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SLT Perpendicular Descent Was Like ‘Jumping Off the Roof of a House’

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Harold Schindler
Published: 07/10/1997 Category: Nation-World Page: A2

Editor’s Note: To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Mormon Trail, The Salt Lake Tribune is offering this day-by-day account of the Mormon Pioneers’ original trek from Winter Quarters, Nebraska, to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Tribune history writer Harold Schindler, using diaries, letters, journals and reminiscences that have come to light this century, has fleshed out the following narrative.

July 10, 1847

The closer the Camp of Israel got to the Great Salt Lake Valley, it seemed the rougher the terrain became. For as the pioneers left Muddy Creek, they passed a clear mineral spring (Soda Springs) that carried the disagreeable taste of copperas and alum. It coursed over red sand, which abounded in the region, until the water took on the appearance of flowing blood. From there the trail wound around the foot of nearby mountains until at last the wagon train faced an almost impassably steep and boulder-strewn patch of ground leading to what now is known as Pioneer Hollow.

There were more hills to climb and steep pitches to negotiate along with a remarkable S-turn that took them to a small creek that smelled of rotten eggs (Sulphur Spring). Here they made camp. Looking back from the bottom of the trail, Thomas Bullock said the nearly perpendicular descent was like “jumping off the roof of a house to a middle story. Thank god, no one was hurt.” The wheels on some wagons had to be locked in order to negotiate the drop. William Clayton put up a guide board: “30 miles to Fort Bridger.”

Orson Pratt fortunately found a fine spring of clear, sweet, cold water about 100 yards southwest of the camp. As he was returning from the spring, Pratt saw smoke two miles in the distance and immediately suspected it was an Indian campfire. George A. Smith, Porter Rockwell and a few others rode out to determine who their neighbors were. It was a party of seven from “the bay of San Francisco on their way home to the States.” One was the mountaineer Miles Goodyear, who was bringing a horse herd back from California. In the party with Goodyear were his two Indian herders as well as John Craig of Ray County, Missouri; Samuel Truitt from Shelby County, Illinois; and two unidentified California immigrants.

Goodyear was a slight, wiry fellow who sported a thatch of fire-red hair. A Connecticut-born Yankee, he had started from Sutter’s Fort near Sacramento with three Indian wranglers and his horses when the party tangled with hostile Indians near Truckee Lake. Goodyear was slightly wounded in the fracas; one of his hired hands was killed. He had planned to take the band of horses to Missouri, but when he was told that the Oregon emigration had started, Goodyear changed his plans. He would intercept them at Fort Hall with the idea of doing some horse-trading. His traveling companions, Craig and Truitt, would continue to the States.

From Craig, Wilford Woodruff learned that Levina Murphy, a woman he had baptized, had apostatized and was among the Donner party emigrants involved in cannibalism at Truckee Lake. From Goodyear, Brigham Young learned of two roads from the present camp to the Great Salt Lake Valley; the mountaineer recommended the northernmost route.

Clayton, in his wagon, noted in his journal that Goodyear “is the man who is making a farm in the Bear River Valley.” He said it was seventy-five miles to his place. His report of the valley “is more favorable than some we have heard, but we have an idea he is anxious to have us make a road to his place through selfish motives.” But Clayton was jumping to unwarranted conclusions. Goodyear not only described the two routes, but guided Porter Rockwell, Jesse Little, Joseph Mathews and John Brown along both. The first was by way of Coyote Creek and the Needles, and the other (the southern route) was along Yellow Creek.

Both routes came together near Cache Cave at the head of Echo Canyon, but the northern trail was considerably shorter. The distance from that point to Goodyear’s fort was precisely the same; it made not a whit of difference to him. From Echo Canyon, the Camp of Israel had only to follow the Donner-Reed trail into the Valley. Young and his counselors favored the southern route; the rest of the pioneer camp voted for the high road. They took that route.

SLT ‘Captain Young’ Returns Horse Seized in Payment for Stolen Animal

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Harold Schindler
Published: 07/09/1997 Category: Nation-World Page: A2

Editor’s Note: To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Mormon Trail, The Salt Lake Tribune is offering this day-by-day account of the Mormon pioneers’ original trek from Winter Quarters, Nebraska, to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Tribune history writer Harold Schindler, using diaries, letters, journals and reminiscences that have come to light this century, has fleshed out the following narrative.

July 9, 1847

Sergeant Thomas S. Williams and Samuel Brannan spent the morning after breakfast bidding goodbye to the pioneers as they set out on the back trail to meet the oncoming Mormon Battalion Sick Detachment from Pueblo, and pilot them until they caught up to the main camp. When the two had departed, Brigham Young contacted Tim Goodale, the trader at Fort Bridger, and returned the horse that Williams had seized in payment for an animal stolen by one of Goodale’s men at Pueblo. Young did so quietly and without fuss, reasoning that Goodale was not responsible for the theft. Goodale, in turn, expressed his thanks to “Captain Young” for his understanding in the matter.

