Editor's Note: To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Mormon pioneers in Utah, The Salt Lake Tribune is offering this day-by-day account of their 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 narrative.
May 28, 1847
The constant drenching rain was getting on everyone's nerves; it was almost impossible to stay dry. The morning dawned cool, damp, cloudy and some more rain. It got to the point that the camp was asked to vote on whether to move on or wait until the showers stopped. It was no contest, the pioneers wanted to wait it out. "I went to writing in Heber C. Kimball's journal and wrote until nearly 11 o'clock," said William Clayton. Kimball, meanwhile, visited the next wagon and chanced to find some pioneers playing cards. He stayed long enough to expound his views and disapproval of their time spent "gaming, dancing and at mock trials," and was especially offended by the profane language heard from time to time.
With the weather clearing, the Camp of Israel started up again about 11:00 a.m. and after five miles were following a creek of clear water with beaver dams, discovered by Howard Egan and Luke Johnson. The stream rose about four miles northwest of last night's camp and ran in a crooked course until it emptied into the North Platte River, about a mile west of the night's camp. That it rose from springs was proven by Horace Whitney, who traced it to a spring from a circular area about six-feet across. At a point near where the stream enters the North Platte the men discovered a number of large spotted trout, suckers and dace. "This is the first stream I have met with containing trout since I left the New England States," Woodruff said, "Therefore, I name it Trout Creek [today's Spotted Tail Creek]."
Four more miles brought the camp to the foot of more bluffs (Mitchell Bluffs). The road was sandy and heavy for teams. At nine miles, Clayton reported, "we descended to a lower bench of prairie and found it wet and soft, though not bad rolling." At 4:45 p.m., the camp formed for the night near the North Platte, having made eleven and one-half miles for the day. (Near Morrill, Nebraska) Feed for teams was not good. Driftwood was tolerably plentiful.
While Tom Brown and Porter Rockwell were out hunting about five miles north, Brown saw five or six Indians about a quarter of a mile from him. He and Rockwell also saw fresh hoof prints, an indication that a hunting party was nearby. When Pratt had a moment to survey his surroundings, he remarked that small hillocks or anthills abound in the area. "They consist of small pebbles or gravel accumulated with great industry from the neighboring soil. Mingled with these were found, in different places, small Indian beads, which these insects collect to beautify and adorn their habitation." Pratt either was being obtuse or exercising a keen sense of humor. He continued, "I say collected for it cannot be supposed that these were a home manufacture of their own ingenuity. The air has been much perfumed by an herb, called by some Southern Wood, which grows in large quantities, generally with the prickly pear and preferring a dry barren soil." There also was dandelion, pigweed, peppergrass, dock and various other plants common to the east.
During the evening, Brigham Young also noticed some pioneers playing dominoes in a wagon near Woodruff's carriage. He remarked that the devil was gaining power over the camp. He also rebuked some men for playing cards and gambling in Appleton M. Harmon's tent. Young left the impression he would have more to say about this.