On the morning of this day in 1849, Wm. G. Johnston "crossed the LaBonte twice, a clear swift stream with gravelly bed and banks well timbered." By afternoon, he was moving "over barren hills. . .(and) The soil was composed of a red clay and the prevailing vegetation was that of artemisia, or wild sage, which filled the air with an odor of camphor and turpentine."
John McGlashen (1850) "Rested near the fort (Bridger) today, the stock requiring more rest, and everything requiring to be reduced in bulk." "Some of our party," he continued, "have not got over ten days provisions and scarsely any to be had here. I fear all our troubles have yet to come."
On this Saturday, Wm. G. Johnston (1849) got underway "before four o'clock, and while it was yet dark. The morning air was quite cold. In a few hours we crossed a pretty stream, 'A la Perle,'. . ." That night he camped on Deer Creek, where he attempted to do his laundry. He put his clothes into the stream, secured them with a rock, then returned to camp for soap. When he returned, his clothes has disappeared. "It was," he concluded, "a loss not easily to be borne, but there remained, nevertheless, some consolation; disliking laundry work, I had less of it to perform."
In the spring of 1850, C.W. Smith remarked upon "a novel feature in this region in the existence of red sand which gives to the prospect a very picturesque character. I suppose it was caused by volcanic fires, which burned perhaps centuries ago."
Mrs. Marie Belshaw (1853) noted that "Mrs. Coonts was getting into her wagon, slipped and fell under the wagon, two wheels passed over her, no bones broken."
Her train laying by "to get some blacksmiths work done" Mrs. Sarah Sutton (1854) gave some hungry Indians "a quart of gravey that was left and some scraps of bread, and they scraped it into a sac. A leather one I should suppose."
Wm. G. Johnston (1849) crossed Deer Creek and reached the Upper Platte Crossing "where we encamped." He found a blacksmith shop and ferry established by Mormons. "Contrary to expectation, based upon the common reputation of these Latter-Day Saints, we found those in charge of the ferry men of respectable appearance, well informed, polite, and in every way agreeable."
Having rested the day before at La Bonte Creek (Sunday) C.W. Smith (1850) crossed La Prele Creek which is "ten or twelve feet in width, and at night encamped on La Boisce (Box Elder)."
On the afternoon of this day in 1850, Margaret Frink reported passing "an Indian encampment numbering seventy tents. They belonged to the Sioux tribe, but were quite friendly. The squaws were much pleased to see the 'white squaw' in our party, as they called me." Mrs. Frink further noted that, while the Indians would trade, "money they would not look at."
In 1834, William Marshall Anderson "breakfasted in front of the long-wished-for Buttes (Red Buttes)" "From the divide of the Platte and the Sweetwater, we have a distant yet beautiful view of the snow-capped mountains of the yellowstone."
On this date in 1841, John Bidwell recounted the story of "Cheyenne" Dawson, a young hunter who encountered "a band of Chienne (Cheyenne) about 40 in number". The Cheyenne relieved Dawson of his mount and firearms, then let him go. Dawson immediately repaired to the wagon train where, "in trembling voice, half scared out of his wits", informed one and all that practically the entire Cheyenne nation was ready to attack them. The Indians appeared, forty in number; the guide, Thomas Fitzpatrick, rode out to talk with them and "perfectly friendly, (they) delivered up every article taken, but the Pistol." Thus did Dawson acquire the nickname "Cheyenne".
Wm. G. Johnston (1849) paid three dollars per wagon to be ferried across the North Platte by a "ferry-boat constructed of logs covered with slabs of wood. . .propelled with long poles. . .(which could accommodate) one wagon at a time, with as many men as it was thought safe to carry in addition. The mules and horses swam across." After spending almost four hours at ferrying, the march continued; at noon "we took our farewell of the Platte, leaving it to pass over to the Sweetwater."
On the North Platte River "46 miles from fort Larrimi", there is "plenty of timber such as it is," according to Amelia Hadley (1851). ". . .it is mostly cotton wood," she continued, "but in the states we would not call it plenty but It seems plenty to us after doing with any plenty for comping purposes found on the bank of the river a log of pine, which I supposed had drifted there which was delightful wood. It was so full of pitch that little of it done our cooking verry well, we carried some of it a number of days."
