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.
Thursday, April 29, 1847
Camp broke and moved out before breakfast at 5:00 a.m. to find more grass; the cattle and horses have grazed this place off. Three miles to the south, the pioneers found browse enough and turned the teams out to feed. Weather is cool. William Clayton says there seems to be little rain in this country and no dew. He writes in his journal, "Breakfasted on goose and moldy bread." At 8:20 a.m., teams were hitched and moved another two miles to find "a very pretty stream of good water" at Wood River, which is ten-feet wide on average, but at the fording place about a rod (16 1/2 feet) wide. "We were detained some here, but all got over safely," he notes.
The company traveled on some ten miles and camped on the borders of Grand Island. Hunters rode up the island and reported it to be well-supplied with rushes and cottonwood, even fruit trees in bloom; it is heavily wooded as well, according to Wilford Woodruff, who mentions "we are beginning to get a good bit of grass for our horses and cattle." Woodruff saw about thirty antelope and at least eight deer but the game managed to bound out of range. They did, however, bag four geese. "I shot two of them and shot at a deer, but did not get the deer." He wasn't the only one who missed. Clayton groused in his journal that the hunters saw considerable game and had a good chance to kill an antelope, but missed, "although three shot at it."
Thomas Bullock said some men "put fire to the dry grass in several places to burn it; that those who follow after may have green grass for their cattle." One of Orson Pratt's horses showed signs of being quite sick and the pioneers thought it was suffering from bots (a parasitic-larvae disease). "He has lain down several times in harness within three hours," said Clayton. "I am not astonished, as the wagons and everything else is shrinking up, for the wind is perfectly dry and parching, there is no moisture in it. Even my writing desk is splitting with the drought." The clouds of dust, he said, are sufficient to suffocate a person.
"I rode Heber [Kimball's] horse this afternoon and went before the wagons. We camped at night close to Grand Island where there is an abundance of rushes for cattle. There also is a white substance that oozes out of the ground here, and tastes like salt, but not so strong as common salt. "Pratt's horse is better and the day has passed without accident," Clayton says. Norton Jacob, who found the "white mineral substance," explained, "It was not crystallized and is supposed to be salts of nitre." He added, "I was on guard with my ten until midnight."
Distance traveled today: 20 miles.