On Sunday, the company arrived at Pacific Springs and met three companies of pioneers heading west. These companies of fifty included those led by Charles C. Rich, Abraham O. Smoot, and George B. Wallace, consisting of 162 wagons. Sarah Rich wrote: “This was a time of rejoicing.” Wilford Woodruff met his father and many from his ward back in Winter Quarters. The hundreds of Saints in these companies were treated with the opportunity to hear the preaching of Elders George A. Smith, Wilford Woodruff, and Orson Pratt. Joseph Kingsbury recorded: “They said that the land which was found was preserved for this people & that any person who enjoys the Spirit of God would know it as soon as he sees it.” These companies remained with the brethren on Monday while some council meetings were held with the leaders of the “Big Company.”
An Epistle was written by the Twelve to be taken to the Saints in Great Salt Lake City. It included:
It is wisdom that certain officers should exist among you, to preside during our absence, and we would nominate John Smith to be your president, with liberty for him to select his two counselors, and we would suggest the names of Charles C. Rich and John Young. We would nominate Henry G. Sherwood, Thomas Grover, Levi Jackman, John Murdock, Daniel Spencer, Stephen Abbott, Ira Eldredge, Edison Whipple, Shadrach Roundy, John Vance, Willard Snow and Abraham O. Smoot for the High Council; whose duty it will be to observe those principles which have been instituted in the Stakes of Zion for the government of the Church, and to pass such laws and ordinances as shall be necessary for the peace and prosperity of the city for the time being, if such there need be, though we trust few or none will be necessary; for you have had line upon line, and precept upon precept, and know what is right; and our motto is, 'Every person do their duty.'
On Tuesday, they parted, and the wagons started to roll away from the campground. It was a cold day. Snow began to fall and fell all day, covering the ground. Thomas Bullock wrote: “When we see all the hills tipped with snow & feel the chilling blasts of Winter, causes me to feel anxious for the safe & speedy journey of the Saints to their respective homes.” The returning company traveled over South Pass and met John Taylor's company on the Sweat Water River. A feast was prepared by this company to celebrate the meeting of Brigham Young and the other returning pioneers. Wilford Woodruff wrote: “This Hundred prepared a feast for the whole Pioneer Camp & furnished a table here in the wilderness in the most splendid manner for one hundred persons.” They feasted on roast, broiled beef, pies, cakes, biscuits, peach sauce, and other delicious items. John Brown observed, “Such a table had never before been spread in the Rocky Mountains.” Afterwards, a dance was held while the nine of the Twelve met with the company leaders.
On Wednesday, the returning company pressed on and met the Jedediah M. Grant company on the Sweet Water. The Twelve met with Brother Grant and heard him rehearse the great trials experienced by this company. Wilford Woodruff commented, “It looks gloomy here, to see so many men, women & children here in the mountains with their horses & cattle stolen & breaking down so late in the season.” During the night, many horses and mules belonging to both the returning pioneers and the Grant company, were stolen by Indian. On Thursday evening, the Saints were addressed by Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Orson Pratt. Elder Pratt gave a description of the Salt Lake Valley.
Despite losing about twenty horses to the Indians, the returning pioneers continued their journey toward Winter Quarters. They ended the week on the Sweet Water, about 45 miles west of Independence Rock, about 290 miles from the Salt Lake Valley. The Jedediah M. Grant Company, heading in the opposite direction, bringing up the rear of the “Big Company,” arrived at Pacific Springs.
Those near traveling in the lead fifties, including the Parley P. Pratt company, continued their trek west. As they reached Hams Fork, many of the sisters gathered currants and bull berries. They crossed Green River and by Saturday some of these pioneers reached Blacks Fork. A portion of the Daniel Spencer company arrived at Fort Bridger, only 120 miles from their new valley home. The “Big Company” at this time was spread across 115 miles of the Mormon Trail in Wyoming.
