|[ Table of Contents ]||Crossroads, Fall 1997 - Vol. 8, No. 4|
The Editor's Corner
|Thank you, thank you! Its with great relief
that I announce that I was not elected to OCTAs
national board of directors. As for all of you
well-intentioned folks who said you were going to vote
for me despite my pleas to the contrary, I convey a
Well, there are certainly some exciting things going on. Towards end of August I got a voice mail message from some guy named Steve Berlin, a new member who wanted to talk to me about the newsletter. Well! As much as I resented getting saddled with Crossroads three years ago, Ive developed a remarkably proprietary attitude towards it and was annoyed that some upstart newbie apparently thought he was gonna horn in. Steve and I played phone tag for a couple of days, but finally got in touch. Much to my relief, it turned out that all he wanted was to talk to me about a website he was creating for the chapter and could I get him electronic copies of back issues of Crossroads to publish on the Internet. We had an enjoyable (and very long) conversation, the upshot of which is that the chapter has a first-rate website and I have my very own website called "New Light on the (you guessed it) Donner Party."
So with a lot of help from Steve, Ive spent the last three months slaving away at my website. Its been a lot of work, but it gives me a chance to spout off to someone besides you guys for a change. But Im not alone out thereGar Elison has a Hudspeth Cutoff page, and were hoping to be joined by other members who are also willing to share their knowledge on the Internet.
Well, I managed to avoid publishing anything about the Donner Party last issue, but this one boasts yet another new-but-relatively-insignificant addition to the documentary record of those hapless pioneers. John Sinclairs letter of January 29, 1847, is hearsay, but its early hearsay, and that ought to count for something.
Norma Ricketts rejoins us for the second installment of her article about the pioneer companies of 1847, winding up our coverage of the Mormon pioneer sesquicentennial, and Lyndia Carter has once again favored us with amusing accounts of the fall field trip and the BBQ social.
Crossroads and I now have a post office box. You can still send me copy at home, of course, but the following will reach me, too:
P.O. Box 522279
|[ Table of Contents ]||Crossroads, Fall 1997 - Vol. 4|
Rustmarks Along the Trail
". . . I want to express my sincere appreciation to all of you for what you have done and all you continue to do to further the cause of the history of our American West."
|As the sesquicentennial year of the Mormon
Pioneer Trail draws to a close, so do my three years as
president of Utah Crossroads. My memories are many and
fond, my friendships with so many wonderful,
knowledgeable Utah Crossroads members will continue to
grow, but it is time for a change and a new chapter
president will take over at the membership meeting in
January. I could not begin to list all the members who
have worked so diligently since the very beginning of the
chapter to make this the leading western history
organization in Utah and the leading chapter of the
Oregon-California Trails Association. Think for a moment
about publications, books, articles, newsletters, trail
guides; about field trips, from one end of the state to
another; about trail markers, mapping, monuments; about
hours and hours of individual research; about speakers
and guides sharing their knowledge, not just with our
members but with the community; about seminars, public
meetings, etc. Utah Crossroads members are the greatest
and I want to express my sincere appreciation to all of
you for what you have done and all you continue to do to
further the cause of the history of our American West.
Next year will be another exciting year of sesquicentennial dates to observe. We will kick off the year with our membership meeting on Thursday, January 22, 1998 at 7:00 p.m. in the Salt Lake County Commission Chambers. A very special speaker, Frank Tortorich from Pine Grove, California, will talk about the Mormon Battalion participation in the gold discovery 150 years ago and their opening a wagon road through Carson Pass as they made their way to the Salt Lake Valley in the summer of 1848. Frank has studied the subject for years and assisted many groups on field trips along this historic trail. His presentation in January will whet your appetite for more information about these events. He has invited the chapter to join him in an exclusive three-day field trip next summer. It will take place Friday through Sunday, July 17-19, beginning in the area of the gold discovery and then following the Battalion route through Carson Pass into Nevada. It will be limited to Utah Crossroads members only. More details regarding logistics will be available next spring, but this advance notice will help you plan your summer.
We also plan a field trip in May to follow the Mormon Battalion route from Nevada into Utah in 1848, which came to be called the "Salt Lake Cutoff." It was used later by thousands of California-bound emigrants who came through Salt Lake City, then went north around the Great Salt Lake to connect with the California Trail at City of Rocks in southern Idaho. Again, more details next spring.
With these and other activities in 1998, Utah Crossroads members will once again prove to be the best and can further their knowledge and service in preserving our Western heritage. I personally look forward to being a part of this great group of friends and to further my own awareness of history. You many not see as many of my "Rust Marks" in the future, but I will be right there enjoying with the rest of you.
|[ Table of Contents ]||Crossroads, Fall 1997 - Vol. 8, No. 4|
Dinner by Canyon Light
"(The organizers of the Mormon wagon train reenactment) learned that the trail was built on sacrifice, then and now."
|Mellow. There is no other way to describe the
evening of Saturday, September 6, 1997, when the Utah
Crossroads Chapter met for its annual dinner-social at
the park of the Washington Terrace Golf Course in
Parleys Canyon. The crowd may not have been as
large as some years, but a jolly and compatible group
they were as they mingled for an hour before dinner,
chatting with old friends and making new ones, catching
up on news of trail travel, research, and personal lives.
The air tingled with the last hurrah of summer and the
first hint of autumn. In other words, the setting was
perfect, and the company pleasant.
