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Death Valley in '49 by William Lewis Manly

Part 2 out of 8

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carry out our plans.


About the first thing we did was to organize and select a captain, and,
very much against my wishes, I was chosen to this important position.
Six of us had guns of some sort, Richard Field, Dallas's cook, was not
armed at all. We had one regular axe and a large camp hatchet, which was
about the same as an axe, and several very small hatchets owned by the
men. All our worldly goods were piled up on the bank, and we were alone.

An examination of the old ferry boat showed it to be in pretty good
condition, the sand with which it had been filled keeping it very
perfectly. We found two oars in the sand under the boat, and looked up
some poles to assist us in navigation. Our cordage was rather scant but
the best we could get and all we could muster. The boat was about twelve
feet long and six or seven feet wide, not a very well proportioned
craft, but having the ability to carry a pretty good load. We swung it
up to the bank and loaded up our goods and then ourselves. It was not a
heavy load for the craft, and it looked as if we were taking the most
sensible way to get to the Pacific, and almost wondered that everybody
was so blind as not to see it as we did.

This party was composed of W.L. Manley, M.S. McMahon, Charles and Joseph
Hazelrig, Richard Field, Alfred Walton and John Rogers. We untied the
ropes, gave the boat a push and commenced to move down the river with
ease and comfort, feeling much happier than we would had we been going
toward Salt Lake with the prospect of wintering there.

At the mouth of Ham's Fork we passed a camp of Indians, but we kept
close to the opposite shore to avoid being boarded by them. They
beckoned very urgently for us to come ashore, but I acted as if I did
not understand them, and gave them the go-by.

As we were floating down the rapid stream it became more and more a
rapid, roaring river, and the bed contained many dangerous rocks that
were difficult to shun. Each of us had a setting-pole, and we ranged
ourselves along the sides of the boat and tried to keep ourselves clear
from the rocks and dangers. The water was not very deep and made such a
dashing noise as the current rushed among the rocks that one had to talk
pretty loud to be heard. As we were gliding along quite swiftly, I set
my pole on the bottom and gave the boat a sudden push to avoid a
boulder, when the pole stuck in the crevice between two rocks, and
instead of losing the pole by the sudden jerk I gave, I was the one who
was very suddenly yanked from the boat by the spring of the pole, and
landed in the middle of the river. I struck pretty squarely on my back,
and so got thoroughly wet, but swam for shore amid the shouts of the
boys, who waved their hats and hurrahed for the captain when they saw he
was not hurt. I told them that was nothing as we were on our way to
California by water any way, and such things must be expected.

The next day after this I went on shore and sighted a couple of
antelope, one of which I shot, which gave us good grub, and good
appetites we already had. As near as we could estimate we floated about
thirty miles a day, which beat the pace of tired oxen considerably. In
one place there was a fringe of thick willows along the bank, and a
little farther back a perpendicular bluff, while between the two was a
strip of fine green grass. As we were passing this we scared up a band
of elk in this grass meadow, and they all took a run down the river like
a band of horses. One of them turned up a small ravine with walls so
steep he could not get out, so we posted a guard at the entrance, and
three of us went up the canon after him, and after the others had each
fired a shot, I fired the third and brought him down. This was about the
finest piece of Rocky Mountain beef that one could see. We took the
carcass on board and floated on again.

Thus far we had a very pleasant time, each taking his turn in working
the boat while the others rested or slept. About the fifth day when we
were floating along in very gently running water, I had lay down to take
a rest and a little sleep. The mountains here on both sides of the river
were not very steep, but ran gradually for a mile or so. While I was
sleeping the boat came around a small angle in the stream, and all at
once there seemed to be a higher, steeper range of mountains right
across the valley. The boys thought the river was coming to a rather
sudden end and hastily awoke me, and for the life of me I could not say
they were not right, for there was no way in sight for it to go to. I
remembered while looking over a map the military men had I found a place
named Brown's Hole, and I told the boys I guessed we were elected to go
on foot to California after all, for I did not propose to follow the
river down any sort of a hole into any mountain. We were floating
directly toward a perpendicular cliff, and I could not see any hole any
where, nor any other place where it could go. Just as we were within a
stone's throw of the cliff, the river turned sharply to the right and
went behind a high point of the mountain that seemed to stand squarely
on edge. This was really an immense crack or crevice, certainly 2000
feet deep and perhaps much more, and seemed much wider at the bottom
than it did at the top, 2000 feet or more above our heads. Each wall
seemed to lean in toward the water as it rose.

We were now for some time between two rocky walls between which the
river ran very rapidly, and we often had to get out and work our boat
over the rocks, sometimes lifting it off when it caught. Fortunately we
had a good tow line, and one would take this and follow along the edge
when it was so he could walk. The mountains seemed to get higher and
higher on both sides as we advanced, and in places we could see quite a
number of trees overhanging the river, and away up on the rocks we could
see the wild mountain sheep looking down at us. They were so high that
they seemed a mile away, and consequently safe enough. This was their
home, and they seemed very independent, as if they dared us fellows to
come and see them. There was an old cottonwood tree on bank with marks
of an axe on it, but this was all the sign we saw that any one had ever
been here before us. We got no game while passing through this deep
canon and began to feel the need of some fresh provisions very sorely.

We passed many deep, dark canons coming into the main stream, and at one
place, where the rock hung a little over the river and had a smooth
wall, I climbed up above the high water mark which we could clearly see,
and with a mixture of gunpowder and grease for paint, and a bit of cloth
tied to a stick for a brush, I painted in fair sized letters on the
rock, CAPT. W.L. MANLEY, U.S.A. We did not know whether we were within
the bounds of the United States or not, and we put on all the majesty we
could under the circumstances. I don't think the sun ever shone down to
the bottom of the canon, for the sides were literally sky-high, for the
sky, and a very small portion of that was all we could see.

Just before night we came to a place where some huge rocks as large as
cabins had fallen down from the mountain, completely filling up the
river bed, and making it completely impassible for our boat. We unloaded
it and while the boys held the stern line, I took off my clothes and
pushed the boat out into the torrent which ran around the rocks, letting
them pay the line out slowly till it was just right. Then I sang out
to--"Let go"--and away it dashed. I grasped the bow line, and at the
first chance jumped overboard and got to shore, when I held the boat and
brought it in below the obstructions. There was some deep water below
the rocks; and we went into camp. While some loaded the boat, others
with a hook and line caught some good fish, which resembled mackerel.

While I was looking up toward the mountain top, and along down the rocky
wall, I saw a smooth place about fifty feet above where the great rocks
had broken out, and there, painted in large black letters, were the
words "ASHLEY, 1824." This was the first real evidence we had of the
presence of a white man in this wild place, and from this record it
seems that twenty-five years before some venturesome man had here
inscribed his name. I have since heard there were some persons in St.
Louis of this name, and of some circumstances which may link them with
this early traveler.

When we came to look around we found that another big rock blocked the
channel 300 yards below, and the water rushed around it with a terrible
swirl. So we unloaded the boat again and made the attempt to get around
it as we did the other rocks. We tried to get across the river but
failed. We now, all but one, got on the great rock with our poles, and
the one man was to ease the boat down with the rope as far as he could,
then let go and we would stop it with our poles and push it out into the
stream and let it go over, but the current was so strong that when the
boat struck the rock we could not stop it, and the gunwale next to us
rose, and the other went down, so that in a second the boat stood
edgewise in the water and the bottom tight against the big rock, and the
strong current pinned it there so tight that we could no more move it
than we could move the rock itself.

This seemed a very sudden ending to our voyage and there were some very
rapid thoughts as to whether we would not safer among the Mormons than
out in this wild country, afoot and alone. Our boat was surely lost
beyond hope, and something must be done. I saw two pine trees, about two
feet through, growing on a level place just below, and I said to them
that we must decide between going afoot and making some canoes out of
these pine trees. Canoes were decided on, and we never let the axes
rest, night or day till we had them completed. While my working shift
was off, I took an hour or two, for a little hunting, and on a low
divide partly grown over with small pines and juniper I found signs, old
and new, of many elk, and so concluded the country was well stocked with
noble game. The two canoes, when completed were about fifteen feet long
and two feet wide, and we lashed them together for greater security.
When we tried them we found they were too small to carry our load and
us, and we landed half a mile below, where there were two other pine
trees--white pine--about two feet through, and much taller than the ones
we had used. We set at work making a large canoe of these. I had to
direct the work for I was the only one who had ever done such work. We
worked night and day at these canoes, keeping a big fire at night and
changing off to keep the axes busy. This canoe we made twenty-five or
thirty feet long, and when completed they made me captain of it and into
it loaded the most valuable things, such as provisions, ammunition, and
cooking utensils. I had to take the lead for I was the only skillful
canoeist in the party. We agreed upon signals to give when danger was
seen, or game in sight, and leading off with my big canoe we set sail
again, and went flying down stream.

This rapid rate soon brought us out of the high mountains and into a
narrow valley when the stream became more moderate in its speed and we
floated along easily enough. In a little while after we struck this
slack water, as we were rounding a point, I saw on a sand bar in the
river, five or six elk, standing and looking at us with much curiosity.
I signaled for those behind to go to shore, while I did the same, and
two or three of us took our guns and went carefully down along the bank,
the thick brush hiding us from them, till we were in fair range, then
selecting our game we fired on them. A fine doe fell on the opposite
bank, and a magnificent buck which Rogers and I selected, went below and
crossed the river on our side. We followed him down along the bank which
was here a flat meadow with thick bunches of willows, and soon came
pretty near to Mr. Elk who started off on a high and lofty trot. As he
passed an opening in the bushes I put a ball through his head and he
fell. He was a monster. Rogers, who was a butcher, said it would weigh
five hundred or six hundred pounds. The horns were fully six feet long,
and by placing the horns on the ground, point downwards, one could walk
under the skull between them. We packed the meat to our canoes, and
staid up all night cutting the meat in strips and drying it, to reduce
bulk and preserve it, and it made the finest kind of food, fit for an

Starting on again, the river lost more and more of of its rapidity as it
came out into a still wider valley, and became quite sluggish. We picked
red berries that grew on bushes that overhung the water. They were sour
and might have been high cranberries. One day I killed an otter, and
afterward hearing a wild goose on shore, I went for the game and killed
it on a small pond on which there were also some mallard duck. I killed
two of these. When I fired, the ones not killed did not fly away, but
rather swam toward me. I suppose they never before had seen a man or
heard the report of a gun. On the shore around the place I saw a small
bear track, but I did not have time to look for his bearship, and left,
with the game already killed, and passed on down through this beautiful

We saw one place where a large band of horses had crossed, and as the
men with them must have had a raft, we were pretty sure that the men in
charge of them were white men. Another day we passed the mouth of a
swollen stream which came in from the west side. The water was thick
with mud, and the fish, about a foot long, came to the top, with their
noses out of water. We tried to catch some, but could not hold them. One
night we camped on an island, and I took my gun and went over toward the
west side where I killed a deer. The boys hearing me shoot, came out,
guns in hand, thinking I might need help, and I was very glad of their
assistance. To make our flour go as far as possible we ate very freely
of meat, and having excellent appetites it disappeared very fast.

It took us two or three days to pass this beautiful valley, and then we
began to get into a rougher country again, the canons deeper and the
water more tumultuous. McMahon and I had the lead always, in the big
canoe. The mountains seemed to change into bare rocks and get higher and
higher as we floated along. After the first day of this the river became
so full of boulders that many times the only way we could do was to
unload the canoes and haul them over, load up and go ahead, only to
repeat the same tactics in a very short time again. At one place where
the river was more than usually obstructed we found a deserted camp, a
skiff and some heavy cooking utensils, with a notice posted up on an
alder tree saying that they had found the river route impracticable, and
being satisfied that the river was so full of rocks and boulders that it
could not be safely navigated, they had abandoned the undertaking and
were about to start overland to make their way to Salt Lake. I took down
the names of the parties at the time in my diary, which has since been
burned, but have now forgotten them entirely. They were all strangers to
me. They had taken left such heavy articles as could not be carried on
foot. This notice rather disconcerted us, but we thought we had better
keep on and see for ourselves, so we did not follow them, but kept on
down the rocky river. We found generally more boulders than water, and
the down grade of the river bed was heavy.