The Camp of Israel moved out at 8:00 a.m., taking Lansford Hastings’ new route, leaving the waters of Blacks Fork and heading west along a rough wagon trail cut the year before by the Donner-Reed party. The pioneers skirted north of Bridger Butte, and after six and one-quarter miles halted at a spring to rest the teams. Then three-quarters of a mile farther they began ascending the long steep slope of Bigelow Bench. The ground was “tolerably” level for several miles, until the pioneers undertook the slow and dangerous descent, “the steepest and most difficult” thus far encountered, according to William Clayton, who added it was “almost perpendicular.”

In the afternoon they crossed Muddy Fork, a stream twelve feet wide, and formed camp for the night on the west bank where there was plenty of tall bunch grass. Muddy Fork here runs north and winds around the hills to the north of Fort Bridger and forms a junction with Hams Fork before flowing into the Green. For Wilford Woodruff, the thirteen miles traveled during the day–were pure agony. “I arose this morning quite unwell, feeling threatened with camp fever. Yet mounted my horse and rode until 10:00.

“William Carter is down with the sickness and there are new cases every day in camp. I took to bed with distressing pain in my head, back, joints, bones, marrow and all through the system. Cold chills and hot flashes. We traveled thirteen miles over as bad a road as we had on the journey, which makes it exceedingly painful to the sick.”

The camping place was excellent, with abundant tender and sweet grass that the animals were extremely fond of. “We discovered now and then, a little of this kind of grass on the Sweetwater, but as we continue west it increases in quantity,” said Orson Pratt. Again, Albert Carrington, ever the geologist, found several beds of excellent grindstone in the vicinity.

Advance companies of the second Mormon emigration left their campground in the Platte River Valley this morning and camped upriver a dozen miles distant. During the evening, David Boss lost a fine ox by allowing it to eat saltpeter (potassium nitrate), which is found in large quantities on the bottomlands. Another company was delayed for a while by a broken wagon wheel. Patty Sessions said, “In starting out we followed the pioneer track, but the sloughs were so bad we could not keep in the trail. We journeyed upstream, made a bridge of grass and crossed over. During the day we went twelve miles and struck the pioneer trail again on the banks of the Platte.”

SLT Woodruff Shows Twelve Wyoming Trout Just What Fly-Fishing Is All About

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Harold Schindler
Published: 07/08/1997 Category: Nation-World Page: A2

Editor’s Note: To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Mormon Trail, The Salt Lake Tribune is offering this day-by-day account of the Mormon Pioneers’ original trek from Winter Quarters, Nebraska, to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Tribune history writer Harold Schindler, using diaries, letters, journals and reminiscences that have come to light this century, has fleshed out the following narrative.

July 8, 1847

Some wagon tires needed setting, so it was decided to stay an extra day at Fort Bridger. This offered members of the pioneer company an opportunity to do a little trading and catch up on other small chores. As for Wilford Woodruff, the extra day gave him some leisure, and though he didn’t know it at the time, he would make history this day. “As soon as I got my breakfast I rigged up my trout rod that I had brought with me from Liverpool, fixed my reel, line and artificial fly and went to one of the brooks close by camp to try my luck at catching trout.”

A man at the fort had told Woodruff there were very few trout in the streams and a good many pioneers were already in the creeks with their rods and lines, trying their skill baiting with fresh meat and grasshoppers, but no one seemed to catch any. That did not dissuade Woodruff from trying his luck: He was a better-than-average angler, and he was equipped with a fly rod. “I went and flung my fly onto the water and it being the first time that I ever tried the artificial fly in America, or ever saw it tried, I watched as it floated upon the water with as much intense interest as Franklin did his kite when he tried to draw lightning from the skies. And as Franklin received great joy when he saw electricity or lightning descend on his kite string, in like manner was I highly gratified when I saw the nimble trout dart my fly, hook himself and run away with the line.

I soon wearied him out and drew him to shore. I fished two or three hours including morning and evening and I caught twelve in all and about half of them would weigh about three-fourths of a pound each, while all the rest of the camp did not catch during the day three pounds of trout in all–proof positive to me that the artificial fly is far the best thing now known to fish trout with.” Woodruff’s record of his excursion establishes a claim for his being the first fisherman to cast an artificial fly west of the Missouri River.

Elsewhere in camp, a council was conducted to settle differences between George Mills and Andrew Gibbons, the former having charged the latter with assault and abuse. The dispute was resolved amicably. Sgt. Thomas S. Williams of the Mormon Battalion reminded Brigham Young that he came clothed with authority to arrest the horse thief who helped steal a dozen animals from the battalion at Pueblo. And Williams was prepared to exercise that authority against Tim Goodale, the trader who brought a pack train up from Pueblo; and if not Goodale, at least one of his men, for stealing horses. Trouble was, Williams could get no encouragement from Young to make the attempt.

