Pioneer Company, 1847, Part I, Winter Quarters to Kearney, Nebraska
From their staging ground the Mormon Pioneers followed the Platte to near what is now Columbus, where they decided to follow the Loup Fork of the Platte. Near here the pioneers (and later Mormons) had their first meeting with a group of Plains Indians--a band of Pawnee, the largest indigenous tribe in Nebraska, numbering as many as 10,000 people. The nation was centered on the Loup River and habitually demanded gifts from white travelers near Shell Creek. Later the pioneers, who would meet other groups of Plains Indians such as the Sioux and the Crow, were entering the Great Plains at a time of great disorder and intertribal warfare. The inexorable push of the white man west had driven a jumble of eastern Indians onto the Great Plains, where they were considered invaders by the natives.
On April 24th, the pioneers crossed the Loup near what is now Fullerton (see Historic Site 25) and went due south about 16 miles, where they again picked up the Platte. On May lst, just west of what is today Kearney, Nebraska, the pioneers sighted a herd (or, to pedantically use the proper noun of assembly, an obstinacy) of bison." Originally the animal had ranged from the Appalachians. Some were even known to live along the east coast from Virginia to Florida, to the Rockies, but by 1820 had been killed off east of the Missouri River. In 1847 the Mormons found them 200 miles farther west, along the Platte and Sweetwater rivers. A hunt was quickly organized. Four wagon loads of meat were secured and the camp feasted.Source: Historic Resource Study - Mormon Pioneer National By Stanley B. Kimball, Ph.D., May 1991. (The study focuses on the history of the trail from its official beginning in Nauvoo, Illinois, to its terminus in Salt Lake City, Utah, during the period 1846-1869. During that time, thousands of Mormon emigrants used many trails and trail variants to reach Utah. This study emphasizes the "Pioneer Route" or "Brigham Young Route" of 1846-1847. The sections on Mormon beliefs and motivations for going west have been omitted. Interested persons can find ample sources for that information. The footnotes, bibliography, maps, pictures, pioneer companies by name and dates for the 22-year period, and historic sites - about 2/3 of the book - have also been left out for space considerations. Thanks to Dr. Kimball and the National Park Service for the availability of this information.)