NICHOLAS TURNER RETURNS TO MISSOURI
contributed by; Carol Lackey
At the same time that Allen Helm was
arriving in California. Nicholas Turner, P. Y. Welch, and Welch's fourteen
year old son, L. Arthur, were on their way to Missouri. They had left their
California home to return to Missouri for stock and for belongings left behind
in 1853. When they arrived in Missouri in December, Mary Turner was pleased to
see her son after four years absence. John F. Riley Turner, and Singleton
Vaugh Turner were excited to visit with their father again. It would be
Nicholas' last Missouri visit.
On May 19, 1857 Nicholas again reined
his horse onto the dusty path leading from his mother's farm; one hundred
head of cattle and one mule followed. As they slowly lumbered toward
Independence, other wagons turned onto the road and followed Nicholas' lead.
Twenty families were to meet outside Independence near Big Blue Creek in
Jackson County, Missouri. Nicholas was chosen Captain of the wagon train at
the first organizational meeting of the emigrant families:
J. F. Anderson
P. Y. Welch
Arthur Welch, 14 year old son of P. Y.
William J. Doake
James C. Bigham
Mr. and Mrs. M. E. Wilson
Mr. Welch, unrelated to P. Y.
There were a total of about seventeen
hundred head of stock including horses and mules as they started on the six
It was a slow, peaceful trek for the
first three months, averaging eight to fifteen mile a day. The men took turns
herding the cattle and were constantly alert for sudden summer thunderstorms
that might frighten and stampede the animals. Frequently, without warning,
black clouds formed; a loud clap of thunder; a flash of lightning; and then a
drenching rain poured from the sky. The wagons stopped until the skies cleared
and the dry, hot summer heat returned and then moved on.
The caravan reached Salt Lake City
toward the end of September, 1857 in the middle of strife between the Mormons
and the government. The word was that President Buchanan had appointed a new
Governor to Utah on July 24, 1857 without consulting Mormon officials. In
addition, word was received by the Mormons that a 2600 man army had been
dispatched by President Buchanan to the Territory. The settlers were resentful
and apprehensive and the Mormon Militia was preparing to fight back. Nicholas,
having stayed about ten days in Salt Lake, became aware of increased discord
in Salt Lake City and thought it prudent to leave quickly. The cattle were
herded onto the trail south west toward the desert crossing and the wagons
The wagons and cattle plodded slowly
over the plains and stopped to rest about fifty miles south of Salt Lake City.
Nicholas and two of his men went to a small village for supplies. But as soon
as they rode into the town, shooting began and the three men were wounded.
They quickly reined-in, swirled their horses around, and galloped in the
direction of the wagons. One of the wounded men was Nicholas Turner, Captain
of the train. Reaching the camp-site, Nicholas was placed in one of the wagons
where his wound could be tended. (Unknown to them the Mormons had made an
agreement with the Indians to rid the land of immigrants. At Mountain Meadow,
the way they suggested that Nicholas go, the Indians and the Mormons had
killed men, women and children, striped their bodies, cleaned the clothes, and
left them lie where they fell. Only the twelve youngest children were saved.
Nicholas had got there just after the Mountain Meadow Massacre.) Before the
wagons could move out, a group of Ute Indians rode into the bustling camp-site
and demanded payment for cattle grazing rights and for safe passage through
the area. Nicholas authorized payment of the fee and stock. The train moved on
to the Las Vegas Stream where they hoped to rest awhile.
The Indians again came into the camp
demanding additional compensation. This time there were three white men with
them to translate. An agreement was struck, and since the desert was not far,
the wagon train continued on its way. It was about "half an hour by the sun"
Heat was intense during the daytime and
they knew they had to make part of the desert by night in order to get over
with the cattle; the cattle led the way. "They were traveling up a small
hollow, the moon was shining." Near Beaver City, on the Muddy River, between
four and five hundred hooping and hollering Indians, attacked the train. They
were dashing in and out of the herd and finally succeeded in stampeding all
the stock except the oxen attached to the wagons. The travelers quickly struck
out across the desert fearing a repeated attack.
The Pioneers arrived in San Bernardino,
California on November 9, 1857 in "destitute condition" and after a short
rest, they continued on, reaching Merced County the middle of March 1858.
Nicholas was still carrying the bullet in his hip. Part of the bullet was
removed at his home, but the remainder he carried with him to his grave.
Nicholas Turner, P. Y. Welch, William
J. Doake, J. F. Anderson, and James C Bigham filed a joint petition to the
United States House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. for losses from
Indian hostilities. The petition was subscribed and sworn to before a notary
public of the Mariposa County Superior Court in Mariposa on April 12, 1858.
Nicholas claimed a loss of one hundred
head of cattle, two mules, two horses, and cash in the amount of $7,200 paid
to the Indians and Mormons while crossing Utah.
Nicholas died before the claim was
approved, but the administrators of his estate continued the court action.
Marion Francis Turner, Nicholas' son, was the first administrator followed
by Sophronia Ann Elizabeth Turner's husband James C. Cunningham. In April
1913 the government paid the estate $450 less $90 for lawyer's fees. Divided
among the living heirs was $360.