Crossroads Newsletters archive
Crossroads Spring/Summer 1997 - Vol. 8, No. 2 & 3
Table of Contents
The Editor's Corner by Kristin Johnson
Spring/Summer 1997 - Vol. 8, No. 2 & 3
The Mormon sesquicentennial is well underway, and the reenactors are getting closer and closer to the promised valley. By the time you read this, the sesquicentennial wagon train will have arrived amid great celebration.
I’m pleased to welcome Norma B. Ricketts, author of the recent book on the Mormon Battalion, as a contributor to Crossroads. Beginning in this issue and continued in the next, her article about the oft-overlooked Crow family makes an important contribution to our knowledge of who exactly entered the Valley on those historic days of July 22-24, 1847, with information which may surprise some readers.
Another new contributor is Marie Irvine, who reports on the June field trip. It’s great to get some new blood and articles about something other than the you-know-who. (You know, those people who took that shortcut across Utah in 1846. I’m trying to see if I can go an issue without mentioning them.) Marie also provided some photographs scanned onto a diskette, which would have jazzed the newsletter up quite a bit. Unfortunately, trying to import them kept making my computer crash. I don’t know if this is a hardware, software, or operator problem (probably the latter), but I hope to get a decent "pooter" of my own in the not-too-far distant future. This will make my life a lot easier, especially when it comes to cranking out Crossroads.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Crossroads without something by Lyndia Carter and she hasn’t disappointed us, as you can tell by her fine coverage of Michael Landon’s April presentation. Thanks are due the usual suspects who take care of the proofing and printing.
On a personal note, I just got back from a trip to California. The long drive was much more meaningful, and interesting, now that I’ve learned something about the trails that long preceded the Interstate. I was especially pleased to see several new California Trail and Pony Express markers, which are are both conspicuous and attractive. Looks like somebody’s been really busy—good job!
Rustmarks Along the Trail by George Ivory
Spring/Summer 1997 - Vol. 8, No. 2 & 3
Wow!!! What a summer! The Pioneer Trail is a beehive of activity. Family groups—school groups—church groups— bus tours—wagons—handcarts—the trail hasn’t seen this kind of activity since the California gold rush years of 1849-80. This is a great time to be involved with our many friends in Utah Crossroads to celebrate and learn more about our Utah and Western heritage.
On July 18 we joined with other historical groups in planting the first historic trails highway signs in Utah from the National Park Service/UDOT project. This first sign was placed at the highway junction at Little Dell Reservoir where the road from Big Mountain turns off to go over Little Mountain. Along this part of the trail these signs include the logos of the California, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express Trails, and will be a great help in educating travelers about trail locations. Similar trail marking signs will go west to mark Hastings Cutoff and north for the Salt Lake Cutoff. Our friends at UDOT and the National Park Service are to be commended for this effort. Watch for these as you travel. The signs stand about 12 feet high with easily identifiable trail logos and you will now begin seeing them along the highways mentioned above. Our own Utah Crossroads chapter trail marking efforts are also continuing and Al Mulder has been out planting more of our white Carsonite markers. Watch for these, as they will more closely mark where the trail actually went, not just marking adjacent paved highways.
If you live in Utah, you have probably also noticed many things for sale to commemorate this sesquicentennial year. Printing presses are running around the clock production new historical books—the best of the new ones edited or written by our Utah Crossroads members. Souvenir T-shirts, mugs, guns, pins, etc. are available everywhere and they all serve a useful purpose to help ups celebrate our history. I recently found one that is a cut above the rest. This is a miniature handcart produced by Freshman Jewelry, and I really mean miniature, only 7/8" long. The workmanship is truly remarkable. You can find them at Freshmans, 353 East 5th South in Salt Lake City.
Well, time and space are running out. I just hope everyone is enjoying this summer of remembering history. We still have our national OCTA convention in Pocatello the second week of August, and I look forward to seeing many of you there for another great event. By the way, to add to an already very busy summer my good wife and I just moved into another new Ivory Home (it’s so tempting when you’re in the business) and we have a new address and telephone number: (801) 233-9142
Landon tells how California Gold-Rushers Impacted Mormons
Spring/Summer 1997 - Vol. 8, No. 2 & 3
It’s been a busy spring for the Utah Crossroads Chapter. Many members have been involved in various activities related to the Mormon Pioneer Sesquicentennial, such as the wagon and handcart train reenactment, trail tours, lectures to local history and church groups, sharing information on the Internet, and a myriad of other activities. And summer has barely begun. A highlight of all these preparations and activities, however, was the general membership meeting on April 4, 1997, in Salt Lake City, which featured Michael Landon as lecturer.
Michael Landon’s sterling presentation describing the impact on the Mormon population in Utah by the non-Mormons who used the Mormon Trail was insightful and thought-provoking. Using a vast number of sources and quoting frequently from diaries, journals and reminiscences, Landon showed how the gold-seekers who passed through Utah greatly effected the Mormons and their unique culture and burst the bubble of isolation that LDS Church leaders hoped to achieve by establishing its stronghold in the Great Basin. The discovery of gold in California in 1848 sent a flood of men to the goldfields, many of whom used the same route the Mormons used and passed through Utah on their way to the golden shore. In 1848 three Mormon companies journeyed to "Zion," unaware that a massive flow of non-Mormons would follow their footsteps the next year. As these LDS companies moved westward, men from the Mormon Battalion who had been working in California, knew of the gold discovery, and had participated in mining the yellow stuff, were headed east to Utah. Some continued on to their families still at the Missouri River. These men blazed a trail over Carson Pass, then traveled the main California Trail. An encounter with Samuel Hensley gave them knowledge of the Salt Lake Cutoff, which they used and publicized. This cutoff became a major variant of the California Trail, passing through Salt Lake City.
Thus ended the idea of an isolated sanctuary for the Mormons. The wall of refuge crumbled with the gold rush, according to Landon. Using several quotes, Landon demonstrated the Mormon hope that only Mormons would come to "the Valley," but starting in 1849, gold rushers appeared in the streets of the Mormon oasis. Mormon immigrants and gold seekers shared the same trail, which became busy with traffic. Thousands of wagons lined both sides of the Platte River and 50,000 animals tramped the trails.
