1847: Thursday, April 22 - Sleeping guards were taught lesson by a joke
Date: April 22, 1847
Many extra guards were on duty during the night -- 50 per shift -- because of the nearness of the large Pawnee Indian village which the Mormon pioneers passed the previous day.
Several of the guards fell asleep and when they awoke in the morning, two of them discovered their rifles were missing and a hat was gone from a third man.
The embarrassed guards were the objects of considerable jokes about having fallen victim to prowling Indians during the night. But other sentries finally confessed they took the hat and guns from the sleeping men "as a warning."
However, William Clayton sympathized with the guards, noting that it was "difficult for men to keep awake night after night, while traveling 20 miles in a day, taking care of teams, cooking, etc." The few sentries who fell asleep did not cause security problems. Plenty of other men were alert, but there was no sign of any Indian activity around the camp during the night.
The pioneers resumed their march at 7.30 a.m. and soon crossed Looking Glass Creek, which was named by Heber C. Kimball. The name was appropriate, according to Norton Jacob, because the water was "clear as crystal."
Later the company forded Beaver Creek. Here the crossing was less pleasant. The stream was 20 feet wide and two feet deep, but the west bank was very steep. A rope was hooked to the tongue of each wagon and 12 men hauled the wagons one at a time up the nearly vertical creek bank.
In the afternoon the pioneers reached a deserted Pawnee missionary station near Plum Creek, a stream the pioneers found especially attractive.
The missionary outpost and some nearby government buildings were established eight years earlier, but were abandoned in the fall of 1&16 when Sioux raiders drove off the Pawnee. The attackers burned the government buildings but left the missionary structures intact.
The Mormons took possession of the farmyard at the station, observing that there were a number of good log houses and considerable improved land enclosed by rail fences, plus plenty of hay and fodder lying about.
This feed for cattle was especially welcome because of the limited supplies carried by the pioneers and the frequent lack of good grass on the prairie. Brigham Young said the company could use all the hay desired but gave strict orders not to touch anything else at the abandoned station.
Scattered around the buildings were "large lots of iron, several plows, a drag and two stoves, all apparently left to rot," Clayton said. Such iron products were scarce and extremely valuable to the pioneers.
The burned-out government buildings were about a quarter mile from the missionary station. The area was familiar to James Case, one of the members of the pioneer company. He had been employed at the station as a government farmer the year before.
Jacob said the area around the abandoned station was "excellent country with rich land." He said the surrounding slopes were covered with the "richest kind of grass which serves to feed those immense herds of buffalo. Although, by the by, we haven't seen any yet," he added.
One of the pioneer company had a close call that day. George A. Smith, destined one day to become a counselor to Brigham Young, was watering his horse when it became mired in the mud and lunged forward, knocking him flat.
The horse then stepped on his legs and chest "and held him fast in the mud" until Wilford Woodruff could spring to the rescue and hack the animal away. "I was fearful he was badly injured but found he was little hurt," Woodruff said.
Smith, 29, would later lead a large group of pioneers across the plains, a lengthy journey of 155 days filled with a number of disasters.
He was a tireless colonizer and became known as the father of the Mormon settlements in southern Utah. The town of St. George was named after him. In 1868, after the death of Heber C. Kimball, he became a counselor in the church First Presidency.
In the pioneer camp this night, Brigham ordered the cannon unlimbered and loaded. Thomas Tanner drilled the gun crew until dark, showing them how to use the cannon. The president was concerned about the possibility of Indian raiders trying to steal the horses.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.