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Mormon Trail Series
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Pioneers Find It's a Lucrative Job Ferrying Emigrants Across River
Harold Schindler
Published: 06/11/1997 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 11, 1847

William Clayton, encouraged by his success as an angler, arose at 4:00 a.m. to once more test the waters of Deer Creek with a hook and line. But he could catch only four, before it was time to rejoin the main camp. For most pioneers, the day spent at Deer Creek was a holiday. The teams were fattening on the luxuriant grass, game was everywhere and the weather balmy, but it was time to move on. Two and a half miles out, they crossed a deep hollow with steep banks.

At four and a quarter miles, Clayton left the wagon to post a guide board declaring it 100 miles from Fort Laramie. And at noon, the company pulled in at a grove of timber and good grass. But, said Clayton just before reaching the grove, the pioneers met a bend to the south, caused by a deep ravine. "We had to travel more than a mile to make a quarter of a mile direct," said he.

William A. Empey, Edmund Ellsworth and Francis M. Pomeroy each killed an antelope, and Joseph Hancock came in with the hindquarters of one he killed three miles out. He couldn't carry it all and left the rest on the prairie. Several men have taken an interest in the guide boards, Clayton noted. "So wherever they see a piece of board sufficiently large, they pick it up and preserve it. We now have enough to last 200 miles."

The pioneers came in sight of two Missouri companies camped on the banks of the North Platte and preparing to cross. There is no camping ground beyond the Missouri emigrants for any convenient distance. So the pioneers turned off a half mile from the trail and settled in for the night.

The Missourians said the upper ferry of the North Platte still is twelve miles ahead and that the Mormon advance party was there with the balance of the Oregon emigration. This particular Missouri company had a light flatboat and had already taken one load over. They said they have killed three bears between here and the bluffs and shot a buffalo.

Henson Walker, Charles Barnum and Seeley Owen have each killed antelope, making eight in all for the pioneers during the day. Albert Carrington reported seeing more than the usual number of rattlesnakes along the trail. Thomas Bullock wrote directions for the next company of Mormon emigrants on a buffalo skull and set it near his wagon along with his usual planting of a hill of corn. "Onions grow plentiful around here, also mustard in patches, and I found several mushrooms," he wrote in his journal.

Several miles upriver, John Brown, with the advance party, wrote in his diary, "We reached the North Platte ferry first but could find nothing of the bull boat the mountaineers said they lashed up in a tree. But we crossed several companies of emigrant in our Revenue Cutter [leather skiff], drawing the wagons through the river. They paid us in provisions we needed. John S. Higbee, who also was with the advance, said, "Got a job ferrying some Missourians and twenty-two wagons for thirty-three dollars; [took] flour at $2.50 a hundred, and meal at 50 cents."

And in California, Daniel Tyler with the Mormon Battalion reported this day that the notorious desperado, John Allen, recently excommunicated from the church, was found guilty of desertion by court-martial. He was sentenced to have one half his head shaved and be drummed from the service at bayonet point. He was ordered not to come within two miles of the town during the existing war with Mexico on pain of being put in irons and jailed for the duration. Allen was escorted through the town at the point of a bayonet while the musicians played "Rogue's March."

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