On Sunday, this company arrived at Independence Rock. William Clayton recorded: “I walked over the rock and had some solemn meditations and felt to humble myself and call upon the Lord for myself and family, for this company, the twelve and all the companies on the road.” On Monday after a heavy rain fell. Brother Clayton wrote: “We tried in vain to make a fire but finally went to bed wet and cold, having eaten nothing since morning; Some of the teamsters have only a light summer coat with them and they suffer considerably.” On Wednesday, they arrived at the Upper Platte ferry site. They forded the two‑feet deep river. They soon began to spot herds of buffalo and their hunters were able to kill some for food. By Saturday, they were near the La Bonte River, about 450 miles from the Salt Lake Valley.
On Monday, A company of Mormon Battalion soldiers, returning east, met Samuel Brannan returning to California. He presented to them a letter from Brigham Young that instructed all the soldiers who did not intend to return to Council Bluffs for their families, to stay in California and work for the winter. Also, during the week, both these companies passed through the grizzly Donner‑Reed camp. Abner Blackburn recorded: “We found bones and sculls scattered about. It was a most horrible sight.” Robert S. Bliss wrote: “To see bodys of our fellow beings laying without burial & their bones bleaching in the sun beams is truly shocking to my feelings.”
Tragedy hit the farm called “Summer Quarters” situated several miles north of the city of Winter Quarters. Indians descended on the farm and stole all the horses and mules during the night. This devastated the Saints who were settled there, many who were very sick at the time. Some horses were also stolen near Winter Quarters. Efforts were made to pursue the Indians, but many brethren, fearing that they would lose more horses, chose to stay close to home.
William Clayton's Journal, 358‑61; Reddick Allred, auto, Treasures of Pioneer History 5:308.; Sarah Rich Autobiography, typescript, BYU‑S, p.78; Wilford Woodruff's Journal, 3:266‑70; Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 5, p.75; Bagley, ed., Pioneer Camp of the Saints, 279‑82; Smart, ed., Mormon Midwife, 97; Beecher, ed., The Personal Writings of Eliza Roxcy Snow, 200; Bagley, ed., Frontiersman: Abner Blackburn's Narrative, 102‑03; Harwell, ed., Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 69; Brooks, On the Mormon Frontier, 1:272; Cook, Joseph C. Kingsbury, 126; Isaac C. Haight Journal, 46; Autobiography of John Brown, 84;
The Big Company of Pioneers, traveling in groups of “fifty,” started their week's journey spread across a 115‑mile stretch of the trail from the Continental Divide at Pacific Springs, to Fort Bridger. As Eliza R. Snow reached Big Sandy River, she observed, “The ridges of mountains so distant that it seems like a prairie country. A few scattering trees to be seen.” The next day she continued, “The mountains very grand ‑‑ ridge rising after ridge in front of me ‑‑ the clouds sometimes obscuring the distant ridges.” On Wednesday, the lead companies traveled through Echo Canyon. Isaac C. Haight wrote: “It is very narrow, only room for the road on one side. The rocks several hundred feet high; in some places overhanging the road.” On Thursday, as the Perrigrine Sessions company was traveling near the Bear River, they met Henry G. Sherwood, coming from the valley. By Saturday, the lead companies reached East Canyon, only four days away from the valley.
The pioneers were out of meat. On Sunday, they spotted a herd of eleven buffalo. Wilford Woodruff wrote: “We drove them into a canyon of the mountain where they could not get away & we surrounded them. The footman shot 3 times into the herd & they jumped off a precipice 25 feet. One broke his neck in the fall & dropped dead. The remainder came rushing by me. I gave them chase. Run into the herd & drove out two of them which we killed with our pistols & rifles. So we got 3 of them which made us plenty of meat.”
John Brown recorded an interesting adventure: “I discovered some mountain sheep running up the side of the mountain, which was mostly naked rock. I pursued on foot, leaving my horse at the base of the mountain and finding it difficult to ascend with my shoes on. I sat down and pulled them off, also my spur. I laid them down, taking a view of the place that I might find them again. I succeeded in killing a fine ram, the first that I had ever killed. I dragged it down about a fourth of a mile to the foot of the mountain. It was near night and the camp some two miles away. I went to get my shoes but could not find them. I had worn my socks out on the rocks.” He went back to look for them the next morning, but never found them.
