Diary of Erastus Snow

In 18 parts (references given with each part)

*    *    *

Improvement Era, 1911, Vol. Xiv. January, 1911. No. 3 pp. 282–87

From Nauvoo to Salt Lake in the Van of the Pioneers.

The Original Diary of Erastus Snow.


The life of Erastus Snow is too well known to need elaboration here. Suffice it to say that he was born at St. Johnsbury, Vermont, November 9, 1818, and was descended from old New England stock, his first American ancestor being Richard Snow, of Woburn, Massachusetts, who is supposed to have left England in 1635. He was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, February 3, 1833, and passed through all the trying scenes of the Church in Kirtland, Ohio, in Missouri and Illinois. He was closely associated with the Prophet Joseph Smith and the other leading men of the early days of the Church. He was pre-eminently a leader and organizer of men, and as such took part in the great exodus from Nauvoo to Salt Lake, being in the van of the pioneers. He was ordained one of the twelve apostles at Salt Lake City, February 12, 1849, and from that time on was constantly engaged in colonization and other work of the Church. He died at Salt Lake City, May 27, 1888.

Before proceeding to the narrative of the actual journey of the exiled Saints across the plains, from Nauvoo to their destined homes on the shores of the wonderful salt sea on the Comb of the Continent, it may be well to go back and consider the stirring events, for a short period, previous to the commencement of the exodus, in the early days of 1846, and which led up to this ever memorable journey.

Commencing with the fall of the preceding year, Erastus Snow records in his diary the following:

Early in the fall of 1845, the spirit of persecution and mobocracy began again to rise and spread itself in Hancock and the surrounding counties, and our enemies were determined, at all hazards, to route and drive the Saints from the country; and they were emboldened in their reckless course from the fact that the murderers of the Saints were cleared, and every outrage upon us was either unnoticed by the authorities of the state, or if they did attempt to afford us any protection, they were not sustained by the majority of the people, and their efforts were so puerile and ineffectual, that they only inspired the mob party (or anti-“Mormons,” as they styled themselves) with fresh courage, and satisfied them of the willingness of both the people and the rulers to wink at their proceedings.

About the first of September, they assembled in large bodies and commenced burning houses, goods, stacks of hay and grain, killing and driving off cattle, and so forth. They continued burning until they had burned out nearly all the branches of the Church in Hancock County, outside of Nauvoo.

At first Sheriff Backenstos, who was a friend of law and order, sought to raise a posse, to suppress the rioters, from the inhabitants who were styled by the Antis (anti-“Mormons”) Jack “Mormons,” because they sought to maintain neutrality between the parties; but instead of succeeding in this attempt, he was pursued by the Antis and compelled to take refuge in Nauvoo, where he summoned the inhabitants as a posse to assist him.

Answering immediately to his call, about one hundred and sixty of us, mounted and well-armed, marched forth from place to place until the rioters were entirely routed and put to flight, two or three being killed and others wounded; and the brethren who had been left homeless and almost friendless, and many of them sick, were gathered up and brought to Nauvoo.

When the inhabitants of the surrounding counties saw that the Saints, under the sheriff, were clearing the country of the rioters, nine of surrounding counties were assembled by their delegates in convention and pledged the aid of the counties represented, to assist in expelling us from the country, giving us until the following spring to remove voluntarily and avoid the further shedding of blood. The governor also sent General John J. Harding with a company of militia to the seat of war, who, with his suite of officers, instead of restoring the rights of the oppressed, insisted upon our entire removal from the country as the only means of restoring peace.

Regarding this as a door which the Lord God had opened before us by which we could make a peaceable exit * * it was unanimously resolved in the councils of the Church to adopt the alternative insisted upon by our enemies; and on the 6th of October it was presented to the Church, in general conference assembled in the first main story of the temple, which building, being inclosed, was prepared with a temporary floor and seats for the occasion, and it was voted unanimously, with acclamation, to remove west of the Rocky mountains. All our influence and means should be devoted to removing this entire people [or all] who should wish to go.

From this time, increased exertions were made throughout the Church to finish the temple, that we might enjoy the benefits and attend to the ordinances thereof during the coming winter. About the first of December, the rooms in the attic story were completed and prepared for the washings and anointings, sealings and endowments, and dedicated unto the Lord for that purpose.

On the twelfth of December, myself and wife, Artimesia, received the first ordinance of endowments, and were called to labor and administer in the temple from that time forth; and I departed not from the temple, day or night, but continued in the labors and duties thereof—with the twelve and others selected for this purpose—about six weeks. Mrs. Snow continued in the female department about a month.

January 23, 1846, I received, with Artimesia and Minerva, the sealings and further endowments.

The Spirit, power and wisdom of God reigned continually in the temple, and we felt satisfied that during the two months we occupied in the endowment of the Saints, we were amply paid for all our labor in building it.

Persecution and individual outrages continued to be practiced upon us. Numerous attempts were made, by hatching up vexatious suits in the state and United States courts, to arrest and imprison the Twelve, probably with the intent to murder them, as they had murdered the prophet and patriarch, thinking thereby to break up and scatter the Church; for by this time there began to be a revulsion of feeling, and it was feared and rumored that an attempt would be made to cut off our retreat to an Indian country. It was, therefore, resolved, about the first of February, 1846, that the authorities of the Church, and as many brethren as could be fitted out and spared, should start as soon as possible in the direction of Council Bluffs, via Iowa territory, and through the Pottawattamie nation of Indians, and that the balance of the Saints follow in the spring, as fast as they could get ready.

Accordingly, the work of the temple—that is, the endowments—ceased, and active preparations were made for the move. I was sent to Quincy to make a purchase of goods for the trustees to take with them for the benefit of the company. On my return, being directed by the president to prepare for immediate removal with my family, I effected a sale of as much of my household stuff and personal property as possible, at a great sacrifice, gathered up what teams and provisions I could, and started on the sixteenth of February, leaving my building and real estate to the amount of about two thousand dollars (as did also the most of the rest of the company) at the disposal of Brothers Bobbett, Heywood and Fullmer, the new trustees, elected to remain and complete the lower stories of the temple, attend to the sale of property, and wind up the affairs of the Church in Nauvoo; and from the proceeds of such sales to assist the poor in following us.

The place of rendezvous for the company was in the timber on the bottoms of Sugar creek, about eight miles west of the Mississippi river, where they began to assemble and pitch their tents about the sixth of February, but the company did not complete their outfit and get ready to start until the first day of March, during most of which time we had quite as severe winter weather as we had experienced during the winter. We had several severe snow storms, and the weather was so cold that the Mississippi, which had been open so that most of the company had ferried it, closed up, so that the last of the teams crossed upon the ice.

This was a severe time for the women and children at the outset, and would have staggered the resolution of any other people but the Saints; but theirs was the fixed and immovable trust in the Lord our God, and rejoicing all the day long, even under the most adverse circumstances. When crossing my teams over the river, through the carelessness of the boatman, the wagon containing our bedding, clothing, groceries and all our most valuable articles, was capsized into the water, wetting our goods and spoiling much, and well-nigh drowning my eldest child, who was in the wagon at the time; but I made the best I could of the matter, and felt glad it was no worse.



Improvement Era, 1911, Vol. Xiv. March, 1911. No. 5 pp. 410–13

From Nauvoo to Salt Lake in the Van of the Pioneers.

The Original Diary of Erastus Snow.



At the close of the article in the last number of the ERA we left the pioneers encamped on the Iowa side of the Mississippi river, suffering from cold and privations, patiently waiting a break in the weather in order to take up their wearisome journey across the plains. Continuing his record of these events, Erastus Snow records in his journal as follows:

We had prepared ourselves with all manner of seeds and farming utensils, intending to stop at some convenient point and put in some spring crops, thereby establishing a temporary settlement for a wintering place for such of the p or as might be unable to get further the ensuing summer. March 1, 1846, the camp, numbering about four hundred teams, left Sugar Creek, it being a warm and pleasant day, and from that time the winter broke and the frost began to leave the ground. The consequence may be imagined by those acquainted with the deep, muddy soil of the country. By the time we reached Jewett mills, on the Des Moines river, the roads were very bad. Here I broke down my wagon, and was under the necessity of stopping a day or two to repair it. The company, crossing the Des Moines river at Bonaparte, succeeded in reaching a point twenty miles above, called Richardson’s Point, ten miles from Keosauqua and three miles from Fox river. Here I overtook them, and here they were compelled to remain until the 16th. During this time it rained almost incessantly, the roads were rendered almost impassable, and our encampment being trodden into a perfect mortar bed by ourselves and stock, was far from being a pleasant one. To remain longer we could not, and to make ourselves comfortable in this situation was very difficult. Yet, the many visitors we received from the surrounding country spread abroad the report that we were cheerful and apparently happy. This was not lost time, however, for our extra men (of whom we had many along as pioneers and guards) were doing jobs of work for the surrounding inhabitants, for which we obtained provisions for the men, and grain and forage for our teams. A great many of the brethren improved the time by exchanging horses for oxen and cows, as thereby they increased the strength of their teams, and it was believed also that the cattle would be far more serviceable upon the journey than horses.

On the 16th, the weather and roads being much improved, it was thought practicable to start, but one of my oxen became sick, and I was under the necessity of staying two days longer. The ox died; I purchased another and followed the camp. We journeyed up Fox river to what was called the old “Mormon” trail, it being the trail of a party of brethren who made their escape from their enemies at Far West, Missouri, in November, 1838, and traveled through a then trackless and uninhabited country to the Mississippi river.

Finding it impracticable for us to haul grain for our teams, owing to the bad condition of the roads, we thought it expedient to deviate from the direct course which we had intended to travel, and bear further south, so as to keep near the border settlements where we could obtain feed for our teams. In pursuance of thi counsel, we took the old “Mormon” trail, crossed Fox river a few miles above Bloomfield, and followed it to the ford of the Chariton river, a distance of forty-five miles from Richardson’s Point. The forward teams, being considerably in advance of the rest, forded the stream, but the equinoxial storms starting in, raised the river so that the rear of the company had to ferry it. Here we were again weather-bound in an extensive wilderness on the Chariton, from six to ten miles from settlements. We had snow and cold rains for about one week. It became muddy, and we had so many teams to cut up the road that we could not move, and it was even so extremely difficult to haul feed from the settlements to sustain our teams, that we kept them in the woods and sustained them chiefly on browse. Here we remained until the 5th of April, and our situation was worse than at Richardson’s Point, for the mud in our camp became intolerable. We, however, peeled bark, gathered brush and split out puncheon, etc., to lay down in our tents and about our doors and fireplaces. When we wished to go to our neighbors, or see to our teams, we forded the seas of mud and congratulated each other on the prospects before us. While here, my horse got away, and led off my mules in a snowstorm, which cost me and two other brethren about a fifty mile ride and three days’ time, and about six dollars cash, to get them again. They swam the Chariton and made their way into Missouri, where they were taken up; but glad was I to get them, even at that expense and trouble. I afterwards sent the same horse back to the settlements and traded him off, because I found he would run away every chance he could get, and so caused me much trouble.

We now had sixty miles to travel from Chariton to the east fork of the Grand river, where there were only two or three scattered houses and no chance of obtaining food. We therefore made arrangement to take with us three days’ feed from the Chariton settlements. While lying on the Chariton, we were divided into six companies for convenience in traveling, with captains over tens, fifties and hundreds. The company with which I journeyed contained about ninety teams, Col. A. P. Rockwood captain, and President B. Young, president. Besides these companies we had a company of pioneers, consisting exclusively of active men, who kept a few days in advance of us to repair roads, build bridges, make ford ways over streams, etc.

After leaving the Chariton, we crossed Shoal creek and several smaller creeks, and entered upon a twelve-mile prairie, about noon on the 6th of April, intending to reach the East Locust creek that night; but it began to rain heavily just as we entered the prairie, and continued with little cessation until about sunset, and before we got across, the roads became almost impassable for the rear teams, and we were enabled only to make a point of timber about three miles from Locust creek. The rain continued almost incessantly for about a week. Our place of encampment on Hickory Point becoming very disagreeable, we removed, on the 8th, to the bottom of Locust creek. This we did by doubling teams the entire distance. It rained constantly all day, and almost every one in camp was wet to the skin. This move was made for two reasons: first, because there was a prospect of a long storm, and we had invariably found the bottom of streams better than the points of ridges, in a wet time; and second, because these bottoms were extensive and well timbered, and afforded browse for our teams, which was our only means of subsisting them; for our grain was exhausted, and we were about an equal distance between Chariton and Grand rivers, with the roads impassable to either settlement. The creeks being swimming deep, and the bridges built by our pioneers nearly all swept away, the rear companies, who did not cross the prairie before the rain, were unable to reach Locust creek before about a week. The weather and ground did not become settled so that we could pursue our journey until the 15th. During this time our encampment was about on a par with those at the Chariton and Richardson’s Points—barks, dead grass, brush, etc., in our tents to keep us from the mud, for many of us had to sleep in tents. While here we had some snow and cold weather for that season of the year, and high winds.



Improvement Era, 1911, Vol. Xiv. April, 1911. No. 6 pp. 490–93

From Nauvoo to Salt Lake in the Van of the Pioneers.

The Original Diary of Erastus Snow.



In the last number of the ERA, we left the advanced company of the pioneers encamped on Locust creek, midway between the settlements on the Chariton and Grand rivers, in the early part of April, 1846, with their tents pitched in mud and snow on the creek bottoms. Continuing his journal, Erastus Snow records as follows:

Colonel Rockwood and myself rode fifteen miles to a small town at the junction of East and West Locust creek, to purchase some cows, but on our return were overtaken by a dark night in the woods, without a road, and we lost our way, and laid out without means of making a fire, and suffered much with cold before morning. From this lesson I have learned not to be caught away from camp without fireworks—flint and tinder-box.

During our stay on Locust creek, our cows, oxen, and mules did very well upon browse, but our horses failed. About the middle of April, grass began to start on the bottoms, and the season to make preparations for spring crops being already upon us, a council of all the officers of the different companies was called, and it was determined, instead of going to the settlements on Grand river, to bear northwest and strike East Fork about the line of Missouri, and there seek a location for putting in seeds. We accordingly started on the 16th, and traveled only a few miles in a day, stopping wherever we could find either grass or browse for our teams. We took a divide on the east side of East Locust, and headed for West Locust, and struck the head waters of Medicine creek. Here we found a little better range for our stock, and, halting for a few days, burned coal, did some blacksmithing, and held meeting on the Sabbath, etc.

On Tuesday we crossed the head of Medicine creek, following, for the most part, a divide for the distance of about twenty-five miles, after which we struck a beautiful grove of timber on the east branch of the Grand river, on the 24th of April. Here we formed a camp, and resolved to make preparations for putting in spring crops, and named it Garden Grove.

The rear companies were soon up, and all united as one man enclosing a large field of some hundreds of acres, built some cabins to shelter the families and goods [of those] that should tarry. Here it rained almost every day for about two weeks, and as usual our camp-ground, though dry and healthful at first, soon became a perfect mortar bed, as all the companies were encamped in the grove, to and from which all our horses and cattle were driven daily. But the warm rain brought forward vegetation rapidly, and our teams began to thrive.

In about three weeks, the field being nearly enclosed and cabins nearly finished, it was determited in council to remove about forty miles northwest on to the middle fork of Grand river, and there commence a similar settlement, and send men to search out a road on a divide, from this place to the settlements in Iowa, which might head Medicine, Locust, Chariton and Fox rivers, and thereby open a safer and more practicable road for the balance of our emigration from Nauvoo, all of which was subsequently executed.

The second location was upon an eminence on the east side of the middle branch of Grand river. Councils were organized and presidencies appointed to regulate the affairs of the Church. In these places such families were left as, for want of sufficient teams and provisions, were unable to continue their journey. These settlements were on the tract of country owned by the Pottawattamie Indians, and from thirty to fifty miles south there were settlements in Missouri from which they could obtain provisions to sustain them until they could raise a crop. Instructions were left in these places for such as were obliged to leave Nauvoo without a sufficient outfit, to locate and sustain themselves in these places until a further door opened unto them, or until a permanent location should be found for the Church, and provisions raised to sustain them. (This second location was called Mt. Pisgah).

From Garden Grove, a brother, Joseph Phippin, who had accompanied me thus far with his team, returned to Nauvoo for his family, and on my provisions also falling short, I was under the necessity of procuring more teams and provisions, or of abandoning, for the present, the further prosecution of the journey. I accordingly directed my family to proceed to Mount Pisgah and there wait for me, and I returned to Nauvoo to endeavor, by sale of property, to procure my necessary outfit. I left Garden Grove with Brother Edmond Ellsworth on the 15th of May. We met many teams between there and Nauvoo, loaded with Saints who were upon our track. I was unable to accomplish the object for which I returned, until about the first of July. I finally succeeded, by sale of my property at about one-fourth its former value, in paying my debts and procuring two more teams and a supply of goods and provisions. I took with me my mother and a Widow Aldrich and her family, consisting of six, whom I fitted out, and started from the western bank of the Mississippi river, July 5, accompanied also by my brothers, William and Willard, and their families, and some other families of the Saints.

