07/22/1847 - Crockett
Date: July 22, 1847
Advance Company in Emigration Canyon, Utah:
Orson Pratt went to the main camp, a half mile back, to consult with members of the Twelve. It was decided to send a small group down into the valley to find a good place to start plowing and planting. So Orson Pratt, George A. Smith, John Brown, Joseph Matthews, John Pack, Orrin Porter Rockwell, Jesse C. Little, Erastus Snow, and one other man rode down to explore the valley. As they passed by Donner Hill, they determined that the obstructions in the canyon could be removed rather than having all the wagons climb the hill like the Donner-Reed party did the previous year. They left a note on a pole instructing the main company to clear the road.
Orson Pratt wrote: "After going down into the valley about 5 miles, we turned our course to the north, down towards the Salt Lake. For 3 or 4 miles north we found the soil of a most excellent quality. Streams from the mountains and spring were very abundant, the water excellent, and generally with gravel bottoms. . . . We found the drier places swarming with very large crickets, about the size of a man's thumb. This valley is surrounded with mountains, except on the north: the tops of some of the highest being covered with snow. Every 1 or 2 miles streams were emptying into it from the moutains on the east." John Brown also noted the crickets and wrote: "There were hosts of black crickets all over the valley and apparently harmless."
The pioneers discovered some hot springs. Orson Pratt wrote: "We found as we proceeded on, great numbers of hot springs issuing from near the base of the mountains. These springs were highly impregnated with salt and sulphur: the temperature of some was nearly raised to the boiling point." Erastus Snow added: "It bursts from the base of a perpendicular ledge of rock about forty feet high and emits a volume of water sufficient for a mill. We had no instrument to determine the degree of temperature, but suffice it to say that it was about right for scalding hogs. Here are the greatest facilities for a steam doctor I ever saw. A stone, in the center of the stream before the aperture in the rocks, seemed to say, this is the seat for the patient. At any rate, I tried it, but had little desire to reamin long upon it."
After traveling further toward the lake and finding the soil becoming sterile, they returned toward the canyon. Norton Jacob explained: "They got within some eight or ten miles of the Great Salt Lake, but it is hemmed in with small lakes, ponds and pools so that it appears difficult to get near it."
Main Company in Emigration Canyon, Utah:
The main company of pioneers started out at 8:30 a.m., and soon caught up with the advance company which was working on the road in Emigration Canyon. They soon reached the obstruction in the canyon that caused the Donner-Reed party to climb Donner Hill. Stephen Markham, like Orson Pratt, determined that the road would be too steep up the hill and instead the men were asked to spend a few hours clearing the obstructions so the road could continue down the canyon.
William Clayton wrote: 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. . . . 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 but 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."
Brother Clayton descended from Donner Hill into Emigration Canyon. He noted: "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."
After working four hours, the men cleared the way through Emigration Canyon, and the wagons continued their journey. Thomas Bullock wrote: "We succeeded in getting thro' the narrow spot of the Kanyon about 4 o'clock, when we turned round the hill to the right & came in full view of the Salt Lake in the distance, with its bold hills on its Islands towering up in bold relief behind the Silvery Lake. A very extensive valley burst upon our view, dotted in 3 or 4 places with Timber. . . . I could not help shouting 'hurra, hurra, hurra, there's my home at last.'" Levi Jackman added: "When we finally got through, it seemed like bursting from the confines of prison walls into the beauties of a world of pleasure and freedom. We now had entered the valley and our vision could extend far and wide. We were filled with joy and rejoicing and thanksgiving."
They proceeded on into the valley. Thomas Bullock continued: "We descended a gentle sloping table land to a lower level where the soil & grass improve in appearance. As we progressed down the valley, small clumps of dwarf oak and willows appear and the wheat grass grows 6 or 7 feet high. Many different kinds of grass appear, some being 10 or 12 feet high. After wading thro' thick grass for some distance, we found a place bare enough for a camping ground, the grass being only knee deep, but very thick; we camped on the banks of a beautiful little stream which was surrounded by very tall grass." [This location was about five miles from the canyon at 500 East and 1700 South.]
William Clayton recorded: "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."
Orson Pratt and his company returned. The large pioneer company gathered around a campfire to here his report. He said that his exploration group had found a good spot to plant crops by a creek [City Creek] a few miles to the north. They enjoyed hearing news of the hot springs. A company council meeting was held at Willard Richard's wagon. It was decided to move to the place found by Orson Pratt in the morning. Also, two men, John Pack and Joseph Matthews, would be send back to make a report to Brigham Young. The rest of start plowing and planting about ten acres of potatoes.
On this historic evening of the day when most of the pioneer company entered the valley, the men spent the evening discussing their new valley home. William Clayton concluded the day with: "The evening was fine and pleasant and the night feels much warmer than in the ravines of the mountains." Norton Jacob wrote: "We have here mile summer weather. Serene atmosphere; a most beautiful clear sky, with an excessive dry climate and arid soil. If it could receive timely rains, it would be one of the most beautiful fertile regions on the face of the earth."
All the pioneers noted some disappointment that there was not very much timber in the valley. They realized that they would have to make homes of brick and stone.
