Friday, Aug. 9.—Sunrise. Across the desert, 45 miles, and at the commencement of the “little Desert.” 2 o’clock, across the little desert, 23 miles, [approx 20 miles between Simpson's Springs and Dugway] and 163 miles from Salt Lake, being 68 miles across the two deserts, with only a spring at Fish Creek Station to separate them. [Willow Creek on the western side] They are called deserts because there is no water in them. They are barren, but so is the balance of the route. (Orion)
The travelers arrived at Willow Springs Station at 2 p.m. on 9 August, having taken twenty-two hours to traverse some sixty-eight miles along the southern edge of the vast Great Salt Lake Desert (supplement A, item 1; Root and Connelley, 103).
To Deep Creek and halt. 1st and 2d of October, 1860.
A "little war” had been waging near Willow Springs. In June the station was attacked by a small band of Gosh Yuta, of whom three were shot and summarily scalped; an energetic proceeding, which had prevented a repetition of the affair. The savages, who are gathering their pine-nut harvest, and are driven by destitution to beg at the stations, to which one meal a week will attach them, are now comparatively peaceful: when the emigration season recommences they are expected to be troublesome, and their numbers — the Pa Yutas can bring 12,000 warriors into the field - render them formidable. “Jake,” the Shoshonee, who had followed us from Lost Springs, still considered his life in danger; he was as unwilling to wend his way alone as an Arab Bedouin or an African negro in their respective interiors. With regard to ourselves, Lieutenant Weed had declared that there was no danger; the station people thought, on the contrary, that the snake, which had been scotched, not killed, would recover after the departure of the soldiers, and that the work of destruction had not been carried on with sufficient vigor.
At 6 A.M. the thermometer showed 45° F.; we waited two hours, till the world had time to warm. After six miles we reached “Mountain Springs," a water-sink below the bench-land, tufted round with cotton-wood, willow, rose, cane, and grass. On our right, or eastward, lay Granite Rock, which we had well-nigh rounded, and through a gap we saw Lost-Springs Station, distant apparently but a few hours' canter. Between us, however, lay the horrible salt plain—a continuation of the low lands bounding the western edge of the Great Salt Lake—which the drainage of the hills over which we were traveling inundates till June.
After twelve miles over the bench we passed a dark rock, which protects a water called Reading's Springs, and we halted to form up at the mouth of Deep-Creek Kanyon. This is a dangerous gorge, some nine miles long, formed by a water-course which sheds into the valley of the Great Salt Lake. Here I rode forward with “Jim," a young express rider from the last station, who volunteered much information upon the subject of Indians. He carried two Colt's revolvers, of the dragoon or largest size, considering all others too small. I asked him what he would do if a Gosh Yuta appeared. He replied that if the fellow were civil he might shake hands with him, if surly he would shoot him; and, at all events, when riding away, that he would keep a “stirrup eye” upon him: that he was in the habit of looking round corners to see if any one was taking aim, in which case he would throw himself from the saddle, or rush on, so as to spoil the shooting—the Indians, when charged, becoming excited, fire without effect. He mentioned four Red Men who could " draw a bead” against any white; usually, however, they take a minute to load; they require a long aim, and they stint their powder. He pointed out a place where Miller, one of the express riders, had lately been badly wounded, and lost his horse. Nothing, certainly, could be better fitted for an ambuscade than this gorge, with its caves and holes in snow-cuts, earth-drops, and lines of strata, like walls of rudely-piled stone; in one place we saw the ashes of an Indian encampment; in another, a whirlwind, curling, as smoke would rise, from behind a projecting spur, made us advance with the greatest caution.