When we struck Fox river, we followed up the east side and bore on to Soap creek, and took the new road before mentioned and reached Pisgah the latter part of the month. I found my family anxiously waiting for my return. The Twelve, with the main body of the Saints, were then as far west as Council Bluffs, on the Missouri river, building boats and preparing to cross. After a few days halt in Pisgah, we continued our journey until we reached the Missouri, a distance of about one hundred and thirty miles. Our road, though tolerably direct, was, nevertheless, winding and uneven. We crossed the head waters of the Nodaway, and east and west branches of the Nisnabotna, Silver, Cagg and Mosquito creeks, besides their numerous small tributaries with which the country is intersected. When we arrived at the Bluffs, we found the Saints scattered in small camps up and down the east bank of the Missouri river and its creeks, for about twenty-five miles, building cabins, cutting hay and otherwise preparing for winter.



Improvement Era, 1911, Vol. Xiv. May, 1911. No. 7 pp. 631–35

From Nauvoo to Salt Lake in the Van of the Pioneers.

The Original Diary of Erastus Snow.



As set forth in the last number of the ERA, the pioneers were left in and about Council Bluffs, building cabins, cutting hay, and otherwise preparing for winter. Continuing his journal, Elder Snow records:

The Twelve, with the main body of the Saints, were about three miles west of the Missouri, upon the Omaha lands, at a place which they called Cutler’s Park where they were making similar preparations for winter. A small company, consisting of little more than one hundred wagons, had passed beyond the western bank of the river, and after reaching the old Pawnee Missionary station about one hundred and thirty miles west of the Missouri river, turned to the north about one hundred and fifty miles and struck the Missouri river again at the mouth of the Running Water, on the Ponca lands, from which tribe they obtained leave to winter there. We crossed the river and reached the main camp at Cutler’s Park, September 1, 1846.

Nearly seven months had elapsed since our first move from Nauvoo, and we were but little more than three hundred miles upon our journey. Among the immediate causes that may be assigned for this slow progress, I would name the fact that the roads and bridges were made new as we advanced, and the almost unparalleled rains which swelled the streams and otherwise rendered the roads impassable for weeks at a time, and the consequent exposure of men, women and children. The contamination of the atmosphere, by the overflowing of the waters, spread disease and death throughout all our camp and greatly weakened our hands, as if the Lord, to render our sacrifice more complete, and to demonstrate more perfectly before angels and men our integrity and perseverance, had, as in days of old, given the prince of the power of the air special leave to open his floodgates upon us, as if he would swallow us up. Another reason was the sending of an officer to meet the camp east of the Missouri to demand of us five hundred volunteers to serve the Government in the Mexican war. * * * The Saints were not afraid, and trusted in the living God and listened to the voice of the Holy Spirit. The five hundred men were enlisted and on their march toward Mexico before I arrived at the Bluffs. Thus crippled, we were unable to prosecute the journey farther this season. All commenced preparations for wintering on the Missouri.

After laboring about one month cutting hay for the stock, the main camp moved about three miles on to the Missouri bottoms, where they erected, in the short space of about three months, nearly six hundred houses for winter, and called the place Winter Quarters. Myself and several membere of my family were taken sick about the time of our arrival at Cutler’s Park. My youngest child, Charles Henry, died on the 9th of September, (1846) and was buried at Cutler’s Park. I did not recover my health until December. During the months of December and January, I performed several trips to St. Joseph and other parts of Missouri, to get provisions for my own family and others.

In January, (1847) a revelation was given through President Brigham Young, showing the will of the Lord concerning the organization of the Saints for the further prosecution of our journey. Elders Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, Amasa Lyman, George A. Smith, Ezra T. Benson and Erastus Snow were designated in the revelation to organize the people into companies and appoint captains of tens, fifties and hundreds, with a president and two counselors over the company, and to teach the people the will of the Lord concerning them. Consequently, Orson Pratt and Wilford Woodruff went to Mount Pisgah and Garden Grove; George A. Smith and Amasa Lyman to the camps east of the Missouri river; and Ezra T. Benson and myself were sent to the Running Water to organize the Saints at Ponca and teach them their duty.

We started February 1, 1847. The weather was intensely cold, and considerable snow. We were accompanied by Brothers O. P. Rockwell and Sam Gulley. We had light wagons and horses and carried our provisions and horse feed with us. We bore northwest on to the Elk Horn river, and followed up the same several days, and then turned north again and struck the Missouri a few miles below the mouth of the Running Water. The Saints there were much rejoiced to see us, and to receive the word of the Lord concerning them, and to hear from their brethren at Winter Quarters. We found it to be about one hundred and seventy miles.

Having instructed them and organized them, we returned home to commence preparations for starting early in the spring with a company of pioneers, which the revelation directed to be sent in advance to make roads, search out the place where the Lord should locate a stake of Zion, and prepare for putting in crops, etc.

April 6, 1847, I met with the apostles, elders and Saints in a special conference in Winter Quarters, to celebrate the anniversary of the organization of the Church. Spent a few hours in the exchange of feeling and in exhortation, and in transacting some important business, and adjourned by advice of President Brigham Young, as the most part of the pioneer company were about ready and anxious to be on their journey westward.

Wednesday, April 7, President Young’s team and those belonging to his family, with many other of the pioneers, started and moved out seven miles from camp. I loaded my wagon and prepared for starting. On the 8th, I called my family together and dedicated them unto the Lord, and commanded them to serve the Lord with all their hearts, to cultivate peace and love, and hearken to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit, and pray much; and inasmuch as they would do this, they should have power over disease and we should all meet again in the due time of the Lord. I then laid my hands upon my children and blessed them, beginning with the youngest, Mahonri, my infant son three months old; next, Mary Minerva, infant daughter, six months old; next James, five years old; and lastly, Sarah Lucinia, oldest daughter, six years and three months old, blessing each according to the fulness of my heart and the power of the Holy Ghost. I then administered to my wife Artimesia, blessing her and rebuking her weakness, and giving her a charge to her family; also blessed Minerva, giving her a similar charge. My temporal business I committed to the care of Brother Caleb Edwards.

All things being now ready, I started about three o’clock p.m., taking with me James Craig, an Irishman by birth who had spent many years of his life in Canada, where also he embraced the fulness of the gospel. We joined the main camp that evening, seven miles out, and in time for me to return on horseback, with twelve others to meet in council Elder Parley P. Pratt, who had just arrived from England. He informed the council that Elder John Taylor was on his way up the river with about five hundred dollars worth of astronomical and other instruments, very useful to the pioneers on their journey. The council voted that the pioneers move on and cross the Elk Horn river, and the council then return and meet Elder Taylor next Tuesday in a council, and receive from him the instruments, and that he should follow in due time.

Accordingly, today, Friday the 9th, we all returned to camp, and the company started and went up the divide near the Missouri waters a few miles, and bore off to the west and camped in the open prairie about ten miles from our first encampment.

10th. Having no fuel with which to cook, this morning, we took an early start and soon crossed the Poppy creek, where a few scattering trees afforded fuel for that portion of the company who were under the necessity of stopping to cook. The balance of us taking a southwest course from this creek struck the waters of Big Elk Horn river about noon, and continued down the river about eight miles to the old crossing, having traveled about eighteen miles today. Several of the Twelve and as many others as had time, myself included, crossed with our teams this evening. President Brigham Young and the rear of the company camped five miles up the river. Sunday morning they arrived, and during the day all crossed and camped together on the west side of the Horn, where the broad bottoms extended across to the Platte. I neglected to state that we crossed our wagons on a raft, prepared by a few of our company who had been sent a few days previous for this purpose, and we forded the stream with our horses, it being about four feet deep.

On the 12th the party started up the Platte with instructions to stop at a point of timber about twelve miles up, and begin doing some blacksmithing and some other necessary work until the Twelve returned from Winter Quarters. I returned on horseback with the Twelve and a few others, and arrived at home about four o’clock of the same evening.



Improvement Era, 1911, Vol. Xiv. July, 1911. No. 9 pp. 816­–21

From Nauvoo to Salt Lake in the Van of the Pioneers.

The Original Diary of Erastus Snow.



In the May number of the ERA we left the van of the pioneers resting on the Platte, while the twelve had returned to Winter Quarters to hold a council. Continuing his journal Erastus Snow records:

Monday, April 12, 1847. Elder Taylor had not yet arrived, but all hands made arrangements to return on Wednesday and wait in faith for the accomplishment of the vote of the former council. About sunset on Tuesday, Elder Taylor arrived with the instruments, and we met in council that evening, much to the joy of our hearts. Wednesday, 14. All returned to the Horn. 15th. Overtook our teams and the company, who were waiting according to instructions.

16th. In the forenoon the whole company were collected together, and numbered one hundred and forty-three men, three women and two children, besides a few brethren who had accompanied us thus far, intending to return to Winter Quarters. The company was then addressed by President Young and others on the necessity of strict organization, and attending strictly to our duties; and he promised, moreover, that if they would abide his council and observe his directions, they should go safe, and they and their teams be preserved from the Indians and from every enemy. At an appointed hour a bugle would sound for prayers and for retiring to rest, and also for alarm during the night, and at five o’clock in the morning to call up to prayers, and to prepare for breakfast and for moving. Every man was expected to be on his knees offering up his devotions at the hour of prayer. Then they proceeded to organize by appointing captains of tens, fifties and hundreds. A guard of fifty men was selected for a constant night guard and Stephen Markham appointed their captain. At three o’clock we took our march, each ten moving in its place. We halted in about one and a half hours near an island of rushes, where we turned our teams and guarded them through the night. I was myself on duty the latter part of the night, and it was very cold, and there was considerable ice in the morning.

17th. We traveled only about eight miles and halted at a convenient point of timber on the Platte, and prepared for Sunday. A little before sunset we were called together and organized for military operations by appointing President Young, general; Stephen Markham, colonel; Shadrach Roundy and John Pack, majors; and the several captains of tens to stand as the captains of their companies respectively; and Brother Tanner, gunner, with eight artillerymen. All were instructed to move by tens and in a solid column, every man with his gun upon his shoulder, or where he could put his hand upon it at a moment’s warning.

Sunday, 18th. Today has passed quietly away without any meetings except in our wagons, on account of its being cold and chilly. A train of seven wagons belonging to Mr. Sarpee, of the Fur Company, passed us on their way from Pawnee to the Bluffs.

19th. At five o’clock my partner (who, by the way, was the bugler) sounded a call for prayer and preparations for moving. At seven he sounded for moving. We moved by tens, every man except teamsters marching by his wagon, with his gun upon his shoulder. We traveled about twenty-two miles and camped on the bank of the Platte, forming a half-circle with our wagons on the river. While baiting our teams at noon beside Diamond Island, O. P. Rockwell, Elder J. C. Little and the notorious Tom Brown came up with us, the two former having left camp on the Friday previous, to return to Winter Quarters on business.

20th. We traveled about twenty miles, crossed Shell Creek about ten a. m., and camped about four p. m., the teams forming a semi-circle opposite the small island near the main shore or bank where we turned our teams for the night. Near this camp our fishermen drew their seine and caught upwards of two hundred fish from a small lake which afforded our camp a rich repast. By the way, I had forgotten to mention that when we returned from Winter Quarters to the Horn, President Young secured and brought with him Father Eldredge’s leather skiff for the use of the fishermen. It was placed on the running gear of a light wagon in the stead of a box, and carried the fishing apparatus and was drawn by two horses.

21st. About one o’clock we passed a new trading post on the Loup Fork, and halted to bait about a mile above, where we were thronged by the Pawnees. Among others was the grand Pawnee chief, with a certificate from Sarpee, the trader. He, with the rest, was very friendly and wanted presents. After collecting a quantity of powder and lead, tobacco, salt, flour, and other trinkets and presenting to the chief, President Young proposed to shake hands and part in friendship, but he refused, and appeared very angry. Upon inquiring into the cause of his passion, he stated, through his interpreter, that the heap (presents) was too little. The whites were rich, and had tea, coffee and sugar, and an abundance of everything, and we had given them little, etc. He said we would kill and drive away their buffalo, and that we should go back, and we should not go on, and other talk of the same import—all of which showed to us the influence the traders, the Missourians and others were using with the Indians against us, and which bade us be on our watch. We traveled about eight miles in the afternoon, and at night prepared the cannon for action and placed out on guard fifty at a time, including ten picket guards. The Indian fires we saw all around us and near our camp opposite on the south side of the Loup Fork, but a few guns and other demonstrations let them know that we were on hand.

22nd. The morning came in quietness, and we resumed our journey as usual. We crossed Looking Glass Creek early in the morning and baited at noon at the crossing of Beaver Creek, and camped at night at the old missionary station, having traveled sixteen miles. Here we found an abundance of hay and corn fodder for our teams, saved by the brethren who were here last fall. This is a place of surpassing beauty, and the selection of the site and the arrangement of the farms, buildings and fixtures show much taste in the former occupants. The farm houses and shops and all government improvements had been burned by the Sioux a few months previous to our arrival, and the missionary buildings alone were standing.

23rd. We did not leave our encampment until afternoon. A portion of our men were engaged in examining the different fords of the Loup Fork, to find the best crossing. In the afternoon we moved up to the old ford, four miles above the missionary station, and commenced to cross some of our best teams with light loads, but the current was so rapid and the quick sands so deep, it was very difficult crossing here. We therefore camped for the night, and concluded to build a raft with which to cross with most of our loading, aided by our leather skiff, that our teams might be able, by doubling, to go through without difficulty. The stream is about eighty rods wide in this place, and we were obliged to go diagonally up the stream about half a mile to get out.

Saturday 24th. On the morning of the 24th, the skiff began to ply between the shore and a sand bar across the main channel, and the teams, with four or five yoke of oxen, or two or three span of horses attached to parts of loads, began to cross at the fork and by following in the same track they found the track packed and became hardened, so that the teams began to move over with more ease, and finally most of the company forded with their loads by putting about three times the amount of the ordinary team, but many of the wagon beds had to be raised from the bolsters, and rails put under to prevent the water from entering. About four o’clock we were all safely over and moved up the river about four miles, where we found considerable blue grass for our teams. There we spent a pleasant Sabbath and had an interesting meeting. All the camp appeared in first-rate spirits. A little before daylight on Monday morning our guards discovered six Indians, who crept along the margin of the river into the very borders of our encampment. They were doubtless after horses. The guard fired upon them, and they struck and ran. The bugle sounded an alarm, and in about fifteen minutes all hands were under arms ready to repel any attack that might be made by the Indians, but the first fire of the guard and the sound of the bugle were all the fighting we had to do. When the sun arose, there were various conjectures as to their identity, but one possessing some knowledge in the matter pronounced their track to be that of the Sioux Indians instead of Pawnees. This day we traveled up the river without any trail, and stopped at noon nearly opposite an old, dilapitated Pawnee Indian village, situated on the north bank of the river. About half-past four p. m., we passed directly opposite the site of another, on the south side of the river, and camped for the night on what we supposed to be Sand Creek (having traveled about fifteen miles) where a few scattering willows afforded us a scant allowance of fuel. As far as we have traveled on the Platte and the Loup Fork, both streams are very broad and full of sand bars, with very little timber, bordered with extensive bottoms, dry and sandy. On the north side of the Platte, from the mouth of the Horn to the Loup Fork (the bottoms) would average ten miles in width. The Loup Fork, as far as we have traveled seems to run a little north of east. I believe this creek to be the first that we have found with a rock bottom. Here also we found late signs of Buffalo.

During most of the day yesterday there were four antelope feeding on the north side of the river opposite our camp, which were the first that we had seen. I forgot to mention that last night a company of hunters was selected and organized expressly to hunt for the company, that there might be an end to every man running ahead with his gun and scaring away the game. Early in the evening, while encamped on Sand Creek, it was ascertained that two horses were either strayed or stolen. Some ten or fifteen horsemen, myself among the company, made a diligent search far and near, until about eleven o’clock, aided by a clear sky and a bright moon, but found them not. Next morning O. P. Rockwell, Thomas Brown, Joseph Matthews and John Eldredge started on horseback on the back track in quest of them. The company crossed this creek and moved in a direction about twenty degrees west of south toward the Platte. We traveled about twelve miles and baited on the heights of the land, where we had a fair view of the Platte in the distance. Near here our hunters killed an antelope. We traveled about eight miles further and found a beautiful prairie stream, where we camped early in the evening. Today we had good roads, but very dry and sandy most of the way, and no water for our teams. Some of the ox teams failed before night, and we had to send back horses to help them up. As we were camping for the night, the four horsemen who left us in the morning came up and said that they had not found the horses. They went back almost to our last encampment, and were surprised by fifteen Pawnees, near a point of timber on the river. The Indians made a rush on them with a view to getting their horses, but they leveled their pieces on them and beckoned to them to go back, which they did, and as they retreated, fired six guns at our men and then broke for the timber as hard as they could run. At Prairie Creek one of the most valuable mares in camp was shot, through the accidental discharge of a gun.

28th. We crossed Prairie Creek this morning, and traveled nearly south ten miles and struck the Platte, traveled about six miles up the river and camped upon a beautiful site, where we found excellent feed and a small stream of clear water running on the north side of what we supposed to be Grand Island. This is probably from the river. The country we have passed over today is the most beautiful I ever beheld. A continuous, unbroken plain covered with green grass, from one to six inches high, as far as the eye can see in all directions, without any timber or other objects to obstruct the view, except the timber on Grand Island, south of us.

