History of The 1847 Pioneer Companies
Deseret New 1997-98 Church Almanac Copyright Deseret News 1996
The First Company
After the exodus from Nauvoo early in 1846, Church members stayed at Winter Quarters until the spring of 1847. At that time Church leaders selected a body of men to travel by wagon to the Rocky Mountains and pioneer the way for following thousands. This group consisted of 143 men, 3 women and 2 children. They traveled with 72 wagons, 93 horses, 52 mules, 66 oxen, 19 cows, 17 dogs and some chickens. Others later joined this group, while some returned East as guides.
The first westward wagons, led by Heber C. Kimball, left Winter Quarters April 5,1847, and traveled to a camp at the Elkhorn River, some 20 miles from Winter Quarters. Over the next few days, other wagons joined this group. Wagons led by Wilford Woodruff, Orson Pratt and Brigham Young joined the group at the Elkhorn River on April 7, after pausing for conference in Winter Quarters on the morning of April 6. On April 15, the rest of the Quorum of the Twelve arrived from Winter Quarters. On April 16, the entire company was organized with captains of hundreds, fifties and tens. The company crossed the Elkhorn River (a tributary of the Platte River), by ferrying each wagon on a raft of logs. Many westward companies were traveling to Oregon, including those from areas where the Mormons had suffered persecution, and the Mormons preferred to keep the Platte River between themselves and the Oregon-bound travelers. Thus, through Nebraska, the Mormon Pioneer Trail is on the north side of the Platte and the Oregon Trail is on the south side.
As the entire Mormon Trail was in Indian country, night guards were appointed and all in the company were instructed to have their weapons ready at all times. A piece of leather was kept over each weapon's firing mechanism to keep it dry. Wagons traveled in double file for safety. At night, the wagons formed a "circular fortification." The forward wheel of one wagon was locked into the hind wheel of the next. Animals were tethered within.
A typical day began with a bugle at 5 a.m., when each man was expected to arise and pray, prepare breakfast and lunch, care for his team, and be ready to pull out at 7 a.m. The company generally "nooned" for two hours at midday, then continued until evening. The night bugle sounded at 8:30 p.m. for prayers; fires were to be out by 9 p.m. As the company traveled, hunters most commonly bagged buffalo and antelope.
The first days of the early spring journey in April 1847 were bitterly cold with chilling prairie winds and sometimes snow. However, the weather gradually turned mild and rains replaced snows; cold nights, especially at high altitudes, accompanied the pioneers during most of the trip.
On April 19, William Clayton suggested to Orson Pratt that a set of wooden cogs, a pioneer odometer, be created and attached to the wheels of a wagon to measure the exact number of miles traveled in a day. Elder Pratt designed a set of cogs that Appleton Milo Harmon, a carpenter, built. Today, the town of North Platte, marks where pioneers began using their "roadometer."
Crossing the Loup Fork of the Platte River, the company encountered quicksand so strong they said it "rattled the wagons." Indians often approached the wagon train for food and gifts. As the wagons rumbled on, dryness replaced the rain, and clouds of dust hung over the wagon train.
Indians were said to often follow a wagon train for hundreds of miles awaiting a chance to make off with livestock. This wagon train occasionally lost animals despite the careful watching of guards.
One night the cannon carried by the party was fired twice to discourage Indians from attacking. On May 4 the near presence of a large Indian war party was so threatening that the wagons traveled five abreast. Despite such troubles on the north side of the Platte, they remained on that side of the river to make a route for those following. A group of 10-12 men worked daily to make a road for those following. Sometimes they burned old crass so companies behind would have new grass.
The first buffalo were killed for food Nov 1. Although the pioneers rejoiced to be in buffalo country, the huge beasts by their very numbers became a mixed blessing. While the beasts provided a ready source of fresh meat, their massive herds consumed the prairie grass and brought a constant threat of stampede. Finding grass for the stock became a constant problem.
Early in May, the pioneers' path was filled with buffalo. It appeared as if"the face of the earth was alive and moving like the waves of the sea," wrote Wilford Woodruff. The prairie was "literally black with buffalo," wrote William Clayton.
However, the men were forbidden to kill the massive bison except to provide meat for the camp. Rotting carcasses shot by other travelers created a stench in some places.
Wagons forded creeks and rivers, crossed sand dunes and jolted down bluffs. Spirits remained high, but occasionally cross words were spoken or behavior was deemed inappropriate. President Young occasionally lectured the group for such things as over-hunting and wasting meat, rowdiness, loudness, not keeping to their duties, rising late, or idleness. His lectures evidently had the desired effect because the group eventually became reformed and unified.