As we progressed the valley opened out, and became too broad to be dangerous. Near the summit of the pass the land is well lined with white sage, which may be used as fodder, and a dwarf cedar adorns the hills. The ground gives out a hollow sound, and the existence of a spring in the vicinity is suspected." Descending the western water-shed, we sighted, in Deep-Creek Valley, St. Mary's County, the first patch of cultivation since leaving Great Salt Lake. The Indian name is Ayba-pá, or the Clay-colored Water; pity that America and Australia have not always preserved the native local terms. It is bisected by a rivulet in which three streamlets from the southern hills unite; like these features generally, its course is northward till it sinks: fields extend about one mile from each bank, and the rest of the yellow bottom is a tapestry of wire grass and wheat grass. An Indian model farm had been established here; the war, however, prevented cultivation; the savages had burned down the house, and several of them had been killed by the soldiers. On the west of the valley were white rocks of the lime used for mortar: the hills also showed lias and marble-like limestones. The eastern wall was a grim line of jagged peaks, here bare with granite, there black with cedar; they are crossed by a short cut leading to the last station, which, however, generally proves the longest way, and in a dark ravine Kennedy pointed out the spot where he had of late nearly left his scalp. Coal is said to be found there in chunks, and gold is supposed to abound; the people, however, believing that the valley can not yet support extensive immigration, conceal it probably by "counsel.”
At 4 P.M. we reached the settlement, consisting of two huts and a station-house, a large and respectable-looking building of unburnt brick, surrounded by fenced fields, water-courses, and stacks of good adobe. We were introduced to the Mormon station-master, Mr. Sevier, and others. They are mostly farm-laborers, who spend the summer here and supply the road with provisions: in the winter they return to Grantsville, where their families are settled. Among them was a Mr. Waddington, an old Pennsylvanian and a bigoted Mormon. It is related of him that he had treasonably saved 300 Indians by warning them of an intended attack by the federal troops. He spoke strongly in favor of the despised Yutas, declared that they are ready to work, and can be led to any thing by civility. The anti-Mormons declared that his praise was for interested motives, wishing the savages to labor for him gratis; and I observed that when Mr. Waddington started to cut wood in the kanyon, he set out at night, lest his dust should be seen by his red friends.
The Mormons were not wanting in kindness; they supplied us with excellent potatoes, and told us to make their house our home. We preferred, however, living and cooking afield. The station was dirty to the last degree: the flies suggested the Egyptian plague; they could be brushed from the walls in thousands; but, though sage makes good brooms, no one cares to sweep clean. This, I repeat, is not Mormon, but Western: the people, like the Spaniards, apparently disdain any occupation save that of herding cattle, and will do so till the land is settled. In the evening Jake the Shoshonee came in, grumbling loudly because he had not been allowed to ride; he stood cross-legged like an African, ate a large supper at the station, and a second with us. No wonder that the savage in civilization suffers, like the lady's lapdog, from "liver.” He was, however, a first-rate hand in shirking any work except that of peering and peeping into every thing; neither Gospel nor gunpowder can reform this race. Mr.R_ , the English farrier and Lothario, left us on this day, after a little quarrel with Kennedy. We were glad to receive permission to sleep upon the loose wheat in an inner room: at 8 A.M. the thermometer had shown 59° F., but on this night ice appeared in the pails.
The next day was a halt; the stock wanted rest and the men provisions. A "beef”—the Westerns still retain the singular of “beeves”—was killed, and we obtained a store of potatoes and wheat. Default of oats, which are not common, this heating food is given to horses—12 lbs. of grain to 14 of long forage—and the furious riding of the Mormons is the only preventive of its evil effects. The people believe that it causes stumbling by the swelling of the fetlock and knee joint; similarly every East Indian ghorewalla will declare that wheaten bread makes a horse tokkar khana—"eat trips.” The employés of the station were quiet and respectable, a fact attributed by some of our party to the want of liquor, which is said to cause frequent fights. Our party was less peaceable; there had been an extensive prigging of blankets; the cold now made them valuable, and this drove the losers "fighting mad."
En route again. 3D October.
