Submitted by scott on Tue, 03/07/2017 - 17:59

From Orion: Sunday, Aug. 4.—Crossed Green River. It is something like the Illinois, except that it is a very pretty clear river. The place we crossed was about 70 miles from the summit of the South Pass. Uinta mountains in sight, with snow on them, and portions of their summits hidden by the clouds. About 5 P. M arrived at Fort Bridger, on Black’s Fork of Green river, 52 miles from the crossing of Green river, about 120 miles from the South Pass, and 1025 miles from St. Joseph.

We then ran down the river valley, which was here about one mile in breadth, in a smooth flooring of clay, sprinkled with water rolled pebbles, overgrown in parts with willow, wild cherry, buffalo berries, and quaking asp. Macarthy pointed out in the road side a rough grave, furnished with the normal tomb stone, two pieces of wagon board: it was occupied by one Farren, who had fallen by the revolver of the redoubtable Slade. Presently we came to the store of Michael Martin, an honest Creole, who vended the staple of prairie goods, Champagne, bottled cocktail, "eye opener," and other liquors, dry goods, - linen drapery, a few fancy goods, ribbons, and finery; brandied fruits, jams and jellies, potted provisions, buckskins, moccasins, and so forth. Hearing that Lieutenant Dana was en route for Camp Floyd, he requested him to take charge of $500, to be paid to Mr Livingston the sutler, and my companion, with the obligingness that marked his every action, agreed to deliver the dollars, sauve the judgment of God in the shape of Indians, or "White Indians." At the store we noticed a paralytic man. This original lived under the delusion that it was impossible to pass the Devil's Gate: his sister had sent for him to St Louis, and his friends tried to transport him eastward in chairs; the only result was that he ran away before reaching the Gate, and after some time was brought back by Indians. (p 173)

Resuming our journey, we passed two places where trains of fifty one wagons were burned in 1857 by the Mormon Rangers: the black stains had bitten into the ground like the blood marks in the palace of Holyrood - a neat foundation for a structure of superstition. Not far from it was a deep hole, in which the plunderers had cached the iron work which they were unable to carry away. Emerging from the river plain we entered upon another mauvaise terre, with knobs and elevations of clay and green gault, striped and banded with lines of stone and pebbles; it was a barren desolate spot, the divide between the Green River and its western influent, the shallow and somewhat sluggish Black's Fork. The name is derived from an old trader: it is called by the Snakes Ongo Ogwe Pa, or "Pine tree Stream": it rises in the Bear River Mountains, drains the swamps and lakelets on the way, and bifurcates in its upper bed forming two principal branches, Ham's Fork and Muddy Fork. (p 173-4)

Near the Pine tree Stream we met a horse thief driving four bullocks: he was known to Macarthy and did not look over comfortable. We had now fallen into the regular track of Mormon emigration, and saw the wayfarers in their worst plight, near the end of the journey. We passed several families and parties of women and children trudging wearily along: most of the children were in rags or half nude, and all showed gratitude when we threw them provisions. The greater part of the men were armed, but their weapons were far more dangerous to themselves and their fellows than to the enemy. There is not on earth a race of men more ignorant of arms as a rule than the lower grades of English; becoming an emigrant, the mechanic hears that it may be necessary to beat off Indians, so he buys the first old fire arm he sees and probably does damage with it. Only last night a father crossed Green River to beg for a piece of cloth; it was intended to shroud the body of his child, which during the evening had been accidentally shot, and the station people seemed to think nothing of the accident, as if it were of daily recurrence. I was told of three, more or less severe, that happened in the course of a month. The Western Americans, who are mostly accustomed to the use of weapons, look upon these awkwardnesses with a profound contempt. We were now in a region of graves, and their presence in this wild was not a little suggestive. (p 174)

Presently we entered a valley in which green grass, low and dense willows, and small but shady trees, an unusually vigorous vegetation, refreshed, as though with living water, our eyes parched and dazed by the burning glare. Stock strayed over the pasture, and a few Indian tents rose at the farther side: the view was probably pas grand' chose, but we thought it splendidly beautiful. At midday we reached Ham's Fork, the northwestern influent of Green River, and there we found a station. The pleasant little stream is called by the Indians Turugempa, the "Blackfoot Water." (p 174)