Landon illustrated with words the chaos on the trail. Cholera and others diseases were rampant. Wolves disinterred the bodies of those who perished along the way. Stampedes and fatal accidents were commonplace. The Mormon wagon trains, which adhered to a strict discipline, moved more slowly than the California-bound trains. These fast-moving California trains sometimes suffered from problems of worn-out cattle and lack of supplies. Ill-prepared emigrants were often forced to seek help and purchase supplies by detouring through Salt Lake City, which became a sort of safety-valve for the overland emigration.
Despite the social impact on their culture, the Mormons benefited from the gold-rush across their new homeland. They made great profits at their ferry sites on the North Platte, Green, Bear and Weber rivers. They were able to go eastward on the trail and gather up discarded property, especially items made from iron which the "saints" greatly needed. They capitalized on the supply and demand market and charged high prices for produce, grain and animals, which the gold-seekers desperately needed. Some of the California emigrants felt cheated by the Mormons; others enjoyed their company. Landon read quotes indicating both reactions.
Although the great majority of California-bound emigrants during the rush years of 1849-1850 took the Sublette-Fort Hall route, thousands of "golden winged insects in the shape of emigrants swarmed in," disturbing the peaceful isolation of the Mormons. In 1850, 5,000 Mormons traveled west in ten companies, many times that number of gold-seekers shared the trail. The road became a trail of trash with all the discards and littered campsites. Mormons, such as John D. Lee, gathered it up. Mormon trains experienced increased hardships from the cholera and lack of feed also. It was a difficult trail year. The old antagonisms between Missourians and Mormons created suspicions and uneasiness. The Missourians were especially nervous about their reception. Some Mormons felt the emigrants from Missouri and Illinois got their just-desserts by the suffering they experienced on the trail from cholera and hardship.
The Mormons in Salt Lake City, although they held a low opinion of the gold-seekers, were happy with the profits they made by trading with them and the clothing and equipment they were able to obtain cheaply from the newcomers. Despite the high prices, the non-Mormons were glad to get food and services since there was no other alternative. The Mormon settlements also provided a place to leave those too ill to continue traveling to California and a place to stay during the winter for those who left the east too late in the season. Some emigrants would continue to California on the southern route through Utah to southern California; others would take the Salt Lake Cutoff to the main trail when weather permitted in the spring.
The biggest benefit to the Mormons was the boost the gold-rushers gave to the economy in Utah. The Perpetual Emigrating Fund, which was established to help the poor "saints" to immigrate, was made possible by the money made from the gold-rush travelers. But there were serious problems for the Mormons, as well. Food prices became inflated, the heavy traffic of animals and wagons destroyed much forage, difficulties with Native Americans increased, and health problems rose because of the sick and dying who were left behind. The influx of outsiders also created social problems, such as a restlessness among the Mormons who wanted to go to the mines, although discouraged by the Church leaders. Interaction with non-members of the faith also produced the temptations Mormon wished to avoid by not associating with the outside world. The outside was coming in, whether they liked it or not.
Eighteen forty-nine and 1850 were pivotal years. They ended forever the Mormon ideal of seclusion from the world. The Mormons had to change their ideas about isolation and find ways to maintain their unique culture, while existing with others who had differing beliefs and lifestyles. As emigrants gathered to Zion, they had to share the trail, and to a certain extent their mountain refuge, with those whose dreams were farther west. Michael Landon clearly depicted the impact of the gold-rush traffic on the Mormon way of life during the early days of Mormon settlement. It was a very informative and enjoyable lecture.
Landon has just completed co-authoring with Bill Slaughter the companion book for the PBS special Trail of Hope, produced by Lee Groberg, that will air in August. The book Trail of Hope will be available in bookstores this summer. Landon earned a B.A. from UCLA in history and political science, and a M.A. from California State at Sacramento in Public History. He is a member of OCTA, Utah Crossroads Chapter, the Mormon History Association, the Mormon Trails Association, Utah Westerners and the Western History Association. He is employed as an archivist for the LDS Church in Salt Lake City. Landon is an avid and meticulous researcher and enjoys swimming through oceans of primary documents.
Grass, Water and Weather by Marie Irvine
Spring/Summer 1997 - Vol. 8, No. 2 & 3
I have never read an old trail diary that didn’t comment on the grass, the water and the weather. The writers recognized that their survival depended on decisions relating to those three critical factors. They influenced the location of a trail and the season of travel.
The June 7 & 8 OCTA Sesquicentennial Field Trip from Fort Bridger to Salt Lake City along the Mormon Trail was powered by four-wheel drive horsepower that consumed gas instead of grass and carried a variety of other beverages along with ample water, but the weather was still a concern. Forecasts indicated scattered showers. The sky was an ominous dark blue-grey around us from time to time, but the threat didn’t dampen the dusty, rutted roads until we were safely back on blacktop.
We started with doughnuts, juice and coffee in a cool, gusty breeze in the parking lot at Fort Bridger. LaMar Berrett led a walk through the fort, stopping at the latest research excavation and explaining the relative locations of Fort Bridger and Fort Supply.
We hit the road with Roy Tea and LaMar Berrett in the lead car and with Vern Gorzitze and Jerry Dunton in the rear car to pick up any strays. Following side roads and rut remnants to Bridger Butte, LaMar decided to make a side trip up Bridger Butte for the view. That is where I discovered that my skills at driving my little red truck needed improvement. With some help from my friends, we were able to look back at Fort Bridger and Fort Supply from the top and imagine how cold and miserable the Mormon scouts must have been atop that butte in the winter during their surveillance of Johnston’s Army in the 1857 war.
With LaMar Berrett telling stories on the CB, we bumped along the countryside and along some very rough, dusty track which would have been axle-high mud in wet weather. We crossed some high benchland, then descended to Muddy Creek, where we had lunch under the huge cottonwood trees. Still the weather nearby looked bad, but directly over us the sun was out and the breeze was light.
I won’t soon forget Copperas Springs, the little dribble of discolored water that didn’t tempt me to taste the "somewhat singular effect on the mouth" that William Clayton described in his account. Again, my little truck was challenged by LaMar’s road. I was again very glad that the rough, rocky ruts had not been dampened by rain. While we were at the spring, some helpful travelers moving the other direction used their CB to give us a warning of the danger of getting stuck in soft mucky meadows ahead. They also offered their theory that the "Mormon trail" and the "Immigrant trail" were on different sides of the stream at that point. They had no idea that our expert guides would summarily dismiss that idea. We continued to bounce along the bluffs, stopping to find Philo Dibble’s 1857 graffiti. I am still amazed by the very rough portions of the trail that must have been frightful to anyone trying to take a wagon down those gullies.
