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

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

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

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.

SLT Getting Last Wagon Across River Makes Happy Campers of Pioneers

Harold Schindler
Published: 06/17/1997 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 17, 1847

Despite the wind and cold, the pioneers renewed their efforts at the ferry, and soon after noon they rafted the last wagon safely across the North Platte River. It was a matter of rejoicing through the whole camp, for all believed they had spent too much time conquering this surly stream. Two companies of Missourians bound for Oregon and California pulled in and applied to the Mormons to be taken across for a fee. A contract was made with the first company to take them over as soon as the last pioneer wagon had crossed, and it was with the understanding that the charge would be a straight $1.50 a wagon. But the second Missouri company with its ten wagons, offered a bonus of fifty cents each to the ferrymen if they were hauled across first. Ten pioneers were needed to operate the rafts, and they found it difficult to turn away the extra five dollars in pay.

Albert P. Rockwood, on the other hand, had made the contract and felt he had to honor it, even though he ordinarily held Missourians in low esteem for the way they treated Mormons during the troubles in Jackson and Caldwell counties a decade earlier. However, another pioneer reminded Rockwood that it was Stephen Markham’s turn to operate the ferry this day, and Markham was under no obligation to the first Missouri company. Rockwood took the hint and stepped aside in favor of Markham, who accepted the second company’s offer and rafted them across, with his crew collecting the bonus money.

Once the Mormon wagons were safely circled on the north bank, Howard Egan looked to the chore of swimming his horses across, but Brigham Young and Heber Kimball cautioned it was too cold, and counseled Egan to wait until morning when the weather might clear. Wilford Woodruff already had started his stock across and came near drowning a mule that tangled in a harness rope. Counting the time the advance party had been here, Woodruff observed that six days had been spent at the ford (known thereafter as the “upper crossing of the Platte”); “the longest hindrance I ever saw at a ferry or crossing a river.” Woodruff continued to nurse his aching teeth, sore mouth and lips. He was not a happy pioneer.

Mosquitoes were plaguing Thomas Bullock. He found them particularly troublesome since he was sent out to herd up the oxen and corral them for the night. “Mosquitoes are more numerous here than any other place on our route,” he said, swatting at the annoying insects. “In the course of this day I have traveled about twenty-four miles after the oxen and was very tired by night. Fastened two yoke to stakes and went to bed.”

The twenty-man work party was busy finishing the large twin-canoe hulls for the ferryboat they were assigned to build. Albert Carrington, who had been left in charge of the wagons in his Ten, spent the afternoon over a hot stove. “Barnabas Adams and Starling Driggs were with the others all day working at the canoes. I made some apple pies and sent them a large one for dinner; the first we have had on this trek. The canoes are finished and ready for planking.”

At the Elkhorn River, William C. Staines counted wagons in the camps of Parley P. Pratt and John Taylor a half-mile apart and found the total to be 421. One group had seined 700 fish from the river. The catch weighed more than a ton. A thunderstorm and heavy shower of rain had soaked the camps during the early afternoon. At a general meeting of the companies, Pratt announced they were ready to start west once John Scott brought up a cannon, a boat and the Nauvoo Temple bell. Meanwhile, the camp was organized into hundreds in care of Daniel Spencer, Edward Hunter, Jedediah M. Grant and Abraham Smoot.

SLT Young Orders Pioneers to Set Up Shop Ferrying Emigrants Across Platte River

Harold Schindler
Published: 06/16/1997 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 16, 1847

A strong west wind still buffeted the Camp of Israel as it began the fourth day of rafting wagons across the unruly current of the North Platte River here (near the site of today’s Casper, Wyoming,) 648 miles from Winter Quarters. While they continued to experiment with different methods of moving loaded wagons across the river, the Mormon ferries in various manifestations remained in heavy demand by emigrant companies willing to pay cash and provisions for the service.

Brigham Young, tired of struggling with the problem, decided shortcuts were no solution. He ordered a work party of twenty men to a stand of timber three miles downstream to dig out two cottonwood tree canoes twenty-five feet long. Another work party journeyed a half-mile upriver to chop slabs and puncheons to top the canoes. Wilford Woodruff said this “ferry boat” would also be employed in crossing the large companies of emigrants arriving every day. Young planned to leave a party of nine men behind to keep the ferry going until the second Mormon migration reached the river. “Emigrants will pay $1.50 a wagon, acceptable in flour, beans and cows at a rate of $2.50 per hundred pound of flour, and $10 per cow,” Woodruff said.

