Blazing trail in mountain country

Most men in the pioneer company rested this Sabbath morning having arduously worked since last Wednesday on crossing the Green River. Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff and Willard Richards of the Twelve accompanied the five men whom they had selected to go back to the Green River Ferry with instructions for the Saints they would meet.

As the brethren were crossing the river, they saw 13 horsemen on the other side. Wilford Woodruff recorded, "But to our great joy who should they be but our Brethren belonging to the Mormon Battalion who volunteered into the service of the U.S.A. one year ago this month & belonged to Capt. Brown's detachment who had been at Pueblo through the winter. . . . When we met it was truly a harty greeting & shaking of hands."President Young called for a shout of hosannah for the safe arrival of their brethren from the army.

The five men were sent on their way east to meet the entire Mormon Battalion sick detachment and the oncoming Latter-day Saint groups. The Mormon Battalion men then stayed with the pioneer company for the rest of the journey. The camp now consisted of 160 souls.

While President Young and his companions were gone to the ferry, a worship service was held under the direction of Bishop Newel K. Whitney.

Monday, July 5:

This day the pioneer company traveled 3.5 miles parallel to the Green River and then struck out 16.5 miles across the highland sandy desert. They saw no water or feed during that lengthy stretch.

Orson Pratt recorded, "Several of the camp have for a few days been slightly afflicted with fever, probably occasioned by the suffocating clouds of dust which rise from the sandy road, and envelope the whole camp when in motion, and also by the 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."

Tuesday, July 6:

The pioneer camp again went forward over the sandy wasteland. Except along the streams when they enjoyed seeing spectacular wild flowers, all they normally saw was sagebrush.

Wilford Woodruff recorded that it was a windy, dusty day. "Man & beast, harnesses & wagons were all covered with dust."

Wednesday, July 7:

The pioneers determined that they would reach Fort Bridger this day, and they succeeded, traveling 173/4 miles.

The Mormons knew that they were now only about 100 miles away from the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. Orson Pratt calculated they were 6,665 feet above sea level.

Thursday, July 8:

The pioneers decided to stay one day near Fort Bridger in order to do repair work on the wagon wheels and other necessary equipment. Orson Pratt recorded, "Our blacksmiths are busily engaged in setting wagon tires, shoeing horses, &c., and preparing for a rough mountainous road."

A number of men went fishing for trout in the streams. Most tried grasshoppers or meat as bait. But Wilford Woodruff wanted to try his new artificial fly that he had obtained a year earlier in Liverpool. "And it being the first time that I ever tried the artificial fly in America, or ever saw it tried, I watched it as it floated upon the water with as much intense interest as Franklin did his kite when he tried to draw lightning from the skies." Immediately Wilford had success and continued until he had caught 12 in all. The other fishermen had little luck, which, Elder Woodruff said, "was proof positive to me that the artificial fly is far the best thing now known to fish trout with."

Friday, July 9:

The pioneers departed Fort Bridger early in the morning and almost immediately took off in a different direction from the non-Mormon travelers headed west.

The day's journey of 13 miles was difficult. They had to traverse some high ridges. On one of them the brethren had to lock their wagon wheels and the wagons had to be constrained by ropes on one descent. William Clayton said the descent was the "most difficult we have ever met with, being long and almost perpendicular." At the end of the day, however, the cattle were rewarded with tall bunch grass.

Wilford Woodruff contracted the mountain fever and spent a most uncomfortable day in his wagon. He said, "I took to my bed at 10 o'clock with distressing pain in my head, back, joints, bones, marrow, & all through the system attended with cold chills & hot flashes through the body."

Saturday, July 10:

For the first time on the journey, the pioneers were forced to cope with real mountainous country. They went up and down three steep mountain ridges over 18 miles. At one point the men had to break out shovels to dig a wider path in the mountain gap. At their new encampment, they found the most delicious spring water of their journey. This camp was near the present Wyoming-Utah border.

In the evening Miles Goodyear, the only white settler in 1847 in present-day Utah, who lived in what is now Ogden, visited the pioneers' camp. Goodyear gave a favorable report of the Great Basin valleys.

