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, using diaries, letters, journals and reminiscences that have come to light this century, has fleshed out the following narrative.
May 17, 1847
Though the morning began cold and frosty, the weather turned warm and pleasant as the day progressed. Thomas Bullock copied extracts from the camp history and placed it in a letterbox made by Appleton Milo Harmon for Willard Richards, who made up the mail and addressed the box to "C.C. Rich & Company." On the reverse side, he printed "North Fork Letter Box--May 17 1847--1/2 past 7 A.M." and fixed it into the ground.
At 8:15 a.m., the camp started its journey and after a mile and a half over black loamy soil, came to the sandy bluffs and crossed Spring Creek, so named by Brigham Young at the crossing. Orson Pratt said at this point "we were for the third time compelled to ascend gradually through the sand and after about three-quarters of a mile, descend again upon the bottoms."
The pioneers stopped shortly before noon to refresh the teams. By now, the sky was clear and temperatures pleasantly warm, so much so that Norton Jacob was moved to comment, "It looks as though we might have spring return again." It was here that Roswell Stevens, one of the hunters, caught a young fawn that Lorenzo D. Young will endeavor to raise. Jackson Redden and Howard Egan went back to fetch some spring water and found "five boiling springs boiling up several inches."
The grass where the pioneers had elected to stop was especially luxuriant, but one of Brigham Young's horses--in the care of his brother Phineas--wandered into a soft slough while grazing and became mired. According to William Clayton, "a number of men soon collected and with a rope dragged it out, washed and rubbed the animal down. All was well again."
Oxen especially took to the good grass. The sandy bluffs apparently were home to a great many small lizards, about five inches long with heads shaped like a snake. Clayton, however, remarked that they "appear perfectly harmless and are pretty in appearance." Bullock made no mention of lizards in the area, but did report seeing "a large water snake" in the thick grass.
On the move once more at 2:00 p.m., the pioneers stopped again just before 4:00 p.m. and sent the Revenue Cutter, the leather boat on wheels, to bring in more buffalo--one killed by Luke Johnson, a second by John Brown, an antelope brought down by Amasa Lyman, and a third buffalo bull bagged by the redoubtable Porter Rockwell.
The meat was quartered and put in wagons; the camp moved again at 4:30, but stopped for the day at 5:50 p.m., camping three and one-quarter miles east of Whitetail Creek on a nice dry prairie bottom where the grass was shorter. The entire process delayed the company in its journey, and Wilford Woodruff observed that Brigham Young was perturbed because of it. "We have plenty of meat in camp already and the hunters went out without permission," he reported.
Though water was about a quarter of a mile to the north, men dug three wells and got excellent water at a depth of four feet.
Travel today: 12 3/4 miles.