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, May 11 - Captured wolf pups provided caps for men

Location: North Platte, Nebraska - Location: 41:07:26N 100:45:54W Elevation: 2800 feet

Date: May 11, 1847

A wolf den was found a quarter mile from the Mormon pioneer camp. Several men took shovels and dug out the hole, capturing four pups about six to eight weeks old. They were "very vicious," but were brought back alive to camp.

The pups, about the size of rabbits, drew considerable attention. They were later killed to make caps for some of the men.

Others in the pioneer company also brought souvenirs into camp which they picked up while wandering around the prairie outside the circle of wagons.

Orson Pratt found a human skull, "probably an Indian fallen in the wars between the Pawnee and the Sioux." The skull bore the marks of an arrow wound, a tomahawk scar and other signs indicating it had been scalped.

Dr. Willard Richards picked up a buffalo horn which hornets had used for a nest. He brought it into camp to be admired by others, but it was soon thrown away.

The wagons pulled out about 9:30 a.m. and traveled five miles over a "nice, level, dry prairie," then climbed some small sand hills which came down to the banks of the Plane River from the right-hand side of the trail.

A few miles further the company forded a creek of clear water, "but this could not be very good in consequence of so many dead buffalo lying in it," William Clayton wrote.

Good grazing was still scarce. Shortly after getting started the pioneers noticed a "short sprinkling of grass on the prairie." They camped in the early afternoon on discovering an area of "much better grass for the cattle," according to Thomas Bullock.

During the day the company passed several islands with a few trees growing on them. Any trees prompted comments in the pioneer journals because there was so little wood.

"The country looks beautiful, the soil rich and is only lacking in timber," Clayton wrote, The campsite was a half mile from the Platte River so several wells were dug. Pratt said there was plenty of cold water four feet below the surf ace of the sandy soil. One of the wells produced enough water to fill a pail a minute.

The camp was not an ideal place for the pioneers because of the lack of wood and being so far from water, but their first concern was good grazing for the cattle.

Appleton Harmon was working on a mileage device sought by Clayton and designed by Pratt. Clayton said he expected it to be in operation the next day, "which will save me the trouble of counting (the turns of wagon wheels, 360 revolutions to a mile) as I have done the last four days."

Keeping track of the wheel revolutions showed that the company covered eight and a half miles that day.

Harmon, 26, was an experienced mechanic. Despite being with the advance company of pioneers, he did not enter Salt Lake Valley that year. He stayed behind at a river crossing in what is now Wyoming to operate a ferry, then worked at Fort Laramie until early 1&18 to earn some money.

He returned to Winter Quarters in March, 1848, and his wife burst into tears upon seeing him. Their small son had died six months earlier in his absence.

Harmon later helped build sawmills, a furniture factory and other structures in various Utah locations. He died in Millard County at age 56.

Camp duties occupied people in various ways. Bullock said he tended his cattle and did some tailoring. Howard Egan was barely able to do his chores because he "felt quite sick, having a bad cold." Heber C. Kimball and some others shared a duck killed by George Billings.

Billings, 19, was a tall youth, six feet, four inches in height. As a boy he worked on boats up and down the Mississippi River. He was a driver for one of Kimball's teams.

The lure of gold attracted him to California in 1849. He did find some gold, went to Mexico and bought cattle, intending to drive them to Utah, but the cattle took sick and all died en route. He rejoined his parents in Farmington, "poorer and wiser," according to a family biographer.

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.