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 29, 1847
The morning was quite pleasant until the sun rose a little, and then it became hot. Jim Bridger was preparing to leave the pioneer camp and continue his trip to Fort Laramie. Brigham Young sought out Thomas Bullock well before breakfast and asked him to write an introduction for Bridger to Thomas Grover at the Mormon Ferry on the North Platte, which Young then signed and handed to the mountaineer. After a short conversation, the two men wished each other well, then Bridger rode out east and Young rejoined his company to continue the trek west.
William Clayton said the morning's travel took the pioneers "over very good roads through barren land." The Mormon caravan halted for a noon break on the banks of the Big Sandy, having made six and three-fourths miles. The second division of the wagon train forded the river, while the first division waited. There was some timber along the river's banks and plenty of grass in places. The stream was about 120-feet wide and two-feet deep in its channel. The first division was across by 1:30 p.m. and rolling down the trail at a surprisingly steady clip.
Young and two or three others were out ahead of the caravan, scouting a campsite for the night. After nine and one-half miles, Young rode up and told the lead wagons they would have to push on another six miles or so to reach decent grass. It was then a quarter past six o'clock, but the teamsters spurred up in order to make it before dark. Most of the road for the next four miles was hilly and uneven. In places loose rock made it bad going for the oxen, even though a party of pioneers working ahead of the wagons rolled larger boulders from the trail.
By 9:00 p.m. the pioneers found themselves once again on the lowlands near the banks of the Sandy where they formed the camp circle. "Since noon we have made seventeen miles and for the day 23, the greatest day's journey since Winter Quarters," Clayton wrote. There was plenty of feed for teams, but no wood for fuel. And a more serious problem faced the pioneer camp. Many men were becoming sick. It began three days earlier and was worsening. The symptoms generally began with a throbbing headache, followed by violent fever, so bad, in fact, that some sufferers became delirious.
John S. Fowler was seized by this malady earlier in the afternoon and in the evening was raving, said Clayton. Many in the company believed the sickness was caused by the use of the mineral saleratus or alkali picked up on the lakes and said to be poisonous. The saleratus appeared to be an article to be used with great care if at all. There was no case of illness considered dangerous, nor of any long duration, Clayton confided to his journal. But there was concern.
Orson Pratt, significantly, mentioned in his journal, simply: "Mosquitoes exceedingly troublesome." However, the fact that this particular malady lasted for only a few days, albeit at considerable discomfort, seemed to indicate the pioneers might have been suffering an especially miserable strain of intestinal influenza, something mountain men and Indians endured each spring as a kind of "seasoning," a fever of acclimation.
Wilford Woodruff and O.P. Rockwell joined Young in seeking a campsite and found the spot that Young approved. When Woodruff returned to the main company, he was told Fowler was sick and in Woodruff's carriage. The carriage was equipped with springs, and Fowler was moved there because he was in "great distress in his head, back and bones throughout his body," and complained bitterly about the jarring of the wagon. "He finally was out of his head and became wild," Woodruff said. "I commenced doctoring him with composition tea and pills. He began to get better and had a comfortable night's rest."
The second Mormon emigration this day passed the ruins of the Pawnee Village destroyed by the Sioux, and camped on the banks of the Loup Fork of the Platte River. Hanna Shaw, wife of James B. Shaw, gave birth to an infant girl they named Laura Almira Shaw. Patty Sessions acted as midwife.
At Pueblo de Los Angeles, the Mormon Battalion was being asked to re-enlist for six months or risk being pressed into service. The men were singularly unenthusiastic and did not step forward.