Some alders and willows grew upon the bank and up quite high on the
mountains we could see a little timber. Some days we did not go more
than four or five miles, and that was serious work, loading and
unloading our canoes, and packing them over the boulders, with only
small streams of water curling around between them. We went barefoot
most of the time, for we were more than half of the time in the water
which roared and dashed so loud that we could hardly heard each other
speak. We kept getting more and more venturesome and skillful, and
managed to run some very dangerous rapids in safety.

On the high peaks above our heads we could see the Rocky Mountain sheep
looking defiantly at us from their mountain fastnesses, so far away they
looked no larger than jack rabbits. They were too far off to try to
shoot at, and we had no time to try to steal up any nearer for at the
rate we were making, food would be the one thing needful, for we were
consuming it very fast. Sometimes we could ride a little ways, and then
would come the rough-and-tumble with the rocks again.

One afternoon we came to a sudden turn in the river, more than a right
angle, and, just below, a fall of two feet or more. This I ran in
safety, as did the rest who followed and we cheered at our pluck and
skill. Just after this the river swung back the other way at a right
angle or more, and I quickly saw there was danger below and signaled
them to go on shore at once, and lead the canoes over the dangerous
rapids. I ran my own canoe near shore and got by the rapid safely,
waiting for the others to come also. They did not obey my signals but
thought to run the rapid the same as I did. The channel here was
straight for 200 yards, without a boulder in it, but the stream was so
swift that it caused great, rolling waves in the center, of a kind I
have never seen anywhere else. The boys were not skillful enough to
navigate this stream, and the suction drew them to the center where the
great waves rolled them over and over, bottom side up and every way. The
occupants of our canoe let go and swam to shore. Fields had always been
afraid of water and had worn a life preserver every day since we left
the wagons. He threw up his hands and splashed and kicked at a terrible
rate, for he could not swim, and at last made solid ground. One of the
canoes came down into the eddy below, where it lodged close to the
shore, bottom up. Alfred Walton in the other canoe could not swim, but
held on to the gunwale with a death grip, and it went on down through
the rapids. Sometimes we could see the man and sometimes not, and he and
the canoe took turns in disappearing. Walton had very black hair, and as
he clung fast to his canoe his black head looked like a crow on the end
of a log. Sometimes he would be under so long that we thought he must be
lost, when up he would come again still clinging manfully.

McMahon and I threw everything out of the big canoe and pushed out after
him. I told Mc. to kneel down so I could see over him to keep the craft
off the rocks, and by changing his paddle from side to side as ordered,
he enabled me to make quick moves and avoid being dashed to pieces. We
fairly flew, the boys said, but I stood up in the stern and kept it
clear of danger till we ran into a clear piece of river and overtook
Walton clinging to the overturned boat; McMahon seized the boat and I
paddled all to shore, but Walton was nearly dead and could hardly keep
his grasp on the canoe. We took him to a sandy place and worked over him
and warmed him in the sun till he came to life again, then built a fire
and laid him up near to it to get dry and warm. If the canoe had gone on
20 yards farther with him before we caught it, he would have gone into
another long rapid and been drowned. We left Walton by the fire and
crossing the river in the slack water, went up to where the other boys
were standing, wet and sorry-looking, say-that all was gone and lost.
Rogers put his hand in his pocket and pulled out three half dollars and
said sadly:--"Boys, this is all I am worth in the world." All the
clothes he had were a pair of overalls and a shirt. If he had been
possessed of a thousand in gold he would have been no richer, for there
was no one to buy from and nothing to buy. I said to them: "Boys, we
can't help what has happened, we'll do the best we can. Right your
canoe, get the water out, and we'll go down and see how Walton is." They
did as I told them, and lo and behold when the canoe rolled right side
up, there were their clothes and blankets safe and sound. These light
things had floated in the canoe and were safe. We now tried by joining
hands to reach out far enough to recover some of the guns, but by
feeling with their feet they found the bottom smooth as glass and the
property all swept on below, no one knew where. The current was so
powerful that no one could stand in it where it came up above his knees.
The eddy which enabled us to save the first canoe with the bedding and
clothes was caused by a great boulder as large as a house which had
fallen from above and partly blocked the stream. Everything that would
sink was lost.

We all got into the two canoes and went down to Walton, where we camped
and staid all night for Walton's benefit. While we were waiting I took
my gun and tried to climb up high enough to see how much longer this
horrible canon was going to last, but after many attempts, I could not
get high enough to see in any direction. The mountain was all bare rocks
in terraces, but it was impossible to climb from one to the other, and
the benches were all filled with broken rocks that had fallen from

By the time I got back to camp, Walton was dry and warm and could talk.
He said he felt better, and pretty good over his rescue. When he was
going under the water, it seemed sometimes as if he never would come to
the top again, but he held on and eventually came out all right. He
never knew how he got to shore, he was so nearly dead when rescued.

The next morning Walton was so well we started on. We were now very
poorly armed. My rifle and McMahon's shotgun were all the arms we had
for seven of us, and we could make but a poor defence if attacked by man
or beast, to say nothing of providing ourselves with food. The mountains
on each side were very bare of timber, those on the east side
particularly so, and very high and barren. Toward night we were floating
along in a piece of slack water, the river below made a short turn
around a high and rocky point almost perpendicular from the water. There
was a terrace along the side of this point about fifty feet up, and the
bench grew narrower as it approached the river. As I was coming down
quite close under this bank I saw three mountain sheep on the bench
above, and, motioning to the boys, I ran on shore and, with my gun in
hand, crept down toward them, keeping a small pine tree between myself
and the sheep. There were some cedar bushes on the point, and the pines
grew about half way up the bank. I got in as good a range as possible
and fired at one of them which staggered around and fell down to the
bottom of the cliff. I loaded and took the next largest one which came
down the same way. The third one tried to escape by going down the bend
and then creeping up a crevice, but it could not get away and turned
back, cautiously, which gave me time to load again and put a ball
through it. I hit it a little too far back for instant death, but I
followed it up and found it down and helpless, and soon secured it. I
hauled this one down the mountain, and the other boys had the two others
secure by this time. McMahon was so elated at my success that he said:
"Manley, if I could shoot as you do I would never want any better
business." And the other fellows said they guessed we were having better
luck with one gun than with six, so we had a merry time after all. These
animals were of a bluish color, with hair much finer than deer, and
resembled a goat more than a sheep. These three were all females and
their horns were quite straight, not curved like the big males. We cut
the meat from the bones and broke them up, making a fine soup which
tasted pretty good. They were in pretty good order, and the meat like
very good mutton.

We kept pushing on down the river. The rapids were still dangerous in
many places, but not so frequent nor so bad as the part we had gone
over, and we could see that the river gradually grew smoother as we

After a day or two we began to get out of the canons, but the mountains
and hills on each side were barren and of a pale yellow caste, with no
chance for us to climb up and take a look to see if there were any
chances for us further along. We had now been obliged to follow the
canon for many miles, for the only way to get out was to get out
endwise, climbing the banks being utterly out of the question. But these
mountains soon came to an end, and there was some cottonwood and willows
on the bank of the river, which was now so smooth we could ride along
without the continual loading and unloading we had been forced to
practice for so long. We had begun to get a little desperate at the lack
of game, but the new valley, which grew wider all the time, gave us hope
again, if it was quite barren everywhere except back of the willow

We were floating along very silently one day, for none of us felt very
much in the mood for talking, when we heard a distant sound which we
thought was very much like the firing of a gun. We kept still, and in a
short time a similar sound was heard, plainer and evidently some ways
down the stream. Again and again we heard it, and decided that it must
be a gun shot, and yet we were puzzled to know how it could be. We were
pretty sure there were no white people ahead of us, and we did not
suppose the Indians in this far-off land had any firearms. It might be
barely possible that we were coming now to some wagon train taking a
southern course, for we had never heard that there were any settlements
in this direction and the barren country would preclude any such thing,
as we viewed it now. If it was a hostile band we could not do much with
a rifle and a shot gun toward defending ourselves or taking the
aggressive. Some of the boys spoke of our scalps ornamenting a spear
handle, and indulged in such like cheerful talk which comforted us

Finally we concluded we did not come out into that wild country to be
afraid of a few gunshots, and determined to put on a bold front, fight
if we had to, run away if we could not do any better, and take our
chances on getting scalped or roasted. Just then we came in sight of
three Indian lodges just a little back from the river, and now we knew
for certain who had the guns. McMahon and I were in the lead as usual,
and it was only a moment before one of the Indians appeared, gun in
hand, and made motions for us to come on shore. A cottonwood tree lay
nearly across the river, and I had gone so far that I had to go around
it and land below, but the other boys behind were afraid to do otherwise
than to land right there as the Indian kept his gun lying across his
arm. I ran our canoe below to a patch of willows, where we landed and
crawled through the brush till we came in sight of the other boys, where
we stood and waited a moment to see how they fared, and whether our red
men were friends or enemies. There were no suspicious movements on their
part, so we came out and walked right up to them. There was some little
talk, but I am sure we did not understand one another's language, and so
we made motions and they made motions, and we got along better. We went
with them down to the tepee, and there we heard the first word that was
at all like English and that was "Mormonee," with a sort of questioning
tone. Pretty soon one said "Buffalo," and then we concluded they were on
a big hunt of some sort. They took us into their lodges and showed us
blankets, knives, and guns, and then, with a suggestive motion, said all
was "Mormonee," by which we understood they had got them from the
Mormons. The Indian in the back part of the lodge looked very pleasant
and his countenance showed a good deal of intelligence for a man of the
mountains. I now told the boys that we were in a position where we were
dependent on some one, and that I had seen enough to convince me that
these Indians were perfectly friendly with the Mormons, and that for our
own benefit we had better pass ourselves off for Mormons, also. So we
put our right hand to our breast and said "Mormonee," with a cheerful
countenance, and that act conveyed to them the belief that we were
chosen disciples of the great and only Brigham and we became friends at
once, as all acknowledged. The fine-looking Indian who sat as king in
the lodge now, by motions and a word or two, made himself known as Chief
Walker, and when I knew this I took great pains to cultivate his

I was quite familiar with the sign language used by all the Indians, and
found I could get along pretty well in making him understand and knowing
what he said. I asked him first how many "sleeps" or days it was from
there to "Mormonee." In answer he put out his left hand and then put two
fingers of his right astride of it, making both go up and down with the
same motion of a man riding a horse. Then he shut his eyes and laid his
head on his hand three times, by which I understood that a man could
ride to the Mormon settlement in three sleeps or four days. He then
wanted to know where we were going, and I made signs that we were
wishing to go toward the setting sun and to the big water, and I said
"California." The country off to the west of us now seemed an open,
barren plain, which grew wider as it extended west. The mountains on the
north side seemed to get lower and smaller as they extended west, but on
the south or east side they were all high and rough. It seemed as if we
could see one hundred miles down the river, and up to the time we met
the Indians we thought we had got through all our troublesome navigation
and could now sail on, quietly and safely to the great Pacific Ocean and
land of gold.

