20 Winter Quarters to Elkhorn River 1848

                                                          William Warner Major


Jill C. Major, Author

Return to Winter Quarters

Major joined his family 12 days later, arriving with Orson Hyde in a prairie squall:

Sunday, April 2, 1848 - This day Winter Quarters was visited by a violent wind storm, the severest gale known in camp up to that time. Hyrum Gates shed yard and hay stack took fire. The wind however blowed in a favorable direction or the whole city would have been on fire, as it was, several houses took fire, but it was put out before damage of any consequence had been done. About forty-five Pawnee Indians were encamped begging corn; they were starving. In the evening Elder Orson Hyde and Wm W. Major arrived at Winter Quarters.

Monday, April 3 (1848) - This was a pleasant day at Winter Quarters with a northerly wind blowing. Brigham Young, Orson Hyde, Wilford Woodruff and Willard Richards met in the Historian's office at Winter Quarters with a number of Pawnee Indians, including three chiefs and talked about the conditions of Indians who wanted corn. President Young ordered 50 bushels to be given them which was all they could pack. Elder Wm W Major gave in his report to Dr. Willard Richards.6

President Brigham Young was again sustained as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint by the members during the conference held on April 6, 1848. William and Sarah were in attendance at that conference and William participated:

Thursday, April 6 (1848) This was a pleasant, sunny morning at Winter Quarters, and south winds prevailed. President Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, and many other leading men of the Church left Winter Quarters in the morning, crossed the Missouri river on the ferry and proceeded to the Log Tabernacle, in Miller's Hollow [Kanesville] to attend conference . . . Elder Hyde then presented Brigham Young as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the proposition was seconded and carried unanimously. In the same manner Heber C. Kimball was presented and sustained as first and Willard Richards as second counselor to President Young . . .

"In the evening meeting, Elder Wm. W. Major offered the opening prayer. Elisha N. Groves, Wm. W. Major and President Brigham Young preached and Orson Pratt offered the benediction."7

 Joseph Smith Major Lost

     Finally it was the Major family’s turn to load their wagon, hitch up the oxen, and drive West. For the third time since they joined the Church, William and Sarah abandoned their home.   William Warner Major Sr. was forty-four, Sarah age thirty-six, William Jr. had just turned twelve, and three year old Joseph Smith Major was just starting to jabber. It was a treacherous journey and the Major family and Peart family were less than 25 miles from Winter Quarters when their young sons wandered away.   Jacob Peart wrote the following on May 23, 1848:

Tuesday morning very wet and cold and[.] Yester day my Boy George Alma [Peart] went of[f] with Bro Major’s little Boy[.] George was 4 year old and Major’s boy 3[.] they lost themselves[.] was gone 2 or 3 miles & was taken up by some of the Brethren. I met them Bringing them home[.] they were on the wild pra[i]rie amidst exposed to Indians & Wolves which are all the time traverseing these praries[.] <Here> the care of our great Father was again manifested to me and I feal to give glory & honour to his holy Name –(Jacob Peart, Diary, 1847-1872, 33).

The Major family still had about 990 miles left to travel.

Counselor to Isaac Morley In Brigham Young’s 1848 Company


For about two weeks, the British family camped with the Saints at the Elkhorn River. As a leader, Major helped organize the great gathering of Brigham Young’s company. Sunday, May 28, Thomas Bullock's camp journal of this day reported:

During the night a heavy shower of rain visited the camp with lightning and thunder. Many of the wagon covers were drenched through which gave employment to dry the wet goods. President Young gave orders not to ferry over any wagons on the Sabbath; he went over to the opposite side of the river to visit the brethren and returned about noon. William W. Major reported there were 180 wagons on the west side of the Horn, and there were already about that many on this the east side of the river.

Wednesday, May 31.(1848) A strong south west wind prevailed at Winter Quarters; otherwise the day was warm and pleasant. A few Pawnee Indians came into town with their squaws and papooses. The Missouri River was three feet higher than the day before.

After breakfast I crossed my two wagons over the Elkhorn river and hearing that the President was numbering the wagons in his corral I immediately went there to assist and divided his corral into 14 companies of tens...The brethren continued ferrying all day; they swam the cattle over. At sundown Pres. Young with Pres. Morley and his counselors Titus Billings and Wm. W. Major and Thomas Bullock as clerk, went up to Zerah Pulsipher's hundred and organized it, by voting in Zerah Pulsipher to be the captain of the hundred, John Benbow captain of fifty. Afterwards President Young gave them some general instructions about observing order in the camp; he told them not to abuse the cattle, but take care of them; not to yell and bawl and make any noise, nor to be up at nights, but to attend prayers and go to bed by 9 o'clock and put out the fires. He said it was best to tie up the cattle outside of the coral and the horses inside. Hogs and dogs should be tied up or shot. The sheep should be taken care of etc., etc.8









Wagons at the Elkhorn.  Winter Quarters , Florence, Nebraska


Thursday, June 1 (1848) Brigham Young wrote in his Manuscript History:

Brother Heber C. Kimball with a company of fifty-five wagons arrived on the east bank of the Elkhorn river. I proceeded to a further organization of my company; William G. Perkins was chosen captain of hundred with John D. Lee and Eleazer Miller captains of fifties; also Allen Taylor captain of hundred with John Harvey and Daniel Carn, Captains of fifties. The company voted that I should act as General Superintendent of the emigrating companies and Daniel H. Wells was sustained as my aid-de-camp. Isaac Morley was sustained as President of the company, with Reynolds Cahoon and William W. Major as his counselors. Horace S. Eldredge was chosen Marshal, and Hosea Stout captain of the night guard. Captain Lorenzo Snow's company moved out to the Platte river, and Captain Pulsipher's company started out a few miles.9

On the same day Thomas Bullock inscribed: "About nine o'clock a.m. President Isaac Morley with his counselors went up to President Young's corral and conversed upon the organization. We then visited Lorenzo Snow's companies and organized it into tens; they also visited the other camps and instructed them in their duties. I was very busy filling up papers of the captains of twelve companies and kept William W. Major, Stephen H. Goddard, and A. Niebaur busy copying the same."10

The camp of Israel was organized in military fashion so Pioneers could protect themselves from enemy raids. Fortunately, the pioneers in this company only encountered friendly, helpful Indians who aided the saints by trading with them.


011 Elk Horn River Ferry

Elkhorn River Ferry,  Frederick Hawkins Piercy, From Liverpool to Great Salt Lake Valley, 1854

Brigham Young University, Special Collections