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 15, 1847
Wilford Woodruff started early in the morning with his carriage from the camp at Redden's (Cache) Cave, heading for the rear camp at the Needles nine miles back. Two hours later he found Brigham Young and A.P. Rockwood feeling much better, but still shaky from the fever that had done them so cruelly. "They thought they could ride today as my carriage was the easiest vehicle in camp. I made up a bed for them and took them both," he said. So all the wagons--there were eight, including those of Heber Kimball, Ezra T. Benson and Lorenzo Dow Young, who had stayed behind with the church leader--drove to the main camp, then proceeded another four and one-half miles before halting for the day.
A welcome sprinkle of rain had interrupted the heat of the day three times before the pioneers, traveling down "Mathews Vale" in Red Fork (Echo) Canyon, encamped. Norton Jacob and John Pack had set out from the main party to scout the canyon and located a campground with a fine spring, wood and grass. They returned just as Woodruff, Young, Rockwood and company reined in. "I went with George A. Smith and Albert Carrington up on the mountain north of us and found scrub oak on the slope and with a spy glass we could see large quantities of pine in the mountain to the south," Jacob said.
Thomas Bullock noted that he counted seven varieties of flowers within twenty yards of his wagon. Illness still dogged him. "I became very sick," he said, "Willard Richards gave me some pills; made me vomit."
Orson Pratt, in charge of the advance company, resumed his journey down the Weber River, crossing to the left bank (near Henefer) and went another six miles before camping above the canyon, "which at the entrance is impassable for wagons." Pratt and John Brown followed the trail made by the emigrant wagons of 1846 (the Donner-Reed and Harlan-Young parties) toward the canyon. "The road, crossing the river to the right bank, makes a circuit of about two miles and enters the canyon at the junction of a stream [Lost Creek] about one-third as large as Weber's Fork."
Once the two men were convinced this was the "ten-mile canyon" spoken of by Jim Bridger, Moses Harris and Miles Goodyear in their campfire discussions, Pratt and Brown turned back. Weber Canyon, now at the height of the runoff, was not passable for pioneer wagons.
Meanwhile, Stephen Markham, with one or two others, had gone upriver in the search for traces of the trail made when the Donner-Reed party had pulled out of Weber Canyon and made its way to the Great Salt Lake Valley by way of Big Mountain and what the Mormons would call Emigration Canyon. Brown and Pratt joined the search, traveling the bluffs south of the river. "We soon struck the trail, although so dimly seen that it only now and then could be discerned. Only a few wagons having passed here a year ago and the grass having grown up, leaving scarcely a trace."
But it was, indeed, the track made by James F. Reed's wagons and those of George and Jacob Donner. "I followed this trail about six miles up a ravine to where it attained the dividing ridge leading down into another ravine. I returned to camp," Pratt wrote in his journal.
With the second Mormon emigration in the Platte River Valley, Elijah Horace Shockley, son of Dowley and Ledia Shockley, died today, age nine months and four days. Forty oxen and twelve cattle still had not been recovered in the stampede of livestock from the wagon circle yesterday. It was believed they had mingled with the multitudes of bison wandering the prairie and were lost for good.