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.
May 16, 1847
It was cold enough again this May morning to leave ice in several places. Most of the camp set about feeding the teams and, because it was the Sabbath, devoted their time to washing themselves. Wilford Woodruff did not awake until 7:00 a.m. ("I did not feel well...") and when he stepped from his carriage he discovered "all five of my horses standing at the stakes while all the other horses of the encampment had been feeding for two hours." Woodruff was nonplussed. "It was John Fowler's business to let them out but he did not get up until a half-hour after I did. He is destitute of the spirit or principle that a faithful man or servant should possess. And it makes it much harder upon me in the care of the teams and business, than it would if I had a true and faithful man with me."
He evidently found a sympathetic ear in Jacob Burnham. "Burnham does our cooking," Woodruff wrote in his journal, "which keeps him very busy and he has the hardest time of it as much of the time he has nothing but buffalo dung to make a fire from. "But," he added, "we are now in a place where we are proving ourselves and if we are not faithful we shall come under condemnation."
After breakfast, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Ezra T. Benson, Woodruff, Porter Rockwell and Roswell Stevens rode out over the bluffs to pick out a trail for the pioneers to use in crossing to the prairie bottoms. They were successful in discovering a route which would take the company through a valley between and around the bluffs in the space of some four miles. Young, Kimball, Benson and Woodruff then returned to camp to join an afternoon worship.
About that time several buffalo were seen making their way from the bluffs toward the horses, some of which were near them. Eric Glines intended to drive the buffalo away and bring the horses nearer camp. But the large animals did not seem much disposed to move on. Glines then sought out the closest buffalo and shot him. The wounded beast shrugged at the impact and with a snort, charged its attacker. Glines held his ground and fired three more bullets into the bull. The animal slowed, stopped, then fell to its knees and died. In skinning the 800-pound bull, it was discovered Glines' first shot had passed entirely through the heart. Grim testimony to the tenacity of these monarchs of the prairie.
The full drama had played out within a mile and in full view of the camp; which at that moment was listening to a sermon by Kimball about heeding the ban on hunting on the Sabbath. Bullock was called upon to again read the rules and regulations of April 17th to the pioneer company.
Earlier in the day Appleton Milo Harmon completed the machinery of the pioneer "roadometer" by adding a wooden wheel to revolve once in ten miles, showing each mile and also each quarter mile traveled. The entire device was then cased to secure it from the weather, according to William Clayton. It was a happy day for Clayton, who now not only could forgo having to count revolutions of a wagon wheel by tying a piece of red cloth to a spoke, but Edson Whipple had extracted enough tallow from his portion of buffalo meat to make two candles. He presented half of one to Clayton, "by the light of which I continue this journal." He added, "The candle burns very clear and pleasant. The tallow smells sweet and rich. I imagine it has a more pleasant smell than the tallow of domestic cattle."
Orson Pratt noted that, "Though we are within a quarter-mile of the river, yet four or five wells have been dug near the camp; bringing an abundance of good water within four feet of the surface." In counterpoint, Amasa Lyman noted, "A few wells dug, water tastes of iron rust."
Distance from Winter Quarters: 356 miles.