However, Williams was a headstrong and independent soul. He seized a horse of Goodale’s in lieu of a mule stolen by one of Goodale’s men; and he gave Goodale a receipt, leaving it to the trader to recover damages from his own man. “Goodale seemed anxious that no other man should come upon his man for it; the receipt satisfied him,” said Thomas Bullock.

Howard Egan traded two rifles–one belonging to Edson Whipple, the other to George Billings–and received in return nineteen buckskins, three elk skins, and some other articles for making moccasins. At this stage in the trek west, many pioneers were in tatters and going barefoot. Later in the afternoon Woodruff swapped his flintlock rifle for four buffalo robes, large and nicely tanned and dressed. The trader rated the firearm as worth $20 and put the price of buffalo robes at $5 each.

Woodruff complained that prices at Bridger’s post were at least one-third or one-half higher than at any other trading post in America “that I ever saw.” He then compared prices with those at Fort Hall. But Woodruff, if his diaries are any indication, had no firsthand experience with trading posts, having seen only Fort Laramie at that point in his life, and could have learned of Fort Hall’s prices only through Sam Brannan, who visited that outpost the month before as he made his way to meet the pioneers.

By the end of the day, Brigham Young had decided that Thomas Williams and Brannan should double back on the trail until they met Captain James Brown and the Mormon Battalion sick detachment, and then guide them to the main company. Thomas Bullock made a copy of Lansford Hastings’ directions from Fort Bridger to the settlements of California and a map of the route–and returned the originals to Brannan.

SLT Camp in Flowers’ Splendor Follows Three River Crossings

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Harold Schindler
Published: 07/06/1997 Category: Nation-World Page: A2

Editor’s Note: To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Mormon Trail, The Salt Lake Tribune is offering this day-by-day account of the Mormon Pioneers’ original trek from Winter Quarters, Nebraska, to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Tribune history writer Harold Schindler, using diaries, letters, journals and reminiscences that have come to light this century, has fleshed out the following narrative.

July 6, 1847

From their camp on the banks of Blacks Fork in present Wyoming, the pioneers struck out this morning at ten minutes to 8:00 and, after three and one-half miles, crossed Hams Fork, a rapid stream about fifty feet wide and two feet deep. Without halting, the Camp of Israel wagon train went on another mile and a half and forded Blacks Fork of the Green River at a crossing little more than two feet deep at its channel. And thirteen miles more, according to Orson Pratt, the company recrossed Blacks Fork, then circled to make camp on its left bank. Here the grass was good with dense clusters of willow for browse and fuel. There were also four or five large cottonwood trees in the immediate vicinity of the camp.

What most pioneers noticed right away was the abundance of wildflowers and wild flax. The flax especially was thought to be the equal of any cultivated variety, according to William Clayton. There was much rich bunch grass for the teams and wild currants for the pioneers. “The prairies are lined with beautiful flowers of various colors–chiefly blue, red and yellow, which have a rich appearance and would serve to adorn and beautify an eastern flower garden,” Clayton observed.

While Wilford Woodruff was the company’s acknowledged Izaak Walton, it was Pratt who today recorded the welcome presence of “salmon-trout” on the Pacific slope. “A number of fish weighing from one to ten pounds have been caught with the hook in different streams on this side of the South Pass,” he said. Woodruff, recovering from a touch of the mountain fever, was uncharacteristically brief in his journal this day. “Man and beast,” he wrote, “harnesses and wagons all covered with dust. We crossed Blacks Fork at nine o’clock, Muddy Fork at ten and camped on the west side of Hams Fork at five o’clock. We did not noon at all today. Whole distance for the day, eighteen miles.” (Hams Fork, a principal tributary of Blacks Fork of the Green, got its name in the spring of 1825 when it was trapped by Zacharias Ham, one of William Ashley’s lieutenants.)

Like Woodruff, Norton Jacob was himself recovering from a bout with the influenza-like sickness. “I rest well and am gaining strength fast,” Jacob scrawled in his journal. “Moved on upstream about three miles and crossed Hams Fork and about a mile farther crossed Blacks Fork and continued up the south side. We made 18 miles. Crossed back to the north side and camped.”

Over in Thomas Bullock’s wagon, the camp historian was doing what he could to keep a detailed record of the company’s trail performance, noting as well that now Willard Richards, his mentor and patron, was sick in his wagon. Once Bullock had helped “gather up the teams,” he could concentrate on his chronicle: “Started at 7:40 a.m. through a gulley, then a south by west course for about three miles, and crossed ‘Kanes Fork’ about four rods wide; some willows and grass, a pretty good camping place, then up a hill in a straight line towards some high bluffs. In about two miles crossed Blacks Fork about eight rods wide in a slanting direction. Continued over a tolerable good road, but very barren, saw many dog daisies and many beautiful blue flowers, also red flowers. Go around the high bluff in the form of a semi-circle, leaving it on our left, then descend to the bottom again in a straight line, until we reached Blacks Fork which we again cross in a slanting direction…camp on the west side. Tolerable grass, some blue grass, many thistles and mountain flax, the best we have seen.”