The pioneers reached Chimney Rock, Neb., the psychological if not actual halfway point on May 26. From then on the relentless monotony of the plains began to give way to bluffs and rock formations. On May 31 the pioneers entered what is now Wyoming, where the prairie became "naked" and some learned to enjoy eating prickly pears, a small cactus. Here they began to mount the eastern incline of the Rocky Mountain range, and the large buffalo herds disappeared behind them. The way was mostly up stream-carved canyons where they often crossed and re-crossed the same stream several times. After seven weeks on the trail, the company arrived at Fort Laramie, Wyo., where they were met by a group of 14 families, some of whom were not Mormons, who anticipated the westward trek by a year and wintered with the Mississippi Saints in Pueblo. In Pueblo, the Mississippi Saints were joined by some of the sick detachments of the Mormon Battalion. President Young sent Amasa Lyman and others to bring the group west as soon as possible. The size of the original group grew to 161 people and 15 tens.
The way became more mountainous, and wagons were rafted over streams, double-teamed to pull up steep inclines, and wheel-locked to slide down sharp hills. Camp meat changed from buffalo to blacktail deer. Geological anomalies were occasionally encountered, such as a petroleum spring, from which they greased their wagons, hot springs where they washed clothing and pure ice from a sulphur spring.
Pioneers forded the north fork of the Platte River and here joined the Oregon Trail and began to travel near Oregon pioneers. Among these companies were Missourians, some previously persecutors of the Church, with whom the Mormon pioneers had an uneasy but peaceful relationship. At Fort Laramie, Mormon pioneers learned that Lilburn Boggs, former governor of Missouri who had issued the infamous "Extermination Order," had been on the trail earlier. The Mormons fixed a wagon spring of the Missourians, ferried them across the Platte River for a profit and even rescued one who was drowning. The Missourians occasionally assisted and fed members of the pioneer company. Thereafter relations improved a bit.
In the mountains the foresight of the pioneers was often rewarded. A boat, dubbed the "Revenue Cutter" was used as a wagon box on the plains. At streams, it was used as a ferry that carried up to 1,500-1,800 pounds. It was loaded with goods from wagon boxes so wagons crossed more easily. In addition, the boat was used to ferry Oregon immigrant companies, earning needed food and some cash. Small streams often were banked with ample grass for the livestock, although animals and humans were plagued by swarms of mosquitoes.
On June 26 the pioneers crossed the fabled South Pass, the slope that divided the East Coast drainage from the western drainage. Two days later, frontiersman Jim Bridger met the company and spent the night with them. Hoping for details, the pioneers were disappointed at the rambling accounts he offered. Another unexpected visitor met the company July 2 --Sam Brannan, captain of the ship Brooklyn, which had taken a company of Saints around the horn of South America and landed in Yerba Buena, now San Francisco. He had come from California and tried to persuade the pioneers to alter their plans and go to California instead of Salt Lake. But Brigham Young was unswayed and Brannan continued east. On July 4 soldiers from the Mormon Battalion sick detachment, traveling ahead of Amasa Lyman's Mississippi Saints, overtook the company. Three rousing cheers from the pioneer company welcomed the soldiers.
They reached Fort Bridger on July 7. During this time, "Mountain Fever" affected many in the camp. A number suffered from fever, delirium, flashes and muscle pain. When Brigham Young suffered the illness, it eventually slowed the entire company. The last leg of the journey was the most difficult. Leaving the Oregon Trail at Fort Bridger, they followed the Hastings Cutoff, a direct route to the Great Salt Lake. Traveling this route meant following the tracks of the
Donner Party wagons from the previous season, tracks barely discernible in the tall summer grass. Steep ridges and narrow openings in the mountains, compounded by large rocks and fallen trees, made the final part of the journey the most laborious.
The company halted three days when Brigham Young suffered from mountain fever in mid-July. On July 13, feeling an urgency to continue, Heber C. Kimball ) organized an advance guard 43 men in 23 wagons to blaze a trail to Salt Lake Valley and begin planting as soon as they arrived in the valley. A rear guard accompanied the Church president.
The advance company searched out the route down Echo Canyon in northeast Utah and spent time filling in ravines, removing tree stumps and making a road. Still the ride down the narrow canyon was hard on wagons that occasionally broke under the strain. The pioneers hacked out willows and criss-crossed mountain streams. They hauled over high ridges with disheartening views of seemingly endless ranges of mountains in all directions. They hacked their way through a tangle of willow, poplar and birch trees 20 feet high. But climbing what is now known as Big Mountain on July 21, some 12 miles above Salt Lake Valley, the landscape opened to a brief view of the valley below. To Orson Pratt, who climbed a hill to get a better look, the view was overwhelming.
"We could not refrain from a shout of joy which almost involuntarily escaped our lips," he wrote.
The pioneers' animals were near exhaustion that day as they labored upward of 10 hours without eating. Encouraged by the view, pioneers continued over Little Mountain, the last climb before the Salt Lake Valley.
They wisely cut a trail at the mouth of what is now Emigration Canyon to avoid climbing a steep mountain as the Donner Party had done a year earlier, costing it precious days.