William Clayton added, “They will thus earn a good stock of provisions for themselves and be prepared to cross the Mormons of the next company over without delay and will also be able to preserve the boat for our use. It is the instruction of Brigham Young that when they have ferried our people over, to cache the boat and come on with them.”

Still, until this ferryboat was completed, the pioneers did whatever was necessary to get their wagons to the north bank. The efforts to cross Stephen Goddard’s wagon was typical. Goddard, James Craig and William Wardsworth were using a raft to float Goddard’s wagon. Clayton, who was an onlooker, said Craig and Wardsworth were on the raft with poles. “When they got nearly halfway, Craig’s pole stuck in the sand and threw him overboard. He swam to shore and in spite of Wardsworth’s exertions, the wind and current carried the raft about two miles down river. “It was finally brought to shore with the help of the Revenue Cutter [leather skiff] and without accident.”

At the end of the day, Clayton noted, “There still are a number of wagons on the south shore. Those which had been brought over could not easily be counted because of their being scattered all along the banks of the river for about a mile.” Norton Jacob said he learned there were 108 emigrant wagons within four miles all wanting to cross and ready to pay.

At the wagon owned by Amasa Lyman (who was at Fort Pueblo guiding the Mormon Battalion and Mississippi companies back to the main company), Albert Carrington helped Barnabas L. Adams and Starling G. Driggs as they prepared to join the canoe work party. Carrington, lame and sore from the arduous labor of the day before, remained with the Adams, Driggs and Lyman wagons. “I read all day,” he said.

Twenty-one wagons from Pike and Adams counties in Illinois finished fording the river at the lower crossing four or five miles below the Mormon camp, while two other emigrant parties from Missouri, still on the south bank opposite the pioneer camp, were bound for Oregon and California. They reported two deaths along the way, a young man and woman, both within 150 miles of this place. “It is the first deaths we have heard of in any of the companies,” Carrington said.

Woodruff still complained of “ague of the face” while he and Orson Pratt walked out on the prairie about three miles to some bluffs. “We saw mountains to the north towering into the clouds…We had our guns with us and I hunted some. I shot one antelope, cut his throat with a bullet and he fell dead in his tracks. Pratt shot at another, but missed. It is my first antelope. I tried to pack him to camp, but could not. So I got two men to help me.”

In Nauvoo on this day, the Mormon Temple was sold to a committee of the Catholic Church for $75,000. They plan to use the building for educational purposes. The last of the Mormon settlers have left the city with Daniel H. Wells to join the church’s western emigration.

SLT Rising River and Strong Wind Mean Nightmarish Crossing for Pioneers

Harold Schindler
Published: 06/14/1997 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 14, 1847

The pioneers finished breakfast early so that by 4:00 a.m., the first division of the Camp of Israel could start ferrying its goods over the North Platte River in the leather skiff while others worked on building rafts. A major problem was the spring runoff and strong wind from the southwest. The North Platte was rising each day with added snowmelt, making it difficult for the pioneer company even to swim their horses and oxen across the 100-yard expanse.

An initial plan was to float wagons over. They brought a rope across and attached one end to the tongue of John Pack’s wagon to pull it over by an ox team. But when the wagon reached midstream, the current rolled it over as if it were nothing more than a large log. Erastus Snow said, “The wheels and bows appeared alternately upon the surface of the water, its contents spilling out.” Pack’s wagon eventually was rescued from the river, but he valued his loss of a plow, some axes and a quantity of horseshoes at $30.

Next they tried roping two wagons abreast with pine poles lashed beneath them; but the current treated that arrangement much the same, tumbling them over. First one wagon rolled to the surface, then the other. “When they struck the bottom in shallower water, the result was broken bows and reaches,” Snow said. Someone suggested the use of small rafts which had been floating the freight of the wagons over. “The difficulty in poling a raft in deep, swift water was such that wind aiding the current swept them downstream one or two miles before reaching the other shore, though the river was not more than 100 yards wide,” Snow said.

Attempting to haul the rafts straight across by ropes only made it easier for the current to pull them under. Finally, the pioneers found that two rafts equipped with oars, “well manned,” could manage a landing in about a half-mile. They then were towed back by oxen.

