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 28, 1847
Word went through the Camp of Israel this morning that only the hunters would be leaving, the rest of the company was to turn out with shovels to improve the "road" from here to Prairie Creek and make preparations to cross. By 10:00 a.m., all the wagons were over. Our course for the first seven miles was a little east of south over a level prairie green with grass varying in height from one to six inches as far as the eye could see in all directions, said William Clayton.
Wilford Woodruff was out ahead with the hunters, having only mediocre luck. "Caught nothing but one wolf & a goose," he said. "We saw many deer in the afternoon running across on the [Grand] island. [Brigham] Young thought it prudent not to travel up the island hunting, lest we get into an Indian ambush," Woodruff confided to his diary.
For the pioneers, Grand Island and its fine stand of timber were a grand sight. "We turned southwest, being within a mile of the main Platte River and opposite Grand Island," Clayton noted. The pioneers reached its banks at 2:30 p.m. and stayed an hour, having journeyed eleven miles thus far. "The largest wild onions grow here I have ever seen," added Clayton. After a brief respite, the company moved out again.
Travel now became extremely dusty. Helped along by a strong wind, the fine grit covered everything in, on and around the wagons. The men all wore kerchiefs over their faces while the sand flew. There were the usual and expected complaints about how hard the leaders were driving the pioneers, but Young had found a way to curtail most of the general griping. It came about two or three days ago when he brought up the subject of his dead horse, the one that stumbled into the ravine and strangled on its own tether chain.
Young had scolded some men for not keeping a closer eye on the livestock, and then at a meeting of the general camp, he apologized to "Colonel Wright" for complaining, since "Wright is the only man that has a legal right, according to camp rules, to find fault and murmur." Young's remarks caused some confusion because "Colonel Wright" was not familiar to everyone. Norton Jacob provided an explanation:
This "Colonel Wright" is no other than Henry G. Sherwood [one of the pioneers], a member of the Mormon High Council who assumed the name last summer in an effort to avoid the Nauvoo mobs when he returned to take his family back to Winter Quarters, Jacob said. The name stuck, and Young decided to appoint him to the office of "chief grumbler of the Camp of Israel" and henceforth anyone who has need to complain must call on Colonel Wright for permission. According to Jacob, "This arrangement of making Sherwood chief grumbler of the camp had an effect in putting a check on some persons, especially one by the name of [Solomon] Chamberlain, who had all the time been quarreling with his team or somebody or another, but after this he was tolerably decent."
Camp was made a quarter mile from timber, near where the Wood River emptied into the north fork of the Platte. Luke Johnson gave Thomas Bullock a twelve-button rattle taken from the snake he shot yesterday. The rattler measured four-feet in length and several inches around. The reptile was rendered to oil and rubbed on Zebedee Coltrin's ailing leg. Coltrin reported it had a profound soothing effect on the limb.
Distance traveled during the day: 16 miles.