When I told Chief Walker this he seemed very much astonished, as if
wondering why we were going down the river when we wanted to get west
across the country. I asked him how many sleeps it was to the big water,
and he shook his head, pointed out across the country and then to the
river and shook his head again; by which I understood that water was
scarce, out the way he pointed. He then led me down to a smooth sand bar
on the river and then, with a crooked stick, began to make a map in the
sand. First he made a long crooked mark, ten feet long or so, and
pointing to the river to let me know that the mark in the sand was made
to represent it. He then made a straight mark across near the north end
of the stream, and showed the other streams which came into the Green
river which I saw at once was exactly correct. Then he laid some small
stones on each side of the cross mark, and making a small hoop of a
willow twig, he rolled it in the mark he had made across the river, then
flourished his stick as if he were driving oxen. Thus he represented the
emigrant road. He traced the branches off to the north where the
soldiers had gone, and the road to California, which the emigrants took,
all of which we could see was correct. Then he began to describe the
river down which we had come. A short distance below the road he put
some small stones on each side of the river to represent mountains. He
then put down his hands, one on each side of the crooked mark and then
raised them up again saying e-e-e-e-e-e as he raised them, to say that
the mountains there were very high. Then he traced down the stream to a
place below where we made our canoes; when he placed the stone back from
the river farther, to show that there was a valley there; then he drew
them in close again farther down, and piled them up again two or three
tiers high, then placing both fists on them he raised them higher than
the top of his head, saying e-e-e-e-e-e and looking still higher and
shaking his head as if to say:--"Awful bad canon", and thus he went on
describing the river till we understood that we were near the place
where we now were, and then pointed to his tepee, showing that I
understood him all right. It was all correct, as I very well knew and
assured me that he knew all about the country.

I became much interested in my new found friend, and had him continue
his map down the river. He showed two streams coming in on the east side
and then he began piling up stones on each side of the river and then
got longer ones and piled them higher and higher yet. Then he stood with
one foot on each side of his river and put his hands on the stones and
then raised them as high as he could, making a continued e-e-e-e-e-e as
long as his breath would last, pointed to the canoe and made signs with
his hands how it would roll and pitch in the rapids and finely capsize
and throw us all out. He then made signs of death to show us that it was
a fatal place. I understood perfectly plain from this that below the
valley where we now were was a terrible canon, much higher than any we
had passed, and the rapids were not navigable with safety. Then Walker
shook his head more than once and looked very sober, and said "Indiano"
and reaching for his bow and arrows, he drew the bow back to its utmost
length and put the arrow close to my breast, showing how I would get
shot. Then he would draw his hand across his throat and shut his eyes as
if in death to make us understand that this was a hostile country before
us, as well as rough and dangerous.

I now had a description of the country ahead and believed it to be
reliable. As soon as I could conveniently after this, I had a council
with the boys, who had looked on in silence while I was holding the
silent confab with the chief. I told them where we were and what chances
there were of getting to California by this route, and that for my part
I had as soon be killed by Mormans as by savage Indians, and that I
believed the best way for us to do was to make the best of our way to
Salt Lake. "Now" I said, "Those of you who agree with me can follow--and
I hope all will."

McMahon said that we could not understand a word the old Indian said,
and as to following his trails, I don't believe a word of it, and it
don't seem right.

He said he had a map of the country, and it looked just as safe to him
to go on down the river as to go wandering across a dry and desolate
country which we knew nothing of. I said to McMahon--"I know this sign
language pretty well. It is used by almost all the Indians and is just
as plain and certain to me as my talk is to you. Chief Walker and his
forefathers were borne here and know the country as well as you know
your father's farm, and for my part, I think I shall take one of his
trails and go to Salt Lake and take the chances that way. I have no
objections to you going some other way if you wish to and think it is
best". McMahon and Fields concluded they would not follow me any

I then went to Chief Walker and had him point out the trail to
"Mormonie" as well as he could. He told me where to enter the mountains
leading north, and when we got part way he told me we would come to an
Indian camp, when I must follow some horse tracks newly made; he made me
know this by using his hands like horse's forefeet, and pointed the way.

Some of the young men motioned for me to come out and shoot at a mark
with them, and as I saw it would please them I did so and took good care
to beat them every time too. Then they wanted to swap (narawaup) guns
with me which I declined doing. After this the Chief came to me and
wanted me to go and hunt buffalo with them. I told him I had no horse,
and then he went and had a nice gray one brought up and told me I could
ride him if I would go. He took his bow and arrow and showed me how he
could shoot an arrow straight through a buffalo just back of his short
ribs and that the arrow would go clear through and come out on the other
side without touching a bone. Those fellows were in fine spirit, on a
big hunt, and when Walker pointed out his route to me he swung his hand
around to Salt Lake.

They all spoke the word buffalo quite plainly. I took his strong bow and
found I could hardly pull it half way out, but I have no doubt he could
do as he said he could. I hardly knew how to refuse going with him. I
asked him how long it would be before he would get around his long
circuit and get to Salt Lake, to which he replied by pulverizing some
leaves in his hands and scattering them in the air to represent snow,
which would fall by the time he got to "Mormonee". I shivered as he said
this and by his actions I saw that I understood him right.

I told him I could not go with him for the other boys would depend on me
to get them something to eat, and I put my finger into my open mouth to
tell him this. I think if I had been alone I should have accepted his
offer and should have had a good time. I gave them to understand that we
would swap (narawaup) with them for some horses so he brought up a pair
of nice two year-old colts for us. I offered him some money for them, he
did not want that, but would take clothing of almost any kind. We let
them have some that we could get along without, and some one let Walker
have a coat. He put it on, and being more warmly dressed than ever
before, the sweat ran down his face in streams. We let them have some
needles and thread and some odd notions we had to spare. We saw that
Walker had some three or four head of cattle with him which he could
kill if they did not secure game at the time they expected.

McMahon and Field still persisted they would not go with us and so we
divided our little stock of flour and dried meat with them as fairly as
possible and decided we would try the trail. When our plans were settled
we felt in pretty good spirits again, and one of the boys got up a sort
of corn-stalk fiddle which made a squeaking noise and in a little while
there was a sort of mixed American and Indian dance going on in which
the squaws joined in and we had a pretty jolly time till quite late at
night. We were well pleased that these wild folks had proved themselves
to be true friends to us.

The morning we were to start I told the boys a dream I had in which I
had seen that the course we had decided on was the correct one, but
McMahon and Field thought we were foolish and said they had rather take
the chances of going with the Indians, or going on down the river. He
seemed to place great stress on the fact that he could not understand
the Indians.

Said he:--"This Indian may be all right, and maybe he will lead us all
into a dreadful trap. They are treacherous and revengeful, and for some
merely fancied wrong done by us, or by some one else of whom we have no
control or knowledge, they may take our scalps, wipe us out of existence
and no one will ever know what became of us. Now this map of mine don't
show any bad places on this river, and I believe we can get down easily
enough, and get to California some time. Field and I cannot make up our
minds so easily as you fellows. I believe your chances are very poor."

The boys now had our few things loaded on the two colts, for they had
fully decided to go with me, and I was not in the least put back by
McMahon's dire forebodings. We shook hands with quivering lips as we each
hoped the other would meet good luck, and find enough to eat and all
such sort of friendly talk, and then with my little party on the one
side and McMahon and Field, whom we were to leave behind, on the other,
we bowed to each other with bared heads, and then we started out of the
little young cottonwoods into the broad plain that seemed to get wider
and wider as we went west.

The mountains on the northern side grew smaller and less steep as we
went west, and on the other hand reached down the river as far as we
could see. The plain itself was black and barren and for a hundred miles
at least ahead of us it seemed to have no end. Walker had explained to
us that we must follow some horse tracks and enter a canon some miles to
the northwest. He had made his hands work like horses' feet, placing
then near the ground as if following a trail, We were not much more than
a mile away when on looking back, we saw Chief Walker coming towards us
on a horse at full speed; and motioning for us to stop. This we did,
though some of the boys said we would surely be marched back and
scalped. But it was not for that he came. He had been watching us and
saw that we had failed to notice the tracks of the horses he told us
about so he rode after us, and now took us off some little distance to
the right, got off his horse and showed us the faint horse tracks which
we were to follow and said "Mormonie". He pointed out to us the exact
canon we were to enter when we reached the hills; and said after three
"sleeps" we would find an Indian camp on top of the mountain. He then
bade us good bye again and galloped back to his own camp.

We now resumed our journey, keeping watch of the tracks more closely,
and as we came near the spurs of the mountain which projected out into
the barren valley we crossed several well marked trails running along
the foot hills, at right angles to our own. This we afterwards learned
was the regular trail from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. At some big rocks
further on we camped for the night, and found water in some pools or
holes in the flat rocks which held the rain.

Reading people of to-day, who know so well the geography of the American
continent, may need to stop and think that in 1849 the whole region west
of the Missouri River was very little known, the only men venturesome
enough to dare to travel over it were hunters and trappers who, by a
wild life had been used to all the privations of such a journey, and
shrewd as the Indians themselves in the mysterious ways of the trail and
the chase. Even these fellows had only investigated certain portions
best suited to their purpose.

The Indians here have the reputation of being blood thirsty savages who
took delight in murder and torture, but here, in the very midst of this
wild and desolate country we found a Chief and his tribe, Walker and his
followers who were as humane and kind to white people as could be
expected of any one. I have often wondered at the knowledge of this man
respecting the country, of which he was able to make us a good map in
the sand, point out to us the impassable canon, locate the hostile
indians, and many points which were not accurately known by our own
explorers for many years afterward. He undoubtedly saved our little band
from a watery grave, for without his advice we had gone on and on, far
into the great Colorado canon, from which escape would have been
impossible and securing food another impossibility, while destruction by
hostile indians was among the strong probabilities of the case. So in a
threefold way I have for these more than forty years credited the lives
of myself and comrades to the thoughtful interest and humane
consideration of old Chief Walker.

In another pool or pond near the one where we were camped I shot a small
duck. Big sage was plenty here for fuel and we had duck for supper. Our
party consisted of five men and two small ponies only two years old,
with a stock of provisions very small including that the old chief had
given us. We started on in the morning, following our faint trail till
we came to the canon we had in view, and up this we turned as we had
been directed, finding in the bottom a little running stream. Timber
began to appear as we ascended, and grass also. There were signs of deer
and grouse but we had no time to stop to hunt, for I had the only gun
and while I hunted the others must lie idly by. We reached the summit at
a low pass, and just above, on the north side of the higher mountains
were considerable banks of snow. Following the Chief's instructions we
left the trail and followed some horse tracks over rolling hills, high
on the mountain side. We found the Indian camp exactly as the Chief had
described, consisting of two or three lodges. The men were all absent
hunting, but the women were gathering and baking some sort of a root
which looked like a carrot. They made a pile of several bushels and
covered it with earth, then made a fire, treating the pile some as a
charcoal burner does his pit of coal. When sufficiently cooked they beat
them up and made the material into small cakes which were dried in the
sun. The dried cakes were as black as coal and intended for winter use.
These roots before roasting were unfit for food, as they contained a
sort of acrid juice that would make the tongue smart and very sore but
there was a very good rich taste when cooked. The woman pointed to our
horses and said "Walker", so we knew they were aware that we got them of
him, and might have taken us for horse thieves for aught I know. As it
was not yet night when we came to the camp, we passed on and camped on a
clear mountain brook where grew some pine trees. After a little some of
the Indians belonging to the camp we had passed came in, bringing some
venison, for which we traded by giving them some needles and a few other
trinkets. I beat these fellows shooting at a mark, and then they wanted
to trade guns, which I declined. This piece of meat helped us along
considerably with our provisions, for game was very scarce and only some
sage hens had come across our trail. One day I scared a hawk off the
ground, and we took the sage hen he had caught and was eating, and made
some soup of it.