While this was going on, a work party set about building two canoes, two and one-half feet in diameter, and twenty-three feet long. These were coupled five feet apart between cross-timbers and cornered with puncheon (short, upright wooden posts), and manned with good sturdy oars. This “ferry,” operated by three men, could float a loaded wagon. While one party worked to complete it, another was busy shoveling out a landing. By now the pioneers understood they would be two or three days, perhaps more, in crossing the entire company.

A torrential rain fell late in the afternoon, drenching everything. William Clayton noted dourly, “the river has been rising all day and is rising even faster since the storm.” At the height of the seven-minute onslaught, the horses in camp bolted and ran two or three miles before they could be rounded up. Men of the camp worked from dawn to dark, much of the time in water up to their armpits. When they quit, the first division had ferried eleven wagons, the second division another twelve; only forty-eight more to go. There was little difficulty in getting the freight over, for one man could carry it in the Revenue Cutter faster than the rest of the camp could ferry a wagon over.

At one point in the struggle, some men thought that if a man would ride over on the upper side of a wagon, his weight might prevent the wagon from tipping over. Howard Egan volunteered. “Soon after we pushed off, Andrew Gibbons jumped in the river and caught hold of the end of the wagon. When we got to about the middle of the river, the wagon began to fill with water and roll from one side to the other and then turn over. I got on the upper side and hung on for a short time, then it rolled, throwing me off.

I saw I was in danger of being caught in the wheels or the bows and swam off, but one of the wheels struck my leg and bruised it some. I swam for shore…the wagon rolled over a number of times before it hauled in. Some of the bows were broken. We decided the safest way was to take wagons over on a raft, even though it was very slow and might take three or four days.” Several hundred miles to the east, the second Mormon emigration was burgeoning on the Elkhorn River. A liberty pole had been erected and flew a white flag, “as a signal for peace and to designate it as a gathering place.”

As of this evening, 300 wagons have assembled, and the companies were being organized in Tens, Fifties and Hundreds, according to John Smith’s journal.

SLT Pioneers Find It’s a Lucrative Job Ferrying Emigrants Across River

Harold Schindler
Published: 06/11/1997 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 11, 1847

William Clayton, encouraged by his success as an angler, arose at 4:00 a.m. to once more test the waters of Deer Creek with a hook and line. But he could catch only four, before it was time to rejoin the main camp. For most pioneers, the day spent at Deer Creek was a holiday. The teams were fattening on the luxuriant grass, game was everywhere and the weather balmy, but it was time to move on. Two and a half miles out, they crossed a deep hollow with steep banks.

At four and a quarter miles, Clayton left the wagon to post a guide board declaring it 100 miles from Fort Laramie. And at noon, the company pulled in at a grove of timber and good grass. But, said Clayton just before reaching the grove, the pioneers met a bend to the south, caused by a deep ravine. “We had to travel more than a mile to make a quarter of a mile direct,” said he.

William A. Empey, Edmund Ellsworth and Francis M. Pomeroy each killed an antelope, and Joseph Hancock came in with the hindquarters of one he killed three miles out. He couldn’t carry it all and left the rest on the prairie. Several men have taken an interest in the guide boards, Clayton noted. “So wherever they see a piece of board sufficiently large, they pick it up and preserve it. We now have enough to last 200 miles.”

The pioneers came in sight of two Missouri companies camped on the banks of the North Platte and preparing to cross. There is no camping ground beyond the Missouri emigrants for any convenient distance. So the pioneers turned off a half mile from the trail and settled in for the night.

The Missourians said the upper ferry of the North Platte still is twelve miles ahead and that the Mormon advance party was there with the balance of the Oregon emigration. This particular Missouri company had a light flatboat and had already taken one load over. They said they have killed three bears between here and the bluffs and shot a buffalo.

Henson Walker, Charles Barnum and Seeley Owen have each killed antelope, making eight in all for the pioneers during the day. Albert Carrington reported seeing more than the usual number of rattlesnakes along the trail. Thomas Bullock wrote directions for the next company of Mormon emigrants on a buffalo skull and set it near his wagon along with his usual planting of a hill of corn. “Onions grow plentiful around here, also mustard in patches, and I found several mushrooms,” he wrote in his journal.

Several miles upriver, John Brown, with the advance party, wrote in his diary, “We reached the North Platte ferry first but could find nothing of the bull boat the mountaineers said they lashed up in a tree. But we crossed several companies of emigrant in our Revenue Cutter [leather skiff], drawing the wagons through the river. They paid us in provisions we needed. John S. Higbee, who also was with the advance, said, “Got a job ferrying some Missourians and twenty-two wagons for thirty-three dollars; [took] flour at $2.50 a hundred, and meal at 50 cents.”

