Harold Schindler, Mormon Trail Series
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.
April 24, 1847
Camp was roused at the sound of the bugle this morning to face a fine brisk dawn; unfortunately a pall was cast by the discovery that one of Brigham Young's favorite horses had died accidentally during the night. The animal had stumbled into a small ravine; the tether chain fastened to a stake was drawn tightly around its neck, causing it to strangle. Captains Tarlton Lewis and Thomas Woolsey and their men went to work making two rafts in accordance with last night's vote, while other pioneers began the task of unpacking wagons and carrying loads to the Revenue Cutter to be rowed across the Loup.
Lightly loaded teams at the same time crossed the river at a lower ford. This routine was continued until a fairly solid crossing was made in the packed quicksand. Later some heavier wagons ventured over successfully by hitching several horse and mule teams to each wagon. This ford was some distance above the spot attempted by Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff and others yesterday, and the more the ford was used, the smoother and harder it became.
By now the entire camp turned its wagons back to the ford, abandoning the rafts, and by unloading half the baggage and hitching four or five yoke of oxen or two or three span of horses to a half-empty wagon, crossed without trouble. Before the last wagon moved to the ford, one raft was set afloat to drift downstream.
By 4:00 p.m., all the wagons were safely on the south bank of Loup Fork and the job of reloading begun. Finally the wagons proceeded southwest four miles up river and halted where blue grass was plentiful for the famished teams. Camp was established west of a small lake near the river.
Porter Rockwell discovered the lake was swarming with sun perch and many of the pioneers, including William Clayton, caught an appetizing mess of fish for supper. The wagons passed a number of wickiups after crossing the river, and Rockwell had found moccasin tracks around the camp. The suspicion arose that Indians were following the pioneers in hopes of stealing their horses. Once again the guard was doubled, and the cannon wheeled into position and charged.
Meanwhile in California, Company A of the Mormon Battalion was detailed to begin construction of a small fort "on the eminence which commands the town of Los Angeles," by order of Lieutenant Colonel Philip St. George Cooke. Working hours were to be from 6:30 a.m. to noon, and from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. "The fort to include one small bastion in front for at least six guns in barbette."