Along the Platte River, men of the second Mormon emigration reported seeing a number of antelope, elk and “small animals resembling a puppy called prairie dogs. They burrow.” Patty Sessions wrote, “We traveled eighteen miles and camped on the banks of a stream [an arm of the Platte] where Indians had previously camped. We burned their discarded wickiups [tipis] for wood. Some of the men waded the river to get wood which they carried on their backs.”

SLT Mountain Fever Whips the Pioneers; Brannan Tells Young About California

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Harold Schindler
Published: 07/01/1997 Category: Nation-World Page: A2

Editor’s Note: To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Mormon Trail, The Salt Lake Tribune is offering this day-by-day account of the Mormon pioneers’ original trek from Winter Quarters, Nebraska, to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Tribune history writer Harold Schindler, using diaries, letters, journals and reminiscences that have come to light this century, has fleshed out the following narrative.

July 1, 1847

“Mountain fever” has swept the Camp of Israel. At least half the pioneers are suffering from this influenza-like malady that overwhelms them with savage headaches and bone-racking pain, rendering even the strongest among them incapable of driving teams or attending the simplest of tasks. Fortunately the illness seems short-lived, three or four days at most, but it leaves its victims drained of energy and dulls their spirits.

William Clayton suffered an attack this morning and was forced to put his pen and journal aside to nurse the “violent aching in my head and limbs.” Wilford Woodruff counted fifteen in his immediate vicinity who were stricken with what he described as “fever, ague &c.” Ezra Benson was down, as were George Wardle, George A. Smith, Erastus Snow, John Fowler, George Billings, Edson Whipple and others, including Clarissa Young, Brigham’s wife. The remaining able-bodied pioneers managed to ferry fourteen company wagons across the Green River, but were forced to halt operations when one raft became so waterlogged it no longer was practical to use it.

While the rafting came to a temporary standstill, it provided Samuel Brannan, freshly arrived from California by way of Fort Hall, an opportunity to persuade Brigham Young on the merits of settling in the San Joaquin Valley. Along with a file of his California Star describing the country and its environs, Brannan pointed out to Young that Captain John Sutter at Sutter’s Fort was “friendly and wished us to come settle near him.” Young remained noncommittal, however. But Brannan was encouraged to provide the Mormon leader with sketch maps of his route from California through Fort Hall to this Green River camp.

Norton Jacob, whose raft proved too heavy and cumbersome to stem the violence of the spring runoff current, pulled the structure to the shore and, “by request of Heber C. Kimball, I went to work with some men and built another raft of dry cottonwood ten feet by twenty-six feet which was much better.” Thomas Bullock was sick in bed “from overexertion.” And Willard Richards told him “not to do the like again for any man, Saint, King, Lord or Devil.” Bullock treated himself by drinking warm tea and chewing ginger root.

The second Mormon emigration, meanwhile, crossed the Loup Fork of the Platte River today, but not before a party of men turned out early to prepare a road to the river ford. The first wagons crossed at 9:30 a.m. and the last made it over by sundown. Farnum Kinyon’s seven-year-old son and another boy, Robert Gardner, five, were run over by wagons while crossing the Loup. One wagon weighed 3,000 pounds, the other 3,500 pounds. Both children were administered to immediately and they soon appeared to be in a fair way of recovery.

Some men went buffalo hunting, but returned without seeing any. Antelope were numerous.

SLT Pioneers Maintain Western Trek, Hear About Great Salt Lake Valley

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Harold Schindler
Published: 06/28/1997 Category: Nation-World Page: A2

Editor’s Note: To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Mormon Trail, The Salt Lake Tribune is offering this day-by-day account of the Mormon Pioneers’ original trek from Winter Quarters, Nebraska, to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Tribune history writer Harold Schindler, using diaries, letters, journals and reminiscences that have come to light this century, has fleshed out the following narrative.

June 28, 1847

Much of the time before breakfast this morning was spent by pioneers trading with Moses “Black” Harris for pants, jackets, shirts and so forth, made of buckskin. They also traded for the skins themselves. According to William Clayton, Harris was a shrewd businessman. “He sells them high; the skins at $1.50 and $2, a pair of pants, $3. He will take powder, lead, caps, calico and domestic shirts in exchange, but puts his own price on both sides…it is difficult to obtain even a fair trade.”

