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: Tuesday, April 27 - It was slow traveling over dry sand ridges

Date: April 27, 1847

Shots were fired in the night as nervous guards heard noises in the surrounding grass. No Indians were seen and the sentries concluded the sounds were caused by wolves.

In the morning, the Mormon pioneer company turned away from the Loup River and headed across dry and sandy country toward the Platte River about 25 miles distant. The Platte was their guide and lifeline.

"There are a great many lizards on these sand ridges, but they are of a small size," said William Clayton. Also seen were prairie dogs, rattlesnakes and owls, all living in holes in the ground.

At 2:15 p.m. the party stopped for a break. The animals were having a hard time because of pulling wagons through uneven and sandy soil and also because of the lack of water. Some teams fell behind and needed help.

While stopped, several of the men got out shovels and dug holes in a search for water, "as there is none above the surface." They obtained a little moisture this way, but not enough to give the cattle and horses to drink.

As the journey resumed, Wilford Woodruff, Roswell Stevens and John Brown came upon an antelope. All three fired and hit the animal. They skinned it and put it in one of the wagons.

Stevens, 37, had enlisted in the Mormon Battalion in 1846 and marched as far as Santa Fe (New Mexico) where he was chosen as one of several messengers to take back some of the battalion's army pay to families in Winter Quarters. He, John D. Lee and Howard Egan made the long trip, arriving at Winter Quarters in late November, 1846, with $4,000.

Brown, 26, had led 18 families from Mississippi and Missouri all the way to Fort Laramie Wyoming) in 1846 in an effort to join the Mormon pioneers believed to be already on the way west. When he discovered the error, he turned south and settled the people in Fort Pueblo (Colorado) and made his way with seven other men back to Winter Quarters.

As the pioneer company traveled toward the Platte this day, Porter Rockwell, John Eldredge, Joseph Mathews and Thomas Brown rode back in search of two horses believed stolen by Indians earlier.

Near Sunday's campsite they saw movement in the grass and went to investigate. As they approached within 200 feet, 15 Indians jumped up, each with a rifle slung over his back and a bow and arrow in the hands.

The Pawnee began to advance, but the four men stood fast and raised their rifles. Seeing this, the Indians made overtures of friendship, crying out "bacco, bacco." But the men replied that they had no tobacco.

The Indians tried to lure the small band down a nearby wash, but the men turned away instead. As they did so, the Pawnee fired six shots at them. The bullets "whistled about the brethren, but no one was injured."

As they were fired upon, the men faced about and raised their rifles and the Indians fled. Rockwell and his companions did not return the shots.

"They saw the tracks of the missing horses and are satisfied the Pawnee had got them," Clayton said.

He said the Indians were some of the same ones who visited the pioneer camp when the company stopped near a Pawnee village several days ago "and proves they have followed us close ever since." About the time the men returned to camp, the pioneers lost another horse in an accident. A loaded gun was placed inside John Brown's wagon. When Brown pulled a coat out of the wagon, it caught on the rifle and caused it to discharge.

The bullet went through a bag of clothing, starting a fire, and hit a horse in the leg, breaking the bone. The horse was one of a team pulling Stephen Markham's wagon.

"This makes four of the best horses lost in the last four days," Clayton sorrowed.

Many unnecessary deaths occurred on the frontier in those days from keeping loaded firearms about. Accidental shootings were a common occurrence.

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.