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.
July 11, 1847
A strong sulfur spring was found near the pioneer camp. Its surface was covered with flour of sulfur, and where it oozed from the rocks was perfectly black, according to William Clayton. And it smelled bad. A mile to the south, some others found an oil spring. Whatever was rising from the ground resembled tar and was oily. "Some have oiled their gunstocks with it and oiled their shoes, too. Others have gone to fill their tar buckets and are sanguine it will answer well to grease their wagons," said Clayton. The substance burned brightly, like oil, in lamps.
Near the camp was a clear cold spring of water splashing from the mountainside. "Here are pure water springs and creek, a sulfur spring, and a pitchy or greasy spring, all within a mile and a half of camp. It is as if nature herself had separated her different productions for the especial use of the persecuted Saints on their journey," wrote Thomas Bullock.
Some pioneers, Clayton said, were beginning to grouse about the looks of the country. "But thinking minds are not disappointed," he added. "The country grows better as we proceed west." Albert Carrington is intrigued by the tar spring. "It is a mineral tar or bituminous pitch. In my opinion about eighth-seven percent carbon," he said. Some men were filling tar buckets and using it as wheel grease.
"[John] Craig, [Samuel] Truitt and two Californians continued on their journey to the States," reported Orson Pratt, while Miles Goodyear and his two Indians were heading home; then up to Fort Hall to meet the Oregon emigrants. There was a quarter of an inch of ice in the water buckets this morning when Goodyear rode into the Mormon camp to say he was turning back to his fort on the Weber River (the site of today's Ogden), Bullock said.
"He has a garden planted with all kind of vegetables and says an Englishman named Wells is living on his place." The red-haired mountaineer could lay claim to being the first to irrigate in the Great Basin. He told Bullock, Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball that his garden thrived because he watered it from the river.
The country grew richer every day Bullock exulted. "Grass is more luxuriant, cedars are beginning to flourish, pine trees are seen on the mountains, cottonwood trees on the riverbanks." When the camp resumes travel tomorrow, it will act on Goodyear's suggestion and take the upper road. It was voted upon by the pioneers. "Such matters are left to the choice of the camp, so that none may have room to murmur at the decision," Clayton said.
John Brown killed an antelope yesterday and Lewis Barney got one today.