Before the Camp of Israel moved out on its westward journey, Harris will have traded for two rifles and some tobacco. Norton Jacob said, “He paid us in deer and elk skins.” And as the celebrated mountaineer packed up, he told Wilford Woodruff he would–meet them again on Bear River. Then, as the pioneers headed down the western slope of the Continental Divide, Harris waited for the Oregon-bound Missouri emigrants to come up; perhaps they would need a guide.

After six miles, the Mormon wagon train came to a fork in the trail. One branch struck off directly west, the other angled to the south and west. It was this left-hand road leading to California that the pioneers took. It was at this junction that Willard Richards posted a guide board: “297 to Fort Laramie” The company continued to travel over desert terrain, “yielding nothing but wild sage and occasionally a grass root.” They halted for noon on the banks of the Little Sandy, having come thirteen and one-half miles without a sign of wood, water or feed for the teams.

A little after 4:00 p.m., the pioneers began moving wagons across the fifty-foot breadth of the Little Sandy, two and one-half feet deep at that point, muddy and swift. They were across within the hour and expected to wheel another eight miles before camping for the night. But in a mile G.A. Smith, who had been riding out ahead of the company, met them. With him was the legendary mountain man, Jim Bridger and two of Bridger’s men. Having been told that the pioneers had planned to stop at Bridger’s trading post and seek his trail advice, Bridger suggested that “if you camp here, I’ll stay until morning.”

James Bridger, “Old Gabe,” was truly one of the remarkable figures in the history of the West. An Ashley trapper, he contended with Taos trapper Etienne Provost for the honor of being the first white man to see the Great Salt Lake. Provost perhaps saw it in the autumn of 1824, Bridger certainly about the same time. Now for several hours, he sat around a campfire with Brigham Young and members of the Council of Twelve Apostles, and told them of the trails he had blazed, the sights he had seen and the adventures he had encountered. But most of all, he told them of the Great Salt Lake Valley and its immediate environs.

For the Mormons he painted a more favorable image of the valley than did Black Harris. But, he said, it is not prudent to bring a large population into the Great Basin until it is proven that grain can survive the cold. So skeptical was he, that he told Young, “I would give $1,000 for a bushel of corn raised in the basin.” He also criticized John Fremont’s maps, for Fremont “knows nothing of this country, only the plains that he traveled. “I could correct all the maps put out about the West,” he asserted.

Woodruff said Bridger had an immense knowledge “of nearly all Oregon, California, the mountains, lakes, valleys, rivers, brooks, creeks, mines and springs. He told us of gold, silver, copper, lead, coal, iron, sulphur, and saltpetre deposits.” But, Woodruff added, what “Bridger wanted us to know was that frost could be our enemy. He did not know how frost would affect corn. And he said there was a spring at the end of the Salt Lake that produced hot and cold fresh water.” One other thing, Bridger told them, there was a man who had begun a farm in Bear River Valley where the soil is good. (Miles Goodyear’s place.)

Thomas Bullock dutifully recorded all that was said at this campfire, and also mentioned that earlier in the day Robert Crow’s bull had gored an ox in the bowels. “His bulls are savage creatures, having gored many of the oxen.” On this day, Amasa Lyman wrote a letter to Brigham Young from Thomas Grover’s Mormon Ferry near the upper crossing of the North Platte River, explaining that Captain James Brown’s command of the Mormon Battalion, except for a small detachment accompanying the Mississippi Saints from Fort Pueblo, was at the ferry; the rest are expected tomorrow.

SLT Brigham’s Horse Shot in Accident; Twisting River Forces Many Fords

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Harold Schindler
Published: 06/24/1997 Category: Nation-World Page: A2

Editor’s Note: To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in Utah, The Salt Lake Tribune is offering this day-by-day account of their trek from Winter Quarters, Nebraska, to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Tribune history writer Harold Schindler, using diaries, letters, journals and reminiscences that have come to light this century, has fleshed out the narrative.

June 24, 1847

The pioneers made another effort to get off to an early start to pass the two companies of Oregon-bound Missourians camped ahead of them and secure the best pasturage at night. They even silenced the bugle, so as not to give notice to the other camps of what they were about, but the Missourians arose a half-hour before the Mormon companies were ready.

It would be a day of constant river fording as the pioneers negotiated the twisting turns of the Sweetwater River, which they cross five times. At seven miles or so, they came to Sulphur Spring, popularly called Ice Springs, for when the men found the spring water strongly impregnated with sulphur they removed the turf for about six inches and found a solid body of crystal-clear ice about eighteen inches thick. Pure potash was discovered in such quantities on the edges of these springs, said Wilford Woodruff, that men gathered pails of it to raise bread dough. Others filled cups with salt so pure that they used it rather than other mixtures. Saleratus [baking soda] was in abundance.

