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 30, 1847
More men were reporting sick and unable to drive teams. Among those afflicted thus far were Ezra T. Benson, John S. Fowler, George Billings and Edson Whipple, and they were but a few of the sufferers. The morning was hot. Adding to the discomfort, the trail, while good, also was exceedingly sandy. Dust and grit churned up by the wagon wheels boils into the wagons on choking clouds, covering everything.
Those not driving teams walked alongside. It was easier to walk than endure the constant lurching and jarring of the wagons. After eight miles, the pioneers arrived at the banks of the Green River, the fabled "Seedskadee Agie" (Crow Indian name) of fur-trapper legend. The Green was now high with snowmelt, 180 yards wide, fifteen feet deep in places and swift--too deep to be forded. The banks were well lined with cottonwoods, but none large enough to make a dugout canoe.
Brigham Young ordered Tarlton Lewis to start looking for trees enough to build a raft to ferry over the first division. It was said that a Missouri company had built a raft for its wagons. A.P. Rockwood began a search for it, but had to acknowledge they "had set it adrift, lest it benefit us." He also sought fresh logs to move his second division over. William Clayton consulted his odometer and calculated the river to be 338 miles from Fort Laramie. Mosquitoes were in great abundance, and were especially annoying, muttered Orson Pratt.
Toward afternoon, the pioneers were surprised to see Samuel Brannan and two companions ride into their camp. One of the men was Charles C. Smith "of the firm of Jackson, Heaton and Bonney, bogus-makers of Nauvoo," according to Clayton. What Clayton was saying in his own inimitable fashion, was that Smith was known as one of a gang of counterfeiters operating out of the Illinois city. The third man was unidentified. "They have come by way of Fort Hall and have brought with them several files of the California Star," said Clayton.
Brannan, it may be remembered, took a colony of Mormon converts to California in 1846 aboard the ship "Brooklyn." They landed in Yerba Buena (San Francisco) and settled in a place they called New Hope, along the San Joaquin River. He told Brigham Young that there were eleven deaths aboard the "Brooklyn" during its six-month voyage. The remainder colonized New Hope and were raising grain, awaiting the pioneers.
While Young and Brannan were deep in conversation, two rafts, each twelve feet by twenty-four feet and rigged with oars and rudder (the Mormon experience at the North Platte was paying off) had been completed and were brought up to the ford to begin ferrying wagons. The livestock would swim.
Brannan, meanwhile, told Young and his counselors that he had left California on April 4 to meet the pioneer company and lead them back. He, Smith and the other man had braved dangers of deep snows in the mountains, the wild and savage Indian tribes that roam these regions, and arrived safely at the Camp of Israel, "having also passed directly over the campsite where forty or fifty emigrants had perished [Truckee Lake] and been eaten by their fellow sufferers only days before. Their skulls, bones and carcasses lay strewn in every direction. He also met one of these unfortunate creatures making his way to the settlements; he was a German and lived on human flesh for several weeks." (Lewis Keseberg.)
Wilford Woodruff said Brannan also told them Addison Pratt had done well in the Society Islands as a missionary to 3,000 native converts to Mormonism. Brannan also provided the camp with a map of his route from California to the Green River, which Brigham Young promptly asked Thomas Bullock to copy, along with the other maps of the pioneer route he had been assigned. Bullock sighed and wrote, "I have eight sections of map to copy, besides bringing up the arrears of notes in this journal; yet I was sent out on guard, in running after animals, sweating and then sitting down to map. It brought on the sickness again. I write this to show the difficulties I have to encounter even in doing this fragment of journal."
Some pioneers visited a small slough a little downriver from camp and caught some nice fish, according to Clayton.