Charles Alfred Harper was born on January 27, 1817 in Pennsylvania. He married Lavina Wollerton Dilworth in 1841. Shortly after marrying, the couple became members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and joined the western migration movement, emigrating first to Illinois, and later to Utah.
Working as a scout for Brigham Young’s vanguard company, Charles was among the first pioneers to reach the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847. He then crossed the plains two more times to help others come to Zion.
Charles recorded many of experiences that he had along the trail. One of which was hunting buffalo.
In a letter to his wife’s uncle, Charles related some of his experiences from the trek across the plains:
“Westward from Grand Island from one to two hundred miles is the Bufaloe range where we saw them by thousands together with Bands of Elk, Deer, and antelope. The Bufaloe is excellent meat to subsist on, superior to common beef. We lived on it for about six weeks on our return as our bread stuffs had run out. At first we felt a great longing for bread but after a few days we felt as natural as though we had a variety of cookery to partake of.”
Charles Harper was known to have been one of ten men appointed to hunt buffalo to prevent starvation.
Here are a few journal entries that Charles wrote in May 1847…
1st – very cold and windy all day we started before breakfast and traveled a few miles to wood and water where we cooked breakfast after which we resumed our journey we now came in sight of a herd of Bufaloe [buffalo] our hunters started after them and obtained 5 old ones and some calves we camped on a slough this night
6th – a slight shower of rain about daybreak after which it cleared off warm till in the afternoon when it began to blow cold from the west during the day we were never out of sight of large herds of Bufalos besides number of elk and antelope
7th – during the day we traveled about 12 miles in which time we beheld nothing but one continued string of Bufaloe the day was cold and at night we camped as usual on the bank of the Platt