Submitted by scott on Tue, 03/07/2017 - 23:08

At Bridger the road forks: the northern line leads to Soda or Beer Springs, the southern to Great Salt Lake City. Following the latter, we crossed the rough timber bridges that spanned the net work of streams, and entered upon another expanse of degraded ground, covered as usual with water rolled pebbles of granite and porphyry, flint and greenstone. On the left was a butte with steep bluff sides called the Race course: the summit, a perfect mesa, is said to be quite level, and to measure exactly a mile round - the rule of the American hippodrome. Like these earth formations generally, it points out the ancient level of the land before water had washed away the outer film of earth's crust. The climate in this part, as indeed every where between the South Pass and the Great Salt Lake Valley, was an exaggeration of the Italian, with hot days, cool nights, and an incomparable purity and tenuity of atmosphere. We passed on the way a party of emigrants, numbering 359 souls and driving 39 wagons. They were commanded by the patriarch of Mormondom, otherwise Captain John Smith, the eldest son of Hyrum Smith, a brother of Mr Joseph Smith the Prophet, and who, being a child at the time of the murderous affair at Carthage, escaped being coiffe'd with the crown of martyrdom. He rose to the patriarchate on the 18th of February 1855: his predecessor was "old John Smith," - uncle to Mr Joseph and successor to Mr Hyrum Smith, - who died the 23d of May 1854. He was a fair complexioned man with light hair. His followers accepted gratefully some provisions with which we could afford to part. (p 180)

After passing the Mormons we came upon a descent which appeared little removed from an angle of 35d, and suggested the propriety of walking down. There was an attempt at a zigzag, and for the benefit of wagons, a rough wall of stones had been run along the sharper corners. At the foot of the hill we remounted, and passing through a wooded bottom, reached at 12:15 PM - after fording the Big Muddy - Little Muddy Creek, upon whose banks stood the station. Both these streams are branches of the Ham's Fork of Green River; and according to the well known :rule of contrairy: their waters are clear as crystal, showing every pebble in their beds. (p 180)

Little Muddy was kept by a Canadian, a chatty lively good humored fellow blessed with a sour English wife. Possibly the heat - the thermometer showed 95d F in the shade - had turned her temper; fortunately it had not similarly affected the milk and cream, which were both unusually good. Jean Baptiste, having mistaken me for a Francaise de France, a being which he seemed to regard as little lower than the angels, - I was at no pains to disabuse him, - was profuse in his questionings concerning his imperial majesty the emperor, carefully confounding him with the first of the family, and so pleased was he with my responses, that for the first time on that route I found a man ready to spurn cet animal feroce qu on appdle la piece de cinq francs: in other words the "almighty dollar." (p 180)

We bade adieu to Little Muddy at noon, and entered a new country, a broken land of spurs and hollows, in parts absolutely bare, in others clothed with a thick vegetation. Curiously shaped hills, and bluffs of red earth capped with a clay which much resembled snow, bore a thick growth of tall firs and pines whose sombre uniform contrasted strangely with the brilliant leek like excessive green foliage, and the tall note paper colored trunks of the ravine loving quaking asp (Populus tremuloides). The mixture of colors was bizarre in the extreme, and the lay of the land, an uncouth system of converging, diverging, and parallel ridges, with deep divisions - in one of these ravines which is unusually broad and grassy, rise the so called Copperas Springs, was hardly less striking. We ran winding along a crest of rising ground, passing rapidly, by way of farther comparison, two wretched Mormons, man and woman, who were driving, at a snail's pace, a permanently lamed ox, and after a long ascent stood upon the summit of Quaking Asp Hill. (p 180-1)

Quaking Asp Hill, according to the drivers, is 1,000 feet higher than the South Pass, which would exalt its station to 8,400 feet; other authorities, however, reduce it to 7,900. The descent was long and rapid, so rapid indeed, that oftentimes when the block of wood which formed our brake dropped a bit of the old shoe sole nailed upon it to prevent ignition, I felt, as man may be excused for feeling, that catching of the breath that precedes the first five barred gate after a night of "heavy wet." The sides of the road were rich in vegetation, stunted oak, black jack, and box elder of the stateliest stature; above rose the wild cherry, and the service tree formed the bushes below. The descent, besides being decidedly sharp, was exceedingly devious, and our frequent "shaves," - a train of Mormon wagons was crawling down at the same time, - made us feel somewhat thankful that we reached the bottom without broken bones. (p 181)

The train was commanded by a Captain Murphy, who, as one might expect from the name, had hoisted the Stars and Stripes - it was the only instance of such loyalty seen by us on the Plains. The emigrants had left Council Bluffs on the 20th of June, an unusually late date, and though weather beaten, all looked well. Inspirited by our success in surmounting the various difficulties of the way, we "poked fun" at an old Yorkshireman who was assumed, by way of mirth, to be a Calebs in search of polygamy at an epoch of life when perhaps the blessing might come too late: and at an exceedingly plain middle aged and full blooded negro woman, who was fairly warned - the children of Ham are not admitted to the communion of the Saints, and consequently to the forgiveness of sins and a free seat in Paradise - that she was "carrying coals to Newcastle." (p 181)

