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Pioneers Pray for an Ailing Leader As Wagons Near Salt Lake Valley
Harold Schindler
Published: 07/18/1997 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.

July 18, 1847

It was a time for major decision-making and Heber J. Kimball was up to the task. The Camp of Israel was called together this morning and told by Kimball that Brigham Young was a very sick man. Kimball did not say it in so many words, but Young had been stricken with something more than the influenza-like malady that had been sweeping the pioneer company since it crossed South Pass almost three weeks ago.

That illness seemed to linger two or three days at the most, but Young and A.P. Rockwood had been taken by some fever much more severe. Young, as sick as he was, and members of the Council of Twelve Apostles had given the situation a great deal of thought. Kimball came right to the point.

First, he asked the camp members not to squander their energies fishing, hunting or wandering about this day. Instead, he asked them to join in a mass prayer for the recovery of all those in the company who were ailing and to include Young and Rockwood, especially, in their prayers. Then he proposed that the entire camp--except for Young's wagons and eight or ten others with men enough to take care of him--move on the next morning and push through to the Great Salt Lake Valley. "Find a good place and begin planting," he said, "we have little time to spare. A number of the pioneers still are sick, but it is expected that all will soon recover."

It was Kimball's and Willard Richards' conclusion, formulated with whatever advice Young could offer from his sickbed, that the main company overtake Orson Pratt's advance party and combine their efforts in making the trail passable. The time had arrived to plant potatoes and other seeds for the benefit of those who would winter in the valley and those yet to come this year. Timing was critical; the pioneers could not afford to dally.

William Clayton would go with the main company. Once Young had recovered sufficiently to travel, he would follow their trail. Erastus Snow, himself recovering from a bout with the mysterious malady, said, "We had a prayer meeting in the morning in camp for Brigham. In the afternoon, he, who had been nigh unto death, was very sensibly better and the effects of the prayers were visible throughout the camp."

Thomas Bullock busied himself preparing a table of distances for Amasa Lyman and Charles C. Rich, who were bringing companies from Winter Quarters. While this was going on with the pioneer company, the second Mormon emigration near the North Platte River was seeking volunteers to search the back trail for seventy-five or more lost oxen from Jedediah M. Grant's company. The animals broke out of their corral and were believed to have mingled with passing buffalo herds. Patty Sessions reported many emigrants gathered in the afternoon to listen to letters received from the pioneer party. The letters were brought by a company of eastbound Oregonians who received them from the pioneers at South Pass.

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