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 4 - Brigham counseled camp on discipline

Date: May 4, 1847

Because of the nearness of a large Indian war party, Brigham Young called the Mormon pioneer camp together and strongly counseled them to obey rules drawn up earlier.

He especially cautioned against scattering away from camp to hunt. If the men persisted, "some would be caught by Indians and if not killed, would be severely abused."

Brigham warned that the time had come that if men violate the rules and regulations of the camp, "they must be punished."

Every man must be vigilant and "seek his neighbor's welfare as much as his own. It must be so in this camp. It must be so in the whole church," he declared.

However, he cautioned that there are those in the camp who, if someone took care of their cattle for them, "would sit down and do nothing." Brigham said the wagons should travel five abreast to more easily defend against Indian attack. The cannon should be kept ready for action and travel at the rear of the wagons. A guard will be placed around the cattle when they are turned out to graze, he said.

During the morning some horses ran away and were chased more than six miles before being caught. In the chase, William Smoot was thrown from his horse and knocked unconscious, but soon recovered with no apparent injury.

Smoot, 19, was destined to be the last member of the pioneer company to enter Salt Lake Valley. He later helped lay out the city, driving stakes for the surveyors. He crossed the plains several times helping other pioneer parties.

Shortly after the wagons began moving, the pioneers sighted three wagons on the opposite side of the Platte River, which caused much excitement in the company.

Some of the men wanted to ride across immediately and investigate the strangers. But because the river was about two miles wide at this point and unfamiliar to anyone in the pioneer party, an attempt to ford it was vetoed.

A few hours later, one of the men from the wagons on the other side of the river rode through the shallow water and met with the pioneers. The visitor was Charles Beaumont, a French trader.

He said there were nine men in his group and they were on the way to Council Bluffs from Fort Laramie. He agreed to carry letters, but couldn't wait long. There was a rush of hasty letter writing throughout the camp.

"In about a half hour a large mail was made up to send back to Winter Quarters," William Clayton reported. He included some letters of his own.

Beaumont said the Platte could be easily forded at this point and advised the Mormon pioneers to cross to the south side. He said the road was good and the company would be away from the prairie fire on the north bank.

Some of the pioneers bought buffalo robes from the trader in exchange for foodstuff s, mostly coffee, sugar and pork. Some food also was given as payment for carrying the mail, which Beaumont gratefully received.

After bidding the trader goodbye, the pioneers pushed ahead, pausing occasionally to graze the cattle and drill the men chosen as guards.

During one of these pauses, the pioneers discussed the possibility of crossing to the other side of the Platte where good grass was available.

But it was finally decided to remain north of the river because the company was making "a permanent route for the saints still to follow -- a road independent of the old emigrant trail," Wilford Woodruff said.

"Let the river separate Mormons from other emigrants so there will be no quarrel over wood, grass and water. By the time the next company comes, the grass will be better on the north side," he wrote.

The company voted unanimously to keep to the north of the river. That night they camped near a stream which Heber C. Kimball named Buffalo Creek.

Traveling the same area in 1978, the motorist sees a landscape covered by cornfields with a few cattle grazing and some power lines in the distance. Railroad tracks and an interstate highway parallel the river where the pioneer wagons once creaked along.

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.