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.
April 22, 1847
It was a good joke to some and not funny at all to others. Some picket guards (there were four men assigned) were humiliated into reporting their firearms "stolen" during the night. It seems they were discovered asleep at their posts and the men who found them took their guns. Colonel Stephen Markham, ranking officer of the wagon-train military organization, could not criticize. He lost his hat in the same manner. The guns and hat were taken as a joke...and a warning. The chagrined pickets tried to explain how difficult it was to work and march during the day, care for teams, cook and perform all the necessary duties of the camp, and then stay awake half the night on guard duty. But the point had been made.
The camp rolled out under pleasant skies at half past 7:00 a.m. and proceeded west on a trail that took it by a heavy stand of timber. After two miles, the wagons crossed Looking Glass Creek, a small stream and easily forded. That spot is the site of today's Monroe, Nebraska. Shortly after noon, the pioneers reached the east bank of the Beaver River, having traveled ten miles. William Clayton describes the Beaver as a stream twenty-five feet wide with swift current and clear, pleasant-tasting water. While they stopped to allow the animals to graze, some of the men set out to improve the ford for future wagon trains. The embankments were a bit steep on both sides for a truly smooth crossing. In fording the stream, a number of men took positions on the west bank and, using ropes hitched to the tongue of each wagon, pulled its wheels up the embankment on the far side.
At 2:00 p.m., the ox teams were given the order to move out, the horse teams to follow. In three hours, they reined in at the abandoned Pawnee Missionary Station, some seven miles from the Beaver. The Reverend J. Dunbar, who moved to Bellevue on the Missouri River, last occupied the station. Pawnee Station is splendidly located at a point where Plum Creek flows into Loup Fork. On the north and west are bluffs, on the south Loup Fork and on the east a descending prairie. Plum Creek is lined with timber. A ravine a few rods wide led to the station from the east and, in the past, the Sioux had been in the habit of using it to attack the Pawnees, their sworn enemy.
In a cursory look around the area, the pioneers found a number of good log houses and considerable land under cultivation enclosed by rail fences, a good quantity of hay and fodder, lots of old and new iron, two stoves, several plows and a drag, all apparently left to the elements. The government station was a quarter of a mile below and to the south where James Case had worked as a government farmer receiving $300 a year, until Major Thomas H. Harvey learned last November that Case had joined "the Mormons." Harvey politely dismissed Case from government service.
Sometime since November the Sioux came down and burned the government station, the houses, blacksmith shop and everything that would take fire. But they did not molest the missionary station, said Clayton. And as an aside: "According to my reckoning, this place is 134 miles from Winter Quarters."
As George A. Smith was watering his horse, the animal, finding itself mired, suddenly sprang, throwing Smith against the embankment. The horse came down with a hind hoof on its rider's foot and a fore hoof on his chest. The horse became excited and thumped Smith several times until Wilford Woodruff was able to grab the bridle and coax the horse out. Fortunately, Smith was only bruised, and otherwise unhurt.
Brigham Young called the captains of Tens together and told them they could use some of the hay and fodder for their teams here, but they must not carry away any. He had no fear of the Pawnees, he said, but the pioneers must be prepared in case the Sioux come down and try to steal Mormon horses. Guards and pickets were selected to protect the ravine to the north. To be further on the safe side, he ordered the cannon brought up and Thomas Tanner to drill his men until dark on firing procedure. The pioneers assigned to the cannon included Stephen H. Goddard, Seeley Owen, Thomas Woolsey, Franklin G. Losee, Horace Thornton, Charles H. Barnum, Sylvester H. Earl, George Scholes and Rufus Allen.