Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
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Pioneer 1847 Companies

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1847: Wednesday, April 14 - Four yelling Indians were cause for delay

Date: April 14, 1847

A small party of men with Thomas Bullock had camped on the prairie after leaving Winter Quarters the previous day and arose at dawn to continue the journey.

But the Indians were up even earlier.

"While I was in the act of hitching my cattle," Bullock wrote, "four Omaha Indians came rushing down upon us, waving their standards covered with turkey feathers and hallooing and yelling like savages."

The noise frightened his cattle and they broke away from the wagon tongue "as if they were mad," and ran back in the direction of Winter Quarters "and I after them at full tilt," Bullock recorded.

He finally caught up with the animals two or three miles away, but one of the Indians also had given chase and drew his bow and arrow, "threatening to shoot one of my oxen."

The pioneers tried to calm the Indians by giving them bread. "They were not satisfied with that and demanded more to take with them," Bullock said. "One had the boldness to come to my wagon and attempt to take the front of my wagon cover for a headress, but I repelled him and he went away in anger."

Norton Jacob, who was with the party of wagons, said he heard a gun fired and some whooping. "Soon four of them came to us and were very saucy because we would not give them our provisions." The confusion caused by the Indian raid created considerable delay and the wagons were late getting on the trail that day.

Brigham Young and the rest of the apostles left Winter Quarters around noon the same day. Wilford Woodruff wrote in his journal that he called his family together, "blessed them and left them in the hands of the Lord." The group took the Indian shortcut they had followed earlier to Winter Quarters.

With Brigham was William Clayton, who would serve as scribe and historian for the trip. He hadn't expected to be with the group. He was sick in bed with "rheumatism of the face" (which turned out to be an infected tooth) when Brigham and Willard Richards walked in and told him to be ready to leave in half an hour.

With the help of his family, he quickly gathered his clothing and a few supplies, said his farewells and became a passenger in Heber C. Kimball" s carriage.

Taking Clayton was a fortunate move. Without his excellent journal and his "Emigrant's Guide," published in 1818, knowledge of the Mormon trail experience wouldn't be as complete as it is today.

Brigham's party traveled 19 miles, according to Clayton, and then pitched camp. Those with the group had what Woodruff called "a splendid supper." It consisted of fried catfish, pork beans, shortcake and honeycomb. "I ate hearty," Woodruff noted.

Because darkness had fallen and the slowermoving, ox-drawn Bullock wagons hadn't appeared, Brigham ordered signal fires to be kept burning. Bullock saw the lights and finally joined the group for the rest of the night.

Meanwhile, the main body of pioneers at the Platte continued to rest in camp. A rain soaked them during that morning, but the weather cleared as a sharp wind began blowing.

Howard Egan said two of his horses had strayed the night before. He borrowed a horse from R. Jackson Redden and rode back toward the Elkhorn River. He found the animals, but could only catch one of them and finally left the other.

John S. Higbee, 43, Redden, and four or five other men went up the Platte River looking for a good place to fish and returned that evening with a catch of about a dozen. Which were eaten for supper.

Higbee actually should have been in California. He had volunteered the year before to join the Mormon Battalion in the war with Mexico, but by the time he reached Council Bluffs to march with the troops, they had already left.

He was called to be a captain in the advance pioneer company, even though he had no wagon of his own. His supplies were carried in a friend's wagon.

Higbee didn't reach the Salt Lake Valley that summer. He was assigned to stay behind at a crossing of the Platte River and help operate a ferry. His family eventually joined him there and they entered the valley in September, 1847.

Source: 111 Days to Zion © Copyright 1997 Big Moon Traders and Hal Knight. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. This includes educational uses.