The station was kept by an Irishman and a Scotchman - "Dawvid Lewis": it was a disgrace; the squalor and filth were worse almost than the two - Cold Springs and Rock Creek - which we called our horrors, and which had always seemed to be the ne plus ultra of Western discomfort. The shanty was made of dry stone piled up against a dwarf cliff to save back wall, and ignored doors and windows. The flies - unequivocal sign of unclean living! - darkened the table and covered every thing put upon it: the furniture, which mainly consisted of the different parts of wagons, was broken and all in disorder; the walls were impure, the floor filthy. The reason was at once apparent .Two Irishwomen, sisters, were married to Mr Dawvid, and the house was full of "childer," the noisiest and most rampageous of their kind. I could hardly look upon the scene without disgust. The fair ones had the porcine Irish face - I need hardly tell the reader that there are three orders of physiognomy in that branch of the Keltic family, viz. porcine, equine, and simian: the pig faced, the horse faced, and the monkey faced. Describing one I describe both sisters; her nose was "pugged," apparently by gnawing hard potatoes before that member had acquired firmness and consistency; her face was powdered with freckles; her hair, and indeed her general costume looked, to quote Mr Dow's sermon, as though she had been rammed through a bush fence into a world of wretchedness and woe. Her dress was unwashed and in tatters, and her feet were bare; she would not even take the trouble to make for herself moccasins. Moreover I could not but notice, that though the house contained two wives it boasted only of one cubile, and had only one cubiculum. Such things would excite no surprise in London or Naples, or even in many of the country parts of Europe, but here, where ground is worthless, where building material is abundant, and where a few hours of daily labor would have made the house look at least respectable, I could not but wonder at it. My first impulse was to attribute the evil, uncharitably enough, to Mormonism, to renew, in fact, the stock complaint of nineteen centuries' standing -

Faecunda culpae secula nuptias
Primum incjuinavere, et genus et domus.
(p 174-5)

A more extended acquaintance with the regions west of the Wasach taught me that the dirt and discomfort were the growth of the land. To give the poor devils their due, Dawvid was civil and intelligent, though a noted dawdler, as that rare phenomenon a Scotch idler generally is. Moreover his wives were not deficient in charity; several Indians came to the door and none went away without a bit and a sup. During the process of sketching one of these men, a Snake, distinguished by his vermilion'd hair parting, eyes blackened, as if by lines of soot or surma, and delicate Hindoo like hands, my eye fell upon the German silver handle of a Colt's revolver, which had been stowed away under the blankets, and a revolver in the Lamanite's hands breeds evil suspicions. (p 175-6)

Again we advanced. The air was like the breath of a furnace; the sun was a blaze of fire - accounting by-the-by for the fact that the human nose in these parts seems invariably to become cherry-red - all the nullahs were dried up and the dust-pillars and mirage were the only moving objects on the plain. Three times we forded Black's Fork, and then debouched once more upon a long flat. The ground was scattered over with pebbles of granite, obsidian, flint, and white, yellow, and smoky quartz, all water-rolled. After twelve miles we passed Church Butte, one of many curious formations lying to the left hand or south of the road. This isolated mass of stiff clay has been cut and ground by wind and rain into folds and hollow channels which from a distance perfectly simulate the pillars, groins, and massive buttresses of a ruinous Gothic cathedral. The foundation is level, except where masses have been swept down by the rain, and not a blade of grass grows upon any part. An architect of genius might profitably study this work of Nature: upon that subject, however, I shall presently have more to sa.y The Butte is highly interesting in a geological point of view; it shows the elevation of the adjoining plains in past ages, before partial deluges and the rains of centuries had effected the great work of degradation. (p 176)

Again we sighted the pretty valley of Black's Fork, whose cool clear stream flowed merrily over its pebbly bed. The road was now populous with Mormon emigrants; some had good teams, others hand carts, which looked like a cross between a wheel barrow and a tax cart. There was nothing repugnant in the demeanor of the party; they had been civilized by traveling, and the younger women who walked together, and apart from the men, were not too surly to exchange a greeting. The excessive barrenness of the land presently diminished; gentian and other odoriferous herbs appeared, and the greasewood, which somewhat reminded me of the Sindhian camel thorn, was of a lighter green than elsewhere, and presented a favorable contrast with the dull glaucous hues of the eternal prairie sage. We passed a dwarf copse so strewed with the bones of cattle as to excite our astonishment: Macarthy told us that it was the place where the 2nd Dragoons encamped in 1857, and lost a number of their horses by cold and starvation. The wolves and coyotes seemed to have retained a predilection for the spot; we saw troops of them in their favorite location, - the crest of some little rise, whence they could keep a sharp look out upon any likely addition to their scanty larder. (p 176)

After sundry steep inclines we forded another little stream, with a muddy bed, shallow, and about thirty feet wide; it is called Smith's Fork, rises in the Bridger Range of the Uinta Hills, and sheds into Black's Fork, the main drain of these parts. On the other side stood Millersville, a large ranch with a whole row of unused and condemned wagons drawn up on one side. We arrived at 5 15 PM, having taken three hours and fifteen minutes to get over twenty miles. The tenement was made of the component parts of vehicles, the chairs had backs of yoke bows, and the fences which surrounded the corral were of the same material. The station was kept by one Holmes, an American Mormon and an individual completely the reverse of genial; he dispensed his words as if shelling out coin, and he was never - by us at least - seen to smile. His wife was a pretty young Englishwoman, who had spent the best part of her life between London and Portsmouth; when alone with me she took the opportunity of asking some few questions about old places, but this most innocent tete-a-tete was presently interrupted by the protrusion through the open door of a tete de mari au naturel, with a truly renfrogne and vinegarish aspect, which made him look like a calamity. After supplying us with a supper which was clean and neatly served, the pair set out for an evening ride, and toward night we heard the scraping of a violin, which reminded me of Tommaso Scarafaggio