On Tuesday, the returning pioneers passed by Independence Rock. On Thursday, they crossed over the North Platte River at the ferry crossing. On Friday, Wilford Woodruff noticed a gravestone for a young man who had drowned the previous season while swimming across the North Platte.
On Saturday, they reached Deer Creek, about 620 miles from Winter Quarters. In the afternoon, they ran into a grizzly bear. Wilford Woodruff had spotted the bear with her cubs earlier in the day, but kept his distance. Later, as Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and others went to view the coal bed discovered earlier in the year, they came within one hundred yards of the bear and her cubs. Heber C. Kimball gave a signal for silence and the brethren crept near them. The mother bear She charged after them. The brethren quickly grabbed their guns and started to fire. Brigham Young shot one of the cubs, but it kept following after its mother, coming toward the men. Thomas Bullock recorded: “The way the Old Bear danced was amusing. At one time she ran towards the bushes where we were & challenged fight when it was prudent for us to get on a rock out of danger. At which time they gave us the slip, round a rock, into the woods.” Men and dogs were sent after the bears, but they soon gave up the chase.
These pioneers, including William Clayton, continued their journey east toward Winter Quarters. The company ran out of breadstuff, and dreaded the thought of living off of just meat for the rest of the journey. John Pack had a personal supply of flour that he chose not to share. On Wednesday, they were greeted by Luke Johnson, William Empey, and Appleton M. Harmon, who came from Fort Laramie. They reported that a party of Sioux Indians had stolen seventeen horses from the Saints and were camped eighteen miles to the north. On Wednesday, the pioneers forded the North Platte near Fort Laramie and continued their journey east on the Mormon Trail. On Friday, six of the brethren decided to go ahead of the main company, and travel to Winter Quarters as quickly as possible because they had no bread. On Saturday night, John Pack's horse was stolen. Some of the men believed the six men ahead probably stole it. On Saturday, the company camped near Scotts Bluff, about 470 from Winter Quarters.
William Clayton's Journal, p.361‑63; Wilford Woodruff's Journal, 3:270‑72; Bagley, ed., Pioneer Camp of the Saints, 287; Beecher, ed., The Personal Writings of Eliza Roxcy Snow, 200; Smart, ed., Mormon Midwife, 98; Autobiography of John Brown, 84; Isaac C. Haight Journal, 46‑7
The “Big Company” of more than 1,500 pioneers started the week spread across an area from Green River in Wyoming, to East Canyon in Utah. On Wednesday, a dance was held at the home of a Frenchman, near Fort Laramie. Many of the men and women of the pioneer company attended. Eliza R. Snow wrote: “It continued till nearly 2 a.m. after which a hooting was kept up till morning by the drunken natives.” Her company reached The Needles by Saturday. Many of the companies were delayed because of lost cattle, broken wagons, and sickness. The companies received great joy when they met Joseph Young coming from the valley with teams to assist those in the rear. Ahead, coming down from Hogsback Summit during a moon‑lit night, one of the wagons in Jesse C. Crosby's company tipped over and rolled down the hill.
Isaac C. Haight arrived at the fort in Great Salt Lake City on Wednesday. He wrote: “Our cattle worn out and all of us tired of traveling. The Fort contains 40 acres of land surrounded with houses made of sundried brick built after the Spanish fashion on three sides and with houses on the other. We went immediately to work to prepare to build us houses. The Fort, not being large enough to contain all the inhabitants, we had to enlarge it.”
On Friday, the Perrigrine Sessions Fifty arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. Patty Sesssions recorded her feelings: “Got into the valley. It is a beautiful place. My heart flows with gratitude to God that we have go home all safe, lost nothing, have been blessed with life and health. I rejoice all the time.” She took great pride at the thought that she had driven her wagon the entire way except over Big Mountain. “I broke nothing nor turned over and had good luck.”