After being on this trail six or seven days we began to think of killing
one of our colts for food, for we had put ourselves on two meals a day
and the work was very hard; so that hunger was all the time increasing.
We thought this was a pretty long road for Walker to ride over in three
sleeps as he said he could, and we began also to think there might be
some mistake somewhere, although it had otherwise turned out just as he
said. On the eighth day our horse-tracks came out into a large trail
which was on a down grade leading in a northward direction. On the ninth
day we came into a large valley, and near night came in sight of a few
covered wagons, a part of a train that intended going on a little later
over the southern route to Los Angeles but were waiting for the weather
to get a little cooler, for a large part of the route was over almost
barren deserts. We were very glad to find these wagons, for they seemed
to have plenty of food and the bountiful supper they treated us to was
the very thing we needed. We camped here and told them of the hardships
we had passed through. They had hired a guide, each wagon paying him ten
dollars for his service. Our little party talked over the situation
among ourselves, and concluded that as we were good walkers we must
allow ourselves to be used in any way so that we had grub and concluded
as many of us as possible would try to get some service to do for our
board and walk along with the party. John Rogers had a dollar and a half
and I had thirty dollars, which was all the money we had in our camp. We
found out we were about 60 miles south of Salt Lake City. Some of the
boys next day arranged to work for their board, and the others would be
taken along if they would furnish themselves with flour and bacon. This
part of the proposition fell to me and two others, and so Hazelrig and I
took the two colts and started for the city, where they told us we could
get all we needed with our little purse of money. We reached Hobble
Creek before night, near Salt Lake where there was a Mormon fort, and
were also a number of wagons belonging to some prospecting train. There
seemed to be no men about and we were looking about among the wagons for
some one to inquire of, when a woman came to the front of the last wagon
and looked out at us, and to my surprise it was Mrs. Bennett, wife of
the man I had been trying to overtake ever since my start on this long
trip. Bennett had my entire outfit with him on this trip and was all the
time wondering whether I would ever catch up with them. We stayed till
the men came in with their cattle towards night, and Bennett was glad
enough to see me, I assure you. We had a good substantial supper and
then sat around the campfire nearly all night telling of our experience
since leaving Wisconsin. I had missed Bennett at the Missouri River. I
knew of no place where people crossed the river except Council Bluff,
here I had searched faithfully, finding no trace of him, but it seems
they had crossed farther up at a place called Kanesville, a Mormon
crossing, and followed up the Platte river on the north side. Their only
bad luck had been to lose a fine black horse, which was staked out, and
when a herd of buffaloes came along he broke his rope and followed after
them. He was looked for with other horses, but never found and doubtless
became a prize for some enterprising Mr. Lo. who was fortunate enough to
capture him. Hazelrig and I told of our experience on the south side of
the Platte; why we went down Green River; what a rough time we had; how
we were stopped by the Indians and how we had come across from the
river, arriving the day before and were now on our way to Salt Lake to
get some flour and bacon so we could go on with the train when it
started as they had offered to haul our grub for our service if we could
carry ourselves on foot.

Mr. Bennett would not hear of my going on to Salt Lake City, for he said
there must be provisions enough in the party and in the morning we were
able to buy flour and bacon of John Philips of Mineral Point Wis. and of
Wm. Philips his brother. I think we got a hundred pounds of flour and a
quantity of bacon and some other things. I had some money which I had
received for my horse sold to Dallas, but as the others had none I paid
for it all, and told Hazelrig to take the ponies and go back to camp
with a share of the provisions and do the best he could. I had now my
own gun and ammunition, with some clothing and other items which I had
prepared in Wisconsin before I started after my Winnebago pony, and I
felt I ought to share the money I had with the other boys to help them
as best I could. I felt that I was pretty well fixed and had nothing to

Mr. Bennett told me much of the trip on the north side of the Platte. He
said they had some cholera, of which a few people died, and related how
the outer if not the inner nature of the men changed as they left
civilization, law and the courts behind them. Some who had been raised
together, and lived together all their lives without discord or trouble,
who were considered model men at home and just the right people to be
connected with in such an expedition, seemed to change their character
entirely out on these wild wastes. When anything excited their
displeasure their blood boiled over, and only the interference of older
and wiser heads on many occasions prevented bloodshed. Some dissolved
the solemn contract they had made to travel together systematically and
in order and to stand, by, even unto death, and when they reached the
upper Platte, the journey only half over, talked of going back, or
splitting up the outfit and join others they had taken a fancy to. Some
who could not agree upon a just division of a joint outfit, thinking one
party was trying to cheat, would not yield but would cut their wagons in
two lengthwise just for spite so that no carts could be made and the
whole vehicle spoiled for both parties. The ugly disagreements were many
and the cloven foot was shown in many ways. Guns were often drawn and
pointed but some one would generally interfere and prevent bloodshed.
Others were honest and law abiding to the last degree beyond law and
churches, and would act as harmoniously as at home, obeying their chosen
captain in the smallest particular without any grumbling or dissension,
doing to every one as they would be done by. These were the pride of the
train. The trains were most of them organized, and all along the river
bottom one was hardly ever out of sight of some of the wagons, all going
west. Buffalo and antelope were plenty and in great droves, followed
always by wolves great and small, who were on the lookout for crippled
or dead animals with which to fill their hungry stomachs. Buffalo meat
was plenty and much enjoyed while passing this section of the road and
this opportunity of replenishing, enabled the stock to last them over
more desolate regions where game was scarce.

After Bennett had told his stories, and I had related more of our own
close escapes I began to ask him why he went this way which seemed to be
very circuitous and much longer than the way they had first intended to
go. He said that it was too late in the season to go the straight-road
safely, for there was yet 700 miles of bad country to cross and do the
best they could it would be at the commencement of the rainy season
before the Sierra Nevada mountains could be reached and in those
mountains there was often a snow fall of 20 feet or more, and anyone
caught in it would surely perish. If they tried to winter at the base of
the mountains it was a long way to get provisions, and no assurance of
wild game, and this course was considered very hazardous for any one to
undertake. This they had learned after consulting mountaineers and
others who knew about the regions, and as there was nothing doing among
the Latter Day Saints to give employment to any one, it was decided best
to keep moving and go the southern route by way of Los Angeles. No
wagons were reported as ever getting through that way, but a trail had
been traveled through that barren desert country for perhaps a hundred
years, and the same could be easily broadened into a wagon road.

After days of argument and camp-fire talks, this Southern route was
agreed upon, and Capt. Hunt was chosen as guide. Capt. Hunt was a
Mormon, and had more than one wife, but he had convinced them that he
knew something about the road. Each agreed to give him ten dollars to
pilot the train to San Bernardino where the Mormon Church had bought a
Spanish grant of land, and no doubt they thought a wagon road to that
place would benefit them greatly, and probably gave much encouragement
for the parties to travel this way. It was undoubtedly safer than the
northern mountain route at this season of the year. It seemed at least
to be a new venture for west-bound emigrant trains, at least as to
ultimate success, for we had no knowledge of any that had gone through

Some western people remembered the history of the Mormons in Illinois
and Missouri, and their doings there, feared somewhat for their own
safety now that they were so completely under their power, for they knew
the Mormons to be revengeful and it was considered very unsafe for any
traveler to acknowledge he was from Missouri. Many a one who had been
born there, and lived there all his life, would promptly claim some
other state as his native place. I heard one Mormon say that there were
some Missourians on the plains that would never reach California. "They
used us bad," said he, and his face took on a really murderous look.

These Mormons at Salt Lake were situated as if on an island in the sea,
and no enemy could reach any adjoining state or territory if Brigham
Young's band of destroying angels were only warned to look after them.

At a late hour that night we lay down to sleep, and morning came clear
and bright. After breakfast Mr. Bennett said to me:--"Now Lewis I want
you to go with me; I have two wagons and two drivers and four yoke of
good oxen and plenty of provisions. I have your outfit yet, your gun and
ammunition and your two good hickory shirts which are just in time for
your present needs. You need not do any work. You just look around and
kill what game you can for us, and this will help as much as anything,
you can do." I was, of course glad to accept this offer, and thanks to
Mr. Bennett's kind care of my outfit, was better fixed then any of the
other boys.

We inquired around among the other wagons as to their supply of flour
and bacon; and succeeded to getting flour from Mr. Philips and bacon
from some of the others, as much as we supposed the other boys would
need, which I paid for, and when this was loaded on the two colts
Hazelrig started back alone to the boys in camp. As I was so well
provided for I gave him all my money for they might need some, and I did

The wagons which composed the intended train were very much scattered
about, having moved out from Salt Lake at pleasure, and it was said to
be too early to make the start on the southern route, for the weather on
the hot, barren desert was said to grow cooler a little later in the
season, and it was only at this cool season that the south west part of
the desert could be crossed in safety. The scattering members of the
train began to congregate, and Capt. Hunt said it was necessary to have
some sort of system about the move, and that before they moved they must
organize and adopt rules and laws which must be obeyed. He said they
must move like an army, and that he was to be a dictator in all things
except that in case of necessity a majority of the train could rule
otherwise. It was thought best to get together and try a march out one
day, then go in camp and organize.

This they did, and at the camp there was gathered one hundred and seven
wagons, a big drove of horses and cattle, perhaps five hundred in all.
The train was divided into seven divisions and each division was to
elect its own captain. Division No. 1 should lead the march the first
day, and their men should take charge of the stock and deliver them to
the wagons in the morning, and then No. 1 should take the rear, with No.
2 in the lead to break the road. The rear division would not turn a
wheel before 10 o'clock the next day, and it would be about that time at
night before they were in camp and unyoked. The numbers of animals
cleaned out the feed for a mile or two each side of the camp and a
general meeting was called for the organization of the whole. Mr. L.
Granger got up so he could look over the audience and proceeded to
explain the plan and to read a preamble and resolutions which had been
prepared as the basis for government. I remember that it begun
thus:--"This Organization shall be known and designated as the Sand
Walking Company, and shall consist of seven divisions etc," detailing
the manner of marching as we have recited. Capt J. Hunt was chosen
commander and guide, and his orders must be obeyed. All possible trouble
that we could imagine might come was provided against in our written
agreement, and all promised to live up to it.


We moved off in good style from this camp. After a day or two and before
we reached what is called Little Salt Lake, an attempt was made to make
a short cut, to save distance. The train only went on this cut off a day
or two when Capt. Hunt came back from the front and said they had better
turn back to the old trail again, which all did. This was a bad move,
the train much broken and not easy to get them into regular working
order again. We were now approaching what they called the Rim of the
Basin. Within the basin the water all ran to the north or toward Great
Salt Lake, but when we crossed the rim, all was toward the Colorado
River, through which it reached the Pacific Ocean. About this time we
were overtaken by another train commanded by Capt. Smith. They had a map
with them made by one Williams of Salt Lake a mountaineer who was
represented to know all the routes through all the mountains of Utah,
and this map showed a way to turn off from the southern route not far
from the divide which separated the waters of the basin from those which
flowed toward the Colorado, and pass over the mountains, coming out in
what they called Tulare valley, much nearer than by Los Angeles.

This map was quite frequently exhibited and the matter freely discussed
in camp, indeed speeches were made in the interest of the cut-off route
which was to be so much shorter. A clergyman, the Rev. J.W. Brier, was
very enthusiastic about this matter and discoursed learnedly and
plausibly about it. The more the matter was talked about the more there
were who were converted to the belief that the short road would be the
best. The map showed every camp on the road and showed where there was
water and grass, and as to obstacles to the wagons it was thought they
could easily be overcome. A general meeting was called for better
consideration of the question. Capt. Hunt said: "You all know I was
hired to go by way of Los Angeles, but if you all wish to go and follow
Smith I will go also. But if even one wagon decides to go the original
route, I shall feel bound to go with that wagon."

A great many were anxious to get the opinion of Capt. Hunt on the
feasibility of the new route for he was a mountain man and could
probably give us some good advice. He finally consented to talk of it,
and said he really knew no more then the others about this particular
route, but he very much doubted if a white man ever went over it, and
that he did not consider it at all safe for those who had wives and
children in their company to take the unknown road. Young men who had no
family could possibly get through, and save time even if the road was
not as good as Los Angeles road. But said he "If you decide to follow
Smith I will go will go with you, even if the road leads to Hell."

