Submitted by scott on Fri, 10/21/2016 - 11:39

From Orion: Arrived at Salt Lake City at dark, and put up at the Salt Lake House,. There are about 15,000 inhabitants. The houses are scattering, mostly small frame, with large yards and plenty of trees. High mountains surround the city. On some of these perpetual snow is visible. Salt Lake City is 240 miles from the South Pass, or 1148 miles from St. Joseph.

After two miles of comparatively level ground we came to the foot of "Little Mountain," and descended from the wagon to relieve the poor devils of mules. The near slope was much shorter, but also it was steeper far than "Big Mountain." The counterslope was easier, though by no means pleasant to contemplate with the chance of an accident to the brake, which in all inconvenient places would part with the protecting shoe-sole. Beyond the eastern foot, which was ten miles distant from our destination, we were miserably bumped and jolted over the broken ground at the head of Big Kanyon. Down this pass, whose name is a translation of the Yuta name Obitkokichi, a turbulent little mountain stream tumbles over its boulder bed, girt with the usual sunflower, vines of wild hops, red and white willows, cotton wood, quaking asp, and various bushes near its cool watery margin, and upon the easier slopes of the ravine, with the shin or dwarf oak (Quercus nana), mountain mahogany, balsam and other firs, pines, and cedars. The road was a narrow shelf along the broader of the two spaces between the stream and the rock, and frequent fordings were rendered necessary by the capricious wanderings of the torrent. I could not but think how horrid must have been its appearance when the stout hearted Mormon pioneers first ventured to thread the defile, breaking their way through the dense bush, creeping and clinging like flies to the sides of the hills. Even now accidents often occur; here as in Echo Kanyon, we saw in more than one place, unmistakable signs of upsets in the shape of broken spokes and yoke bows. At one of the most ticklish turns Macarthy kindly pointed out a little precipice where four of the mail passengers fell and broke their necks, a pure invention on his part, I believe, which fortunately, at that moment, did not reach Mrs Dana's ears. He also entertained us with many a tale, of which the hero was the redoubtable Hanks; how he had slain a buffalo bull, single handed with a bowie knife, and how on one occasion, when refused hospitality by his Lamanite brethren, he had sworn to have the whole village to himself, and had redeemed his vow by reappearing in cuerpo, with gestures so maniacal that the sulky Indians all fled, declaring him to be "bad medicine." The stories had at least local coloring. (p 192-3)

In due time, emerging from the gates and portals and deep serrations of the upper course, we descended into a lower level: here Big, now called Emigration, Kanyon gradually bulges out, and its steep slopes of grass and fern, shrubbery and stunted brush, fall imperceptibly into the plain. The valley presently lay full before our sight. At this place the pilgrim emigrants, like the hajjis of Mecca and Jerusalem, give vent to the emotions long pent up within their bosoms by sobs and tears, laughter and congratulations, psalms and hysterics. It is indeed no wonder that the children dance, that strong men cheer and shout, and that nervous women broken, with fatigue and hope deferred, scream and faint; that the ignorant should fondly believe that the "Spirit of God pervades the very atmosphere," and that Zion on the tops of the mountains is nearer heaven than other parts of earth. In good sooth, though uninfluenced by religious fervor - beyond the natural satisfaction of seeing a bran-new Holy City - even I could not, after nineteen days in a mail wagon, gaze upon the scene without emotion. (p 193)

The sublime and the beautiful were in present contrast. Switzerland and Italy lay side by side. The magnificent scenery of the past mountains and ravines still floated before the retina, as emerging from the gloomy depths of the Golden Pass - the mouth of Emigration Kanyon is more poetically so called - we came suddenly in view of the Holy Valley of the West . (p 193)

The hour was about 6 PM, the atmosphere was touched with a dreamy haze, - as it generally is in the vicinity of the lake - a little bank of rose colored clouds, edged with flames of purple and gold, floated in the upper air, while the mellow radiance of an American autumn, that bright interlude between the extremes of heat and cold, diffused its mild soft lustre over the face of earth. (p 194)

The sun, whose slanting rays shone full in our eyes, was setting in a flood of heavenly light behind the bold jagged outline of "Antelope Island," which, though distant twenty miles to the northwest, hardly appeared to be ten. At its feet, and then bounding the far horizon, lay like a band of burnished silver, the Great Salt Lake, that still innocent Dead Sea. Southwestward, also, and equally deceptive as regards distance, rose the boundary of the valley plain, the Oquirrh Range, sharply silhouetted by a sweep of sunshine over its summits, against the depths of an evening sky, in that direction, so pure, so clear, that vision, one might fancy, could penetrate behind the curtain into regions beyond the confines of man's ken. In the brilliant reflected light, which softened off into a glow of delicate pink, we could distinguish the lines of Brigham's, Coon's and other kanyons, which water has traced through the wooded flanks of the Oquirrh down to the shadows already purpling the misty benches at their base. Three distinct and several shades, light azure, blue, and brown blue, graduated the distances, which extended at least thirty miles. (p 194)