And in California, Daniel Tyler with the Mormon Battalion reported this day that the notorious desperado, John Allen, recently excommunicated from the church, was found guilty of desertion by court-martial. He was sentenced to have one half his head shaved and be drummed from the service at bayonet point. He was ordered not to come within two miles of the town during the existing war with Mexico on pain of being put in irons and jailed for the duration. Allen was escorted through the town at the point of a bayonet while the musicians played “Rogue’s March.”

SLT Pioneers Camp Near North Platte, Find Much Comfort in Deer Creek

Harold Schindler
Published: 06/10/1997 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.

June 10, 1847

The pioneers awoke to a calm and pleasant morning, the air heavy with the aroma of wild mint and dew on the sage at a la Prele Creek. William Clayton drank in the perfume of the mint leaves, but remarked that the abundant wild sage “smelled strong of turpentine and a little like camphor.” Thomas Bullock found the same grave that Albert Carrington had stumbled on the night before, but Bullock read the headstone differently. Where Carrington had made it: J Hembree 1843, Bullock thought it was J Umbree 1843.

Wagons rolled out at half past seven and found good routes to travel. At four and one-half miles they crossed a small creek about three feet wide with only a few inches of water. Another mile brought them to a second stream about five feet wide and plenty of cold clear water. And at 11:20 a.m. the company halted on the east bank of a stream thirty feet wide and tolerably deep with a rapid current. Its name: Fourche Boisee (Wooded Fork of the River) today’s Big Box Elder Creek. The pioneers took their noon hour here to rest the teams and it was here that they saw one of the Oregon-bound Missouri companies camp some four miles ahead.

Continuing the journey, the Camp of Israel soon entered the North Platte bottoms and nine more miles put them at Deer Creek, a marvelous stream about sixty feet wide and two feet deep with a coarse gravel and pebble stone bed–and teeming with fish. Carrington wandered around some after the wagons had been circled and the animals unhitched and promptly found an extensive bed of superior quality bituminous coal as well as a quarry of fine grit sandstone excellent for use as grindstones. He felt no hesitancy about declaring Deer Creek as one of the finest places for a small settlement “that we have found.” The coal deposit, he said, was the first ever found to our knowledge on the North Platte or any of its tributaries.

Erastus Snow was equally exuberant. “It is delightful,” he said, “Good fishing, excellent feed, thrifty timber, plenty of game, beautiful scenery. As soon as the camp was settled, Horace Whitney went fishing with a hook and line; the seine was unavailable, because it was with the advance party sent ahead to the North Platte crossing. But Clayton also rigged up a pole and line and followed Whitney. “In a few minutes I caught two which would weigh a half-pound apiece.” By dark he had pulled in twenty-four fish, averaging a pound each. “They were a very bright color and resembled herring.” (Probably mountain whitefish.)

Whitney caught a catfish and two suckers and Appleton Milo Harmon caught a few, too. Later in the evening Wilford Woodruff took Clayton’s fishing pole and strolled over to the stream to fish. “I sat down for a half-hour musing along as unconcerned as though I was sitting on the banks of Farmington River, when suddenly I heard a rustling in the bushes near me and for the first time the thought flashed across my mind that I was in a country abounding with grizzly bear, wolves and Indians and was liable to be attacked by either at any moment and was a half-mile from my company and had no weapon, not even enough to defend against a badger. It thought it wise to return to camp,” he said.

Lewis Barney killed an antelope and because he was not appointed as a hunter, he distributed it as he saw fit. Howard Egan noted that Edmund Ellsworth also killed an antelope and it was cut up and divided by Albert P. Rockwood for their own group of Ten. Egan remarked sourly that, “A few days earlier Rockwood gave Robert Crow a lecture for not dividing an antelope among the camp even though Crow’s party are short on provisions and only have five ounces to a person each day. If this is consistency, I don’t know what consistency is,” he said.

Sometime today, Clayton was told that one of the mountaineers had imparted an interesting morsel of news to Brigham Young and Heber Kimball: There is a settler living and making a farm in the Bear River Valley. (Miles Goodyear)

SLT Bluffs Problematical for Wagons, Wheel Runs Over Pioneer’s Leg

Harold Schindler
Published: 06/08/1997 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.