William Clayton commented that, “We have learned to use the saleratus with care, it being so much stronger than common saleratus, if the same quantity is used it makes the bread quite green.” Erastus Snow was baffled by the ice, remarking, “All around the spring is ice about eighteen inches thick which seems pure and entirely free from the ingredients with which the water is impregnated. The reason why this unimpregnated water remains in its crystalline state while surrounded by other water, I leave for chemists to determine.”

After ten and one-quarter miles over an uneven road, the pioneers descended a steep cliff and made camp near a bend of the river. The feed in the vicinity was good, and there were plenty of willows along the bank for fuel.

A while before dark, John G. Holman was bringing up Brigham Young’s best saddle horse, one that cost $150 and he had named “John.”The horse tried to scamper forward and Holman, who was carrying his musket, poked the animal with the gun barrel. The hammer caught on his clothing and the weapon fired, sending a slug a little forward of the horse’s right hind leg into his belly, “making quite a large hole.” The wounded animal walked to camp, but it was the opinion of many that he could not survive long. He appeared to be in great pain. Young was filled with deep sorrow over the accident. It was the second horse he had lost through careless accidents on the trek.

Five antelope were taken by hunters. On the Platte River, some dissension occurred between captains of the various companies of the second Mormon emigration. John Taylor complained that Jedediah M. Grant and John Young had refused to obey orders and were out of place in moving their companies, making him follow in their trail dust. Parley Pratt was called in to mediate the matter and all was reconciled.

The camp is thirty miles from where the pioneers planned to cross Loup Fork, but because of the spring runoff, the water level is so high that they may have to move farther up to find a more suitable ford.

SLT Plagued by Mosquitoes, Pioneers Eager to Leave ‘Poison Springs’

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Harold Schindler
Published: 06/20/1997 Category: Nation-World Page: A2

Editor’s Note: To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Mormon Trail, The Salt Lake Tribune is offering this day-by-day account of the Mormon Pioneers’ original trek from Winter Quarters, Nebraska, to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Tribune history writer Harold Schindler, using diaries, letters, journals and reminiscences that have come to light this century, has fleshed out the following narrative.

June 20, 1847Such was the stench at the alkali swamp around which the pioneers had camped the day before, that Brigham Young ordered the company to move on even though today was the Sabbath. They would not stay at “Poison Springs” another hour. “Mosquitoes are very bad,” William Clayton said, “Two more oxen have been found almost buried in the mud. All hands appear wishful to leave this place and at a quarter past five this morning we moved out.”

The first mile was rough and rugged with a number of steep pitches in the road making it dangerous for axletrees. Some men went on ahead with picks and spades to improve what they could of the trail. A halt for breakfast came after three and three-quarter miles near a small clear stream of spring water about a foot wide. The grass along the banks was good, but there was no wood to be seen. Heber C. Kimball said when he and Ezra Benson rode on ahead last evening to scout the trail, they came within a quarter-mile of this place but not near enough to discover the water. And as they were slowly riding along, Kimball related, six Indians suddenly sprang from the grass in the distance. Clad in blankets, the six mounted horses and rode quickly away in a direction paralleling the road.

Without speeding up, the two Mormons followed. After a while, one of the riders turned and trotted toward Kimball and Benson and waved them back. However, they ignored the gesture and continued riding. When he saw the two still coming, the lone rider wheeled around and joined the others; then all six put spurs to their horses and were soon out of sight behind a higher ridge. Kimball and Benson galloped to the ridge. They discovered a company of Missouri emigrants about a mile in the distance, and saw the six riders turning into the camp. “We were satisfied these six were Missourians masquerading as Indians to keep us from this good campground,” Kimball said. It was an old Missouri trick and an insult to the Camp of Israel. “If they try to play ‘Indian’ again, they’ll likely will meet with Indian treatment,” Kimball muttered.

The Missouri camp pulled out a little before the Mormons arrived and it was now Brigham Young’s intention to press on a little faster and crowd them up a bit. “We learned from one of the emigrants a few miles in the rear that Andrew Gibbons may have camped with them last night,” Clayton said. Gibbons had gone hunting and was under the impression the pioneers would stay at an earlier camp for at least this weekend. It was thought that when he found the campsite abandoned, he might have joined up for the night with another overland company.

In the afternoon, the pioneers ascended a high knoll (Prospect Hill) which was a mile from the foot to the top and steep; the summit, Clayton said, was “nicely rounded” and offered a vista from which the land, for thirty miles around, could be seen. In the distance to the southwest, the pioneers saw a small body of water they believed was part of the Sweetwater River. So breathtaking was the view, that Brigham Young remarked it would be a splendid place for a summer mansion. The company pushed and during a brief halt to allow the teams to graze, it was suggested that Young lead off in an effort to make better time.