Cooking requires fuel, and at Willow Springs "Wood was wanting," according to Wm. G. Johnston ( 1849), "but as a substitute we used wild sage, the dead limbs of which afford an admirable fuel, burning briskly. A drawback to their use is that they send forth great volumes of blinding smoke, particularly damaging to the eyes of the cook."
One day beyond Fort Laramie, Orange Gaylord (1850) began "to see the destruction of property left and thrown away and left preparatory to crossing the Black Hills. We saw about 40 or 50 wagons and carriages of all descriptions that were left. . ."
Some companions of C.W. Smith (1850) experience the deceiving distances associated with the high plains. Taking an afternoon to walk to some mountains which they thought to be a couple of miles away, they returned at sundown both wiser and tired. The "mountains" had turned out to be twelve miles distant!
About fifteen miles west of Fort Laramie, Orson Pratt (1850) "reached a copious stream of water. . .We followed this stream to its fountain, where it issues from the left bank. The name is 'Warm Spring'; the water is not so cold as one would expect."
By June 6th, Wm. G. Johnston (1849) had reached Devil's Gate in central Wyoming. He attempted to walk directly through the "Gate", but was thwarted by loose rocks. Others in his party climbed to the "top of the wall on the south side and reported having found there the bones of three Indians and those of a buffalo, Now the query is, which of these was the survivor?"
The following year, C.W., Smith (1850) ferried the Platte and commented that "The boats are run on a very simple principal and a very good one. A long line is stretched across the river, secured at each end. To this are placed two pulley wheels, which are fastened to ropes attached to the boat at each end, and the forward rope being the shortest, the side of the boat is brought to the force of the current and forced across." By sundown the party reached Willow Springs where they camped for the night.
East of Ash Hollow, seventeen-year-old Eliza Ann Mcauley reported that "While out with the cattle the boys Caught a little antelope and brought it to camp." [The antelope became Eliza's pet. In western Wyoming on July 4 it was nearly shot by a hunter. Finally on July 21 on Bear River, some Indian dogs attacked and killed the tamed animal]
"We have breakfasted this morning at the base of Rock Independence" wrote William Marshall Anderson in 1834, noting that "On the side of the rock names, dates, and messages, written in buffalo-grease and powder, are read and re-read with as much eagerness as if they were letters in detail from long absent friends." The landmark itself Anderson described as being "a large, egg-shaped mass of granite, entirely separate and apart from all other hills, or ranges or hills. One mile in circumference, about six or severn hundred feet high. . ."
"In the afternoon," Orson Pratt (1847) "travelled 5 1/4 miles, mostly descending, and encamped on the bottoms of 'Horse Shoe Creek' Laramie Peak, "about 12 or 15 miles to the south-west. . .has been visible to our camp for eight or ten days." As had been the case in recent days, "Another heavy thunder shower, just after we camped, from the direction of laramie Peak."
Orange Gaylord (1850) "passed the Red Rock Canyon,[the Dalles of the Platte] through which the Platte River passes. This canyon is about 150 feet wide and about as high as it is wide, the most of the way perpendicular, the distance of one mile and a half. . . they (the rocks) being of reddish cast present a beautiful appearance a short distance off."
Orson Pratt (1847) camped on the bank of "Labent (La Bonte), or Big Timber Creek. . .(which) is about 30 feet wide, 20 inches deep, with a stony gravelly bottom. The Black Hills range on our left, which, with their broken ragged cliffs and conical peaks, form a scenery grand and interesting."
In 1852, James Frear crossed South Pass and camped at Pacific Springs. "The pass" he wrote, "is wide and the ascent & descent so mild it would puzzle some to tell when they came to it. . .the air is pure and climate beautiful." Frear and his companion were now in the forefront of the year's migration. "At the time we started there were about 3000 wagons before us, not there is not 200 and they are nearly all mule teams."
Mrs. Amelia Stewart Knight (1853) was quite impressed with the scenery one day's travel beyond Fort Laramie. "There is some splendid scenery here. Beautiful valleys and dark green clad hills with their ledges of rock and then far away over them you can see Laramie Peak, with her snow-capped top." That night her train camped at Box Elder Creek.