Jesse C. Crosby, also in the Sessions company wrote: “I was led to exclaim when first viewing this beautiful space, hemmed in with lofty mountains: 'Behold a resting place prepared and had in reserve for the Saints.'” When the Wallace Fifty entered the valley on Saturday, the men fired rifles and pistols in the air and shouted for joy.
Sunday was spent hunting. Some of the men tried to hunt the bears seen the day before, but they could not find them. Wilford Woodruff brought in an antelope.
On Tuesday, the returning pioneer company was attacked by Indians. Wilford Woodruff recorded that it was “one of the most exciting scenes” that he had ever witnessed. He wrote: “I heard the report of several guns in quick succession and heard the guard cry 'Indians, Indians!' And in less than a minute the timber & bluffs were lined with mounted Indians charging with all speed upon our guard, horses, & camp.” They fired on the guard and even tried to carry one of them off on a horse, but he fought for his freedom. The men the camp sprung on their horses and rode with speed to prevent the Indians from stealing the horses which were grazing in some timber. About twenty horses had been frightened and were heading to the camp. These were quickly gathered and taken to safety.
Wilford Woodruff saw that his horse and mule were being driven off by some Indians. He wrote; “I mounted without spur or whip & started for the chase after my own horses. . . . As soon as I left camp & began to rise the bluffs, I saw Indians gathering thicker & fatter upon every hand & began to close in between me & the camp. As I passed by one Indian he was priming his gun. But I continued the chase.” His horse and mule were stubborn, and the Indians were having trouble driving them off because the animals kept trying to return to the camp. Albert P. Rockwood soon came to help. He fired his pistol at the Indians and they left the horse and mule. Wilford Woodruff returned to camp with his animals and saw about 150 warriors gathered near the camp conducting what looked like a war party. The brethren counted eleven missing horses.
An old chief approached the brethren and stated that they were friendly Indians. He claimed that they thought the pioneer camp was a Crow or Snake Indian camp. He proposed that they smoke the peace pipe and return the horses. Brigham Young was feeling ill, so Heber C. Kimball and others traveled to the Indian camp to meet with the chief. They were astonished to see a village of about 600 Indians, with about 1,000 horses and mules. They supposed that nearly all of them were stolen from emigrants and other Indian tribes. Wilford Woodruff recorded: “Their encampment presented quite a grand, interesting, and amusing scenery.” Among these horses, the men recognized some of the 49 horses that had been stolen from their camp two weeks earlier. They smoked the peace pipe with the old chief, and he permitted the brethren to reclaim the horses taken earlier in the day. It was almost an impossible task to find the thousand others, but have a laborious search, they found all but two. They also spoke to the chief about the 49 other horses. He admitted that they had the horses but said they would not return any of them until they reached Fort Laramie.
The pioneers continued their journey on Wednesday. Thomas Bullock recorded: “Here we have a most beautiful view of the surrounding country for a very great distance. Laramie Peak on our right has snow on it. We can also see a fog rising in the valley along the North Fork of the Platte, which has a very pretty appearance. The hills are all tipped with fir over an undulating country making altogether a handsome park of immense size.”
On Friday they reached Fort Laramie, about 520 miles from Winter Quarters. Brigham Young met with James Bordeaux at the fort and discussed the Indian problem. Mr. Bordeaux express support and sent an interpreter to assist the brethren. A group of ten men led by Stephen Markham were appointed to go meet with the Sioux. On Saturday, the group set off, but soon returned after learning that men from Fort Laramie had already been sent to buy the horses from the Indians.