Some time later, we came to the mucky meadows that had caused problems for the other travelers. We managed to successfully pick a route around the edges of the meadows and proceed down the valley toward the Needles, which jutted into the skyline. We returned to paved roads near Yellow Creek and headed toward Evanston for the night. The rain showers that had narrowly missed our caravan had fallen on Evanston while we were out on the trail.
When we met on Sunday morning a few people had left us and Al Mulder had joined us along with a load of trail markers. It was obvious that some vehicles had been through the carwash and others hadn’t. Those of us who hadn’t later watched the first few drops of rain cover our windshields with gritty mud.
We respected the property rights of the owners of Cache Cave and moved on down Echo Canyon to see the big railroad fill and the series of springs that must have been very welcome to wagon travelers in the July and August heat.
LaMar Berrett had carefully measured and marked off the locations of the trenches that the defending militia had dug across Echo Canyon. If they had been filled with water from Echo creek, as the militia originally intended, it would have made travel very difficult for Johnston’s Army in 1857. We could see the rock breastworks high on the cliffs above each trench where marksmen might pick off men struggling to pass through the moats. LaMar’s impromptu stone-pile markers at the sites of the trenches were helpful to him, but the rest of us will appreciate the new one that Al Mulder set up. We all had an opportunity to help bang a new Carsonite marker into place, and learned how much work trail marking can be.
We had lunch at the park in Henefer and proceeded along the trail. There were several places where the rust marks on rocks were remarkable. There were still more rock breastworks in East Canyon.
Our route followed the road by Little Mountain and down Emigration Canyon, crossing the trail sites countless times. From the comfort of a vehicle, it was difficult to really imagine the difficulty of taking a wagon down those gullies. I made a private resolve to walk more of that trail someday in order to get a better feel for it.
Past Donner Hill and into the valley more of the vehicles left the caravan for home and a good shower. Those of us who managed to follow Roy and LaMar through the Sugarhouse traffic and hear LaMar tell of how he determined the site of the first campsite, across the street from Wilford Woodruff’s home were happy we finished the trip with him. I look back on the trip believing we were very lucky. LaMar Berrett and Roy Tea generously lead the Crossroads Sesquicentennial Field Trip with ample knowledge, skill and good humor. They even managed to keep the threatening weather from spoiling the trip.
"I made a private resolve to walk more of that trail someday in order to get a better feel for it." -Marie Irvine
Trail Dust by Al Mulder
spring/Summer 1997 - Vol. 8, No. 2 & 3
The good weather finds me far behind in accomplishing all the things I promised to do "when good weather comes." Spring is the time for meetings, conferences, and seminars, writing letters, cleaning out files, and straightening up the mess of maps the wife has endured all winter. But summer is the time to head for wagon road country! Nuthin’ like a field trip or trail work outing to shed that guilty feeling. Utah Crossroaders have been busy in a variety of activities— writing, working on monuments and kiosks, trail marking, and guiding groups on trail tours and field trips.
Our chapter writers have really been at it. Bob Carter’s piece on pioneer fishing appeared in Issue 22 of Beehive History and his excellent article on Utah Lakes S.S. Sho-boat appeared in the winter issue of the Utah Historical Quarterly. Jay Aldous’ article on mountain fever was published in the latest Overland Journal.
Books by Utah Crossroads authors voted Certificates of Commendation
Books by two Utah Crossroads authors have recently been voted Certificates of Commendation by the American Association of State and Local History. This prestigious national award will be presented to Norma Ricketts for The Mormon Battalion: U.S. Army of the West, 1846-1848and to Kristin Johnson for "Unfortunate Emigrants": Narratives of the Donner Party. Congratulations, Norma and Kristin! Other authors in our chapter in the news are Hal Schindler, who kept us updated on the 1847 Mormon Pioneer trek with his daily articles in the Salt Lake Tribune, Will Bagley, whose Pioneer Camp of the Saints received a long and favorable writeup by the Associated Press, and Jess Peterson, who with his brother Ray recently published an excellent map guide, The Lincoln Highway in Utah. Grab a copy and warm up the ol’ 1919 Hudson!
Great Western Trail Association
This spring I attended the Great Western Trail Association Conference in Ogden and participated on a panel where I had the opportunity to present and promote the purpose, goals, and accomplishments of OCTA. OCTA’s and Utah Crossroads’ historic trail preservation activities are well recognized and respected by federal agencies and other trail organizations. The Great Western Trail extends from the Canadian border at the Idaho panhandle to Mexican border at Nogales, Arizona. A few months ago I was invited to participate in a panel discussion during a BLM Regional Leadership Training Conference held at Park City. OCTA and Utah Crossroads enjoy excellent working relationships with BLM districts in Utah, Nevada, and Wyoming, where we have worked with the districts to mark trails and construct trail site markers and kiosks. Glen Carpenter is the new manager for the Salt Lake District, replacing Dean Zeller. We are presently working with the Elko District to get a right-of-way application approved for the placement of a kiosk near Bidwell Pass on the California-Hastings Cutoff Trail. Vern Gorzitze is busy on a kiosk plan and we are working with the Long Distance Trails office to complete the cost-share project this year. Vern and Kent Malan have been instrumental in the design and construction of two markers recently placed on the Hensley Salt Lake Cutoff in Davis County. The project was sponsored by the Davis County Historic Trails Committee under the direction of Crossroader and publisher Gibbs Smith. Another historic monument recently dedicated was the Hilda Erickson equestrian statue in Grantsville. Utah Crossroads made a sizable contribution to the project. It’s worth a drive to Grantsville. While you’re there, visit the Donner-Reed Museum and the Benson Mill.
Mormon Handcart Center
Although the Mormon Handcart Center at the Sun Ranch in Wyoming was dedicated in May there is still work going on. The interior of the old ranch house was stripped and now houses interpretive panels and exhibits. I’m glad some of us had a chance to visit Martin’s Cove before all the changes. The climb to the top of Devil’s Gate hasn’t changed — it’s still tough on old-timers. Our own Lyndia Carter was the historical consultant on the project and did the lion’s share of the writing for the displays, as well as writing the script for the video and the texts for the interpretive panels and trail signs. Kudos to Lyndia for all her outstanding research. She will soon be publishing her own book on the handcart companies.
