05/01/1847 - Crockett
Location: Elm Creek, Nebraska - Location: 40:43:10N 99:22:18W Elevation: 2262 feet
Date: May 1, 1847
On the Platte River, Nebraska:
The morning was very cold (thirty degrees) as the pioneer company broke camp at 5:30 a.m. At 7 a.m., they viewed a fascinating and exciting site. Seven buffalo were spotted sheltering themselves from the north wind. This was the first time the pioneer camp had ever seen a buffalo. Luke S. Johnson, Porter Rockwell, and Tom Brown started to pursue the beasts.
The camp halted at 8:30 a.m. for breakfast on the bank of the Platte River. Another herd of buffalo was spotted about six miles ahead on a bluff. Using telescopes, several of the men counted up to seventy-four animals. Three more men went out in pursuit of this herd.
At 10:45 a.m., the wagon train was in motion again. At noon they crossed the mouth of a creek. Soon, the buffalo hunters returned. They wounded several, but did not kill any. "It was new business to them, and they found their rifles altogether too unwieldy in the chase."
At 1 p.m., yet another large herd of buffalo was spotted at the foot of a hill. When the camp arrived near the herd, they halted and eleven hunters mounted their horses to go after them. Thomas Bullock recorded: "At the same time one of the brethren shot at an Antelope, when a dog run it straight among the herd of Buffalo, which alarmed them, and away they went, raising a cloud of dust behind them, running along the side of the hill in a Westerly direction, then galloped the hunters down & along the hill in full chase; all enveloped in one cloud of dust. . . . Now was a time of great excitement -- every glass was in operation to see the chase & every man was intensely anxious for the success of our raw hunters; this being their first chase." William Clayton added, "The brethren's feelings who were left with the wagons were now strung up to the highest pitch, a feeling of exciting interest appeared to prevail throughout the camp, they having heard and read so much of the mad ferocity of the buffalo when hotly pursued, and knowing that all the hunters were inexperienced in regard to hunting the wild buffalo. While they felt for the safety of the hunters, they still desired to see as much of the chase as the distance would allow."
Wilford Woodruff wrote: "I was in a company in the centre of the Herd & we all made a charge upon them from the Bluffs & rushed on to the Plain. The herd ran vary fast down the ruff Bluffs into the plain but when we came on to the Plain we soon came on to them each company singled out his game. We made choice of Cows generally. Then rushed up by the side of them & fired upon them with our Pistols such as Horse Pistols, Rifle Pistols &c which are much better to carry than rifles as they are vary comberson in runing."
Heber C. Kimball joined the chase and shot down a buffalo that had been previously wounded. Horace K. Whitney remarked: "His horse, partly alarmed at the discharge of the gun, and partly at the sight of the animals, suddlenly started, and came very near throwing him." William Clayton added: "Elder Kimball's horse sprang and flew down the bluff like lightning and he having let go the lines to shoot, her sudden motion overbalanced him and his situation was precarious to the extreme. The other hunters saw his situation and trembled for his safety but could render him no assistance. However, being a good horseman, he maintained his position in the saddle and soon succeeded in gaining the lines and by a vigorous effort succeeded after some time in reining in his horse and returned to the rest unharmed and without accident."
William Clayton recorded: "This being the first day buffalo has been seen on our journey and in fact the first ever seen by any except about five or six of the brethren, it excited considerable interest and pleasure in the breasts of the brethren, and as may be guessed, the teams moved slowly and frequently stopped to watch their movement."
The chase ceased at 4 p.m. and some of the hunters returned at 5 p.m. Others stayed to guard the fallen buffalo. Wilford Woodruff remarked that he had ridden about ten miles during the chase. They secured one bull, three cows, and six calves. "The entire Camp were very glad & felt thankful to our Heavenly Father for supply of food, which came at a very acceptable time, many being without meat."
