlisted on the 20th to make up one company.
Though the people of the country where the battalion labored along with other soldiers of the United States were very evil and corrupt, even infected with venereal diseases, yet of over seventy soldiers who were treated by the hospital surgeon, only one was a Mormon, and he became infected while drunk. That same surgeon said that the Mormon Battalion, for virtue, was without a parallel among soldiers.
July 20th, the men who would not re-enlist as soldiers were organized into companies for traveling, with captains of one hundreds, fifties and tens. On the next day they started north on their return journey. They had purchased horses and beef cattle to use.
They traveled north about six hundred miles to Sutter’s ranch. They encountered many difficulties on the way, the worse being the crossing of rivers, some hunger, thirst and heat, but not nearly so much of these, as later on the westward journey.
They arrived near Sutter’s Fort, August 26, where some remained to work for a short time. They bought supplies and soon started eastward.
August 24, they found a settlement of Americans, the first they had encountered for nearly a year. Here they got the news of the arrival and settling of the Saints at Salt Lake City, July 24, 1847, and that five hundred wagons were on the way headed for the same haven of rest, for the weary and persecuted Latter-day Saints. Imagine this joyful news, the first they had heard of the travels of the church since they had crossed the Arkansas River.
They pressed eastward, meeting and overcoming many difficulties in mountain and desert travel. September 6, they met Samuel Brannan returning from the Salt Lake Valley. He tried to persuade them to return to California, stating that Brigham Young was wrong in trying to locate in Utah, and would soon go on to California. He argued to practically deaf ears.
They camped with Brannan, and the next morning, shortly after Brannan left, Captain James Brown came into camp from the Utah Saints. He brought several letters to the battalion from friends and relatives, a great joy indeed. He also brought an epistle from the Twelve Apostles, which advised those who had no families to remain in California until spring.
In these letters they learned that the pueblo part of the battalion had also arrived at Salt Lake City. Probably half or more of the battalion returned to California. Abraham Day did not return.
Those who continued on to Salt Lake completed the journey without much difficulty, and arrived there October 16, 1847. They soon started back over the Old Mormon Trail, in two companies, the smaller consisting of sixteen members, led by Phelemon C. Merrill. They arrived at Winter Quarters, December 8.
They had a terrible time of starving on this return march. When they were a little way out from Salt Lake City one of the men proposed that all the flour be equally divided among them. This was done. Soon after this, the same party who had eaten his portion proposed another equal division of flour, which was done. Soon afterwards he made the same proposal the third time; the four was shared alike to all. How selfish some men can be!
Abraham lost his little mule on this trip. Supposedly it was killed for food. He had become very fond of the little mule, and was very loathe to part with it. It had carried his pack out and nearly back, and shared in all his thirsts and hungers. A tried and true companion, though but a dumb brute. True to the end and in death giving sustenance to his master and friends.
December 1847, when Abraham found his family, they were located in a small log house, and a fatted butchered hog hung on its corner. The most beautiful sight he had ever seen! (His own declaration.) But there was an addition to the family: Ezra Jonas, born February 11, 1846 on the Iowa plains. Charlotte Catherine Mellon immigrated from England in Captain Cyrus H. Wheelock’s company in 1847 and had become also a member of the family. She had crossed the great Atlantic in a sailing vessel during the time that Abraham was tramping his weary way in toil and suffering across the Great American Desert. Abraham’s brother Eli had also joined them.
Now comes the time of rehabilitation. Over three years of incessant toil before wagons were built, oxen and cows purchased, and other numerous necessities provided for the long and tedious pioneer trek over the one thousand miles of the Mormon trail could be attempted.
Eli built the three wagons, two for Abraham and one for himself. One yoke of oxen and two yoke of cows were hitched to the larger of Abraham’s wagons, one yoke of oxen and one yoke of cows to the smaller. Eli had two yoke of oxen, which drew his wagon. Some of the cows were milked as well as worked, and one cow bore a pair of twin calves before the journey ended.
The women and children slept in the wagons, and the men on the ground as they journeyed to their haven of rest. Abraham was a captain of fifty.