The severity of the last night made us active; the appearance of deep snow upon the mountains and of ice in the valleys was an intelligible hint that the Sierra Nevada which lay before us would be by no means an easy task. Despite, therefore, the idleness always engendered by a halt, and the frigid blasts which poured down from the eastern hills, where rain was falling in torrents, we hitched up, bade adieu to our Mormon host, and set out about 4 P.M. Antelope Springs, the next station, was 30 miles distant; we resolved, therefore, to divide it, after the fashion of Asia and Africa, by a short forenoon march.
The road runs to the southwest down the Deep-Creek Valley, and along the left bank of the western rivulet. Near the divide we found a good bottom, with plenty of water and grass; the only fuel was the sage-bush, which crackled merrily, like thorns, under the pot, but tainted the contents with its medicinal odor. The wagons were drawn up in a half circle to aid us in catching the mules; the animals were turned out to graze, the men were divided into watches, and the masters took up their quarters in the wagons. Age gave the judge a claim to the ambulance, which was admitted by all hands; I slept with "Scotch Joe," an exceedingly surly youth, who apparently preferred any thing to work. At 8 P.M. a storm of wind and rain burst upon us from the S.W.: it was so violent that the wagons rocked before the blast, and at times the chance of a capsize suggested itself. The weather was highly favorable for Indian plundering, who on such nights expect to make a successful attack.
To the Wilderness. 4Th October.
We awoke early in the frigid S.W. wind, the thermometer showing 39° F. After a few hundred yards we reached “Eight mile Springs,” so called from the distance to Deep Creek. The road, which yesterday would have been dusty to the hub, was now heavy and viscid; the rain had washed out the saleratus, and the sight and scent, and the country generally, were those of the environs of a horse-pond. An ugly stretch of two miles, perfectly desert, led to Eight-mile-Spring Kanyon, a jagged little ravine about 500 yards long, with a portaled entrance of tall rock. It is not, however, considered dangerous.
Beyond the kanyon lay another grisly land, if possible more deplorable than before; its only crops were dust and mud. On the right hand were turreted rocks, around whose base ran Indian trails, and a violent west wind howled over their summits. About 1 30 P.M. we came upon the station at Antelope Springs: it had been burned by the Gosh Yutas in the last June, and had never been rebuilt. "George,” our cook, who had been one of the inmates at the time, told us how he and his confrères had escaped. Fortunately, the corral still stood: we found wood in plenty, water was lying in an adjoining bottom, and we used the two to brew our tea.
Beyond Antelope Springs was Shell Creek, distant thirty miles by long road and eighteen by the short cut. We had some difficulty in persuading Kennedy to take the latter; property not only sharpens the intellect, it also generates prudence, and the ravine is a well-known place for ambush. Fortunately two express riders came in and offered to precede us, which encouraged us. About 3 P.M. we left the springs and struck for the mouth of the kanyon, which has not been named; Sevier and Farish are the rival claimants. Entering the jagged fir and pine-clad breach, we found the necessity of dismounting. The bed was dry-it floods in spring and autumn-but very steep, and in a hole on the right stood water, which we did not touch for fear of poison. Reaching the summit in about an hour we saw below the shaggy foreground of evergreens, or rather ever-blacks, which cast grotesque, and exaggerated shadows in the last rays of day, the snowy-white mountains, gloriously sunlit, on the far side of Shell Creek. Here for the first time appeared the piñon pine (P. Monophyllus), which forms the principal part of the Indian's diet; it was no beauty to look upon, a dwarfish tree, rendered shrub-like by being feathered down to the ground. The nut is ripe in early autumn, at which time the savages stow away their winter provision in dry ravines and pits. The fruit is about the size of a pistachio, with a decided flavor of turpentine, tolerably palatable, and at first laxative. The cones are thrown upon the fire, and when slightly burnt the nuts are easily extracted; these are eaten raw, or like the Hindoo's toasted grains. The harvest is said to fail every second year. Last season produced a fine crop, while in this autumn many of the trees were found, without apparent reason but frost, dead.
