. . . In the year 1864 in the month of May having taking our farewell from our friends, we started we started [SIC] for Liverpool leaving [ - - ] late home [UNCLEAR] in a small village named Lent Vail [UNCLEAR] to try our future in the far west. The little village is situated near the town of Stoke in Staffordshire England.
We reached Liverpool after a ride of several hours. There it was that I first saw the ocean and the large vessels. It was in one of these ships we were to sail across the mighty ocean to New York. We were shown the ship that was to be our home for some weeks to come. I cannot recall the day of the month we sailed, but in the course of the next day, after our arrival, I think it was the ship left the docks. We, or that is myself, had strict orders to stay close to our berths as they called them. So I did not see the ship leave the yard, but I could hear the tramp of many feet over head and up and down the gangways and the motion of the vessel as the tug towed the General McClellan into deep water. She had on board about 800 passengers on board. It was during the confusion that [p.2] my mother and sister and my brother, wife for my brother. [UNCLEAR] Well had been married since leaving our home. They went on deck making a few small purchases from the merry boat paddlers that infest the harbors of Liverpool and flock around the emigrant ships. After they made the necessary purchases, they were returning to the bunks and got on the wrong route and mother walked in an open hatchway that they had; that is the sailors had been loading frig iron. Frig iron is bars of iron about three to four inches thick and two and a half feet in length. Mother fell down the hatch the distance of about 12 feet striking her head on one of the bars of iron, the fall rendering her insensible for some hours, but with the blessings of the Almighty and the help of the doctor she recovered, but was very feeble the rest of the voyage.
In the [year] 1864 the war in the United States was in progress and the captain of the McClellan had cause to fear meeting some of the confederates on the ocean he sailed a great way out of his course he sailed to the north so far as to get amongst the ice bergs. On the 4th of June, it being my birthday I well remember the occurrence. We saw a large ice berg apparently in the form of a lion floating across our course.
I well remember a dead calm this seemed the worst of it all it was sickening to see not a puff of wind to ruffle that great sheet of water. It looked like a great plain of glass, if it had not been for the large purposes sticking their big like heads out of the water. During the night of the calm, the wind commenced to blow and by morning the storm was in full blast. The particulars I cannot remember but I do remember the buckets and boxes sliding to and fro across the vessel and spilling their contents as they went. The water came down the open hatchway exciting a great many. Some cried out that the vessel was struck by a piercing piece of ice, other thought that their last hour had come. The storm increased and being tired of staying below, I thought I would go on deck, [p.3] but getting as far as the gang way my courage failed me for never had such a sea greeted my eyes before or since the sea in its fury the wind whistling threw the rigging and the rain descending in torrents such a scene I do not wish to witness again. The water come surging over the ships decks in large dashing waves. Almost sweeping the sailors from their post. The storm raged all day, and about the violence of the storm was over but the waters were very rough that night and the next day. The remainder of our journey passed about hearing more items of interest with the exceptions of the mizen rigging taking fire, but it was doubted. Before very serious damage was done, there was also a whale sited and I had the pleasure of seeing the monster of the deep throw the water many feet in the air.
In the course of about 6 weeks from the time we started we reached New York Harbor. Here we stayed laying outside at anchor. Here the hot July sun came pouring down its warm rays upon the deck. There, their passengers stood admiring the beautiful scenery of the harbor. This beautiful scenery when once seen, it is long to be remembered and what gave it such a charm no doubt was the pleasure of seeing land and seeing civilization once again and giving our eyes a chance to see something besides mighty expanse of water.
In the course of 1 or 2 days there came a steamboat and we had a farewell to the [General] McClellan. We were then taken to Castle Garden as it is called. We were then unloaded as the saying goes, bag and baggage. Next day we were loaded on a steamboat.
I cannot well remember how many times we changed boats until we reached Buffalo. Here, were we unloaded again. Again this time we were to take the train to St. Joseph. While we were stopping here for a short time my father was put to watch the main entrance to keep out the sharpers. A man came to the entrance and wanted to pass in but father would not let him pass in. This caused him to get angry and he said he was going in [p.4] for he was the proprietor of the place. Father said it did not matter about that I would butt him out just as quick as any other man if he insisted on entering. These words and a great many more past between them and when he found he could not enter he cooled down some what and he said to father that when he got to Utah that he would not find Mormonism the same in Utah as in England.
I cannot now remember much that past on our journey from Buffalo to St. Joseph; only that we were compelled to change cars. Sometimes we rode in fine passenger cars, sometimes in cattle trucks. We were stopped once at a station half a day on account of fighting ahead of us. Finally reach St. Joseph, here we were unloaded again. We were to take the steamboat and travel up the Missouri River to Wyoming. I well remember traveling up this stream how intense muddy it was. We reached Wyoming in tolerable good spirits and were glad to get well on our legs again. Here we saw many more emigrants that had reached Wyoming sometime before. All were bound for the west as many as could probably reach there for many of the poor pilgrims as were called that were in good spirits and good health were caused to lay their bodies down on the broad plains of the west.
Here we saw the oxen and wagons that were to haul us across those broad plains and here we saw the Mormon boys with their big bull whips and their wide rimmed hats which seemed rather odd to us as we had never seen the like before. The distance we were to travel was about one thousand to eleven hundred miles. After the days of preparation were past through, for it took up some time. During this time we saw several wagon trains start for the west. Before starting, father and Will bought a cow and calf to take with us. This was the first cow that was owned in our family. At length it came our turn to start. This was a new thing for us, something we had to learn. This was not the swift railroad train, but the slow method of traveling with oxen. [p.5]
. . . This morning the train started for Salt Lake City. We reached there about noon. I cannot remember where it was we camped, but it was a orchard and I well remember asking for permission to pick up some of the peaches that had fallen to the ground. We remained in Salt Lake City some days, how many I cannot tell, until father made up his mind to make his home in San Pete County about 100 miles to the south. . . . [p.8]
BIB: Journal of David Coombs, pp.2-5,8. Microfilm copy in private possession.