Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
sponsored by the Utah State Board of Education, the BYU-Public School Partnership and the Utah Education Network

William Clayton Journals

July 22, 1847

Location: Salt Lake Valley (the right place), Utah - The end destination for the trek across the plains.

Summary: The Brethren are still finding it difficult to trek through the narrow canyon. Fields for crops are found. The Salt Lake Valley has been seen!

Journal entry: THURSDAY 22ND. This morning is cloudy and some like for rain. We started on at 8:30 and soon came up with Elder Pratt's company. There were several places in the road where the brethren spent considerable time fixing them. As we near the mouth of the canyon, there is a small grove of elder bushes in bloom and considerable oak shrubbery. We named this a canyon cause of the very high mountains on each side leaving but a few rods of a bottom for the creek to pass through and hardly room for a road. It is evident that the emigrants who passed this way last year must have spent a great deal of time cutting a road through the thickly set timber and heavy brush wood. It is reported that they spent sixteen days in making a road through the Weber River which is thirty - five miles but as the men did not work a quarter of their time much less would have sufficed. However, it has taken us over three days after the road is made although a great many hours have been spent in improving it. In this thick brush wood and around here there are many very large rattlesnakes lurking, making it necessary to use caution while passing through.

After traveling one and three - quarters miles, we found the road crossing the creek again to the north side and then ascending tip a very steep, high hill. It is so very steep as to be almost impossible for heavy wagons to ascend and so narrow that the least accident might precipitate a wagon down a bank three or four hundred feet, in which case it would certainly be dashed to pieces.

Colonel Markham and another man went over the hill and returned up the canyon to see if a road cannot be cut through and avoid this hill. While passing up, a bear started near them but soon was out of sight amongst the very high grass. Brother Markham says a good road can soon be made down the canyon by digging a little and cutting through the bushes sonic ten or fifteen rods. A number of men went to work immediately to make the road which will be much better than to attempt crossing the hill and will be sooner done.

Agreeable to President Young's instructions, Elder Pratt accompanied by George A. Smith, John Brown, Joseph Mathews, John Pack, O.P. Rockwell and J. C. Little started on this morning on horses to seek out a suitable place to plant some potatoes, turnips, etc., so as to preserve the seed at least. While the brethren were cutting the road, I followed the old one to the top of the hill and on arriving there was much cheered by a handsome view of the Great Salt Lake lying, as I should judge, from twenty - five to thirty miles to the west of us; and at eleven o'clock I sat down to contemplate and view the surrounding scenery. There is an extensive, beautiful, level looking valley from here to the lake which I should judge, and from the numerous deep green patches must be fertile and rich. The valley extends to the south probably fifty miles where it is again surrounded by high mountains. To the southwest across the valley at about twenty to twenty - five miles distance is a high mountain, extending from the south end of the valley to about opposite this place where it ceases abruptly leaving a pleasant view of the dark waters of the lake. Standing on the lake and about due west there are two mountains and far in the distance another one which I suppose is on the other side the lake, probably from sixty to eighty miles distance. To the northwest is another mountain at the base of which is a tone ridge of what I should consider to be rock salt from its white and shining appearance.

The lake does not show at this distance a very extensive surface, but its dark blue shade resembling the calm sea looks very handsome. The intervening valley appears to be well supplied with streams, creeks and lakes, some of the latter are evidently salt. There is but little timber in sight anywhere, and that is mostly on the banks of creeks and streams of water which is about the only objection which could be raised in my estimation to this being one of the most beautiful valleys and pleasant places for a home for the Saints which could be found. Timber is evidently lacking but we have not expected to find a timbered country. There may be timber on the mountains which the long distance would render impossible to be seen with the naked eye, but the mountains through which we have passed have very little on them. In some places may be seen a grove of small fir or cedar or pine and in the valleys some cottonwood and other small timber. There is doubtless timber in all passes and ravines where streams descend from the mountains. There is no prospect for building log houses without spending a vast amount of time and labor, but we can make Spanish brick and fry them in the suit; or we can build lodges as the Pawnee Indians do in their villages.

