Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
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Pioneer 1847 Companies

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1847: Saturday, April 24 - Fording Loup Fork was a tiring endeavor

Location: Loup Fork - 927 miles left, Nebraska - (river about 300 yards wide; not so good as the upper ford) - 114 1/4 miles from Winter Quarters.

Date: April 24, 1847

Frustrated in their efforts to ford the Loop Fork, the Mormon pioneers began building rafts to carry their wagons. But an easier approach was discovered.

Several men explored a different crossing slightly higher upstream. By unloading half the baggage in a wagon and doubling or tripling the teams, "we got across with much less difficulty."

This news caused the pioneers to abandon the raft-building project and all went to work unloading goods and hooking up teams to drive the wagons over. The unloaded supplies were ferried across by the leather boat.

As more and more wagons forded the river, the traffic packed down the sand under water and made each successive crossing that much easier. Finally, fully loaded wagons were able to be pulled through.

By 4 p.m. all had gotten over "without damage to man or beast," Wilford Woodruff wrote. The crossing was such a strenuous undertaking that the tired pioneers were deeply grateful to have the experience behind them.

The fact that no animals were injured also was a cause for rejoicing. One horse had been lost earlier that day before crossing the river. The horse, a favorite belonging to Brigham Young, had fallen into a ravine during the night. A chain around its neck was fastened to a post and the animal choked to death when it fell.

"This is a grievous loss for there are no more teams in camp than are absolutely necessary and in fact, there are hardly enough to get along very comfortably," wrote William Clayton in his journal.

While the crossing of the Loup Fork was being made, Brigham sent Clayton to explore the ruins of an abandoned Pawnee village nearby and write a description. Clayton didn't have a wagon of his own to be taken over the river.

The village had been burned by Sioux raiders once before while the Pawnee were on a hunt. The Pawnee, who were farmers and lived in lodges rather than as tent-dwelling nomads, rebuilt the entire complex. But it was burned again by the Sioux, except for one lodge.

"The Pawnee then moved to the place where we passed them a few days ago," Clayton recorded.

Thomas Bullock said the village was surrounded in part by a high dirt embankment, fronted by a deep ditch, "as if it were a fortified place." A burial ground was nearby and some of the pioneers found many human bones.

Clayton wrote a detailed description of the village and its type of construction, a report covering many pages. He noticed that the crossing of the Loup was nearly finished and rushed to join the others. He was given a horse to ride and "got over safe and only wet my feet."

Once everything was loaded back onto the wagons, the company traveled three miles and camped beside a small lake, about two miles south of the present town of Fullerton, Neb., where they would spend the Sabbath weekend.

Porter Rockwell noticed that the lake was full of sunfish. Many men gathered hooks and lines and went fishing. "We had some fine sport," Clayton wrote. He said many of the men "caught a good mess each." The fish, though small, made a good meal, he added.

Fresh Indian tracks were found on some nearby bluffs, "but the guards are faithful and we have no fear," Clayton said. However, the cannon was prepared for action in the event of an attack during the night.

The evening was clear and after dinner Clayton walked to Orson Pratt's wagon. Pratt, known as "professor" to his fellow emigrants, was a self-taught scientist. He had unpacked the telescope brought from England.

Clayton took a look and "saw Jupiter's four moons very distinctly, never having seen them before." The tired company finally settled down to bed that night, most of them probably sharing the feeling of Howard Egan: "I thank the Lord tomorrow is a day of rest."

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.