On the route from near Salt Lake to this point we found the country to
grow more barren as we progressed. The grass was thinner, and sage brush
took the place of timber. Our road took us in sight of Sevier Lake, and
also, while going through the low hills, passed Little Salt Lake, which
was almost dry, with a beach around it almost as white as snow. It might
have had a little more the dignity of a lake in wet weather, but it was
a rather dry affair as we saw it.

At one point on this route we came into a long narrow valley, well
covered with sage brush, and before we had gone very far we discovered
that this was a great place for long eared rabbits, we would call them
Jack Rabbits now. Every one who had a gun put it into service on this
occasion, and there was much popping and shooting on every side. Great
clouds of smoke rolled up as the hunters advanced and the rabbits ran in
every direction to get away. Many ran right among the horses, and under
the feet of the cattle and under the wagons, so that the teamsters even
killed some with a whip. At the end of the valley we went into camp, and
on counting up the game found we had over 500, or about one for every
person in camp. This gave us a feast of fresh meat not often found.

It was on this trip that one of Mr. Bennett's ox drivers was taken with
a serious bowel difficulty, and for many days we thought he would die,
but he eventually recovered. His name was Silas Helmer.

It was really a serious moment when the front of the train reached the
Smith trail. Team after team turned to the right while now and then one
would keep straight ahead as was at first intended. Capt. Hunt came over
to the larger party after the division was made, and wished them all a
hearty farewell and a pleasant happy journey. My friend Bennett whose
fortune I shared was among the seceders who followed the Smith party.
This point, when our paths diverged was very near the place afterward
made notorious as Mountain Meadows, where the famous massacre took place
under the direction of the Mormon generals. Our route from here up to
the mountain was a very pleasant one, steadily up grade, over rolling
hills, with wood, water and grass in plenty. We came at last to what
seemed the summit of a great mountain, about three days journey on the
new trail. Juniper trees grew about in bunches, and my experience with
this timber taught me that we were on elevated ground.

Immediately in front of us was a canon, impassible for wagons, and down
into this the trail descended. Men could go, horses and mules, perhaps,
but wagons could no longer follow that trail, and we proposed to camp
while explorers were sent out to search a pass across this steep and
rocky canon. Wood and bunch grass were plenty, but water was a long way
down the trail and had to be packed up to the camp. Two days passed, and
the parties sent out began to come in, all reporting no way to go
farther with the wagons. Some said the trail on the west side of the
canon could be ascended on foot by both men and mules, but that it would
take years to make it fit for wheels.

The enthusiasm about the Smith cut-off had begun to die and now the talk
began of going back to follow Hunt. On the third morning a lone traveler
with a small wagon and one yoke of oxen, died. He seemed to be on this
journey to seek to regain his health. He was from Kentucky, but I have
forgotten his name. Some were very active about his wagon and, some
thought too much attention was paid to a stranger. He was decently
buried by the men of the company.

This very morning a Mr. Rynierson called the attention of the crowd and
made some remarks upon the situation. He said: "My family is near and
dear to me. I can see by the growth of the timber that we are in a very
elevated place. This is now the seventh of November, it being the fourth
at the time of our turning off on this trail. We are evidently in a
country where snow is liable to fall at any time in the winter season,
and if we were to remain here and be caught in a severe storm we should
all probably perish. I, for one, feel in duty bound to seek a safer way
than this. I shall hitch up my oxen and return at once to the old trail.
Boys (to his teamsters) get the cattle and we'll return." This was
decisive, and Mr. Rynierson would tarry no longer. Many others now
proceeded to get ready and follow, and as Mr. Rynierson drove out of
camp quite a respectable train fell in behind him. As fast as the
hunters came in and reported no road available, they also yoked up their
oxen and rolled out. Some waited awhile for companions yet in the
fields, and all were about ready to move, when a party came in with news
that the pass was found and no trouble could be seen ahead. About
twenty-seven wagons remained when this news came, and as their
proprietors had brought good news they agreed to travel on westward and
not go back to the old trail.

Mr. Bennett had gone only a short distance out when he had the
misfortune to break the axle of his wagon and he then went back to camp
and took an axle out of the dead man's wagon and by night had it fitted
into his own. He had to stay until morning, and there were still a few
others who were late in getting a start, who camped there also. Among
these were J.B. Arcane, wife and child; two Earhart brothers and sons
and some two or three other wagons.

When all was ready we followed the others who had gone ahead. The route
led at first directly to the north and a pass was said to be in that
direction. Of the Green River party only Rodgers and myself remained
with this train. After the wagons straightened out nicely, a meeting was
called to organize, so as to travel systematically. A feeling was very
manifest that those without any families did not care to bind themselves
to stand by and assist those who had wives and children in their party
and there was considerable debate, which resulted in all the family
wagons being left out of the arrangements.

A party who called themselves "The Jayhawkers" passed us, and we
followed along in the rear, over rolling hills covered with juniper
timber, and small grassy valleys between where there was plenty of water
and went well, for those before us had broken out the road so we could
roll along very pleasantly.

At the organization Jim Martin was chosen captain. Those who were
rejected were Rev. J.W. Brier and, his family, J.B. Arcane and family,
and Mr. A. Bennett and family, Mr. Brier would not stay put out, but
forced himself in, and said he was going with the rest, and so he did.
But the other families remained behind. I attended the meeting and heard
what was said, but Mr. Bennett was my friend and had been faithful to me
and my property when he knew not where I was, and so I decided to stand
by him and his wife at all hazards.

As I had no team to drive I took every opportunity to climb the
mountains along the route, reaching the highest elevations even if they
were several miles from the trail. I sometimes remained out all night. I
took Mr. Arcane's field glass with me and was thus able to see all there
was of the country. I soon became satisfied that going north was not
taking us in the direction we ought to go. I frequently told them so,
but they still persisted in following on. I went to the leaders and told
them we were going back toward Salt Lake again, not making any headway
toward California. They insisted they were following the directions of
Williams, the mountaineer; and they had not yet got as far north as he
indicated. I told them, and Mr. Bennett and others, that we must either
turn west, or retrace our steps and get back into the regular Los
Angeles road again. In the morning we held another consultation and
decided to turn west here, and leave the track we had been following.

Off we turned at nearly right angles to our former course, to the west
now, over a piece of table land that gave us little trouble in breaking
our own road. When we camped, the oxen seemed very fond of a white weed
that was very plenty, and some borrowed a good deal of trouble thinking
that perhaps it might be poison. I learned afterwards that this plant
was the nutritious white sage, which cattle eat freely, with good
results. We now crossed a low range and a small creek running south, and
here were also some springs. Some corn had been grown here by the
Indians. Pillars of sand stone, fifteen feet high and very slim were
round about in several places and looked strange enough. The next piece
of table land sloped to the east, and among the sage grew also a bunch
grass a foot high, which had seeds like broom-corn seeds. The Indians
had gathered the grass and made it in piles of one hundred pounds or so,
and used it for food as I found by examining their camps.

One day I climbed a high mountain where some pine grew, in order to get
a view of the country. As I neared its base I came to a flat rock,
perhaps fifty feet square. I heard some pounding noise as I came near,
but what ever it was, it ceased on my approach. There were many signs of
the rock being used as a camp, such as pine burrs, bones of various
kinds of animals, and other remains of food which lay every where about
and on the rock. Near the center was a small oblong stone fitted into a
hole. I took it out and found it covered a fine well of water about
three feet deep and was thus protected against any small animal being
drowned in it. I went on up the mountain and from the top I saw that the
land west of us looked more and more barren.

The second night the brave Jayhawkers who had been so firm in going
north hove in sight in our rear. They had at last concluded to accept my
advice and had came over our road quite rapidly. We all camped together
that night, and next morning they took the lead again. After crossing a
small range they came to a basin which seemed to have no outlet, and was
very barren. Some of the boys in advance of the teams had passed over
this elevation and were going quite rapidly over the almost level plain
which sloped into the basin, when they saw among the bunches of sage
brush behind them a small party of Indians following their road, not
very far off, but still out of bow and arrow range. The boys were
suddenly able to take much longer steps than usual and a little more
rapidly too, and swinging round toward the teams as soon as possible,
for they already had some fears that an arrow might be sticking in their
backs in an unpleasantly short space of time, for the Indians were good
travelers. When they came in sight of the wagons, the Indians vanished
as quickly as if they had gone into a hole, with no sign remaining,
except a small dog which greatly resembled a prairie wolf, and kept a
safe distance away. No one could imagine where the fellows went so

We drove to the west side of this basin and camped near the foot of a
low mountain. The cattle were driven down into the basin where there was
some grass, but at camp we had only the water in our kegs.

Some of the boys climbed the mountain on the north but found no springs:
Coming down a canon they found some rain water in a basin in the rocks
and all took a good drink. Lew West lay down and swallowed all he could
and then told the boys to kill him for he never would feel so good
again. They finished the pool, it was so small, before they left it. In
going on down the canon they saw an Indian dodge behind some big rocks,
and searching, they found him in a cave as still as a dead man. They
pulled him out and made him go with them, and tried every way to find
out from him where they were and where Owen's Lake was, as they had been
told the lake was on their route. But he proved to be no wiser than a
man of mud, and they led him along to camp, put a red flannel shirt on
him to cover his nakedness, and made him sleep between two white men so
he could not get away easily. In the morning they were more successful,
and he showed us a small ravine four miles away which had water in it,
enough for our use, and we moved up and camped there, while the boys and
the Indian started over a barren, rocky mountain, and when over on the
western slope they were led to a water hole on a steep rocky cliff where
no one but an Indian would ever think of looking for water. They took
out their cups and had a good drink all around, then offered the Indian
some, but he disdained the civilized way, and laying down his bow and
arrows took a long drink directly out of the pool. He was so long in
getting a good supply that the boys almost forgot him as they were
gazing over the distant mountain and discussing prospects, till
attracted by a slight noise they looked and saw Mr. Indian going down
over the cliffs after the fashion of a mountain sheep, and in a few
bounds he was out of sight. They could not have killed him if they had
tried, the move so sudden and unlooked for. They had expected the fellow
to show them the way to Owen's lake, but now their guide was gone, and
left nothing to remember him by except his bow and arrows. So they
returned to their wagons not much wiser than before.

All kinds of game was now very scarce, and so seldom seen that the men
got tired of carrying their guns, and grew fearless of enemies. A heavy
rifle was indeed burdensome over so long a road when there was no
frequent use for it. The party kept rolling along as fast as possible
but the mountains and valleys grew more barren and water more scarce all
the time. When found, the water would be in hole at the outlet of some
canon, or in little pools which had filled up with rain that had fallen
on the higher ground. Not a drop of rain had fallen on us since we
started on this cut-off, and every night was clear and warm. The
elevated parts of the country seemed to be isolated buttes, with no
running streams between them but instead, dry lakes with a smooth clay
bed, very light in color and so hard that the track of an ox could not
be seen on its glittering surface. At a distance those clay beds looked
like water shining in the sun and were generally about three times as
far as any one would judge, the air was so clear. This mirage, or
resemblance to water was so perfect as often to deceive us, and almost
to our ruin on one or two occasions.