The undulating valley plain between us and the Oquirrh Range is 12.15 miles broad, and markedly concave, dipping in the centre like the section of a tunnel, and swelling at both edges into bench lands, which mark the ancient bed of the lake. In some parts the valley was green; in others, where the sun shot its oblique beams, it was of a tawny yellowish red, like the sands of the Arabian desert, with scatters of trees, where the Jordan of the West rolls its opaline wave through pasture lands of dried grass dotted with flocks and herds, and fields of ripening yellow corn. Every thing bears the impress of handiwork, from the bleak benches behind to what was once a barren valley in front. Truly the Mormon prophecy had been fulfilled: already the howling wilderness - in which twelve years ago a few miserable savages, the half naked Digger Indians, gathered their grass seed, grasshoppers, and black crickets to keep life and soul together, and awoke with their war cries the echo of the mountains, and the bear, the wolf, and the fox prowled over the site of a now populous city - "has blossomed like the rose." (p 194)

This valley, this lovely panorama of green and azure and gold, this land, fresh as it were from the hands of God, is apparently girt on all sides by hills: the highest peaks, raised 7,000 to 8,000 feet above the plain of their bases, show by gulches veined with lines of snow that even in this season winter frowns upon the last smile of summer. (p 194)

Advancing, we exchanged the rough cahues, and the frequent fords of the ravine, for a broad smooth highway, spanning the easternmost valley bench: a terrace that drops like a Titanic step from the midst of the surrounding mountains to the level of the present valley plain. From a distance - the mouth of Emigration Kanyon is about 4 30 miles from the city - Zion, which is not on a hill, but on the contrary lies almost in the lowest part of the river plain, is completely hid from sight, as if no such thing existed. Mr Macarthy, on application, pointed out the notabilia of the scene. (p 195)

Northward curls of vapor ascending from a gleaming sheet - the Lake of the Hot Springs - set in a bezel of emerald green, and bordered by another lake bench upon which the glooms of evening were rapidly gathering, hung like a veil of gauze around the waist of the mountains. Southward for twenty five miles stretched the length of the valley with the little river winding its way like a silver thread in a brocade of green and gold. The view in this direction was closed by "Mountain Point," another formation of terraced range, which forms the water gate of Jordan, and which conceals and separates the fresh water that feeds the Salt Lake - the Sea of Tiberias from the Dead Sea. (p 195)

As we descend the Wasach Mountains, we could look back and enjoy the view of the eastern wall of the Happy Valley. A little to the north of Emigration Kanyon, and about one mile nearer the settlement, is the Red Butte, a deep ravine, whose quarried sides show mottlings of the light ferruginous sandstone which was chosen for building the Temple wall. A little beyond it lies the single City of the Dead, decently removed three miles from the habitations of the living, and farther to the north is City Creek Kanyon, which supplies the Saints with water for drinking and for irrigation. Southeast of Emigration Kanyon are other ravines, Parley's, Mill Creek, Great Cotton wood, and Little Cotton wood, deep lines winding down the timbered flanks of the mountains, and thrown into relief by the darker and more misty shading of the farther flank wall. (p 195)

The "Twin Peaks," the highest points of the Wasach Mountains, are the first to be powdered over with the autumnal snow. When a black nimbus throws out these piles, with their tilted up rock strata, jagged edges, black flanks, rugged brows and bald heads, gilt by a gleam of sunset, the whole stands boldly out with that phase of sublimity of which the sense of immensity is the principal element. Even in the clearest of weather they are rarely free from a fleecy cloud, the condensation of cold and humid air rolling up the heights and vanishing only to be renewed. (p 195)

The bench land then attracted our attention. The soil is poor, sprinkled with thin grass, in places showing a suspicious whiteness, with few flowers, and chiefly producing a salsolaceous plant like the English samphire. In many places lay long rows of bare circlets, like deserted tent floors: they proved to be ant hills, on which light ginger colored swarms were working hard to throw up the sand and gravel that every where in this valley underlie the surface. The eastern valley bench, upon whose western declivity the city lies, may be traced on a clear day along the base of the mountains for a distance of twenty miles: its average breadth is about eight miles. (p 195-6)

After advancing about 1.50 mile over the bench ground, the city by slow degrees broke upon our sight. It showed, one may readily believe, to special advantage after the succession of Indian lodges, Canadian ranchos, and log hut mail stations of the prairies and the mountains. The site has been admirably chosen for drainage and irrigation - so well indeed that a "Deus ex machina" must be brought to account for it. About two miles north, and overlooking the settlements from a height of 400 feet, a detached cone called Ensign Peak or Ensign Mount rises at the end of a chain which, projected westward from the main range of the heights, overhangs and shelters the northeastern corner of the valley. Upon this "big toe of the Wasach range," as it is called by a local writer, the spirit of the martyred prophet, Mr Joseph Smith, appeared to his successor Mr Brigham Young, and pointed out to him the position of the New Temple, which, after Zion had "got up into the high mountain," was to console the Saints for the loss of Nauvoo the Beautiful. The city - it is about two miles broad - runs parallel with the right bank of the Jordan, which forms its western limit. It is twelve to fifteen miles distant from the western range, ten from the debouchure of the river, and eight to nine from the nearest point of the lake - a respectful distance, which is not the least of the position's merits. It occupies the rolling brow of a slight decline at the western base of the Wasach, in fact the lower, but not the lowest level of the eastern valley bench; it has thus a compound slope from north to south, on the line of its water supplies, and from east to west, thus enabling it to drain off into the river. (p 196)

The city revealed itself, as we approached, from behind its screen, the inclined terraces of the upper table land, and at last it lay stretched before us as upon a map. At a little distance the aspect was somewhat Oriental, and in some points it reminded me of modern Athens - without the Acropolis. None of the buildings, except the Prophet's house, were whitewashed. The material - the thick, sun dried adobe, common to all parts of the Eastern world - was of a dull leaden blue, deepened by the atmosphere to a gray, like the shingles of the roofs. The number of gardens and compounds - each tenement within the walls originally received 1.50 square acre, and those outside from five to ten acres, according to their distance - the dark clumps and lines of bitter cotton wood, locust or acacia, poplars and fruit trees, apples, peaches, and vines - how lovely they appeared, after the baldness of the prairies! - and, finally, the fields of long eared maize and sweet sorghum strengthened the similarity to an Asiatic rather than to an American settlement. The differences presently became as salient. The farm houses, with their stacks and stock, strongly suggested the Old Country. Moreover domes and minarets - even churches and steeples - were wholly wanting - an omission that somewhat surprised me. The only building conspicuous from afar was the block occupied by the present Head of the Church. The court house, with its tinned Muscovian dome, at the west end of the city; the arsenal, a barn like structure, on a bench below the Jebel Nur of the valley -
Ensign Peak; and a saw mill, built beyond the southern boundary, were the next in importance. (p 196-7)

On our way we passed the vestiges of an old moat, from which was taken the earth for the bulwarks of Zion. A Romulian wall, of puddle, mud, clay, and pebbles, six miles - others say, 2,600 acres - in length, twelve feet high, six feet broad at the base, and two and three quarters at the top, with embrasures five to six feet above the ground, and semi bastions at half musket range, was decided, in 1853-54, to be necessary, as a defense against the Lamanites, whose name in the vulgar is Yuta Indians. Gentiles declare that the bulwarks were erected because the people wanting work were likely to "strike" faith, and that the amount of labor expended upon this folly would have irrigated as many thousand acres. Anti Mormons have, of course, detected in the proceeding treacherous and treasonable intentions. Parenthetically, I must here warn the reader that in Great Salt Lake City there are three distinct opinions concerning, three several reasons for, and three diametrically different accounts of, every thing that happens, viz. that of the Mormons, which is invariably one sided; that of the Gentiles, which is sometimes fair and just; and that of the anti Mormons, which is always prejudiced and violent. A glance will show that this much talked of fortification is utterly harmless; it is commanded in half a dozen places; it could not keep out half a dozen sappers for a quarter of an hour; and now, as it has done its work, its foundations are allowed to become salt, and to crumble away. (p 197-8)

The road ran through the Big Field, southeast of the city, six miles square, and laid off in five acre lots. Presently, passing the precincts of habitation, we entered, at a slapping pace, the second ward, called Denmark, from its tenant, who mostly herd together. The disposition of the settlement is like that of the nineteenth century New World cities - from Washington to the future metropolis of the great Terra Australis - a system of right angles, the roads, streets, and lanes, if they can be called so, intersecting one another. The advantages or disadvantages of the rectangular plan have been exhausted in argument; the new style is best suited, I believe, for the New, as the old must, perforce, remain in the Old World. The suburbs are thinly settled; the mass of habitations lie around and south of Temple Block. The streets of the suburbs are mere roads, cut by deep ups and downs, and by gutters on both sides, which, though full of pure water, have no bridge save a plank at the trottoirs. In summer the thoroughfares are dusty - in wet weather deep with viscid mud. (p 198)

