Utah History to Go
Mormon Trail Series
The Salt Lake Tribune Arch
Despite Rough Ride, Sickness, Camp of Israel Covers 20 Miles
Harold Schindler
Published: 07/05/1997 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.

The pioneers were up and rolling at 8:00 a.m., many in camp still ailing from the effects of "mountain fever," but pushing on nevertheless. William Clayton described the morning's journey across "land somewhat rolling, destitute of grass and several steep places of descent."

Just before 5:00 p.m., they reined in at the banks of Blacks Fork and camped, having made twenty miles during the day, "the last sixteen and a half without sight of water," he said. (Blacks Fork got its name from Arthur Black, one of Jedediah Smith's party, who trapped the tributary of the Green as early as 1824.)

"There was one place in the road where we might have saved a crook of nearly a mile by digging down a bank which might have detained us twenty minutes, but it was not discovered until most of the wagons had passed." Orson Pratt explained that Blacks Fork, a stream about seventy feet wide with swift current and roily waters, was not unusual, "because most mountain streams of any size at this stage of water have a muddy appearance, although when low are quite clear."

Several members of the camp, he said, had for days been slightly afflicted with fever, "probably occasioned by the suffocating clouds of dust which rise from the sandy road and envelop the whole camp when in motion, and also by sudden changes of temperature, for during the day it is exceedingly warm, while the snowy mountains which surround us on all sides, render the air cold and uncomfortable during the absence of the sun."

Erastus Snow said, "We traveled twenty miles without water; struck Hams Fork and camped [in the] middle of the afternoon." For Thomas Bullock it was another bad night. "Not having any sleep," he wrote, "brought on a severe headache." Even so, he went out after the cattle for the morning hitch-up. His description of the day's journey was somewhat disjointed: "Start at 8:00 a.m. down the river banks about three miles when we watered the cattle--left the River--ascended a steep pebbly hill to a level Table land, then about S.W. round a steep bluff on the left of the road--descend the hill, to another valley come to a steep bank of a dry Creek--go up it one-quarter of a mile, down opposite side--Brigham Young orders a new and better road made across it, save going around it [this to benefit future companies]--which was done--dust flying in two contrary directions--shortly after a slight portion of a heavy thunder passed over us--a level road to the river and halt on the banks of Blacks Fork at 4:45 p.m." He also mentioned that some shrubby trees were growing on the riverbank and there was tallow weed "aplenty."

At the same time, the second Mormon emigration had crossed Wood River at three places, and after fifteen miles camped on a stream running around Grand Island. At 11:00 p.m. Nancy Smith of Captain George Wallace's company gave birth to a daughter she named Sarah Ellen. The company also discovered on the banks of the Platte a guide board that read in part: "Pioneer Camp 217 miles from Winter Quarters." It was the first trace that the pioneers had come this way, said C.C. Rich.

Patty Session said an Indian was seen creeping toward camp, but fled when he was hailed. "We put more men on the cannon," she said.

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