Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
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Pioneer 1847 Companies

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1847: Sunday, May 9 - Just keeping clean provided some difficulty

Location: Brady, Nebraska - Location: 41:01:20N 100:22:02W Population (1980): 377

Date: May 9, 1847

Keeping clean on the trip -- the ordinary tasks of washing clothes and bathing -- presented difficulties for the Mormon pioneers. They had to make do.

Some of the problems were described by William Clayton who said he walked three quarters of a mile to the Platte River "and washed my socks, towel and handkerchief as well as I could in cold water without any soap."

After taking care of those items, he undressed and rinsed in the frigid river, "which has made me feel much more comfortable, for I was covered with dust." Clayton said he then put on clean clothing and sat on the bank of the river "and gave way to a long train of solemn reflection respecting many things, especially in regard to my family and their welfare." He did not write down his private musings "inasmuch as I expect this journal will have to pass through other hands besides my own or that of my family."

The day, which had started very cold, turned warm in the afternoon. Clayton calculated the company was about 300 miles from Winter Quarters, their starting point.

He searched out a piece of wood and wrote a message on it: "From Winter Quarters, 300 miles, May 9, 1&17. Pioneer camp all well. Distance according to the reckoning of Wm. Clayton." The wood was nailed to a post and set up near the camp at a bend in the river.

Despite it being a Sunday, the company traveled about four miles early in the morning and camped on a sandy stretch closer to wood and water where they remained the rest of the day. The problem of grass for the animals was still very serious. Buffalo had eaten everything.

In the afternoon, Brigham Young asked the bugle to be sounded to call the camp together for worship. Among the speakers at the meeting was Erastus Snow, who commented, along with others, on the need for self -government.

He said he was particularly qualified to do so from the recent "dressing down" he received from Brigham for letting the camp's cattle wander away. Snow said he felt he deserved the reprimand and apologized for becoming angry when he was chastized.

Orson Pratt also spoke during the meeting and warned that springtime was slipping away. He said the planting season might be long past by time the pioneers reached their destination in the Rocky Mountains.

Pratt said the pioneers should be prepared for difficulties and thus "be in a condition to cope with whatever circumstances they are thrown into and make the best of it."

After the meeting, "peace, quiet and contentment seems to pervade almost every breast," Wilford Woodruff said.

Not everyone was utterly happy, however. Harriet Young, the wife of Lorenzo Young, noted that a great many dead buffalo littered the prairie. She said she had been sick all day from the smell of the dead beasts.

Another woman also had troubles. Ellen Kimball, the wife of Heber C. Kimball, tried to bake bread, "but could not because the wind blew so," Howard Egan said.

Brigham and some others rode out later that day to scout the path ahead. They found a small stream which the wagons would have to cross and saw many buffalo coming down to water.

Porter Rockwell and Phineas Young managed to get quite close to the animals in an effort to bag one, but in the whole herd "they could not find one fit to kill," Clayton said.

"They are very poor because there is no feed for them. They are so numerous that they eat the grass as fast as it grows," he added.

A cold wind began blowing that night. Egan said he had to "sleep on a chest in the front part of the wagon, crossways, and cannot stretch myself nor keep the clothes over me." Finally he gave up and shared a bed with two other men in another wagon.

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.