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 4, 1847
The remaining fifteen wagons were ferried across the North Platte River before 8:00 a.m. and as the Camp of Israel made preparations to leave Fort Laramie and settled with James Bordeaux, the American Fur Company boss at this outpost, for the use of his flatboat, he again took a few minutes to tell Brigham Young and some others how much he had come to appreciate the Mormon emigrant company.
Bordeaux said a wagon train like this had never passed Fort Laramie before. The pioneers, he said, would go nowhere without asking permission. On the other hand, when any company of ten or a dozen wagons came along, "they would run and peek into every room and every thing. It kept the fort busy watching that nothing was stolen," he said. And when ex-Governor Lilburn Boggs of Missouri stopped at the fort last summer, "he was all the time railing about the Mormons being bad people." Bordeaux finally told him, "The Mormons could not be worse than Boggs' own company, for they were fighting every night."
Before the pioneers left, Luke S. Johnson attended some of the fort families in his capacity as a dentist. They paid him in moccasins and furs. The camp started at noon taking the road nearest the river and at one point lumbered through an immense cloud of grasshoppers. Thomas Bullock mentioned that the scenery had changed dramatically from what the Mormons were accustomed to seeing. "Bold, rugged cliffs, speckled with cedar and pines; the river bottom interspersed with cottonwood trees and wild chokecherry bushes.
"We came to a steep sandy incline where teams had to halt several times. Archibald Lytle (a newcomer to the company this day) abused his oxen, striking them on the head and body with the butt end of this whip," Bullock said. Brigham Young, Willard Richards, and six or seven others in the company went to help him, but Lytle treated their assistance with contempt and continued to thump away at the animals. At that point the pioneers left him to get up the grade by himself. Young remarked that there had been more abuse of oxen in those few minutes than he had seen on the entire journey from Winter Quarters.
Soon there was another steep hill to descend which required locking wheels and attaching ropes to the rear end of wagons to hold them back. Earlier in the afternoon, Robert Crow and his company joined the main party. Included in the group with him were Elizabeth Crow, Benjamin B. Crow, Harriet Crow, Elizabeth Jane Crow, John McHenry Crow, Walter H. Crow, Matilda Jane Therlkill, George Therlkill, Milton Howard Therlkill, James William Therlkill, William Parker Crow, Isa Vinda Exene Crow and Ira Minda Almarene Crow, Archibald Lytle, James Chesney and Lewis B. Myers, who came along as guide and hunter. The Crow company had five wagons, a cart, twenty-four oxen, three bulls, twenty-two cows, seven calves, and eleven horses.
The pioneers traveled a half-mile farther and camped for the night, having made eight and one-quarter miles today. Before leaving Fort Laramie, Wilford Woodruff took two letters to Bordeaux and asked if he would forward them with pioneer mail to Winter Quarters at the next opportunity to the care of Peter Sarpy, the trader.
Woodruff also spoke to a mountaineer who had wintered "in the Great Basin of the Salt and Utah lakes and he recommends the country very highly for a healthy fertile land, lakes and streams abounding with trout and other fish, and a good supply of sugar maple and other timber." Myers shot an antelope.