As the rays of the sun began to slant we made Sulphur Creek; it lies at the foot of a mountain called Rim Base, because it is the eastern wall of the great inland basin; westward of this point the waters can no longer reach the Atlantic or the Pacific; each is destined to feed the lakes,
Nce Oceani pervenit ad undas

Beyond Sulphur Creek, too, the face of the country changes; the sedimentary deposits are no longer seen, the land is broken and confused, upheaved into huge masses of rock and mountains broken by deep kanyons, ravines, and water gaps, and drained by innumerable streamlets. The exceedingly irregular lay of the land makes the road devious, and the want of level ground, which is found only in dwarf parks and prairillons, would greatly add to the expense of a railway. We crossed the creek, a fetid stagnant water, about ten feet wide, lying in a bed of black infected mud; during the spring rains, when flowing, it is said to be wholesome enough. On the southern side of the valley there are some fine fountains, and on the eastern are others strongly redolent of sulphur; broad seams of coal crop out from the northern bluffs, and about a mile distant in the opposite direction are the Tar Springs, useful for greasing wagon wheels and curing galled backed horses. (p 181-2)

Following the valley, which was rough and broken as it well could be, we crossed a small divide, and came upon the plain of the Bear River, a translation of the Indian Kuiyapa. It is one of the most important tributaries of the Great Salt Lake. Heading in the Uinta Range to the east of Kamas Prairie, it flows with a tortuous course to the northwest, till reaching Beer Springs it turns sharply round with a horseshoe bend, and sets to the southwest, falling into the general reservoir at a bight called Bear River Bay. According to the mountaineers, it springs not far from the sources of the Weber River and of the Timpanogos Water. Coal was found some years ago upon the banks of the Bear River, and more lately near Weber River and Silver Creek. It is the easternmost point to which Mormonism can extend main forte: for fugitives from justice, "over Bear River" is like "over Jordan." The aspect of the valley, here half a mile broad, was prepossessing. Beyond a steep terrace, or step which compelled us all to dismount, the clear stream, about 400 feet in width, flowed through narrow lines of willows, cotton wood, and large trees, which waved in the cool refreshing western wind; grass carpeted the middle levels, and above all rose red cliffs and buttresses of frowning rock. (p 182)

We reached the station at 5:30 PM. The valley was dotted with the tents of the Mormon emigrants, and we received sundry visits of curiosity: the visitors, mostly of the sex conventionally termed the fair, contented themselves with entering, sitting down, looking hard, tittering to one another, and departing with Parthian glances that had little power to hurt. From the men we heard tidings of "a massacree" of emigrants in the north, and a defeat of Indians in the west. Mr Myers, the station master, was an English Saint, who had lately taken to himself a fifth wife, after severally divorcing the others; his last choice was not without comeliness, but her reserve was extreme; she could hardly be coaxed out of a "Yes sir," I found Mr Myers diligently perusing a translation of "Volney's Ruins of Empire"; we had a chat about the Old and the New Country, which led us to sleeping time. I had here a curious instance of the effect of the association of words, in hearing a by stander apply to the Founder of Christianity the "Mr." which is the Kyrios of the West, and is always prefixed to "Joseph Smith": he stated that the mission of the latter was "far ahead of" that of the former prophet - which, by the by, is not the strict Mormon doctrine. My companion and his family preferred as usual the interior of the mail wagon, and it was well that they did so; after a couple of hours, entered Mr Macarthy, very drunk and "fighting mad." He called for supper, but supper was past and gone, so he supped upon "fids" of raw meat. Excited by this lively food he began a series of caprioles, which ended as might be expected, in a rough and tumble with the other three youths who occupied the hard floor of the ranch. To Mr Macarthy's language on that occasion ; every word was apparently English, but so perverted, misused, and mangled, that the home reader would hardly have distinguished it from High Dutch: eg I'm intire mad as a meat axe; now du do' t, I tell ye; say, you shut up in a winkin, or I ll be chawed up if I don t run over you; can t come that 'ere tarnal carryin' on over me, and 0 si sic omnia! As no weapons, revolvers, or bowie knives were to the fore, I thought the best thing was to lie still and let the storm blow over, which it did in a quarter of an hour. Then, all serene, Mr Macarthy called for a pipe, excused himself ceremoniously to himself for taking the liberty with the Cap's meerschaum, solely upon the grounds that it was the only article of the kind to be found at so late an hour, and presently fell into a deep slumber upon a sleeping contrivance composed of a table for the upper, and a chair for the lower portion of his person. I envied him the favors of Morpheus: the fire soon died out, the cold wind whistled through the crannies, and the floor was knotty and uneven. (p 182-3)


Burton, Richard. 1861. The City Of The Saints. London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts.