May 20, 1847
Summary: Odometer breaks. Fremont map accuracy questioned. New plants noticed.
Journal entry: THURSDAY: The morning fair, but cloudy, light wind from northwest and cold.
At 7:45 we started out again but had not traveled over a quarter of a mile before the roadometer gave way on account of the rain yesterday having caused the wood to swell and stick fast. One of the cogs in the small wheel broke. We stopped about a half an hour and Appleton Harmon took it to pieces and put it up again without the small wheel. I had to count each mile after this.
Three quarters of a mile from where we camped, we crossed a creek eight feet wide and two and a half feet deep. We then changed our course to about southwest a mile or so following the banks of the river, as the ground was wet and swampy nearer the bluffs. The river then winds around about three miles in a bend and then strikes a little north of west. The bluffs on the north appear to be about two miles from the river.
We traveled till 11:15 and then halted to feed, having traveled seven and three quarters miles over tolerably good road, though at the commencement somewhat soft. On the opposite side the river, the bluffs project near its banks. They are rocky and almost perpendicular, beautified for miles by groves of cedar.
Opposite to where we are halted, we can see a ravine running up the bluffs and at the foot, a flat bottom of about fifteen acres. At the farther side of this bottom is a grove of trees not yet in leaf. Brother Brown thinks they are ash and that the place is what is called Ash Hollow and on Fremont's map, Ash Creek.
We all felt anxious to ascertain the fact whether this is Ash Hollow or not, for if it is, the Oregon trail strikes the river at this place, and if it can be ascertained that such is the fact, we then have a better privilege of testing Fremont's distances to Laramie. We have already discovered that his map is not altogether correct in several respects, and particularly in showing the windings of the river and the distance of the bluffs from it.
I suggested the propriety of some persons going over in the boat and Brother John Brown suggested it to President Young. The boat was soon hauled by the brethren to the river, and Orson Pratt, Amasa Lyman, Luke Johnson and John Brown started to row over, but the current was so exceedingly strong the oars had no effect.
John Brown then jumped into the river which was about two and a half feet deep and dragged the boat over, the others assisting with the oars. After some hard labor they arrived on the opposite shore and went to the hollow. They soon found the Oregon trail and ascertained that this is Ash Hollow, Brother Brown having traveled on that road to near Laramie last season with the Mississippi company and knew the place perfectly well. They gathered some branches of wild cherry in full bloom, rambled over the place a little while and then returned to camp. About the same time the camp prepared to pursue their journey. The brethren arrived and made their report, and at 1:45 p.m. we proceeded onward.
From the appearance of the bluffs ahead, our course this afternoon will be west and northwest. A light breeze from northwest.
Soon after we started, one of the brethren killed a large rattlesnake within a rod of the road made by the wagons add on the side where the cows travel. He killed it to prevent its injuring the cows and threw it away from the road.
In the river one and a quarter miles above Ash Hollow, there are several small islands on which grow many trees of cedar. One of these islands is perfectly green over with cedar and looks beautiful. The bluffs also on the south side the river continue to be lined with cedar apparently for two miles yet and are very high and almost perpendicular, running pretty close to the river.
On this side the river, the bluffs seem to bear farther to the north, being apparently about three miles from the river, and a few miles farther west they are as much as five miles from the river.
After traveling three and a quarter miles from the noon stop, we crossed a tributary stream running into the Platte, in a very crooked direction, being from four to eight rods wide and two and a half feet deep moat of the way across, the bottom quick sand, current rapid and water of sandy color like the Platte. Some had to double teams to get over, but all got over safely.
We proceeded on about four miles farther and found that the river bends considerably to the north. The bluffs also bend to the south, so that the low bluffs in front almost reach the banks only barely leaving room for a road. We went a little farther and camped for the night at half past five, having traveled this afternoon eight miles, making fifteen and three quarters miles during the day.
Elder Kimball and several others went forward on horses to pick out our road as usual. I have seen several kinds of herbs growing today which appear new to me. One looks like penny royal, smells almost like it, but tastes hot and like the oil of cloves.
Elder Kimball and others saw a very large wolf about half a mile west, and he appeared to be following them to camp. They turned and rode up to him and round him, struck their pistols at him, but they did not go off, being damp. He finally made his escape.
The large stream we crossed this afternoon is named Castle Creek from the bluffs on the opposite side which much resemble the rock on which Lancaster Castle is built. The bluffs are named Castle Bluffs. We had a light shower this afternoon, but the evening is fine though very cool.
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.