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 6, 1847
It was cloudy and cool this morning with a threat of rain in the air. Eleven emigrant wagons bound for Oregon passed the Camp of Israel about 8:00 a.m. Since Sunday is a "no-travel" day for the pioneers, some used the time to catch up on their laundry. Wilford Woodruff, still troubled by a broken molar in his jaw, stayed close to his carriage, while Thomas Bullock, hearing a young child cry (it came from the emigrant company), remarked it was quite a novelty in the pioneer camp. Then Brigham Young caught a glimpse of the next Missouri company approaching, and ordered A. P. Rockwood to see that all pioneer cattle were out of the way.
Just about the time a thundershower broke over the camp, four Missourians came up on horseback. The Mormon company recognized some men, and the riders suddenly expressed some apprehension in being around the pioneers. They did say that most old settlers who caused the Saints so much grief in Missouri had fled Chariton County, except two tavern keepers. William Clayton scowled and thought to himself, "I hope their fears follow them all the way to Oregon."
This second emigrant company passed the Mormon camp during the rainstorm about noon; Clayton counted nineteen wagons and two carriages in the party, "most of the wagons have five yoke of cattle to each and few had less than four yoke. They have many cows, horses and oxen with them." The wagon-train guide, Gabriel Prudhomme, who lives at the Catholic Mission on the St. Mary's River, told Brigham Young and Heber Kimball that there was another watering place six miles from the present camp, but none after that for fifteen miles. That gave Young pause for thought. He decided it would be wise to move a few miles this afternoon. Otherwise it would be too hard on the teams to reach the second watering place at Horseshoe Creek in one drive.
The weather cleared and the pioneer camp moved out about 2:30 p.m., following Cottonwood Creek, also known as Bitter Creek, for around four miles. The pioneers passed the second Oregon emigrant company and made camp for the night in an oblong circle at the foot of a low bluff close to the stream, which Norton Jacob said was also known as "Twenty-mile Creek." The location put the Camp of Israel between both Oregon-bound wagon trains.
Several Missourians came over to stare at the Mormon roadometer, having heard from some pioneers that one was attached to a wagon. "They expressed a wish to each other to see inside the machine and looked upon it as a curiosity," said an aloof Clayton. "I paid no attention to them as they did not address themselves to me," he confided to his journal. Clayton's attitude was shared by many of his fellow pioneers. There clearly was no love lost between the Mormons and the Missourians they believed persecuted them and drove them from their homes nearly a decade earlier. Norton Jacob muttered, "Some of them have been engaged with mobbers heretofore. My Ten are on guard tonight."
But despite all that, the Mormons applied the Golden Rule when one of the emigrants told George A. Smith that he had broken his carriage spring, and was deeply troubled to know what to do. Was there anyone in the Mormon company who could help? Smith pointed to Burr Frost, the blacksmith, whereupon the Missourian paid Frost to set up his forge and weld the spring. It was repaired before dark.
Prudhomme, the guide, told Albert Carrington that the camp was as near to Laramie Peak as it would ever be on this journey. Patty Sessions, who was driving an ox team with the second Mormon company to leave Winter Quarters this season, recorded in her diary that they had traveled fifteen miles today and the company's fifty-one wagons were camped on Papillion Creek.