Editor's Note: To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in Utah, The Salt Lake Tribune is offering this day-by-day account of their trek from Winter Quarters, Nebraska, to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Tribune history writer Harold Schindler, using diaries, letters, journals and reminiscences which have come to light this century, has fleshed out the narrative. Not only is this series rich in pioneer trails history, but it is the history of those who founded and established the State of Utah.
Thursday, April 8, 1847
Hunters are out early looking for game. But all that falls to their marksmanship is a single squirrel. Wilford Woodruff, remarking that this is the first game taken in the camp of the pioneers, moves that it be offered to Brigham Young for his breakfast. The motion is carried and the squirrel delivered. At 9:30 a.m., Young, with his brother, John, along with Isaac Morley and George Grant leave camp for his farm at the old campground. Luke Johnson and A.P. Rockwood also take the opportunity to return to Winter Quarters. Leaving families behind does not come easy for these men. Woodruff and some others spend the day hunting, but turn up with nothing "but weary limbs & wet feet." It isn't that game is sparse, Woodruff confides in his nightly journal.? "We saw seven or eight deer & geese, ducks [and] cranes, but couldn't get any."
Bullock and his teamsters rise at sunrise, hitch up the wagons and strike out for the camp. The day is beautiful, he says, a clear sky, keen north wind, and a flock of thirty-three cranes fly high in the air "round the pioneer encampment." Young returns in the late afternoon, having met Amasa M. Lyman, who brings news that Parley P. Pratt has arrived at Winter Quarters, home from his church mission to England. Orson Pratt starts at once for Winter Quarters to welcome his brother's return; Young, Lyman, John Young, Morley and several others follow. They also learn that John Taylor is on his way up the Missouri River to join them with some $500 in astronomical instruments and other technical equipment to be used by the pioneers in tracking their progress on the journey west. This, in order to provide accurate trail directions for future companies.
It is decided in council that the main pioneer company shall move on and cross the Elkhorn River, while Young and his Council of Twelve Apostles await Taylor's anticipated arrival in Winter Quarters. It also is suggested that Taylor remain at Winter Quarters and follow the pioneers westward "in due time." Traffic on the Nebraska plains is increasing now. Bullock records that John Brown, William Crosby and a company of Mormons from Mississippi, including two black servants, Oscar Crosby and Hark Lay, in seven wagons, have passed over a hill near the pioneer encampment, bound for the crossing at the Elkhorn.
Erastus Snow and James Craig join the pioneer camp in the afternoon. During the day, Howard Egan and still others of the pioneer company leave Winter Quarters and journey as far west as the haystacks near Cutler's Park before camping. Orrin Porter Rockwell rides up on horseback with word confirming the arrival of Parley Pratt, adding that Orson Hyde as well as Taylor is soon expected. Egan and his party take a carriage back to Winter Quarters to spend the night. Heber C. Kimball and his wife, and Newell K. Whitney and Horace K. Whitney also return to Winter Quarters in the evening. At nightfall, the main pioneer camp is several miles farther west than the haystack camp on the west branch of the Little Papillion.