Submitted by scott on

Burton spent five days at Camp Floyd:

The five days between the 20th and the 26th of September sped merrily at my new home, Camp Floyd; not pressed for time, I embraced with pleasure the opportunity of seeing the most of my American brothers in arms. My host was a son of that Old Dominion of Queen Elizabeth, where still linger traces of the glorious Cavalier and the noble feudal spirit, which (alas!) have almost disappeared from the mother country; where the genealogical tree still hangs against the wall; where the principal families, the Nelsons, Harrisons, Pages, Seldens, and Allens, intermarry and bravely attempt to entail; and where the houses, built of brick brought out from England, still retain traces of the seventeenth century. A winter indeed might be passed most pleasantly on the banks of James River and in the west of Virginia—a refreshing winter to those who love, as I do, the traditions of our ancestors,  [Page 444]


On the evening of the 25th of September, the judge, accompanied by his son and the Marshal of the Territory, entered the cantonment, and our departure was fixed for the next day. The morning of the start was spent in exchanging adieux and little gifts with men who had now become friends, and in stirrup-cups which succeeded one another at no longer intervals than quarter hours. Judge Crosby, who had arrived by the last mail, kindly provided me with fishing-tackle which could relieve a diet of eggs and bacon, and made me regret that I had not added to my outfit a Maynard. This, the best of breech-loading guns, can also be loaded at the muzzle; a mere carbine in size, it kills at 1800 yards, and in the United States costs only $40=£8. The judge, a remarkable contrast to the usual Elijah Pogram style that still affects bird’s-eye or speckled white tie, black satin waistcoat, and swallow-tailed coat of rusty broadcloth, with terminations to match, had been employed for some time in Oregon and at St. Juan: he knew one of my expatriated friends —— poor J. de C., whose exile we all lament—and he gave me introductions which I found most useful in Carson Valley. Like the best Americans, he spoke of the English as brothers, and freely owned the deficlencles of his government, especially in dealing with the frontier Indians.

We started from Lieutenant Dudley’s hospitable quarters, where a crowd had collected to bid us farewell. The ambulance, with ‘four mules driven by Mr. Kennedy in person, stood at the door, and the parting stirrup-cup was exhibited with a will. I bade farewell with a true regret to my kind and gallant hosts, whose brotherly attentions had made even wretched Camp Floyd a pleasant séjour to me. At the moment I write it is probably desolate, the “Secession” disturbances having necessitated the withdrawal of the unhappies from Utah Territory.

About 4 P.M., as we mounted, a furious dust-storm broke over the plain; perhaps it may account for our night’s méprise, which a censorious reader might attribute to our copious libations of whisky. The road to the first mail station, “Meadow Creek,” lay over a sage barren; we lost no time in missing it by forging to the west. After hopelessly driving about the country till 10 P.M. in the fine cool night, we knocked at a hut, and induced the owner to appear. He was a Dane who spoke but little English, and his son, “skeert” by our fierceness, began at once to boo-hoo. ‘At last, however, we were guided by our “foreloper” to “Johnston’s settlement,” in Rock Valley, and we entered by the unceremonious process of pulling down the zigzag fences. After some trouble we persuaded a Mormon to quit the bed in which his wife and children lay, to shake down for us sleeping-places among the cats and hens on the floor, and to provide our animals with oats and hay. Mr. Grice, the marshal, one of the handiest of men, who during his volunteer service in Mexico had learned most things from carrying a musket to cooking a steak, was kind enough to prepare our supper, after which, still sorely laden with whisky dying within us, we turned in.

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To Meadow Creek. 27th September. 

We rose with the dawn, the cats, and the hens, sleep being impossible after the first blush of light, and I proceeded to inspect the settlement. It is built upon the crest of an earth-wave rising from grassy hollows; the haystacks told of stock, and the bunchgrass on the borders of the ravines and nullahs rendered the place particularly fit for pasturage. The land is too cold for cereals: in its bleak bottoms frost reigns throughout the year; and there is little bench-ground. The settlement consisted of half a dozen huts, which swarmed, however, with women and children. Mr. Kennedy introduced us to a Scotch widow of mature years, who gave us any amount of butter and buttermilk in exchange for a little tea. She was but a lukewarm Mormon, declaring polygamy to be an abomination, complaining that she had been inveigled to a mean place, and that the poor in Mormondom were exceedingly poor. Yet the canny body was stout and fresh, her house was clean and neat, and she washed her children and her potatoes.