June 8, 1847

The wagons of the pioneer camp rolled forward about 7:30 a.m. and crossed the sixteen-foot expanse of Horseshoe Creek without incident. After little more than two miles took them winding around the foot of high bluffs, they began an arduous climb up a series of steep grades that was especially difficult on the teams. The first ascent was very bad, prompting Albert Carrington to grump, “It might have been avoided with a little labor.”

They spied a buffalo “capering on the prairie,” about a half-mile to the south, the first seen since the 21st of May, according to William Clayton. The wagon ascent covered three-quarters of a mile and seven steep climbs in that span. Most wagons had to double-team to reach the top, but all succeeded, much to the satisfaction of camp historian Thomas Bullock, who took time to inscribe on a buffalo skull the following: “Pioneers, Double Teams–June 1847–Camp all well–Hail Storm last night fine morning–T Bullock–no accident”

From the top of the bluff, he had a splendid view of the country on all sides for almost 100 miles. But in descending the reverse slope, the pioneers found it necessary to lock their wagon wheels to slow them down. The teams stopped during the descent to rest briefly and unlock the wheels. Benjamin Crow’s wife, Harriet, took a moment to quench her thirst. She stepped on the tongue of their wagon to get a drink, when the oxen suddenly moved and the lurch threw her under the wheels. Her husband made a frantic grab and tried to pull the woman from beneath the wagon, but her coat became tangled in the wheel brake hammer and trapped her.

The wheel passed over her leg below the knee and rolled downward over her foot above the toes. “She screamed and appeared in great agony,” Clayton said. “We thought her leg was broken, but it was not.” She was badly bruised, however. One woman washed the leg in camphor and put Mrs. Crow in a wagon while the company moved on.

The party stopped for noon on a bluff where there was good grass. “I had the ill luck to break a wagon tire, but Burr Frost unlimbered his forge and welded it during the noon halt without detaining the camp,” said Erastus Snow. Lewis Myers, the Crow family hunter, knocked down and killed an antelope.

The company sent out a work party including Willard Richards, Albert P. Rockwood, Albert Carrington, Jacob Weiler, James Craig, Horace Thornton, H. K. Whitney, Burr Frost and Artemas Johnson with picks and shovels to clear the trail of stones blocking the way. Wilford Woodruff remarked that they had seen nothing of the three companies of Oregon-bound Missouri emigrants today. But John Higbee, one of the Mormon hunters who had left before the Camp of Israel started this morning, saw the Missourians when they awoke. “They had such strife one with another in trying to be the first to start they did not stop to milk their cows and in finishing breakfast they strewed meal, salt, bacon, short cake, johnnie cake, beans and other things all over the camp,” Woodruff said. “When we came up, three wolves were feeding on the fragments. I picked up a pocket knife and spoon left upon the ground,” he wrote.

After the pioneer company had moved five miles over “a perfect succession of hills and hollows,” the wagons began a gradual descent and crossed a stream known to trappers as the Big Timber, but labeled by John C. Fremont as “LaBonte Creek.” Clayton discovered the roadometer was not working properly and paid particular attention to the turning wagon wheels once again. Temperatures became winter-like and the cold chilled the bones.

As the pioneers approached valley bottom, they found fires the Oregon companies had left. “We piled on the wood and soon got warm,” said Woodruff. Orrin Porter Rockwell came in with a deer he shot and an antelope bagged by another hunter. He said he had ridden to the North Platte River some four miles from here by following the LaBonte. Orson Pratt was told a small company of wagons loaded with peltries and furs from Fort Bridger was camped about a mile away. It is headed for Fort Laramie, then on to the Missouri River to deliver cargo. Woodruff said, “We carved up the antelope, stuck it on sticks and roasted it on the fire. It satisfied our appetites finely without salt.” The pioneers were camped in a circle on the west bank of the LaBonte when William Tucker and another trapper rode in. Tucker was sick with chills and fever and Luke S. Johnson administered to him.

Presently, James H. Grieve, James Woodrie, James Bonoir, and six other Frenchmen, who, with the American, Tucker, came to visit and meet Brigham Young. They told him their camp of “two squaws, two wagons, and three carts” was a mile and a half to the west. They said the North Platte ford where the wagons could best cross was yet fifty miles away; there was good feed along the trail, and that Jim Bridger’s trading post was some 300 miles distant. They also told Young that mountaineers ride to Great Salt Lake Valley from Bridger’s fort in two days and that the Utah country was beautiful.