Eyes watched eagerly for the Meiers Catering truck to drive up as the dinner hour of six drew near. We all remembered the delicious meal they provided the previous year. Soon a sumptuous feast was spread on the picnic table. The aromas of fried chicken, barbecued pork, baked beans, and corn on the cob filled the air. Stomachs began to rumble as the line formed for the food. Hungry Crossroaders heaped their plates, starting with salad and topping it all off with brownies. Between mouthfuls, friends worked in lots more pleasant conversation at the tables.
The Cottonwood Gang provided entertainment for the evening. Their fiddles, guitars, banjos, basses, mandolins, harmonicas, and other instruments filled the air with cheery tunes. Crossroaders tapped feet and clapped hands in rhythm to the lively country-western-bluegrass sounds. The Cottonwood Gang has become a delightful tradition at Crossroads socials.
Appetites satisfied and the audience relaxed and entertained, President George Ivory commenced with the business of the evening. Roy Tea informed the crowd regarding the fall field trip along the transcontinental railway bed north of the Great Salt Lake, scheduled for Saturday, October 18. The completion of this railroad basically ended covered wagon travel, although some would-be settlers even took their wagons along the rail bed in the 1870s and 1880s. The trip sounded fun, and many were eager to go, weather willing.
Vern Gorzitze next had the honor of presenting John Eldredge with a special token recognizing his field work. During an excursion on the trail between Fort Bridger and Salt Lake City, John had been one of the discoverers of a rock with the inscription, "Roy 1814," likely that of a French-Canadian fur trader. In order to have a more complete record of this historic graffiti, Vern and Jerry Dunton journeyed to the site and made a latex casting of the inscription. John is now the proud owner of a copy of the signature.
George Ivory had the pleasure of expressing to Al Mulder the chapters deep appreciation for the endless hours of trail-marking and preservation service he has rendered since the group organized nearly six years ago. At the OCTA National Convention at Pocatello in August, Al was recognized for trail service. Utah Crossroads not only endorses that award, but whole-heartedly applauds all that Al has done for our chapter and the great western trails.
Steve Berlin explained how the Internet can be used for trail-buffs to share information and for Utah Crossroads to become an important stop on the great Internet informational highway. For those addicted to not only the trail, but also the computer, this website is going to be a lot of fun and a valuable tool.
The highlight of the evening came with our two speakers, Brenda Lowe Cornell and Bob Lowe, the masterminds (and backbones) behind the Mormon Pioneer Trail Sesquicentennial Wagon Train. Daughter Brenda, better known as Bre, spoke first. Years ago, Bre conceived the idea of a wagon train honoring the Mormon pioneers. She, with the rest of the Lowes, saw that dream become a reality this summer. The family was in from the beginning, the pushers behind the idea. They used Utah Crossroads and other trail organization as sounding boards as they planned, and Al Mulder, George Ivory, and Ron Anderson provided useful advice. Bre described the project as "bold and audacious." The 97 day trek began in Omaha on April 21, 1997, and ended as the wagons rolled into Salt Lake Valley on July 22. It began as "our wagon train", said Bre, but it became the worlds wagon train as the world watched and became emotionally and mentally involved in the project.
Others did more than watch. The train picked up more wagons, handcart-pullers, walkers, and horse-riders as it went. People moved in and out, some spending a day or two, others making the entire trek. Cornell called it a town on the move, a community. Two-hundred-sixteen people made the entire journey; some 10,000 others joined for a day, days, or a week, or more. By the time it reached Wyoming, its impact was strongly felt around the world. People along the route were touched as they train came near or through their communities. The support they found in Wyoming was just amazing, according to Cornell. As the wagon train neared Utah, these modern emigrants felt like they were truly coming home.
One of the wagon trains biggest impacts, Bre said, was the effect it had on children. Those who joined the train stepped into pioneer life better than anyone. Their imagination and sense of adventure directed them and make-believe became real for them. Some walked with bare feet. All got into the spirit.
There were challenges for the leaders. One of the largest was rules; when to enforce them by the letter, when to bend them to circumstance. It was a tough dilemma. Another challenge was coordinating all those people, wagons, animals, and handcarts, support vehicles, and supplies, activities and camping places. Bre indicated that all went as scheduled, but not everything went as planned. They soon saw the need for flexibility and patience.
Changes came on a near-daily basis. It was a real trick to make sure all necessary food, water, and feed for animals was available. They did not have to worry in the same sense as the pioneers to find the right camping spots with adequate water, forage, and fuel; they just had to make sure those things got to the chosen places. Flat tires had to be changed; medical support for people and animals provided. Fortunately, they did not have to face the horrors of sickness and death on the trail without medical care. And as some days had awfully long hours for the organizers, they learned that the trail was built on sacrifice, then and now.
The Mormon Wagon Train had many highlights for the Lowe family. There was, of course, the baby born on the trail. Then there were the two oldest participantsan eighty-six year-old and an eighty-one year old who did not let their ages deter them from having a wonderful experience. People came from all over the world to join in with the adventure. The Japanese family found their greatest hardship in the monotony of beef stew, potato salad, and baked beans. How they longed for good, old home cooking, Japanese style! Somehow one can imagine, the pioneers thinking the same thing about the monotony of the foods they ate on the trail. (Just how many ways can you serve flour?)
Bre found the wagon train taught her many lessons. One of the most important, she says, is that it taught her and others the need to simplify life and decide on what is really important. She plans to keep the memory alive and is writing a book about the experience.
