The following is Chapter Twenty-Eight of my story about a pair of free black siblings making the journey to California in 1849:
From the Journal of Alice Fleming
Chapter Twenty-Eight - A Tragedy in the Wilderness
August 4, 1849
Three trappers arrived at the fort not long after breakfast. Thanks to them, we learned what happened to Mr. Moore and young Mr. Goodwin. Our fellow travelers caught up with the horse thieves and became embroiled in a dust up. Unfortunately, the thieves were part of a Shoshoney hunting party. The encounter led to an exchange of fire. Although the three trappers arrived on the scene to assist Mr. Moore and Mr. Goodwin, their timing was somewhat off. The two young men had been wounded by the Shoshoney. Mr. Moore survived. Young Mr. Goodwin did not.
Later this afternoon, the wagon party held a funeral for young Mr. Goodwin. It was held at the fort's small cemetery. Only Mr. Moore did not appear, for he was recovering from his ordeal in the infirmary. When a few of the Indians inside the fort gathered near the service out of curiosity, Mr. Goodwin became angry and demanded they leave. The fort's administrator quietly ask them to move away, which they thankfully obliged. I wonder how our little wagon party will recover from this tragedy.
August 5, 1849
We spent the following morning purchasing supplies for the rest of our journey. According to Mr. James, Fort Hall will be the last civilized stop until we reach the Sacramento Valley. Oh dear. I do not know how Benjamin will endure this last leg. Ever since our departure from Fort Laramie, he has been constantly complaining about being on the trail. Despite his visions of being another Mr. Whitman, I suspect that my big brother is not capable of enduring the wilderness. However, I have noticed that his complaints have ceased in the last two to three weeks.
Dissent has erupted within our ranks. Mr. Robbins informed his wife and myself that Mr. Goodwin tried to oust Mr. James as our party's wagon captain. Mr. Goodwin continued to blame Mr. James for the death of his son and claimed that young Mr. Goodwin would have been alive if Mr. James had led a small party to retrieve the stolen mounts, four days ago.
The idea of Mr. Goodwin as our new wagon captain fills me with dread. I still recall his attempts to get Elias arrested as a fugitive slave, two months ago. Goodness! Has it been that long? The Robbins share my feelings. According to Mr. Robbins' emigrant guide, the worst of our journey - deserts and the Sierra Madre Mountains - lay in our path. I would prefer an experienced guide to lead us through such an arduous journey, instead of someone like Mr. Goodwin, who is in the throes of grief and anger.
Before I retired for sleep, I encountered Elias near the fort's western wall. We have not been able to exchange a word since Benjamin took such a long time in fetching water some two weeks ago. Frankly, I do not know why I continue to keep our encounters a secret. Perhaps I fear Benjamin's reaction, if he knew the truth. I have been receiving some odd looks from him in the past day or two. And they me me feel uneasy.
End of Chapter Twenty-Eight