The past two months have been busy for trail buffs, with a school teacher bus tour and hike on the Mormon Pioneer Trail, a two-day field trip on the Hastings Cutoff-Mormon Pioneer Trail from Fort Bridger to Salt Lake, the Pony Express Re-Ride, and a tour of Cache Cave. Randy and Connie Wilson and I joined up with Henefer’s Echo Canyon Historical Tour last month. We were able to spend some time by ourselves exploring the cave area before the last busloads made it up there. Our late August Mormon Pioneer Trail field trip will include a visit to the cave, according to trail guides Roy Tea and John Eldredge. The inscriptions are fading—erosion from water and wind may someday obscure the pioneer graffiti at this historic site.
In June several Utah Crossroaders went on a four-day excursion with Utah Westerners to visit historic sites in New Mexico. Also in June, OCTA members dedicated a plaque at the grave of Lucinda Duncan—called "The Maiden’s Grave"— near Beowawe, Nevada. OCTA members who went on the Gravelly Ford field trip at the Elko Convention last year will remember the grave’s huge white cross. Stop and take a look if you should pass by.
Marilyn Newton of the Reno Gazette-Journal recently spent a few days in Utah and Wyoming photographing the Hastings Cutoff/Donner Trail for Frank Mullen’s forthcoming book, described in the latest News from the Plains. Roy Tea, Laura, and I took her on a tour of the trail from Grantsville to Donner-Reed Pass. Last year Frank interviewed Kristin for an article about the Reed "palace car" and the Gazette-Journal’s graphic artist used some of my sketches as a basis for the excellent illustrations accompanying the article. Greg Franzwa may have set the pot boiling again, because he recently published my sketches in the May issue of folio, the newsletter of the Patrice Press. Franzwa’s newsletter is always loaded with interesting, and sometimes controversial, articles on federal trail policies, trail preservation efforts, and historical events. The articles and letters are fun reading and make you want to do your trail homework.
Historical Trail Logo Decals
The new historical trail logo decals are very attractive and I’ve started placing them on the Carsonite posts previously installed on the Hastings Cutoff and on those recently placed on the California-Mormon Pioneer Trail in Echo and East Canyons. During a recent trail verification and marking outing with LaMar Berrett and John Eldredge, John found a well preserved ox shoe on the ridge west of the Barker Ranch on Yellow Creek. Talk about trail verification!
The folks in Ibapah are making plans to place a monument across from the church near the rodeo grounds. Mild and Judy Hardman tell me it will have panels with graphics and text on the history of the Pony Express, Lincoln Highway, telegraph, and the Goshute Indians of the Deep Creek area. Utah Pony Express riders meet the Nevada riders at Ibapah each year during the annual re-ride transfer of the mochila. As with all worthy volunteer projects, funds are needed. To make a contribution to the Ibapah marker project, make your check payable to the Ibapah Historical Committee. Mail it to Milt Hardman, Box 6121, Ibapah, Utah 84034.
The National Park Service has begun a study to determine if the Spanish Trail would be eligible for Nation Historic Trail status. I hope they consult Steve Madsen, Utah Crossroads’ foremost authority, author, and researcher on the Spanish Trail, before accepting other, less-proven theories about the main route of Spanish Trail.
Well, it looks like a busy summer on all the trails—meet you at the waterin’ hole at the Pocatello camp!
Spring/Summer 1997 - Vol. 8, No. 2 & 3
150 Years Ago
From the Missouri Republican. Arrival from Oregon.
"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."
On Sunday evening, Captain T. G. Drake, of the British ship Modeste, (not however a bearer of despatches, as has been stated,) and Mr. John G. Campbell, arrived in this city from Oregon. They left Oregon on the 6th of May, and traveled to Fort Hall in company with a brigade of the Hudson Bay Company. They left Fort Hall with only four men, but overtook another party of seven, and arrived in the settlements with a party of fourteen.
They bring us but little information in addition to that already received from Oregon. Every thing was quiet when they left, and the prospect for the season favorable. The Columbia had been so high as to require them to take the southern route. This we presume, they were inclined to do also, from the pleasure and facility of traveling afforded by the ford of the Hudson Bay Company.
The British ship Modeste left Fort Vancouver on the 3d, and dropped down the river, on her way to England. She was to proceed by the Sandwich Islands, home. There were no American ships in the river. The British squadron in the Pacific had not been heard from for nearly eight months prior to their leaving.
Between Fort Hall and Soda Spring, they were overtaken by a party of four men from California. This party left California on the 4th of June. They reported all things quiet when they left. Gen. Kearny was in supreme command, and this party are understood to state, most positively that Col. Fremont was not under arrest up to the time of their leaving. Com. Stockton’s flag ship was at Monterey, and several ships of the United States squadron were at St. Francisco. This party arrived at St. Joseph with Capt. D. and Mr. C., and may be expected in this city shortly.
Capt. D. and Mr. C. met a great many emigrants and their wagons. They were progressing rapidly and very comfortable, but Mr. Campbell thinks that those for Oregon, because of their number, may suffer a great deal from the want of grass for their stock, on the other side of the mountains. They met the advance party of the Mormon emigrants, and subsequently the main body, of about five hundred wagons. The advance party were hastening on by forced marches, to select a place for winter encampment somewhere in the vicinity of the Great Salt Lake. A few days previous to their meeting with the main body, the Mormons and a large party of Pawnees, going out on a hunting expedition, to the Little Blue River, met and held a festival together. Our informants passed the ground where the festival was held, but were fortunate enough (from Mr. Campbell’s long and intimate knowledge of the country) to escape falling in with the Indian party. The Mormons represented themselves as being supplied with at least eighteen months’ provisions. They had with them pigs, poultry and cattle, and appeared to have an abundance of every thing.
They seemed to be harmonious among themselves, but it was understood that those of the church who had reached California, had split, and there was a strong quarrel going on between them. The Californians, and most of the emigrants from the United States, were very decidedly opposed to the settling of the Mormons there. It was thought they would resort to force to resist their settlement.