Bob Lowe followed with some remarks and his own thoughts about the summers adventure. It was a thrill for him to be part of the journey, to walk the same ruts, be covered with the same dirt as the emigrants one-hundred-fifty years ago. As a wagon-master, he felt the stress, the worry of accidents, the concern for people and animals, but he also felt the satisfaction of being part of a significant event. He indicated that the support people are really the ones that made it all work. Although it was not LDS Church sponsored, it was condoned by the church and many members enjoyed the experience of doing what their ancestors did. Sixty-five wagons, along with walkers, handcarts, and horse-back riders, comprised the train at its numerical height; sixty-one wagons rolled down Emigration Canyon into Salt Lake Valley.
Lowe, who is not particularly a mule fan, learned to appreciate the value of a good mule. More horses started than mules, but as horses tended to wear down on the trek, they were replaced by the tougher, sturdier animals. By the time the train reached Salt Lake City, there were more mules than horses. [One wonders what his opinion of oxen would be?]
One of the most impressive occurrences on the journey for Bob was the six-hundred crosses placed on the trail from Woods Cross to Sheldon, Nebraska, by the Boy Scouts of America as an Eagle Scout project. The crosses were tied with ten ribbons each, representing the six thousand deaths of Mormon emigrants on the Mormon Trail. He was also touched by the 750 walkers that joined them in Jeffrey City, Wyoming.
For Utah Crossroads members, it was a thrill to get the inside story behind the Mormon Trail Sesquicentennial Wagon Train. Lowe and Cornell answered a multitude of questions, as well. Listening to them was time well spent.
While shades of darkness surrounded us, we did a hasty clean-up. We broke camp and our modern day wagons rolled down Parleys Canyon toward the lights of the city, some fine memories added to our loads.
|[ Table of Contents ]||Crossroads, Fall 1997 - Vol. 8, No. 4|
Riding the Rails with Utah Crossroads
"We ate our lunch at "modern" Lucin, now entirely abandoned. . . . The grand old trees still offer shade, the pond creates a pleasant setting, and the cow-pies add ambience."
|The owners of several tire dealerships were
smiling Monday, October 20, after the Utah Crossroads
fall field trip of Saturday, October 18, 1997. Eight of
the fifteen vehicles in the caravan won the Purple Heart
(i.e., experienced flat tires) as we wended our way
eastward over the abandoned rail bed of the Central
Pacific Railroad from Lucin to the Golden Spike National
Historic Site. Our guide, Doug Melton, of the Bureau of
Land Management, awarded us the dubious honor of having
the highest percentage of flats yet on the Scenic By-Way.
However, some of us did unavoidably get to take home an
artifact from the protected corridor. The spike may not
be golden, but if it stuck in our tire, it was ours to
keep! Our group certainly made the trail a lot safer for
the next traveler.
It all began early the morning of Saturday, October 18, (7:30 to be precise) at the truck stop at Lake Point. Thirty-odd (I am referring to numbers, not personalities!) people gathered there for the trek. (Im confessing that I did not get an accurate count). We shivered and yawned until all of us had arrived, then we followed Roy Tea and Doug Melton westward on Interstate 80. Those who were smart or not driving caught a few more winks. The rest of us enjoyed the scenery (who am I kidding?) and the conversation of others in the vehicles. Countless miles later, we got off the freeway at the Bonneville Speedway exit. At the truck stop there we met the Mulders and a few others who had enjoyed an evening in Wendover the night before. Each of us took full advantage of "the facilities" since it was the last of such a convenience we would see that day.
We next headed for Donner Spring and the Utah Crossroads historical kiosk. Several in the group had not been to the site previously, and we were anxious to show it off. As we traveled the dirt road, Roy Tea gave some commentary on the Bartleson-Bidwell party and the Donner Party. It was exciting to have in our caravan Utah Crossroads members from far and wideJoe and Charlene Olorenshaw came down from Soda Springs, Idaho, and John Kuzara came all the way from Buffalo, Wyoming, to be part of the trek. They got full doses of Utah (and some Nevada) dust as we trundled over hill and dell. We stopped at Bidwell Pass to take a view of the trail and complete the historical background, since it was already apparent that CB radios were not going to be highly effective that day. Roy pointed out the trail to and over the pass and explained about the various parties that used the trail. We did a little wandering around, then loaded back up and headed out. Unfortunately, Al Mulder only half-loaded up. Laura was left behind as Als pickup became lost in the dust down the road. Fortunately, someone (I believe it was George Ivory) noticed and picked her up. So now Lauras reputation is shotshes an easy pick-up. And Al, well, I guess hes just been out on the desert alone too much lately. He just plain forgot.
Roy pointed out Halls Spring, another watering hole, and the Munsee cabin, homesteaded in the 1880s in this isolated wilderness, as we drove on to Donner Spring. As we turned into Dean Stephens ranch complex, we heard the story of the spring and the various groups that refreshed themselves there. We had a lot of territory to cover that day, so the stop was only brief.
Soon we were again on the way northward. The Bartleson-Bidwell party had traveled fairly closely this same route in 1841, and so Roy Tea and Doug Melton informed us of some of the things that occurred to them along this stretch and pointed out significant landmarks. The caravan was strung out for miles because of the dust, which made communication difficult. Kay Threlkeld, who was somewhat in the middle of the line, acted as message-relayer. The area seems so desolate and lonely, one wonders what those emigrants thought as they passed through.
We ate our lunch at "modern" Lucin, now entirely abandoned. This had been a small railroad community for many years and was established after the construction of the Lucin Cutoff across the Great Salt Lake. It is located about five miles from the original Lucin, a stop on the transcontinental railroad which was built in 1869. The site of modern Lucin is a lovely spot for an autumn picnic. The weather was fantastic. The grand old trees still offer shade, the pond creates a pleasant setting, and the cow-pies add ambience. We took out our coolers and lunch bags and munched to our hearts content. Only one thing was missing. You guessed ita restroom! Some few managed to sneak away to somewhere; the rest of us, well, we just hoped for a tall sage brush or a deep ravine somewhere along the soon-to-be-encountered rail bed.
