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

 

The Salt Lake Tribune

http://www.sltrib.com

Harold Schindler, Mormon Trail Series

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)