Mountain Dell/Dale/Ephraim Hanks Station
Location: NE1/4SW1/4 Section 33, Township 1 North, Range 2 East, Salt Lake Meridian, about 8¾ miles from Wheaton Springs. A vandalized monument in the NW1/4 of the NW1/4 of Section 36 presently marks the location of the assumed station site.
The contract lists the 7th Utah station as being in “Mountain Dale.” It was also called Big Canyon Creek, and often, Hanks Station for Ephraim Hanks who managed the place. This is another station the exact location of which has been much debated. It stood a distance up the slope from Little Dell Reservoir (The site is owned by SLC and there is an entrance fee to get closer to where the monument is?), but neither study of contemporary accounts nor an extensive archaeological dig conducted by researchers from BYU has answered the question of the actual station site.
Station keeper Ephraim Hanks was a colorful character on the Mormon frontier. It was widely rumored that he was a leading figure among a group of Mormon “hit-men” called the Danites, or Destroying Angels.
Fike and Headley suggest two possible locations for this site. The traditional site is located eight and three-fourths miles from Wheaton Springs. A second possible site exists at the mouth of present Freeze Creek. The 1861 mail contract referred to this station as Mountain Dale, but it was also known as Mountain Dell, Big Canyon, and Hanks. Ephraim Hanks served as stationkeeper at the log structure. A vandalized marker stood near the traditional site in 1979.
Mattie Little, daughter of Pony Express rider George Edwin Little, wrote:
"One day father was bringing in the mail from the east to the station at Mountain Dell. There was a heavy snow storm came up and crossing over Little Mountain, the snow became so heavy and deep that his horse gave out and he had to leave him. He took his pocket knife and cut the mail pouches open putting the mail inside his shirt. Then he broke trail over to Mountain Dell, arriving there at 3 [a.m.]. The next morning he rode a horse bareback to Salt Lake and delivered the mail to the Old Salt Lake House which was the home station. Ephraim Hanks his stepfather road back up to the canyon next morning and brought in the horse. . . ."
Several other sources mention Mountain Dell or Mountain Dale as the relay station before Salt Lake City. Bishop and Henderson identify the site as Mountain Dale, while others refer to it as Mountain Dell.
Fike and Headley identify Big Canyon as another name for the Mountain Dell/Dale Station. Several other sources identify Big Canyon as a station. Bloss places Big Canyon Creek between Snyder's Mill and Salt Lake City, while Pierson locates the site between Dixie Creek and Mountain Dell. The Settles, as mentioned earlier, called the station Big Canyon or Snyder's Mill. (NPS)
"At four in the afternoon we arrived on the summit of Big Mountain, fifteen miles from Salt Lake City, when all the world was glorified with the setting sun, and the most stupendous panorama of mountain peaks yet encountered burst on our sight. We looked out upon this sublime spectacle from under the arch of a brilliant rainbow! Even the overland stage-driver stopped his horses and gazed!
Half an hour or an hour later, we changed horses, and took supper with a Mormon “Destroying Angel.”
“Destroying Angels,” as I understand it, are Latter-Day Saints who are set apart by the Church to conduct permanent disappearances of obnoxious citizens. I had heard a deal about these Mormon Destroying Angels and the dark and bloody deeds they had done, and when I entered this one’s house I had my shudder all ready. But alas for all our romances, he was nothing but a loud, profane, offensive, old blackguard! He was murderous enough, possibly, to fill the bill of a Destroyer, but would you have any kind of an Angel devoid of dignity? Could you abide an Angel in an unclean shirt and no suspenders? Could you respect an Angel with a horse-laugh and a swagger like a buccaneer?
There were other blackguards present—comrades of this one. And there was one person that looked like a gentleman—Heber C. Kimball’s son, tall and well made, and thirty years old, perhaps. A lot of slatternly women flitted hither and thither in a hurry, with coffee-pots, plates of bread, and other appurtenances to supper, and these were said to be the wives of the Angel—or some of them, at least. And of course they were; for if they had been hired “help” they would not have let an angel from above storm and swear at them as he did, let alone one from the place this one hailed from.
This was our first experience of the western “peculiar institution,” and it was not very prepossessing. We did not tarry long to observe it, but hurried on to the home of the Latter-Day Saints, the stronghold of the prophets, the capital of the only absolute monarch in America—Great Salt Lake City. As the night closed in we took sanctuary in the Salt Lake House and unpacked our baggage." (Roughing It)