Bushman Children die on the trail and Lonesome Roving Wolves

Martin and Elizabeth Bushman, my 3rd Great-grandparents, buried 2 of their daughters in shallow unmarked graves along the pioneer trail.  Below they describe their loss and heartbreak in journals, autobiographies and letters left for us to remember them by.

Elizabeth Bushman
b. 9 November 1847, Bart, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; d. 12 October 1846, Iowa

Esther Ann “Hetty” Bushman
b. 28 November 1845, Nauvoo, Illinois; d. 19 October 1846, Iowa


Jacob Bushman, Autobiography
We traded off one of our horses for a yoke of oxen and started for Council Bluff with six sick children, all in one wagon, all down with the chills and fever. And when I had the chills, I had to walk and when the fever came on I could sit up in the front end of the wagon,. And on the 12th of Oct. 1846, Elizabeth died, just before going into camp. Had to be up all night getting her ready to bury her. We done the best we could and left the next day about 10 o’clock. Traveled on until Oct. 19th 1846, when the baby died about 11 months old. She had to be left about the same as the other one was by the road side. We then traveled on until we got to Keg Creek, Pottiwatimie County, Iowa, near Council Bluff. By that time we all had got about well, thank the Lord.
[Jacob Bushman, autobiography, typescript, BYU.
From a history of the life of Jacob Bushman which was written in his own handwriting, to his Brother John.]


Martin B. Bushman writes about his family:
They lived there four years when the enimies of the Mormon people got jelous of them and killed their Prophet and drove the saints from the state. he in connection with his Fathers family left their home and most everything in it and their grain standing in the field they put what few things they could put into a wagon and fled from their enimmies into the state of Iowa Their journey through that state was very hard on them it was very cold and the road was very mudy and the food was very scarce. he had two sisters die on that journey one on October 12.1846 he seen her laid in the cold grave without a cofffin one week later he had another sister die and was burried by the road side. the main cause of their death was the want of proper food and exposure in the cold wheather. after a tiresome journey of several months they arrived at the western part of Iowa.
[This biographical sketch of the life of Jacob Bushman, written by his brother, Martin Benjamin Bushman ca. 1915, was found written in the Temple Record Book of their father, Jacob Bushman, pp. 12-15 ( FHL # 673266, item 11). It is retyped here by Ann Laemmlen Lewis, May 2007. Spelling and punctuation from the original have been retained.]


John Bushman Edited Diary
After taking a few things in their poorly prepared wagon and a light team for a long journey, they took their last look at the Beautiful City of Nauvoo and started on their dreary journey through Iowa. Winter soon came on and they suffered greatly with hunger and cold, They had two of their children die, two girls through exposures they had to endure, one was nine years and one was a year old. They died but one week apart, they had to be placed in their graves without coffins as there was nothing to be had to make them with, their bodies were lightly wrapped and a few branches of trees laid over their bodies to protect them from the dirt. The Father and mother greatly mourned their loss but they still continued the journey with the Saints, after much suffering and hardships they arrived in the Western part of Iowa.

The Life and Labors of John Bushman Son of Martin and Elizabeth Degen.
This is a copy of the edited diary of John Bushman, which was copied by himself from the original diaries into a large journal during the later years of his life. The book from which this typewritten copy was made is of the ledger type about 8 x 11 inches in size. The writing was entirely in ink. The latter part of the journal which records the death, etc. was in other handwritings. The original from which this copy was made is now in the hands of members of the John Bushman Association, of which Fred Bushman of Salt Lake City, Utah was the Chairman. [Now in Church Historian’s Office.]
Copied by the Brigham Young University Library 1935?
[This bound manuscript is kept in the Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library, Special Collections. This Life Sketch was found at the end of John Bushman’s journal entries and was retyped here by Ann Laemmlen Lewis, September 2005. Spelling and punctuation from the original has been retained.]
[The original handwritten copy of this is found in Jacob Bushman’s Temple Record Book, pp. 1-10. There are slight variations.]

John Bushman Journal
In Sept. 1846, after assisting the body of saints accross the Mississippi river with their only team, the Bushman family of six children were compelled to leave their grain and all they possessed, except what they could take in one wagon, they bade farewell to their home and beautiful city & Temple & crossed the great Mississippi into Iowa, jut in the rainy season, nearly all the family took the chills & fever.  They traveled in company with several other families to the western border of Iowa, on the 12 of October 1846 their Daughter Elisabeth nice years old died just before they camped for the night.  She was buried early next morning without a coffin, and they continued the journey with the company  Just one week later on Occt. 19, 1846, their beautiful dark eyed baby, not a year old died and was buried the same as the first one, and they continued their journey in sorrow, especially as their  little son John was near deaths door.  After many hardships & Privations they arrived at Hiland Grove a small village of saints, near Council Bluffs in the western border of Iowa, here they located, and prepared for winter.

Bushman Family History
Forced to leave with just a few hours’ notice, Martin was poorly prepared to make the five hundred mile trip from Nauvoo to Council Bluffs, Iowa. The trip was made during the wet season of fall and winter, over roads which were often all but impassible. The suffering was intense, and two of their little girls died and were buried in graves without coffins.
Bushman Family History, compiled 1956 by Newbern I. Butt for the Bushman Family History Committee, pp. 12-15

Pioneer 2

I’ve been listening to music by Fiddlesticks, who recorded a song called “Lonesome Roving Wolves.”  When I found a text of the lyrics, the story below was told.  I’ve often thought about Jacob and Charlotte burying their daughters along the trail as they journeyed to Zion.  I imagine Elizabeth as a bright 9 year-old with dark hair like her mother’s, braided and her sunbonnet hanging on her back and a beautiful baby they called “Hetty” bouncing on a knee.  Then driven from their homes, deprived of food and warmth, these little girls became very sick and weak, tired and hungry.  There was no relief or help.  These girls died and were buried in unmarked graves along the trail.