On Sunday, this company, including William Clayton, camped across from Chimney Rock. They were surrounded by many herds of buffalo. On Tuesday, some of the men crossed the Platte River to enjoy of feast of buffalo ribs with some Frenchmen. Rain started to fall on Tuesday and the weather turned colder. Part of the company had been detained at Fort Laramie, looking for horses. By Thursday they had caught up and brought news that while at the fort, a Sioux Indian arrived with horses that had been stolen from Brigham Young's company at Pacific Springs. The brethren at the fort recognized the horses and demanded that they be turned over to them. The Indian admitted that he was part of a company of nine who had stolen the horses. Seventeen horses had been taken, but eight were lost in the Black Hills. Four of the brethren (Luke Johnson, Jesse C. Little, Norman Taylor, and John Buchanan) took the remaining horses and headed west to take them back to Brigham Young. By Saturday, William Clayton and the rest of the company reached Crab Creek, about 410 miles from Winter Quarters. William Clayton wrote: “Most of the camp now begin to feel that it is necessary for us to make our way home as fast as possible to save our teams and escape the cold rain and snowstorms.” Some hard feelings arose in the company because John Pack was taking all the best buffalo meat and tallow, and not sharing with the rest of the brethren.
As Luke Johnson, Jesse C. Little, and the others were taking the horses to Brigham Young, they traveled a different road and missed them. As these four men continued west, they were surrounded by Sioux Indians near Big Timber Creek. Fortunately, as they were contending with the Indians, a company of forty men from California came up and rescued them. This company was led by Commodore Robert Stockton, who was returning to the States to testify at John C. Fremont's court‑martial. The company informed the four men that Brigham Young's company was not ahead, so the pioneers joined in with the men from California on their journey east toward Fort Laramie.
William Clayton's Journal, p.363‑65; Wilford Woodruff's Journal, 3:272‑277; Bagley, ed., Pioneer Camp of the Saints, 291; Beecher, ed., The Personal Writings of Eliza Roxcy Snow, 202‑03; Smart, ed., Mormon Midwife, 99; Cook, Joseph C. Kingsbury, 127; “Erastus Snow Journal Excerpts,” Improvement Era, 15:770; “History and Journal of Jesse W. Crosby,” typescript, BYU, 45;
The Jedediah M. Grant Company, bringing up the rear of the Big Company, neared the present‑day Wyoming‑Utah Border. Brother Grant's wife, Caroline, was critically ill with the Mountain Fever. Just three weeks earlier, she had lost her four‑month‑old daughter, Margaret. She died of infant cholera and was buried near the trail. As Caroline realized that she would soon die, she called for her husband. She whispered to Brother Grant, “All is well! All is well! Please take me to the valley, Jeddy. Get Margaret ‑‑ bring her to me.” Brother Grant promised to do his best to bring their daughter's body to the valley. On Sunday morning, Caroline Grant died. The men of the company dismantled a wagon box and made a casket for Caroline's body. Jedediah Grant intended to take her the rest of the way to the valley. On Monday, he went ahead of his company with a horse team to go bury his wife.
As Eliza R. Snow passed through Echo Canyon, she wrote: “Our place is delightful‑‑the mountains being in a half circle on either side & variegated with indescribable beauty; rising in a kind of majesty that could but inspire feelings of sublimity in a contemplative mind.”
On Friday, on top of Big Mountain, John Taylor asked Eliza R. Snow if she had seen her face lately. They laughed because his own face was a black mask of dirt. On Saturday, she entered the valley and arrived at the fort. She wrote: “I am too sick to enjoy the scenery.” Patty Sessions, who had arrived during the previous week, was overjoyed to see her close friend again: “She has just come in. This week has been a good time to me. My heart has been glad in seeing my sister.”
On Sunday, a meeting was held at which an epistle from the Twelve was read, nominating the new High Council for Great Salt Lake City. Later in the day, the first pioneer male child was born in the valley ‑‑ Lorenzo Dow Young Jr., son of Lorenzo and Harriet Young. Patty Sessions helped deliver the child and wrote: “It was said to me more than 5 months ago that my hands should be the first to handle the first born son in the place of rest for the Saints, even in the city of our God. I have come more than one thousand miles to do it since it was spoken.” On Wednesday, Jedediah Grant entered the valley. Lorenzo Young recorded: “Bro. Jed. Grant came into camp with his wife, a corpse.” On Thursday, as promised, a funeral was held for Caroline Grant, and she was buried in the valley.