All but the rear guard entered the valley by July 22, 1847. On July 23, the 4 pioneers held a prayer of gratitude and began to plow, plant potatoes, corn, buckwheat and beans. They flooded the parched land with creek water.
It was Wilford Woodruff who recalled the immortal moment of Brigham Young's entry July 24. Elder Woodruff pulled his wagon to a halt to give the leader, who was still weak from mountain fever, a full view.
The ailing leader peered out over the broad valley that stretched out below. "It is, enough," said Brigham Young. "This is the right place. Drive on."
THE DANIEL SPENCER COMPANY
The second company to leave on the westward trek was the 1st Hundred families, The hundred was made up of 151 wagons with about 360 men, women and children. Among the group were 63 men and boys with arms and ammunition. Of this 100 families, Peregrine Sessions was captain of the first Fifty, Ira Eldredge and Parley P. Pratt were captains of the second Fifty. The first and second fifties left the Elkhorn River June 17 and 18, 1847, respectively. Wagons were ferried across the Elkhorn River.
They learned that three men coming east had recently been attacked by Indians and one killed. Finding the remains of an Indian agent the same day led the pioneers to keep close watch on their stock. Wagons moved five abreast at first. But after a short time, the wagons resumed traveling in double file. A few Indians were seen from time to time, and a calf that lagged behind returned to the train with an arrow through its back.
The first fatality of this company occurred July 11 with the death of Ellen Holmes of the second fifty, who had been ill for six months.
Upon reaching buffalo country in Nebraska July 10, hunters killed several buffalo to provide meat for the wagon train. Buffalo created problems for the pioneers as the animals frightened the cattle into running away and mingling with buffalo. On July 22 and 23, about 100 Sioux Indians visited the wagon train and traded bread, meal and corn for buffalo robes and moccasins. The pioneers fired a cannon at their request.
Later oxen were purchased from the Indians. The company traveled without incident to Chimney Rock, Neb., which they reached July 29. On Aug. 4, they passed members of the Mormon Battalion returning toward Winter Quarters from the Salt Lake Valley, and arrived at Fort Laramie, Wyo. The day after, the train stopped to repair wagons while the women picked currants, made pies and hulled corn. Bears were seen but avoided.
On Aug. 16, Elder Ezra T. Benson, Orrin Porter Rockwell and John W. Binely had breakfast with the company as they returned east. They gave a good report of the valley. The company moved on past the Black Hills. now known as the Laramie Mountains, to the alkali area where some of the animals died, probably from drinking bad water or ingesting toxic earth while eating short grass. The company continued to find and obtain buffalo meat.
The temperatures grew colder as the company passed Independence Rock in Wyoming as it moved along Sweetwater River toward South Pass on the Continental Divide. On Aug. 27 The Spencer company heard from the Grant Company to the rear that their cattle were sick and dying. The Spencer company felt unable to give help. They labored forward, covering from 10 to 15 miles a day, crossing South Pass, and on Sept.3 leaving the Oregon Trail and heading toward the Salt Lake Valley. Indians stole two horses but their owners followed after them and recovered both. They also met Brigham Young traveling from Salt Lake Valley with a group returning to Winter Quarters, and the Twelve held a council and rested.
Ann Agatha Walker Pratt, wife of Parley P. Pratt, wrote that while crossing quicksand near Fort Bridger, Wyo., a boy 15 months old, asleep in the wagon, awoke and found himself alone, looked out and fell between the wagon wheels. The rear wheel ran over the toddler's legs before the wagon could be stopped. But "owing to the soft sand and the great mercy of God, all the hurt was a red mark made by the iron tire across his limbs."
The weather turned cold and with rain, hailstorms and blustery winds. The company then proceeded to Green River, Wyo. When they reached Ham's Fork, the first and fifth Tens of Captain Eldredge's Fifty formed an advance party that led out, reaching the Great Salt Lake Valley Sept. l9.
On Sept.18, Mary E. Frost gave birth to a baby girl named Catherine Frost.
After laboring down Echo and Emigration Canyons, the rest of the company arrived in the valley on Sept. 22, 1847. They immediately sent back teams of oxen to assist the company behind them.
Ann Agatha Walker Pratt, lagging behind the company, wrote of her last day's journey:
"It happened to be my turn to drive that day, Sept. 28, 1847. The reach of our wagon was broken and tied together after a fashion, and the way the front wheels wobbled about was a sight to behold. I kept expecting every minute to see the poor old concern draw apart and come to grief but it held together and when my eyes rested on the beautiful entrancing sight--the Valley--oh! how my heart swelled within me. I could have laughed and cried; such a comingling of emotions I cannot describe....
"When I drove into the Salt Lake Valley, unyoked my cattle and sat down on the
wagon tongue and began to realize that in the morning I would not have to hitch up and
toil through another day, such a feeling of rest--blessed rest--permeated my whole being
that is was impossible to
describe and cannot be realized except by those who have passed through similar scenes."