29th, seven o’clock p. m. I am now watching my horses as they fill themselves with rushes on the border of Grand Island. Our camp is tonight on waters that are evidently out of the Platte above. The clear stream we camped on last night proved to be Wood Creek, which we crossed after four miles’ travel this morning, and have followed up about an equal distance between it and Grand Island all day, having traveled about eighteen miles. Wood Creek is a beautiful stream with gravel bottom, slightly scattered with timber as far as we have followed its course today, parallel with Grand Island, which is said to extend seventy-five miles. It (Grand Island) is mostly covered with rushes and the timber usually found on the islands and bottoms of all these western streams.



Improvement Era, 1911, Vol. Xiv. August, 1911. No. 10 pp. 925–27

From Nauvoo to Salt Lake in the Van of the Pioneers.

The Original Diary of Erastus Snow.



In our last number, we left the pioneers on Wood Creek, opposite Grand Island. Continuing his journal, Erastus Snow records as follows:

April 30, we followed the course of the Platte until the timber of Wood river bore to the north and was lost in the distance. The day was very hazy, and a cold north blast made us resort to overcoats. We traveled about eighteen miles, found a small prairie stream putting into the Platte, at noon, but found none at night, and a soft bottom between us and the Platte made it expedient for us to camp on the background without wood or water. Here for the first time we resorted to buffalo manure for fuel, and found it better than we had expected. We also sunk a well about six feet, and found water.

May 1st. Today has been a romantic day for our little company. The sun rose clear and beautiful upon us, about as we started, and with it the cold, chilling blast of the north, which went down also with the setting sun. Our trail struck the waters of the Platte in about six miles, where we baited our teams and breakfasted. Some four miles to the north of us, extending along the course of the Platte, is a gradually sloping bluff, which had first made its appearance the previous evening, and which seemed alone to relieve the monotony of the plain over which we have been traveling some days. Along the side of the bluff, in view of our camp, was a herd of buffalo sheltering themselves from the north winds. After breakfast, three of our horsemen tried their skill upon this herd, which was the first we had seen. They wounded several, but secured none. It was new business to them, and they found their rifles altogether too unwieldy in the chase. As we continued up the Platte we were scarcely out of sight of buffalo all day. They were grazing along the side of the bluff. About four or five o’clock p. m., some ten or fifteen horsemen left the wagon train and struck to the bluff to give chase to a herd of about two hundred. We viewed the chase with much interest as we passed along in our wagons. Dividing into companies of from two to four, they singled out their victims and killed four old ones and six calves, besides the wounded that made their escape. We soon camped for the night a little above the head of Grand Island, having traveled about eighteen miles, and sent our wagons and butchers to dress and bring in the game. The game came into the camp at dusk, and was equally divided among the several tens. After dark two calves came near our camp and some little youngsters with a dog came close and caught one and made him fast to their wagon, and in a short time a cow came around and ventured within a few yards of our guards.

This evening it was discovered that Brother Joseph Hancock was missing, and had not been seen since breakfast, when he started on foot with his gun, in the direction of the first herd of buffalo. Many fears were entertained for his safety. Guns were fired and the bugle sounded to let him know, if he were in hearing, our whereabouts.

2nd. This morning he came into camp, having killed and dressed a buffalo, but too late to find his way to camp last night. Some horsemen returned with him to get his meat, and the camp moved today about two miles, it being Sunday, to where we could find better grazing for our teams. Here we remained upon a creek putting in from the bluffs, until Tuesday, for the purpose of drying our meat and resting ourselves and teams. Our hunters also killed some more buffalo calves, and antelope.

On Monday I was directed by Colonel Markham to take fifteen horsemen and proceed up the river some ten or fifteen miles to ascertain whether or not there were Indians near us, and whether their fires, which seemed to sweep the whole country before us, and which had reached then within a mile of our encampment, had so far destroyed the feed that our teams could not be sustained. We went according to directions about ten miles, and found only here and there a patch of grass not burned, but fire still raging in different directions, and as far as we could see up the river fresh fires and smoke were rising. We discovered various Indian signs, and one of our company who went two and a half miles beyond where we halted, reported to us on his return that he saw a war party in a bottom, and retreated from them. We were of the opinion that there would be patches of unburned grass sufficient for our teams, and reported to camp accordingly. Until now, the wheels bearing our cannon had been encumbered with a wagon bed and other loading. These were removed, and it was ordered that henceforth the cannon be hauled in the rear of the company ready for immediate use, and that Captain Tanner, with his artillery-men, accompany it. Soon after we started on Tuesday, we discovered on the south side of the river three trading wagons bound downwards. The traders also discovered us, and dispatched one of their number across the river and reported themselves as connected in trade with Mr. Sarpee, that they were sixteen days from Fort Laramie and were bound for Missouri, a little below Council Bluffs. By them, we sent about fifty letters back to our families. The river here was about a mile and a quarter wide, and in no place above two feet of water. Three of our horsemen crossed over and conversed with Mr. Papan, their leader, who thought it advisable for our company to ford the river and take the Oregon road to Fort Laramie, as the prairies, he said, were all burned over on the south side last fall, and the feed was now good, while on the north side, the prairies were now being burned. On the return of our horsemen a council was called to consider the question of crossing, and it was voted to continue on the north side and make a road for our brethren who should follow, as the mountain freshets would render the road impassable to the summer companies. This detained us so that we traveled only about twelve miles on Tuesday and camped upon a small creek.



Improvement Era, 1911, Vol. Xiv. September, 1911. No. 11 pp. 1020–23

From Nauvoo to Salt Lake in the Van of the Pioneers.

The Original Diary of Erastus Snow.



Our last chapter closed with the pioneers encamped on a small creek flowing into the Platte, on the north side. Erastus Snow continues his journal as follows:

Wednesday, April 5, 1847. We traveled today about fifteen miles, chiefly over soft prairie where it has been hard wheeling, and our teams fared hard for grazing. Our hunters have killed one buffalo cow and a number of calves today.

April 6. A light shower nearly extinguished the fires last night, so that today we passed over to the unburned grass again, but where we have traveled today we are but little better off for feed, for it is nearly all eaten up by the buffaloes which have been driven here either by fires, or by something else, northward. I presume in traveling sixteen miles today we have passed from five to ten thousand buffaloes. Some of our teams are beginning to fail for want of feed.

7th. One circumstance I must not fail to mention, that is the fact that Brigham Young, in riding fast with others to head our drove of cows to prevent their mixing with a herd of buffaloes that were making toward them, lost a valuable spy glass out of his pocket last evening. * * * We had an axle tree to put into a wagon this morning, and we wished to give our teams more time to eat, as the feed was very poor and the grain we had brought with us was nearly exhausted. We therefore did not start until about noon, and only traveled six miles and camped near an island where we found better feeding.

Saturday, 8th. We traveled about eleven miles over an old sheep pasture, perfectly used up. At least it had such an appearance, from the fact that the ground was nearly covered with the buffalo dung, and the whole country seemed alive with these wild cattle. We were obliged to camp upon a perfectly barren spot on the river bank. Next morning we moved up the river four miles, opposite a small island of cottonwoods, on which we fed our teams and on which we tarried over Sunday, 9th, and had a meeting in the afternoon. Here also a small box was made and nailed to a tall post in which was placed a written history of our organization and journeying up to this time, for the benefit of our brethren who should follow us.

10th. We crossed a small, clear stream this morning and came into a little better feed, and the feed has been improving a little through the day, and the buffaloes are not so plentiful. We are not a little glad on account of it; for we would rather have less game and more feed, though we have not been allowed to kill game any faster than we wanted it to eat. Today we had a feast upon a fat cow and a fine deer. We are camped tonight opposite a fine island of cottonwoods which affords feed and fuel. We have traveled about ten miles today.

Tuesday, 11th. Today we have traveled about eight miles and camped a little above a clear and beautiful prairie creek. The feed is so short and teams so weak we are unable to travel but a short portion of the day. We have seen but few buffalo today, but it is evident that they have left this range very recently.

12th. We have traveled about twelve miles today. We have had a warm south wind and good roads, and crossed this afternoon a small, clear stream, and we are now encamped upon another good-sized creek and in sight of the bluff that separates the north and south forks of the Platte, the most southern point of which is still a few miles above us. The south fork appears to come in from the southwest nearly opposite our camp, and then runs along near its own bluff about twenty miles to its confluence with the north fork, a peninsula of from one to nine miles wide separating them. Here we find fresh signs of Indians, and one of their late encampments. We passed today the corpses of about one hundred buffaloes, lately slaughtered by them. They have taken only the hides, tongues, marrow-bones, and here and there a choice piece of meat, leaving the buffalo for the wolves, which are by no means scarce or backward in waiting upon themselves. Most of the buffaloes that we have seen on this route seem to be poor, and we find many carcasses of those that have died this spring; and in several instances we have found them so feeble that our boys, who love the sport, have caught them by the tail and horns and handled them as they would any domestic animal.

13th. We have traveled today about ten and three-fourths miles, have crossed the largest tributary of the Platte we have seen since we left the Loup Fork, and are now encamped at its mouth. It has a quicksand bottom fully as bad as the Loup Fork, and is about ten rods wide. The bluffs between the rivers are about opposite. The president named it Junction Bluff river. We have had a sudden change in the weather, and we are now scarcely comfortable around the fires with top coats. The feed is the best here that we have found since we came into the buffalo range. A mile and a half west of us the bluffs extend abruptly into the Platte. They are sand ridges and broken knobs. Our horsemen are searching for a road through.

14th. I was on guard last night, and it was far from being a warm berth, but the weather began to moderate about ten o’clock, and today it has been warm enough to rain. We have had several slight showers, during the day, which seemed truly reviving to this thirsty land. We found a very good but circuitous road through the sand hills and made our way to the bottom again. Have traveled eight miles, and have now before us another range of sand hills to try in the morning. They appear worse than those we have passed today. We found good feed here and thought it best to let our teams enjoy the benefit of it before venturing among the sand hills, else we should have traveled farther.

15th. We found it about two and a half miles through the sand hills. The sand being deep, made it very heavy wheeling. We have traveled seven miles and camped for Sunday. Have another range of sand hills about three miles before us. The buffaloes have eaten the feed between us and the hills, which is the cause of our stopping in the middle of the bottom. We camp where we can feed, irrespective of water or fuel, for buffalo chips have been our only fuel this week, except a little driftwood, and we can find water almost anywhere on the Platte bottom by digging from four to six feet, and we most always do it in preference to going half a mile to the river. It has been showery today and nearly cold enough to snow.

Sunday 16th. The sky was overcast with clouds and the wind blew cold from the north, but in the middle of the day it cleared up warm and pleasant. We had a meeting in the afternoon. All appeared in fine spirits. Two buffaloes and one antelope killed near camp.

17th. Started half-past eight o’clock this morning and found it about two and a half miles through the sand hills before we struck the bottom again, about midway of which we crossed a small stream running into the river. During the afternoon we passed several spring fountains coming out of the foot of the bluffs and spreading out over the bottom which was rather low and made it soft wheeling among the sloughs, as the marshy places on the prairie are called; but bearing nearer to the river bank, we soon struck hard ground again and camped for the night after having traveled twelve and three-fourths miles. The hunters killed some buffaloes and some small game, which detained the camp some to secure the meat.

18th. This morning President Young gave some good instructions to the camp, and sharp admonitions to some for being wasteful of flesh; to the hunters for killing more than they really needed; to the horsemen in taking so little interest in looking out our roads; and to the officers for neglecting to enforce the rules of the camp upon their men. We have had good roads and fine weather, and have traveled fifteen and three-fourths miles today, and camped at the mouth of a small creek. Today we begin to find for the first time ledges of rock in the bluff on both sides of the river.



Improvement Era, 1911, Vol. Xiv. October, 1911. No. 12, pp. ??

From Nauvoo to Salt Lake in the Van of the Pioneers.

The Original Diary of Erastus Snow.



In the last issue of the ERA our account left the pioneers encamped on a small creek flowing into the North Platte. Continuing his journal, Erastus Snow records the following:

April 19th. It rained gently nearly all day, but was cold with a wind in the north. We traveled eight miles, passed over another of those sand ridges that extended abruptly to the river brink. It was about one and a half miles across it. Our wheels rolled in the sand nearly to the hub. We found on both sides of this ridge a clear stream putting into the river.

20th. We have had good roads along the river bank today, or rather a good chance to make a road, in which we played our part and left a very good trail behind us, as good as seventy-three teams, seventeen cows and one hundred and seventy-three men could make. We baited at noon opposite Ash Hollow, on the south side of the river where the Oregon road strikes the north fork again. At four o’clock p. m. we crossed the mouth of a stream of about the same size and character as the large one we encamped upon on the night of the 13th. We find that the quick-sand in all of these streams seems to pack by traveling so that the last teams pass over with much more ease than the first. We camped tonight at six o’clock on a small stream where we find plenty of driftwood for fuel. Have traveled fifteen and three-fourth miles. By the way, I wish it understood that during the forepart of our journey we had to guess at the distance, and sometimes over-stated it, but by the mechanical genius of Appleton Harmons, we have now the distance counted off to us like clock-work, through the agency of a machine attached to his wagon bed, the wheels of which are turned by the revolutions of the wagon wheel.

21st. Today has seemed more like spring than any day since we left Winter Quarters—not only warm and pleasant, but on every hand have we been greeted for the first time with the music of the quadrupeds from the numerous little ponds along the bottoms. The season is evidently about three weeks later here than in the same latitude on the Missouri river. We have not seen buffalo either yesterday or today, except now and then a lone one that seemed lost from the herds. Two Sioux Indians came to us about the time of our camping tonight, and others were seen through the spy-glass skulking about the bluffs. There is undoubtedly a hunting party not far from us. We have traveled today about fifteen and a half miles.

22nd. This morning near our camp we found a large bone supposed to be out of the foreleg of a mammoth. It weighed twenty-four pounds and was left for the inspection of other companies, being buried with an inscription of it written on a board put up at its grave. At our noon encampments we first discovered, through the telescope, what is commonly called Chimney Rock which seemed about twenty miles ahead of us on the south side of the river. Towards night we passed over another range of hills about two miles across. This was different from the former ones. Instead of being deep sand it was chiefly hard ground, the knobs covered with rock and pebble stone, and the sides of the deep ravines and gullies were clay. We passed over the beds of several creeks in which at some seasons of the year evidently flows much water, but which are now perfcetly dry. We are now encamped on another of these lost creeks about two miles from the last range of hills. We have no reason to believe that there has been any rain here this spring. There is consequently little or no feed except on the low bottoms of the river. We have traveled today about ten and one-half miles.

Sunday, 23rd. Held an interesting meeting this afternoon and received excellent instructions from President B. Young. During the forepart of the day the Twelve, myself and several others, gratified ourselves with a survey of the bluffs and hills to the northeast of us. The scenery is picturesque and romantic in the extreme. At a distance of two or three miles they greatly resemble the ruins of ancient towers and castles and pleasure grounds of noble-men. We called the place Ancient Bluffs Ruins. From the top of one of these detached peaks one of our young men obtained from its nest a young eagle. On top of another, Orson Pratt discovered a small pool of water in the basin of a rock about two hundred feet above the level of the river. Quite an extensive cave was also discovered on one of these dry creeks, but we had not time to explore it. These hills are favorite resorts of rattle-snakes, and visitors will do well to beware of them. Brother Fairbanks was bitten upon the leg with one today, and is quite sick and under medical treatment.

24th. Last night about sunset, the wind shifted suddenly and blew in cold from the north and brought up a heavy storm of wind, rain and some hail. It was a cold night and this morning it snowed a little. We traveled in the forenoon ten miles. At noon two Sioux visited us. We fed them and they passed on, making signs to us that there was a camp of them not far off. They soon crossed the river above us and we moved on six and one-half miles in the afternoon and formed our circle at six o’clock p. m. While camping, we observed a party of about thirty Sioux riding up on the south side of the river. They halted opposite us and hoisted a flag of peace, and by various maneuvers we understood that they wished to visit our camp. The president directed a flag to be hoisted in return to let them know that they would be welcome. As soon as they saw our flag they began to cross the river towards us. We took the precaution to stake down our horses and admitted at first only the chief to our camp, but afterward the whole of them. They had their squaws with them and camped about half a mile from us, and visited us again in the morning. They were all dressed in their richest costumes. Some had fur caps and cloth coats, and others had cloth pants and shirts, and the rest were neatly dressed in skins ornamented with beads, feathers, paint, etc., and they were by all odds the cleanest and best appearing Indians we have seen west of the Missouri river. Some of the brethren traded horses with them and bought some peltry, moccasins and other trinkets, and they crossed the river apparently in high glee, and we pursued our journey. Traveled next day twelve miles. Had much soft road and camped a little east and north from Chimney Rock, about three miles distant from it. We have traveled thirty-six miles since we first discovered it, which we then thought to be only twenty miles. This is not the first instance in which we have been deceived in measuring distances with the eye. We are able to distinguish objects much more clearly and at much greater distances than we could in the east, on account of the atmosphere, which may account for our being deceived in the distance. President Pratt reports from an observation taken today at noon that we were in latitude N. 41-42’-46”, barometrical height above the level of the sea 3,371 feet, and the average rise per mile since we passed the junction of the rivers has been 5 feet and 6 and 9–10 inches.