From Fort Hall, Capt. Drake and Mr. Campbell met with no incident, except the loss of a favorite mare of the Captains’s which was stolen whilst they were encamped at a Sioux village. Capt. D. Returns to England by the earliest steamer to Liverpool. Mr. Campbell will return to Oregon this fall, by some one of the southern routes.
Spring/Summer 1997 - Vol. 8, No. 2 & 3
The Forgotten Pioneers, Part II by Norma B. Ricketts
"It is quite generally understood that there were three women who entered the Salt Lake Valley with the pioneers ... [in] July 1847. The fact has been overlooked by many that there were [six] other noble women besides these three who... braved the dangers and hardships of the journey to the west."
—Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History.
The story of how these six women and their families, as well as a handful of men of the Mormon Battalion, intermingled in the Pioneer Company and reached the Great Salt Lake Valley together on July 22, 1847, actually began in the early 1840s. Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints went into the southern states and converted a number of wealthy plantation owners as well as a group of farmers. By January 1845 there was a flourishing colony of Mormons gathered in Mississippi.
With persecution increasing in Illinois, completing the Nauvoo Temple was a priority. Brigham Young sent word to Mississippi that men were needed to work on the temple. Seven men led by John Brown left Monroe County, Mississippi, on March 14, 1845, and traveled to Nauvoo.(1)
We worked on the temple during the day and whittled and whistled through the streets at night keeping everything in order, and guarding the city against mobs. There was no need of a curfew bell in those times; none were seen upon the streets, except those on duty. --John Brown.(2)
After working on the temple for nearly three months, the seven men left Nauvoo on June 3 to go back to their families in Mississippi. Two men, John Brown and William Crosby, accompanied by their wives, returned immediately to Nauvoo and continued working on the temple until it was completed. During the winter of 1845-46 when the Mormons were leaving Nauvoo, John Brown was asked by Brigham Young to return again to Mississippi and, instead of guiding those saints to Nauvoo, to take a southern route and enter the prairie at Independence, Missouri. They were to meet the Nauvoo Mormons near the Platte River and Fort Laramie.
Brown was joined by five men who went along as scouts to assist him. In accordance with Young's instructions, Brown led fourteen families, consisting of forty-three persons (twenty- four men) with nineteen wagons, out of Monroe County, Mississippi, on April 8, 1846.(3)
This first group of Mississippi Saints crossed the Mississippi River at Iron Banks, and advanced through Missouri. After 640 miles, Brown's company reached Independence on May 26, 1846, where they were joined by the Robert Crow family and others, an additional thirteen adults and a few children.
At Independence William Crosby was elected captain, with Robert Crow and John Holladay, counselors. From Independence, they followed the Oregon Trail to the Platte River where they expected to meet the main body of Mormon emigrants. After waiting a week in mid-June 1846 for the Nauvoo Mormons, they continued along the Oregon Trail on the south side of the Platte River past Grand Island toward Fort Laramie. In July they met eastern-bound travelers near Chimney Rock, and learned there were no Mormons on the trail ahead of them.(4)
A few miles below Laramie we met Mr. John Reshaw.... We held a consel & concluded to go no further west but find a place for the company to winter on the east side of the Mountains. Reshaw said that the head of the Arkansaw River was the best place to go since there was some corn growing there & it being near the Spanish country the company could get Supplies. He was going to Pueblo in a few days with two teams there being no road & he being acquainted with the route we concluded to stop and go with him. We moved over to his camp. -- John Brown.(5)
Richard (Ree-shaw) was a Frenchman who ran a fur-trading post, Fort Bernard, eight miles east of Fort Laramie. He was going to Taos to trade skins and get supplies. He suggested they winter at Fort Pueblo, Colorado, on the upper Arkansas River, which was in a valley sheltered somewhat from winter storms. The mountain men and trappers who lived there with their Spanish and Indian wives had surplus corn and there was a plentiful supply of wild game.
On the tenth of July we started for Pueblo. Mr. Reshaw proved faithful to us and rendered us all the assistance he could among the indians & on the plains. --John Brown.(6)
After crossing the south fork of the Platte on July 27, under Richard's guidance, they found a wagon trail, which they followed until they reached the Arkansas Valley. The Mississippi Saints arrived at Fort Pueblo, a small mud-walled settlement at the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains, on August 7, 1846. The fort had been built on the Arkansas River before 1842 by fur trappers and mountain men as a winter rendezvous.(7) The fort was adobe, sixty yards square. Usually there were around fifteen men and their wives at the fort during the winter.
The Mormons stopped on the north side of the river about a mile below the fort. They began felling trees in the bottomland to build cabins and also erected a larger rustic building of cottonwood logs which served as a church and social hall. They dropped "Fort" and referred to their location simply as "Pueblo." A branch of the LDS Church was organized with Absalom Porter Dowdle, presiding elder. The Mormons planted pumpkins, melons and turnips, and prepared fields for wheat and other crops in the spring. Flour was obtained in Taos.
After assisting the Pueblo settlement to prepare for winter, John Brown and his scouts were anxious to return to Mississippi to their families.(8)
We instructed them and gave them such counsel as the spirit dictated, telling them to tarry there until they got word where to go. They were much disappointed, expecting to have got with the body of the Church. We comforted them all we could and left our blessing with them. We bid them adieu on the morning of the first of September, and started following down the Arkansas River to the Santa Fe trail... --John Brown.(9)
On September 12 as they were traveling east, they unexpectedly met the California-bound Mormon Battalion. Brown told the soldiers about the Mississippi Saints and the branch of the Church in Pueblo. It was this chance meeting that later gave Lieutenant A. J. Smith, commander of the Mormon Battalion, the idea of dispatching Captain Nelson Higgins and the family detachment to Pueblo for the winter.(10)
Meanwhile, John Brown's group arrived back in Mississippi with their families on October 29. Another call for help came from Brigham Young. He asked for men to lead the Pioneer Company west. Six men responded.(11) Thus it was that John Brown, David Powell, Mathew Ivory, and three slaves, Oscar Crosby, Hark Lay, Green Flake, all from Mississippi, found themselves in the Pioneer Company, which left Winter Quarters April 8. When they reached the ferry across the Platte River, they met the Crow family. The Crows, who had spent the winter at Pueblo, had grown impatient and had not waited for the Pueblo colony to start west. They left Pueblo April 17, 1847. Their route took them eight miles east of Colorado Springs. This advance group of seventeen persons (ten men, six women, and one child) arrived at Fort Laramie in mid May.(12)
After waiting two weeks at Fort Laramie, the Crows were relieved to see the Pioneer Company approach on June 1, 1847. They gave Brigham Young news of the three detachments of the Mormon Battalion and the remaining Mississippi Saints in Pueblo. Young selected four men to go to Pueblo to instruct the two groups to start immediately for the West: Amasa Lyman, Thomas Woolsey, John Tippets, and Roswell Stephens.(13)
On June 4 when the pioneers continued on, the Crow family added their five wagons to those of the larger group, raising the number of people in camp to 161, not counting the four men dispatched to Pueblo. The Crows also brought with them eleven horses, twenty-two cows, three bulls and seven calves, but they were low on food supplies.(14)
So much has been written about the Pioneer Company that no attempt is made here to document the details of that memorable trip. There are included, however, data relating to the Crow family, the Mormon Battalion and changes in the makeup of the original pioneer company. Details of the last few days going into Salt Lake Valley are given to establish that the Crow party and a handful of Mormon Battalion soldiers were indeed with the Pioneer Company.
