Heritage Gateways

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Pioneer 1847 Companies

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1847: Thursday, April 8 - Several Small Parties Join on Prairie to Form Large Group.

Location: Winter Quarters - 1014 miles left, Nebraska - Location: 41:21:41N 95:56:45W Currently the site of Florence, Nebraska, Winter Quarters was settled in September, 1846 as a temporary resting place for the pioneers. It is located just west of the Missouri river in Nebraska.

Date: April 8, 1847

Although chosen well in advance, the Mormon pioneers departed Winter Quarters in small groups as they were ready. Few followed exactly the same route. They camped in scattered locations on the prairie.

Several small parties met April 7 about seven miles from town and formed a larger body. They remained camped this day as other wagons joined them, some carrying news.

Brigham Young was with this main gathering on the prairie and the latest wagons from Winter Quarters brought a report to him that Parley P. Pratt, a member of the Twelve, had arrived from England where he had been serving a mission. John Taylor had also sent word that he was on his way home from the same mission and would reach Winters Quarters in a few days.

Brigham wanted to talk to Pratt, 40, a prolific writer who served one mission after another and traveled thousands of miles for the church. The president also wanted to collect $500 worth of scientific and surveying instruments from Taylor who was bringing the equipment from England.

Taylor and Pratt were to be named heads of the next expedition to follow in the footsteps of the advance party of pioneers in about two months. In the meantime, they would be in charge of things at Winter quarters and Brigham desired to give them final instructions.

Pratt had little formal education, but like his brother, Orson, was widely read and self-taught to a remarkable degree. He authored books on history and theology and wrote one of the most famous tracts in Mormon missionary work, the "Voice of Warning." After the arrival of the pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley, he helped draft the first provisional government constitution and later served in the Territorial Legislature.

Pratt sacrificed much for the church and once spent eight months in prison in Missouri without trial as mobs rampaged against Mormons in that state.

In May, 1857, while on one of his many missions for the church, he was shot and killed near the Arkansas border by a man whose wife had joined the Mormon faith.

As Brigham made preparations for a return to Winter Quarters to confer with Pratt and Taylor, other groups of pioneers still were leaving the community.

Despite the different departure times and different routes, all were headed for a known crossing at the Elkhorn River which had been chosen as a staging area and jumping off place for the trek across the open prairie.

A party of seven wagons, headed by John Brown and William Crosby, passed the larger pioneer encampment during the day and continued toward the river.

Howard Egan and some people with him also left town and traveled three miles before making camp. Just after they stopped, 0. Porter Rockwell rode up to tell of Pratt's arrival from England.

"We went back home in the carriage to pass the night." Egan said. A number of others not far from Winter quarters did the same.

Meanwhile, those camped with the main party spent much of the day hunting, but with limited success. Wilford Woodruff said they saw deer, geese and ducks, but weren't able to bag them.

Finally, four squirrels were killed, the first wild game collected on the trip. It was agreed to give the small animals to Brigham as a present.

However, Brigham and others already had left camp for Winter Quarters and a visit with Pratt -- a meeting that would last only a few hours. By the next day the president would be back in the pioneer camp.

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.