THE EDWARD HUNTER COMPANY
The 2nd Hundred wagons, the third company, were led by Captain Edward Hunter. The company started from the Elkhorn River June 17, 1847, and was comprised of 353 people in 131 wagons. Among them was Apostle John Taylor. The companies moved in fifties, under captains of Fifty Joseph Horn and Jacob Foutz. Those who could travel fastest moved out in front and had first choice of the feed for cattle.
The company rafted its wagons across the Elkhorn, hitching ropes to the raft and pulling it across with oxen. A few days later, Hunter's hundred reached the Loup Fork with its quicksand bottom. Their procedure to cross was to yoke six pair of oxen to each wagon and pull it through the river without stopping.
In the evenings, "we would gather in groups and sing the songs of Zion," wrote George Whitaker. "Sometimes we would have music and dancing and enjoyed ourselves the best we could."
"After arriving in buffalo country the company was camped close to the river one evening, when its members heard a sound like 'distant thunder.' We then knew what it was. A large herd of buffalo was crossing the river. We were frightened as they were opposite our camp. We were afraid they would run over our camp and stampede our cattle....We all got down by the side of the river and shouted to try to turn them. They turned a little to one side of our camp and passed by without doing us any harm," wrote Whitaker.
About 10 days out, the train was stopped and the men repaired a bridge near an abandoned Pawnee village. Among those who helped on the project was Robert Gardner. As he worked, his son, Robert, about 5, "a thoughtful little chap" stepped down from the wagon to stand at the head of the oxen. He was kicked by an ox and fell beneath the wheel of the wagon and the oxen started up, pulling the heavy wagon over the boy's stomach. During the next months the boy grew thinner and thinner. His father, who was ill himself, held the boy in his arms much of the way. "He was hurt in the kidneys and suffered 50 deaths," wrote his father. "He lived until] there was nothing left but skin and bones." The lad died Aug. 18,1847, and was buried in a shallow grave on the banks of the Platte River in Wyoming. The next year an uncle returned to retrieve his bones but wolves had scattered them.
Indians posed a constant threat but caused no serious trouble. At one time, a party of several hundred armed Indians stopped the company. Captain Horn took his wife, Mary Isabelle Horne and their baby girl, with him as he and John Taylor met the Indians before they reached the wagon train. Mary wrote in her reminiscences that one of the Indians took a fancy to her baby and offered pony after pony in trade. When the Indian went for the fourth pony, the wagon train caught up with them, to her great relief. A cannon was fired, which surprised and frightened the Indians, who were given food. Pioneers traded with them. Later the Indians danced for the pioneers.
The company reached Ft. Laramie in Wyoming and easily crossed the low Platte River to join the Oregon Trail. The company labored through what they called the Black Hills, now known as the Laramie Mountains, where they noted that meat was plentiful. They met another large party of Indians that left after being given food. Crossing an alkali desert after leaving the Platte River, a number of cattle died from poisoning. Game became very scarce.
So depleted were the oxen that when the company reached Independence Rock, Wyo., on Aug.17,1847, Elder Taylor wrote to Parley P. Pratt in a company ahead requesting a general council to provide extra oxen to the weaker companies to avoid a "perilous situation." He was mostly referring to the Grant company, following with the 3rd Hundred. This company had sent messengers requesting extra oxen to replace 40 oxen lost in a stampede.
Despite low supplies, on Sept. 7, while ascending the South Pass incline along the Sweetwater, the company stopped and held a feast. The feast, held in a light snowstorm, was in honor of Brigham Young and other of the original pioneers who were returning to Winter Quarters. Women of the company prepared roast beef, pies, cakes, and biscuits and afterward enjoyed the discourse of their leader.
The company labored down the west incline of the Continental Divide, but easily crossed the low Green River. When the company reached Fort Bridger, Robert Gardner's only remaining son, a baby of five months, was jostled off the wagon and fell beneath the same two wheels that had caused his brother's death, and was run over at the ankles. The baby was administered to and recovered in a few days.
Some of the pioneers sold items for "one-tenth of their value" to the trading post to buy flour and bacon.
The company proceeded "with a great many other difficulties as we made our way across the rivers, thru the rough canyons, and over mountains," wrote Robert Gardner.
Upon arriving in the Salt Lake Valley Oct.1, he noted, "I unyoked my oxen and sat
down on my broken wagon tongue, and I said I would not go another day's journey."
The Jedediah M. Grant Company
The fourth company, or the 3rd
F Hundred, was captained by Jedediah M. Grant, with Joseph B. Noble as captain of the 1st Fifty and Willard Snow as captain of the Second Fifty. The company was comprised of 331 people in 100 wagons.
Starting with great enthusiasm, this company passed the 2nd Hundred, but Elder Parley P. Pratt, captain of the 1st Hundred, reproved two captains for going out of line. The two asked for forgiveness and "all was made right."
