George Woodward in "Fifty Years Ago Today," Salt Lake Tribune, 30 April 1897.
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Friday, April 30, 1847, was a most uncomfortable day for the pioneers. The dust which was blown across the prairie become unbearable, and in the afternoon the weather turned very gloomy and severely cold, the discomforts being increased by the lack of fuel at night.
During the day sixteen miles were made, and when the camp was established the pioneers were 220 miles on their journey to Utah.
The start was made at 7:40 a.m., and the trail led over a level prairie about three-fourths of a mile north of the timber on Grand Island. The prairie was dotted here and there with buffalo grass, and many wild geese flew over the heads of the travelers as the heavily-laden wagons moved over the sandy wastes.
Brigham Young and Amasa Lyman rode ahead of the train to pick out the road, and others were with them. The Indian trails were followed where practicable, but in places they were so overgrown as to be scarcely discernible. The wind blew strongly all day, and by noon the pioneers were covered with dust. At 1 p.m. the wind assumed the character of a hurricane, and the cold was the most discomforting the travelers had yet experienced.
The wagons were locked at 5 p.m. for the night's rest, but were arranged in an imperfect circle, in such a way as to have all of them backed to the wind. It was so cold that overcoats and buffalo robes were in demand, but other wise the campers were feeling well, and no accident marred the peace of the camp.
As it was a mile from either timber, water or grass, the encampment was not an ideal one, and as the cold increased the lack of fire was keenly felt. But at 8 o-clock a good substitute for wood was found in the immense quantities of dried buffalos chips which covered the prairie. It was a new idea to the pioneers, but as soon as it was suggested every man began to collect the chips and prepare a fire near his wagon, after the manner adopted by the Arabs in crossing the deserts.
To get water a well was dug, and as it was not far to the river, water was struck at a depth of four feet, and after settling it became quite clear. Having encountered and overcome these two difficulties, the evening meal was prepared, and later, to the enlivening strains of Hans Hansen's violin, some of the men danced a step or two to keep themselves warm, but the most of the camp retired to their wagons and sought the warmest bedding they had. The night continued to grow colder, and the sleepers suffered greatly in consequence, many of them having brought an insufficient supply of bedding.
George Woodard was one of the original pioneers of Utah. He still lives in St. George, and writes to The Tribune an interesting letter dealing with the journey across the plains. Mr. Woodard was born in Monmouth county, New Jersey, September 9, 1817, and is today one of the prominent men of St. George, the prosperous town in the extreme southwest corner of the State.
Mr. Woodard was with the wagons that made the very first start for the mountains on April 5th. He returned to conference at Winter Quarters, and on the 7th he made the second start and went to the Elk Horn camp. In his personal reminiscences, he says: "The artillery consisted of one cannon rigged up like a wagon, with a span of horses and a grain-box. Col. [Stephen Avon] Markham had charge, and was driving. He called me to assist him. There was also a night guard appointed, and I was one of them, having to stand guard every night, for a half of the night."
Mr. Woodard's letter contains many valuable items of interest concerning the great journey, which will be included in the narrative in future recitals.