Date: April 28, 1847
Some of the Mormon pioneers were up earlier than usual and spent several hours making a road to nearby Prairie Creek, which the company forded about 9 a.m.
As the wagons moved out, Luke Johnson shot the horse which broke a leg yesterday in an accidental shooting, concluding: "It was better to shoot her than to leave her alone to the mercy of Indians or wolves."
After traveling about seven miles, the pioneers neared the Platte River and once again turned to march parallel to the north bank of the familiar waterway.
From their position they could easily see Grand Island. In the days before darns and flood control made the Platte even more shallow, the island was a distinct body more than 45 miles long, lying between two channels of the river. It had been named by French trappers.
A fairly large and prosperous city now occupies part of the area where the pioneers passed. The town of Grand Island was to have its beginning in 1856 when a group of Germans from Iowa settled on the site.
They believed the capital of the United States eventually would be moved to the center of the nation -- a common feeling in some circles at the time -- and wanted to be among the first in the new region. Unfortunately for them, the capital stayed in Washington, D.C.
The Union Pacific railroad reached the settlement in the 1860s and a post office and flour mills were established. The community finally was incorporated in 1872 and is a major agricultural and business center belonging to the nation's wheat belt.
A historical marker, noting that the Mormon pioneers stopped near Grand Island, was once located next to gasoline pumps at a service station on Locust Street. But sometime in the last four years both the marker and service station disappeared. A floral shop now occupies the site.
Some searching produced the fact that the marker had been moved off the busy street and placed near the entrance of an exclusive residential neighborhood, where relatively few people could ever see it.
Locust Street itself is a far different sight than anything the Mormon pioneers could have imagined a forest of garish signs on both sides of the road as far as the eye can see. Service stations, car lots, drive-ins, garages, grocery stores, shops and business concerns of every kind come together in a cluttered commercial panorama.
A few miles southeast of town is a place called Mormon Island Recreation Center -- a landscaped park with a number of man-made ponds, picnic tables and an information hut.
A marker notes that several Mormon families stayed here during the winter of 1884-5 because of available wood and water. They apparently were among the last trying to cross the plains by covered wagon. By 1884, trains had been running to Salt Lake City for 15 years.
The marker said a mother and two children were left behind in graves when the group finally moved on. Local residents named the place Mormon Island. Today the site is right on the edge of I-80 and there is a nearby campground for trailers.
All this was far in the future when Brigham Young and the pioneers with him passed by. The only thing in sight was "level prairie, green with grass," according to William Clayton. He marveled at wild onions growing in the area, "the largest I have ever seen." The trail was extremely dusty. Wind blew dirt into the wagons "and everything is covered," Clayton said. The company stopped after making 15 miles for the day and the available grass provided good feed for the stock.
For the dry and dusty pioneers, the presence of "clear and good tasting water," was greatly appreciated. Clayton was still bothered by twinges in his jaw. He "suppered on antelope" and went to bed early.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.