The grand event of the day lay only five dusty miles away. We all got out our excellent road guides, graciously provided by the BLM, and followed the historic information they provided. Soon we were traveling on the road bed built by Chinese laborers in 1868 and 1869. It was a thrilling experience to know we were driving our vehicles exactly where the great steam-driven iron horses had once rolled. Being trail buffs, we shed a silent tear or two in honor of the trails that the railroad made obsolete. But we also stood in awe of the bold adventure the transcontinental railroad was in 1869.
Each siding or rail stop along the way was marked and the commentary in the book gave an interesting description of the place, recounted historical tidbits, and told of artifacts and foundations found at the site. We passed the original Lucin and traveled on, at great risk to our tires, to Medea. Shortly thereafter, we found out why Roys and Georges flyer reminded us to be sure and bring two spares. In rapid succession between Medea and Bovine, three vehicles got punctures. Luckily, the flats were almost simultaneous, so we all stopped and had a tire changing party. Everyone pitched in and before too long the tires were changed. Fortunately, Wilson Hales had an excellent lug wretch and tools that were put into action. And despite what we hear about teenagers these days, it was lucky for us we had one. Scott Wayment, with his lithe young back, his youthful energy and his able muscles, got plenty of opportunity to dispel the myth by helping out several of us old codgers. The delay gave some of us a little time to explore. We examined closely some old stone culverts and wooden bridges from the early days of railroad construction. A few walked ahead a bit and removed the noxious spikes from our path. But there were still miles to go before our tires could sleep.
The adventure became too "exciting" for a couple of drivers who got nervous about having a second flat or missing evening engagements, so they peeled off at the next dirt road that headed north to the highway in Park Valley. The rest of us continued on, taking the gamble with our tires and not wanting to give up a once-in-a-life-time experience. It really was fun to stop at some of the places and explore the old sites. The ghost-town of Terrace excited our imaginations. So many artifacts lay around, so many foundations were still visible, so many ghosts of the past haunted the area. The mind imagined what it would have been like to grow up in or raise a family or live in such an isolated location. The town once teemed with lifea hotel, roundhouse, train repair shops, homes. The photographs in our guide book helped us place ourselves there in a by-gone era. For those who could hear on the CB, Doug Melton told interesting stories of the communities and sidings along the route. The dust, to our dismay, kept some vehicles out of range of the CB, however.
Kelton was another real highlight. (By that time we had worked up to six flat tires.) Kelton was a rail and stage stop and a major shipping depot. There people could switch from the railroad to stages to go to points in Idaho. It was, at one time, also quite the community which had a lively past. Not much is left there now; basically just a cemetery. But what a cemetery! One of the graves belonged to Esther Seddon, a member of the Martin handcart company. I (Lyndia Carter) nearly did cartwheels when I saw the markershe was one person whose fate was unknown. It is just one of those wonderful serendipities. Just think, I could have missed it and never knownboy, am I glad I went on this trip! (Of course, I would have been glad anyway). The old cemetery was soul-stirring. Life and death in such a spot is somehow very touchingso alone, so far from anything, so desolate. The little lamb marker over a childs grave was especially haunting.
A few more vehicles left us at Kelton and headed toward Tremonton for the night. The rest kept on, traveling where rails had once spanned the Great Salt Lake Desert. We diehards wanted to go the full distance to Promontory Summit and the Golden Spike Historic Site. As we passed the Locomotive Springs, Roy Tea explained about the thirsty Bartleson-Bidwell party missing these springs as they trekked around the northern end of the lake. As we rolled southeastward, the rail bed in places came really close to the Great Salt Lake. We saw areas where salt and potash plants once existed. Near Kosmos, George Ivory got the seventh flat tire. Since he had only a "doughnut" left, he kept his fingers crossed the rest of the way. That made it a bit harder to drive, I imagine.
Near the Centre siding, Wilson Hales, who had all day rendered valiant service in helping to change other peoples tires, experienced the 8th and last flat tire. By now the group was really strung out and the lead vehicles had a bit of a wait while the change was made. Robert and Lyndia Carter decided to walk along the rail bed and remove spikes and other obstacles. In the distance they walked, they were amazed to find just how many spikes were out there waiting for victims. Those seven vehicles who did not get flat tires should feel very lucky. Actually, though, Doug Melton assured us that most groups have relatively few flat tiresI guess Crossroads is just "lucky" we got to take home mementos of our trip. However, my theory is that the great trail gods got jealous and were punishing us for our act of disloyalty to the wagon trails.
As we neared Promontory Summit, we came to the "Ten Miles in One Day" stretch. Here the Irish laborers for the Central Pacific Railroad laid ten miles of track in one day, a record that has never been broken, even with modern equipment. It boggled the mind to think of men carrying and laying all those rails and driving all those spikes in just one day. Ten miles is a great distance. We did not drive exactly over the rail bed along that stretch, but paralleled it, so we could clearly see the terrain through which they worked.
It was with great joy (relief is a better word) that we approached the Golden Spike Visitor Center. It was way after visitors hours but the restrooms had been kept open for us. It had been a long day (no tall sagebrush, no deep ravines!). Comfortable again and mingling in the parking lot, the weary travelers exchanged laughter and stories of the days adventures. Roy, our trail boss, decided that since darkness was falling, it would be impossible to visit our last site, the "Big Fill" and the Trestle location east of Promontory Summit. Therefore, we bid one another farewell, said adieu to the rail bed, and scurried homeward.