I took Arcane's field glass and took pains to ascend all the high buttes
within a day's walk of the road, and this enabled me to get a good
survey of the country north and west. I would sometimes be gone two or
three days with no luggage but my canteen and gun. I was very cautious
in regard to Indians, and tried to keep on the safe side of surprises. I
would build a fire about dark and then travel on till I came to a small
washed place and lie down and stay till morning, so if Mr. Indian did
come to my fire he would not find any one to kill. One day I was going
up a wide ravine leading to the summit, and before I reached the highest
part I saw a smoke curl up before me. I took a side ravine and went
cautiously, bowed down pretty low so no one could see me, and when near
the top of the ridge and about one hundred yards of the fire I ventured
to raise slowly up and take a look to see how many there were in camp: I
could see but two and as I looked across the ravine an Indian woman
seemed looking at me also, but I was so low she could only see the top
of my head, and I sank down again out of sight. I crawled further up so
as to get a better view, and when I straightened up again she got a full
view of me. She instantly caught her infant off its little pallet made
of a small piece of thin wood covered with a rabbit skin, and putting
the baby under one arm, and giving a smart jerk to a small girl that was
crying to the top of her voice, she bounded off and fairly flew up the
gentle slope toward the summit, the girl following after very close. The
woman's long black hair stood out as she rushed along, looking over her
shoulder every instant as if she expected to be slain. The mother flying
with her children, untrammeled with any of the arts of fashion was the
best natural picture I ever looked upon, and wild in the extreme. No
living artist could do justice to the scene as the lady of the desert,
her little daughter and her babe, passed over the summit out of sight. I
followed, but when I reached the highest summit, no living person could
be seen. I looked the country over with my glass. The region to the
north was black rocky, and very mountainous. I looked some time and then
concluded I had better not go any further that way, for I might be
waylaid and filled with arrows at some unsuspected moment. We saw Indian
signs almost every day, but as none of them ever came to our camp it was
safe to say they were not friendly. I now turned back and examined the
Indian woman's camp. She had only fire enough to make a smoke. Her
conical shaped basket left behind, contained a few poor arrows and some
cactus leaves, from which the spines had been burned, and there lay the
little pallet where the baby was sleeping. It was a bare looking kitchen
for hungry folks.

I now went to the top of a high butte and scanned the country very
carefully, especially to the west and north, and found it very barren.
There were no trees, no fertile valleys nor anything green. Away to the
west some mountains stood out clear and plain, their summits covered
white with snow. This I decided was our objective point: Very little
snow could be seen elsewhere, and between me and the snowy mountains lay
a low, black rocky range, and a wide level plain, that had no signs of
water, as I had learned them in our trip thus far across the country.
The black range seemed to run nearly north and south, and to the north
and northwest the country looked volcanic, black and desolate.

As I looked and thought, I believed that we were much farther from a
fertile region then most of our party had any idea of. Such of them as
had read Fremont's travels, and most of them going to California had
fortified themselves before starting by reading Fremont; said that the
mountains were near California and were fertile from their very summits
down to the sea, but that to the east of the mountains it was a desert
region for hundred of miles. As I explained it to them, and so they soon
saw for themselves, they believed that the snowy range ahead of us was
the last range to cross before we entered the long-sought California,
and it seemed not far off, and prospect quite encouraging.

Our road had been winding around among the buttes which looked like the
Indian baskets turned upside down on the great barren plain. What water
we found was in small pools in the wash-out places near the foothills at
the edge of the valley, probably running down the ravines after some
storm. There were dry lake beds scattered around over the plain, but it
did not seem as if there had ever been volume of water enough lately to
force itself out so far into the plain as these lakes were. All the
lakes appeared about the same, the bed white and glistening in the sun,
which made it very hard for the eyes, and so that a man in passing over
it made no visible track. It looked as if it one time might have been a
smooth bed of plastic mortar, and had hardened in the sun. It looked as
if there must have been water there sometime, but we had not seen a
drop, or a single cloud; every day was clear and sunny, and very warm,
and at night no stars forgot to shine.

Our oxen began to look bad, for they had poor food. Grass had been very
scarce, and now when we unyoked them and turned them out they did not
care to look around much for something to eat. They moved slowly and
cropped disdainfully the dry scattering shrubs and bunches of grass from
six inches to a foot high. Spending many nights and days on such dry
food and without water they suffered fearfully, and though fat and sleek
when we started from Salt Lake, they now looked gaunt and poor, and
dragged themselves slowly along, poor faithful servants of mankind. No
one knew how long before we might have to kill some of them to get food
to save our own lives.

We now traveled several days down the bed of a broad ravine, which led
to a southwest direction. There seemed to be a continuous range of
mountains on the south, but to the north was the level plain with
scattered buttes, and what we had all along called dry lakes, for up to
this time we had seen no water in any of them. I had carried my rifle
with me every day since we took this route, and though I was an
experienced hunter, a professional one if there be such a thing, I had
killed only one rabbit, and where no game lived I got as hungry as other

Our line soon brought us in sight of a high butte which stood apparently
about 20 miles south of our route, and I determined to visit and climb
it to get a better view of things ahead. I walked steadily all day and
reached the summit about dusk. I wandered around among the big rocks,
and found a projecting cliff where I would be protected from enemies,
wind or storm, and here I made my camp. While the light lasted I
gathered a small stock of fuel, which consisted of a stunted growth of
sage and other small shrubs, dry but not dead, and with this I built a
little fire Indian fashion and sat down close to it. Here was a good
chance for undisturbed meditation and someway I could not get around
doing a little meditating as I added a new bit of fuel now and then to
the small fire burning at my side. I thought it looked dark and
troublesome before us. I took a stone for a pillow with my hat on it for
a cushion, and lying down close under the shelving rock I went to sleep,
for I was very tired, I woke soon from being cold, for the butte was
pretty high, and so I busied myself the remainder of the night in adding
little sticks to the fire, which gave me some warmth, and thus in
solitude I spent the night. I was glad enough to see the day break over
the eastern mountains, and light up the vast barren country I could see
on every hand around me. When the sun was fairly up I took a good survey
of the situation, and it seemed as if pretty near all creation was in
sight. North and west was a level plain, fully one hundred miles wide it
seemed, and from anything I could see it would not afford a traveler a
single drink in the whole distance or give a poor ox many mouthfuls of
grass. On the western edge it was bounded by a low, black and rocky
range extending nearly north and south for a long distance and no pass
though it which I could see, and beyond this range still another one
apparently parallel to it. In a due west course from me was the high
peak we had been looking at for a month, and lowest place was on the
north side, which we had named Martin's Pass and had been trying so long
to reach. This high peak, covered with snow, glistened to the morning
sun, and as the air was clear from clouds or fog, and no dust or haze to
obscure the view, it seemed very near.

I had learned by experience that objects a day's walk distant seemed
close by in such a light, and that when clear lakes appeared only a
little distance in our front, we might search and search and never find
them. We had to learn how to look for water in this peculiar way. In my
Wisconsin travel I had learned that when I struck a ravine I must go
down to look for living water, but here we must invariably travel upward
for the water was only found in the high mountains.

Prospects now seemed to me so hopeless, that I heartily wished I was not
in duty bound to stand by the women and small children who could never
reach a land of bread without assistance. If I was in the position that
some of them were who had only themselves to look after, I could pick up
my knapsack and gun and go off, feeling I had no dependent ones to leave
behind. But as it was I felt I should be morally guilty of murder if I
should forsake Mr. Bennett's wife and children, and the family of Mr.
Arcane with whom I had been thus far associated. It was a dark line of
thought but I always felt better when I got around to the determination,
as I always did, to stand by my friends, their wives and children let
come what might.

I could see with my glass the train of wagons moving slowly over the
plain toward what looked to me like a large lake. I made a guess of the
point they would reach by night, and then took a straight course for it
all day long in steady travel. It was some time after dark, and I was
still a quarter of a mile from the camp fires, where in the bed of a
canon I stepped into some mud, which was a sign of water. I poked around
in the dark for a while and soon found a little pool of it, and having
been without a drop of it for two days I lay down and took a hasty
drink. It did not seem to be very clear or clean, but it was certainly
wet, which was the main thing just then. The next morning I went to the
pond of water, and found the oxen had been watered there. They stirred
up the mud a good deal and had drank off about all the clean part, which
seemed to refresh them very much. I found the people in the camp on the
edge of the lake I had seen from the mountain, and fortunately it
contained about a quarter of an inch of water. They had dug some holes
here, which filled up, and they were using this water in the camp.

The ambitious mountain-climbers of our party had by this, time,
abandoned that sort of work, and I was left alone to look about and try
to ascertain the character of the road they were to follow. It was a
great deal to do to look out for food for the oxen and for water for the
camp, and besides all this it was plain there were Indians about even if
we did not see them. There were many signs, and I had to be always on
the lookout to outgeneral them. When the people found I was in camp this
night they came around to our wagons to know what I had seen and found,
and what the prospects were ahead. Above all they wanted to know how far
it was, in my opinion to the end of our journey. I listened to all their
inquiries and told them plainly what I had seen, and what I thought of
the prospect. I did not like telling the whole truth about it for fear
it might dampen their spirits, but being pressed for an opinion I told
them in plain words that it would at least be another month before their
journey would be ended. They seemed to think I ought to be pretty good
authority, and if I was not mistaken, the oxen would get very poor and
provisions very scarce before we could pull through so long. I was up at
day break and found Mr. Bennett sitting by the fire. About the first
thing he said:--"Lewis, if you please I don't want you hereafter to
express your views so openly and emphatically as you did last night
about our prospects. Last night when I went to bed I found Sarah (his
wife) crying and when pressed for the cause, she said she had heard your
remarks on the situation, and that if Lewis said so it must be correct,
for he knows more about it than all of you. She felt that she and the
children must starve."

In the morning Jayhawkers, and others of the train that were not
considered strictly of our own party, yoked up and started due west
across the level plain which I had predicted as having no water, and I
really thought they would never live to get across to the western
border. Mr. Culverwell and Mr. Fish stayed with us, making another wagon
in our train. We talked about the matter carefully, I did not think it
possible to get across that plain in less than four or six days, and I
did not believe there was a drop of water on the route. To the south of
us was a mountain that now had considerable snow upon its summit, and
some small pine trees also. Doubtless we could find plenty of water at
the base, but being due south, it was quite off our course. The
prospects for reaching water were so much better in that way that we
finally decided to go there rather than follow the Jayhawkers on their
desolate tramp over the dry plain.

So we turned up a canon leading toward the mountain and had a pretty
heavy up grade and a rough bed for a road. Part way up we came to a high
cliff and in its face were niches or cavities as large as a barrel or
larger, and in some of them we found balls of a glistening substance
looking something like pieces of varigated candy stuck together. The
balls were as large as small pumpkins. It was evidently food of some
sort, and we found it sweet but sickish, and those who were so hungry as
to break up one of the balls and divide it among the others, making a
good meal of it, were a little troubled with nausea afterwards. I
considered it bad policy to rob the Indians of any of their food, for
they must be pretty smart people to live in this desolate country and
find enough to keep them alive, and I was pretty sure we might count
them as hostiles as they never came near our camp. Like other Indians
they were probably revengeful, and might seek to have revenge on us for
the injury. We considered it prudent to keep careful watch for them, so
they might not surprise us with a volley of arrows.

The second night we camped near the head of the canon we had been
following, but thus far there had been no water, and only some stunted
sage brush for the oxen, which they did not like, and only ate it when
near the point of starvation. They stood around the camp looking as
sorry as oxen can. During the night a stray and crazy looking cloud
passed over us and left its moisture on the mountain to the shape of a
coat of snow several inches deep. When daylight came the oxen crowded
around the wagons, shivering with cold, and licking up the snow to
quench their thirst. We took pattern after them and melted snow to get
water for ourselves.

By the looks of our cattle it did not seem as if they could pull much,
and light loads were advisable on this up grade. Mr. Bennett was a
carpenter and had brought along some good tools in his wagon. These he
reluctantly unloaded, and almost everything else except bedding and
provisions, and leaving them upon the ground, we rolled up the hills
slowly, with loads as light as possible.