Abraham hired an Irishman to drive one of the wagons. This fellow had to be discharged on Southfork because of whiskey drinking and ungentlemanly conduct. Charlotte drove the team after that.
Abraham was a great walker, and scouted ahead of the company afoot, searching for water and feed for camping places. One day on a scouting trip, and about five miles from the train, he was suddenly surrounded by a pack of fierce wolves. If they attacked him it was the end. He suddenly swung his hat, rushed at them in the train’s direction, and shouted with all his might, and that was considerable, for he had a very loud voice, and the frightened wolves suddenly parted and he passed between them and returned to camp.
The milk from the cows was used for the family, and some given to others with no milk, and what was left was put into a large cedar churn, and tied to the side of the wagon when they started on in the mornings, and when noon came it was turned to butter. They were not bothered by Indians, but had some trouble with huge herds of buffalo.
Some of these immense herds numbered thousands. At times, when they were seen coming, the train would corral in a circle, the wagons circling around with the tongues inside of the circle, and the front wheels locked to the hind wheel of the wagon in front, thus making a very strong corral, almost a fortress. The cattle, with their yokes on, were chained to the wagons to keep them from stampeding.
He also did some hunting, killing buffalo and other games for meat for the camp. On one of these hunts, they ran across a huge grizzly bear. A Mr. Hunt was eager to kill the grizzly, but it ran into a large patch of willows. “Let us go in after it,” said Hunt. “If bears will let me alone I will let them alone,” said Abraham. “Well, wait here and I will chase him out,” remarked Hunt.
So Abraham waited, and sure enough, out came the bear right at him. He raised his gun, and the bear reared up on his hind feet, and with a huge, red open mouth, and reaching claws, advanced, growling for the kill. When about two rods away, the steady and ready pose of the unflinching man was too much for the nerve of the bear, and so he dropped on all fours and soon disappeared. “Good-bye and good riddance,” was the way Abraham felt.
The roads had been traveled for four years, changed in some places, and river crossings, bridges and ferries, etc. improved so much that Abraham Day’s company did not have so many difficulties to overcome as the earlier immigrants had. They arrived at Salt Lake City in good time.
Abraham took Charlotte Catherine Mellon(d) as his second wife, November 20, 1851. Not long after this they moved to Springville, Utah.
In Springville, Abraham found a fertile field to use his mechanical abilities. During the nine years that he was there he built a flourmill, one or two threshing machines, a sawmill and a molasses mill or two. He raised flax and hemp, which the family made into linen yarn and wove into cloth, the most of this work being done by the women folks and larger children.
He was acting mayor of Springville for a short period. During this time the hardest man of the town got drunk and was breaking the law, and threatening to kill men. The marshal tried to arrest him, but he frightened off the marshal with a six-gun and was raising trouble in general. The mayor (Abraham) was sent for, and when he walked into the crowd he stepped up to the tough and said, “Here, come with me,” and the drunken man submitted without any resistance. Personality and courage won the victory.
He did considerable work in the timber in Hobble Creek Canyon. One of his timber ventures was to get logs from the top of a very steep mountain. The timber was slid down the side of the mountain, and Abraham, when his days work was done, would cut a bushy limb from the tree, get upon it, and slide down the side of the mountain, going at a speed that some men could not stand to travel. He left his impress upon Hobble Creek Canyon for one of its braches still bears his name, “Days Canyon.”
He prospered while in Springville, but his was a pioneer spirit, and in the late part of 1859 he took a trip to Sanpete County with his son Joseph S., and decided to locate at Mt. Pleasant.
He bought an adobe house of Nathan Staker, in the Old Fort. The Old Fort enclosed the whole block joining State Street on the east side that has Pleasant Creek running through it. This fort was built of large cobble rock, mostly of sand stone, the mortar used being made of the native soil on the outside of the fort. The holes dug to make this mortar were in evidence for many years.
The fort, I believe, was twelve feet high, three feet thick at the foundation and one foot at the top. It had two large gates, one on the north side and one on the south side of the fort, midway. They were twelve feet wide and twelve feet high, framed in with heavy timbers. There were also four small gates, about the size of a double door: one on each side of the creek, about midway from the creek to the corner of the fort, on the east and west sides of the fort. There were also portholes at convenient distances and convenient height all around the fort, to be used for men to shoot through in case of an Indian attack, but they were never used for that purpose.