All kidding about tires aside, the trek was fantastic and the day memorable. We are grateful to the Bureau of Land Management and Doug Melton for making the field trip very successful. The book provided by the BLM, Rails East to Promontory: the Utah Stations was highly informative and added greatly to our knowledge. By taking this scenic by-way, we saw territory that most of us would never have seen on our own. Traveling the rail bed increased our appreciation of the history of transportation in the West.
|[ Table of Contents ]||Crossroads, Fall 1997 - Vol. 8, No. 4|
Utah Crossroads: Cyberspace Pioneers
". . . a number of peopleincluding a gentleman from Japanhave just surfed on in."
|Thanks to the good offices of a new member, Utah
Crossroads became the first chapter of OCTA to have its
own website on the Internet.
A descendant of 1847 pioneer George W. Taggart, Steve Berlin discovered OCTA and the existence of the Utah Crossroads Chapter while surfing the net. Steve attended the Pocatello convention and came back fired up to create a site for Utah Crossroads. He did so in remarkably short order.
Steve is the proprietor of Salt Lake Citys Metro Gourmet and maintains a website for his business, so he used the same software and domain name to create a site for Utah Crossroads:
Websites are always works in progress, and the Utah Crossroads site is no exception. As it currently appears, the site consists of a homepage with brief text description of OCTA and the chapter. At the bottom of the page are links taking the reader to further information.
Chapter Activities: a brief description of recent and upcoming events
Trails: information on the trails studied by chapter members. The Spanish Trail article by Stephen K. Madsen is the only one as of this writing; yet to be completed are the California Trail, Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail, and Pony Express Route articles.
Trail marking: Al Mulder describes the chapters activities.
Members Roster: lists members and their areas of interest, along with their e-mail addresses and/or phone numbers. Note: No one is ever listed without their express permission.
Links: this list will take you to many sites of related interest on the Internet, including trail history and Western Americana.
News: recent updates to the site. Check this page out if you havent visited for a while.
Newsletter: the last four issues of Crossroads have been published, with more to follow.
Picture Gallery: showcases photographs of recent field trips, the pioneer reenactment wagon train, and historic photos from the Utah State Historical Society.
Members Pages: links to the websites of chapter members. Gar Elison and Kristin Johnson are the only ones featured at present.
Search: this nifty feature allows readers to search for a subject on the Utah Crossroads site using Boolean operators.
Contact Us: allows readers to send comments, suggestions, and queries to the webmasters.
Forum: a place where readers can start a discussion on trail-related topics.
Guestbook: visitors to the site can leave comments. Weve had several congratulatory messages from members of other chapters of OCTA, and a number of peopleincluding a gentleman from Japanhave just surfed on in.
Even though Utah Crossroads was the first chapter with a homepage, we are no longer the only one. The SWOCTA, Kanza, and NWOCTA chapters have finished their sites, too.
The Utah Crossroads website is an exciting development which will allow us to reach and be reached by a wide variety of people. Naturally there are a number of issues to be addressed but with care and foresight we can blaze a trail through a new frontier.
|[ Table of Contents ]||Crossroads, Fall 1997 - Vol. 8, No. 4|
|It looks like an early winter and trail projects
will be on hold until spring. We hoped we could complete
the Bidwell Pass (Donner Spring) cost-share project this
fall but delays in getting right-of -way approval and wet
weather will postpone completion until next spring. The
preliminary interpretive panel design has been reviewed
and it promises to be an attractive wayside exhibit for
travelers on the lonely stretch of road from Leppy Pass
to the Donner Spring site.
Fall Field Trip
1997 OCTA National Convention
Heritage Award for George Ivory
Hensley's Salt Lake Cutoff
|[ Table of Contents ]||Crossroads, Fall 1997 - Vol. 8, No. 4|
150 Years Ago
"Yes, stern necessity, and that love of life which even sufferings the most intense cannot vanquish, compelled them . . ."
"The discovery (of the cavern) was made by the instantaneous disappearance of a mule in the company, which fortunately had on him neither rider nor baggage."
following letter was published in the Ohio Observer
(Hudson, Ohio) on October 16, 1847, but why and by whom
it was sent there is not known. In it John Sinclair,
alcalde of the Sacramento district, gives Washington A.
Bartlett, alcalde of San Francisco, the earliest account
of the Forlorn Hope, predating Sinclairs letter of
February published in Edwin Bryants What I Saw in
California. As far as can be determined, this letter has
never been reprinted or cited in the literature of the
Sufferings of the California Emigrants.
The following letter, addressed to Wm. A. Bartlett Governor of San Francisco, gives an a[c]count of the suffering of emigrants in the California mountains and the exertions made for their relief and succor.
Rancho del Passo, January 29, 1847.
The following narrative of facts, so far as I have learned them, may be depended on; a full and perfect narrative I am not able to give you, not having, as yet, seen any of the unfortunate sufferers. It appears that about the 18th of December, nine men, five women, and two Indians, in the employ of Capt. Sutter, left what is called Reids party of emigrants, who have been detained in the mountains by the snow, with intention of reaching this settlement, driven to this course by the certain death which awaited them in this mountains. They started, in a manner of speaking, without provisions, (one of the men having only two pounds of beef.) And, as you will understand, on foot, the snow being then where they were ten feet deep. A few days afterwards two of the men became so weak that they con[c]luded to turn back. These two, it is supposed, perished. The rest endeavored to struggle on a while, every hour beholding them getting weaker, until they were obliged to throw away the blankets which they carried to shield them from the piercing cold, which in those regions is intense. At that [what] time they go entirely out of provisions I am unable to say, but in the midst of their sufferings a snow storm came on , which lasted three days and three nights; and during the whole time they were without fire, and as far as I have understood without food. During these three dreadful days and nights they sat huddled together in the snow, their heads resting upon their knees, exposed to the pitiless storm! Great God! Who can imagine the sufferings of these helpless, houseless beings, at that time, without food and without fire?no prospects before them but death, and that death the most horrible which can fall to the lot of man!