Orson Pratt, Willard Richards, and George A. Smith completed a letter that would be taken back to Brigham Young. It included:
The brethren have done a great deal of labor on the road for our Pres. & his company to come over, but after so many wagons passing we presume you will find some repairing necessary, & should you find it very bad we hope you will look upon our labors with a lenient eye, for we have tried to do the best we could. . . Brothers Pratt & Smith & seven other horsemen explored the valley north of this as far as possible for lime & met the camp on their return at this point. They report some beautiful creeks north of this about 4 miles, whence we propose to remove in the morning & prepare for planting a short distance north of that point. The land becomes more barren; warm, hot sulphur, poison & a variety of other spring around. . . . Timber can hardly be said to be scarce in this region for there is scarcely enough of it to be named, & sage is as scarce as timber, so that if you want to raise sage & greese wood here you had better bring the seed with you from the mountains. In many places the grass, rushes are 10 feet high, but no more. Mammoth crickets abound in the borders of the valley. There are some sand hill cranes and karobs feed abundant, and of the best quality; water in the creeks passably good. We hardly need enter into particulars at this time as we anticipate you will be here in a day or two and see for yourself and see much more than we have had time to look at. Our prayers are in your behalf continually, that you may be strong in spirit & in boday & come to us speedily.
Rear Company in East Canyon, Utah:
While most of the pioneers were reaching their new valley home, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, and the rest of the small rear company spent a hard day traveling up East Canyon. Wilford Woodruff wrote: "We crossed the creek eleven times in going 8 miles & the worst 8 miles we have had on the journey. Br. [James] Case smashed one of his hind waggon wheels to peaces & we had to wait 2 hours to bring his oxen up." Elder Woodruff caught two trout in the creek while waiting. The sick men were feeling better.
Near the Green River, Wyoming:
The Kearny detachment met many emigrants heading to Oregon. Private Nathaniel Jones even met an old acquaintance, Orlando Strickland. The detachment reached the Green River and traveled nearly all night.
Mormon Ferry, Wyoming:
Two buffalo were spotted toward the mountains in the morning. Luke Johnson and Eric Glines went after then and returned in the late afternoon with some of the meat. A company of ten men from Oregon arrived. They were heading back to the states with about forty ponies and mules. James Davenport stated his intentions to go back to Winter Quarters. He offered to pilot this company back to Council Bluffs if they would sell him a horse. Seeing that Brother Davenport was about to leave, William Empey, the appointed leader at that time at the ferry said that they must divide up their recent earnings. It amounted to $29.85 for each man. Brother Davenport, who had brought in much of the money through his blacksmithing accused the brethren of robbing him of his earning. He neglected to consider that the other men did the cooking, built his fires, and herded his cattle. And not all of the money had been earned through blacksmithing. They tried to convince Brother Davenport and even bought some of the things he couldn't take with him. Still, he was dissatisfied.
On the North Platte River, Nebraska:
Dead carcasses of thirteen buffalo were spotted, indicating that there were probably Indians nearby. Jesse W. Crosby wrote: "At midday we came in sight of 100 or 110 Indian Lodges. We were no sooner in camp at evening, than they came running on horseback to our camp, about 100 in number. Report rang through the camp that a body of Indians were coming with a Red Flag, but on near approach it proved to be the Stars and Stripes. They are of the Sioux nation -- the neatest and most cleanly Indians I ever saw. They were friendly; we gave them a feast of bread etc. After firing a cannon, the Indians retired to their lodges about 2 miles distance." Patty Session noted that these were the first Indians that the second company had seen since leaving Winter Quarters. She added: "We have fired the cannon and one six-shooter for them to see and hear, gave them some bread and they feasted, rode round the camp and then we rang the [Nauvoo] bell, our men paraded and motioned to them to go away."
Near Los Angeles:
Jefferson Hunt led a company of fifty-one former battalion soldiers out of their camp and headed toward San Francisco, along the coastal route of El Camino Real. Other companies left to follow a route through the central valleys. Levi Hancock moved three miles north of the fort and camped on the San Gabriel River. He was hunting for his horses. Robert S. Bliss and the others who were part of an advance company passed through a valley, reached San Fernando, and camped at the foot of some mountains. A few more men arrived from Los Angeles with news that most of the 164 men led by Levi Hancock would be underway on the following day.
- William Clayton's Journal, p.306-12
- Watson, ed., The Orson Pratt Journals, 454-55, 555
- Norton Jacob Journal, typescript, 107-8
- Erastus Snow Journal Excerpts, Improvement Era 15:408-09
- Autobiography of John Brown, 78
- Bagley, ed., The Pioneer Camp of the Saints, 231-32
- Levi Jackman Autobiography, typescript, BYU-S, p.40
- Wilford Woodruff's Journal, 3:232
- The Journal of Nathaniel V. Jones, Utah Historical Quarterly, 4:21
- Hoshide & Bagley, eds., The 1847 Donner Camp Diary of Levi Hancock
- The Journal of Robert S. Bliss, Utah Historical Quarterly, 4:111-12
- Jesse W. Crosby Journal, typescript, BYU, 37-8
- Smart, ed., Mormon Midwife, The 1846-1888 Diaries of Patty Bartlett Sessions, 92
- Journal of William Empey, Annals of Wyoming, 21:141-42
Source: 150 Years Ago Today ©These materials have been created by David R. Crockett. Copies of these materials may be reproduced for teacher and classroom use. When distributing these materials, credit must be given to David R. Crockett. These materials may not be published, in whole or part, or in any other format, without the written permission of Mr. Crockett, Tucson Az, firstname.lastname@example.org.