We resumed the descent along a fiumara, which presently "sank," and at 5 P.M. halted in a prairillon somewhat beyond. Bunch-grass, sage-fuel, and water were abundant, but the place was favorable for an attack. It is a golden rule in an Indian country never to pitch near trees or rocks that can mask an approach, and we were breaking it in a place of danger. However, the fire was extinguished early, so as to prevent its becoming a mark for Indians, and the pickets, placed on both sides of the ravine, were directed to lie motionless a little below the crest, and to fire at the first comer. I need hardly say we were not murdured; the cold, however, was uncommonly piercing.
Saturday, Aug 10. Arrived in the forenoon at the entrance of “Rocky Canon,” 255 miles from Salt Lake City. [Egan's Canyon] (Orion)
[Possibly the most illuminating example of Samuel Clemens’ racism.]
On the morning of the sixteenth day out from St. Joseph we arrived at the entrance of Rocky Canyon, two hundred and fifty miles from Salt Lake. It was along in this wild country somewhere, and far from any habitation of white men, except the stage stations, that we came across the wretchedest type of mankind I have ever seen, up to this writing. I refer to the Goshoot Indians. From what we could see and all we could learn, they are very considerably inferior to even the despised Digger Indians of California; inferior to all races of savages on our continent; inferior to even the Terra del Fuegans; inferior to the Hottentots, and actually inferior in some respects to the Kytches of Africa. Indeed, I have been obliged to look the bulky volumes of Wood’s “Uncivilized Races of Men” clear through in order to find a savage tribe degraded enough to take rank with the Goshoots. I find but one people fairly open to that shameful verdict. It is the Bosjesmans (Bushmen) of South Africa.
—a people whose only shelter is a rag cast on a bush to keep off a portion of the snow, and yet who inhabit one of the most rocky, wintry, repulsive wastes that our country or any other can exhibit.
[An attempt to find humor in racism]
There is an impression abroad that the Baltimore and Washington Railroad Company and many of its employees are Goshoots; but it is an error. There is only a plausible resemblance, which, while it is apt enough to mislead the ignorant, cannot deceive parties who have contemplated both tribes. But seriously, it was not only poor wit, but very wrong to start the report referred to above; for however innocent the motive may have been, the necessary effect was to injure the reputation of a class who have a hard enough time of it in the pitiless deserts of the Rocky Mountains, Heaven knows! If we cannot find it in our hearts to give those poor naked creatures our Christian sympathy and compassion, in God’s name let us at least not throw mud at them.
To "Robber's Roost.” 5th October.
We set out at 6 A.M. the next morning, through a mixture of snow and hail and howling wind, to finish the ravine, which was in toto eight miles long. The descent led us to Spring Valley, a bulge in the mountains about eight miles broad, which a sharp divide separates from Shell Valley, its neighbor. On the summit we fell into the line of rivulet which gives the low lands a name. At the foot of the descent we saw a woodman, and presently the station. Nothing could more want tidying than this log hut, which showed the bullet-marks of a recent Indian attack. The master was a Français de France, Constant Dubail, and an exLancier: his mother's gossip had received a remittance of 2000 francs from a son in California, consequently he had torn himself from the sein of sa pauvre mère, and with three others had started in search of fortune, and had nearly starved. The express riders were three roughs, of whom one was a Mormon. We passed our time while the mules were at bait in visiting the springs. There is a cold creek 200 yards below the station, and close by the hut a warm rivulet, said to contain leeches. The American hirudo, however, has a serious defect in a leech—it will not bite; the faculty, therefore, are little addicted to hirudination; country doctors rarely keep the villainous bloodsuckers, and only the wealthy can afford the pernicious luxury, which, imported from Spain, costs $12 per dozen, somewhat the same price as oysters at Nijni Novgorod.