The houses are almost all of one pattern - a barn shape, with wings and lean-tos, generally facing, sometimes turned endways to, the street, which gives a suburban look to the settlement; and the diminutive casements show that window glass is not yet made in the Valley. In the best abodes the adobe rests upon a few courses of sandstone, which prevent undermining by water or ground damp, and it must always be protected by a coping from the rain and snow. The poorer are small, low, and hut-like; others are long single storied buildings, somewhat like stables, with many entrances. The best houses resemble East Indian bungalows, with flat roofs, and low, shady verandas, well trellised, and supported by posts or pillars. All are provided with chimneys, and substantial doors to keep out the piercing cold. The offices are always placed, for hygienic reasons, outside; and some have a story and a half - the latter intended for lumber and other stores. I looked in vain for the out house harems, in which certain romancers concerning things Mormon had informed me that wives are kept, like any other stock. I presently found this but one of a multitude of delusions. Upon the whole the Mormon settlement was a vast improvement upon its contemporaries in the valleys of the Mississippi and the Missouri. (p 198)

The road through the faubourg was marked by posts and rails, which, as we advanced toward the heart of the city, were replaced by neat palings. The garden plots were small, as sweet earth must be brought down from the mountains; and the flowers were principally those of the Old Country - the red French bean, the rose, the geranium, and the single pink; the ground or winter cherry was common; so were nasturtiums, and we saw tansy, but not that plant for which our souls, well nigh weary of hopes of juleps long deferred, chiefly lusted - mint. The fields were large and numerous, but the Saints have too many and various occupations to keep them Moravian-like neat and trim; weeds overspread the ground; often the wild sunflower tops outnumbered the heads of maize. The fruit had suffered from an unusually nipping frost in May; the peach trees were barren, the vines bore no produce, only a few good apples were in Mr Brigham Young's garden, and the watermelons were poor, yellow, and tasteless, like the African. On the other hand, potatoes, onions, cabbages, and cucumbers, were good and plentiful, the tomato was ripening every where, fat full-eared wheat rose in stacks, and crops of excellent hay were scattered about near the houses. The people came to their doors to see the mail coach, as if it were the "Derby dilly," of old, go by, I could not but be struck by the modified English appearance of the colony, and by the prodigious numbers of the white headed children. (p 198, 201)

Presently we debouched upon the main thoroughfare, the centre of population and business ,where the houses of the principal Mormon dignitaries, and the stores of the Gentile merchants, combine to form the city's only street which can be properly so called. It is, indeed, both street and market, for, curious to say, New Zion has not yet built for herself a bazar or market place. Nearly opposite the Post office, in a block on the eastern side, with a long veranda, supported by trimmed and painted posts, was a two storied, pent roofed building, whose sign board, swinging to a tall, gibbet like flag staff, dressed for the occasion, announced it to be the Salt Lake House, the principal, if not the only establishment of the kind in New Zion. In the Far West, one learns not to expect much of the hostelry; I had not seen aught so grand for many a day. Its depth is greater than its frontage, and behind it, secured by a porte cochlre, is a large yard, for corraling cattle. A rough looking crowd of drivers, drivers' friends, and idlers, almost every man openly armed with revolver and bowie knife, gathered round the doorway, to greet Jim, and "prospect" the "new lot"; and the host came out to assist us in transporting our scattered effects. We looked vainly for a bar on the ground floor; a bureau for registering names was there, but (temperance, in public at least, being the order of the day) the usual tempting array of bottles and decanters was not forthcoming; up stairs we found a Gentile ballroom, a tolerably furnished sitting room, and bedchambers, apparently made out of a single apartment by partitions too thin to be strictly agreeable. The household had its deficiencies; blacking, for instance, had run out, and servants could not be engaged till the expected arrival of the hand cart train. However, the proprietor, Mr Townsend, a Mormon, from the State of Maine - when expelled from Nauvoo, he had parted with land, house, and furniture for $50 - who had married an Englishwoman, was in the highest degree civil and obliging, and he attended personally to our wants, offered his wife's services to Mrs Dana, and put us all in the best of humors, despite the closeness of the atmosphere, the sadness ever attending one's first entrance into a new place, the swarms of "emigration flies" - so called because they appear in September with the emigrants, and after living for a month die off with the first snow - and a certain populousness of bedstead, concerning which the less said the better. Such, gentle reader, are the results of my first glance at Zion on the tops of the mountains, in the Holy City of the Far West.

Our journey had occupied nineteen days, from the 7th to the 25th of August, both included; and in that time we had accomplished not less than 1,136 statute miles. (p 201-2)


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