At first, as this company left the Elkhorn June 19, 1847, wagons traveled five and six abreast for safety. The company made good progress until July 14 when in the evening at camp a boy on guard shook a buffalo robe to scare the cattle back from the wagon circle gate. The rattling skin panicked the animals which stampeded through the gate, overturning one wagon, breaking wheels and leaving broken oxhorns scattered on the ground.
Eliza R. Snow, who traveled in Captain Noble's Fifty, described the scene:
"The egress of the rushing multitude [of oxen] that thronged into the passage, piled one on top of another until the top ones f were above the tops of the adjacent wagons, moving them from their stations while the inmates, at this early hour, being so unceremoniously aroused from their morning sleep, and not knowing the cause of this terrible uproar and confusion, were some of them almost paralyzed with fear. At length, those [oxen] that could, broke from the enclosure, the bellowing subsided and the quiet was restored."
At great effort, the loose oxen were recovered, but this was but a sample of worse to come. On July 17, the company suffered another stampede, one that put the entire company at risk. This time some 20 pair of oxen and another 15-22 head of cattle were lost and never recovered. The company laid over eight days searching for the lost animals. One ox made it back to Winter Quarters. Eventually the searchers gave up on the lost animals and put every cow and horse in yoke or harness in order to continue the journey. They also borrowed animals from other companies. Later, they bought additional oxen from Indians.
About a week later, on Aug. 1, the company arrived at Chimney Rock, Neb. On Aug. 4, a contingent of the Mormon Battalion going east, after being discharged in California, met the company. Among them were the husbands of several women in the company--"many female faces were lighted with unusual joy" wrote Eliza R. Snow.
She also wrote of sadness that day. "Death made its occasional inroads among us. Nursing the sick in tents and wagons was a laborious task, but the patient faithfulness with which it was performed was no doubt registered in the archives above, and an unfailing memento of brotherly and sisterly love. The burial of the dead by the wayside was a sad office. For husbands, wives, and children to consign the cherished remains of loved ones to a lone grave was enough to try the firmest heart strings. Today, a sister, Esther Ewing, who had passed away after a sickness of two weeks, was buried. The burial was attended with all the propriety that the circumstances would permit. After the customary dressing, the body was wrapped in a quilt and consigned to its narrow house. It truly seemed sad and we sorrowed deeply as we turned from the lonely grave."
Priddy Meeks, a pioneer physician, doctored the ill with local remedies such as rough elm bark, and he helped some recover. Some, he said, had diphtheria "in its worst form."
The company's progress through what they called the Black Hills (now called the Laramie Mountains) was "slow and tedious" with fewer oxen. Other companies moved farther ahead. As a result, the Grant company found less feed for its oxen and discovered the roads to be churned up and sandy.
The company ate buffalo and antelope meat to supplement their scanty supplies. However, this was not always a treat. Eliza R. Snow remarked on Aug. 23: "this morning Sister Pierce boiled some buffalo meat which Capt. Josiah Miller killed yesterday, but it seemed to have been the father of all buffalo and uneatable." She noted that she wrote, "A Song of the Desert" on the banks of the Platte River.
The company passed an alkali desert just beyond the Platte River, noticing the abundance of dead oxen along the trail. The 2nd Fifty was almost incapacitated from the loss of oxen as it crossed this area of poison water.
A baby of Jedediah and Caroline Grant, born the previous winter, died Sept. 2, and was buried in the alkali desert. Caroline Grant was seriously ill and never recovered. She died about three weeks later and her remains were carried to the valley for burial.
Capt. Grant was himself ill during much of the trip.
Another incident occurred while climbing the steep incline along the Sweetwater River leading to the Continental Divide on Sept. 9. The men triple teamed wagons to cross a swampy area and some boys rode by at a gallop. This startled the teams of horses and oxen into a runaway. Losses were averted during the harrowing experience. Later in the day, the company was visited by President Brigham Young's group traveling east. That evening the exhausted pioneers posted no guard. During the night, 40 horses and mules were stolen by Indians. Only five were recovered after searching up to 30 miles.
On Sept. 11, the company crossed the Continental Divide at South Pass and, over the next few days, moved along the Sandy River and to the Green River. About this location, the company broke up into tens to proceed with more flexibility, and continued down the steep canyons where the hundreds of other wagons before them had improved the road.
Eliza R. Snow on Oct. 1 described the descent through the canyons near the Great Salt Lake: "Today we traveled through brush and timber, but what was still worse, through black dust, with which we were all so densely covered that our identities might be questioned. When up the mountain we met Bro. John Taylor, who, having reached the Valley was returning to meet that portion of his company now in the rear. Riding on horseback, through the interminable dust, his face was covered with a black mask, and in his happy, jocular way, lest I should compliment him, he hastened to ask me if I had lately seen my own face! Our appearance was truly ludicrous. It mattered little to us as we went slash, mash, down the mount, over stumps, trees, ruts, etc., where no one dared ride who could walk."
On the last day of travel, the company crossed a stream 19 times. Here the valley became visible to Eliza R. Snow, "looking like a broad, rich river bottom."
