Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
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Pioneer 1847 Companies

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1847: Friday, April 9 - Largest Group Waited for Brigham Young

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 9, 1847

Small parties of Mormon pioneers continued their scattered and leap-frog approach to the Elkhorn River, but the largest group -- about 30 wagons remained camped awaiting the return of Brigham Young.

The weather was cool and some of the men in camp engaged in a little dancing to pass the time. They probably felt it was safe in Brigham's absence.

Finally Wilford Woodruff saddled a horse and rode toward Winter Quarters to meet Parley P. Pratt as Brigham and others had done the day before. He made most of the seven-mile trip and was within a half-mile of home when he saw the others headed back to camp.

Woodruff turned around and went back to the camp with them. However, some other men in the camp took the opportunity to slip back to Winter Quarters for a few hours.

Howard Egan, Heber C. Kimball and others who had returned to spend the previous night at their homes, set forth once more onto the prairie.

Kimball joined Brigham for the trip to the main camp. Egan's company passed the larger pioneer group in the early afternoon and continued another three miles before halting on the open prairie.

Egan, 31, was to be one of the captains for the trek. Born in Ireland, he emigrated to America with his family while still a young child. Left an orphan by the death of his father, he became a youthful sailor. He later gave up the sea and became a rope maker in Salem, Mass., where he heard Mormon missionaries and joined the church in 1842.

A rugged outdoorsman and a former major in the Nauvoo Legion, he crossed the plains three times, made innumerable trips to California, and led an adventurous life as a Pony Express rider, a policeman and a bodyguard to Brigham Young.

After Brigham rejoined the main body of pioneers this day, they broke camp about 3 p.m. The men burst into cheers when it was announced they finally would get moving again.

Brigham already had decided that the pioneers should not stop on the east bank of the Elkhorn River to get organized.

Rather than use the Elkhorn as a staging area, he felt it would be better to put that barrier behind them and travel another 20 miles to the Platte River.

Brigham said he would stay with the group until they were across the Elkhorn. Then he would turn back with the apostles one more time for a meeting in Winter Quarters with John Taylor and collect the scientific equipment Taylor was bringing from England.

Pulling away from Little Papillon Creek where they had camped for three days, the pioneers climbed a nearby hill and found themselves in rough and broken country.

The wagons soon entered a swampy area and began to bog down. About 30 men pulled on ropes to help the oxen drag the wagons through the mire.

The group camped on the open prairie that night after traveling about eight miles. There was a sprinkling of grass for the cattle, but no wood for fires.

Brigham and others went to work with knives, cutting and gathering grass for the cattle. The well-being of the animals was more important than the comfort of the people.

All of the teams were carefully inspected to make sure they hadn't suffered any harm in the day's march, especially the pull through the mire.

Because of additional parties who joined the company during the day, a total of 64 wagons were in camp that night -- the majority of those taking part in the trek.

Among those in camp was William Kimball, who was accompanying the pioneers to help them cross the Elkhorn River. After that he would return to Winter Quarters.

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.