26th. Today has been very warm and we have traveled only twelve and one-half miles. We have very good roads and find better feed tonight than we have had for some days past. Windy and showery tonight.

27th. Pleasant weather, good traveling, tolerable feed. The teams are yet feeble, though not failing at present. We have plenty of fresh meat, chiefly antelope. Have traveled today about thirteen and three-fourth miles, passed what is called Scott’s Bluff on the other side of the river, which presents a very romantic appearance. One object standing alone which seems to attract particular attention is a tower of about one hundred and fifty feet high in three distinct sections, having the appearance of very hard clay with a petrified dome. Its appearance is so artificial at first that the mind is scarcely willing to believe that the rude hand of nature has so formed it. The tops and sides of this cragged and imposing tower are sparsely mottled with small shrubbery, but whether pine or cedar I was unable to distinguish. Most of the ground we have passed over today presents a very barren appearance, prickly-pear being the chief herbage. Here and there a sag in the bottom or a wet swail covered with green grass, supply our teams. Wind in the north and a shower of rain tonight. While I write I hear the sound of music and dancing on the other side of the circle. This is a very common recreation in camp, though we have to dispense with the ladies, a very great desideratum.



Improvement Era, 1911, Vol. Xv. November, 1911 No. 1 pp. 53–57

From Nauvoo to Salt Lake in the Van of the Pioneers.

The Original Diary of Erastus Snow.



In the September and October issues, the dates were inadvertently given as in April instead of May. We left the Pioneers near Scott’s Bluff on the Platt in our last account, on May 27. In continuance of his journal, Elder Erastus Snow records:

May 28th. Rather cool weather today. Sky overcast with clouds; moderate rain during the forenoon, so that we did not start until nearly noon and travelled twelve and one half miles, following the course of the river which has been nearly north.

29th. Cool and cloudy; wind northeast. Rained a little this forenoon. We remained in our [camping] place. About noon, the president called the camp together and admonished us, with much feeling and spirit, because of growing evil in our midst and spirits cherished by many that were calculated to involve us in the snares of the devil. He said that now that we were driven forth from among the Gentiles so that the devils could not harass us by [means of] them, they [the devils] were now more vigilant in stirring up strife and in introducing various evils among ourselves to draw away our minds from the things of God. He said that there was, with many in camp, an excess of amusement, such as dancing, scuffling, card-playing, checkers, dominos, etc., besides loud laughing, loud talking, telling funny stories, and finding fault with one another, all of which would lead their minds away from the Lord to the neglect of their prayers and other duties; and if these things were suffered in this Church and carried out to their ultimate limits, they would lead to insubordination and rebellion against the Priesthood, and to dissensions, and finally to organized bands like the Gadiantons of old, to destroy the pure in heart. We are the pioneers for the whole camp of Isreal going, like Abraham, by faith, knowing not whither we go, to seek a home for the Saints where the Lord has promised to locate a stake of Zion. This place we never would find, for the Lord would not lead us, so long as these spirits ruled in our hearts, and he would not proceed any further unless they forthwith turned unto the Lord with all their hearts and put away the devils from their midst; whereupon we all, with one voice, beginning with the Twelve, the High Priests and Bishops, Elders, Seventies, and members, entered into a covenant to return unto the Lord with all our hearts and cease these things, and appointed tomorrow, Sunday, as a day of fasting, humiliation and prayer. At one o’clock we started and travelled eight and one half miles, and camped for Sunday a little above the mouth of a small prairie creek. The fruits of our morning’s lecture were clearly seen. A very different spirit brooded over the camp.

30th. This morning at 8 o’clock was held a general meeting for prayers, confessions, and exhortations, and at 10 o’clock, for the sacrament. The Lord seemed to accept the offerings of our hearts, and poured out his Spirit upon us. About noon I accompanied the Twelve and a few others to a retired place in the bluff, where we presented ourselves before the Lord in a prayer circle, and felt our spirits greatly refreshed by the manifestation of his blessings upon us. About 6 o’clock we took our glasses and ascended the highest point within our reach, which was about three miles northwest of camp, where, near the time of the setting of the sun, we viewed the surrounding country. Chimney-rock was still visible down the river, and the towering heights of the long range of the Black Hills above us. To the north and northeast of us, the country was little else than sand hills, as far as the eye could see. After gratifying our eyes, the president proposed prayers upon this the highest ground we have stood upon. After bowing before the Lord upon these heights, we descended, and returned to camp at dark, weary in body, and retired to rest, satisfied with the proceedings of the day.

Monday, the 31st. We travelled sixteen and one half miles over a barren country, the last four miles being deep sand, and camped on quite a large creek that came winding its way from the bluffs through this sandy bottom to the river. Here we find grass spindling up, but very thin.

June 1st. Very warm and pleasant, yesterday and today. We are beginning to find a little timber, chiefly a small growth of cottonwoods, thinly scattered along the islands and riverbanks. This I believe is the first we have seen on this side of the river, except one or two cedar shrubs, since the 11th of May; buffalo chips and driftwood being our only fuel, good in dry but poor in wet weather. Today, we have travelled twelve miles, and are now camped opposite Fort Laramie, a little above the mouth of the Laramie river which comes in from the south, and on which the fort is situated about two miles from the Platte. Here we have to cross the river on account of the Black Hills projecting abruptly into the river, a little above us, which are impassable for wagons. The river is generally fordable here, but the mountain freshets render it necessary for us to ferry. We have been in hopes that we should find here the small company of Saints who came up from Mississippi, last summer, who, when they learned that the main camp had stopped to winter on the Missouri, turned south, and wintered at Fort Pueblo, two hundred and fifty miles south of this place, where also a detachment of the Mormon Batallion wintered, which we somewhat expected would also meet us here. This evening we have had a visit from two brethren who report to us that they and a few families at the fort have been waiting for us sixteen days, and that when they left Pueblo, the rest of the Mississippi company, and the soldiers, were expecting to start about the first of June.

2nd. Today a coal pit is on fire within our circle, and three portable blacksmith shops in operation; smiths shoeing horses, repairing wagons, etc. The use of a very good flat boat, owned by the fur company, has been secured for our company for the sum of fifteen dollars.

3rd. Today Elder A. Lyman has started with three others on horseback with dispatches to Pueblo. We are busily engaged in crossing the river. Some horsemen just arrived at the fort from St. Joseph, Missouri, and reported five thousand emigrants and two thousand wagons on the road who will probably begin to arrive here tomorrow.

4th. A heavy storm of wind and rain yesterday afternoon caused a cessation in our ferrying, so that our teams were not all over until about 9 o’clock this morning. We started directly up the south bank of the Platte; and, passing som elow sand ridges, we descended a steep hill on to a low bottom eight miles from the fort, where we found good feed and camped for the night.

5th. After travelling a few miles we came in sight of where the river forces a passage through a defile in a high range of the Black Hills, where we were compelled to leave the river and, taking a circuitous route over a rough and hilly road, we struck the bed of a creek and followed up the same until noon where our trail intersected the main Oregon road. We soon ascended a steep hill on to a gently undulating plain, and found a good road, struck a dry bed of cottonwood creek, followed it up until we found wood and water and good feed, and halted for Sunday, having travelled seventeen miles. Here we found a small party of emigrants, eleven wagons, only, bound for St. Mary’s river.

6th. This morning they moved on, and their pilot, who was acquainted with the road, informed us that after following up this creek a few miles we should leave it and find no more water for about a day’s drive. We therefore thought it wisdom to move on a few miles so that we could with ease make the next point tomorrow, but we remained in our place, had an interesting and profitable meeting, and about three o’clock p. m. we gathered our teams and moved up the creek five miles, and camped near the small company who had preceded us. A half mile in our rear also camped another party of Oregon emigrants, numbering nineteen wagons who came up with us today.

7th. We continued gradually to ascend through a bottom, following the course of a dry creek nine and one half miles on to the heights which commanded an interesting view of an extensive landscape. Here we were opposite the principal peak of the Black Hills, some ten or fifteen miles southwest of us, which appeared to be still partly covered with snow. From these heights we descended three and one half miles to Willow Creek, and found a fine camping place.

8th. Today our road has been little else than up hill and down, yet smooth. This forenoon I had the ill luck to break a wagon tire which, however, Brother Frost welded together and fixed during our noon halt without detaining the camp. We travelled fifteen and one half miles, and camped all night on Big Timber Creek. A company of traders from Fort Bridger, bound for the Missouri, has camped near us.

9th. We reached Alapier Creek, a distance of nineteen miles. About twenty of our best teams, and some horsemen, left us this morning and are in advance of us, being sent to the crossing of the Platt to make some preparations for crossing. We were overtaken today by five mountaineers with about twenty horses and pack mules, direct from Sante Fe, bound for Green River. They report that the Mormon Battallion crossed the mountains and went on to California, last winter, and that the detachment at Fort Pueblo will soon be on our track.

(To be Continued.)


Improvement Era, 1911, Vol. Xv. December, 1911 No. 2 pp. 165–68

From Nauvoo to Salt Lake in the Van of the Pioneers.

The Original Diary of Erastus Snow.



In our last issue the advance company was making preparations for crossing the Platte. Continuing his journal, Erastus Snow records:

June 10th. We have traveled today eighteen miles, struck the Platte at 3 o’clock p. m., and are camped tonight on Deer Creek, one-half mile from the Platte. This is the most delightful place we have seen since we left the states,—a large creek of clear water with a stony bottom, and the way our boys are hauling out the fish is not slow; excellent feed, thrifty timber, plenty of game, beautiful scenery; and, added to this, one of our miners has discovered a very excellent bed of bituminous coal up the creek, a sample of which he has brought into camp; also a quarry of excellent sandstone. I have been agreeably surprised in the country of the Black Hills, over which we have travelled a distance of ninety miles from Fort Laramie. Instead of sand and continual barrenness, without water, as I had expected, we have found hard roads through the hills, and at convenient distances beautiful creeks skirted with timber, and bottoms covered with grass, though the country otherwise presents generally a rough and barren appearance.

11th. We have travelled seventeen miles today up the Platte. Have overtaken one party of emigrants who are preparing to cross the river. The rivulets we have passed today have all been flush with water from the melting snows which whiten the north sides of the peaks of a high range of hills on our left.

12th. Twelve miles travel today brought us to the place where our advance party were engaged in ferrying over a party of Oregon emigrants and their effects, in the leather skiff, swimming the horses and cattle and floating the empty wagons by means of long ropes. They finished their job this evening, for which they got thirty dollars in provisions. Brothers Rappleyee and Johnson, taking different directions to visit the mountains south of us, wandered so far away that when night overtook them they were still from six to eight miles from camp, and the face of the country being exceedingly rough, and the night dark, horns were sounded, guns fired, and a brisk fire kept up in camp. A file of horsemen, with the bugler, also started at dark in search of them. They found them not, but returned at half past twelve o’clock, just as the last of the two men came blundering into camp with half of a young elk which he had packed from the mountain. Their extreme mortification at being the cause of so much trouble and anxiety in camp served greatly to heighten the merited chastisement which they received from the president. They reported the mountains to be full of bear, elk, antelope and sheep, and snow from six to ten feet deep in places.

Sunday, the 13th. The day passed off as usual, with a meeting in camp, and as a day of rest to ourselves and teams. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were spent in crossing the river, which was very high, and continually rising, and the current very rapid; and, added to this, the wind blew strongly down the stream, with but little cessation during the four days. We swam our horses and cattle, crossed our loads in the skiff, and at first tried the plan of floating our wagons by extending ropes down the river and attaching them to the end of the tongue, but the current would roll them over as if they were nothing but a log, wheels and bows appearing alternately upon the surface of the water, and two lashed together by means of poles placed under them shared the same fate. First one and then the other appeared uppermost, and when they struck the bottom in more shallow water, broken bows and reaches were the result. The plan was abandoned as too dangerous. The next plan was to try small rafts, but the difficulty of polling a raft in so deep and swift water was such that the wind, aiding the current, would not infrequently sweep them down from one to two miles before it would be possible to make the other shore, though the river was not more than forty or fifty rods wide. In attempting to drag rafts across the current with ropes, the current would draw them under. The plan that succeeded best was two rafts constructed with oars, well-manned, which would effect a landing in about half a mile, and were then towed up with oxen. In this way the last of our wagons passed over with parts of their loading. Mean time, a set of hands were engaged in preparing two canoes, two and one-half feet in diameter and twenty-three feet long, which, when coupled about five feet apart with cross timbers, covered with punchion and manned with good oars, made a boat with which three men could cross a wagon with its load. This was finished on Friday, and good landings being prepared, they were set to running to cross over a company of Oregon emigrants. During the day and the previous night, we had crossed over two or three small companies with our rafts and skiffs, for any of them would rather pay from $1.50 to $2.00 per wagon than to undertake the job themselves; and that, too, in provisions and cows at prices to correspond with prices in the states, and we received it as the providence of God in getting these supplies which we needed.

Saturday, the 19th. We again took our line of march leaving Thomas Grover and eight other men and a blacksmith with instructions to continue ferrying emigrants until the arrival of our other emigrants, and after ferrying them, to cache their boats, and come to us. We travelled today twenty-one and a half miles over a barren country, and we were obliged to camp in a miserable hole of salt springs and marshes where there was scarcely any feed, and no fuel but sage roots.

Sunday morning, the 20th. We thought this a poor place to rest and put out. Finding no wood, we continued our march through the day, passed the noted Willow Springs at noon, and camped at night half a mile off the main road, on a beautiful creek which empties into the Sweetwater, having travelled twenty and one-half miles. Here we again had to resort to the roots of the mountain sage for fuel. This herb nearly covers this barren country from Fort Laramie onward as far as we have travelled, and in fertile spots grows rank and becomes quite a shrub.

21st. Seven and one-half miles of travel brought us to Sweetwater, near the celebrated Independence Rock, where we baited at noon. We forded the river a mile above the rock. The water ran into our lowest wagon beds, though it appeared to be rapidly falling. This is a beautiful little river, and flows rapidly through a little bottom forming the most numerous and curious crooks of any stream I ever saw. Directly before us is one of the spurs of the Rocky Mountains, a chain which seems to run parallel with the river, but crosses it a few miles above. From the ford, we gradually ascended about five miles, passed through an opening in the chain of rocks, descended to the river bottom again, and camped about a mile above what is commonly called the Devil’s Gate (having travelled about fifteen miles today), which is an aperture in the mountains or chasm through which the river forces itself: It is about one hundred feet wide with perpendicular rocks on either side, the barometrical height of which was ascertained by Prof. Pratt, to be four hundred feet. From the lower end of this aperture I followed a foot path on the brink of the river, about half a mile until I was directly under the highest point of the rocks where the river, roaring furiously among the huge rocks, filled its narrow channel, and compelled me to retreat by the way I came.

22nd. Today, we have travelled twenty-one miles. We are camped tonight on the river, at the base of an imposing Butte about two hundred and fifty feet high, with a company of Oregon emigrants about three miles in advance of us, and another about the same distance in our rear. These two companies left the Platte, one about an hour before, and the other about an hour after, we did. Our road today, lying off from the river, chiefly has been sandy and rough, with no particular change in the products or face of the country.

23rd. We have travelled today seventeen miles;—good weather, the roads about the same as yesterday. The main road this afternoon would have led us across the river four times in ten miles. Anticipating difficulty in fording at this stage of the water, we took a less frequented trail which led off from the river, but found deep sand and very heavy wheeling. We are again at the river in a convenient camping ground, with two companies of emigrants in view before us, and one in our rear, a small detachment from which has just driven up to our camp to get our blacksmiths to do some work for them. This granite ridge, or chain of gray rock, which is almost entirely naked, still continues on our right, and running parallel on our left, at a distance from five to twenty miles, is another ridge of snow-capped hills which seem to be chiefly covered with timber. In the distance, at the west of us, appears the towering heights of the Wind river chain of the Rocky Mountains, covered with immense patches of snow.

(To be continued.)


Improvement Era, 1912, Vol. Xv. January, 1912 No.3 pp. 246–50

From Nauvoo to Salt Lake in the Van of the Pioneers.

The Original Diary of Erastus Snow.



In the last account, the Pioneers were encamped on the Platte, west of them the Wind River Mountains. The account continues:

June 24. This morning we left the river, took about a west course, and traveled over a good road seventeen and three-fourths miles, before we struck the river again. Here we camped about three o’clock p.m., our teams being nearly exhausted from fatigue, hunger and thirst, for it has been warm and we found neither feed nor water to induce us to stop until we reached this point, except about nine o’clock when we passed two small lakes or ponds, one of which was very strongly impregnated with salt and sulphur, and the other with salt and alkali, so that our teams refused both. One curiosity worthy of note in the place where we found these lakes, is what is called the Ice Spring. The water of the spring is the same as that of the lakes, but all around the spring is ice about eighteen inches thick which seems pure and entirely free from those ingredients with which the water is impregnated, and is covered with a soil or turf about eight inches thick, while the earth around seems entirely free from frost. The reason why this unimpregnated water remains in this crystalline state, while surrounded with the other water, I leave for chemists to determine.

