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

General Information

Previous | Next

Significant Events in and around the Salt Lake Valley (1776-1846)

Significant Events in or around the Salt Lake Valley (1776-1846)

1776 Catholic Fathers Dominguez and Escalante followed the Old Spanish Trail. Miera's map indicated a Buenaventura River draining the Great Basin to the Pacific Ocean.

1823 John H. Weber, one of Ashley's group, discovered Weber Canyon and River.

1824 Provost entered the valley from Taos (New Mexico).

1824 (Late fall) Jim Bridger followed the Bear River from Cache Valley to the Salt Lake Valley.

1825 (May 20) Peter Skene Ogden entered valley from north as head of the Snake River Expedition for the Hudson's Bay Company.

1826 Four of Ashley's men (James Clyman, Louis Vasquez, Henry Fraeb, and possibly Black Harris) circumnavigated the Great Salt Lake in 40 days. No outlet from the lake is found.

1827 Jedediah Smith, coming back from Southern California came through Skull Valley with Evans and Gobel. (1828) Ogden located, followed and named the Marys River after his Indian wife. Frémont, in 1845, went down the same river and named it the Humboldt after a famous German scientist. (1832) Nathaniel Wyeth (later established Fort Hall) met Army Captain Bonneville by the Salmon River. Bonneville had taken 20 wagons over South Pass to the Green River and built a fort that the mountain men named "Fort Nonsense." (1833) Bonneville got as close to the Great Salt Lake as the Bear Lake rendezvous. He sent a group under Joe Walker to explore the lake, but they ended up in California and returned along Marys River and never saw the lake. Nevertheless, the captain identified the lake on subsequent maps with his name. (Self advertising paid off; at least the ancient lake now bears his name.) (1834) Wyeth established Fort Hall (named after one of his backers, Henry Hall).

1840 (Dec) Osborne Russel, who helped Wyeth build Fort Hall in 1834, camped with a few French Canadians and half-breeds below the confluence of the Weber and Ogden Rivers.

1841 (Feb-Mar) Russel spent time with the Indian, Wanship, where Salt Lake City is. They chatted and hunted together. Wanship's son spent the winter on Antelope Island.

1841 (Aug) The Bidwell-Bartleso n company with 32 men, including Benjamin Kelsey, with his wife and baby and nine wagons, came down the Bear River to the Great Salt Lake. They went north of the lake. Two days before reaching the springs at Pilot Peak, Kelsey abandoned his wagon. The rest of the company abandoned their wagons at the base of the Pequops Mountains in Nevada.

1841 (Fall) Osborne Russel, with two friends, returned to Bear River delta to hunt. Then returned to Fort Hall.

1842 (Spring) Russel made his last visit to the Great Salt Lake. Hunting had changed. The beaver were gone. Only the bones of dead buffalo remained of this once plentiful beast. He would no longer come here to hunt. (Aug 15) Frémont climbed Frémont Peak in the Wind River mountains.

1843 Frémont boated to Frémont Island (he called it "Disappointment Island"). He was following the Oregon Trail and took a detour to see the Great Salt Lake.

1844 Returning from Southern California, Frémont followed the Spanish Trail to Utah Lake but failed to go far enough north to realize the relationship between Utah and Great Salt Lakes. He traveled 3,500 miles and found no Buenaventura River.

1845 Frémont entered Utah from the south along the White River (south of the Colorado), through Spanish Fork Canyon, the Salt Lake Valley, and pioneered the trail to the Humboldt River that became known as the "Hastings Cutoff."

1846 Miles Goodyear, the red-haired, independent mountain man, established Fort Buenaventura in a grove of trees just above the confluence of the Ogden and Weber Rivers.

1846 (Spring) Hastings, Hudspeth, Clyman, and a few others followed Frémont's trail east.

1846 John McBride's father's group was told by Joe Walker at Fort Bridger (Joe was driving 400-500 Calif. horses east) that the Salt Lake Valley would be an excellent place to settle because of good land, good water, good climate, and no Indians. A few curious ones in the group detoured at Soda Springs and followed the Bear River to the Great Salt Lake. They saw Ft. Buenaventura and City Creek before catching up to their group at Ft. Hall. Walker said he did not have a good opinion of the new Salt Lake cutoff.

1846 Emigrants Through Utah

1846 (July 17) With Hudspeth as guide the Bryant-Russel pack train, including three men from the Harlan-Young wagon train, left Ft. Bridger and headed for the Weber River. They are the first to take the "Hastings Cutoff. They followed Lost Creek Canyon west to the Weber River by Croyden, detoured to East Canyon, north to Morgan, and down the Weber River past Devil's Gate. Once in the valley they did not see Goodyear's fort hidden in the trees.

1846 (Hours later on the 17th) The Harlan-Young wagon train, numbering about 40 wagons and one Mormon family (the Weimers), was led by Hastings from Ft. Bridger down Echo Canyon to the Weber River. Hudspeth returned from the valley with two men and met Hastings at the mouth of Echo Canyon. Hastings had intended all companies to cross over Big Mountain. By this time the Bryant and most of the Harlan companies had already gone down the Weber River, so the rest followed.

1846 (A few days later) The Hoppe-Lienhard group of young men and light wagons and followed the tracks left by the Harlan-Young train all the way to Salt Lake with little difficulty.

1846 (July 27) T.H. Jefferson's group left the Ft. and followed everyone ahead. By forced marching they caught the proceeding the Hoppe Company on the Weber River and both groups caught up to the first two companies at Adobe Rock in Tooele Valley, Aug. 8th. All the wagons that would follow Hastings Cutoff this year, except the Donner-Reed party, were now together, perhaps 66 in number. Jefferson made good records and a great map.

1846 (July 31) After resting at Ft. Bridger three days, the Donner-Reed party with 23 wagons, including the "Palace" wagon, headed for Echo Canyon and the Weber River. (Aug 6) They found a note in a cleft stick by the side of the trail on the Weber River (left by Hastings on the 4th). Hastings advised against going down the river. (Aug 8) Riding hard enough to almost kill their horses, Reed, Pike, and Stanton caught up to Hastings at Adobe Rock after 10 p.m. (Aug 9) Hastings returned to Parley's Canyon with Reed. (Aug 10) Hastings wanted to return to his group but is persuaded to climb to the top of the hill (Big Mountain). He explained as best he could which way Reed's group should go.

1 day The Donner-Reed group traveled up Main Canyon to the head of Dixie Hollow (6 miles).

2 days They traveled down Dixie Hollow, around Broad Hollow, to East Canyon Creek.

8 days Crossed East Canyon Creek 13 times in 8 miles and climb 4 miles up Big Mountain to the summit (Aug 21). They are overtaken on the 6th day by the 3 wagons of the Graves family.

8 days They can't get through Parley's Canyon. They ascended over Little Mountain and, at the mouth of Emigration Canyon, then climbed the brutal Donner Hill rather than cut more trees and bushes in the mouth of the canyon. They camped in future Salt Lake City, Aug. 29. They left Ft. Bridger 14 days behind Hastings. They are now 23 days behind and exhausted.