After the storm ceased they succeeded in getting fire, and again endeavered to pursue their pathless course through the newly fallen snow. Whether any of the party died previous to this I cannot say; but if not, death was there hovering fearfully over them. Again they camped
Yes, stern necessity, and that love of life which even sufferings the most intense cannot vanquish, compelled them to devour their dead.
Let me close this tale of horror. Suffice it to say that seven out of the sixteen reached the settlement forty miles above me five women two men. The rest died at different times, and six of them became food for the living. The two Indians who had been sent there early in the season by Capt. Sutter with provisions, were the last that died, and they likewise were eaten, with the exception of their heads. Those who escaped arrived with hardly sufficient clothing to cover their nakedness, their clothes being nearly burnt from their backs by keeping as close to their fires, and most of them having their feet badly frozen. They were one month on the road the distance being only about one hundred and ten miles. They report the remaining mountains still alive, by eating the bullock hides, and being on short allowances, may have provision up to the middle of next month.
Mr. Kern, Capt. Sutter, Mr. McKinst[r]y, and myself, are doing all we can to raise men to go to the assistance of those in the mountains, and have pledged ourselves to pay each man three dollars per day from the time they start untill they return, provided the emigrants themselves should not be able to pay.We likewise hold ourselves responsible for the provisions, at the same time we feel confident that our government will be willing to pay all expenses incurred in such a case as this, and we know that there is not one of our fellow citizens but is willing to aid and assist us in saving the lives of those helpless women and children.
By the 2d of February, I think, about fourteen men will be able to start, which will be nearly every able-bodied man in the vicinity, and I would urge the propriety of calling a meeting of the inhabitants of Yerba Buena, and from among them endeavor to raise about twenty able-bodied men to form a second party [to] go to their assistance, as the men who are going from here will not be able to go back.Capt Hull will likewise, undoubtedly, exert all his influence and authority in furthering such an undertaking.
You will excuse this hasty sketch of their sufferings, as I have not time to be more explicit. I leave here to-morrow on foot for the starting point, distant forty miles, to bring on and complete every thing for the expedition.
You will oblige me by making this communication as public as possible; as I wish every one to know the situation of these unfortunate people, in order that it may stir them to exertion in their behalf.
[I] remain yours, respectfully.
Gen. Kearney and the party which accompanied him from California to the United States, discovered when about a hundred miles this side of the Salt Lake, a very singular cavern, which lay beneath their path on a level prairie. The discovery was made by the instantaneous disappearance of a mule in the company, which fortunately had on him neither rider nor baggage. On examination it was found that the crust of the earth thro which the mule disappeared was but a few inches in thickness. The cavern was sounded forty feet, but for aught the party knew its depth might be five thousand feet. The earth for a considerable distance around the hole sounded hollow. Profound darkness of course reigned in those subterranean regions.
We have the above interesting incident from Wm. Graves, one of the sufferers in the California mountains, who returned to the States with Gen. Kearney.
Illinois Gazette (Lacon, Ill.), October 16, 1847
|[ Table of Contents ]||Crossroads, Fall 1997 - Vol. 8, No. 4|
The Forgotten Pioneers, Part II
"No longer are these 400 men, women, and children nameless faces marching endlessly across the west. "
|For several months during 1997, a great deal of
publicity focused on the story of Brigham Young and the
Pioneer Company as they traveled west to reach Salt Lake
Valley in July 1847. Extensive media coverage also
followed the 1997 reenactment wagon train all along the
way until it reached Salt Lake City in July. The
September arrival of the Big Company is frequently noted,
complete with its roster broken down by hundreds,
fifties, and tens. Yet there are approximately 400
additional pioneers of 1847 who rarely are referred to
and then only by a round group number. They are faceless
In the May 1997 issue of folio, Gregory M. Franzwa noted that the Utah Crossroads Chapter of the Oregon-California Trail Association continually publishes an "amazing quarterly, Crossroads, edited by top scholars," containing important reports and material on emigrants. After reading Franzwas statement, I felt relieved about writing this article. It does not contain exciting events to put a reader on the edge of his seat, nor build suspense to a breaking point, but attempts to identify most of these pioneers so they, too, can be remembered for coming into the Salt Lake Valley during that historic year of 1847. It is hoped this information can be added upon until all of the families of the Mississippi Saints are known. The rosters of the Mormon Battalion, as included, are well defined.
In Part One, the story was told of seventeen Mississippi Saints and twelve Mormon Battalion men, who spent the winter of 1846-47 in Pueblo, Colorado, joined the Pioneer Company at Fort Laramie June 1, 1847, and continued to the Salt Lake Valley with them. All 29 individuals in these two small groups were identified. But there were other Mississippi Saints and Mormon Battalion soldiers and their families still in Pueblo. This is the story of their entrance into Salt Lake Valley.
In April 1846 Brigham Young called John Brown to lead church members living in Monroe County, Mississippi, west. They were to take a diagonal southern route from northeast Mississippi to the Platte River and rendezvous there with the Nauvoo Saints. There were fourteen families and several single men in this group of 43 adults (24 men, 19 women) and an unknown number of children. Brown selected five men to go with him to assist the families. They left April 8, 1846. When this group reached Independence, Missouri, they were joined by the Crow family, consisting of 17 adults and children. With this addition the Brown company totaled 60 adults.
