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

Pioneer Date Summary

Previous | Next

05/08/1847 - Crockett

Description: Covered wagon at the media rollout, Indian Hills Elementary School.
Image courtesy of: Heritage Gateway Project Images, These images have been gathered to support the Sesquicentennial celebration of the immigration to Utah.

Location: Gothenburg, Nebraska - Location: 40:55:46N 100:09:37W Elevation: 2567 feet

Date: May 8, 1847

On the Platte River, Nebraska:
The pioneers did not start their journey until 9 a.m. because the animals still needed to feed on the scarce grass. During the morning wait, one of the men caught a young hare alive and brought it back to camp to show the others. After exhibiting it to the men, it was set free.

Wilford Woodruff recorded: "I rode forward to day with the Twelve & others & of all the sights of buffalo that our eyes beheld this was enough to astonish man. Thousands upon thousands would crowd together as they came from the bluffs to the bottom land to go to the river & slues to drink untill the river & land upon both sides of it was one dark spectacle of moving objects. It looked as though the face of the earth was alive & moving like the waves of the sea."

Many of the buffalo walked very near the wagon train. The pioneers had great difficulty keeping the cattle and horses separate from the buffalo herds. Bones and carcasses of buffalo were abundant. Some human bones were found and were thought to be Indians. At 1 p.m., they stopped to feed the animals. Appleton Harmon wrote: "Where we halted the buffalo seemed to form a complete line from the river, their watering place, to the bluffs as far as I could see, which was at least four miles. They stood their ground, apparently amazed at us, until within thirty rods of the wagons when their line was broken down by some fright and running off." William A. Smoot's horses ran away. Several men had to ride at full speed to overtake them. They had to run more than a mile in a large buffalo herd. Finally they were able to bring them safely back to camp.

After traveling a total of eleven miles, they camped near the river. Several members of the Twelve climbed the highest bluffs nearby and viewed the land through their telescopes. "The whole surrounding country north, east & west as far as our vision could extend looked as rough as the sea in a storm of riddges & valleys of mostely sand with scarcely any green thing upon it."

Wilford Woodruff found a "Spanish soap root" which the Mexicans used for washing instead of soap. He brought some back to camp, ground it up, and observed that it would fill a dish with suds like soap.

Many of the animals were in terrible shape, starving for food because the grass was eaten up by all the buffalo. The suppers were cooked over buffalo chips.

William Clayton recorded this historic entry in his journal: "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.' . . . 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."

Summer Quarters, Nebraska:
At 7 a.m., most of the men in the settlement met at a creek east of the square to begin building a bridge. They were able to get all the timber together, raised the abutments and put on the stringers. In the afternoon, Brigham Young's sons (Joseph and Brigham Jr.) arrived with George D. Grant with eighteen head of cattle to be herded. They reported that about thirty Omaha Indians had driven off twelve cattle from the herd, butchered them, loaded up the beef, and escaped. A few men from Winter Quarters caught up to them, but because they were not armed, the Indians cocked their guns and ordered the men to go back.

Mormon Battalion, at Los Angeles, California:
An express brought the sad news from Santa Fe that the army had a battle with the Navajo Indians at Taos, New Mexico. Letters were also delivered to some of the men from Nauvoo and Council Bluffs. Colonel Cooke ordered Lt. Samuel Thompson and twenty men to take three day's rations and patrol the countryside near Isaac William's ranch. It was reported that there were some Indians causing trouble.

Company B, Mormon Battalion, at San Diego, California:
A ship, anchored in the harbor, bound for the East Indies, fired a salute.


  • Erastus Snow Journal Excerpts, Improvement Era 14:1020
  • Charles Harper Diary, 21
  • Diary of Lorenzo Dow Young, Utah Historical Quarterly, 14:157
  • Appleton Milo Harmon Goes West, 18
  • Luke S. Johnson Journal, typescript, BYU 7
  • Watson, ed., The Orson Pratt Journals, 388
  • Wilford Woodruff's Journal, 3:170-71
  • Bagley, ed., The Pioneer Camp of the Saints, 148-50
  • Brooks, On the Mormon Frontier, The Diary of Hosea Stout, 1:253-54
  • Kelly, ed., Journals of John D. Lee, 1846-1847 and 1859, 162
  • The Journal of Nathaniel V. Jones, 4:16
Source: 150 Years Ago Today ©These materials have been created by David R. Crockett. Copies of these materials may be reproduced for teacher and classroom use. When distributing these materials, credit must be given to David R. Crockett. These materials may not be published, in whole or part, or in any other format, without the written permission of Mr. Crockett, Tucson Az, crockett@goodnet.com.