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: Monday, April 19 - Wagons on the move down all easy corridor

Date: April 19, 1847

It had been a restful weekend. Now the Mormon pioneer wagons were on the move again, traveling in double file. The route was "very level" as the Platte River flood plain provided an easy corridor about 15 miles wide.

William Clayton, still bothered by a pounding toothache, left camp a few minutes early, going on foot ahead of the wagons "with my rifle on my shoulder."

As the company slowly moved along, the pioneers saw a series of small lakes or ponds with many ducks. Some of the men unlimbered their guns and started shooting. They managed to bag several ducks before the rest flew away.

In the early afternoon the pioneers stopped for about two hours near a bend in the river and let the cattle graze. They had covered an estimated dozen miles since morning, but their mileage at this point was just a guess.

While the company was stopped here, four men rode into camp. They were Jesse C. Little, R. Jackson Redden, N. Thomas Brown and 0. Porter Rockwell. They came from Winter Quarters where they had gone to help Little collect his baggage.

Little had reached the pioneers several days earlier after returning from a mission to the Eastern States, but had not stopped for his belongings in Winter Quarters, so had to ride back for them.

Not much is known about Brown, who accompanied him, except that he was highly regarded by Brigham Young and that he was killed in 1848 in an accidental shooting at Council Bluff s, Iowa. He had returned to the area to help other pioneers after reaching the Salt Lake Valley.

Rockwell, 31, a rugged frontiersman, had been a faithful bodyguard to Joseph Smith and once was imprisoned in Missouri for his allegiance to the Mormon cause.

A slight, wiry man, he wore his hair braided and pinned at the back of his head. Although loyal to church leaders, he attended religious meetings infrequently, feeling out of place with his rough, gun-toting manner. He rode thousands of miles in the service of the church and was effective dealing with Indians.

He was later a Pony Express rider and a lawman. He had a fearsome reputation, and lawbreakers generally went far out of their way to avoid him.

When Brown, Rockwell, and the others reached camp they brought a most welcome gift -- mail from home. Many of the men in the pioneer party received letters from family and friends and were deeply relieved that all was well at Winter Quarters.

The riders also brought some small but useful items to share among the pioneers. Clayton said Rockwell gave him some fishhooks, a ball of fish line and three pencils.

Along with the mail and gifts, the four men also brought a horse belonging to Willard Richards. Some days earlier Richards had reported the animal was strayed or stolen near the west bank of the Elkhorn River.

During the day's march the pioneer company passed a mass Indian grave about a quarter mile wide and bordered by a ridge of dirt. "We thought this was some ancient battlefield," Thomas Bullock wrote in his journal.

After making camp that evening, some of the men took a leather boat, which they called the Revenue Cutter, to a nearby lake in an effort to catch some fish. The boat, being lightweight, was carried in one of the wagons and used for fishing and ferrying supplies in over crossings.

This fishing expedition didn't have much Luck, returning with two small catfish, some turtles and a duck.

Clayton, who had walked to the fishing site and back, was exhausted and footsore and went straight to bed, "but had no rest on account of the severe pain in my head and face."

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.