Throughout the excitement, the wagons continued to press on. They traveled through a large prairie dog town, about three to four miles long. One of the men caught one of the timid animals. The pioneers established camp at 6:30 p.m. a mile above the head of Grand Island, near a creek that they named Buffalo Creek. Five wagons were immediately unloaded and several teams were sent back to fetch the meat. William Clayton wrote: "Having a great desire to see a buffalo in his natural state, my feet being very sore, and the distance to the bluffs being over three miles, I got into Brother Aaron Farr's wagon, he being one who unloaded to fetch in the meat, and we started for the one shot down by Elder Kimball. He and O. P. Rockwell following on horseback." On the way, they met Luke Johnson and two others returning. Brother Johnson had a calf tied on his horse and he was walking on foot. When they arrived at Elder Kimball's cox, they found that three of the brethren had already skinned it. The meat was put in the wagon. The cow probably weighed about 700 pounds.
They returned at dusk. "The brethren's faces beamed with joy to see the meat begin to come into camp, and with some astonishment to view the size and ferocious appearance of the head, which still had the hide on." The meat was distributed throughout the camp. They had a wonderful feast. "Their meat is very sweet and tender as veal." Erastus Snow wrote: "After dark two [buffalo] calves came near our camp and some little youngsters with a dog came close and caught one and made him fast to their wagon."
In the evening, it was discovered that Joseph Hancock was missing, and had not been seen since breakfast. He had started out on foot with his gun toward the first herd of buffalo. Guns were fired and the bugle sounded to let him know where the camp was located. They greatly feared for his safety.
Winter Quarters, Nebraska:
Mary Richards worked hard getting settled into her new house. "Washed & scoured all the Tin ware knives [etc.] also the sheets & boxes shelves & the floor. Got all things fixt in order. I put on a clean dress & sat down, and our little house seemed to me almost like a Palace. I rejoiced to think that after passing through such a dreary Winter living in a Tent, and wandring from house to house to keep from perishing with Cold, suffering almost every inconveniance and often very unpleasent feeling, I had once more a place I could call my home."
Eliza R. Snow and several sisters gathered at Sister Leonard's home. Sister Snow wrote that they spoke "by the spirit of prophecy that the Pioneers were well, happy, & were in council--that tomorrow they will have a greater time of rejoicing than they have ever had." Patty Sessions added: "Sylvia and I went to a meeting to Sister Leonard's. None but females there. We had a good meeting. I presided. It was got up by E. R. Snow. They spoke in tongues. I interpreted. Some prophesied. It was a feast."
Summer Quarters, Nebraska:
Asahel A. Lathrop passed through Summer Quarters with the herd from the north. They were on the way back to Winter Quarters after spending the winter months feeding on the winter rushes about fifty miles up the river. The herd had been greatly reduced because of plundering by the Indians. Isaac Morley arrived from Winter Quarters with some seed potatoes. In the evening some more men arrived from the north and spent the night. They included Brothers Simmons, Murdock, Hate, and Miles.
Mormon Battalion, at Los Angeles, California:
Henry Standage was ordered to work on a detail at a "bakehouse." The government decided to issue the men bread instead of flour, so he worked in the bakehouse all afternoon.
Company B, Mormon Battalion, at San Diego, California:
Robert S. Bliss wrote, "I am in the Fort comfortable situated, Hearty & well, weighing 147 lb., 4 more than I ever weighed in my life before; for which I truly feel thankful to my Heavenly Father after so many hardships as we have suffered in coming here."
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, email@example.com.
- Bagley, ed., The Pioneer Camp of the Saints, 142-43
- Erastus Snow Journal Excerpts, Improvement Era 14:926
- "Excerpts from the hitherto unpublished Journal of Horace K. Whitney," Improvement Era, 50:276
- Wilford Woodruff's Journal, 3:163-65
- William Clayton's Journal, p.116-24
- Levi Jackman Autobiography, typescript, BYU-S, p.29
- Ward, ed., Winter Quarters, The 1846-1848 Life Writings of Mary Haskin Parker Richards, 121
- Beecher, ed., The Personal Writings of Eliza Roxcy Snow, 170
- Kelly, ed., Journals of John D. Lee, 1846-1847 and 1859, 159
- Journal of Henry Standage in Frank Alfred Golder, The March of the Mormon Battalion, 220
- The Journal of Robert S. Bliss, The Utah Historical Quarterly, 4;92