The westward migration continued right on through the Civil War. In 1864, Harriet A. Loughary reported a celebration that took place when her train reached Fort Laramie where they learned of "the great Union victories by Gen Grant's Army. . .enough willow and sage brush to make a camp fire" was gathered and "An old battered violin and a wheezy accordion was brought out to give tone to the occasion. We sang with hearty good will 'The star spangled banner' 'The red white and blue' 'Hang Jeff Davis in a sour apple tree' and every war sone that we knew. At the close of each such shouts of patriotism rent the air of the quiet evening were never heard."
Jason Lee (1834) "Dined at Rock Independence, which stands by itself on a prairie and is say 1/4 of a m. in length 1/8 in breadth 75 ft. high without herbage it being a naked rock of granite. Within a few yards of this rock flows the waters of a small clear stream called Sweet Water."
"Traveled twenty-three miles and camped on Bitter Bottom Creek" wrote Dr. Benjamin Cory (1847), noting the "Day pleasant, road dusty. Two thirds of it good rest hilly and sandy. Thirteen miles from fort [Laramie] we came to quite a large spring a little to the right of the road."
In the same year of 1847, Orson Pratt camped "on the right bank of a creek about 24 feet wide, called 'A la Parele.' [La Prele] The grass on the bottoms of this stream is very good
. . .Just above the camp this stream runs through a mountain, which forms a natural bridge." [Ayers Natural Bridge]
Near the Dalles of the Platte, Amelia Hadley (1851) commented on the "culinary" qualities of sage hens. "I have heard say that they were good to eat," she wrote in her diary, "some of our company killed some, and I think a skunk prefarable, their meat tastes of this abominable mountain sage, which I have got so tired of that I cant bear to smell it. . ."
Camping opposite Fort Laramie in 1852, Lucy Rutledge Cooke declaimed "Oh what a treat it does seem to see buildings again. . .it seems astonishing to meet with such a place out here away from all the world the store was full of folks & clerks were as busy as they could be."
Traveling "up the bottom of Bitter Cottonwood", Dr. Benjamin Cory (1847) "spoiled a good pair of moccasins in wading to my knees in mud and water helping to carry flour and bacon" from a wagon which had upset in mid-stream. Even so, he noted "I find time to shave now each day. have got used to traveling and can find time to keep tolerable clean."
Orson Pratt (1847) nooned at "a stream about 20 feet wide, called 'Fourche Boisee' [Box Elder]", noting that "The rock in the bluffs at this place would made excellent grindstones, being a fine grit sandstone."
Crossing the Sweetwater for the last time, Wm. G. Johnston (1849) and his companion experienced truly miserable weather: "Chilling showers of rain and sleet. . .driven furiously by piercing winds". By afternoon "every man was clad in an armor of ice; the mules, too, were harnessed in ice, and each wagon cover had ice for an outer coating. Such was the condition when at three o'clock we reached the summit of the SOUTH PASS OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS.
Stopping for the night at the Ice Springs, C.W. Smith (1850) reported that "The water is very bad here, so much so that we dare not let our cattle drink it. We see many evidences of its fatality in the many horses and cattle in the vicinity."
Nooning on Deer Creek, Orange Gaylord (1850) found that the stream "has a good many fine fish in it, we caught about 150 with a seine."
William Marshall Anderson (1834) took a rather dim view of the "country from the Red Buttes on the Platte to the Sweetwater, and from thence to the main Colorado", describing it as "barren in the extreme; it is sand and nothing but sand. In face, except the bottoms, margining the streams up which we traveled from the Kaw west there is no soil visible. It is one immense desert; a true American 'Sahara'. . ."
Camping on "Willow Branch of Horseshoe Creek", Benjamin Cory (1847) could "see the snow upon Laramie Peak which is about twenty miles from the road. It looks but about three miles off. We favor our cattle on account of worn out feet and sore necks."
"About four o'clock, after fording the Little Sandy, an Affluent of Green River, forty feet in width and nearly three in depth, having a sandy bottom and swift current," William G. Johnston (1849) "camped near to it."
On this day in 1832, John Ball "arrived at the Laramie Fork of the Platte. It was high, cold, and rapid, and comes from the mountains of the same name. The banks of this stream were covered with willows. Here we made a halt to make 'bull boats' and rafts to carry ourselves and goods across."
The country of the Sweetwater held little attraction for William Marshall Anderson in 1834. "How I long for a timbered country" he complained. "In a thousand miles I have not seen a hundred acres of wood . . .These everlasting hills have an everlasting curse of barrenness."
On this 1847 afternoon, Orson Pratt "travelled four miles, which brought us to the place where the Oregon road crosses the Platte, being 124 miles from Fort Laramie. The Platte at this place is usually forded, but now it is quite high. The channel has about 15 feet depth of water in it, and the water about 100 yards wide."
Wm. G. Johnston (1849): "About three hours from camp, we forded another tributary of Green River, called the Big Sandy-apparently not bigger than the one called 'Little'." He then pointed out that at this point "the trail forks, one branch going northwest via Sublette's cut-off, and the other to Fort Bridger and Salt Lake, and from thence northwest until it strikes the trail leading westward from Fort Hall."
C.W. Smith (1850) was much impressed by the Wind River Mountains which were so plainly in view from the Sweetwater Valley. "Their lofty summits are covered with snow," he wrote, "and in their dazzling whiteness appear truly sublime. . . . they look not far off, though they are probably not less than seventy-five miles."
Benjamin Cory (1847) "Traveled eighteen miles and camped on Big Timber Creek. Most hilly road I ever traveled, up and down hill constantly."
On this 1849 Wednesday, Wm. G. Johnston reached the Green River, which he found "at full flood, a noble stream, with a mighty rushing current; from ten to twenty feet deep, and from three to four hundred feet wide. It is by far the most formidable stream to be met with on this entire journey, especially when swollen as now."
C.W. Smith (1850) reported being "within about ten miles of the South Pass, which we will probably reach by tomorrow noon. We see o longer any of the large companies which overtook us on the outset of the journey. They have invariably broken up into small companies of five or six wagons."
"Bid our loyal friend Platte River a final farewell this morning after camping (every) night on it for a month," wrote Sarah Sutton (1854) in her diary. At Willow Springs she reported news of "a thief, shot in the back, dead, while on a stolen horse, by the owner in pursuit of him."
Asahel Munger (1839): "Came to Larimer's (Laramie) Fort about 11 o'clock, forded the river and camped on the flat between the river the Fort remained through the day. There 10 men at the fort. 3 of these men had Indian wives - they appeared well- one could speak some English."
After noting that "Teams were thick rushing for the ford on Laramie River," Robert Chalmers (1850) further reported that one woman was so badly hurt "getting out of a wagon. . .she died the next day, leaving 3 children. Her husband died 2 days afterwards with cholera."
During the afternoon of this day, Mrs. Amelia Stewart Knight (1853) "Passed the Avenue Rock". And she was certainly not alone. "There is not less than 150 wagons camped around us, but we have left most of the droves behind, and no end to the teams." [Exactly two years earlier in 1851, Mrs. E.A. Hadley had jokingly accounted for the naming of Rock Avenue by nothing that it "is where the Free Massons done their first work."]
After passing through "a severe thunder storm and hard hail and rain and wind", Sarah Sutton (1854) and her party arrived at Independence Rock where they found "a white trader, as usual". They were told by the trader "where there was good grass just across the bridge, and he would not charge anything for the horse and wagon and would furnish us wood to burn." It sounded almost too good to be true-and, of course, it was! True to his word, the trader didn't charge for the horses and wagons, but he did charge each of the men 25 cents for crossing to get the wood he had promised them.
Because of rain, Asahel Munger (1839) camped early at "a warm spring which boils out of the bottom of a great hill-and yet is warm winter and summer."
Benjamin Cory (1847) camped on Deer Creek, which site he described as "a beautiful one, green tree and herbage." He also found the grave of a young lady who had died two days earlier, but "Could not make out the name from the penciled epitaph."
"Black's Fork, a tributary of Green River," was described by Wm. G. Johnston (1849) as a "stream. . .about forty yards wide and three feet deep, with a rapid current." The willows along the banks provided fuel, he reported, "but the smoke which arose was of the blinding sort, and brought many tears to the tender eyes of the cook."
Like so many other before and after her, Mrs. E.A. Hadley (1851) left the Platte, noting "we had travelled on it so long that it seemed like an acquaintance", and crossed to the Sweetwater, whose water "tastes like sap, which gave it this name. I always had a curiosity to taste of it."
In 1853, Mrs. Amelia Steward Knight noted that the Sweetwater River was "very high and swift" where they crossed it by bridge at Independence rock. "There are," she said "cattle and horses drowned here every day; there was one cow went under the bridge and was drowned, while we were crossing, belonging to another company."
