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.
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."