Editor's Note: To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Mormon Trail, The Salt Lake Tribune is offering this day-by-day account of the Mormon pioneers' original trek from Winter Quarters, Nebraska, to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Tribune history writer Harold Schindler, using diaries, letters, journals and reminiscences that have come to light this century, has fleshed out the following narrative.
Wednesday, April 14, 1847
The day began with an Indian scare. A slight rain fell in the early part of the morning, and Thomas Bullock, who had left Winter Quarters last evening, was yoking his oxen to a wagon as he prepared to join the main camp. He was startled by four Omaha Indians charging down on him. Brandishing coup sticks covered with turkey feathers, the four came "hallowing and yelling like savages, which so frightened my cattle that they broke away from the wagon tongue and ran as if mad two or three miles in the direction of Winter Quarters," Bullock said.
"I after them at full rate, succeeded in heading and turning them back after the loss of about another hour. Meanwhile one Omaha drew his bow and arrow threatening to shoot one of my oxen, and another showed his gun," Bullock recounted.
"We had to allay their excitement by giving them our bread. But they were not satisfied with that, and demanded more to take with them. After that was given them one had the boldness to come to my wagon and attempt to take the front of my wagon cover to make him a head dress. I repelled him and he went away in anger."
"We then hitched up and started on our journey. About an hour later we had a very pleasant light rain." Bullock added.
After some little distance, Bullock's wagons crossed Little Papillion Creek and reached the Big Papillion a few hours later intending to pitch camp for the night. But Albert P. Rockwood and Lorenzo D. Young arrived soon after in the "boat wagon" (a leather boat pulled along on wheels) so Bullock again hitched up and followed them to the crossing in the timbers where others were camped.
About 6 p.m., Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and Ezra T. Benson, who had left Winter Quarters early in the afternoon, rolled by. They continued up the Elkhorn for several miles before halting, but left signal fires to guide Bullock's wagons to their camp.
Return Jackson Redden, John S. Higbee and four or five others had taken a seine and tried their luck on the Platte. They came into camp this evening with two dozen or more fish. Two of Howard Egan's horses strayed and he borrowed Redden's mount to go search for them. He caught one near the Elkhorn, but lost the other.
Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, Amasa M. Lyman, George A. Smith, Erastus Snow and others left Winter Quarters and took an Indian trail across the prairie to the Elkhorn. They crossed on a raft and camped for the night two miles below the ferry.
With their arrival, the last of those who would journey with the pioneer company have left Winter Quarters. The last goodbyes have been spoken and the heartache of separation begun. In the next day or so they would strike out for the land beyond the Rocky Mountains. Brigham Young had prepared well. They had maps, published accounts by John C. Fremont and all nuggets of personal information on the terrain ahead they could glean from Eastern newspapers and correspondence.