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.
May 18, 1847
Shortly after breakfast this morning, Brigham Young called a meeting of the captains of tens at his wagon and gave them what William Clayton described as "a severe lecture." Young still was smarting from the delays encountered yesterday and wasted no time in setting the camp straight on what was expected of them. He was critical of those who waste meat because it is in abundance. "I can see a disposition in this camp to slaughter everything they see. If all the buffalo and game on our route were brought together to the camp, there are some who would never cease until they had destroyed the whole of it.
Some men will shoot as much as thirty times at a rabbit and are continually wasting ammunition. When they have used all they've got, they may have the pleasure of carrying an empty gun to the mountains and back because I will not furnish them more," Young snapped. "And as for the horsemen--there are none except Heber Kimball, Wilford Woodruff and Ezra Benson that ever take the trouble to search for a good road for the wagons. All the rest seem to care about is to wait until breakfast is cooked and when they've eaten it, they mount their horses and scatter away, and if an antelope comes across the track, the whole of us must be stopped for a half-hour while they try to creep up near enough to kill it.
And when we come to a bad place in the trail all the interest they have is to get across as best they can and leave me and one or two others to pick out a crossing and guide the camp through!" the angry leader added. He pointed to Amasa Lyman by name as one who shirked in helping find a better route to travel. It was a contrite collection of captains who returned to their wagons and prepared to move out.
Three-and-a-quarter miles below Cedar Bluffs, (named by John C. Fremont) the company crossed a rapid stream about twenty-feet wide they called Rattlesnake Creek (today's Whitetail Creek). The stream came by its name when Young rode up its banks and his horse stepped within a foot of a large rattler. Young turned his horse away, but another pioneer, Thomas Woolsey who was on foot, nearly stepped on the snake which coiled and struck, but missed when Woolsey jumped to one side. Young told John Higbee to kill the snake because it menaced other pioneers on the trail. Higbee shot the reptile's head off. It measured out at four and one-half feet and bore seven rattles.
Orson Pratt said another three and one-quarter miles took the company opposite the upper end--of the Cedar Bluffs on the south side of the North Platte River. "We camped for the night nine and three-quarter miles above the bluffs." After the camp circle was formed, Pratt and Clayton went to Willard Richards' wagon to discuss making a map of the pioneer journey.
"Richards wants me to do it," said Clayton, "using Pratt's scientific observations." The plan was to delineate the Pioneer Road on the Fremont map that Thomas L. Kane had sent to Young. Clayton was to include Pratt's astronomical readings and his own trail calculations, adding the names the pioneers gave certain streams and landmarks.
Clayton retired to his wagon to begin, "but soon found that the map does not agree with my scale nor Pratt's calculations. I proposed to Pratt to wait until we complete the journey and take all the necessary data and make a new map instead of tracing our route over Fremont's map." The subject was left until morning.
Distance traveled: 15 3/4 miles.