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: Sunday, April 18 - A welcome rest day, and an opportunity to send mail back

Date: April 18, 1847

"Today, being the day set apart by Almighty God for His people to rest, we do not intend to travel." This feeling, recorded by Howard Egan, was shared by all of the Mormon pioneer company. The practice was kept for most of the journey across the plains.

Ellis Eames decided this day to pull out of the trek and go back to Winter Quarters "on account of poor health, spitting blood, etc.," William Clayton reported.

Egan was less charitable, writing that Eames was leaving in consequence of sickness, "so he said." But added,"I think he is weak in the faith."

Some of the pioneer company took the opportunity to write letters to loved ones at Winter Quarters. Eames would carry the mail with him.

Heber C. Kimball penned a few lines to his wife, Vilate, explaining that he was well and in good spirits. Although he had taken several wives in the practice of polygamy. he wrote to Vilate, his first wife, that she had "the love of my youth, which is first, last, now and forever," and urged her to be of good cheer.

He called his tender letter "a private epistle," not to he shared with others of the extended family.

Although he obviously missed his wife, Kimball was enjoying the trek across the plains. After it was all over, he wrote: "It was pretty hard and laborious, I admit, but it was one of the pleasantest journeys I ever performed."

The weather was cold and a light snow fell on this Sunday morning as Eames turned his wagon eastward in company with the traders who had camped near the Mormons the previous night. He arrived safely in Winter Quarters a few days later.

More traders" wagons. seven in all, drove up and camped near the pioneers later this day. All were loaded with buffalo robes and various furs. Clayton ate some of the buffalo meat provided by the traders, "which I thought tasted very good." Life in camp was relaxed this Sunday. The pioneers took care of their livestock and did some reading, although Wilford Woodruff complained as he read some newspapers brought several days earlier, that he "did not find much news."

Some excitement was caused during the afternoon when James Case was cutting down a tree and a sudden gust of wind "blew it in a contrary direction." A branch of the falling tree struck an ox owned by John Taylor. At first the pioneers feared the animal would be blinded, but the injured eye recovered in a few hours.

The sun broke through overcast sides and the weather moderated later in the day. Some of the men walked the half mile to the banks of the Platte River.

Woodruff said that strolling along the bank of the Platte was "Like walking on the edge of a smooth sea beach where a man or horse can drink. But here and there he can suddenly sink into quicksand. The more he struggles to get out, the more he will sink and soon perish if assistance is not near."

The bugle announcing the end of the day blew at 8.30 p.m., giving the pioneers a half hour to get ready for bed and extinguish their campfires. The wagons were pulled in a circle when the company halted the night before. Now the cattle were placed inside the circle for the night.

Some of the pioneers bedded down in their wagons among all the supplies. Others had brought tents along. These were pitched near the wagons, outside the circle.

The groups of 10 kept their individual campsites close together under the command of the particular captain who was responsible for their safety and conduct.

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.