Wilford Woodruff and John Brown had gone ahead this morning to search out campsites, but they have not returned. The two, the pioneers would learn, had encountered a Missouri company on the trail and accepted an invitation to dinner. “We turned our horses in good feed, got supper, which was bacon, buffalo, corn bread, coffee and milk…we slept on the ground under a tent…[Meanwhile, the pioneers] blowed their bugle and watched for me until midnight, and finally fired their cannon while I was camped ten miles from them not thinking I was giving them trouble,” said Woodruff.

Back at the Mormon ferry at the upper crossing of the North Platte River, B.F. Stewart and William Empey took four horses and a wagon back to Deer Creek for a load of coal, primarily for James Davenport’s forge. While there, they posted this sign:

To the ferry 28 miles. Ferry good and safe. Manned by experienced men, blacksmithing, horse and ox shoeing done. Also a wheelwright. [Signed] Thomas Grover

And with the second Mormon emigration, the body of Jacob Weatherby, who suffered a mortal gunshot wound at the hands of an Indian, was wrapped in a buffalo robe and buried a little after sundown twenty steps east of the flagpole at the Elkhorn River camp. His was the first death recorded among the Mormon emigrant companies.

SLT Man Drowns Crossing Platte River; Another Shot in Abdomen by Indian

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Harold Schindler
Published: 06/19/1997 Category: Nation-World Page: A2

Editor’s Note: To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Mormon Trail, The Salt Lake Tribune is offering this day-by-day account of the Mormon Pioneers’ original trek from Winter Quarters, Nebraska, to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Tribune history writer Harold Schindler, using diaries, letters, journals and reminiscences that have come to light this century, has fleshed out the following narrative.

June 19, 1847

The Camp of Israel–in good health and spirits and teams in good order–resumed once again its journey westward. Some pioneers said their stock had fattened so much while at the upper crossing of the North Platte River they hardly knew them. “The grass appears to be rich and good,” observed William Clayton, as he noted the first six miles of their route was nearly west over several considerably high bluffs. Descent on the reverse slope was rough, crooked and uneven.

At the ferry, the Mormons finished crossing the emigrants about noon and James Davenport was blacksmithing for the Missourians when word came that a young man, Wesley Tustin, eighteen, had drowned five miles below the upper crossing while trying to swim a horse across the river, according to Appleton M. Harmon.

About 1:00 p.m., the pioneer company halted for noon on a spot of good grass about a quarter-mile from a small spring, “the first water we’ve come to since leaving the ferry eleven and one-quarter miles back,” Clayton remarked. “There is no timber [for fuel] nearer than the bluffs, probably two miles away and that is small cedar and little of it,” he added.

Once the company started again, it found the road extremely rough and laced with cobblestones. “At 7:40 p.m., we formed camp in a small spot surrounded by high bluffs. Traveled this afternoon ten and one-quarter miles and during the day twenty-one and one-half which is the longest distance we have covered in one day since Winter Quarters and this is considered by all to be the worst camping ground we have had on the trek, but we are obliged to take it, even though there is neither wood, grass, nor water since we left the spring,” Clayton reported.

The land was perfectly barren and sandy, nothing growing but wild sage and small prickly shrub “like those on the moors in England.” The men use wild sage and buffalo chips to do their cooking. There are two small streams of water, one coming from the northwest is not too bad, but the other, from the southwest, was so foul even the cattle would not drink it. This alkali swamp and springs are said by trappers and traders to be poisonous. “It is strong in salts or saleratus and smells rotten. Its banks are so soft that a horse or ox cannot go down to drink without sinking nearly over their heads in thick, filthy mud, and it one of the most horrid, swampy, vile places, I ever saw,” Clayton groused.

The pioneers found it necessary to keep a guard out to prevent the cattle from wandering into the bog. Mosquitoes swarmed in the area, adding to the loathsome, solitary scenery. Wilford Woodruff described the water as tasting as though it had “passed through a bed of salts, salpetre and sulphur…it was nauseating and horrible.” Brigham Young called the campsite “Hell Gate.”

Porter Rockwell returned from a hunting trip, reporting that he had killed a fat buffalo about two miles off. Lewis Myers, the Crow company hunter, killed two buffalo, but took only the tallow and tongues, leaving the rest on the prairie. John Norton and Andrew Gibbons left camp back at the spring to go hunting, expecting the pioneers would remain there a day. Norton returned, saying he had killed a buffalo and left it not far from the spring. Gibbons had not been seen or heard of since.

The second emigration of Mormons continued from the Elkhorn River to the Platte following the route taken by the pioneer company. As an indication of how well armed these emigrants were for hunting and protection from hostile Indians, Jacob Houtz’s group of Fifty in the second One Hundred carried fifty muskets, seven pistols, 246 pounds of powder, 138 pounds of shot, 394 pounds of lead and two swords.

