BIOGRAPHY OF BETSY DUNN HAWS BROWN
Betsy Dunn was born March 1939, in Michigan. She was the daughter of Simeon A. Dunn and Adeline Rawson.
Betsy walked most of the way across the plains and will tell, in her own words, some of her experiences:
“I remember so well the buffalo. There were great herds of them. I think I have seen more of them than I have of cattle, and I have seen a great many of them. It seems like the land was just covered for miles with buffalo. We would have to stop until they got past, as they were very vicious if molested. The noise was so loud it made us afraid. I was only ten years old at this time. Some of the men would follow the buffalo to get them for meat as that was about all we had. They were terrible when wounded and often would gore one to death if they got in their way.
“When we arrived at the place called Ft. Bridger we camped a short distance from the camp. That night we saw some Indians coming. We wondered what they were coming for when one young Indian left the rest and handed my sister Mary [DUNN ENSIGN] a lovely shawl and told her to go with him and be his wife. My sister Mary was a very pretty girl. We were all so afraid, and when father told him she would have to refuse we were afraid they would get ugly. They tried to get him to take the shawl back, but he just turned and rode away and never bothered us again. Mary wore the shawl out after coming to Utah. Father certainly kept her close to him the rest of the trip. Our mother died when we were in Nauvoo, Illinois.
“After we left Ft. Bridger we came across great droves of ground squirrel. We did not know what they were. They would stand up and all bark and the noise they would make. They kept barking until we all got past them.
“We passed great herds of deer and lots of antelope. They did not seem very much afraid, but would stand off and watch us.
“We had two wagons; Father drove one and Mary the other. When we came to a river that they could ford, Father would drive in and Mary would follow him. Sometimes he would have to unload one wagon and put them all upon boards where the things would not get wet. Some of the rivers were very deep and it would take a long time to get across, but our father managed it some way.
“One day I remember so well Father stopped the wagons right by a bed of prickly pears. Not noticing, Mary jumped out of the wagon right in them. We were bare footed, and oh what a time we had getting them out of her feet. Our dear father would be so careful but it did hurt her so and we all felt so bad. Her feet were sore for a long time.
“We had two cows and milked them and hitched them to the wagon in the day with one pair of oxen.
“At Winter Quarters, father met a young lady that left her home in Vermont to cast her lot with the Mormons, and they were married. She certainly helped us in the hardships we had to bear.
“We used to put the milk in a can and hang it on the back of the wagon and at night we would have butter for supper.
“One night when we camped, one of the cows found some poison parsnip. Next morning we found her cold and dead. Oh, how bad we felt, dear old Beauty, how we loved her. She was such a pretty cow. I remember her yet and I will be eighty-seven years old in March, if I live that long. (This was written in 1925; Aunt Betsy was 87 in March 1926.) We cried so hard and we missed her so much with our load, but she was dead and we had to make the best of it. But we thought of nothing else for many days.
“Mother would take pieces of buffalo robe, after she came in our family, and put the wooly side in and sew them and make us shoes. She was very handy with a needle. We girls would stand on the bank where the buffalo would come for water. Lots of the wool would catch on the willows, and we would get it and dry it. Mother had a pair of cards and we got enough wool for mother to make us stockings to wear.
“After we arrived here we found a place where there was a little volunteer wheat. We were so glad for that much. We had a little corn meal and mother used to bake a corn cake every morning, and that would do for the day. We called it johnnycake. On Sunday, mother would make some flour biscuits.
“We had to live on short rations all winter. Every morning mother would cut the cake in five pieces, one piece for each of us. Many times Mary and I would keep the most of ours and try to get Father to eat it. Dear old father, he used to be out of doors so much and work so hard to keep us from being hungry. We used to think so much of our father; he had been our mother for so long.
“Time has changed a lot since I was a girl. We had to go a mile and a half to school. We did not have any floors in the schoolhouse, and we used to get so cold the first winter.
“Oh how good it was to have white bread. How glad we were after our first crop of wheat and we had all the white bread we wanted to eat. Oh how good it was after just rations of corn bread.
“When the trains of wagons would come in and unload, we children would go and pick up any rice or coffee that would spill as some of the bags would break. We used to get fruit a lot that way. Mother made cheese and sometimes sold some, so we started to prosper.
“Then our dear Father was called to the South Sea Islands on a mission. This made it very hard for Mother and all of us. I had to herd cows where Fort Douglas is now and away across the Jordan River. Ours always was the first herd out and the last one in at night.
“I herded cows for two years and they gave me a calico dress for my work for the two years. My, I was proud of that dress. I remember so well just how it looked. I thought it was the prettiest dress I had ever seen. It was a white ground with a little leaf in it. When I had it on the girls said I was pretty. I had to take good care of it. It was a long time before I had another one.
“Well my dear niece, when you get this letter analyzed, you will think you have a funny old aunt. You had better keep this letter as it may be the last I am able to write.
Your old aunt, Betsy D. H. Brown”
Betsy Dunn Haws Brown, at fifteen years of age, married Alf Haws and went to Battle Mountains, Nevada.
She was a pioneer of that state and surely had a hard time. One of her children was born out on the prairie. She had nine children. All of Betsy’s children died early in life and she was left alone in her old age and did her own work. After that, she went to a home for old ladies in Oakland, where she died April 17, 1927.
After the death of her husband she went into the home of one of her sons-in-law to care for him and the motherless children of one of her daughters. Later she married James Brown, but he too preceded her in death.