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: Thursday, May 13 - Some took time out to visit Indian village

Location: Hershey, Nebraska - Location: 41:09:31N 101:00:08W Elevation: 2901 feet

Date: May 13, 1847

Brigham Young ordered the bugle blown at 4 a.m. so the camp could get an early start, but despite this pre-dawn stirring, it was five hours before the wagons were rolling.

Some members of the camp took time after breakfast to visit a nearby abandoned Sioux village. The empty settlement contained more than 400 lodges.

The Mormon pioneers marveled that the Indians had left so much behind. There were pieces of buffalo robes, furs, moccasins, horse halters and other items. It was as if the Indians had newly outfitted themselves and thrown away many of their older goods.

Those who visited the Indian camp collected many of the odds and ends, either for their personal use or as souveniers. Like tourists in years to come, they were always on the lookout for small items to carry away as keepsakes of their journey.

The morning weather was raw and cloudy. It was cold enough that most of the pioneers donned overcoats and buffalo robes. The wind was blowing strongly from the north.

Hard feelings were evidenced between two men in the company as a result of an incident the night before. Thomas Tanner had arrested Aaron Farr and put him under guard part of the night, apparently for being too boisterous when the camp was called for prayer.

"Perhaps Aaron was a little out of order in conversing loud after the horn blew for prayers, but I think Brother Tanner's angry spirit more blameable," William Clayton confided in his journal.

At 8 a.m. the pioneers began rounding up their livestock, but it took another hour before the wagon train could start moving westward again. As they traveled they noticed the grass was beginning to improve, probably because the buffalo were not as plentiful as in previous days.

During the day the pioneers came upon a river about 100 feet wide flowing from the northeast. They were unable to find any reference to it on their charts. "There is no mark on the maps showing that such a river flows." Thomas Bullock said.

The pioneers forded the stream with difficulty because the bottom was mostly quicksand. Three wagons became mired while crossing, but teams were doubled and with the help of men pulling ropes, the wagons were dragged free. The men got very wet.

On the other side, high sand hills reached all the way down to the Platte River and blocked the route. Scouts rode ahead and found a way through the bluffs without a major detour. A mile out of the way the pioneers discovered a valley leading through the obstacle

Brigham and the other leaders decided to camp at the stream they had just crossed and tackle the trail through die sand hills the next day when the teams were more rested. Sand always was the worst terrain for the animals, making the work of pulling the wagons extra hard.

While waiting for the report of the scouts, Bullock said he found "a very pretty green snake which I played with on the end of a stick. I was afterwards told it was one of the most poisonous of snakes." The sand hills harbored a large population of snakes and they were a real hazard for the unwary. Brigham and Heber C. Kimball sighted a large rattlesnake while on a scouting expedition and said it was the largest they had ever seen.

The pair were among the most active horsemen in the entire company, always out in front of the wagon train to find the best route and locate midday resting places and camp sites for the night. Because of the cold wind, both were nearly frozen for their efforts this day.

Only 10 and three-quarter miles were gained by the pioneers by the time they made camp, but the feed for the cattle was an improvement over previous places. The only fuel for fires was buffalo chips. No trees were to be seen anywhere among the sand bluffs.

That night Wilford Woodruff had some observations about the nearby Platte River. He said it was a very unusual river because it was so broad (almost a mile wide) and yet so shallow that the wind pushed the water around.

On windy days the river ebbs and flows like the sea, he said.

"When the wind blows hard from the south, the water all rushes to the north shore and the depth on that side suddenly increases. When the wind is from the north, the water rushes to the south shore," he said.

In times when the wind blows hard, as it did this day, the water is pushed so far to one side "until one can walk across two-thirds of the river bed on bare ground," Woodruff marveled.

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.