Jacob Weatherby, a teamster in George B. Wallace’s Fifty, started back to Winter Quarters as a messenger from the camp. He was accompanied by Alfred B. Lambson and two women, Almira Johnson and Nancy Chamberlain, in an ox team. At a point eight miles from the Elkhorn, three naked Indians rose from the grass, walked up to the wagon and pointed their muskets at the travelers. Weatherby and Lambson jumped out of the wagon and closed in on two of the Indians. While they were grappling, the third Indian shot Weatherby in the back, the ball tearing through his hip into his abdomen. The Indians fled. Weatherby died a few hours later.

SLT Pioneers Finish Building Ferry Boat; Second Mormon Group Finds Dead Man

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Harold Schindler
Published: 06/18/1997 Category: Nation-World Page: A2

Editor’s Note: To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Mormon Trail, The Salt Lake Tribune is offering this day-by-day account of the Mormon Pioneers’ original trek from Winter Quarters, Nebraska, to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Tribune history writer Harold Schindler, using diaries, letters, journals and reminiscences that have come to light this century, has fleshed out the following narrative.

June 18, 1847

A few Oregon- and California-bound Missouri wagons remained to be rafted across the North Platte River this morning, but otherwise the pioneers were occupied in completing the large ferryboat made from dugout canoes. The original plan was for the Camp of Israel to continue its westward trek today, but Brigham Young decided it would be best to wait for the ferry boat to be launched and for all the provisions earned in rafting other emigrant companies to be brought up and distributed. In all, the pioneers received from the Missouri emigrants 1,295 pounds of flour (at two and one-half cents a pound), plus meal, beans, soap and honey at corresponding prices, and two cows in total payment of $78 in ferrying charge.

The new twin-hull canoe boat was launched in the early afternoon and floated well, considering the dugout cottonwoods still were green. As constructed, it could carry an ordinary size wagon and its load, with three ferrymen operating oars and rudder. It was described in Mormon chronicles as “two large [25-foot] cottonwood dugouts placed parallel to each other a few feet apart, pinned firmly with cross pieces, on top of which were nailed flat slabs running lengthwise. With a rudder, oars and a little iron work, the ferry was of sufficient strength to carry over loaded wagons.”

In council, Brigham Young suggested that nine men remain at the crossing with the new boat and ferry over any emigrant wagons they could at $1.50 each. Named to stay behind with the ferry were Thomas Grover, John S. Higbee, Luke S. Johnson, Appleton M. Harmon, Edmund Ellsworth, Francis M. Pomeroy, William Empey, James Davenport, and Benjamin F. Stewart. Eric Glines asked permission to stay, but it was denied. Young would not approve it, but told Glines he was free to do as he pleased. Glines tried to offer an explanation, but Young ignored him, saying Glines did not “manifest a good spirit.” And that, “When I give a man counsel, I do not want him to reject it or bring up arguments to try and alter it. For when he does that, I turn on my heel and leave him.” Glines stayed behind.

Heber Kimball gave a coil of rope worth $15 to the ferry party, for which he received 263 pounds of flour, 100 pounds of meal and twenty-seven pounds of soap, at going rates toward payment. William Clayton and John Pack took fishing poles “to the last creek we crossed about a mile and a half back. I caught sixty-five nice fish which would average about a half-pound each.” Joseph Hancock killed two antelope.

For Thomas Bullock, the day got off to a bad start. Awakening at dawn, he discovered the oxen he had picketed for the night had vamoosed, “leaving no signs of being there through the night.” Bullock the clerk had little interest in being Bullock the herdsman, and he was duly concerned, because “this is the second time Willard Richards has ordered me to tie up the cattle this week and each time they have been turned loose at night.”

He waded through wet grass for “five or six miles” to once more round up the cattle, “among which were two I tied up last night.” The camp historian was acutely uncomfortable and complained, “It was through getting wet feet that brought on the ague before and this morning’s jaunt will, I am afraid, bring it back again.” Orson Pratt took observations and calculated this upper crossing of the North Platte was 4,858 feet above sea level.

Daniel Spencer’s one hundred of the second Mormon emigration left the Elkhorn camp and journeyed across the prairie about twelve miles to a point on the Platte where Ira Russell raised a flagpole designating the place as a general rendezvous for emigrating companies. As the camp of more than 500 wagons moved toward the Platte, some members discovered the remains of a human skeleton. Eleven-year-old Jerusha Hambleton found part of a pair of pants containing two letters and two musket flints. Both letters–enclosed in one envelope–were dry and directed to Alexander McElvoy, superintendent of Pawnee Farms. John Smith said writing found on the body indicated the dead man was an express rider sent to the Pawnees from a Major John Miller. The body was almost entirely ravaged by wolves and apparently had lain there for days. The bones were reburied where found.

In May 1931, workmen building a road three miles west of Fremont, Nebraska, uncovered a portion of skeleton buried under two feet of sand. It was determined the bones were those of an express rider found originally in 1847. Four French traders, who visited the Pawnees on business, learned the dead man at “Sandy Willow” was a Pawnee killed by Omahas.