25th. While gathering the stock last night, the president’s saddle-horse was shot, through the carelessness of a young man, and died during the night. He was the most highly prized of any horse in camp. This was the second accident of the kind, both of which was the result of a disregard of the rules of the camp. This morning our road crossed the river and led over the hills, occasionally striking the river again, for ten miles; then leaving the river again we began to ascend long and steep hills, and continued with but little variation to ascend for ten miles, some of the way very rocky, and found a tolerable camping place on a mountain rivulet. It was quite warm in the morning, but as we began to rise and meet the cold blasts from the mountains of snow and ice, we began to gather our vests, then our coats, and finally, before night, our overcoats, and were cold at that. We passed drifts of snow and large bodies of ice about the rivulets, and during the night our milk and water froze as if it were winter. Two of our horsemen, who followed the course of the Sweetwater up to within two miles of the encampment, report that its fall is very great, presenting little less than a cataract most of the way.

26th. Continuing our ascent up the small stream on which we had camped about two miles, and passing over another ridge, we came to a large creek, which at first we supposed to be the Sweetwater, but after crossing it, and another in a few miles quite as large, both of which were tributaries of the Sweetwater, we finally came to the Sweetwater (having traveled eleven miles), which was full and running into our wagon beds more than at any previous ford, and seemed to contain quite as much water as it did where we first crossed it at Independence Rock. We baited at noon on a small bottom near the ford, where there was quite a supply of green grass, while at the foot of a small bluff, a few rods distant, was about one acre of snow, and in some places not less than ten feet deep. This place is what is termed the “foot of the pass.” From here we rose on a gently undulating plain, which spread itself from the Wind River chain upon the north to a low range of mountains on the south. This plain seems to be broken only by comparatively small ridges and the surface generally quite smooth. Mountain sage is the chief herbage, and no timber except small groves of poplar and quaking asp, which we saw at a distance to the left. Here I would observe that we saw several of those groves yesterday afternoon, at our left, which is the only timber upon these mountains anywhere in the vicinity of our route. After traveling this afternoon eight miles over a beautiful road, we came to a small ridge which divides the waters flowing into the Gulf of Mexico from those that flow into the Gulf of California. From Ft. Laramie, according to our odometer, is two hundred and seventy-six and a half miles. It is now time to camp, but we did not expect to find either feed or water short of eight or ten miles. Just at this time some of our men, who had followed up the Sweetwater, came in sight, at the right hand, and reported that the Sweetwater, coming from the mountains to the north, came to the foot of the ridge within about a mile of us. Here we turned aside and found a good camping place.

27th. This morning some men from Oregon, bound for the states, passed, by whom we sent back letters. We passed the ridge, and in about six miles crossed a small stream running west. We traveled fifteen and a half miles today, and camped upon another small tributary of the Sweetwater.

28th. We bore a little south of west, crossed Little Sandy, and camped upon it about nine miles below the ford. Traveled fifteen and a fourth miles and camped early, in consequence of meeting Mr. Bridger and two of his men bound for Fort Laramie, who also camped with us and gave us much information relative to the roads, streams, and country generally.

29th. Traveled six miles, crossed Big Sandy (about the size of Sweetwater), and made about eighteen miles without feed or water before we struck it again, which made us late camping. Found good feed.

30th. Traveled eight and one-half miles, and came to Green River. Went to building rafts and crossing the river.

Saturday, July 3. All being safely over, we moved three miles down the river and camped for Sunday. The day we reached Green River, I had a violent attack of mountain fever; and within the week past, about one-half the camp have been attacked with the same complaint. It’s first appearance is like that of a severe cold, producing soreness in the flesh and a pain in the head and all parts of the body, and as the fever increases, the pain in the head and back becomes almost insufferable, but an active portion of physic, accompanied with warm and stimulating drinks, such as ginger and pepper teas, cayenne, etc., taken freely before and after the operation of the physic, seldom failed to break it up, though it left the patient sore, weak and feeble. All are now recovering, except some fresh cases.

July 4. Five men were sent back with letters to our brethren of the next company, and to pilot them on. In the afternoon twelve mounted soldiers arrived, having left the Pueblo detachment at the crossing of the Platte, last Monday. The day we arrived at Green River, Brother Samuel Brannan, and two others, arrived from the Bay of San Francisco. They came eight hundred miles to meet us, expecting us to go into that country. They informed us that the “Mormon” Battalion had taken and, when they left, were in possession of the Spanish city, Pueblos Angelos de los.

July 5. We traveled twenty miles without water, struck Ham’s Fork, and camped in middle afternoon.

July 6. Followed up the stream a few miles, crossed over a divide two miles, and struck Black river, another tributary of Green river, and forded it on a riffle, where our wagon beds scarcely cleared the water. The current was strong, and the stream about six rods wide. Bearing westward about twelve miles without water, we struck the same stream again, crossed it again, and camped for the night, having traveled eighteen miles.

July 7. In a few miles we crossed back again, and kept upon the south side till nearly opposite Fort Bridger. Here the river is separated into seven or eight rapid creeks, which flow over an extensive bottom, and divide it into numerous islands. Crossing these streams and islands, we camped a little above the trading house, having traveled eighteen miles today. Here we rested ourselves and teams one day, there being timber and plenty of good feed, and indeed, it is about the first pleasant looking spot I have seen west of the pass. This is the country of the Snake Indians, some of whom were at the fort. They bear a good reputation among the mountaineers for honesty and integrity. We traded some with the traders at the fort, and with the French and Indians that were camped near there, but we found that their skins and peltry were quite as high as they were in the states, though they allowed us liberal prices for the commodities we had to exchange.

July 9. We renewed our journey, leaving the Oregon route, which from this place bears north of west to Fort Hall. We took a blind trail, the general course of which is a little south of west, leading in the direction of the southern extremity of the Salt Lake, which is the region we wish to explore. Fortunately for us, a party of emigrants bound for the coast of California passed this way last fall, though their trail is in many places scarcely discernable. We left the waters of Black river, and gradually ascended some eight or ten miles—passed some large drifts of snow in the heads of the hollows—crossed the divide—descended a long, steep hill, and wound our way down a hollow to a creek called Muddy Fork, which here runs north and, winding round the hills to the north of Fort Bridger, forms a junction with Ham’s Fork, and so flows to Green river. Upon this stream we camped, fourteen and a half miles from Fort Bridger.

10th. Today we passed through several fertile valleys, and over two of the most rugged hills we have passed on our journey, spurs of the Bear River mountains, on the last of which we saw three grizzly bears, and, what is of more importance, Prof. Carrington found what he positively pronounced a blossom of stone coal, which has heretofore been supposed not to exist in this region of country. We traveled eighteen miles today and camped upon a creek running into the Bear river, two miles from the latter. Perceiving smoke on the river, myself and several others rode down this evening and found it to proceed from a camp of men with pack animals, direct from the settlements of California. From them we obtained late papers and news of the Mexican war, etc.



Improvement Era, vol. 15 (Feb. 1912), pp. 359–62

From Nauvoo to Salt Lake in the Van of the Pioneers

The Original Diary of Erastus Snow



In our last number the advance company had arrived near Bear river. The journal continues:

Sunday, July 11. We remained in our place. A sulpher spring was discovered near our camp, also a spring of what is called mineral tar or bituminous pitch, being, in the opinion of Professor Carrington, about 87 per cent carbon. Some of our men filled up their tar buckets and used it for wheel grease.

12th. We crossed the Bear river, which was about two feet deep with rapid current running north, and continued our course a little south of west sixteen and a half miles, over a country somewhat mountainous though generally of a smooth surface. There has been a very evident improvement in the soil productions and general appearance of the country since we left Fort Bridger, but more particularly since we crossed Bear river. The mountain sage has in a great measure given place to grass and a variety of prairie flowers and scrub cedars upon the sides of the hills. We crossed the Bear River Divide this afternoon and descended form the head of a broad and beautiful opening of the valley, where two small springs run west. Here we found excellent spring water, deep, black soil and the best feed for our stock we have had on our route. We named it Matthew’s Vale. On our right, in the side of the bluff, was a curious cave, extending under a broad, shelving rock, which, by some means among the boys, gained the title of Riding’s Cave. Today we have had ten antelope brought into camp, and there seems to be plenty of game west of Bear river, but between the pass and Bear river we saw but little. We saw bones and ancient signs of buffalo, but we are told by mountaineers that there have been none of these animals west of the pass for some years.

The President being taken with severe illness, and Captain Rockwood of the first division being nigh unto death, and many others of the camp sick, it was thought advisable to stop. Twenty-three of the best teams were selected, and the ablest men (Professor Orson Pratt at their head), to set forward and prepare the way, and to make their way over the Lake mountains around the Weber river canyon. The balance of us remained in camp until Thursday afternoon, the 15th instant, when, the sick being on the mend, we again took up the line of march, and traveled down a vale four and a half miles, the President and Colonel Rockwood riding upon a bed in a carriage.

16th. We continued down the same valley six and a half miles and camped about a mile from the main fork of Weber river. Our descent was very rapid all day, while the top of the bluffs seemed to maintain about the same level. Down this narrow vale runs a small creek, fed by the springs of the valley, which we had to cross about every half mile. Towards night, for about one-half or three-quarters of a mile, the whole camp seemed perfectly immerged in a dense thicket of large shrubbery and weeds with scattering trees which filled the valley. As we emerged from the thicket we passed through some extensive beds of what mountaineers call “wild wheat,” small patches of which we have seen all the way from Bear river. On the right hand, from the thicket down to the river, is a range (nearly perpendicular) of conglomerate rock or pudding-stone of immense height. On the left, the bluffs, though equally high, were a little more sloping, and covered with vegetation. The extreme heights on either side of this evening’s encampment are probably not less than 1,500 feet, and the valley about one-third of a mile wide.

17th. We followed down the creek to where it forms a junction at right angles with the river, which here runs about northwest, down which we traveled about one and a half miles, when the President, growing worse, became unable to ride, and we camped upon the right bank of the river, two and a half miles from our last night’s encampment. This afternoon a quorum of the Priesthood ascended the heights about two miles, and appeared before the Lord, and offered up their united prayers in behalf of President Young and the sick in camp, and the Saints who are following, as well as for our wives and children whom we have left behind. As we descended, we discovered in the head of a deep ravine that opens to the river valley, a conglomerate column, about one hundred and twenty-five feet high, thirty feet in diameter at the base, and ten at the top. The round stones composing the column vary in size from a pebble to those that would weight five hundred pounds. Its top may be seen from the road about one and a half miles below the mouth of the small creek. Upon a further examination of these hills, we found numerous smaller towers of a similar kind, resembling old factory or furnace chimneys, all situated at the heads of hollows extending up near high points of the hills, and masses of stone below them, showing a continual wearing down of these columns, though in the wearing down of the hills these had so far resisted the operation of the elements. In many places we found where similar columns had been prostrated, and, sliding down the rugged steeps, had formed windows of stone resembling a prostrated wall.

Sunday, the 18th. We had a prayer meeting in camp, remembering before the Lord the case of the President and the sick in camp, and also in the afternoon a meeting for breaking bread and instruction and exhortation. We had an excellent meeting. The Holy Spirit was upon us, and faith seemed to spring up in every bosom. In the afternoon the President, who had been nigh unto death, was very sensibly better, and the effects of the prayers of the brethren were visible throughout the camp.

Monday, the 19th. The President and the Twelve thought it not advisable for the camp to wait longer for him, and about forty teams left our encampment on the Weber, accompanied by Apostles Willard Richards and George A. Smith, with instructions to follow the advance company led by Elder Pratt, and halt at the first suitable spot after reaching the lake valley and put in our seed potatoes, buckwheat, turnips, etc., regardless of our final location. Elders Kimball, Woodruff and Benson, and others, remained with the President and the sick. We followed down the river about three miles, forded it, came in sight of the canyon, where, turning to the left, we took Pratt’s Pass and ascended a mountain, which was a gradual rise, frequently crossing the rivulets which flowed down the valley. We passed several excellent springs, and reached the summit a little after noon, which was about six miles from the river. Our descent was over a rough road, which we found necessary often to stop to repair, though our advanced company had worked it much. We descended nearly five miles, and struck a large creek, which proved to be a branch of the Weber river, which Elder Pratt named Canyon Creek, from the fact of its entering a tremendous, impassable canyon, just below where the road strikes it, and also winds its way between these mountain cliffs and empties into the river between these mountain cliffs and empties into the river between the upper and lower canyons on that stream. Here the road took up the creek south, and the snowy mountains, encircling us on the south and west, rearing their heads above the intervening mountains, showed us plainly that our climbing was not yet at an end. We stopped tonight on a small patch of glass, surrounded by the thick shrubbery on this creek, having traveled thirteen and three-fourths miles.

(To be continued)


Improvement Era, 1912, Vol. Xv. March, 1912 No. 5 pp. 452–??

From Nauvoo to Salt Lake in the Van of the Pioneers.

The Original Diary of Erastus Snow.



In the last number, we left the pioneers encamped on a creek emptying into the Weber. The Journal continues:

July 20, 1847. This morning some of the sick felt unable to ride over so rough a road, and three wagons were left until the president and the rear company should overtake them. We followed up Canyon creek eight miles, mostly through dense thickets. After crossing the creek, and often stopping to repair roads, cutting away brush, etc., we camped where Elder Pratt’s company encamped last night, at the base of the mountains. Here we found a letter left by Elder Pratt for us, on the perusal of which, Elders Richards and Smith determined on sending me in the morning with a letter to overtake Elder Pratt, and accompany him to the valley and assist in exploring and searching out a suitable place for putting in our seed.

21st. This morning I started on horseback. Leaving Canyon creek, I ascended westward five miles to the summit of a mountain pass, through a deep and narrow ravine, following a dry bed of a rivulet and occasionally finding a little water which, however, was soon lost beneath the soil. The pass over the summit was narrow, peaks of the mountain rising on each side for three-fourths of a mile. This pass is the only notch or opening of the mountains known in this region of the country that is at all practicable for a road, except through the canyon down the bed of Weber river, which is very rough, and passable only in the lowest stages of water, and scarcely passable for wagons up the stream at any stage. From the summit of the pass, for the first time, I got a sight of the valley of the Utah outlet, extending from the Utah to the Salt Lake. By the trail, it is about fifteen miles from the summit to the valley. The road down the mountain on the west side is very steep, and through a well timbered valley, chiefly of rock maple and quaking asp. A creek originates in the valley which, by the time it opens into the lake valley, becomes quite an extensive stream. I followed this creek down about seven miles, and overtook Elder Pratt just about where it enters a rocky canyon. Here we had to turn to the right and ascend a very steep hill, about three-fourths of a mile long, and descended another equally steep and long one into another ravine, equally well timbered, and supplied with a creek somewhat similar to that of the other valley. As much labor was necessary to make a passable road through the thicket and down the valley, Elder Pratt and myself left the company to perform this task, and made our way down the valley six or seven miles, and came to a small canyon just above where the creek opens into the valley of the Utah outlet. To avoid the canyon, the old pack trail crosses the creek and leads up an exceedingly steep hill on to a butte that commands the valley and view of the Salt lake. From the view we had of the valley, from the top of the mountain, we had supposed it to be only an arm of prairie extending up from the Utah valley, but on ascending this butte we involuntarily, both at the same instant, uttered a shout of joy at finding it to be the very place of our destination, and beheld the broad bosom of the Salt lake spreading itself before us. We descended a gradual slope, some four miles towards the center of the valley, and visited several small creeks flowing from the mountains into the Utah outlet, traveled some ten or twelve miles in the valley, and returned to the company about nine o’clock in the evening, finding them about three miles from where we left them at noon, and Elders Richards and Smith, with their companies, camped half a mile above them.

22nd. This morning we started again, with seven others, to explore the valley further. The company united their efforts to work a road down the creek and make their way into the valley, which was distant only about four miles. As we rode down, this morning, we dismounted and examined the small canyon, and found it practicable to make a road down the bed of the creek, through the canyon, and thus avoid the dangerous and almost impassable hill upon the other side of the precipice. We left a note upon a pole recommending it to the company who, acting upon our suggestion, made the road through the canyon, and before sunset found themselves camped upon a creek in the great valley, four miles from the canyon. Our little exploring company took down the valley a few miles towards the Salt lake, bearing a little west of north, and struck a salt marsh fed by numerous warm springs that came out of the base of the mountains on the east. Cane brake, bull rushes, and a kind of large, three-cornered grass were up to our shoulders on horseback, and the immense body of old grass and rushes formed a bridge over the marsh over which our animals crossed without difficulty. Passing next a dry salt plain, which is evidently covered with water when the springs are flush, we came to a small lake, also fed by warm springs, which evidently spreads over the plain and marsh in the spring of the year. The largest and warmest spring we found was near the margin of this lake. It bursts from the base of a perpendicular ledge of rock about forty feet high and emits a volume of water sufficient for a mill. We had no instrument to determine the degree of temperature, but suffice it to say that it was about right for scalding hogs. Here are the greatest facilities for a steam doctor I ever saw. A stone, in the center of the stream before the aperture in the rocks, seemed to say, this is the seat for the patient. At any rate, I tried it, but had little desire to remain long upon it. All these springs are very strongly impregnated with salt and sulphur and some of them with copperas and other ingredients. Finding no place equal to that east of the Utah outlet, we returned to camp that night, and the next day, Friday the 23rd, we moved north to a creek about four miles, where we commenced preparations for putting in seeds.