Passing Devil's Gate in 1854, Sarah Sutton observed that "The woods are infested with thieves and robbers, watching for a good opportunity to take emigrant cattle and horses. The Indians are better than the whites in my estimation."
"We are now on the Platte, 200 miles from Fort Laramie" wrote Tamsen Donner in a letter dated "Near the Junction of the North and South Platte, June 16th, 1846". Having no inkling of what lay ahead in the high Sierra's, she concluded "Our journey so far, has been pleasant. . .Indeed if I do not experience something far worse than I yet have done, I shall say the trouble is all in getting started."
Robert Chalmers (1850): "Camped on Horse(shoe) Creek. One man died with cholera next camp, and left a wife and children here on the plains. Two men have cholera a few miles back and come all along the road."
"We left Big Sandy at about eleven and a half a.M. with the intention of traveling all night and reaching Green River the next morning" wrote C.W. Smith (1850) in his diary. Encountering a snow storm that night, they nevertheless reached Green River at eight o'clock in the morning. He described the Sublette Cutoff thusly: "it is not so barren as I was led to suppose. It is but little more so than much of the ground we had passed over before, west of Fort Laramie . . .(but) Upon this stretch of forty miles there is not a drop of water, and this is the reason why it is so barren."
In 1832, John Ball "crossed the Platte, where it comes from the south. . .We again used out 'bull boats'."
Richard Owen Hickman (1852) was perhaps making a moral point with the story he recorded in his diary this day. A man named Prouty had, it seems, been instrumental in causing a husband and wife to separate. Some of the company intervened and talked the couple into getting back together. "On yesterday this old Prouty. . .was seized with the cholera and died and was buried at Devil's Gate."
The day after passing Fort Laramie, Mrs. Maria A. Belshaw (1853) "Passed two graves and saw some of the most lofty looking rocks I ever saw. Oh had I language to portray these beautiful scenes which have been presented to my view I should be much pleased."
At the Platte River Crossing, Orson Pratt (1847) and his Mormon party "resumed our journey, leaving ten men in charge of the ferry, who were instructed to come on with our next company, who were expected in a month or six weeks."
The shifting nature of river bottoms was well illustrated by C.W. Smith (1850). A tributary of Green River was so "deep, though narrow, our cattle (were) compelled to swim it when only eight or ten yards wide" in the search for good grass. When it came time to start again, the cattle had to be retrieved. The two men chosen for the task "went a little higher up the stream", then remembered how the cattle had had to swim because of the river's depth, "plunged in, but instead of swimming, they struck their knees upon the bottom, and having raised upright in two feet depth of water, walked the remainder of the way across, amid the laughter of the whole company."
The phenomenon called the "Ice Slough" or "Ice Spring" was nicely described in 1851 by Mr. E.A. Hadley. "Here you can obtain pure ice by digging down to the depth of 4 to 6 inches," she wrote. She herself "dug down and got some, there is a solid cake of ice as clear as any I ever saw, and more so, cut a piece as large as a pail, and took and rapt it in a blanket, to take along. . ."
On this day in 1850, Robert Chalmers "Crossed Deer Creek" which "is swarming with fish." "Passed two men lying in their tent dying of cholera."
On the same day, Orange Gaylord (1850) camped in South Pass which he described as being "20 or 25 miles wide in appearance." The distant mountains which can be seen from the pass "present a scene almost unsurpassed by nature."
In 1839, Asahel Munger expressed a view not widely shared in later years. "One of our company went out when our camp was full of meat," he wrote "and shot a large buffalo because he could. The noble animal was feeding in good grass, taking his comfort when his enemy must commence murdering him-shot him 17 or 18 times before he fell- took perhaps his tongue and left the remainder to be devoured by wolves which preyed upon him all night."
On this day in 1851, Mrs. E.A. Hadley camped "on Pacific Spring which is the first camp after you get through South pass." "We saw the far famed South Pass," she wrote "but did not see it until we had passed it, for I was all the time looking for some narrow place that would almost take your breath away to get through, but was disappointed."
Traveling through South Pass in 1853, Mrs. Amelia Stewart Knight (1853) received a bucket of snow from her husband and from one of the hands a bunch of flowers "which he said was growing close to the snow, which was about 6 feet deep".