The tens of the 3rd Hundred began arriving in Salt Lake City about the first week in October.
That winter, Priddy Meeks wrote that his family lived on wolf meat, flesh taken from the dead bodies of mired cattle, hawks and crows, sego lily roots and thistle roots. "I would dig until I grew weak and faint, then sit down and eat a root, and then begin again," he wrote. The next summer, as first the crops began to grow, the crickets blackened the ground in places. "My faith did not fail one particle but felt very solom[sic] on the occasion, our provisions beginning to give out," he wrote in his history.
Then he saw a flock of seven gulls, and in a few minutes, a larger flock followed.
"They came faster and more of them until the heavens were darkened with them, and
they would eat crickets and throw them up again and fill themselves again and right away
throw them up again. A little before sundown they left for Salt Lake, for they roosted on
a sandbar. A little after sunrise in the morning, they came back again and continued the
course until they had devoured the crickets, and then left, sure to die, and never
Abraham O. Smoot Company
The fifth company, called the 4th Hundred, under the leadership of Abraham O. Smoot, was divided into fifties under George B. Wallace and Samuel Russell. On June 19, 1847, the Wallace Fifty arrived at the Platte River camp where the first pioneer death from Indians was suffered. On that day, Jacob Weatherby, a teamster in the company, was dispatched back to Winter Quarters. He and Alfred Lambson were driving a team of oxen when three Pawnee Indians arose from the grass and halted the wagon. As Weatherby negotiated for the Indians to let them pass, one of the Indians shot him. He was taken to a tent of the Rich company of the 5th Hundred
where he died the next morning.
The 4th Hundred, with its 318 people, 500 animals and hundred wagons, roiled the prairie with dust as it moved. The heat and dust and fatigue were trying for the pioneers as they became accustomed to the rigors of the trail. Capt. Smoot helped soothe feelings as he instructed his company to be obedient and prayerful.
The company made good progress, although it had to take a 65-mile detour to cross the Loup Fork. At this quicksand bottomed river, they drove their cattle across several times to compact the sand so it would bear the weight of the wagons. By hooking up four teams to each wagon, and being extremely careful, the company crossed the river with no accidents. Antelope were plentiful but water and firewood were scarce until July 3 when the company completed its detour. When the company reached Grand Island, Neb., a wooded area bounded by the Platte River, they paused to repair wagons. A few days later, the first buffalo were killed for meat and the food became a staple. However, members of the camp were told that "it was a disgrace to the people and displeasing to the Lord" to kill more than they could use.
On July 16, the company found a letter from Brigham Young's company left in a chunk of wood letter, left by the contained a short
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"chullk of ~^~ood" that raised spirits. The [letter, left by the first company May 10, [contained a sllort history of its travels.
1 On ~ulv 23, the camp enjoyed entertainment as 300 of the pioneers in best dress traveled throughout the camp, singing ffi and dancing to the tune of a fife, violin and two drums. Pioneers cheered and a cannon was fired. The next day the train reached Chimnex Rock, Neb., prickly pear (a small cactus) country and the near end of the prairie. That evening, Capt. Smoot exhorted the pioneers to be obedient to their officers. He told the officers to be kind to those "out of the ~sa\T" unless that was not sufficient, and theIl to command them.
The pioneers traded with Sioux Indians and OI1 the July 27, delivered a large batch of bread to the chief, who was "much pleased," wrote Joseph C. Kingsbury, company clerk.
As thex traveled on the north side of the Platte Ris;er, this group could see on the south side of the Platte eastbound travelers returning from the Oregon Territory. They learned from these travelers as much as they could about conditions ahead. The compan~ arrived at Fort Laramie, Wyo., on Aug. 5 and remained there for five days repairing wagons and preparing for the rest of the journey. They built kilns to cook tar from pine roots to lubricate their wagon wheels. One pioneer woman, Louisa Decker, helped to earn her passage by driving a team of horses as far as Fort Laramie. There the horses were stolen, so she drove a yoke of oxen the rest of the way, walking next to them. She milked cows at night, made mush for lunch and put milk in a churn that, through its jolting in the wagon, made butter for the next meal.
Over the next weeks, the wagons labored over the steep Laramie Mountains. When
Wallace's Fifty attempted to travel on Sunda+, Aug.15, to catch up with the Russell Fifty,
a"hurricane" arose that stopped the compan~ and blew the top off one wagon.
Despite the delay, the Fifty caught up with the rest of their Hundred. That evening they
met Eric Glines, one of the first company who had arrived from Salt Lake Valley. He
reported that a city had been laid out and fields planted. This news greatly cheered the
pioneers. Elders Ezra T. Benson and John Taylor visited two days later, also cheering the
On Aug. 23, as the company crossed the Platte River at Mormon Ferrv, Capt. John Nebeker of the fourth Ten of the Wallace Fifty had an accident. His son was bounced from the wagon and run over. The heavy wheels crushed his hip. He was given a blessing and Jived.