Saturday, 24th. The president and all the rear of the pioneer company arrived, their health much improved. By tonight we have the creek dammed up and water turned on to our land, and several acres of potatoes and corn planted.

Sunday, the 25th. Had an excellent meeting. All felt satisfied that the Lord had led us to the very spot for a stake of Zion. The following week we continued to put in early corn, buckwheat, and garden seeds, and on the following Saturday (the 31st), Colonel Markham reported fifty-three acres plowed, most of it sowed or planted, besides the wooding of thirteen plows and five harrows, getting timber for a boat, repairing wagons, burning coal, blacksmithing, making roads to the timber in the mountain ravines, exploring the valley, etc., etc.

Tuesday, the 27th. Some sixteen of us, including the Twelve, crossed the Utah outlet, which runs through the center of the valley, passed to the base of the ridge of mountains on the west, found the valley to be about twenty miles broad, passed round the north end of these mountains and struck the southeast corner of the Salt lake, twenty-two miles from our camp, where we halted and had a fine bathing frolic. The water was warm and very clear, and so salt that no fish can live in it. The waters of the ocean bear no comparison to those of the lake, and those who could not swim at all floated upon the surface like a cork, and found it out of their power to sink. When we dressed ourselves we found our hair and skin perfectly coated with fine salt. We continued our march around the point of the mountain to another valley between this and the next parallel range of mountains on the west, which also extends to the lake on the north. This valley is some ten miles broad, and is poorly watered. Returning to a spring near the point of the mountain, we camped for the night.

Wednesday, 28th. We went up the valley on the west of the outlet, about fifteen miles from the lake, and found the west side of the valley to be poorly watered, all the springs now dry, and the land thirsty. Returning to camp, in the evening we held a meeting, and unanimously agreed to lay out a city for our present location on this creek in latitude 40 degrees and 46 minutes, and longitude blank degrees and blank minutes, barometric height of temple block above the level of the sea 4,300 feet, the temple square to be forty rods square, all the streets to be eight rods wide and to cross at right angles east, west, north and south; squares to be forty rods square, and contain eight lots of one and one-fourth acres each, exclusive of the streets, and four of these squares in the four quarters of the city to be reserved for public grounds, etc. I should have mentioned that Elder Amasa Lyman, and a few others from the soldiers, arrived yesterday morning in time to accompany us to the lake. On Thursday, the soldiers and the Mississippi company (numbering conjointly about 250 souls) arrived, which made us about four hundred strong in the valley.

During this week the Ute and Shoshone Indians visited our camp in small parties, almost daily, and traded some horses for guns and skins for clothing, etc. They seemed much pleased at our settling here. While here, one of the Utes stole a horse from the Shoshones and was pursued up the valley by the latter and killed, and his comrade and their horses and the victors returned to our camp with the stolen property.

The following Sunday, August 1st, a resolution was adopted in camp to trade no more with the Indians except at their own encampment, and hold out no inducements to their visiting our camp. The planting of our seeds being pretty nearly over, with the exception of a few turnips, it was unanimously resolved, in order to prepare winter quarters for those that are to tarry and the balance of our brethren who are expected here, to go jointly to enclosing one of the public squares of the city containing ten acres, or forty rods square, by a wall of log and adobe houses, to be joined together with the exceptions of a gate on each of the four sides, buildings to be fourteen feet wide, nine feet high on the outside, roofs to slant a little inward.

(To be continued)


Improvement Era, 1912, Vol. Xv. April, 1912 No. 6 pp. 551–54

From Nauvoo to Salt Lake in the Van of the Pioneers
The Original Diary of Erastus Snow.


In the last number it was stated the pioneers had decided to build a fort on one of the public squares. The Journal continues:

Monday, August 2. Elders E. T. Benson, O. P. Rockwood and others were dispatched with horses and pack mules to meet the Saints who were expected on our track, and to return with our mail from them, if possible, before we left the valley to return, in order to ascertain who are on the way and with what quantity of stores and provisions, that we may better determine who shall tarry and who shall return. Brother Henry Sherwood commenced surveying the city, or its general lines, and the public square in the southwest quarter of the city was selected for the fortress. This week I was detailed to take charge of herding all our stock, and seven men were selected for herdsmen; others were set to watering fields and sowing our turnips, etc. Others were to get out timber for log houses, and a strong company was organized to make adobes. To those unacquainted with these kind of buildings, I will say that they are very common in New Mexico and other sparsely timbered countries. Adobes are bricks made of gravel and soil and dried hard in the sun instead of being burned with fuel. Ours were moulded 18 by 9 inches in length and breadth, and 4 inches thick. The soil upon the ground of the fort being well adapted for the adobes, it was plowed, and water brought from the creek on to it and mortar made with oxen.

Sunday, August 8. Dams being prepared in the creek, all the Saints were re-baptized, from the president to the least member, and several who had never before been baptized. This we did because we had, as it were, entered a new world, and wished to renew our covenants and commence a newness of life. We had a most glorious discourse from the president on the priesthood, and sealing powers and blessings thereof.

Monday, 9th. Captain James Brown, accompanied by S. Brannan and a few attendants, started for the Bay of San Francisco to get a discharge for his men from the commanding officer in California. He was accompanied by some officers of the company to Fort Hall, to see if they could draw, or rather purchase, supplies for his men. This week I commenced getting out timber for a couple of houses. We hauled our timber about seven miles from a mountain ravine. It was a kind of timber called in the east fir tree. Mountaineers call it pine, some call it spruce pine. It often grows on these mountains to a great size. Brother Little and a few others started to explore the country north as far as Bear river and Cache valley. They accompanied Brown’s company down the lake valley until they crossed Bear river, then bore up to Cache valley and found several places well adapted to settlements, and returned to camp after an absence of about a week. Professor Albert Carrington, with others, was engaged in an exploration or geological survey of the valley about the city, and from there up to the Utah lake and the adjacent mountains.

Monday, 16th. Our express sent to bring mail from our rear companies not returning, it was thought wisdom that the ox teams which were to return to Winter Quarters should tarry no longer. Accordingly, a company of about ninety men, soldiers and pioneers, with thirty-three teams and a number of loose horses and mules, that were either ridden or driven, left the valley this afternoon under the superintendence of Brothers Shadrack Roundy and Tunis Rappleyee, who were appointed their leaders on their return trip. Tuesday, the 24th, was the day set for the horse and mule teams to follow them. I should have mentioned that several pioneer teams started about a week ago with instructions to halt for the ox teams as soon as they found game to subsist upon. This was in consequence of the men having exhausted their provisions, and the whole camp being left with but small supplies. Those that were left, now doubled their diligence upon the fort, except the blacksmiths and other mechanics that were set to shoeing horses, preparing wagons, etc., preparatory to starting.

Sunday, 22nd. This afternoon the meeting was resolved into a conference to transact a little business relative to this place before the Twelve should leave. It was voted to organize a stake of Zion by appointing a president, high council, bishop and counselors, and all necessary officers; but the appointments were left to the Twelve when they should ascertain who were coming to winter here. The city was named the City of the Great Salt Lake of the Great Basin of North America. The Utah outlet was named the Western Jordan.

Tuesday, 24th. Those who were ready to start went to the Salt lake for another bathing frolic, while the rest were getting ready.


Thursday, 26th. All being ready, we left the valley at about noon, it being five weeks precisely from the time the first teams entered it. We have left about thirty log houses nearly finished, and the outside adobe wall about four feet high on two sides of the fort, and materials ready for the third side, the log houses to form the fourth side. The brethren who were left in the valley were instructed to continue their labors upon the fort. Our crops look well, and if there should be a favorable fall, the potato seed will be saved, and considerable benefit will be derived from the turnips and buckwheat. When we organized our return camp, we had thirty-six horse and mule teams, one hundred and eight men, besides about forty or fifty horses and mules that were ridden or driven loose. Quite a number of men, however, with some eight or ten teams, were expecting to meet their families and return again to the valley.

Before taking our leave of the valley, I must give the reader a little more minute description of it, being better prepared to do so than I was when the reader was first introduced into it on the 21st of July. It is bounded on the east by a ridge of mountains generally rough, rocky and mostly inaccessible. Some of the highest peaks are covered with perpetual snow. The highest one “Isa. 6:1 is 6 ,919 feet above the temple block; on the south, bounded by a low mountain range that separates it from the Utah lake, and through which the Utah outlet forces its way down an impassable canyon into the valley; on the west, by another very high and rough ridge of mountains, extending from the Utah to the Salt lake, leaving only room for a convenient road between the north point of the mountain and the south end of the Salt lake; on the north, by the lake and the salt marshes, leaving little more than room for a road between the marshes and the base of the eastern mountains, and in some places scarcely that. The valley is about twenty miles broad from the base of the east to that of the west mountains, and with the exception of from four to six miles in the center of the valley it slopes each way to the base of the mountains. It is about thirty-five or forty miles long, north and south. There are no streams from the western mountains, and the west side of the valley is dry, though the soil is good, and it may nearly all be irrigated from the outlet by taking the water out of the upper end of the valley. On the east side there are eight principal streams, besides several smaller creeks, coming out of the mountains between City creek and the Utah lake, and many extensive and excellent springs in the bottoms, and I will venture the assertion that better water cannot be found on the continent than these creeks afford. None but the larger class of these streams find their way to the outlet, or the Western Jordan. All the smaller ones spread out and are lost beneath the soil of the bottoms, and even the outlet itself, with all its tributaries, though sufficient for small steamboat navigation, shares the same fate during the dry season, ere it reaches the Salt lake. Its length in all its wanderings is probably one hundred miles. The sloping portions of the valley from the base of the mountains to the bottoms are dry and gravelly. The bottoms have the alluvial character of Illinois, and abound with extensive beds of rushes, and the greatest variety of grass I ever saw in any country; and the luxuriant growth of grass, rushes, cane-brake, bull-rushes and weeds, upon this bottom, is equal to any growth of vegetation in the Mississippi valley. There is no timber to be seen in the valley, except a few scattering trees upon the creeks, but by tracing these streams to their sources in the mountains, the ravines will be found to be full of timber sufficient to supply the Saints in the valley for many years to come.

(To be Continued)


Improvement Era, 1912, Vol. Xv. May, 1912. No. 7 pp. 642–45

From Nauvoo to Salt Lake in the Van of the Pioneers

The Original Diary of Erastus Snow.



In our last, Erastus Snow, in company with others of the pioneers, was just on the point of commencing the journey back to Winter Quarters where they had left their families. The journal continues.

I will now commence the history of our homeward journey, and shall be very brief. Many, both of the soldiers and pioneers who were organized in our return camp, had entirely exhausted their provisions, while scarcely anyone had more than twenty-five or thirty pounds of bread stuffs, and no meat at all, in camp, except a beef that was killed and distributed the morning we left. When this was about gone, we drew our rations from another ox which the hand of Providence seemed to throw in our way, it being one that was lost by Captain Brown’s company on the outward trip.

Sunday, August 29, 1847. While feeding our teams near Redding’s Cove, seventy-five miles from the Valley, Elder E. T. Benson and company arrived with the mail from the long-expected company of emigrants. He reported about five hundred sixty teams on the road, divided into nine companies, the rear of which, when our express met them, were only forty miles west of Fort John. An express was started forthwith to the Valley with the mail, and Brother Benson went with us. We arrived at Fort Bridger Tuesday evening, August 21. Here another ox lost by Brown’s company made its appearance, and replenished our stock of meat. We crossed Green River, September 3rd, and met the first company of our brethren on Big Sandy, and camped with them. That evening we held a meeting with them, and early the next morning sent an express to Little Sandy and detained Elder P. P. Pratt and his company on that stream where we tarried with them until the 5th, then down to the Pacific Springs, the first water west of the pass. Here we found three companies, namely: Captains G. B. Wallace, A. O. Smoot and C. C. Rich. We tarried here with the Saints one day and two nights.

September 7. We crossed the pass amidst a tremendous snow storm which lasted from 8 o’clock a.m. to 3 o’clock p.m. At the first crossing of the Sweetwater, we found two companies composing Edward Hunter’s hundred, in which Elder John Taylor was traveling. This company at 4 o’clock p.m., on the 7th of September, 1847, cleared away the snow and set a table sufficient to accommodate the whole pioneer company, at which we partook with joy and gladness, President Brigham Young at the head of the table and the Twelve by his side; and I know not that I have sat at a table better supplied with the luxuries of life, in all my travels, for many years, than was this table set at the South Pass at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. They gave the fragments to the poineers who were destitute, and also killed a buffalo and divided among them. We had a joyful time with these companies and left them on the 8th, and sent messages before us to Captain Joesph B. Noble and Willard Snow with their respective companies that composed Captain J. M. Grant’s hundred. We camped with them on a creek, in the midst of the Sweetwater hills, one day and two nights. These were the last of the emigrant companies, and we found them all in prosperous circumstances, health, peace, joy and hilarity in their midst. The only deaths upon the journey out of all the companies were one woman and three or four children, but they had suffered considerably from the loss of horses and cattle, some by the Indians, and more by sickness. At one time, on the Platte, Captain Willard Snow’s company lost forty odd head of cattle which took fright in the night and broke out of the corral; breaking to pieces a wagon, they rushed by the guard and ran off with the buffalo, and though the owners pursued them and hunted a week they found but four or five head. The first night we stayed with them on the Sweetwater hills, forty-nine horses and mules were stolen, about half from the (returning) pioneers and the balance from the other two companies. Some of the horses taken were loose and others tied outside the corral. The joy of meeting our friends made us careless about securing our animals, and our guards were remiss in their duty, and we paid dear for it, for the animals that were taken were about the best in camp.

Next morning the trails of the horses were found leading in different directions but were followed until all came together on the main road down the Sweetwater. About twenty horsemen pursued them some thirty or forty miles, until the trail separated in different directions, and they finally returned finding only five of the horses that had been left by the way.

September 10. We harnessed our loose and infirm animals, and the other companies did the same, and then manned our wagons and separated each on his course, but we were so crippled by the loss of our best animals that we were obliged to move slowly. The second night after this, ten Indians visited our camp and stole a white horse belonging to J. R. Grant who neglected to tie him up. The guard heard them and fired but they escaped with the horse.

On the 16th we reached the Platte. Before this, we began to find buffalo and other game in plenty to supply us with all the meat we wanted. On our journey over the Black Hills, we were carefully watched by a band of the Sioux, and before we were aware that they were in the country, we were surprised by them. On the evening of the 20th, we camped on Big Timber Creek, late in the evening, where there was much timber and shrubbery and precisely the right kind of a place to be surprised. Next morning, while we were gathering our horses, and while but few of the men besides the guard had reached them, about two hundred Sioux emerged suddenly from the brush, and rushing their horses at the top of their speed, and raising a war-whoop and yell, and firing a few guns, they effected their object in setting our horses all frantic and scattering them in all directions, and the fiercest young warriors with the smartest steeds pursued our horses in different directions. In the meantime, the men rushed from camp with their guns, and as many as could get hold of horses were immediately in hot pursuit, and by firing a few guns and showing signs of fight, we checked the movements of the Indians and succeeded in getting our horses all back, except eleven horses and mules that were rushed off up the creek at the outset toward their camp in the mountains. As soon as the main body of the Indians were opposite our camp, seeing the general rush to arms and fearing the consequences of exposing themselves to our long rifles, the chief called a halt, rallied together all that he could make hear him, and hollowed, “Good Sioux, good Sioux,” and wanted to shake hands and be friends. We had three Frenchmen with us who had accompanied us from Fort Bridger, one of whom could talk with them. Through him President Young inquired the cause of their conduct. The reply of the chief was that they had discovered our smoke early in the morning and supposed us to be Snakes with whom they had had a battle on the same ground ten days previous. It was not until some of their unruly young men had driven off our horses that they had discovered their mistake. He further stated that our horses should be returned again. The reader can believe as much of this apology as he pleases. I heard it with much distrust. However, a company of our men accompanied them to their camp and obtained nine out of the eleven animals, the other two being superior ones, could not be found. They had been secreted, without doubt. Our men also recognized about twenty-five out the forty-four of our animals taken on the Sweetwater in their camp but could not get them.


