Nancy Areta Porter Mattice, Daughter of Chauncy Warriner Porter
Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 13, p.463
I was born at Jefferson, Lee County, Iowa, October 1, 1843 the daughter of Chauncy Warner Porter. My mother died when I was three years and 6 months old at Winter Quarters, now Florence, Nebraska. By my mother's request my father soon married again, a young woman by the name of Lydia Ann Cook. She was only seventeen when they were married, but a wonderful mother she proved to be through all the trials that she passed, as we were then in the midst of poverty. In March 1848 father married another young woman, Priscilla Strong. In the late summer of 1848, with our belongings and a scant supply of provisions in an old wagon with one yoke of oxen, he started Lydia with a baby three months old and three of my mother's children, Alma, Malinda, and myself, with a company of Saints across the plains. Father put us in the hands of the captain. He wouldn't come at this time because he couldn't sell all his property. Alma, then fifteen years old, was to drive the team. Father kept Sarah to come with him and Priscilla the next year.
By the help of the Lord and kind care of Captain Andy Cunningham, we arrived in Salt Lake Valley all alive and well, and there was great rejoicing when we got home to Grandpa and Grandma who had come over in 1847. I will relate a few of the incidents of that journey from the time of starting to the end, which were stamped on the tablets of my mind, and will ever remain there.
The first incident was pushing wagons on to the raft or flatboat when we crossed the Missouri River. It must have been late winter for there were large cakes of ice that came floating down and the men took poles to push them away, so they would not strike the boat. All those who were to make the journey met at one place so they could all start together. I remember father brought us a nice milk cow, so we might have milk, she was fresh, andto keep her tied up every night for a long time. When we got to where there was no feed to get for her we had to turn her loose with the herd. She slipped away and went back to her old home. So we had to do without milk except what the neighbors gave us. [p.464] Then we came to a place where there was deep sand; everyone who could had to walk, and the sun beat down so hot and the cattle suffered for water, until we came to grass and water. One old Indian wanted to trade for me. He saw mother had more family than anything else; he thought she could spare one. He offered her 25 head of horses, a big pile of buffalo robes and blankets, but mother always said no no, she would not trade. So he tried to coax me with beads and jewelry, but I would cry when he came near me. One day I heard the captain say to mother— "Sister Porter, you will have to keep good watch over that child, the old fellow is persistent, he will take her in spite of us," but they drew away for a few days. Then here they came again with their families and followed the train along. The next day we came to a stream of water with a grove of cottonwoods along the bank. We thought we would have a nice shady place to noon, but the Indians headed us off. There were so many more of them than there were of our people, but we stopped close by so the teams could get a little green feed. While we were eating our dinner, one of the old squaws came up to mother (she could speak English) and said, "Let me see the baby." Then she said, "Let me take him." She no sooner got hold of him then she whirled and ran as fast as she could to the crowd of Indians, and such a noise as they did make and gathered around her so that we could not see either the squaw or the baby and there was noise and excitement in our camp. Mother was crying and I was screaming as loud as I could. Alma was scolding her for letting the squaw have the baby. Malinda was scolding Alma and some of the women were trying to console mother and some were chiding her for her carelessnesall the noise the captain stepped upon the wagon tongue, took off his hat and called for order, and in a minute everything was quiet. Then he said ... "Let the Sioux listen to the white man. Bring that baby back or there will be war right now. The white man will fight for his children." Then he said in an undertone, "Every man to his guns," and in a very short time every man was in line and the Indians were in a huddle, seemingly counseling what to do. After a while, which seemed a long time to us, here came the squaw with the babv saying: "Here take it, here take it." I can see him now in his little pink apron, and his hair flying in the wind and laughing, and we were a thankful family to get our baby, and to get started on our way again. We were not bothered with them any more.
Our next hard times were in crossing rivers and climbing mountains; it was like going up a steep trail. They took one wagon at a time and it took several men to hold the wagon from tipping over and going down the steep mountainside. So we traveled on until we could see Great Salt Lake Valley. One [p.465] more day in the wagon, then we would be at Grandpa Porter's and we made our home with Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle Lyman until father came. They came the next year in September 1849.
Grandpa built an adobe house in the Tenth Ward in the city and left father on the farm in Millcreek Ward, but we did not stay long. Father leased a sawmill of the Gardner brothers and moved his family up to the mill in Millcreek Canyon. This was in the spring of 1850. We lived there until the summer of 1853. Uncle John Porter came to see us and get some lumber and brought my oldest sister Malinda with him to have a visit and gather wild berries which were plentiful in the mountains. We three sisters, Malinda, Sarah and I, spent several days picking berries for Grandma. Then uncle said he had to start home. Sarah and I begged to go with them to see Grandma, so it was decided we could go and it came very nearly a fatal ride for Sarah. Uncle John filled his wagon box with green lumber and bound it down and we all sat on top with our berries. About six miles from the mill we came to a long sloping hill. One of the horses was not very gentle and wouldn't hold back. The lock chain either broke or slipped and let the weight ahead and in trying to hold them by the lines, one line broke and they started to run. Uncle jumped off and tried to catch the near horse by the bridle but they were going too fast. Malinda took me by the arm and threw me clear of the wagon, then tried to get Sarah to the back end so she could drop her off, but Sarah was so frightened she could not get her to move. She was much larger than I. The wagon ran off the road in some rocks so Sarah was jolted off on the front wheel. The wheel caught her clothes and tore them all off but her panties. Then something came loose and the horses were free of the wagon, but it was going so fast down hill it just kept going until it struck a large rock, then the front axle broke and let the load down. When I got to the load, my poor dear sister was under the broken axle. It rested fight on her forehead and to all appearances she was past all earthly suffering. I ran back to meet Malinda and uncle, crying and telling them Sarah was dead. No words were spoken for some time but I shall always think I saw a miracle right there. Uncle walked up to the wagon and took hold of the hub with one hand and drew Sarah out with the other. The wagon stopped near the creek. He took her in his arms and carried her to the stream and let the water run over her to wash the blood and dirt off. Malinda took off her skirt and wrapped it around her and no sign of life in all this time. Uncle laid her on a quilt and knelt down by her, placing his hands on her head. I shall never forget the words he said: "Sarah, by the power of the Priesthood, I lay my hands upon your head and invoke the life‑giving power of the God of Israel upon this [p.466] child, and whatsoever is done on earth inbe sealed in the heavens. Sarah I say unto you, LIVE!" We all knelt around her rubbing her carefully with our hands. After a while her muscles began to show signs of life, then uncle said: "Thank God, she will live." Uncle went for Father and a light spring wagon and we took her home, but it was a few days before she knew any of us. Father sent for Doctor Lee. He came and examined her and dressed her wounds, and he and father administered to her. She seemed to improve faster after that, but I cannot remember how long before she could walk.