The house was on the north bank of Pleasant Creek, at the west end of the fort, three sides of adobe and one side the fort wall, two rooms, a rough board floor and a dirt roof, which was made of three stringers, one at the peak and one on each side, half way down the slope. Small poles crossed these logs, then willows crossed the poles, straw next, and nailed on with a foot or more of dirt.
Pleasant Creek was not then the gorge that it is now, through town, at least with gentle sloping banks in many places, so much so that it could be crossed with wagon and team. In fact, it was forded in more places than it was bridged. And Pleasant Creek was a magnificent place for catching fish, and best trout stream I have ever seen. Willows, squaw bushes, birches, kinnikinnic, wild rose bushes, hawthorn, bull-berry, cottonwoods, a very few cedars, pines lined its banks most of the way, and more thickly in the canyons.
Abraham and Joseph returned to Springville. Early in 1860 they again journeyed to Mt. Pleasant, bringing Charlotte and family with him, also Joseph, but Nathan Staker had not yet completed the log cabin he had erected two blocks north, and so the two families of fifteen or sixteen souls lived in those two small rooms until Nathan finished his new log house.
Late in 1860 he moved Elmira and her family to Mt. Pleasant into an adobe house on the southeast corner of the block where he had his water power threshing machine.
Abraham then engaged himself very much as he had in Springville. He built the first threshing machine in Mt. Pleasant, a “chaff-piler.” That is, it threshed the grain, separating the wheat and chaff in one pile, from the straw. The chaff and grain must then be separated by being put through a fanning mill, which was run by a crank turned by hand power. Before that the grain had been threshed by the hand flail or tramped out by horses or oxen. He made a twelve foot overshot water wheel, run by the water of Pleasant Creek, one block east of the west street of Mt. Pleasant. A long belt, made of leather, ran from the water wheel to the thresher, which of course was stationary. The loads of grain were hauled to the “chaff-piler,” the grain and chaff were hauled away to be separated with the fanning mill, then the farmers hauled away what straw they desired to use. Large stacks of straw were left on the ground stretching up and down the north bank of the creek, covering the land and nearly filling the street.
Say, we boys of the town had glorious times playing in and around those stacks, digging deep holes in them and tunneling into and through them! Talk about fun! It was a glorious sport. Then getting into the big water wheel after the threshing was done and the water turned off. Some of us would climb up the side, inside the wheel, and set it to revolving, while others clung to the big arms running from the big center log to the buckets on the circle of the wheel, and thus were carried up, over the down again, our bodies first perpendicular, then horizontal, heads down as we were carried over the top, and reversing down again! Fun! Oh boy! Fun! Fun!
Later he built a horse-power to run the machine with so that it could be moved to the farmers grain stacks. Still later, he built a “fanning mill” inside the thresher, so that the grain and chaff went through it and were separated by the same power that did the threshing. John Bone hired him to build a flourmill. He went with two or three yoke of oxen over to Mt. Nebo, where he quarried out two immense granite stones, which he hauled to Mt. Pleasant. In the street just east of the big south gate of the fort, he chiseled and cut them into “burs” which were between three and four feet across, round and flat, and some over one foot thick. The faces were furrowed, fan shape, from the center out. This was a long tedious task, being finished with a sort of chisel, something like a pick ax, but much smaller. These fan furrows were the most particular part of the job. He made nearly all the machinery himself, even fashioning some of the ironwork in the blacksmith’s shop. The under bur was made stationary, while the upper bur was turned by the waterpower that ran the mill. The grain to be ground ran in a small stream in the center of the upper bur, the turning of which scattered and ground the grain and the meal worked to the outer edge of the burs on one side, of which was an opening through which it dropped into a large silken drum, which revolved, carried the meal along it, sifting out the flour first through fine silk cloth, which grew coarser toward the further end, thus sifting the finest flour first, then the coarse flour, then the short or midlings, dropping the bran out at the end of the bolt or drum.