Rogers and I went ahead with our guns to look out the way and find a
good camping place. After a few miles we got out of the snow and out
upon an incline, and in the bright clear morning air the foot of the
snowy part of the mountain seemed near by and we were sure we could
reach it before night. From here no guide was needed and Rogers and I,
with our guns and canteens hurried on as fast as possible, when a camp
was found we were to raise a signal smoke to tell them where it was. We
were here, as before badly deceived as to the distance, and we marched
steadily and swiftly till nearly night before we reached the foot of the

Here was a flat place in a table land and on it a low brush hut, with a
small smoke near by, which we could plainly see as we were in the shade
of the mountain, and that place lighted up by the nearly setting sun. We
looked carefully and satisfied ourselves there was but one hut, and
consequently but few people could be expected. We approached carefully
and cautiously, making a circuit around so as to get between the hut and
the hill in case that the occupants should retreat in that direction. It
was a long time before we could see any entrance to this wickiup, but we
found it at last and approached directly in front, very cautiously
indeed: We could see no one, and thought perhaps they were in ambush for
us, but hardly probable, as we had kept closely out of sight. We
consulted a moment and concluded to make an advance and if possible
capture some one who could tell us about the country, as we felt we were
completely lost. When within thirty yards a man poked out his head out
of a doorway and drew it back again quick as a flash. We kept out our
guns at full cock and ready for use, and told Rogers to look out for
arrows, for they would come now if ever. But they did not pull a bow on
us, and the red-man, almost naked came out and beckoned for us to come
on which we did.

We tried to talk with the fellow in the sign language but he could
understand about as much as an oyster. I made a little basin in the
ground and filled it with water from our canteens to represent a lake,
then pointed in an inquiring way west and north, made signs of ducks and
geese flying and squawking, but I did no seem to be able to get an idea
into his head of what we wanted. I got thoroughly provoked at him and
may have shown some signs of anger. During all this time a child or two
in the hut squalled terribly, fearing I suppose they would all be
murdered. We might have lost our scalps under some circumstances, but we
appeared to be fully the strangest party, and had no fear, for the
Indian had no weapon about him and we had both guns and knives. The poor
fellow was shivering with cold, and with signs of friendship we fired
off one of the guns which waked him up a little and he pointed to the
gun and said "Walker," probably meaning the same good Chief Walker who
had so fortunately stopped us in our journey down Green River. I
understood from the Indian that he was not friendly to Walker, but to
show that he was all right with us he went into the hut and brought out
a handful of corn for us to eat. By the aid of a warm spring near by
they had raised some corn here, and the dry stalks were standing around.

As we were about to leave I told him we would come back, next day and
bring him some clothes if we could find any to spare, and then we
shouldered our guns and went back toward the wagons, looking over our
shoulders occasionally to see if we were followed. We walked fast down
the hill and reached the camp about dark to find it a most unhappy one
indeed. Mrs. Bennett and Mrs. Arcane were in heart-rending distress. The
four children were crying for water but there was not a drop to give
them, and none could be reached before some time next day. The mothers
were nearly crazy, for they expected the children would choke with
thirst and die in their arms, and would rather perish themselves than
suffer the agony of seeing their little ones gasp and slowly die. They
reproached themselves as being the cause of all this trouble. For the
love of gold they had left homes where hunger had never come, and often
in sleep dreamed of the bounteous tables of their old homes only to be
woefully disappointed in the morning. There was great gladness when John
Rogers and I appeared in the camp and gave the mothers full canteens of
water for themselves and little ones, and there was tears of joy and
thankfulness upon their cheeks as they blessed us over and over again.

The oxen fared very hard. The ground was made up of broken stone, and
all that grew was a dry and stunted brush not more than six inches high,
of which the poor animals took an occasional dainty bite, and seemed
hardly able to drag along.

It was only seven or eight miles to the warm spring and all felt better
to know for a certainty that we would soon be safe again. We started
early, even the women walked, so as to favor the poor oxen all we could.
When within two miles of the water some of the oxen lay down and refused
to rise again, so we had to leave them and a wagon, while the rest
pushed on and reached the spring soon after noon. We took water and went
back to the oxen left behind, and gave them some to drink. They were
somewhat rested and got up, and we tried to drive them in without the
wagons, but they were not inclined to travel without the yoke, so we put
it on them and hitched to the wagon again. The yoke and the wagon seemed
to brace them up a good deal, and they went along thus much better than
when alone and scattered about, with nothing to lean upon.

The warm spring was quite large and ran a hundred yards or more before
the water sank down into the dry and thirsty desert. The dry cornstalks
of last years crop, some small willows, sagebrush, weeds and grass
suited our animals very well, and they ate better than for a long time,
and we thought it best to remain two or three days to give them a chance
to get rest. The Indian we left here the evening before had gone and
left nothing behind but a chunk of crystallized rock salt. He seemed to
be afraid of his friends.

The range we had been traveling nearly parallel with seemed to come to
an end here where this snow peak stood, and immediately north and south
of this peak there seemed to be a lower pass. The continuous range north
was too low to hold snow. In the morning I concluded to go to the summit
of that pass and with my glass have an extensive view. Two other boys
started with me, and as we moved along the snow line we saw tracks of
our runaway Indian in the snow, passing over a low ridge. As we went on
up hill our boys began to fall behind, and long before night I could see
nothing of them. The ground was quite soft, and I saw many tracks of
Indians which put me on my guard. I reached the summit and as the shade
of its mountain began to make it a little dark, I built a fire of sage
brush, ate my grub, and when it was fairly dark, renewed the fire and
passed on a mile, where in a small ravine with banks two feet high I lay
down sheltered from the wind and slept till morning. I did this to beat
the Indian in his own cunning.

Next morning I reached the summit about nine o'clock, and had the
grandest view I ever saw. I could see north and south almost forever.
The surrounding region seemed lower, but much of it black, mountainous
and barren. On the west the snow peak shut out the view in that
direction. To the south the mountains seemed to descend for more than
twenty miles, and near the base, perhaps ten miles away, were several
smokes, apparently from camp fires, and as I could see no animals or
camp wagons anywhere I presumed them to be Indians. A few miles to the
north and east of where I stood, and somewhat higher, was the roughest
piece of ground I ever saw. It stood in sharp peaks and was of many
colors, some of them so red that the mountain looked red hot, I imagined
it to be a true volcanic point, and had never been so near one before,
and the most wonderful picture of grand desolation one could ever see.

Toward the north I could see the desert the Jayhawkers and their
comrades had under taken to cross, and if their journey was as
troublesome as ours and very much longer, they might by this time be all
dead of thirst. I remained on this summit an hour or so bringing my
glass to bear on all points within my view, and scanning closely for
everything that might help us or prove an obstacle to our progress. The
more I looked the more I satisfied myself that we were yet a long way
from California and the serious question of our ever living to get there
presented itself to me as I tramped along down the grade to camp. I put
down at least another month of heavy weary travel before we could hope
to make the land of gold, and our stock of strength and provisions were
both pretty small for so great a tax upon them. I thought so little
about anything else that the Indians might have captured me easily, for
I jogged along without a thought of them. I thought of the bounteous
stock of bread and beans upon my father's table, to say nothing about
all the other good things, and here was I, the oldest son, away out in
the center of the Great American Desert, with an empty stomach and a dry
and parched throat, and clothes fast wearing out with constant wear. And
perhaps I had not yet seen the worst of it. I might be forced to see
men, and the women and children of our party, choke and die, powerless
to help them. It was a darker, gloomier day than I had ever known could
be, and alone I wept aloud, for I believed I could see the future, and
the results were bitter to contemplate. I hope no reader of this history
may ever be placed in a position to be thus tried for I am not ashamed
to say that I have a weak point to show under such circumstances. It is
not in my power to tell how much I suffered in my lonely trips, lasting
sometimes days and nights that I might give the best advice to those of
my party. I believed that I could escape at any time myself, but all
must be brought through or perish, and with this all I knew I must not
discourage the others. I could tell them the truth, but I must keep my
worst apprehensions to myself lest they loose heart and hope and faith

I reached the camp on the third day where I found the boys who went part
way with me and whom I had out-walked. I related to the whole camp what
I had seen, and when all was told it appeared that the route from the
mountains westerly was the only route that could be taken, they told me
of a discovery they had made of a pile of squashes probably raised upon
the place, and sufficient in number so that every person could have one.
I did not approve of this for we had no title to this produce, and might
be depriving the rightful owner of the means of life. I told them not
only was it wrong to rob them of their food, but they could easily
revenge themselves on us by shooting our cattle, or scalp us, by
gathering a company of their own people together. They had no experience
with red men and were slow to see the results I spoke of as possible.

During my absence an ox had been killed, for some were nearly out of
provisions, and flesh was the only means to prevent starvation. The meat
was distributed amongst the entire camp, with the understanding that
when it became necessary to kill another it should be divided in the
same way. Some one of the wagons would have to be left for lack of
animals to draw it. Our animals were so poor that one would not last
long as food. No fat could be found on the entire carcass, and the
marrow of the great bones was a thick liquid, streaked with blood
resembling corruption.

Our road led us around the base of the mountain; There were many large
rocks in our way, some as large as houses, but we wound around among
them in a very crooked way and managed to get along. The feet of the
oxen became so sore that we made moccasins for them from the hide of the
ox that was killed, and with this protection they got along very well.
Our trains now consisted of seven wagons. Bennett had two; Arcane two;
Earhart Bros. one. Culverwell, Fish and others one; and there was one
other, the owners of which I have forgotten. The second night we had a
fair camp with water and pretty fair grass and brush for the oxen. We
were not very far from the snow line and this had some effect on the
country. When Bennett retired that night he put on a camp kettle of the
fresh beef and so arranged the fire that it would cook slowly and be
done by daylight for breakfast. After an hour or so Mr. Bennett went out
to replenish the fire and see how the cooking was coming on, and when I
went to put more water in the kettle, he found that to his
disappointment, the most of the meat was gone. I was rolled up in my
blanket under his wagon and awoke when he came to the fire and saw him
stand and look around as if to fasten the crime on the right party if
possible, but soon he came to me, and in a whisper said: "Did you see
anyone around the fire after we went to bed?" I assured him I did not,
and then he told me some one had taken his meat. "Do you think," said he
"that any one is so near out of food as to be starving?" "I know the
meat is poor, and who ever took it must be nearly starving." After a
whispered conversation we went to bed, but we both rose at daylight and,
as we sat by the fire, kept watch of those who got up and came around.
We thought we knew the right man, but were not sure, and could not
imagine what might happen if stealing grub should begin and continue. It
is a sort of unwritten law that in parties such as ours, he who steals
provisions forfeits his life. We knew we must keep watch and if the
offense was repeated the guilty one might be compelled to suffer.
Bennett watched closely and for a few days I kept closely with the
wagons for fear there might be trouble. It was really the most critical
point in our experience. After three or four days all hope of detecting
the criminal had passed, and all danger was over out of any difficulty.

One night we had a fair camp, as we were close to the base of the snow
butte, and found a hole of clear or what seemed to be living water.
There were a few minnows in it not much more than an inch long. This was
among a big pile of rocks, and around these the oxen found some grass.

There now appeared to be a pass away to the south as a sort of outlet to
the great plain which lay to the north of us, but immediately west and
across the desert waste, extending to the foot of a low black range of
mountains, through which there seemed to be no pass, the distant snowy
peak lay still farther on, with Martin's pass over it still a long way
off though we had been steering toward it for a month. Now as we were
compelled to go west this impassable barrier was in our way and if no
pass could be found in it we would be compelled to go south and make no
progress in a westerly direction.

Our trail was now descending to the bottom of what seemed to be the
narrowest part of the plain, the same one the Jayhawkers had started
across, further north, ten days before. When we reached the lowest part
of this valley we came to a running stream, and, as dead grass could be
seen in the bed where the water ran very slowly, I concluded it only had
water in it after hard rains in the mountains, perhaps a hundred miles,
to the north. This water was not pure; it had a bitter taste, and no
doubt in dry weather was a rank poison. Those who partook of it were
affected about as if they had taken a big dose of salts.