On June 5, a fter passing Fort Laramie, the trail was filled with uneven rock which shook and jarred the wagons very severely. At a sharp turn near the bottom of a hill, Robert Crow's wagon turned over.(15) No one was injured and it was soon righted. This was the first of several accidents to plague the Crows in the coming weeks. On June 7 a fine campsite at Horseshoe Creek was located, near what was called Heber Springs. While camped here several men were roping two steers when Robert Crow's legs became entangled in a rope. When one of the steers fell, so did Crow. William Clayton reported the ropes were cut "and he [Crow] was liberated without injury."(16)
The morning of June 8 was cool as the pioneers broke camp, crossed the narrow Horseshoe Creek and began to climb a steep cliff. Doubling the teams, they were able to pull the wagons to the top. After descending this hill, Harriet Crow stood on the wagon tongue to get a drink from a water bucket. As she jumped down, the team moved suddenly; her coat was caught on the wagon hammer and she fell to the ground. Her husband seized her, but her coat was still caught and he couldn't get her out before the front wheel passed over her thigh and ankle. She was badly bruised and in great pain, but no bones were broken.(17)
June 15 found the pioneers crossing the Platte River, hampered by strong winds and high, swift water. Three rafts were used to ferry wagons across. During the afternoon, animals belonging to Robert Crow were driven into the river to swim to the other side. A rope had been left on one of the horses. When it reached the middle of the stream, the horse's legs became entangled in the rope so that he couldn't swim. Brigham Young named nine men to stay and operate this ferry across the North Platte River for other Mormon companies to follow and for emigrants going west.(18)
By June 29 the pioneers stayed close to the Big Sandy, following it to the southwest. When they made camp that night, they noticed that more had fallen victims to a strange illness, beginning with a headache, succeeded by high fever, followed by delirium. The cause of this sickness, now identified as Colorado tick fever, was not known.(19)
They reached Green River on June 30 where Samuel Brannan and his two companions came riding into camp from California. Brannan had been sent with over two hundred Mormons around Cape Horn in the ship Brooklyn to San Francisco. He reported the Brooklyn Saints were well situated and were putting in wheat in preparation for the arrival of the pioneers, and gave a brief report on the Mormon Battalion stationed in Los Angeles and San Diego. Brannan brought with him eleven copies of the California Star, the paper he printed on the press brought in the Brooklyn. He talked continually about California and its attractions, trying to entice Brigham Young to settle there.(20)
On July 4 five men were assigned to go back and act as guides for the Big Company, which arrived in Salt Lake Valley in late September and early October 1847. These five guides were Phineas Young, George Woodward, Aaron Farr, Eric Glines, and Rodney Badger. The pioneer company was thus reduced in number by five.(21)
Meanwhile, in Pueblo the sick detachments of the Mormon Battalion and the remaining Mississippi Saints had started west May 24. After crossing the Platte River on June 28, thirteen men were dispatched to recover stolen horses. They caught all but one of the thieves, who headed towards Fort Bridger with the stolen animal. Still in pursuit, they learned the Pioneer Company was ahead of them. The men rode hard to overtake Young and his band.(22)
The battalion scouts caught up with Brigham Young and the pioneers at the junction of Big Sandy and Green River (Wyoming) on July 4. Battalion member William Walker learned his wife was in the next company so he joined the five men assigned to guide the Big Company and left immediately to go back with them.
After the twelve remaining battalion soldiers were ferried across the river and reached the campsite, Wilford Woodruff described the scene: "When we met it was truly a hearty greeting and shaking of hands."(23)
Since it was Sunday there was no big celebration by the two groups. The soldiers lined up in military formation to listen to words of greeting from Brigham Young. At the conclusion of his remarks, Young asked for a cheer for the returning battalion members. A great shout of "Hosannah, hosannah, hosannah, give glory to God and the Lamb," rang through the camp. The soldiers then were dismissed and quickly were surrounded by friends eager for news of their adventures during the previous year.
Misfortune struck the Robert Crow family again when one of their cows was found dead, apparently "poisoned through eating some kind of weed."(24) (William Clayton) Many in the camp were still suffering from the fever. The pioneers were not impressed with Fort Bridger when they arrived July 7. They did some trading before continuing on.(25)
On July 8 Williams and Brannan were sent back with a letter to Amasa Lyman to meet Captain Brown and the sick detachments with instructions from Brigham Young to bring them to the pioneer group as quickly as possible. Brigham Young had become very ill by July 10 and the company stopped for three days.
During the evening of July 12 the company discussed Young's illness. They decided to break the pioneer company into three groupings--an advance guard, the main body, and a rear group consisting of the ailing Brigham Young and others in eight wagons. The next day, July 13, Orson Pratt, leader of the advance guard, was charged to "try and find a pass over the mountains." They left in early afternoon.(26)
Pratt described his group as being "shut up in a narrow valley, 10 to 20 rods wide, while on each side the hills were very abruptly 800 to 1,200 feet" all day on July 14.(27) Using shovels they filled in ravines and dug up tree stumps, trying to make the rugged trail more passable for those who would follow. The main group was about twenty miles behind.