This mill was the second built in Mt. Pleasant. It stood but a little way from where the roller mill now stands, just east of the east street of Mt. Pleasant, on the south side of the street. The mill on the same side of the creek nearly one block below was built by a Mr. Kemp of Moroni and known as the McClennehan Mill, while the upper one was known as Bone’s Mill.
During these years he farmed a five-acre piece of land in the big west field, one block west of Elmira’s house, and some land on Sanpitch west of the north side of town, along and on both sides of the river Sanpitch, and it was river bottom mostly covered with willows. As he cleared this rich land he sowed it to redtop and timothy, which with some native grasses, made very splendid hay, and a very heavy growth. He worked much in the canyons, especially in the wintertime. One of these first winters he was camped alone, some of the time in a cabin at a sawmill run by waterpower, where the big sulfur spring water empties into the main canyon, or Straight Fork. On one of his trips home a wolverine came down the chimney and did some damage to the equipment left in the cabin. Father got a large trap and set it in the fireplace and caught Mr. Wolverine. He gave the hide to Charlotte for a mat for her babies to sit on, and it served the purpose very well, and for several years. Take it from me, that it was a very splendid and beautiful mat.
He served the city as mayor and as prosecuting attorney, though he had made no special study of law.
Jesse Jesson got jealous and angry and attacked Neils Anderson, an ex-soldier, with a pitchfork, injuring him slightly. When Jesson was arrested for it, he came to Abraham to defend him. The town was not then housing professional lawyers.
Abraham took the case with the promise that Jesson would tell the truth in court (very unprofessional) and Abraham would try to get a light sentence for Jesson. And so it went through.
Abraham had a compass and two rod surveyor’s chains with which he did considerable surveying, especially after the county was surveyed by the government surveyor, a Mr. Ferren, and the land opened up to homesteaders.
He also surveyed some of the canal, notably the one that conveys water from the mouth of Cedar Creek around over a small ridge into Twin Creek. You know, the Mormons made water run up hill. But this time the Mormons who were making the ditch refused to complete it, because they declared it would not run up hill. He told them if it did not carry the water he would survey it over and make it himself. So with this promise they completed the canal, and to their surprise, the water followed the canal over the ridge. Some of these Mormon canals certainly look as if they really were running up hill, and surprising as it may be, non-Mormons perform the same feat!
In 1864 he and Joseph, who had come to manhood and married Mary Anderson, took up squatters claims on both side of Sanpitch three miles west of Mt. Pleasant and built log cabins for their families about where the state road is located west of the Sanpitch bridge.
They lived there all winter of 1864 and until some time in May of 1865. They had three one room log cabins with dirt roofs. As neighbors, they had large bands of Indian bucks, squaws and papooses up Sanpitch a mile or more. These Indians came begging for bread and other food quite often, and warm evenings they often came and got Abraham and Joseph to beat their drums. Abraham the bass drum, and Joseph the snare drum.
In the spring of 1865, there was a quarrel in Manti with some of the leading Sanpitch Indians, and John Lowry, an Indian interpreter and citizen of Manti, pulled an Indian chief, who had drawn a bow and arrow on a citizen, off his horse, and gave him a whipping.
The Indians were acting quite mean and killed a white man in April.
Bishop Wm. Seely of Mt. Pleasant urged Abraham to move into town, but he refused. Again the bishop urged him to move, but he would not. One day in May, Con. Rowe who had been hunting horses in the west hills met Abraham and said,
“Brother Day, those Indians up in Sanpitch have left.”
“How do you know?”
“I saw their trail up in the hills, going north.”
“Well, if they have left, it is time for us to leave.” And they all moved to town that day.
The Indians had taken their squaws and papooses to a safe place and were now ready to war upon the whites. As they went north, they killed a sheep herder at a cabin in Herrhouse Hollow, now Millburn Meadow, during the evening of May 28, and early the next morning massacred the Givens family just down Thistle Creek, a little below Thistle Valley, six in all; the family was terribly butchered. Two men in a wagon bed a short distance from the house were aroused by the noise and escaped into the willows.
“Where is your gun?” asked one.
“It was not loaded and I left it in the wagon box.”
“Why, you damn fool, they did not know it was not loaded.”