By mid June Brown and his company were at the Platte River where they waited two weeks for the Nauvoo Mormons. When no one arrived they continued traveling on the Oregon Trail towards Fort Laramie until they learned there were no Mormons ahead. They were advised by a trader to go to Fort Pueblo, Colorado, for the winter. Fort Pueblo was in a sheltered valley; trappers residing there had corn; other food and supplies could be obtained from nearby Bents Fort. John Brown and his group arrived in Pueblo August 7, 1846. They immediately began building log cabins and planting crops. Absalom P. Dowdle was appointed presiding elder of the Pueblo branch.
Mississippi Saints Who Wintered in Pueblo1
On September 1, 1846, after helping the families get settled, John Brown and his assistants left Colorado to return to their families in Mississippi. On September 12 these men on their eastward journey met the Mormon Battalion traveling west and told the soldiers about the branch of the Mormon Church in Pueblo. Browns group continued east and reached their families in Mississippi October 29, 1846.
Meanwhile, as the Mormon Battalion continued west along the Arkansas River, Lieutenant A. J. Smith, temporary battalion commander, decided to send the women, their husbands, and children back to Pueblo. The chance meeting with John Brown had provided him with an answer of what to do with the women and children. This first detachment, known as the Higgins Family Detachment (Arkansas Detachment), consisted of 11 men, 9 women and 33 children under Captain Nelson Higgins. They left the battalion on September 18 and arrived in Pueblo in early October, 1846.
Higgins Family Detachment
When Philip St. George Cooke assumed command of the battalion in Santa Fe, he thought there were too many women, children, and sick soldiers and decided to send a second detachment to Pueblo. This group left Santa Fe October 18 under James Brown, captain. They arrived in Pueblo November 17 with 92 men, 19 women and 10 children. This was the Brown Sick Detachment (Santa Fe Detachment).
Brown Sick Detachment
Brown Sick Detachment, continued
Colonel Cooke sent Lieutenant William W. Willis with the last detachment at the Rio Grande River November 10. They arrived in Pueblo December 20, 1846. There were 56 men and one woman in the Willis Sick Detachment (Rio Grande Detachment).
Willis Sick Detachment
Altogether there were 159 men, 29 women, and 43 children in the three detachments. The names of these men are known from military rolls, journals, family histories, and from the mustering-out roll. Fifteen soldiers died en route to Pueblo or during the winter.
This Mississippi-battalion contingent (about 300 men, women and children) spent the winter in Pueblo. The soldiers built additional cabins plus a larger building for church and social purposes. A few men worked for the trappers, while others found employment at Bents Fort. As spring approached the Crow family grew impatient and decided to start west without waiting for the others. Because of this early start the Crows were waiting at Fort Laramie when Young and the Pioneer Company arrived June 1 and traveled with them on the last part of the journey for the historic 1847 entrance into the valley.
The Pueblo detachments and remaining Mississippi Saints, under Captain James Brown, left Pueblo May 24. They gradually gained on the vanguard company until they were only a day behind at the ferry on the Platte River. Finding a blacksmith, they decided to stop to get their animals shod. Next they followed the Platte River to the Sweetwater River on to Independence Rock. After they passed Devils Gate, they celebrated the anniversary of their enlistment, July 16: "At daylight there was a salute of small arms in honor of our enlistment and more especially the finishing of our one years service to Uncle Sam, and to let every one of Uncle Sams officers know we were our own men once more."John Steele7
Although their period of service was up, there was no one to discharge them. They believed they had to go to California to be discharged and receive their mustering-out pay.
On July 28 they had their first view of Salt Lake Valley. Abner Blackburn and several others climbed a mountain crest and were impressed by "the grandest view that ever mortal beheld, the air was clear and perfect for a great view, the great Salt Lake glistening under the suns rays, range after range of mountains in every direction, the great desert to the west and Utah lake to the south east and the mountains beyond. A more sublime view was seldom seen from a mountain top."8
On July 29, 1847, President Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, George Albert Smith, Amasa Lyman, Wilford Woodruff, Ezra T. Benson and five other authorities rode on horseback to the mouth of Emigration Canyon, where they met the incoming Pueblo colonists. A violent thunderstorm prevented a grand welcome, but a fife and drum corps greeted the new arrivals. Thomas Bullock described the formation: "Council & Officers first, Infantry next with Martial Music, then followed the Cavalrywith baggage wagons bringing up the rear."9
Captain Brown led 29 wagons filled with soldiers, their families, and Mississippi Saints to a campsite about one half mile north of the temple lot. The next morning, July 30, Brigham Young and the Council of Twelve Apostles met with the battalion officers and told them, "Your going into the army has saved the lives of thousands of people." 10
Since their enlistment period had expired, Brigham Young and the church authorities decided to disband the three detachments and not have them continue to California for severance pay as originally planned. That evening in a general meeting for the Saints Brigham Young spoke until he was hoarse. He expressed a warm feeling toward the soldiers and requested that the men build a bowery on the temple lot so they could hold their meetings in the shade.11
On July 31 Brigham Young assumed command and assigned the soldiers to gather brush for the bowery. They built a comfortable shelter forty by twenty-eight feet in size. During that week the soldiers continued to work under church direction, cultivating the soil and making adobe bricks for both living quarters and the fort. The addition of the men from Pueblo greatly aided in the heavy work in the valley during those early months.