On July 19 Orson Pratt and John Brown climbed Big Mountain on foot and caught a glimpse of the valley through an opening in the canyons.
As the main pioneers entered the towering Wasatch Mountains, they struggled through the most difficult travel of the entire trek. They camped in today's East Canyon Creek where three wagons were left behind: Henry G. Sherwood, Benjamin F. Dewey and James Case, who had come down with mountain fever. They traveled only seven miles on July 20 before camping close to Big Mountain.
On July 21 Orson Pratt and Erastus Snow climbed Donner Hill and from the summit a broad valley stretched before them. "We could not refrain from a shout of joy which almost involuntarily escaped from our lips the moment this grand and lovely scenery was in our view." --Orson Pratt. (28)
At one point in their exploring, Snow lost his coat and went back to find it. Pratt continued on and stopped on what became the heart of Salt Lake City. Twenty years later he recalled: "I stood solitary and alone on this great city plot. I gazed on the surrounding scenery with peculiar feelings in my heart. I felt as though it was the place for which we had so long sought."(29)
The rest of Pratt's group followed slowly clearing the road as they descended through Emigration Canyon.(30)
The main body climbed over the Hogsback and spent the night of July 21 in East Canyon. They conquered Big Mountain, finally camping on the banks of Emigration Creek. They were only about half a mile behind Pratt and the advance scouts. Meanwhile, the rear guard had not traveled for a couple of days and remained miles behind because several still were seriously ill.
On July 22 Orson Pratt took George A. Smith, Porter Rockwell, Jesse C. Little, John Brown, Joseph Mathews and John Pack with him to determine where the first crops were to be planted. Pratt and his companions rode five miles toward the lake and then turned north checking out the land for farming possibilities. After traveling fifteen miles, Pratt and the men turned back and rejoined their group. On the same afternoon (July 22), the wagons of the main company made a rapid descent into the valley and camped near the advance guard at what is now 500 East and 1700 South, Salt Lake City.
Stephen Kelsey, a non-member, was sixteen-years old when he arrived in the valley on July 22. He later stated, "There was a fraternal feeling, a unity of purpose, and often, after a hard day's tramp, the sound of music could be heard above the cry of the coyote, and the leaders of that band, by their self- sacrificing disposition and faithful labors, have engraved their names upon the tablets of memory that time itself cannot efface." Stephen was baptized into the Church on July 23, 1847, the day after arriving in the valley.(31)
Early on the morning of July 23 John Pack and Joseph Mathews were assigned to ride back and tell Brigham Young that all pioneers were in the valley in a single camp near a stream they named City Creek. At 9:30 a.m. the pioneers in the valley gathered to offer a prayer of thanksgiving for the "preservation of the camp, their prosperity in the journey, and their safe arrival in this place,"(32)
Prayers were led by Pratt and Willard Richards. Meanwhile, Brigham's small group continued to make its way down through the canyons.
The pioneers immediately began tilling the soil, plowing and planting and digging ditches to irrigate the land. By noon five acres had been plowed for potatoes. Shortly after noon the water was turned into the potato patch. They were plagued by mosquitoes. A rattlesnake was killed near camp and a scorpion was seen by three-year old Milton Threlkill.(33)
At 2 p.m. on July 24 Brigham Young and his small company arrived in the valley. Thomas Bullock wrote, "All rejoiced to see them, especially as they are better in health."(34)
In the week that followed they explored the valley, sent expeditions south to Utah Lake and north to Cache Valley, met with local Indians, chose a site for the temple, investigated the nearby canyons, made crude roads into the mountains for timber, plowed and planted 53 acres of vegetables and other crops, and started building a boat. They surveyed the city, assigned farming plots and adopted a number of rules.
On July 27 the Twelve and a few more of us went out to explore. We went west and came to the outlet of Utah Lake, which was named Jordan. While we were crossing, Brother Amasa M. Lyman came to us and joined the expedition. He said the detachment of the battalion, with the Mississippi families from Pueblo, was nearby. He had come in ahead of them. --John Brown.(35)
When Brown wrote this passage there were, as far as can be determined, 163 persons in Great Salt Lake Valley, including nine women and three children. The starting roster of the Pioneer Company had about fifty personnel changes during the journey. Yet over the years history frequently records only the names of the company as it left Winter Quarters.
The observation of Joseph Fielding Smith that the women in the Crow family were generally not recognized as being with this pioneer group is still true today. When he wrote there were other noble women besides the three in the pioneer company, he listed the names of the six women and identified them as Mississippi Saints: Elizabeth Crow, her daughter-in-law Harriet B. Crow, and her four daughters, Elizabeth J. Crow, IsaVinda Crow, IraMinda Crow and Matilda Jane Crow Threlkill. The other three women, who came with the pioneer company, were Clarissa Decker Young, Ellen Sanders Kimball, and Harriet Young.(36) It also has gone largely unnoticed that other Crow party members and twelve soldiers of the Mormon Battalion entered the valley on that historic day, July 22, 1847.
For one week these nine women watched the beginning of an empire unfold. And then on July 29, 1847, these same nine women welcomed over two hundred men, women and children to their new home. Although this latest group of arrivals immediately changed the complexion of the valley and contributed to its beginning, they, too, have been overlooked by history. They will be identified and their story will be told in Part Two, in the next issue of Crossroads.
1. John Brown, William Crosby, John Bankhead, William Lay (non-member), Daniel M. Thomas, James Harmon and James Harrison.
2. Leonard J. Arrington, "Mississippi Mormons," The Ensign (June 1977), 46-51; "Mississippi Saints," Our Pioneer Heritage, comp. Kate B. Carter, 20 vols., Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Salt Lake City, 1959), 2:425. These men took the place of city police after the Illinois legislature repealed the Nauvoo Char-ter and its police force. Journal of John Brown, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Our Pioneer Heritage, 2:428.
3. William Crosby, Daniel M. Thomas, William Lay, John D. Holliday, and George W. Bankhead. The wives of these scouts remained in Mississippi. LeRoy R. Hafen and Frank M. Young, "The Mormon Settlement at Pueblo, Colorado, During the Mexican War," Colorado Magazine 9 (July 1932), 121-22.