What might have happened to the Days if they had not moved to town can only be surmised.
The two years that followed, known as the Black Hawk war, was a terrible time for San Pete and Severe Counties, and quite bad for some other nearby counties more especially to the south. Sevier County was abandoned, most of the people moving to San Pete, or North Bend, now Fairview, and moved their families to Mt. Pleasant, the men going back and forth in companies to care for their crops.
Abraham because of his military experience was asked to become an officer in the Mt. Pleasant militia, or minute man as they were more commonly called, but as he was getting along in years, and failing in strength, and financially embarrassed because of the breaking up of his homes on his squatter claim, he excused himself.
Bishop Seely rather insisted and referred the matter to Brigham Young. “Brother Day has done his share of military work,” said Brigham, so Abraham did not become a minuteman, but he did his part in building forts, as also did seven of his sons. The younger sons did much herding of cattle and the older three stood guard at nights, Joseph being a captain in the home guard, but did not go out to fight the Indians because of his very poor health.
Abraham helped build the North Fort, which surrounded the entire block north of the first fort which was generally called the Old Fort. The North Fort enclosed the block on which the N. S. H. School now stands, running across the street between the two forts.
There was a twelve foot gate framed in with heavy timbers twelve feet high at the east and west ends of the enclosed street, also a twelve foot gate in the middle of the north side, and smaller gates in the east and west sides of the fort. The new fort was built of the same material as the old one.
In 1877 they started to build a fort around the town, very similar in construction to the two forts already described, but with bastions built at distances of some sixty or eighty rods apart. It was never completed, extending only across the east and a little way down each side. The Day family, with the father at the head, did their part on this wall also. Abraham was a pretty fair rough rock mason.
From 1860 to 1870 were very hard and destitute years for the Day family. The early pioneering, loss of crops by grasshoppers, loss of cattle by Indians, stagnation of business of all kinds because of Indian raids, summer canyon work almost at a standstill because of the Indians, having to haul hay twelve miles, from the bottom lands west and south of Chester, and cut their hay with the scythe besides, made it very hard to get a living for men with large families. Then, the high prices for merchandise; twenty five to fifty cents for sugar, the same for calicoes, prints. You may well imagine the hard times the people went through. At times it was hard to keep the wolf from the door.
In 1870, times brightened up; the railroad had come to Utah. In 1878 and 1879, Abraham with Ezra and Abraham N. went to work on the railroad. He did little work on the grade, but bought a mowing machine and hay rake, and cut and put up hay to be sold to teams working on the road grade. He made good money, got him some large horse teams, the largest that had ever been brought into Mt. Pleasant.
In the late 60’s, he spent a winter or two in and around Marysvale, locating mines, but nothing ever came to him from this venture.
Utah was being surveyed about this time, and the land opened to homesteaders. Mr. Ferron employed Abraham to help him to do the surveying, mostly in the mountains of Sanpete. This was a help to him as the pay was cash and sure.
He then took up a homestead at the age of fifty-three years, up and down Sanpitch between the three big hills, the hills seen to the north and state highway that runs to Moroni and Sanpitch. Of course the river, making crooks and bends, made some of his land lay east of the river, and other men homesteading the adjoining land on the east had land on the west side of the river; but by trading land and making some few purchases, he got all the land west of the river adjoining his homestead. In 1870 with six boys ranging from thirteen to about twenty years old, he began clearing and plowing and fencing and digging canals on this new homestead.
It being a good year for farming, he raised splendid crops of wheat, oats, barley and potatoes, and then began prosperous days for the family. The Indians were nearly conquered, the grasshoppers gone, and not much to molest or make afraid on the farm.
Though not an old man at fifty-three, yet the hardships of the Mormon battalion and the pioneering days had taken heavy toll of his manhood, and he had to leave the hardest of the work to his boys, but he proved a good overseer, but not a hard taskmaster. They had regular hours for work, and never worked on the Sabbath, unless something very unusual came up. Thus 1870 – 1871 passed and then some of the older boys went to working for themselves, but he hired at times to work on the farm.