Improvement Era, 1912, Vol. Xv. July, 1912 No. 9 pp. 770–73

From Nauvoo to Salt Lake in the Van of the Pioneers

The Original Diary of Erastus Snow



In our last number the returning pioneers were having trouble with the Indians who stole their horses. The journal continues:

The Indians pretended that they had traded for them. Thinking that we might yet get them by peaceable means, without resorting to force, it was thought advisable to go to Fort John and employ Mr. Bordeaux or some of his traders who had influence with the Sioux to go with our men and carry presents and try and get them. When we arrived at Fort John, the site of the old Fort Laramie, on September 24th, 1847, we learned that a part of our animals taken on the Sweetwater had been brought directly there by some Sioux and that Colonel J. C. Little and Dr. Johnson recognized two of the animals, and secured them, and from the report of the Indians they had reasons to think we had been very badly crippled and perhaps unable to continue our journey, and they had obtained as many horses and mules as they could from the company of ox teams that was in advance of us and had started on the 20th with two other brethren to meet us and render us assistance, but they had unfortunately taken the river road and missed us and fell upon our trail a short distance beyond Big Timber Creek where they were surrounded by the same band of Sioux who had taken our horses. The Indians evidently intended to rob and perhaps murder them, but being well armed, by a bold and resolute course, they kept the Indians at bay until, fortunately for them, Commodore Stockton, with a body of forty men from California bound for the states, arrived in time to save them. From him they learned that our company was in advance of them and they had missed us. They accordingly returned with him to Laramie where they arrived on the 26th, in time to join us in our journey homeward.

Colonel Little accepted the invitation to journey with me and lodge in my wagon until we arrived in Winter Quarters. By-the-way, I would remark that Brother Little, Lieutenant Willis and a few others with pack animals, left the valley the same day that we did, and he overtook the ox teams at Independence Rock and journeyed with them to Laramie. While on the way his animals and about fifteen others belonging to the ox companies were stolen by the Sioux and they tarried a few days at Fort John and succeeded in getting the most of their animals back again, or others in the place of them. During their stay for this purpose, an Indian arrived with a portion of our horses taken on the Sweetwater which he stated he had taken from the Snakes. We also tarried a few days at Fort John in the hopes of obtaining the influence of Mr. Bordeaux and his men in obtaining our lost animals. Bordeaux at first promised to send an interpreter with our messengers and to use his influence in our favor, but the next day when we had made up a company well armed and mounted for the expedition, Mr. Bordeaux refused to send an interpreter, or rather stated that his men refused to go. He also spoke very discouragingly of the expedition and said the Indians would secret our horses and our efforts would be unavailing. Whether he was sincere in his counsel and advice or whether he was afraid of injuring his influence and trade with the Sioux, or whether he was leagued with them in their robberies, is more than I can determine. At any rate there was a rumor afloat that one of his men was missing at the fort next morning after our arrival and by some it was conjectured that he had gone to inform the Sioux of our intentions to make a demand for our horses. And so our expedition was abandoned and with it the hope of obtaining our horses. We returned to our camp, and when Col. Little and Dr. Johnson arrived we resumed our journey down the Platte.

We left our encampment opposite Fort John on the evening of the 26th and came down a few miles to find better feed. On Monday morning, the 27th of September, we renewed our journey. About eight miles down the river we found Mr. Racheau, a French trader, with a band of Sioux that were hunting. Here we tarried one day and rested our teams and traded some with the Indians, and some with the trader. With him we traded some of our poor horses for better ones, etc. This band of Sioux manifested a more friendly disposition. To show their good feeling, a part of them went out, at the suggestion of Mr. Racheau, and killed several buffalo for us.

Sunday morning, October 2, while the camp was starting, a high-spirited Spanish mare which I had purchased of Mr. Racheau unhorsed her rider and at the top of her speed, which was like the flight of a hare, pursued an Indian hunting party that was at that time crossing the bottoms some miles distant towards the bluffs, and although I pursued upon my windiest horse I had a ride of about fifteen miles before I could catch her again. This unlucky circumstance threw me into the midst of what was to me quite a romantic scene—a regular Indian buffalo hunt. When the party arrived in the vicinity of some scattering herds they separated into parties of two and three and took their stations upon tops of buttes or eminences in the prairie in all directions for several miles, so that they could see the direction the herd was taking in the flight. Then two Indians started the herd and pursued in the rear while others were intercepting their retreat and, selecting the fattest cows, let fly their arrows (for they use no firearms in this chase) which seldom failed to do execution; and if the first was not sufficient, the second and third arrow quickly followed, and once wounded became the sole target for the Indian’s arrows until the victim fell. Turn which way they would the herd was sure to be attacked by a fresh party of horsemen who in turn would strew the ground with the slain. When the herd had thus run the gauntlet for some four or five miles and the chase was abandoned, the Indians could be seen in all directions dressing their game. I passed one who had been unhorsed and broken his arm in the chase and his squaw was splintering it up. An old Indian presented me with a couple of tongues which with them is the choicest part of the buffalo, and I returned to camp gratified by the scene I had witnessed and scarcely regretted the chase I had for my mare.

Our teams now began to fail daily and we were obliged to travel slow. The feed was scarce and of a kind that the buffalo had refused, and after a few days travel we found a letter upon a post left for us by the company that was in advance of us from which we learned that they were six days ahead of us. Being anxious that they should stop and assist us with their oxen, a party of twelve footmen were dispatched to overtake them (for we could not spare horses). On the evening of the 16th we came up with the footmen who had given up the chase as a hard one, and were waiting for us eight miles above the head of Grand Island. This being the lower extremity of the buffalo range, we tarried until the 20th to secure meat to last us home. While here we were met to our great joy by sixteen men with horses who had come 250 miles from Winter Quarters to meet us. After leaving the head of Grand Island we found either rushes or cottonwood to recruit, and with the aid of the fresh horses from Winter Quarters we began to move with more ease. We followed down the Grand Island as far as Wood river and there left our spring trail and took the trail of the summer companies along the sand ridges between the Platte and the Loop Fork.



Improvement Era, 1912, Vol. Xv. October, 1912 No. 12 pp. 1107–10

From Nauvoo to Salt Lake in the Van of the Pioneers

The Original Diary of Erastus Snow



In the July number, the returning pioneer company was left on the Loup Fork. The journal continues: We crossed the Loup Fork about twenty-five miles above the old Pawnee mission. The water was about the same depth as when we crossed it in the spring. Elder Amasa Lyman and a few others of the best horsemen left us after crossing the Loup Fork to go to Winter Quarters and carry news of our near approach and to return and meet us with provisions. For some time previous we had subsisted almost entirely upon animal food, and when we passed the old station we gleaned a few ears of corn from the fields, which was quite an addition to our diet and seemed to us quite a luxury. We crossed the Elk Horn river on the 30th of October, and camped upon the east bank. Here we were met by a large company of brethren from Winter Quarters with horses, carriages and wagon loads of grain and provisions for ourselves and teams. With them we had such a meeting as none but partners in tribulation realize. We ate, drank and rejoiced with them that night, and early on the morning of the 31st we started and drove into Winter Quarters, a distance of about twenty-five miles, and were welcomed again to the bosom of our families and friends. My family I found in tolerably good health, though one less than when I left. My lovely little Mary Minerva had fallen asleep August the 4th, age ten months. Brother Edwards, whom I left in charge of my family in the spring, had been sick and had raised but little for the sustenance of my family. My stock were also nearly all used up, some in one way and some in another. Some had died, some lost upon the rush bottoms by the herdsmen last winter, others killed by the Indians, etc., so that out of nineteen head which I had one year ago, I had five left. Then I needed all I had, now I have no use for more than I have. When I need more to prosecute my journey with my family to the Great Basin, I trust that the Lord will open the way by which I may get them.

Soon after the return of the pioneer camp, in accordance with the wish of the general government of the United States, it was resolved by the Saints west of the Missouri river to vacate the Omaha lands next spring and those who cannot go to the valley, to re-cross the Missouri river and settle upon the Pottawattamie purchase.

About the 10th of December, some forty-five or fifty of the “Mormon” Battalion arrived in Winter Quarters from the coast of California, via Salt Lake. The weather was so cold that the Missouri river was frozen over in places when they arrived. They had suffered much and some had perished by the way. They had been compelled to subsist for some time upon their worn-out horses and mules. By these brethren, we received letters from the Saints in the valley as late as the 18th of October, which gave us an account of the safe arrival of the emigrating companies in the city of the Great Salt Lake, and of the general health and prosperity of the Saints there.

During the month of December I spent two weeks with Mrs. Snow visiting our friends and brethren on the western side of the Missouri river, visiting and preaching in several different branches, and all the Saints attended the special conference held December 24, 25, 26, and 27, in the log tabernacle, a commodious block house 63x43 feet, which had been built during the three weeks previous in extremely cold weather, by the Saints upon the Pottawattamie district, expressly for the conference. It was one of the best conferences ever held in the Church, and although the Saints generally were in the depths of poverty and want, yet they were full of the riches of the grace of God—peace within and joy in the Holy Ghost. Much rich instruction was given, and among the business transacted was the organization of the quorum of the First Presidency over the whole Church, and the appointment of Father John Smith to be the patriarch over the whole Church. It was also determined in council to send delegates to the rich Saints in the southern and eastern states to solicit from them donations of money and clothing for the relief of the poor and distressed Saints to enable the council and the camp of the Saints to prosecute their journey to the Great Basin. Elder E. T. Benson of the Twelve and myself were appointed to visit the eastern and middle states, and Elder A. Lyman and Preston Thomas, the southern states.

Elder E. T. Benson and I visited New York, Boston and many other eastern towns and states, soliciting aid. Some received us kindly and contributed money and clothing, but by far the greater portion of the people turned a cold shoulder to us. We left Winter Quarters about the 1st of January, 1848, and returned about the first of April. While traveling, we were sometimes together and at other times traveled separately, visiting different places.

On my return trip I passed through Ohio and visited the Kirtland Temple, and at St. Louis fell in with several returning elders and a company of Saints with whom I ascended the Missouri river. Soon after our return to Winter Quarters there was a general stir and bustle getting ready for starting with our families to Salt Lake Valley, and gathering our year’s supply of seeds and provisions. Most of my oxen had perished during the winter or had been eaten by the Indians, and I was under the necessity of yoking up my cows and all my growing stock to work with my few oxen which were left, in order to haul the wagons for the journey.

I started in company with Presidents Young and Kimball, and had a very pleasant and agreeable journey, my teams holding out well and my family enjoying good health. We reached our destination with much joy on the 20th of September. Soon after our arrival I was appointed one of the presidency of the stake, and during the following winter I was called and ordained into the Quorum of Twelve Apostles (Feb. 12, 1849), together with Charles C. Rich, Lorenzo Snow and Franklin D. Richards, these all filling vacancies caused by the apostasy of Lyman Wight and the re-organization of the First Presidency out of the Quorum of the Twelve.

From this time on, the labors of Erastus Snow were so intimately connected with the early settlement of southern Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and Mexico that he ceased to keep a private journal. His history now becomes a part of the history of the various colonization missions of the Church. In closing this series of articles we deem it appropriate to include a discourse delivered by Erastus Snow in the Tabernacle, Salt Lake City, July 25, 1880, on this subject, which will appear later in the ERA.


Improvement Era, 1913, Vol. Xvi. May, 1913 No. 7, pp. 751–67

Vol. XVI. MAY, 1913 No. 8.

The Utah Pioneers


[Sixty-six years ago in July of this year, the Pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley. Apostle Erastus Snow uttered the words here recorded thirty-three years ago, standing midway between the Pioneers and our day. Doubtless thousands of our readers may look back to the conditions that surrounded him and count the mile posts of toil and achievement in the intervening years, even as he looked back over the time to the day when the Pioneers entered the valley. Those who can thus take a view into the past must in all humility and with thankful hearts praise the Lord our God for giving us such increase in faith and numbers as we now enjoy, for his blessings and mercy, and for the growth, spiritual and material, so abundantly witnessed upon every hand. If the people shall remain true to the faith and valiant in the work of God, the progress that shall result in the coming third of a century may scarcely be estimated.—THE EDITORS.]

I am requested to occupy some time this afternoon in speaking to the people. I generally feel a little awkward in this place, perhaps from the fact that I seldom occupy this position. The scenes before me [referring to the decorations around the Tabernacle from the day before] are fruitful in thought, carrying the mind back through the past history of the Latter-day Saints. And the events of yesterday were full of intense interest to the Latter-day Saints but perhaps none could appreciate the sight better than the Pioneers themselves. Most of that body of men had grown up almost from childhood in the Church, and those that are spared are in their old age, and look back with peculiar feelings to the scenes of the past, and they are not without profitable reflection.


Many of the mottoes exhibited yesterday in our grand procession, and some I see around the gallery—for instance, “God bless our Mountain Home”—carry with them all that is associated with home—all the happiness, the comforts, the pleasures, the hope and the anxieties of home, and that, too, of such a home as God has provided for his people in the valleys of the Rocky Mountains. It is the home of the Saints, and when the Pioneers found it, it was well nigh purified by the lapse of time and the desolation of ages, and the wickedness of its ancient inhabitants well nigh obliterated, though the curse of barrenness and desolation still existed.


I remarked yesterday, on looking at the decorations of this building, that to make the work complete that part which so truthfully represents this desert land in 1847, the sagebrush and the other growth of the desert should be besprinkled with black crickets, and perched in some prominent position, some gulls looking down eagerly upon them; which would remind us of those early days when the Pioneers and early settlers grappled with the difficulties of the desert land; when the untamed savage was scarcely an enemy or a hindrance in our pathway compared with the destructive winged insects, the crickets and the grasshoppers which would come in myriads to devour the tender crops. For the first two seasons it seemed as though the crickets and grasshoppers would consume every green thing, and after they had commenced their depredations to such an extent that to all human appearance the last vestige of the products of the field and garden would be eaten up, large flocks of gulls came to the relief of the farmer, lighting down upon the fields and covering them as with a white sheet, and they fell to devouring the insects; and when they had filled and gorged their stomachs, they would vomit them up and then fill themselves again, and again vomit, and thus they ate and devoured until the fields were cleared of those destructive insects, and the crops saved. And these white birds became almost as sacred in the feelings of the people, for the first two or three years, as the white elephant to the people of India; and I do not know but what, if they had continued their annual visits, some of our people would have been almost ready to revere them as the people of the East do the white elephant. But such a thing was not permitted in the economy of divine Providence; it was not necessary that these birds should come yearly: they came in an opportune time to save the crops and to preserve the early colonists from starvation; and since that time comparatively few of them have been seen in the country. But the assistance of this fowl in those early years was as remarkable, nay miraculous, to us as it was for the Lord to send the armies of quails to the Israelitish camp; dropping them down in their midst in sufficient quantities to suit the cravings of the home-camp of a million people.


Since that time, in various parts of the land, the insects commonly known as the “ironclads,” more properly, flying grasshoppers, have visited certain sections of this country, doing much damage; yet the people have been in a condition to endure such visitations without serious alarm, because of our widespread settlements and the great abundance that has been produced in the country, so that if one section of the country suffered from the ravages of the insects, other sections of the country could come to their relief, and there was no imminent danger to the colonists. Not so in those early years when there was no friendly hand within a thousand miles to extend relief, and no railroads by which supplies could be transported to us, and time would not permit to send our teams a thousand miles across the plains to bring the necessaries of life; our wives and children would have been left as utterly desolate as the savages, who, by-the-by, had learned in their destitution to profit by those visitations; for when the insects would devour all the green things, they would turn in and devour the insects. And on this ground, on this city plot, the first company of savages who visited the Pioneer camp, after the exchange of salutations, retired to prepare their evening repast, and they emptied out of their sacks bushels of dried grasshoppers, on which they made their suppers. Our people had not learned to do this yet, but had it not been for the providential appearance of the gulls, we would have been brought to the same necessity—to gather up the crickets and salt and dry them to subsist upon.


It was an experiment which many doubted, as to whether we could subsist our colonies in this country at all, and whether grain would mature. And James Bridger, the well-known mountaineer, who had inter-married with the Snakes, and who had a trading post which still bears his name, Fort Bridger, when he met President Brigham Young at the Pioneer camp on the Big Sandy, about the last of June, and learned our destination to be the valley of the Great Salt Lake, he gave us a general outline and description of this country, over which he had roamed with the Indians in his hunting and trapping excursions, and expressed grave doubts whether corn could be produced at all in these mountains, he having made experiments in many places with a few seeds, which had failed to mature; and so sanguine was he that it could not be done, that he proffered to give a thousand dollars for the first ear of corn raised in the valley of the Great Salt Lake, or the valley of the Utah outlet, as he termed it, meaning the valley between Utah Lake and Salt Lake. President Young replied to him: “Wait a little, and we will show you.” It was this confident hope, and this faith animating the bosom of President Brigham Young, and the Pioneers led by him, that carried this people through, and that has impelled them upon their onward course from that day to this. True, the country was unknown to us, and being unacquainted with the climate and soil, it was an experiment; but there was an assurance, a faith planted in the hearts of the Pioneer company by the Father whom we serve, that he was abundantly able to sanctify the elements for the good of his people to sustain them in this interior desert. What inspired the Pioneers with this hope and faith was, that God had pointed out the way hither; he had moved upon the Prophet Joseph before his death, to predict that this people would yet be driven from Illinois and the western States, and have to flee into the Rocky Mountains, where they would become a great and strong people. And it was under the inspiration upon this subject that he was prompted to organize an exploring party, consisting of twelve picked men, for the purpose of exploring this land and bring back an account of its facilities, in view of what God had revealed unto him. But he was slain by his enemies without being permitted to realize these expectations and without being permitted to lead his people hither. But the mantle that was upon him fell upon his successor, Brigham Young, who had the same spirit of inspiration and faith. And when that band of Pioneers left the Missouri river, on the 7th day of April, 1847, they journeyed as Abraham journeyed from Ur of the Chaldees, from whence, we are told, he journeyed according to the command of God, seeking a country which God had promised him. Abraham had not seen it, neither did he know where it was, but God having commanded him to go out from the land of his fathers to a land which he should show him, he started out not knowing whither he went.


