Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
sponsored by the Utah State Board of Education, the BYU-Public School Partnership and the Utah Education Network

Pioneer 1847 Companies

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1847: Thursday, April 15 - Now it was time to face west with a single objective

Date: April 15, 1847

All the running back and forth between Winter Quarters and the pioneer staging area 35 miles away on the Platte River was about ended.

From now on, the faces of the Mormon pioneers would be turned to the west and the settlement on the banks of the Missouri River would not be seen again for many months.

Once the break was made, there would be little chance for communication. An occasional traveler met on the trail might agree to carry some letters, but for the most part, the pioneers and those they left behind could only worry and wonder about each other during the long months of separation.

Brigham Young and those with him had left Winter Quarters the previous day and spent the night on the prairie after traveling an estimated 19 miles.

Now they were on the march again and reached the Elkhorn, using the raft left behind there to ferry their wagons across the water. By late afternoon they rejoined the remainder of the pioneers at the Platte River.

In the evening, Jesse C. Little, 31, who had been serving as president of the church's Eastern States Mission, rode into camp. He had reached Winter Quarters and found the pioneers gone, so he pushed ahead to catch them.

He brought greetings from Col. Thomas Kane, a gentile friend of the Mormons, along with some small gifts for the apostles from the colonel. Little stayed with the company for the journey west, but next fall returned to his mission and served nearly four more years.

Brigham called the camp together that night for instructions on the thousand-mile march that lay ahead. He told them to take good care of their teams and "cease all music, dancing and light-mindedness." He exhorted them to prayer and faithfulness and warned that persecutions weren't ended. He said traders and preachers were stirring up Indians to attack the Mormons and steal their horses and goods. But he promised all would come through safely if they were faithful and obeyed counsel.

Nine rules were laid down for the trip and everyone was expected to be obedient. The rules were:

  1. A bugle will blow each day at 5 a.m. and every man is expected to arise and pray, then attend to his team, get breakfast and be prepared to travel at 7 a.m.
  2. Each man is to walk at the side of his team with his gun loaded and within reach.
  3. The camp will halt about noon to rest the animals. People must have their dinner pre-cooked so as not to delay camp by fixing meals.
  4. At night the wagons are to be drawn into a circle and the animals placed inside the circle when possible.
  5. The bugle will blow at 8:30 p.m. when every man must return to his wagon and pray, except the night guard. Fires must be out and people in bed by 9 p.m.
  6. The camp will travel in close order and no man is to get farther than 20 rods away (about 330 feet) without permission from his captain of 10.
  7. Every man is to help take care of his brother's cattle. No man will be indulged in idleness.
  8. Every man is to have his rifle and pistol in perfect working order. A piece of leather should be kept over the firing mechanism to protect it from moisture.
  9. All persons will start together and keep together. A company guard will attend the cannon in the rear and see that nothing is left behind at each stopping place.

Stephen Markham was named chief of the guard and told to pick 50 men in whom he had confidence. These were to be divided into groups of 12 to stand watch -- one group to be on duty the first half of a night and a second 12 to take the last half of the night.

On those occasions when the horses and cattle are staked out some distance from camp instead of being inside the wagon circle, extra guards will be posted with the animals. These extra guards will be chosen from men not already among the 50 picked for sentry duty.

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.