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 23, 1847
As the Camp of Israel moved west from Devil's Gate, the pioneers noted with some solemnity a solitary grave to the left of the trail. A weathered headboard bore the words: Matilda Crowley. B. July 16th 1830, D. July 7, 1846. "On reflection," William Clayton wrote, "some of the numerous emigrants who probably started with a view to spend the remainder of their days in the wilds of Oregon, had fallen by the way and their remains had to be left by their friends far from the place of destination. I felt a renewed anxiety that the Lord will kindly preserve the lives of all my family, that they may be permitted to gather to the future home of the Saints, enjoy the society of the people of God for many years to come, and when their days are numbered that their remains will be deposited at the feet of the servants of God, rather than be left far away in a wild country."
Erastus Snow said of the day's events, "We have traveled today seventeen miles, good weather, roads about the same as yesterday; the main road this afternoon would have led us across the Sweetwater River four times in ten miles. Anticipating difficulties in fording at this stage of water [the runoff was extreme], we took a less frequented trail, which led off from the river, but found deep sand and very heavy wheeling. We are again upon the river in a convenient camping ground with two companies of [Missouri] emigrants in view, and one in the rear, a small detachment from which has just driven up to our camp to get our blacksmiths to do some work for them."
Burr Frost set up his forge and set some wagon tires and repaired the wheels of the wagon for one of the Missourians. A man from one of the emigrant companies was sent ahead to scout the trail, and when the companies finally arrived here they found him hidden for fear of Indians. He said he had been to South Pass, and the nearest water was fourteen miles.
Erastus Snow added: "This granite ridge or chain of gray rock which is almost entirely naked still continues on our right, and running parallel on our left at a distance of from five to twenty miles is another ridge of snow-capped hills which seems to be chiefly covered with timber. In the distance west of us appear the towering heights of the winding river [Wind River] chain of the Rocky Mountains covered with immense bodies of snow."
There were no buffalo in the area, and the prevalent game seemed to be antelope. Lewis Barney killed two and some other men killed one or two a day. Thomas Bullock noticed remains of Indian tepees in the vicinity of the noon halt and remarked the mosquitoes were especially vicious.
At the upper crossing of the North Platte, Eric Glines, after some inner struggle, concluded that he made a mistake in staying behind with the ferrymen against the counsel of Brigham Young. He decided to take his mule and attempted to catch the main camp. Four Frenchmen, who were among those the pioneers met at the LaBonte, came into the camp at the crossing and informed the ferrymen that the Mormon Battalion Sick Detachment was at Fort Laramie and should be catching up in a few days.
There were 600 or more in the second Mormon emigration west. Charles C. Rich wrote in his journal, "We ring the bell at daylight for getting up and putting out our herds; ring again at eight o'clock for starting. Today we made but two tracks, my company ahead, Parley P. Pratt's next; then John Taylor's, Jedediah M. Grant's and A.O. Smoot's next, went about eight miles and stopped and watered. At ten miles we passed a bridge, which had to be repaired. Five miles farther and camped on a slough. Not much wood. Pratt camped also, leaving Taylor, Grant and Smoot five miles back."