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

Previous | Next

1847: Wednesday, April 21 - Pawnees paid visit to collect tribute, handshakes for all

Date: April 21, 1847

Having half a tooth pulled seemed to have helped William Clayton. He awoke with his face feeling less painful, although still swollen and sore.

He ate some fish for breakfast, but couldn't take the bread, "it being very dry and hard. I could not bear to put it in my mouth."

During the morning's travel an Indian appeared and rode full speed toward the wagons and then pulled to a stop. He dismounted and seemed very sociable, shaking hands all around. Eight others also put in a brief appearance.

Despite the friendliness, the Mormon pioneers were very cautious, "knowing the Pawnee will show every sign of friendship and at the same time be watching and laying plans to steal our horses, etc.," said Heber C. Kimball.

Later in the day, the pioneer company passed a large Pawnee village. There were more than 100 lodges, set close together and in good order. The lodges were all made of skins, Kimball said, the usual houses or cabins at the old village having been burned by the Sioux.

As the pioneers continued on their way, a large number of Indians trailed after them until the Mormons pitched camp for a midday rest across the Platte River and out of sight of the Indian village.

About 200 Pawnees gathered on the far side of the river and finally some 75 rode through the shallow water to the wagons. Among them was an old chief.

The Indians presented Brigham Young with certificates from other travelers declaring that the grand chief of the Pawnee was friendly and that those previous visitors had given him presents of powder, lead, salt and other items.

Some of the pioneers gave gifts of tobacco, fishhooks, flour and salt, but the old chief wasn't satisfied with the quantity. He said he "didn't like us to go west through their country. He was afraid we should kill their buffalo and drive them off," Clayton said.

"But there was no appearance of hostility," he added. In fact, all the Indians who came to the camp wanted to shake hands and would "run from one side to the other so as not to miss one."

However, two horse bridles and a copper wash pan were discovered missing after the Pawnee visit.

When the pioneers passed the Indian village, they noticed squaws at work digging for roots, while the men walked about with the air of great overlords, being "perfectly listless and idle," Norton Jacob reported.

After this encounter, the pioneers moved on. The sides clouded over and a heavy rain began to soak the company. The rain was punctuated by "heavy peals of thunder and vivid flashes of lightning."

The pioneers camped for the night at the mouth of Looking Glass Creek on the bank of the Loup Fork of the Platte River. This fork had parted them from the Platte itself and would have to be crossed soon. The company covered an estimated 25 miles that day, the best day's travel since leaving Winter Quarters.

Because of the nearness of Indians, Brigham called for extra volunteers to stand guard and 100 men responded. They were divided into two groups of 50, each group taking half of the night watch.

Wilford Woodruff, who rode a mule on picket duty outside the camp, said the weather was foul. He wrapped himself in a buffalo hide "and let the wind and rain beat on me."

Earlier that day the pioneers passed the place where Columbus, Neb., would be founded in 1856 by a group of settlers from Columbus, Ohio. Germans, Swiss and Poles were among the early inhabitants. The community has grown into a modest, but thriving industrial center.

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.