4. John Brown Journal, 427.
7. Hafen-Young, "Mormon Settlement," 124. The year 1842 is usually given as the date of its founding. However, a letter dated January 1, 1842 indicates that there were buildings standing at that time at Fort Pueblo. The letter addressed to D. D. Mitchell, Superintendent of Indian Affairs, from Bent's Fort on January 1, 1842 complains of unlicensed traders who had built houses and were operating on the Arkansas River.
8. On September 1, 1846, John Brown, William Crosby, Daniel M. Thomas, George W. Bankhead, John D. Holliday, William (Billy) Lay and James Smithson left Colorado to return to their families in Mississippi. Wales Bonny (not LDS) traveled with them as far as Independence.
9. John Brown Journal, 243.
10. Two more detachments of sick soldiers were sent later to Pueblo by Colonel Philip St. George Cooke after he assumed command of the Battalion.
11. The six men who responded were: John Brown and his slave, Henry Brown, who died en route to Winters Quarters; David Powell; Mathew Ivory; Oscar Crosby, a slave of William Crosby; Hark Lay, a slave of William Lay; and Green Flake, a slave whom William J. Flake had given to Brigham Young. Although Daniel M. Thomas, wife Ann Crosby Thomas, and two slaves, traveled to Council Bluffs with John Brown, they stayed in Winter Quarters and did not go with the Pioneer Company. They went west with the Big Company of 1847.
12. The Crows were from Perry County, Illinois. They joined the LDS Church in June 1838. The family consisted of Robert Crow and his wife, Elizabeth Brown Crow (Elizabeth was a cousin of John Brown) along with their married children and grandchildren: Benjamin B. Crow, his wife Harriet Blunt Crow, and their children Walter Hamilton Crow, John McHenry Crow, William Parker Crow, IsaVinda Crow, IraMinda Crow, Elizabeth Jane Crow; and Matilda Jane Crow Threlkill, her husband George Threlkill, and their three-year old son Milton Howard Threlkill, who drowned in a stream southeast of the camp in Salt Lake Valley. His was the first death in the valley. Also James William Threlkill, Archibald Little, James Chesney, Lewis B. Meyers. Norma Baldwin Ricketts, The Mormon Battalion, 1846-48, (Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 1996), 214-17.
13. Woolsey, Tippets and Stephens were Battalion members who had been sent to Council Bluffs as couriers. They were included in the original pioneer company when it left Council Bluffs.
14. Hal Knight and Stanley B. Kimball. 111 Days to Zion (Salt Lake City: Deseret Press, 1978), 133; Thomas Bullock, The Pioneer Camp of the Saints, edited by Will Bagley. (Spokane, WA: Arthur H. Clark Company, 1997), 176.
15. Knight-Kimball, 111 Days, 143.
16. Ibid, 147.
17. Bullock, Pioneer Camp, 185.
18. Men left at the ferry included Thomas Grover, captain. John S. Higbee, Luke Johnson, Appleton Harmon, Edmond Ellsworth, Francis M. Pomeroy, William Empey, James Davenport and Benjamin F. Stewart. After running the ferry for sometime several men returned to their families in Council Bluffs. The others proceeded west and arrived in Great Salt Lake Valley with the members of the Big Company October 3, 1847. Bullock, Pioneer Camp, 194. "The First Company to Enter Salt Lake Valley," Daughters of Utah Pioneers (Salt Lake City: 1993), 27.
19. Jay A. Aldous and Paul S. Nicholes, "What is Mountain Fever?" Overland Journal 15 (Spring 1997), 18-23.
20. Bullock, Pioneer Camp, 194.
21. "The First Company," 72, 142; Bullock, Pioneer Camp, 218.
22. This battalion group included John Buchanan, William W. Casto, Andrew Shupe, Thomas Bingham, George S. Clark, Allen Compton, Francillo Durfee, Samuel J. Gould, James Oakley, Benjamin Roberts, Joel J. Terrell and William H. Walker, with Thomas S. Williams in charge. Bullock, Pioneer Camp, 215.
23. Knight-Kimball, 111 Days, 209.
24. Ibid, 289.
25. Ibid, 216.
26. Ibid, 228. Pratt's group included 23 wagons and 43 men: Stephen Markham, Porter Rockwell, Jackson Redden, Nathaniel Fairbanks, Joseph Egbert, John Freeman, Marcus Thorpe, Robert Crow, Benjamin Crow, John Crow, Walter Crow, William Crow, George Threlkill, James Chesney, Lewis Myers, John Brown, Shadrach Roundy, Hans Christian Hanson, Levi Jackman, Lyman Curtis, David Powell, Oscar Crosby and Hark Lay. Others were: Joseph Mathews, William Carter, Gilbert Summe, Green Flake, John Gleason, Charles Burke, Norman Taylor, Alexander Chesley, Seth Taft, Horace Thornton, Stephen Kelsey, David Grant, James Stuart, Robert Thomas, Charles Barnham, George Wardle, John Eldredge, Elijah Newman, Francis Boggs, and Levi Kendall.
27. Ibid, 231.
28. B. H. Roberts. A Comprehensive History of the Church. Vol. 3 (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1930), 214.
29. Journal of Discourses, Vol. XII, 88-89.
30. "The First Company," 148.
31. Mary N. Porter Harris, comp. "Non-Mormon Immigrants to Utah." (Salt Lake City: Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, February 1997), 235.
32. Knight-Kimball, 111 Days, 250.
33. Bullock, Pioneer Camp, 232.
34. Naomi M. Cottam, comp. "Early Pioneer Life in the Great Salt Lake Valley." Daughters of Utah Pioneers. November 1996, 23. It was not until 1880 that Wilford Woodruff told about Brigham Young uttering these historic words as he entered the valley: "This is the right place, drive on." Bullock, Pioneer Camp, 237.
35. Ibid., 134, 239. Roswell Stephens and Samuel Brannan also returned with Lyman from meeting with the battalion detachments. Bullock, Pioneer Camp, 239.
36. Two other Mormon women saw Great Salt Lake Valley before the nine women with the Pioneer Company. Among the emigrants led by Lansford W. Hastings on his cutoff across Utah in August 1846 were Elizabeth Rhoades, her husband Thomas, and other members of their family; they entered the valley from the north. On August 22, 1846, Levinah W. Murphy of the Donner Party became the first Mormon to arrive in the valley via Emigration Canyon.