So did the Pioneers go without knowing whither they went. For the first five hundred miles of the journey from Winter Quarters, or the camp on the Missouri river, to Fort Laramie, on the North Platte, the country was stripped of vegetation; there was nothing for our animals to eat. There was plenty of buffalo, antelope and deer; indeed the buffaloes were so plentiful that they had consumed everything eatable along the river, until all the Platte bottoms were as bare as a sheep yard. The vast herds of buffalo were ofttimes in our way, and we were under the necessity of putting strong guards around our animals least they should stampede; and we had to feed out what grain we had started with—for we had taken a moderate supply of grain to feed as well as for seed, and this we dealt out sparingly unto them, and indeed some began to feed out their crackers and flour and breadstuff before we reached Fort Laramie, to keep our animals from perishing, and the grass did not begin to grow to relieve our animals until we struck the Black Hills, early in June. And here we were obliged to tarry to recruit our animals, and for two or three days we rested on the North Platte while we built ferryboats on which to cross the river. And when this was done, and we had crossed the Platte and were ready to start, we found ourselves very destitute of provisions on account of having been obliged to deal out part of our supplies to save our animals. As we were about to tie up our ferryboat and take our departure, a gentleman came riding up on horseback who had struck our trail at Laramie, and he told us that a large company was a short distance behind on their way to Oregon, and they wished that we would stop and ferry them over the river. We consented to do so if they would replenish our larder, furnishing us the necessary supplies that would justify our detention. This, he said, they were more than willing to do, and offered to pay us the usual fee for ferrying over the Missouri river, and pay us in flour, and sugar, and bacon and coffee, at prices ruling on the Missouri. We stopped and ferried them over, and collected the toll in provisions; and by the time we had done this, another company hove in sight, and we ferried them over on the same terms; and then a third, until our stores and supplies were replenished so that we could prosecute our journey; and leaving a few picked men to tend the ferry, with a few empty wagons and teams to follow, the company proceeded on our way. The ferry-men remained and took over a few other companies, received their pay in provision, and then followed after us. Thus we realized another interposition of divine Providence in timely supplying our needs, after a severe trial of our faith and patience while passing through this buffalo country. Having thus rested our teams and replenished our stores, we continued our journey.

I mention these things as some reasons why the Pioneers were from the 7th of April to the 24th of July in reaching this valley. We made the best time we could under the circumstances, and preserve ourselves and animals fit for use.

The Pioneers were faithful in attending to their prayers. So far as fresh meat was concerned, their hunters killed what game was sufficient to supply them, and they dried considerable and brought with them, which together with the flour and groceries obtained from these emigrant companies, served us until we had finished our mission.


When President Young was questioned by any of the Pioneers as to the definite point of our destination, all he could say to them was, that he would know it when he should see it, and that we should continue to travel the way the Spirit of the Lord should direct us.

At the Pacific Springs, fourteen miles from the last crossing of the Sweetwater, and the first waters on this side of the Divide, we were met by an Indian trader and mountaineer known as “Pegleg” Smith, who had his trading post somewhere above the Soda Springs, on Bear River. He described to us the region of Bear River, and Soda Springs, and Bear Lake Valley, and Cache Valley, and Marsh Valley, which he had visited in the course of his hunting, and trapping and trading with the Indians. He earnestly advised us to direct our course northwestward from Bridger, and make our way into Cache Valley; and he so far made an impression upon the camp, that we were induced to enter into an engagement with him to meet us at a certain time and place some two weeks afterwards to pilot our company into that country. But for some reason, which to this day has never to my knowledge been explained, he failed to meet us; and I have ever recognized his failure to do it as a providence of the Allwise God. The impressions of the Spirit signified that we should bear rather to the south of west from Bridger than to the north of west.


As we journeyed from Bridger on to the Muddy, and up the Muddy to Quaking-asp Hill, and from Quaking-asp Hill on to Sulphur Creek, and while we were camping in the vicinity of what is known as Tar Springs, we were met by a mountaineer by the name of Goodyear, who had spent the previous year in the valley of the Great Salt Lake, having come in from the west with a bano of horses, and wintered where the city of Ogden is now located—having come here the previous spring, and had fenced a small patch, and had tried the experiment of sowing grain and vegetables in a small way. But he, too, was unable to give us any hope; on the contrary, he told of hard frosts, cold climate, difficult to produce grain and vegetables in any of this mountain region. The same answer was given to him as to Mr. Bridger—“Give us time, and we will show you.”


As we made our way on from that point—I think it was the following day or the day after that—that the mountain fever, which was beginning to make inroads into our camp, seized President Young; and so many of our camp were affected with it that we had to stop for a season on Yellow Creek, and again at the head of Echo canyon, stopping and travelling as the sick were able to endure the journey, until we reached the Weber, at the mouth of Echo canyon, and struck our camp a few miles below the present railroad station, where we spent several days. Meantime, while in Echo canyon, President Young being unable to travel, and as the season was advancing, he felt moved upon to direct Elder Orson Pratt to take that portion of the camp, or most of them, that were able to travel and labor with their axes, picks and shovels to make roads and bridges, to commence the work of cutting their way through the mountains and canyons into this valley. And by the time they had succeeded in reaching what is called the Big Mountain, most of the rest of the company started in their trail, still leaving President Young and a few to nurse and care for him, and also a few feeble individuals to follow as soon as they were able. I well remember as we called at the wagon to bid the President good-bye, Brother Willard Richards, who had charge of those about to leave, asking if he had any counsel to give to guide our movements after we should emerge from the mountains into the open country on the west. He was barely able to support his head with his elbow resting on the pillow, and his head in his hand while he spoke feebly, in a low tone: “My impressions are,” said he, “that when you emerge from the mountains into the open country, you bear to the northward and stop at the first convenient place for putting in your seeds.” Some of the seeds we had brought with us should by this time have been put in the ground, such as the potatoes and other vegetables. This last suggestion from President Young controlled our movements.


It fell to the lot of Elder Orson Pratt and myself to penetrate through the thickets and emerge into this valley and get a view of the Great Salt Lake, as was said yesterday by Brother Woodruff, on the 21st day of July. The thicket down through the Narrows, at the mouth of the canyon, was so dense that we could not penetrate through it. I crawled for some distance on my hands and knees through this thicket, until I was compelled to return, admonished, too, by the rattle of a snake which lay coiled up a little under my nose, having almost put my hand on him; but as he gave me the friendly warning, I thanked him and retreated. And I will here say that from that day to this, I have never waged war upon the serpent when he has kindly given me notice of his presence. We raised on to a high point south of the Narrows, where we got a view of the Great Salt Lake and this valley, and each of us, without saying a word to the other, instictively as if by inspiration, raised our hats from our heads and then swinging our hats shouted, Hosanna to God and the Lamb!


We could see the canes down in the valley on what is now called Mill Creek, south of the lower grist mill, which looked like inviting grain; and thitherward we directed our course. But when we reached it and ascertained what it really was, and remembering then the injunction of President Young, we turned northward and crossed Mill Creek on to City Creek, which appeared to us the point of our destination as indicated by the President. From this point we turned back and crossed the bench on the north side of Canyon Creek, going in on the side of the mountains, and made our way back to our working party, who by this time—10 o’clock at night—had come over the Little Mountain and formed camp near its western base. The next day our working party cut their way through the underbrush down through the Narrows from whence I had retreated, and came down to Mill Creek, south of the present mill, and camped at night. At noon on the 23rd we made our camp on Emigration Street, or the street where the street railroad runs east from the Clift House, and just below that on the old channel of the creek; the creek divided just below this Temple Block, one branch running west and the other south. It was on the south branch of the creek we formed our camp on the noon of the 23rd; and here we bowed ourselves down in humble prayer to Almighty God with hearts full of thanksgiving to him, and dedicated this land unto Him for the dwelling place of his people.


And then we organized various working parties to get out the plows and other implements and tools, appointing some to go and plow the lands, and others to turn the water on the land to irrigate it. We found the land so dry that to plow it was impossible, and in attempting to do so some of the plows were broken. We therefore had to distribute the water over the land before it could be worked; this being done, the ground was got ready by the following day, when President Young arrived, and, as Brother Woodruff told you yesterday, he was able to plant the potatoes he had in his wagon. The 24th of July of that year was on a Saturday, and President Young arrived at about 2 p.m. of that day; and on that Saturday night we had about six acres of potatoes and other vegetables planted, the field extending southward from about where the City Hall now stands. This was thirty-three years ago; yesterday.


On the Sunday all work was suspended as usual, for we always observed the Sabbath day in all our journeyings. We held our meeting and offered up our thanksgiving and prayers and sacraments before the Lord; and President Young for the first time was able to get out of his wagon, and sit in his rocking chair and listen and direct, and he spoke to us a little from his chair, and requested that we organize ourselves into exploring parties and explore the country north, south and west; “for,” said he, “it is necessary that we should learn the facilities of the country and be able to report to our brethren whose eyes are turned toward us.” “But,” he said, “I can tell you,” this was after we had organized three exploring parties and made every necessary preparation to start out on the morning following, “but I can tell you before you start, you will find many good places and many facilities for settlement all around us, and you will all return feeling satisfied that this is the most suitable place and THE place for us to make our commencement. And here is the place to build our city.” And I may add, that from that time not only did these three exploring parties bring back the word confirming what the President had said with regard to this place, but I believe it has been the universal judgment of all the people of the mountains that this was the place, and that around here were the greatest facilities, when climate, soil, timber, water and everything are taken into consideration, that it was the most suitable for our central location.


Brother Woodruff informed the people yesterday how President Young, as he emerged from the mouth of Emigration Canyon, lifted himself up in his bed and peered out of his wagon, which overlooked the valley, the cottonwoods on the creek, and the camp on the east side of the creek in fair view, and as Brother Woodruff told you yesterday, that President Young said then, and afterwards to all the camp, that this was the place he had seen long since in vision; it was here he had seen the tent settling down from heaven and resting, and a voice said unto him, “Here is the place where my people Israel shall pitch their tents.” The same Providence that directed the Pioneers, led by our late honored President, has encouraged and directed the labors of the people from that time to the present.


The covenant which we made in the Temple at Nauvoo, when the vote was taken to journey westward and flee before our persecutors in the western states, the covenant we made in that Temple that we would never cease our efforts until we had gathered the poor who were unable to go with us, and bring them to the place which should be selected for the gathering of the Saints, was the first thing to come up before us when we had raised the first crop and demonstrated the fact that grain and vegetables could be produced here, and that there were facilities here for sustaining a population—the covenant we had made came up before us, and we commenced our operations of gathering from the people contributions of their scanty means, which we sent back for the poor who were left by the wayside between Nauvoo and Council Bluffs and Winter Quarters, and on the Missouri river, and others who were scattered up and down the river and in northern Missouri, who were venerable and unable to proceed, and Bishop Edward Hunter was the individual to whom this sacred trust was confided, and the one who led the camp of the poor that were gathered in the year 1850. Our funds were collected in the fall of ‘49; and Bishop Hunter took the means and with others crossed the plains that year, and in the summer of ‘50 brought the first company of poor Saints by what is known as the Perpetual Emigration Fund Company, which has been in operation now thirty years, and has gathered its thousands annually. The fund was gotten up on the principle of perpetual succession, to continue increasing on condition of the people acting honestly and in accordance with their covenants, repaying the amount, as fast as they could do so, which had been advanced to them. But I very much regret to have to say that many who have been the recipients of the contributions of the poor have seemed to forget the pit from which they were digged, and the hole of the rock from which they were hewn, and have neglected their duty in this respect. However, we have abundant reason for thanksgiving for all the good that has resulted from the efforts of the early settlers and of those of later years, in contributing for the gathering of the poor in the many thousands that have been brought to this land—first those that were left behind in Missouri and Iowa and on the eastern borders of what is now Nebraska, and next the poor of the old world.


A generation may be said to have passed away since the Pioneers arrived in this valley, thirty-three years being deemed the average duration of a generation at the present time. And the change, how great! The careful observer of the scenes presented to us yesterday—the representation of the trades and industries, manufactures and commerce, and the associations for the education and improvement of the youth, the great increase among the people, the comforts, not to say luxuries, of life which surround and bless the people on every hand today, present such a contrast that the heart is full to overflowing with thanksgiving and praise to our God, and ought to inspire the rising generation with great faith, courage and perseverance, knowing what has been accomplished in the past generation, and should lead them to reflect and consider what lies before us in the future.


There is one feature, however, which contrasts unfavorably today; it is this: that among the rising generation, and even among some of the former generation still remaining, some seem unmindful of the providence of God that has led us and planted us here, and the purposes and designs of Jehovah in thus leading us here, and the great work which God requires at our hands; and some of them seem befogged; the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of riches and the pride of life turn the heads and hearts of some, and who make it possible for a certain class to thrive in our midst whose object and aim is to thwart the purposes of God and the works of the Saints. True, there is a class among us, and perhaps a large portion of that class called outsiders, or those who have not yet been able to see and understand the spirit and inspiration that moves the Latter-day Saints, there may be many of this class who are able to appreciate the industry, and the union, and the faithfulness and virtue of the Latter-day Saints, and their exertions in converting the desert into a fruitful field, and opening up this great interior country to civilization, and are inclined to award them reasonable credit for their efforts and labors. But there is another portion who are among us, not entirely for filthy lucre’s sake, not entirely for matters of business, not entirely for the purposes of procuring homes as people generally are, but they are here for another purpose, some as missionaries, some professional, some like the ancient Pharisees who Jesus said compassed sea and land to make one proselyte, and when they had done so, they made him tenfold more a child of the devil than he was before. Then there are political missionaries, and sometimes missionary judges and Federal officials who, instead of faithfully performing their duty, go out of their way to cast odium upon the Saints, and draw a veil over their virtues; and who take pleasure in exhibiting their faults and greatly magnifying them. These latter classes, instead of adopting that noble sentiment of the poet, “Speak of all the best you can,” do the opposite, and try to conceal what good they might speak of; their hearts seem to be a fountain of bitterness which, instead of sending forth sweet waters, are only bitter continually. That Spirit which the Latter-day Saints have received by faith, repentance and baptism and the laying on of hands, and by continuing constant in prayer, is like the fountain in the center of this building, springing up a well of water unto everlasting life, reviving all around. But the spirit which the missionaries referred to seem to have imbibed, sends forth bitter water, producing nausea and vomiting. I say the unpleasant feature of today is the fact that there are a sufficient number among our own people, who have become stupid, befogged and benumbed in their sensibilities and blinded by the cares of the world and deceitfulness of riches so that they are ready to strike hands with any whom they think can in anywise contribute to gratify their vanity, their pride, their lustful and covetous desires. Were it not for this, the existence of this class of missionaries referred to would not be possible among us. There would be nothing to encourage it, nothing for that element to feed upon. But so long as we are ready and willing, in addition to that charity which the gospel promotes in us, to let this charity overflow to such an extent that we are ready to receive into our fellowship and into our arms the serpent as well as the dove, without being able to discern between them, and perhaps fondle the serpent in our bosom until he stings us; this is an evil among us which is to be deplored.


Although taking the broad view of the providence and dealing of God with the children of men, we must admit that even in this, too, there is an overruling providence, and that it is not without its good result and grand design; for one of the important truths in the economy of heaven with regard to the dealings of God with men, is that they must all be exposed to temptation, all must be tried and proven by their own works as to whether they love the truth, virtue and goodness; whether they will plant the good seed in the soil of their hearts, or the evil seed; whether they will nourish and cherish the good seed, giving it a chance to grow, or whether they will allow it to be choked down by the growth of evil. Each and every one must work out his own salvation with fear and trembling, and without thus being tempted and proven, and having an opportunity of being tempted and proven none could enter into glory. And in the economy of heaven the tempter seems but to perform his part of the work. The evil one, whom we call that old serpent, Satan, or the devil, is but performing the part of the work which he has chosen—I will not say the part that has been assigned to him, but the part he has chosen. And so with all those who choose evil instead of good, who receive and cherish error instead of truth, who roll falsehood as a sweet morsel under their tongue, and when the truth is presented before them and is within their reach, if they are willing to receive it, they with all those who delight in evil speaking and in evil surrounding, and in misrepresentations, indulging in envy and in everything that is evil, have their choice, they take their choice, they labor in the sphere which they choose for themselves, they walk the road and path which they themselves elect, they sow the seed and they themselves nourish the seed in the soil of their own hearts, and they reap the fruit of their own labors, whether bitter or sweet, whether lovely, pure and holy, or whether it be envy, jealousy, vituperation, wrath, malice and death; for the one road leads to death and down to damnation; the other to peace, fellowship, union and love, with all the attendant joys, glory and exaltation with the gods.

May heaven inspire us to know and understand the truth as it is in Christ Jesus, and to magnify our high calling before him, in the name of Jesus. Amen.