I’ve read enough pioneer histories to know that putting branches on a grave was often a last effort to discourage the wolves who followed the wagon trains from digging up the graves as soon as the families moved on.  This song reminds me of my ancestor little girls who did not make it to Zion with their family.  I love these girls. I will not forget them.


Words and Music: Levi Ward Hancock (1803 – 1882)

Levi Hancock was an early member and leader of the Mormon church, having joined in November 1830, just six months after the church was organized. He was a member of Zion’s camp, an early settler of Missouri and of Nauvoo, a member of the Quorum of the Seventy. Levi was also the only LDS “General Authority” to march with the Mormon Battalion from Iowa to Mexico, and then to California. He is listed on the official roster of the Battalion as “Company E Musician.” It was during this trek that he wrote this ballad. He wrote several songs about Mormon life, and was good friend of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.

The Mormon Battalion was a remarkable trek (the longest infantry march in American history). Just a few months after the Mormons had been forcibly evicted from Nauvoo with the acquiescence of the American government, representatives of the U.S. Army approached Brigham Young at the temporary Mormon camp at Council Bluffs, Iowa, to recruit volunteers for the Spanish-American War. The official recruiting circular delivered by Captain James Allen of the 1st Dragoons, read as follows:

“I have come among you, instructed by Col. S.F. Kearney of the U.S. Army, now commanding the Army of the West, to visit the Mormon camp, and to accept the service for twelve months of four or five companies of Mormon men who may be willing to serve their country for that period in our present war with Mexico; this force to unite with the Army of the West at Santa Fe, and be marched thence to California, where they will be discharged…. This is offered to the Mormon people now. This is an opportunity of sending a portion of their young and intelligent men to the ultimate destination of their whole people, and entirely at the expense of the United States, and this advanced party can thus pave the way and look out for the land for their brethren to come after them.”

More on the Mormon Battalion at http://www.mormonbattalion.com/history/brief.html

Levi Hancock’s nephew, George Washington Hancock, also enlisted in the Mormon Battalion (at the age of 20). George states in his biography that “a farewell ball was given to honor and cheer the departing soldiers. A bowery had been constructed for shelter and the dance floor consisted of hard earth tromped down by anxious feet. Violins, horns, tambourines and sleigh bells were assembled.” Moreover, “courage was inspired in the hearts of both the volunteers and their families and when the parting came it was one of cheer as they marched away to the tune of “The Girl I Left Behind me” played on the fife by Levi Ward Hancock.” George also relates the writing of this song by his Uncle Levi. Notice that as George relates it, the poem referred to the “loathsome roving wolves” – not the lonesome wolves. That makes a little more sense, but it is much harder to sing! The following is from George Washington Hancock’s biography:

The condition of the [Battalion’s] larder by this time may be imagined from the lines of Levi Ward Hancock, descriptive of their plight

“We sometimes now lack for bread
are less than quarter rations fed
and soon expect, for all of meat
Naught less than broke down mules to eat.”

While crossing this mountainous region the Battalion had gone without water for 48 hours and each day their food grew less. On Dec. 2 they reached the ruins of the rancho San Bernadino and here the first wild cattle were found. They traveled to a stream called Ash Creek and there one of their number Elisha Smith, died and was buried. The night was made hideous with the howls of large wolves. Descriptive of this event Levi W. Hancock wrote:

When our army had camped beside the green grove
Where the pure water ran from the mountain above
When our hunters, returned from chasing the bulls
We listened to the howls of the loathsome roving wolves.

When the guards were all stationed to their points around
On the top of the hills where the wild bull is found;
The wind blowed higher and approached us so cold
As we listened to the howls of the loathsome roving wolves.

Then the groans of the dying was heard in the camp
And the cold chilling frost was seen on the tents
Then the thoughts of our hearts can never be told
As we listened to the howls of the loathsome wolves.

Then we dug a deep grave and buried him there
All alone by the grove, not a mark to tell where,
We piled brush and wood and burnt over his grave,
As a cheat for the red man and loathsome howling wolves.

We arose in the morning as soon as ’twas day.
The fifes and drummers had played reveille,
Soon the mules were brought up, our baggage to pull
We then bid good-by to the loathsome howling wolves.

Pioneer 5.jpg

This poem has been put to music and is played by Fiddlesticks, on their Farewell to Nauvoo, one of my favorite CDs.  Here is how they adapted it:

LYRICS (as recorded):
The Lonesome Roving Wolves

The Mormons were camped down by the green grove
Where the pure waters flowed from the mountains above
And the hunters returned from chasing the bulls
While we listened to the howling of the lonesome roving wolves

We watched the last breath of our teamster who lay
In the cold grasp of death as his life wore away
In deep anguish he moaned as if mocking the pain
As we listened to the howling of the lonesome roving wolves

He died, a deep grave we then dug for him there
All alone by the road, not a sign to tell where
Then we piled brush and wood and burned over his grave
And we hid him from the savage and the lonesome roving wolves

‘Twas a sad doleful night, yet by sunrise next day
When the fife and the drum had played reveille
We then harnessed our mules and we went on our way
And we then bid adieu to the lonesome roving wolves


About annlaemmlenlewis

I am member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I am currently serving as a Missionary in the Washington Yakima Mission. Welcome to my personal blog, Ann's Words, and my Mission blog, Our Yakima Mission. If you are interested in family history stories and histories, you can find those posted in Ann's Stories. Thanks for looking in!
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