For my own part I am happily disappointed in the appearance of the valley of the Salt Lake, but if the land be as rich as it has the appearance of being, I have no fears that the Saints can live here and do well while we will do right. When I commune with my own heart and ask myself whether I would choose to dwell here in this wild looking country amongst the Saints surrounded by friends, though poor, enjoying the privileges and blessings of the everlasting priesthood, with God for our King and Father; or dwell amongst the gentiles with all their wealth and good things of the earth, to be eternally mobbed, harassed, hunted, our best men murdered and every good man's life continually in danger, the soft whisper echoes loud and reverberates back in tones of stern determination; give me the quiet wilderness and my family to associate with, surrounded by the Saints and adieu to the gentile world till God says return and avenge you of your enemies. If I had my family with me, how happy could I be, for I dread nothing so much as the journey back again. When I think of the many dangers from accidents which families traveling this road are continually liable to and especially this last mountain road from Weber River, it makes me almost shudder to think of it and I could almost envy those who have got safely through, having their families with them, yet they will doubtless have a hard time of it the coming winter.

Brother Crow's family especially have very little bread stuff with them, they say enough to last them two months and they are dependent on the success of their hunter for support through the winter.

This valley appears to be fortified by mountains, except on the banks of the lake, on many of which there is still snow lying in large quantities. It is certain that good limestone abounds in these ridges and it is supposed coal can be found with little labor. From this hill I passed down the creek which we named the Last Creek about a mile and there saw a bed of bull rushes of the largest kind I ever saw, some of them being fifteen feet high and an inch and a half in diameter at the bottom. The grass on this creek grows from six to twelve feet high and appears very rank. There are some ducks around and sand hill cranes. Many signs of deer, antelope, and bears, but not many have been seen here. There have been fresh buffalo signs seen a few days travel back, but those animals evidently do not stay in this region unless some come to winter. The ground seems literally alive with the very large black crickets crawling around up grass and bushes. They look loathsome but are said to be excellent for fattening hogs which would feed on them voraciously. The bears evidently live mostly on them at this season of the year.

After spending about four hours labor the brethren succeeded in cutting a pretty good road along the creek and the wagons proceeded on, taking near a southwest course. We found the last descent even but very rapid all the way. At half past five, we formed our encampment on a creek supposed to be Brown's Creek, having traveled seven and a quarter miles today.

We are now five and a quarter miles from the month of this canyon making the whole distance of rough mountain road from the Weber River to the month of the canyon on this side a little less than thirty - five miles and decidedly the worst piece of road on the whole journey. At this place, the land is black and looks rich, sandy enough to make it good to work. The grass grows high and thick on the ground and is well mixed with nice green rushes. Feed here for our teams is very plentiful and good and the water is also good. There are many rattlesnakes of a large size in this valley and it is supposed they have dens in the mountains. The land looks dry and lacks rain, but the numerous creeks and springs must necessarily tend to moisten it much. The grass looks rich and good.

A while after we camped, Elder Pratt and company returned and reported that they had been about fifteen miles north from here and this region is as suitable a place to put in our seeds as they have seen. Approaching nearer the lake, the land is mostly sunken and many small lakes in it. A few miles north of this, is a good spot to break up and plant potatoes, sow our seeds, etc. There is a little timber on the creek. From twelve to fifteen miles north at the foot of the mountain they saw many hot sulphur springs issuing from the rocks, as many as fifty in number. One of them, the largest, falls out of the rocks and then forms a pool apparently ten feet deep and a rock is in the center. The water of this is so hot a person cannot bear his hand in it but a very few seconds. It is strong of salt and sulphur and the bottom appears green as though it was covered with verdigris.

A council was held at the Doctor's wagon and it was decided to move early tomorrow to the place designated; also, to send two men back to the President and company to report our progress, etc., then to commence forthwith and plow and plant about ten acres with potatoes this week if possible and thus continue till the seed is secured. John Pack and Joseph Mathews were selected to return to President Young's company. The evening was fine and pleasant and the night feels much warmer than in the ravines of the mountains.

Source: William Clayton's Journal

Published by the Clayton Family Association, and edited by Lawrence Clayton. To the best of our research, this contents of this book are no longer under copyright.