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: Saturday, April 17 - Pioneers awoke to ice oil water buckets, traveled only 7 miles

Date: April 17, 1847

The night was bitter cold and when the Mormon pioneers awoke at 5 a.m. they found ice an inch thick in the camp's water buckets. Men who had been on guard duty "complained much of the severity of the weather."

Keeping as usual between the river on their left and the sand bluffs on the right, the company moved slowly along a sandy track, bothered by a "disagreeable" wind.

The group stopped about noon after moving only seven miles and established camp where they would spend the time until Monday morning.

A grove of small cottonwood trees was nearby and the men chopped down "hundreds" of them to feed their teams and save their precious corn for treeless parts of the prairie still to come. A small lake was nearby, but scouts said the water was no good. The pioneers filled their buckets in the Platte River, about a half -mile from the campsite.

At 5 p.m. Brigham Young called the camp together and warned once again that this was Indian country. He reminded them of camp rules about keeping loaded guns at hand at all times and staying close to the wagons.

A military organization was formed with Brigham as lieutenant general and commander-in-chief; Stephen Markham as a colonel and John Pack and Shadrach Roundy as majors.

Pack, 37, had been an officer in the Nauvoo Legion. He was to later help settle Carson Valley, Nev., and in his Salt Lake home were held the first classes of what was to eventually become the University of Utah.

Roundy. 58, was one of the oldest in the pioneer company. He was to cross the plains another five times helping later emigrant parties. He was involved in forming the cooperative which later became ZCMI.

Concern of the pioneers about Indians became more intense because they knew a large Pawnee village was nearby. An estimated 4,000 warriors were rumored to be there. The Pawnee generally were considered friendly to whites, but the Mormons were taking no chances.

Shortly before dark, a wagon driven by traders entered the Mormon camp and pitched their tents about a quarter mile away. They had been trading at the Indian village and the wagon was loaded with furs and pelts.

The traders "had plenty of buffalo meat and gave us what we wished," Wilford Woodruff reported.

That night after dinner, two of the men, Ellis Eames and Hans C. Hansen, got out their violins and entertained the camp until the bugle sounded at 9 p.m.

Eames was to give up the trek and leave the camp in less than 24 hours, but made it later to the Rocky Mountains and served as mayor of Prove.

Hansen, 40, a native of Denmark, was the only Scandinavian in the group. A former seaman, he was on shore leave in Boston when he learned of the new religion and joined the church. An accomplished violinist, he settled in Salina where he lived out his life as a bachelor, performing at local dances and social events.

After the music the pioneers retired to their tents and wagons under the watchful eyes of the night guard, but "all was peace and quietness," wrote William Clayton.

The campsite was near what is now the Ames Post Off ice. The tiny community was founded by the Union Pacific Railroad Co. and was named after one of the company officials.

During the day the pioneers had traveled through the area now occupied by Fremont, Neb. A historical marker in a small park west of town notes the community is on what was the Oregon-Mormon trail.

Because the Mormon pioneers used the best route they could find, with the fewest hills and obstacles, their path was later chosen for the Omaha Fort Kearny Road and finally became the right-of -way for the Union Pacific railroad.

Eventually, Highway 50, the famous Lincoln Highway, was built along the same corridor. Motorists on Highway 30 between Fremont and Columbus, Neb., are right on the trail.

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.