We had wandered twenty-five miles out of the right road, and were still distant fifteen to sixteen from the first mail station. For the use of the floor, flies, and permission to boil water, we paid our taciturn Mormon $2, and at noon, a little before the bursting of the dusty storm-gusts, which reproduced the horrors of Sindh, we found ourselves once more in the saddle and the ambulance. We passed by a cattle track on rolling ground dotted with sage and greasewood, which sheltered hosts of jackass-rabbits, and the sego with its beautiful lily-like flowers. After crossing sundry nullahs and pitch-holes with deep and rugged sides, we made the mail station at the west end of Rush Valley, which is about twenty miles distant from Camp Floyd. The little green bottom, with its rush-bordered sinking spring, is called by Captain Simpson “Meadow Creek.” 


Three main roads connect the land of the Saints with the El Dorado of the West--the northern, the central, and the southern.

The northern road rounds the upper end of the Great Salt Lake, and falls into the valleys of the Humboldt and Carson Rivers. It was explored in 1845 by Colonel Frémont, who, when passing over the seventy waterless miles of the western, a continuation of the eastern desert, lost ten mules and several horses. The "first overland trip” was followed in 1846 by a party of emigrants under a Mr. Hastings, who gave his name to the "cut-off” which has materially shortened the distance. The road has been carefully described in Kelly's California, in Horn's “Overland Guide," and by M. Remy. İt is still, despite its length, preferred by travelers, on account of the abundance of grass and water: moreover, there are now but two short stretches of desert.

The southern road, viâ Fillmore and San Bernardino, to San Pedro, where the traveler can embark for San Francisco, is long and tedious; water is found at thirty-mile distances; there are three deserts; and bunch and other grasses are not plentiful. It has one great merit, namely, that of being rarely snowed up, except between the Rio Virgen and Great Salt Lake City: the best traveling is in Spring, when the melting snows from the eastern hills fill the rivulets. This route has been traveled over by Messrs. Chandless and Remy, who have well described it in their picturesque pages. I add a few notes, collected from men who have ridden over the ground for several years, concerning the stations: the information, however, it will be observed, is merely hearsay.

The central route is called Egan's by the Mormons, Simpson's by the Gentiles. 


The employés of the route prefer Egan's line, declaring that on Simpson's there is little grass, that the springs are mere fiumaras of melted snow, and that the wells are waterless. Bad, however, is the best, as the following pages will, I think, prove.

Burton's:  To Meadow Creek. 27th September.

Thursday, Aug. 8.— Arrived at the edge of the desert, 95 miles from Salt Lake City, at 4 P. M.  [Simpson's Springs] (Clemens)

To Tophet. 28th September. 

On a cool and cloudy morning, which at 10 A.M. changed into a clear sunny day, we set out, after paying $3 for three feeds, to make the second station. Our road lay over the seven miles of plain that ended Rush Valley: we saw few rabbits, and the sole vegetation was stunted sage. Ensued a rough divide, stony and dusty, with cahues and pitch-holes: it is known by the name of General Johnston's Pass. The hills above it are gray and baldheaded, a few bristles of black cedar protruding from their breasts, and the land wears an uninhabitable look. After two miles of toil we halted near the ruins of an old station. On the right side of the road was a spring half way up the hill: three holes lay full of slightly alkaline water, and the surplus flowed off in a black bed of vegetable mud, which is often dry in spring and summer. At “Point Look-out,” near the counterslope of the divide, we left on the south Simpson's route, and learned by a signpost that the distance to Carson is 533 miles. The pass led to Skull Valley, of ominous sound. According to some, the name is derived from the remains of Indians which are found scattered about a fine spring in the southern parts. Others declare that the mortal remains of bison here lie like pavement-stones or cannon balls in the Crimean Valley of Death. Skull Valley stretches nearly southwest of the Great Salt Lake plain, with which it communicates, and its drainage, as in these parts generally, feeds the lake. Passing out of Skull Valley, we crossed the cahues and pitch-holes of a broad bench which rose above the edge of the desert, and after seventeen miles beyond the Pass reached the station which Mormons call Egan's Springs, anti-Mormons Simpson's Springs, and Gentiles Lost Springs.

Standing upon the edge of the bench, I could see the Tophet in prospect for us till Carson Valley: a road narrowing in perspective to a point spanned its grisly length, awfully long, and the next mail station had shrunk to a little black knob. All was desert: the bottom could no longer be called basin or valley: it was a thin fine silt, thirsty dust in the dry season, and putty-like mud in the spring and autumnal rains. The hair of this unlovely skin was sage and greasewood: it was warted with sand-heaps; in places mottled with bald and horrid patches of salt soil, while in others minute crystals of salt, glistening like diamond-dust in the sunlight, covered tracts of moist and oozy mud. Before us, but a little to the right or north, and nearly due west of Camp Floyd, rose Granite Mountain, a rough and jagged spine or hog's back, inhabited only by wolves and antelopes, hares and squirrels, grasshoppers, and occasionally an Indian family. Small sweet springs are found near its northern and southern points. The tradition of the country declares it to be rich in gold, which, however, no one dares to dig. Our road is about to round the southern extremity, wheeling successively S. and S.E., then W. and N.W., then S.W. and S.E., and S.W. and N.W.-in fact, round three quarters of the compass; and for three mortal days we shall sight its ugly frowning form. A direct passage leads between it and the corresponding point of the southern hill: we contemplate, through the gap, a blue ridge where lies Willow-Spring Station, the destination of our party after to-morrow; but the straight line which saves so much distance is closed by bogs for the greater part of the year, and the size of the wild sage would impede our wagon-wheels.

