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After Midday, the Pioneer Cry Was Heard: 'I See Fort Laramie'
Harold Schindler
Published: 06/01/1997 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.

June 1, 1847

As the Camp of Israel moved farther west from Scott's Bluff, the landscape took on a subtle change. The country now is becoming hilly and timbered as the pioneers approach the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. Though the morning was by consensus "fine and pleasant," Wilford Woodruff could take little solace in the climate; he was suffering from a toothache and for him the first order of business was to look up Luke Johnson, the company dentist, and have a go at the offending molar. "He dug part of it out, but the tooth broke off, leaving the stump in my jaw, which pains me." His agony leaves a profound image of the rigors of overland wagon-train travel.

Seven months earlier in Winter Quarters, Brigham Young met variously with Father Pierre DeSmet, missionary to the Flathead Indians, and with two mountain men who had significant experience in country the Mormons were about to travel. The trappers, Justin Grosclaude and a man known simply as Cardinal, provided Young with a trove of information regarding the region west of the Missouri River. It was Grosclaude who sketched a map identifying the shoal stream of this morning's pioneer camp as Rawhide Creek. Having crossed Rawhide, the pioneers began seeing more and more trees along the banks of the North Platte, and before noon saw the burials of four Indians, wrapped in skins and tied in the upper branches of trees.

The company halted at midday near an abandoned and burned trading post once operated by a man named Richard, but pronounced variously as Reshaw or Richiau. After the teams had rested, the wagon train continued the journey until the cry went up near Thomas Bullock's wagon, "I see Fort Laramie!" "We came to a very pretty vale, turned round a point of timber and camped on the banks of the river opposite Fort Laramie," wrote Bullock. The camp was within a mile and a half of the post, according to Woodruff.

A lookout had spotted the Mormon column and several men came from the fort to meet the wagon train. Using the company's leather boat, Luke Johnson, John Brown, Joseph Mathews and Porter Rockwell crossed the Platte to meet Robert Crow and his son-in-law, George W. Therlkill, part of the Mississippi company of Mormons who had wintered at Fort Pueblo, 250 miles to the south, to await the vanguard of the Mormon migration. The Crow party had been at the fort for sixteen days. In the group were eleven men and these six women: Robert Crow's wife, Elizabeth Brown Crow (cousin to John Brown of the pioneer company), and her five daughters: Harriet Crow, Elizabeth Jane Therlkill, Matilda J. Crow Therlkill and twins Isa Vinda Exene Crow and Ira Minda Almarene Crow. With them had come Lewis B. Myers, a mountain man who joined the group at Pueblo, as guide and hunter.

Crow told Brigham that the remainder of the Mississippi company planned to leave Pueblo about the first of June, along with the sick detachment of the Mormon Battalion, who also had spent the winter there. They hoped to join the pioneers at Fort Laramie in two weeks. Meanwhile, three mountaineers rode into the fort six days ago from Fort Bridger west of South Pass. They had ridden day and night with horses and mules to avoid starving because there was no grass due to the deep snow. Two of their oxen already had perished. For the Mormons it was reasonably good news, for it indicated there would be grass aplenty by the time the pioneers reached the South Pass.

Orson Pratt made note that Fort Laramie belonged to the American Fur Company and presently was occupied by eighteen men and their families, under charge of James Bordeaux. Amasa Lyman was interested in the fact that a band of Crow Indians had raided the post three weeks ago and made off with twenty-six horses in daylight. And William Clayton mused, "We have traveled twelve miles today, making a total from Winter Quarters to Fort Laramie of 543 miles. We have arrived so far on our journey without accident, except the loss of two horses stolen by Indians and two accidentally killed. We have been prosperous on our journey, the camp are all in better health than when we left Winter Quarters."

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