The other Mormon emigrant train carrying Parley P. Pratt and Perigrine Sessions’ families, remained in their camp on the Elkhorn River while the men prepared to ferry the company across the river and the women were busy washing and ironing.

SLT Caravan Camps at Horseshoe Creek Amid Perfume of Mint and Sage

Harold Schindler
Published: 06/07/1997 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 7, 1847

As the Camp of Israel prepared to move out this morning, Orson Pratt was giving William Clayton a few pointers on how to use a sextant. For Clayton, it was the opportunity of a lifetime to learn the intricacies of mathematics and astronomy from a man he much admired, a man he called “professor.” “He has promised to teach me to take observations and calculate latitude and longitude and I intend to improve the opportunity!” Clayton noted in his journal.”

It was about then that one Oregon-bound emigrant train from Chariton County, Missouri, passed the pioneer camp. The other Missouri party was already ahead. Willard Richards had left a letter for future Mormon companies and sandwiched it in a guide board announcing “Distance to Fort John [Laramie] 30 miles.” The pioneers started a little after 7:00 a.m. and Clayton walked about five miles alongside Pratt, discussing astronomy and philosophical subjects.”Heber Kimball then let me have his horse to ride,” Clayton wrote.

Norman Taylor and Rodney Badger, who had been arguing constantly since the trek began, finally called it quits. Taylor took his belongings from Badger’s wagon and his horse from the team and moved them to John Y. Greene’s wagon. About 11:00 a.m., the company halted to feed on the west bank of a small stream and spring of clear water (Bear Creek). Another party of Missourians, these from Andrew County, with thirteen wagons and four yoke of oxen to each wagon, came up.

Once the Mormon camp started, it continued a gradual climb, following the course of a dry creek to the heights commanding a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape. “We were opposite Laramie Peak of the Black Hills, some ten or fifteen miles to the southwest,” said Erastus Snow. The Hills got their name, Clayton surmised, from the vast forest of pine trees covering them. “The pine grows in the most rocky places and abounds on the highest hills, while on the lower bluffs it is sparsely scattered and in the bottom land, which looks rich and good, there are none,” according to Clayton.

There are huge cobblestones on the trail, deposited during summer flash floods or torrential rains, and the Mormons sent a work party ahead to roll the rocks out of the way as they went along. “They have also dug down some places and leveled others, which will make the road much better for other companies,” Clayton said.

After five and one-quarter miles, the caravan stopped at Horseshoe Creek and pitched camp for the night on “one of the clearest and largest springs of water yet seen.” Kimball discovered it and called it “Heber’s Spring.” Everyone agreed that the feed here was more luxuriant and plentiful than any they had found before. The area abounded in wild mint and sage, filling the air with its perfume. But what excited Wilford Woodruff, a “compleat angler,” is the promise of trout in the spring. “I went fishing with a hook and line to see if I could get some trout, but caught nothing.” Alas and alack.

The camp hunters were out. John Brown shot his first black-tailed deer and one of the other pioneers bagged an antelope. Lewis Myers, Robert Crow’s hunter, also shot a deer, but the Crows, according to Clayton, were “unwilling to conform to the rules of the camp in dividing and reserve it all to themselves. Crow says if they got more than they could use, they would be willing to let the camp have some.”

One deer and one antelope do not go far divided among 148 people, so when John Pack discovered that one of the Missouri companies had killed an antelope and taken only the quarters, leaving the balance, he picked up the remains and brought them to camp. Crow, meanwhile, nearly had a serious accident. He was trying to yoke a pair of wild steers and having trouble. A number of pioneers used their lariats and saddle horns to rope the struggling animals when one became tangled and fell, toppling Crow with him. A pioneer cut the rope and freed Crow, shaken but otherwise uninjured. Clayton also noticed that Myers, the hunter, roasted the antlers of the young deer he killed and ate them.

And Clayton also learned that the entire Crow family depended on Myers for food. “They having no bread stuff nor anything, only [eat] what he kills and the little flour and meal paid him by James Bordeaux for his part in helping ferry wagons across the North Platte.” Clayton no longer complained that the Crows would not share.

As the pioneers settled in for the night, they did not know of the second Mormon wagon train which at that hour was camped on their trail at the Elkhorn River.