The great desert of Utah Territory extends in length about 300 miles along the western side of the Great Salt Lake. Its breadth varies: a little farther south it can not be crossed, the water, even where not poisonous, being insufficient. The formation is of bottoms like that described above, bench-lands, with the usual parallel and perfectly horizontal water-lines, leaving regular steps, as the sea settled down, by the gradual upheaval of the land. They mark its former elevation upon the sides of the many detached ridges trending mostly N. and S. Like the rim of the Basin, these hills are not a single continuous mountain range which might be flanked, but a series of disconnected protrusions above the general level of the land. A paying railway through this country is as likely as a profitable canal through the Isthmus of Suez: the obstacles must be struck at right angles, with such assistance as the rough kanyons and the ravines of various levels afford.

We are now in a country dangerous to stock. It is a kind of central point, where Pávant, Gosh Yuta (popularly called Gosh Ute), and Panak (Bannacks) meet. Watches, therefore, were told off for the night. Next morning, however, it was found that all had stood on guard with unloaded guns.

(The City of the Saints)

Horace Greeley:

I left Camp Floyd in the mail-wagon from Salt Lake City, on the morning of Thursday, July 21st, pursuing a south-west course over a low mountain pass. Twenty miles on, we found a small brook making from the mountains south of us across a thirsty plain, which, I presume, soon drank it up. The vegetation was the same eternal sage-bush and grease-wood, which I am tired of mentioning, but which, together or separately, cover two-thirds of all the vast region between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. In places, the sage-bush, for miles in extent, is dead and withering, seemingly parched up by the all-pervading drouth; the grease-wood is either hardier, or chooses its ground more judiciously; for it is rarely found dead by acres. There is some bunch-grass on the sides of two or three mountains, but very little of aught that can be relied on to sustain human or animal lite. The mountains and plains seem to divide the ground very fairly between them—the soil of both being mainly a white clay; while the former have that creased, gullied, washed-away appearance, which I have repeatedly noticed. Sometimes they are nearly perpendicular on one or more sides, like the Buttes further east; but usually they can be ascended on any side, and seem to rise but one to three thousand feet above the plains at their bases. These plains appear from a distance to be level as so many tables; but, on attempting to cross them in a wagon, you find them creased and scored by innumerable water-courses, now dry, but showing that, in the wet season, water is most abundant here. In most instances, a gradual slope of a mile or two intervenes between the foot of a mountain and the adjacent plain or valley; this slope is apt to be intensely dry, sterile, and covered with dead or dying sage-bush. I judge these slopes to be composed of the rocky, gravelly material of the mountains, from which the lighter clay has been washed out and carried off. They often seem to be composed almost wholly of small bits of rock. The valleys or plains are from five to fifteen miles across, though they seem, in the clear, dry atmosphere of Utah, not half so much. These plains have an imperceptible slope to some point near their respective centers, where a wider water-course runs toward some adjacent valley ; in some cases, a marsh or naked space near the center indicates that the surplus water from the surrounding mountains forms here in winter and spring a petty, shallow lake, which the hot suns soon evaporate or the thirsty soil absorbs. The mountains are thinly belted or dotted with low, scrubby cedar, seldom ten feet high, and often nearly as far across the green top formed by three or four stalks or stems starting from a common root. The mountains seem to have no particular, or rather no general direction; some of the valleys being nearly or quite surrounded by them. Even in the wettest seasons, I cannot perceive that this region sends off any surplus water to Salt Lake or any other general reservoir. Such is the face of the country for some two hundred miles directly south-west of Camp Floyd.

We found a station, a change of horses, and something that was called dinner, on the little stream I have already mentioned, and halted here, twenty miles or more from Camp Floyd. In the afternoon, we came on, over a higher, rockier mountain-pass and a far rougher road, to the next station—Simpson’s Spring, nearly fifty miles from Camp Floyd—where we halted for the night. I fear the hot suns of August will dry up this spring; while there is no other fit to drink for a weary distance south and west of this point.