During the trek over an alkali desert, a number of oxen die(3. However, other cattle
were used to replace them in pullillg wagons. When the company reached the Sweetwater River, Captain Wallace distributed the cattle and oxen according to need, and sent one yoke of oxen back to help Grant's company.
Laboring up the slope to the Continental Divide, the company found good roads. After it reached the first water on the west side of the Divide, called Pacific Springs because it was the first water flowing west, they met Brigham Young and a group returning to \rlnter Quarters. Because eight of the 12 apostles were there, a meeting was held and leaders were chosen for the Salt Lake Stake. The journey downhill from there was easier at first and in a few days they had crossed Green River, Ham's Fork, and Black's Fork, some 107 miles in a week. They reached Fort Bridger, Wyo., Sept.15.
The pioneers labored to get to Echo Canyon where they crossed a stream several times until reaching the Weber River. On the way, a wagon "upset on a sidling place and broke the top" dumping its goods down a mountain. The pioneers battled brush and steep mountains, up Big Mountain and down Little Mountain to Emigration Canyon. Those with stronger teams continued on while some camped early and others fell behind.
At the mouth of Emigration Canyon, the pioneers shouted for joy and fired guns as the
saw their new home and the infant city in the distance. They arrived in Salt Lake City on
THE CHARLES C. RICH COMPANY
The Charles C. Rich Company brought up the rear guard, the smallest of the companies of 1847. His company included just three Tens, a total of 126 people in some 25 wagons. This company brought with them a cannon (later picking up the cannon left behind by the Hunter company as well), artillery and ammunition 25 kegs of black powder, the Nauvoo Temple bell, and a boat. This company included the last of the wagons from Winter Quarters.
On lune l9, while camped on the Elkhorn river two days before they started, Jacob Weatherby was carried mortally wounded to the tent of Charles C. Rich. Weatherbv, of the Smoot 4th Hundred, had been shot bv Indians. Sarah DeArmon Pea Rich wrote of the incident:
"We fixed him a bed and did all we could to ease his pain. He suffered awful pain through the night and the next morning about nine o'clock his suffering ended in death." The young man was buried near the Elkhorn River Camp's Liberty Po]e on June 20.
Later the same day, the cannon and
Church Almanac 1997-98 1 2 1
ammunition were ferried across the Elkhorn River. At sunrise Oll June 21, Capt. Rich's company fired the six-pounder cannon and the wagons started about 9 a.m., following the 1st Hundred.
As they left the campground on Fishing Slough on June 25, a near-tragedy occurred. Capt. Rich wrote: ''\Nlhile hitching my team one ox became unvoked, was frightened
and tried to leap over the skiff lboat]. He partly fell on mv son Joseph and hurt him considerably and came nigh killing him."
On June 28, Capt. Rich's company let the 2nd Hundred go in front of them. During the day, the companv received word from the front companv that a large hunting party of Indians was "lurking about," so the guard company fired the cannon twice but noted that night, "all things safe."
Capt. Rich's guard company reached the Loup Fork of the Platte River the next day. But because there were so many wagons ahead, the companv waited until the last ones crossed the river before it crossed. On July 2, they found the "Sow" cannon carried by Capt. Hunter's 2nd Hundred abandoned on the trail with its carriage broken and tongue gone. The cannon's traveling gear was repaired the next day and the cannon brought along. A broken wagon axle further delayed the company, but by July 9 the company overtook the 1st and 2nd Hundreds. Upon arriving in buffalo country, Capt. Rich killed three large bulls for camp meat. Sarah Rich wrote: "It was very dangerous traveling through this country, but we were preserved from serious accident. It was a grand sight to see those herds of wild animals, thousands in a group, racing across the prairies. The fear was that they might attack us in their flight."
The company arrived at Chimney Rock, Neb., on Aug. 1, and reached Fort Laramie, Wyo., on Aug. 5. Here, some horses were traded for oxen and cows. The weather was hot and the women were "very sunburned" as their wagons rocked and swayed over sand, rocks and hills through clouds of dust.
Mary Rich who, with another woman, drove a wagon, wrote: "We did so well that we had our teams Iready for travel at the appointed hour] everv day after that until we arrived in the Vallev, as regularly as the men did. We did not grieve or mourn over it, we had some very nice times when the roads were not so bad. We would make the mountains ring with our SOllgS, and sometimes the companv would get together and we would have a dance in the evening on the grass. We did not mourn but we rejoiced that we were going to the Rocky Mountains where we would be free to practice our religion...."
During the next week the guard company
1 22 Church Almanac ] 997-98
traveled through what they called the Black Hills, now known as the Laramie Mountains with steep slopes and shortage of water The "worst hill on the road' was passed safels Aug.13 and the company had to dig in a drx stream bed for water. The following dav the pioneers burned coal to repair iron wagon tires.