In 1872 he moved Charlotte onto the farm, and in September, the 26th, she died. Her eight children, one a baby of nine months, moved in with Elmira and she proved to be a very good mother to them. The farm was new and yielded good crops, more land being brought under cultivation each year. The hills and hollows joining the farm were unclaimed and good free range to him, and good pasture for his cattle and horses. The family lived on the farm in the summer, but in the town home in the winter.
In 1878, he with his son, Abraham N., and two or three of his sons-in-law, built a sawmill, run by water-power, six miles east of Mt. Pleasant in Pleasant Creek Canyon. The sulfur springs stream was again utilized to run a sawmill, but this time it ran a circular saw. They used up all the available timber in the Straight Fork and a great deal that they got in the head of the canyon very high up, of the North Fork, which they hauled to the Straight Fork and as Abraham had done in Hobble Creek, slid it down the side of the mountain, then hauled it to the mill.
Living off this hard and expensive way of lumbering, Abraham, Abraham N., and possibly Abraham N.’s father-in-law, Alma Staker, bought a mill run by steam and put it into a fork of the Huntington Canyon, Day’s Canyon, where they continued the lumber business for several years.
In the meantime, Abraham N. moved to where his wife’s family had located on the Huntington River, some two or three miles below Cleveland, and his father sold out shortly after and followed them, locating on the same river a little below, and on both sides of the river, making his home on the east side, but not far from the stream.
Soon more of his boys followed, locating near by, also Ole Tuft, his son-in-law. Having to hire all his work done, his farming began to prove unprofitable, his cattle dwindled, he sold his farms, and disposed of his cattle, the few that were left. He then spent some two years working in the temple at Manti with his wife, Elmira. He was now getting a small pension, as a veteran of the Mexican War. He moved up to Cleveland where he engaged in the mercantile business on a small scale, kept a cow, a pig, and a few chickens, seeming to be very happy with his aged wife, the choice of his first love. He died April 30, 1900 at eight-three years of age.
Elmira lived several years afterward, and they now lie side by side in the Cleveland Cemetery, waiting for the first resurrection when they will arise, be united with Charlotte, also their children, and receive the just plaudit, “Thou hast been faithful over a few things, and I will make thee ruler over many things. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
Abraham Day was a just man, an honest man, truthful, trustworthy, charitable, obliging, loving his neighbor as himself, full of faith, humble, intelligent, wise and possessing the qualities that go to make up a man, one of God’s noblemen.
--Eli A. Day
The children of Abraham and Elmira Bulkley were as follows:
Joseph Smith September 7, 1839
Melinda Anna October 27, 1840 Berry Pike Co.
Harriet Jane February 17, 1842 Berry Pike Co.
Amelia Day August 4, 1844 Berry Pike Co.
Elmira Jenette April 7, 1846 Berry Pike Co.
Ezra Jonas February 11, 1847 Kanesville, Ill.
Juliette October 18, 1849 Kanesville, Ill.
Alice February 22, 1850 (on plains of Iowa)
Abraham Nelson February 14, 1852 (Springville, Utah)
Laura Anna June 6, 1853 (Springville, Utah)
Ira Alferd February 14, 1855 (Springville, Utah)
Edwin Summers January 25, 1857 (Springville, Utah)
Ella Geneva November 22, 1859 (Springville, Utah)
Albert Arlington August 27, 1861 (Springville, Utah)
The children of Abraham and Charlotte Mellon(d) were as follows:
Dora Elmira August 21, 1852 Married John Gustavus
Albert Damaskus December 12, 1853 Died in infancy
Herbert Steven May 11, 1855 Married Mary Wilcox
Eli Azariah September 23, 1856 Married Eliza Jane Staker
and Euphrasa Cox
Benjamin Franklin December 5, 1857 Died in infancy
Hannah Flavilla December 5, 1859 Married James Wilcox
Ephriam Arthur January 21, 1862 Married Janie Gurtell
Harriett Ann December 27, 1863 Married James Wilcox
George William September 7, 1865 Married Ellis Staker
Harry Hazelton March 2, 1867
Mary Ellen August 10, 1869 Married Joseph Prows,
and Joseph Wilder
Joseph Abraham October 1, 1871