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

William Clayton Journals

April 21, 1847

Summary: Visit with Pawnee Indians, caught in a thunderstorm, setting up guard at night.

Journal entry: WEDNESDAY. Arose at 5:00, my face easier, but swollen and my gums raw. Took breakfast on fish and coffee, but ate no bread, it being very dry and hard. I could not bear to put it in my mouth.

At seven started on foot; the ox teams being gone ahead. Some appearances of rain, and a slight shower fell. Wind northeast and pretty cool. At ten minutes to nine an Indian rode up to the first wagon and appeared very friendly, Soon after six or eight others came running on foot. They came from the timber about a mile to the left.

At 10:00 we arrived at a fork in the road, the one on the left leading to the new Pawnee village, and the one to the right leaving the village some distance to the south. A consultation was held by President Young with father Case relative to the Toads crossing the river, etc., when it was concluded to take the right hand road.

We proceeded, I accordingly and at 12:00 came in sight of the new Pawnee village, in an open spot on the south bank of the Loop Fork, between two bodies of timber. The village appeared to be about three quarters of a mile south of the road we were on.

At 12:30 we were opposite the village, and could then see distinctly upwards of 100 lodges set pretty close together, and appeared to be arranged in several lines, and set in good order. We proceeded until we arrived at a long narrow lake by the side of the timber and near to the river.

At 1:00 p.m., the encampment was made on the bank of the lake and a guard instantly placed at the passes, as many of the Indians had followed us, although they had to wade the river, but it is very shoal. One of the Indians presented several certificates from persons who had previously traveled through their village, all certifying that the Grand Chief of the Pawnees was friendly disposed, and they had made him presents of a little powder, lead, salt, etc.

Heber gave them a little tobacco, and a little salt. President Young gave to the chief, some powder, lead, salt and a number of the brethren gave a little flour each. The old chief, however, did not seem to think the presents sufficient, and said he did not like us to go west through their country, he was afraid we should kill their buffalo and drive them off. Brother Shumway told him we did not like buffalo, but this does not appear to give him much satisfaction.

However, there was no appearance of hostility. In fact, all that came to camp seemed highly pleased to shake hands with our brethren and would run from one side to another so as not to miss one. A number of the squaws were on the opposite side of the lake with mattocks digging roots

Brother Shumway says there are about twelve thousand of the Pawnees in this neighborhood, and it is reported that there are five thousand warriors. We did not see many of them. Larpy is at their village trading, and it is uncertain whether he will endeavor to use an influence for us or against us. We have no fear, however, because their only object appears to be plunder, and it is the calculation to be well prepared by night and day.

During the resting hour I spent the time writing in my journal. At 2:15 p.m. the ox teams started out again and the horse teams soon after. The weather had been calm And pleasant for a few hours, but about 2:00 or a little before, some heavy clouds began to gather, ana thunder was heard at a distance.

About 2:30 the rain began to descend heavily, accompanied by heavy peals of thunder and vivid lightning which continued till about 4:00 o'clock. A strong north wind blew up, the rain and thunder ceased and the weather grew very cold. We traveled till 5:30 and the encampment was formed on the Loop Fork of the Platte river.

After the encampment was formed and teams turned out, the brethren were all called together and some remarks made by President Young, advising them to have a strong guard round the camps tonight. He called for volunteers to stand guard and about 100 volunteered amongst whom were all the twelve except Dr. Richards. This guard was divided into two companies of fifty each, one company to stand the first half the night, and the remainer the last half. Those of the twelve who stood took the first watch till 1:00 o'clock. Brigham and Heber both stood on guard. Out of the companies a party were stationed as a picket guard some distance from the camp, the balance stood near the camp. The night was very cold, with a strong wind from the northeast, and in the middle of the night, it rained considerable.

Our course this morning was about west. This afternoon, northwest. We are now within three miles from the bluffs on the north. We have traveled today about twenty miles, the roads being good and very level. The grass here is short but looks good. The buffalo grass is very short and curly like the hair on a buffalo robe. The spring grass doesn't seem to be as early here as at the Elk Horn, and the last year's growth not being burnt off, will be rather a disadvantage to the spring companies.

I have noticed all the way on this bottom from the Elk Horn, that the Mound is full of wild onions which appear far richer and larger than any wild onions I ever saw. I have no idea that corn would grow here for the land is very dry and loose and sandy, and appears poor. The country is beautiful and pleasing to the eye of the traveler, although you call only see one kind of scenery for several days.

Source: William Clayton's Journal

Published by the Clayton Family Association, and edited by Lawrence Clayton. To the best of our research, this contents of this book are no longer under copyright.