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 26 - Alert guards prevented Indian raid on horses

Date: April 26, 1847

Guard duty was dreary work, but unlike some other nights, all sentries in the Mormon pioneer camp were awake and their alertness foiled an Indian raid against the horses.

About 3:30 a.m. some of the guards noticed the horses behaving nervously, so they went to investigate and heard rustling noises in the grass. Thinking it might be wolves, two of the men raised their rifles and fired.

Instead of wolves, six Indians leaped upright and ran away at top speed. The camp bugle was sounded and all the men "arose up in arms," Wilford Woodruff said. However, no more Indians were seen that night.

The company moved out about 8 a.m., the horse teams going first to break up the turf so it wouldn't hurt the feet of the oxen. The weather was hot and dry "and has a tendency to make sore lips," William Clayton said.

Ezra T. Benson discovered during the morning that one of the iron axles on his wagon had broken. He repacked the wagon load so no weight rested on the damaged axle and continued the journey.

In the evening, Thomas Tanner and Burr Frost, two of the company blacksmiths, removed the axle and repaired it on a forge, the whole operation taking only an hour.

Norton Jacob, one of the captains of 10, followed the advice of Brigham Young given the day before and chose two men among his group to serve as cooks. Each 10 was to do the same. The cooks were excused from all other duty.

Jacob said his choices were Charles A. Harper as chief cook and Andrew Gibbons as assistant. Harper, 30, and Gibbons, 22, were not cooks by trade, but in that company they probably were as good as any others.

As they traveled parallel to the Loup Fork that day, the pioneers saw the remains of a deserted Indian village. None of the lodges appeared to be standing. The company passed within a mile of the place.

Jacob wrote in his journal that Brigham apologized for scolding some of the men, saying that Henry G. Sherwood was the only one who had a "legal right to find fault."

Whoever bad a complaint must get permission from Sherwood to grumble, Brigham said, because Sherwood was formally elected to the off ice of "chief grumbler."

Sherwood was in charge of food and supplies for the trip and apparently took his title in good humor.

Jacob said the arrangement had "excellent effect in putting a check on some fractious persons, especially one by the name of Chamberlain, who all the time has been grumbling with his team or somebody or another. But after this he was tolerable decent."

Chamberlain was Solomon Chamberlain, 59, a maker of wooden casks and tubs. He was the oldest man in the camp and had lost his wife at Winter Quarters just before the trek. He remained a faithful Mormon until his death in Washington County in 1862.

Woodruff reported that a "tremendous alarm" was raised in camp that evening as a report flew around that Porter Rockwell and his horse had been captured by Indians.

This turned out to be a wild rumor. Rockwell was discovered safe and sound in camp. But the loss of two horses which touched off the tale was sadly true.

Joseph Mathews said he saw one of the horses going toward the river and ran to turn it back. As he did so, the horse broke into a gallop, "which made him suppose there was an Indian on him," although he couldn't see one.

Five or six men mounted up when the alarm was given and rode toward the river, but could find no trace of the horses. Another 20 armed men rode out later with Brigham at their head and also came up empty handed.

"The brethren have been repeatedly warned not to let their horses go too far from the wagons, But every time we stop they can be seen around for more than two miles," Clayton wrote in his journal.

"These are two good horses and the owners feel bad enough, but it will be a warning to others," he added.

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.