Detto il sega del villagio
Perche suona il violino

The fiddle was a favorite instrument with Mr Joseph Smith as the harp with David; the Mormons therefore, at the instance of their prophet, are not a little addicted to the use of the bow. We spent a comfortable night at Millersville. After watching the young moon as she sailed through the depths of a firmament unstained by the least fleck of mist, we found some scattered volumes which rendered us independent of our unsocial Yankee host . (p 176-7)

23d August, Fort Bridger
We breakfasted early the next morning and gladly settled accounts with the surly Holmes who had infected - probably by following the example of Mr Caudle in later life - his pretty wife with his own surliness. Shortly after starting - at 8 30 AM - we saw a little clump of seven Indian lodges, which our experience soon taught us were the property of a white; the proprietor met us on the road, and was introduced with due ceremony by Mr Macarthy. "Uncle Jack" (Robinson really) is a well known name between South Pass and Great Salt Lake City, he has spent thirty four years in the mountains, and has saved some $75,000, which have been properly invested at St Louis; as might be expected, he prefers the home of his adoption and his Indian spouse, who has made him the happy father of I know not how many children, to good society and bad air farther east. (p 177)

Our road lay along the valley of Black's Fork, which here flows from the southwest to the northeast; the bottom produced in plenty luxuriant grass, the dandelion, and the purple aster, thickets of a shrub like hawthorn (cratcegus), black and white currants, the willow and the cotton wood. When almost in sight of the military post we were addressed by two young officers, one of them an assistant surgeon, who had been engaged in the healthful and exciting pursuit of a badger, whose markings, by the by, greatly differ from the European; they recognized the uniform and accompanied us to the station. (p 177-8)

Fort Bridger lies 124 miles from Great Salt Lake City; according to the drivers, however, the road might be considerably shortened. The position is a fertile basin cut into a number of bits by Black's Fork, which disperses itself into four channels about 1 5 mile above the station, and forms again a single bed about two miles below. The fort is situated upon the westernmost islet. It is, as usual, a mere cantonment without any attempt at fortification, and at the time of my visit was garrisoned by two companies of foot, under the command of Captain F Gardner of the 10th Regiment. The material of the houses is pine and cedar brought from the Uinta Hills, whose black flanks supporting snowy cones rise at the distance of about thirty five miles. They are a sanitarium, except in winter, when under their influence the mercury sinks to -20d F, not much less rigorous than Minnesota, and they are said to shelter grizzly bears and an abundance of smaller game. (p 178)

The fort was built by Colonel James Bridger, now the oldest trapper on the Rocky Mountains, of whom Messrs Fremont and Stansbury have both spoken in the highest terms. He divides with Christopher Carson, the Kit Carson of the Wind River and the Sierra Nevada explorations, the honor of being the best guide and interpreter in the Indian country: the palm for prudence is generally given to the former; for dash and hard fighting to the latter - although, it is said, the mildest mannered of men, Colonel Bridger, when an Indian trader, placed this post upon a kind of neutral ground between the Snakes and Crows (Hapsaroke) on the north, the Ogalalas and other Sioux to the east, the Arapahoes and Cheyennes on the south, and the various tribes of Yutas Utahs on the southwest. He had some difficulties with the Mormons, and Mrs Mary Ettie Smith, in a volume concerning which something will be said at a future opportunity, veraciously reports his barbarous murder, some years ago by the Danite band. He was at the time of my visit absent on an exploratory expedition with Captain Raynolds. (p 178)

Arrived at Fort Bridger, our first thought was to replenish our whisky keg: its emptiness was probably due to "the rapid evaporation in such an elevated region imperfectly protected by timber," but however that may be, I never saw liquor disappear at such a rate before. Par parenthese, our late friends the officials had scarcely been more fortunate: they had watched their whisky with the eyes of Argus, yet as the driver facetiously remarked, though the quantity did not diminish too rapidly, the quality lost strength every day. We were conducted by Judge Carter to a building which combined the function of post office and sutler's store, the judge being also sutler, and performing both parts, I believe, to the satisfaction of every one. After laying in an ample provision of biscuits for Miss May and korn schnapps for ourselves, we called upon the commanding officer, who introduced us to his officers, and were led by Captain Cumming to his quarters, where, by means of chat, "solace-tobacco," and toddy, - which in these regions signifies "cold with," - we soon worked our way through the short three quarters of an hour allowed us. The officers complained very naturally of their isolation and unpleasant duty, which principally consists in keeping the roads open for, and the Indians from cutting off, parties of unmanageable emigrants, who look upon the federal army as their humblest servant.s At Camp Scott, near Bridger, the army of the federal government halted under canvas during the severe winter of 1857 -1858, and the subject is still sore to military ears. (p 178-9)

We left Bridger at 10 AM Macarthy explained away the disregard for the comfort of the public on the part of the contractors in not having a station at the fort, by declaring that they could obtain no land in a government reservation; moreover that forage there would be scarce and dear, while the continual influx of Indians would occasion heavy losses in cattle. (p 179)


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