Camping near Scotts Bluff, Jacob R. Snyder (1845) made an early start "there being 23 miles of burned prairie affording no pasturage for cattle." "Stopped in a violent hail storm about 2 o'clock. This is the 2nd one that we have had this week."
On this "disagreeable day, the wind blowing a tornado and the sand filling the air", in 1846, Virgil K. Pringle camped about a mile from Fort Laramie where he "found about 200 lodges of Sioux."
Robert Chalmers (1850) ferried the North Platte for five dollars a wagon. "They have a rope stretched across the river and a rope from it to each end of the scow, the slack of the stern, and the current drives it across."
One day beyond Fort Laramie, E.W. Conyers (1852) reported hearing that one emigrant couple murdered another couple with whom they were traveling, then turned back to return to the Missouri. When the bodies were discovered, however, the murderous couple was apprehended, convicted of murder and hanged.
Just beyond Box Elder Creek, seven-year-olds Charles Martin and William Belshaw "started to get a horse. William left Charles to return to the wagon", but Charles got lost. He was missed in about half an hour; "Between 30 and 40 people" began a search for him that lasted until sundown when "a man came to our wagon," according to Mrs. Marie Belshaw (1853) "with the news that the child was safe in a camp nine miles from us." The boy had been taken in and treated kindly by the members of another train.
John Ball (1832) describes Independence Rock, which he reached at noon, as being "like a big bowl turned upside down; in size about equal to two meeting houses of the old New England style.
In 1847, Orson Pratt observed that "The Wind River chain of mountains exhibit in the distance their towering peaks whitened by perpetual snow, which, glittering in the sunbeams, resemble white fleecy clouds."
". . .remained in camp until 3 o'clock P.M. and then started across the Green River desert (Sublette Cutoff), a distance of 53 miles without water and but little grass" wrote Orange Gaylord (1850) in his diary. "We traveled until 7 o'clock and 40 minutes and halted and got supper, and started at 8 o'clock and 40 minutes and traveled until sunrise in the morning."
The morning was "cold and cloudy" the day Marion W. Battey reached the Upper Platte Crossing where she "saw an immense number of people, wagons and cattle being ferried over the river." Many swim their stock, but it is very dangerous and troublesome to do so" she noted, adding "I think we were exceedingly fortunate in fording at Grand Island."
After passing Fort Laramie, Virgil Pringle (1846) followed the road up the Platte instead of "the usual route. . .which is over the highlands between (the) Platte and (the) Laramie fork."
By June 24 of the following year, Orson Pratt (1847) was traveling up the Sweetwater Valley, reaching the ice springs where he "took a spade and dug down about one foot, and found the ground frozen and large quantities of ice."
Orange Gaylord (1850) paid $7 per wagon to ferry the Green River. While there, he "saw a team attempt to ford it and it was swept down the river, drowned one horse, lost the wagon and provisions."
Camping at Willow Springs, Marion W. Battey (1852) observed that "The emigration appears now to be as large again as before passing the ferry. . .Excellent road until the rain made it a little muddy-afternoon rather pleasant."
W.W. Chapman (1849)camped at Willow Springs where he "saw any amount of deer and lame oxen."
"I walked about five miles," wrote Celinda E. Hines (1853); in the afternoon she "passed a place where the Platte passes through the mountains."[The Dalles of the Platte]
The train with which Phoebe Judson and her husband were traveling "reached La Bonta Creek on Saturday, a little before sundown". Mrs. Judson described it as "one of the most charming spots of the whole route". Her attitude was perhaps influenced by the fact that the next day she gave birth to a baby boy who was named Charles La Bonta Judson in commemoration of the place of his birth."
Leaving Independence Rock early in the morning, Asahel Munger (1839) noted that "the only evidences I can discover of our ascending the mountains" is that "the snow (is) discoverable on the mountains at so small a distance above the level on which we travel, while we are warm-And the coolness of the Atmosphere."
According to Orson Pratt (1847), "This country called the South Pass, for some 15 or 20 miles in length and breadth, is a gently undulating plain or prairie, thickly covered with wild sage from one to two feet high." He went on to camp at a place "By some. . .called Pacific Spring, by others Muddy Spring."
