Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
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William Clayton Journals

May 8, 1847

Summary: Figuring out accurate mileage, more buffalo, poor feed for the animals and no wood for cooking.

Journal entry: SATURDAY: Morning cold but fine. Started out at nine o'clock and traveled till one p. m., distance seven and a half miles, course a little west of northwest.

The prairie on both sides of the river is literally black with buffalo, and to try to say as to what number we have seen this morning would be folly. I should imagine that at a moderate calculation, we have seen over fifty thousand.

They are more tame than they have been, and will stand till the wagons come within two hundred yards of them. Porter has shot one about two years old, the meat looks nice. There is no difficulty in getting meat enough. It is with some difficulty that the horsemen can drive them away from the track as fast as the wagons come up. It is very warm today, and no wind.

I have counted the revolutions of a wagon wheel to tell the exact distance we have traveled. The reason why I have taken this method which is somewhat tedious, is because there is generally a difference of two and sometimes four miles in a day's travel between my estimation and that of some others, and they have all thought I underrated it. This morning I determined to take pains to know for a certainty how far we travel today.

Accordingly I measured the circumference of the nigh hind wheel of one of Brother Kimball's wagons being the one I sleep in, in charge of Philo Johnson. I found the wheel 14 feet 8 inches in circumference, not varying one eighth of an inch. I then calculated how many revolutions it would require for one mile and found it precisely 360 not varying one fraction which somewhat astonished me. I have counted the whole revolutions during the day " s travel and I find it to be a little over eleven and a quarter miles,-- twenty revolutions over, The overplus I shall add to the next day's travel.

According to my previous calculations we were two hundred eighty - five miles from Winter Quarters this morning before we started. After traveling ten miles I placed a small cedar post in the ground with these words written on it with a pencil. " From Winter Quarters, two hundred ninety - five miles, May 8,"47. Camp all well. Wm. Clayton."

Some have past the days travel at thirteen and some fourteen miles, which serves to convince more strongly that the distances are overrated. I have repeatedly suggested a plan of fixing machinery to a wagon wheel to tell the exact distance we travel in a day, and many begin to be sanguine for carrying it into effect, and I hope it will be done.

Our course this afternoon has been northwest, no wind and the prairie as bare as a poor English pasture, the grass being eaten off by uncountable herds of buffalo. No pen nor tongue can give an idea of the multitude now in sight continually, and it appears difficult to keep them away from the wagons. Two calves have been killed and brought to camp and multitudes would be killed if the President did not prohibit the brethren from killing them only as we need the meat. Truly, the Lord's cattle upon the thousand hills are numerous.

We are now camped on the banks of the river within a quarter of a mile front where the range of bluffs, which have appeared exceedingly ragged all day, and when we move again we have got to cross over them. President Young and Kimball have been back on the bluffs on foot some distance and report that as far as they can see the grass is eaten perfectly bare and the prospect for feed for our teams is poor indeed. There are several buffalo lying dead around here whether dead from old age, or by the hands of hunters or of starvation, it is unknown. Many of the brethren have to cook their victuals on dry buffalo dung, there being no wood near.

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.