The weather, which was vile till 10 A.M., when the glass showed 40° (F.), promised to amend, and as the filthy hole—still full of flies, despite the cold-offered no attraction, we set out at 2 P.M. for Egan's Station, beyond an ill-omened kanyon of the same name. We descended into a valley by a regular slope—in proportion as we leave distance between us and the Great Salt Lake the bench formation on this line becomes less distinct-and trayersed a barren plain by a heavy road. Hares and prairie-hens seemed, however, to like it, and a frieze of willow thicket at the western end showed the presence of water. We in the ambulance halted at the mouth of the kanyon; the stock and the boys had fallen far behind, and the place had an exceedingly bad name. But the cold was intense, the shades of evening were closing in, so we made ready for action, looked to the priming of gun and revolver, and then en avant! After passing that kanyon we should exchange the land of the Gosh Yuta for those of the more friendly Shoshonee.
An uglier place for sharp-shooting can hardly be imagined. The floor of the kanyon is almost flush with the bases of the hills, and in such formations, the bed of the creek which occupies the sole is rough and winding. The road was vile — now winding along, then crossing the stream–hedged in with thicket and dotted with boulders. Ahead of us was a rocky projection which appeared to cross our path, and upon this point Dangerous every eye was fixed.
Suddenly my eye caught sight of one fire—two fires under the black bunch of firs half way up the hill-side on our left, and as suddenly they were quenched, probably with snow. Nothing remained but to hear the war-whoop, and to see a line of savages rushing down the rocks. We loosed the doors of the ambulance, that we might jump out, if necessary, and tree ourselves behind it; and knowing that it would be useless to return, drove on at our fastest speed, with sleet, snow, and wind in our faces. Under the circumstances, it was cold comfort to find, when we had cleared the kanyon, that Egan's Station at the farther mouth had been reduced to a chimney-stack and a few charred posts. The Gosh Yutas had set fire to it two or three days before our arrival, in revenge for the death of seventeen of their men by Lieutenant Weed's party. We could distinguish the pits from which the wolves had torn up the corpses, and one fellow's arm projected from the snow. After a hurried deliberation, in which Kennedy swore, with that musical voice in which the Dublin swains delight, that "shure we were all kilt"—the possession of property not only actuates the mind, and adds industry to its qualities, it also produces a peculiar development of cautiousness—we unhitched the mules, tethered them to the ambulance, and planted ourselves behind the palisade, awaiting all comers, till the boys could bring re-enforcement. The elements fought for us: although two tongues of high land directly in front of us would have formed a fine mask for approach, the snow lay so even a sheet that a prowling coyote was detected, and the hail-like sleet which beat fiercely on our backs would have been a sore inconvenience to a party attacking in face. Our greatest disadvantage was the extreme cold; it was difficult to keep a finger warm enough to draw a trigger. Thomas, the judgeling, so he was called, was cool as a cucumber, mentally and bodily: youths generally are. Firstly, they have their "preuves” to make; secondly, they know not what they do.
After an hour's freezing, which seemed a day's, we heard with quickened ears the shouts and tramp of the boys and the stock, which took a terrible load off the exile of Erin's heart. We threw ourselves into the wagons, numbed with cold, and forgot, on the soft piles of saddles, bridles, and baggage, and under heaps of blankets and buffalos, the pains of Barahut. About 3 A.M. this enjoyment was brought to a close by arriving at the end of the stage, Butte Station. The road was six inches deep with snow, and the final ascent was accomplished with difficulty. The good station-master, Mr. Thomas, a Cambrian Mormon, who had, he informed me, three brothers in the British army, bade us kindly welcome, built a roaring fire, added meat to our supper of coffee and doughboy, and cleared by a summary process among the snorers places for us on the floor of "Robber's Roost,” or “Thieves' Delight," as the place is facetiously known throughout the country-side.
The Yuta claim, like the Shoshonee, descent from an ancient people that immigrated into their present seats from the northwest. During the last thirty years they have considerably decreased according to the mountaineers, and have been demoralized mentally and physically by the emigrants: formerly they were friendly, now they are often at war with the intruders. As in Australia, arsenic and corrosive sublimate in springs and provisions have diminished their number.