Monday, April 4, 2011

Edwin Pettit Autobiography, Part 9

On one occasion, when returning from the coast, I met two men who were on their way to California for freight, and we camped together at Cain Springs on the Santa Clara River. I was very well acquainted with both of them. On returning their journey they were riding at the head of their train. When they had gone quite a distance ahead of their train, some Indians who were traveling along with them, after pretending to be friendly, shot them both in the back with arrows. This happened out on the desert. One of them was killed there and the other was taken into San Bernardino and died from his wounds. I have since seen the grave where one of them was buried. Thus ended the lives of two brave men.

One evening we turned our mules out to graze for a short time preparatory for a journey across the desert. As they strayed away, one of the boys followed to bring them back, and while doing this two Indians ran into the herd and shot four mules. I heard him holler and jumped up on the front of the wagon box to see what the trouble was. I saw the mules running, and I called to the other boys as I grabbed my revolver and ran to help this fellow. We could not catch one of the mules to ride on or we could have got the Indians, as we saw them run up into the hills. The owner of the mules declared vengeance, as we knew that the Indians would follow us to get the meat of the dead animals. The four mules died the following morning, as they had been shot with poisoned arrows. The man wanted to remain and get the Indians when they came up for the meat, but being tired and sleepy they gave up that idea for fear that they would get too far behind the train on the desert and would suffer for water. On this same trip we got snowed in the canyons, and it was necessary for the men to break the trail before the wagons and mules could be taken through the snow.

On leaving San Bernardino, when the trouble there arose between the Mormons and the government, those who were not of our faith were afraid the Mormons would try to smuggle ammunition back into Salt Lake with them. The marshal of San Bernardino [1] asked me to accompany him in a light spring wagon, into the canyon to carry ammunition and firearms to deliver to those who were coming to Salt Lake. Why he should have selected me for this errand was somewhat of a mystery to me, as I was rather young for such an undertaking. This, of course, was not strictly in accordance with the law at the time, but we were anxious to assist our friends who were returning to Salt Lake.

On one occasion, while traveling with a man and his wife with their family of eight children, we were snowbound, with teams that had given out. We were without wood, water or grass, and night coming on. We could see in the distance some small pine trees. My companion took an axe on his shoulder and I followed him with a yoke of oxen to get some wood. We took it back to camp, scraped the snow away; made a fire; boiled a kettle of potatoes and sat on the wagon tongue to eat them. It seemed to me I never ate a better meal. That night our horses ran away and left us, being driven by the storm for twenty miles. I followed them and brought them back. This was extremely risky as there was great danger in being lost in the snow storm.

On October 29, 1864, I married Rebecca Hood Hill, daughter of Archibald N. and Isabella Hood Hill. [2] We settled in the Fourteenth Ward of Salt Lake City, where we lived for about eight years. We then moved to the present location. We have had a family of ten girls and four boys.

In 1882 I made a trip to California on a visit to see some of my old friends. In 1905 I, in company with my wife and four of my daughters, visited Southern California, spending about six weeks in seeing some of the familiar places so dear to me and visiting with my former friends. I was invited to address the Pioneer Society (of which I am a member) in San Bernardino.

After forty-two years I visited my native home in Long Island, and found there many of my old acquaintances and relatives.

I have enjoyed the West. Have seen it under every condition, from the comparatively early days, and traversed it for the mere love of recreation. I finally settled in Salt Lake and made my home in the Fourteenth Ward for a short time, later moving to the present location, where I have spent the last forty years. I have crossed the desert between here and Los Angeles seventeen times by team and three times by rail. I am not only a Pioneer of 1847, but also of 1851, being one of those who went to fill the first mission in California.


[1] The San Bernardino Police Officers Association Website lists the early marshals of San Bernardino (1853-1905) as Bud Rollins, Stewart Wall (1836-), George Mattheson, Frank Kerfoot, Charles Landers, Mark Thomas, John C. Ralphs, L. Van Dorin, Joseph Bright, Hughes Thomas, David Wixom, William Reeves, John Henderson, Ben Souther, and Walter A. Shay. The marshal in 1857 would probably have been one of the first of those listed.

[2] Edwin Pettit was married first to Maria Pettit. Note from Edwin and Rebecca's son William Pettit, Sr.: On February 27, 1861, his first child was born; a girl who received the name of Alice Maria Pettit. The mother, Maria Pettit, died on May 20, 1863 when Alice was a few days less than twenty-seven months old.

This left Father with a home and three children, two boys and a baby girl, to care for. His business took him away from home a great part of the time. Richard Bush, born August 2, 1850, was thirteen years old and John P. Bush, born September 9, 1856, was seven years old when their mother died. This was a great responsibility and undoubtedly a great worry for a man twenty-nine years old who had never been tied down to a home life until he was twenty-six years old.

Father always attended Church when he was near a Mormon Church. I remember going to Church with him when I had to hold on to his hand and he would help me partake of the Sacrament. Living in the Fourteenth Ward he undoubtedly participated in the Ward activities.


Pettit, Edwin. “Biography of Edwin Pettit: 1834-1912,” in Pettit Peregrinations: 654 to 1961 by William A. Pettit, Sr. Pasadena: privately printed, 1961; reprint, Salt Lake City: privately printed, 1988.

Pettit, William A., Sr. Pettit Peregrinations.

Family pictures from "A Picture Book," author unknown.

1 comment:

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