During this same time, Young was organizing two groups to go east to help the Saints come west. These groups were known as the "Ox train of returning pioneers" and the "Horse and mule train."12
The ox company left Salt Lake Valley August 17, 1847, and consisted of sixty-nine men, forty-two of whom were ex-battalion. There were 107 men (thirty-two ex-battalion men) in the horse and mule company that left the Salt Lake Valley August 26. In addition to Brigham Young, seven of the Twelve Apostles were in this group. It had been only thirty-three days since the Pioneer Company arrived. As they traveled east, they met the westbound Big Company, which reached Salt Lake Valley in early October 1847.
A third group of over a hundred Mormon Battalion veterans entered Salt Lake Valley in late September-early October 1847. Their entrance to the valley was overshadowed by the arrival of the Big Company at the same time.
These battalion men had been discharged in Los Angeles on July 16, 1847. No longer under military order, the men formed into hundreds, fifties, and tens, under the leadership of Levi Hancock. There were 223 men in this group, and all were identified. They traveled through Californias central valleys, past Sutters Fort, into the Sierra Nevada. When they were near Donner Summit, they met James Brown with a letter from church authorities telling the men about the destitute situation in the valley and recommending that they return to California and work a season. Several diaries of these men contain the notation that "about half went on and half went back" to work for Captain John Sutter at Sutters Fort.
Since there were 223 men in this group whose names are all known, if "half went back and half went on", that would be about 112 in each group. There are no rosters telling how the men were divided. However, Sutter and his clerk kept a record of who went in and out of the fort. Also, battalion journals tell of their assignments in Sutters employment. There are 106 men whose names are known from Sutters records, battalion journals, and other sources. Subtracting 106 from the 223 known names traveling from Los Angeles with Hancock, leaves 117 names. As more research is done, it may develop that some of the 117 worked for Sutter and belong on the other list, but the Hancock list may be close to definitive. When material is first published, frequently new information comes forth. If this happens and identifies one new name, it will make this article worthwhile.
The Hancock Company went directly to Salt Lake Valley in 1847. This is the "half" that continued on with Levi Hancock to Salt Lake after meeting James Brown in the Sierra.
Hancock Company, continued
These little-known 1847 pioneers contributed greatly to the early days in the Salt Lake Valley and in helping different companies of Saints come west in the years that followed. The ex-soldiers of the Mormon Battalion had become experienced frontiersman during their long trek. They knew how to survive under perilous conditions, and they were leaders who contributed greatly in establishing settlements wherever Brigham Young sent them throughout the west. No longer are these 400 men, women, and children nameless faces marching endlessly across the west. Each is identified and his role is defined. They can be listed with the other pioneers who arrived during the historic year of 1847.
1. There were fourteen families in the original John Brown company when it left Mississippi. Only names known are given. The names of the Crow company, who joined the Brown group, were listed in Part One. The Mississippi Saints settled primarily in Holladay and Cottonwood near Salt Lake City. Perhaps a study of the early pioneers in these two settlements will reveal the names of others who spent the winter in Pueblo. While these names have been gathered from many sources, the primary sources are original battalion rosters and three handwritten pages by Thomas Bullock titled, " Names of Pueblo soldiers and Mississippi brethren arrived in Great Salt Lake City, August, 1847." This document is in the LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City. Bullock lists one name seen for the first time: John Edmunds (black)." There is no Edmunds on the battalion roll. Bullock wrote Edmunds name on a page with the women and children. His age is shown as 30. There were black men who served the officers. Perhaps Edmunds was one of these servants who became ill and was sent to Pueblo. Bullocks list does not identify the company in which Edmunds traveled to Pueblo.
2. Sara Emma Kartchner was born in Pueblo August 17, 1846, the first white child born in Colorado.
3. Rebecca Smiths husband, Elisha Smith, was a teamster and was not a member of the battalion. He died en route to California.
4. Jane Bliven was listed in the Bullock list of Pueblo soldiers (n1 above), which showed her to be 43 years old. There was no one named Bliven in the battalion. The closest name phonetically is James Bevan, a twenty-five year old private. As far as has been determined, the Bullock list is the only one naming Jane Bliven.
5. Sophia Smith Gribble was married to William Gribble, who went to Pueblo in the Brown detachment. They were divorced shortly after arriving in Salt Lake Valley and she married William Tubbs immediately. Because she was known as Sophia Tubbs in Salt Lake City, there was confusion as to who was with the battalion. Thomas Bullock, The Pioneer Camp of the Saints, The 1846 and 1847 Mormon Trail Journals of Thomas Bullock, edited by Will Bagley. Spokane: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1997. 248, 253.
6. John Steele, Diary, July 16, 1847.
7. Abner Blackburn, Autobiography, 10.
8. Thomas Bullock Journal, July 29, 1847, LDS Church Historians Department.
9. Bullock, Pioneer Camp, 245.
10. B. H. Roberts, The Mormon Battalion: Its History and Achievements. Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1919. 61.
11. Bullock, Pioneer Camp, 258-59, 276-277,
12. Norma B. Ricketts, The Mormon Battalion: U.S. Army of the West, 1846-1848. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1996, 279-282.
Norma B. Ricketts is an LDS writer specializing in the history of Mormons in California during the period 1844-1860. A former newspaper columnist, she has written books and articles for three decades. Her latest work, The Mormon Battalion, U.S. Army of the West, 1846-1848, is a definitive prize-winning work on the battalion. She currently is revising the fourth edition of Mormons and the Discovery of Gold (first published in 1963) for Californias sesquicentennial in 1998. Her address is 6209 East McKellips Road, #216, Mesa, Arizona 85215-2846
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