Sunday, July 11:

A few pioneers went exploring on this Sabbath day of rest. Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and William Clayton went up the mountain to the east of camp and had a pleasing view of the surrounding 10-mile-wide valley.

During this day of contemplation, a number of pioneers discussed how difficult it would be to colonize the mountains; others were very confident and excited about the prospect.

Monday, July 12:

The pioneers embarked again in mostly uncharted territory on their mountainous course. "We drove without any road over hills and dales. Had to take our own road as we went along," wrote Wilford Woodruff. Elder Woodruff, buoyed by his success at fly fishing earlier, took opportunity to fish at every stream.

Before stopping at noon, President Brigham Young contracted the mountain fever that had afflicted so many others earlier. Several wagons waited behind in the afternoon so that he could rest and at the same time be cared for and protected. This marked the beginning of three groups in the pioneer company: the forward group under the direction of the pathfinder, scientist, and apostle Orson Pratt; the main body; and the rear guard with Brigham Young and some of the other sick.

The advance company made 16.5 miles during the day.

Tuesday, July 13:

This was a day of subdued contemplation and decision making. During the night President Brigham Young was so sick that he was insensible. Another pioneer leader, Albert Rockwood, was likewise afflicted. Throughout the Camp of Israel prayers ascended to heaven for their recovery and that of the other sick.

Shortly before noon, Elder Heber C. Kimball, second in command, caught up to the Cache Cave camp and called a meeting of the apostles and other council members. They concluded to send 23 wagons and 43 men ahead under Orson Pratt to find a road over the mountains.

Wednesday, July 14:

Each of the three separate pioneer companies spent the day differently. Orson Pratt's advance company plodded its way down the narrow Echo Canyon 131/4 miles to the junction with the Weber River. They often had to use their shovels to fill in ravines or dig out tree stumps to make the rugged road more passable.

The main company tarried at the Cache Cave camp. More men took sick with the mountain fever.

Seven miles east of the main camp were the eight wagons with Brigham Young. President Young felt better this day, but Albert Rockwood was worse, and according to Wilford Woodruff, was "much the sickest man that had been in the camp." Elder Woodruff decided that he would obtain his carriage in the morning, bring it back to the camp, place beds in it, and use it to transport President Young and other ill men over the road.

Thursday, July 15:

Orson Pratt's advance company journeyed down the Weber River six miles.

Early in the morning, Wilford Woodruff took his carriage back to Brigham Young and Albert Rockwood. "I found them much better in health & they thought they could ride as my carriage was the easiest vehicle in camp."

This was the last full day for the Mormon Battalion in California in the service of the United States. Company B's soldiers arrived in Los Angeles to be discharged the following day.

Friday, July 16:

The advance company continued laying a road up and down the mountain passes for about six miles. A small company of a dozen men went ahead and exercised considerable labor with spades and axes to make the trail passable for the wagons.

The main camp pushed on down Echo Canyon 163/4 miles and camped one mile shy of the Weber River. The pioneers witnessed a variety of grains, vines, berries and flowers. They were convinced that the weather couldn't be too bad in the mountains and that frosts were not as likely to kill off the crops as they had feared. The echoes in the canyon were curious to both man and beast.

At 3 p.m. at Fort Moore in Los Angeles, Calif., 317 men of the Mormon Battalion assembled by company. They were formally discharged. Only 79 Battalion members had reenlisted. The others left with their animals, arms, and ammunition and went to a spot on the San Pedro River to prepare for their return to the Saints.

Saturday, July 17:

Brigham Young did not feel up to traveling this morning. Thus, the main company went to work repairing Solomon Chamberlain's wagon axle that had snapped the day before. Wilford Woodruff reported, "The Twelve with some others went out together & prayed in due form for Br. Young & all the sick."

Sources: William Clayton's Journal, 282-98; Orson Pratt, "Journal," Millennial Star 12 (1 June 1850)162-66; Wilford Woodruff's Journal 3:223-31; Comprehensive History of the Church 3:203-13; Norma Baldwin Ricketts, The Mormon Battalion, 159-60.

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