Walking to the top of the bluff enclosing The Dalles of the Platte, Celinda Hines (1853) proclaimed that "The scenery surpasses, for grandeur, sublimity and peculiarity, anything we have yet seen on the road. . . Several miles of the road with teams and camps. The river and its various windings with its valley and bluffs on either side. Laramie Peak in the distance with its snow-capped crest was before us in all the grandeur of which a landscape can be possessed."
Sarah Sutton's (1854) party ferried Green River in the morning. She reported the presence of "quite a town. Five or six cabins and four or five stores and one Indian wigwam." She also took note of the fact that "Whiskey is cheap enough here to get drunk on. Have heard of several in that kind of a fix."
In 1849, W.W. Chapman "Came to Independence Rock. It is", he reported, " a large mass of solid rock, covered with a thousand names, mine I left on the W side, it seems to have been ushered from the bowels of the earth."
Soon after starting travel this Sunday morning, "one of our team cows gave out from the effect of alkali water." The treatment, according to Eliza Ann McAuley (1852)? "We gave her salt pork and vinegar and she soon recovered sufficiently to travel again."
"June 28 found us on the great watershed between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans" wrote John Ball (1832). "It was on open prairie, with ranges of mountains on the north and immense prairies on the south. This is the celebrated South Pass . . .On this extensive prairie buffalo are feeding by the hundred thousands."
Seven years later, in the Sweetwater Valley, Asahel Munger (1839) also "saw a large number of Buffalo, at one time were in sight of perhaps 1500." "They came very near running through or among our horses" he reported, and "This is much to be feared, as horses frequently when frightened by them take after them and are never found."
Orson Pratt (1847) "came to the forks of the Oregon road" in the morning; he, of course, "took the southern one" to Fort Bridger and the Salt Lake Valley. That afternoon his party "met Mr. Bridger with a small company going to Fort Laramie on business. . . (of whom) we made many enquiries. . .in relation to the great basin and the country south."
"We travelled several house over a broken country covered with wild sage," wrote Edwin Bryant (1846) "and reached the Platte about three o'clock, P.M. . . .just below a canon of the river, formed by perpendicular walls of red sandstone 200 or 300 feet in height."
Orson Pratt (1847) "reached the ford of the Big Sandy, where we halted for noon. . .Big Sandy is about 80 yards broad, with nearly 3 feet of water in the channel at the ford." "We encamped a little after dark upon the right bank of the Big Sandy," he continued, "Toward evening the musquitoes were exceedingly troublesome, but the coolness of the evening soon quieted them."
Robert Chalmers (1850) traveled 18 miles, including "4 miles of a very hilly, rocky road [Rocky Ridge]. After that the roads became gravelly."
On this "Cold and cloudy" day, Mrs. Amelia Stewart Knight (1853) noted that "The wagons are all crowded up to the ferry [Green River] waiting with impatience to cross. There are 30 or more to cross before us."
"Today we crossed the Sweet Water four times," wrote Marion Battey (1852), "In two places the wagon boxes had to be raised, the water being so deep." Tongue firmly in cheek, she also described passing "through Rock City. The houses are composed of light gray granite trimmed with dark green cedar. Upon the whole a more magnificent city is seldom seen, and no eastern city can boast of better pavements." Less humorously, Miss Battey also "Saw a large number of dead cattle poisoned by drinking alkali water."
". . .8 miles from our morning's encampment," Orson Pratt (1847) "arrived at Green River ferry. Green River is very high, there being in the channel from 12 to 15 feet of water; the width of the water is about 180 yards, with a very rapid current."
Another form of wildlife was observed by J. Quinn Thornton (1848) a day beyond Fort Laramie. "Grasshoppers (known among the emigrants as sand crickets) were seen in immense numbers during the day, and rose in a little cloud before us, as we walked along."
"Quite a number of cattle in our company are getting lame by traveling over hot, sandy and stony roads" wrote E.W. Conyers (1852). The treatment prescribed involved making a "cover" for the lamed hoofs out of the hide of dead oxen found along the trail. According to Conyers, "Two days' wear is sufficient for a cure."
Vincent Page Lyman (1860) "Reached 'Fort Bridger' and camped for the day." One of his companions "was fired at and his horse taken away from him." Lyman and two other pursued the thief "but did not catch him that night." [They did, however, catch him the next day in Echo Canyon. When he refused to surrender, they "killed him and buried him by the side of the road."]
Copyright Robert Munkres 1981-2009 All Rights Reserved