On Sunday, Luke Johnson, Jesse C. Little, Norman Taylor, and John Buchanan, arrived at Fort Laramie with Commodore Robert Stockton and his company of forty men. The two brethren had been part of the “ox team” company. Brigham Young's company was delighted to see that they brought with them ten horses that had been stolen by the Sioux. Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and others dined with Commodore Stockton at the fort.
On Monday, the returning company resumed their journey. Thomas Bullock wrote: “Many brethren gather prickly pears, which are a very pleasant fruit to eat, after they are disrobed of their coat of pricks. They are troublesome to get; as my hands were stuck pretty full with their needles & getting many in my lips, tongue, mouth etc. is a drawback to eating this fruit, but still I gathered sufficient to satisfy my hungers, as did also other brethren.”
On Tuesday, they camped five miles from Scotts Bluff and saw about 40 Indians across the river. On Wednesday, they came into contact with a skunk. Thomas Bullock recorded: “The dogs killed a skunk, a small black animal which stunk in a dreadful manner. The dog then leaped into two other wagons, which it did not belong and kicked up a bad stink by rubbing itself against the clothes. On being put out, it went into the river to wash itself.”
On Thursday, the pioneers passed Chimney Rock. By Friday, the company was almost out of bread and meat. They sent out hunters but could not find buffalo. Commodore Stockton caught up with them and said he would like to travel with the pioneers on the north side of the Platte. But the next morning he changed his mind and crossed back over the river with his troops to travel on the Oregon Trail.
On Saturday morning, a Sioux Indian, Calf Skin, came into camp. He was the father of the Indians who had stolen the company's horses. Brigham Young warned him that next season he would be returning with 3,000 people. The stolen horses must be returned. Calf Skin burst out crying and pledged that every one of them would be returned. The men were successful hunting. Wilford Woodruff wrote about the buffalo: “I was quite surprised to see with what expertness the buffalo would climb the mountains & rocks. They would go in places where horned cattle would never think of going.”
The returning pioneers ended out the week near Ancient Bluff Ruins, about 420 miles from Winter Quarters. They had traveled one hundred miles during the week.
On Sunday the brethren hunted for much needed meat. One of the divisions was very successful and were unwilling to share their meat with those in the other division. Clearly, there was a much different spirit among these returning pioneers and battalion soldiers when compared with the pioneer company that traveled west with Brigham Young earlier in the year. On Monday, the two divisions parted company. The second division did have some better luck at hunting. On Tuesday near Sand Hill Creek, William Clayton wrote: “We have seen more buffalo today than I ever saw in one day, supposed to be not less than 200,000. We had some trouble to make a road through them safely.” On Thursday, the brethren were careless and did not do a good enough job in putting out their campfires. They noticed that the prairie behind them had caught fire and was burning furiously. On Saturday, they camped on the Platte River about 314 miles from Winter Quarters. The company had traveled nearly one hundred miles during the week.
William Clayton's Journal, 366‑68; Wilford Woodruff's Journal, 277‑279; Bagley, ed., Pioneer Camp of the Saints, 296‑302; Session, Mormon Thunder, 63; Kenison, Chronicles of Faith, 99; Beecher, ed., The Personal Writings of Eliza Roxcy Snow, 203‑04; “Diary of Lorenzo Dow Young.” Utah Historical Quarterly, 14:163; Smart, ed., Mormon Midwife, 99‑100
This was probably the grave of Wesley Tustin, who drowned while swimming his horse across the river on June 19, 1847. He had been a member of an Oregon emigrant company.
These brethren had manned the North Platte ferry earlier in the year, and returned to Fort Laramie after the emigrants had all crossed the river.