Harold Schindler, Mormon Trail Series
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.