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With Plenty of Game But Few Horses, Pioneers Designate Hunting Teams
Harold Schindler
Published: 04/25/1997 Category: Nation-World Page: A2

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 25, 1847

The Sabbath dawned with a stillness broken only by the sound of wild geese flying past the Camp of Israel and the gentle clang of cowbells from the grazing herd...and, of course, the bugle call awakening all to the duties of the day. Because it was Sunday and the rules of the camp forbade fishing or hunting, except such as was absolutely necessary, the pioneers generally engaged in church meetings.

Shortly after breakfast, four antelope appeared on the plain on the opposite side of the Loup River. "We could see them plainly with the naked eye, but far more clearly through binoculars," mused Wilford Woodruff. "They were the first antelope I ever saw." A few hours later, "Four elk showed themselves on the opposite side of the river. They're also the first elk I've ever seen."

In the evening, Brigham Young brought up the subject of hunting and the fact that only eight horses in the company were not used in wagon teams. He suggested that a party of eight be named to hunt buffalo and other game on horseback for the camp, and eleven men to hunt on foot. Selected to the buffalo-hunting party were Porter Rockwell, Tom Brown, Joseph Mathews, Amasa Lyman, Wilford Woodruff, Tom Woolsey, John Brown and John S. Higbee. The "foot hunters" were Phineas H. Young, Tarlton Lewis, John Pack, Joseph Hancock, Edmund Ellsworth, Roswell Stevens, Edson Whipple, Barnabas L. Adams, Benjamin F. Stewart, Return Jackson Redden and Eric Glines.

The purpose in naming hunting parties came about because game was becoming plentiful and Young believed in killing only what was needed in camp. By having specific hunters, promiscuous shooting was eliminated. Now that the pioneers had--traveled the trail for more than two weeks,they had become quite adept at setting up camp and turning it into a bustling village every night. The Camp of Israel--comprised men of all trades and practices, far more capable than the wagon companies of the year before and considerably more versatile than any of the hundreds of emigrant companies that followed in the next two decades.

The Mormon leaders had selected wisely and carefully from among their members to find a group to blaze a wagon road to the Great Basin and build up the new country. There were sailors and soldiers, accountants and students, intellectuals, bricklayers, carpenters, blacksmiths, astronomers, mathematicians, writers, teachers, wagon-makers, lumbermen, dairymen, farmers, stock-raisers, engineers, millers and mechanics of all kinds. They would be the cadre force of Great Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, the sinew, brains and spirit at the crossroads of the West.

Day 4. Another day, another minor injury on the sesquicentennial Mormon Trail Wagon Train. A woman hurt her arm Thursday when she lost her balance and fell out of a moving wagon, said wagon-train leader Leon Wilkinson. The woman, whose name was not known, was taken to a hospital for X-rays but was not seriously injured. "It embarrassed her more than anything else," Wilkinson said.

Under chilly but clear skies, the wagon train arrived Thursday afternoon in North Bend, on the Platte River nearly sixty miles west of Omaha, Nebraska. The scheduled campsite was flooded, so the group stayed about three miles away in a private pasture adjacent to a golf course, Wilkinson said. Joseph Johnstun of Salt Lake City rode the thirteen miles in a covered wagon while recovering from muscle spasms in his left ankle. He planned to rejoin the walkers today. "I talked to a lot of the walkers, and they're not as sore anymore," Johnstun said. "They're getting the hang of it."

The massive first-day herd of 250 walkers and handcart pullers has dwindled to about seventy people, Johnstun said. Many of the first-day walkers were tourists; most of the remaining walkers plan to go all the way to Utah. "The walkers are getting quite cohesive now," he said. "We're having dinner and breakfast together and we're talking about doing lunch."

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