The company reached the Upper Ferrx Or the Platte River on Aug. 21. The teams ss;ere verv weak and an occasional ox died as the companv crossed the alkali encrusted area. On Aug.26, four oxen died, so Capt. Rich lefl behind the two boats and a wagon, stripping the wagon first of its iron parts. Two daxs later the company was overtaken bv Jolin Taylor, in the 3rd Hundred that had fallen behind, on a quest for extra oxen. Capt. Rich gave him one yoke of oxen.
On an alkali desert, the company cut large cakes of bicarbonate of soda from Saleratus Lake, which later helped in making bread in the Salt Lake Valley. The company reached the Sweetwater River and the incline leading to South Pass, the Continental Divide, on Aug. 31. On Sept. 2, they met a small company returning from the Vallev tO Wmter Quarters. The cool of the winter was now on them at the 7,000-foot-high mountain pass. The company noted cold winds and rain and later snow. On Sept.6, at Pacific Springs on the west side of the Continental Divide, Capt. Rich's company and other companies halted for a meeting attended by eight of the Twelve Apostles. At this meeting, Capt. Rich was called as a counselor in the Salt Lake Stake presidency. He would be ordained to the Twelve the following winter.
On the west side of the mountains, grass and water were plentiful and the teams grew stronger. The company traveled slower for a few days following the birth of a baby. At the Big Sandy, the company lost another ox, but made steady progress to Fort Bridger, arriving Sept. 16. As the company traveled down steep, brush-choked canyons that lay beyond, wagons began to break. An axle was broken Sept. 24 going down Echo Canyon, another in East Canyon and another a day later. The repair time slowed the entire company. Crossing Big Mountain on Sept. 30, Capt. Cherry of the 1st Ten upset a wagon. The company became spread out as it traveled over the rough way.
Capt. Rich's mother, Nancy O'Neal Rich, became seriously ill. After passing Little Mountain, the company came together again and traveled down into the valley together. They reached the city Oct.2.
On Oct. 5, Mother Rich died and was buried beside the wife of Jedediah Grant, who had
died on Big Mountain a few days earlier.
BlOGRAP Editor's n children cor 1847. They group's size journey bec determined Drawings
Adams, Bar lAug. 28, 1812,
of Vermont pa] and was conve the Church at He came to M with the "( Camp" under John E. Page. Ir he married Juli Bawker. Adam selected for th inal company a came a night over the animal down the Missi St. Louis, Mo., during river fe plains with Bri3 1847, he imme Quarters for h family to the Sz settled in the rr Canyon. Adam Salt Lake Tal Theater, and c 1869, he injure lifting the bed
1869, at age 56, Allen, Ruf 22, 1814, in ] Gideon and Ra the Church a Carroll Co., Mc men attacked 1846, he was original pio assigned to be establish the Lake Valley b Quarters. He l; Co., Utah.
accompanie missionary ja Their attemp returned Ma!' He was called 53rd and 54t
1857. He diecq
1887, at age 7.
Angell, 1 Born June 5,
and his wife
Bill of particulars included for emigrants leaving this government next spring. Each family consisting of five persons, to be provided with-- 1 good strong wagon well covered with a light box. 2 or 3 good yoke of oxen between the ages of 4 and 10 years. 2 or more milch (milk) cows. 1 or more good beefs. 3 sheep if they can be obtained. 1000 pounds of flour or other bread or breadstuffs in good sacks. 1 good musket or rifle to each male over the age of 12 years. 1 lb. powder. 4 lbs. lead. 100 do. [ditto] sugar. 1 do. cayenne pepper. 1 do. black do. lb. mustard. 10 do. rice for each family. 1 do. cinnamon. do. cloves. 1 doz. nutmegs. 25 lbs. salt. 5 Is. saleratus (bicarbonate for raising bread). 10 do. dried apples. 1 bush. beans.
A few lbs. dried beef or bacon. 5 Ibs. dried peaches. 20 do. do. pumpkin. 25 do. seed
grain. 20 Ibs. soap for each family. 15 Ibs. of iron and steel. A few lbs. of wrought
nails. One or more sets of saw or grist mill irons to company of 100 families. 1 good
seine (fishing net) and hook for each company. 2 sets of pulley blocks and ropes to each
company for crossing rivers. From 25 to 100 lbs. of farming and mechanical tools Cooking
utensils to consist of bake kettle, trying pan. Tin cups, plates, knives, forks, spoons
and pans as few as will do. A good tent and furniture to each 2 families. Clothing and
bedding to each family, not to exceed 500 pounds. Ten extra teams for each company of 100
families. In addition to the above list, horse and mule teams can be used as well as oxen.
Many items of comfort and convenience will suggest themselves to a wise and provident
people, and can be laid in the season; but none should start without filling the original
bill. (Nauvoo Neighbor, Oct. 29,1845.)
Copyright © 1996 - 2019 Shirl R Weight Saturday, 23 February 2019 10:05:15 PM