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 22, 1847
Brigham Young wanted to move out smartly this morning and get a good start on the trail so that the pioneer company would not have to eat the dust of any of the several Oregon and California-bound emigrant parties on their heels. These companies and the Camp of Israel were vying for good campsites as it was and to be forced to follow another wagon train in this barren, sandy terrain would only compound the discomfort.
The Mormons crossed one creek (Peet's Creek) then another (Cherry Creek) and another (Muddy Creek) in short order. It was near this last crossing (of a stream scarcely two feet wide) that Lorenzo Dow Young snapped an axletree on his wagon and rattled to a halt while the pioneers continued on. It was one of the Missouri companies who came on the scene and helped him move his load while one of their men spliced a plank to the axletree in makeshift repair, allowing him to resume the journey.
The main company had stopped for noon on the banks of the Sweetwater, having traveled ten miles over sandy ground. Brigham went back to check on his brother, Lorenzo, when he met him on the road, along with the Missourians. He immediately turned around and gave orders for the Mormon camp to hitch up and get the teams moving to keep ahead of the emigrant company. It was to no avail; the Missourians had gotten the jump, because they had traveled from Independence Rock without stopping.
The Camp of Israel ran into some steep river embankments. At one, Starling Driggs saw his harness break to pieces when his horses sprang suddenly in attempting to jump from the creek. Another Missouri company began gaining, but eventually dropped to the rear. One of their number spoke to Wilford Woodruff of a death at the upper crossing of the North Platte. Wesley J. Tustin drowned while trying to swim his horses across, Woodruff was told.
And one of the Missourians who had paused at Independence Rock long enough to put his name with the emigrants, was left behind by his wagon company and had to follow on foot. He and a companion hadn't gone far when a grizzly ambled into view and came at them. "It left a paw print ten inches long," they said. Neither man was armed with firearm or knife. They were in mortal terror. But the grizzly merely stood and watched them, then strolled off.
This evening Charles Harper put a new axletree on Lorenzo Dow Young's wagon. Orson Pratt said the mosquitoes were particularly troublesome. Norton Jacob said Lewis Barney and Joseph Hancock each killed an antelope. No buffalo have been seen lately. And Thomas Bullock bemoaned the fact that he was called to cattle guard duty by Willard Richards, who told him to give up journal writing as long as he was on camp-guard duty. "The camp can do its own writing," he said.
"I try my best to fulfill what Brigham Young wanted me for, but I have so many commanders it is hard for me to do everything," he said.
Distance traveled to day: 21 miles.
At the camp of the second Mormon emigration on the Platte River, the Nauvoo Temple bell tolled the signal for starting their westward trek. The first Fifty of the First Hundred took the lead, followed by the second Fifty of the First Hundred. Next came Charles C. Rich's guard company with the cannon, the skiff and the Temple bell, which is to be used to rally all the companies. They traveled today twelve miles and reached Diamond Island where they pitched camp for the night.
A special company of 150 Mormons was raised today under the command of Hosea Stout to ride to Bellevue, Nebraska Territory, and demand from Chief Young Elk the Omaha murderers of Jacob Weatherby, as well as the return of a dozen.