A short distance above this we found the trail of the Jayhawkers going
west, and thus we knew they had got safely across the great plain and
then turned southward. I hurried along their trail for several miles and
looked the country over with field glass becoming fully satisfied we
should find no water till we reached the summit, of the next range, and
then fearing the party had not taken the precaution to bring along some
water I went back to them and found they had none. I told them they
would not see a drop for the next forty miles, and they unloaded the
lightest wagon and drove back with everything they had which would hold
water, to get a good supply.

I turned back again on the Jayhawker's road, and followed it so rapidly
that well toward night I was pretty near the summit, where a pass
through this rocky range had been found and on this mountain not a tree
a shrub or spear of grass could be found--desolation beyond conception.
I carried my gun along every day, but for the want of a chance to kill
any game a single load would remain in my gun for a month. Very seldom a
rabbit could be seen, but not a bird of any kind, not even a hawk
buzzard or crow made their appearance here.

When near the steep part of the mountain, I found a dead ox the
Jayhawkers had left, as no camp could be made here for lack of water and
grass, the meat could not be saved. I found the body of the animal badly
shrunken, but in condition, as far as putrefaction was concerned, as
perfect as when alive. A big gash had been cut in the ham clear to the
bone and the sun had dried the flesh in this. I was so awful hungry that
I took my sheath knife and cut a big steak which I devoured as I walked
along, without cooking or salt. Some may say they would starve before
eating such meat, but if they have ever experienced hunger till it
begins to draw down the life itself, they will find the impulse of self
preservation something not to be controlled by mere reason. It is an
instinct that takes possession of one in spite of himself.

I went down a narrow, dark canon high on both sides and perpendicular,
and quite so in many places. In one of the perpendicular portions it
seemed to be a varigated clay formation, and a little water seeped down
its face. Here the Indians had made a clay bowl and fastened it to the
wall so that it would collect and retain about a quart of water, and I
had a good drink of water, the first one since leaving the running
stream. Near here I staid all night, for fear of Indians who I firmly
believe would have taken my scalp had a good opportunity offered. I
slept without a fire, and my supply of meat just obtained drove hunger

In the morning I started down the canon which descended rapidly and had
a bed of sharp, volcanic, broken rock. I could sometimes see an Indian
track, and kept a sharp lookout at every turn, for fear of revenge on
account of the store of squashes which had been taken. I felt I was in
constant danger, but could do nothing else but go on and keep eyes open
trusting to circumstances to get out of any sudden emergency that might

As I recollect this was Christmas day and about dusk I came upon the
camp of one man with his wife and family, the Rev. J.W. Brier, Mrs.
Brier and two sons. I inquired for others of his party and he told me
they were somewhere ahead. When I arrived at his camp I found the
reverend gentleman very cooly delivering a lecture to his boys on
education. It seemed very strange to me to hear a solemn discourse on
the benefits of early education when, it seemed to me, starvation was
staring us all in the face, and the barren desolation all around gave
small promise of the need of any education higher than the natural
impulses of nature. None of us knew exactly where we were, nor when the
journey would be ended, nor when substantial relief would come.
Provisions were wasting away, and some had been reduced to the last
alternative of subsisting on the oxen alone. I slept by the fire that
night, without a blanket, as I had done on many nights before and after
they hitched up and drove on in the morning I searched the camp
carefully, finding some bacon rinds they had thrown away. As I chewed
these and could taste the rich grease they contained, I thought they
were the sweetest morsels I ever tasted.

Here on the north side of the canon were some rolling hills and some
small weak springs, the water of which when gathered together made a
small stream which ran a few yards down the canon before it lost itself
in the rocks and sand. On the side there stood what seemed to be one
half of a butte, with the perpendicular face toward the canon. Away on
the summit of the butte I saw an Indian, so far away he looked no taller
than my finger, and when he went out of sight I knew pretty well he was
the very fellow who grew the squashes. I thought it might be he, at any

I now turned back to meet the teams and found them seven or eight miles
up the canon, and although it was a down grade the oxen were barely able
to walk slowly with their loads which were light, as wagons were almost
empty except the women and children. When night came on it seemed to be
cloudy and we could hear the cries of the wild geese passing east. We
regarded this as a very good sign and no doubt Owen's Lake, which we
expected to pass on this route, was not very far off. Around in those
small hills and damp places was some coarse grass and other growths, but
those who had gone before devoured the best, so our oxen had a hard time
to get anything to eat.

Next morning I shouldered my gun and followed down the canon keeping the
wagon road, and when half a mile down, at the sink of the sickly stream,
I killed a wild goose. This had undoubtedly been attracted here the
night before by the light of our camp fire. When I got near the lower
end of the canon, there was a cliff on the north or right hand side
which was perpendicular or perhaps a little overhanging, and at the base
a cave which had the appearance of being continuously occupied by
Indians. As I went on down I saw a very strange looking track upon the
ground. There were hand and foot prints as if a human being had crawled
upon all fours. As this track reached the valley where the sand had been
clean swept by the wind, the tracks became more plain, and the sand had
been blown into small hills not over three or four feet high. I followed
the track till it led to the top of one of these small hills where a
small well-like hole had been dug and in this excavation was a kind of
Indian mummy curled up like a dog. He was not dead for I could see him
move as he breathed, but his skin looked very much like the surface of a
well dried venison ham. I should think by his looks he must be 200 or
300 years old, indeed he might be Adam's brother and not look any older
than he did. He was evidently crippled. A climate which would preserve
for many days or weeks the carcass of an ox so that an eatable round
stake could be cut from it, might perhaps preserve a live man for a
longer period than would be believed.

I took a good long look at the wild creature and during all the time he
never moved a muscle, though he must have known some one was in the well
looking down at him. He was probably practicing on one of the directions
for a successful political career looking wise and saying nothing. At
any rate he was not going to let his talk get him into any trouble. He
probably had a friend around somewhere who supplied his wants. I now
left him and went farther out into the lowest part of the valley. I
could look to the north for fifty miles and it seemed to rise gradually
in that direction. To the south the view was equally extended, and down
that way a lake could be seen. The valley was here quite narrow, and the
lofty snow-capped peak we had tried so hard to reach for the past two
months now stood before me. Its east side was almost perpendicular and
seemed to reach the sky, and the snow was drifting over it, while here
the day sun was shining uncomfortably hot. I believe this mountain was
really miles from its base to its summit, and that nothing could climb
it on the eastern side except a bird and the only bird I had seen for
two months was the goose I shot. I looked every day for some sort of
game but had not seen any.

As I reached the lower part of the valley I walked over what seemed to
be boulders of various sizes, and as I stepped from one to another the
tops were covered with dirt and they grew larger as I went along. I
could see behind them and they looked clear like ice, but on closer
inspection proved to be immense blocks of rock salt while the water
which stood at their bases was the strongest brine. After this discovery
I took my way back to the road made by the Jayhawkers and found it quite
level, but sandy. Following this I came to a campfire soon after dark at
which E. Doty and mess were camped. As I was better acquainted I camped
with them. They said the water there was brackish and I soon found out
the same thing for myself. It was a poor camp; no grass, poor water and
scattering, bitter sage brush for food for the cattle. It would not do
to wait long here, and so they hurried on.

I inquired of them about Martin's Pass, as they were now quite near it,
and they said it was no pass at all, only the mountain was a little
lower than the one holding the snow. No wagon could get over it, and the
party had made up their minds to go on foot, and were actually burning
their wagons as fuel with which to dry the meat of some of the oxen
which they had killed. They selected those which were weakest and least
likely to stand the journey, and by drying it the food was much
concentrated. They were to divide the provisions equally and it was
agreed thereafter every one must lookout for himself and not expect any
help from anyone. If he used up his own provisions, he had no right to
expect anyone else to divide with him. Rice, tea and coffee were
measured out by the spoonful and the small amount of flour and bacon
which remained was divided out as evenly as possible. Everything was to
be left behind but blankets and provisions for the men were too weak to
carry heavy packs and the oxen could not be relied on as beasts of
burden and it was thought best not to load them so as to needlessly
break them down.

When these fellows started out they were full of spirit, and the frolic
and fun along the Platte river was something worth laughing at but now
they were very melancholy and talked in the lowest kind of low spirits.
One fellow said he knew this was the Creator's dumping place where he
had left the worthless dregs after making a world, and the devil had
scraped these together a little. Another said this must be the very
place where Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt, and the pillar
been broken up and spread around the country. He said if a man was to
die he would never decay on account of the salt. Thus the talk went on,
and it seemed as if there were not bad words enough in the language to
properly express their contempt and bad opinion of such a country as
this. They treated me to some of their meat, a little better than mine,
and before daylight in the morning I was headed back on the trail to
report the bad news I had learned of the Jayhawkers.

About noon I met two of our camp companions with packs on their backs
following the wagon trail, and we stopped and had a short talk. They
were oldish men perhaps 50 years old, one a Mr. Fish of Indiana and
another named Gould. They said they could perhaps do as well on foot as
to follow the slow ox teams, but when I told them what those ahead of
them were doing, and how they must go, they did not seem to be entirely
satisfied, as what they had on their backs would need to be replenished,
and no such chance could be expected. They had an idea that the end of
the journey was not as far off as I predicted. Mr. Fish had a long
nicely made, whiplash wound around his waist, and when I asked him why
he carried such a useless thing, which he could not eat, he said perhaps
he could trade it off for something to eat. After we had set on a sand
hill and talked for awhile, we rose and shook each other by the hand,
and bade each other good bye with quivering lips. There was with me a
sort of expression I could not repel that I should never see the middle
aged men again.

As my road was now out and away from the mountains, and level, I had no
fear of being surprised by enemies, so walked on with eyes downcast,
thinking over the situation, and wondering what would be the final
outcome. If I were alone, with no one to expect me to help them, I would
be out before any other man, but with women and children in the party,
to go and leave them would be to pile everlasting infamy on my head. The
thought almost made me crazy but I thought it would be better to stay
and die with them, bravely struggling to escape than to forsake them in
their weakness.

It was almost night before I reached our camp, and sitting around our
little fire I told, in the most easy way I could the unfavorable news of
the party in advance. They seemed to look to me as a guide and adviser,
I presume because I took much pains to inform myself on every point and
my judgment was accepted with very little opposing opinion, they moved
as I thought best. During my absence from camp for the two days the
Indians had shot arrows into three of our oxen, and one still had an
arrow in his side forward of the hip which was a dangerous place. To be
sure and save him for ourselves we killed him. Some were a little afraid
to eat the meat thinking perhaps the arrow might be poisoned, but I
agreed that they wanted meat themselves and would not do that. I told
them if they got a shot themselves it would be very likely to be a
poisoned arrow and they must take the most instant measures to cut it
out before it went into the blood. So we ventured to dry the meat and
take it with us.

Now I said to the whole camp "You can see how you have displeased the
red men, taking their little squashes, and when we get into a place that
suits them for that purpose, they may meet us with a superior force and
massacre us, not only for revenge but to get our oxen and clothing." I
told them we must ever be on guard against a surprise, as the chances
were greatly against us.

We pulled the arrows out of the other oxen, and they seemed to sustain
no great injury from the wounds. This little faint stream where we
camped has since been named as Furnace Creek and is still known as such.
It was named in 1862 by some prospectors who built what was called an
air furnace on a small scale to reduce some ore found near by, which
they supposed to contain silver, but I believe it turned out to be lead
and too far from transportations to be available.


Bennett and Arcane now concluded not to wait for me to go ahead and
explore out a way for them to follow, as I had done for a long time, but
to go ahead as it was evidently the best way to turn south and make our
own road, and find the water and passes all for ourselves. So they
hitched up and rolled down the canon, and out into the valley and then
turned due south. We had not gone long on this course before we saw that
we must cross the valley and get over to the west side. To do this we
must cross through some water, and for fear the ground might be miry, I
went to a sand hill near by and got a mesquite stick about three feet
long with which to sound out our way. I rolled up my pants pulled off my
moccasins and waded in, having the teams stand still till I could find
out whether it was safe for them to follow or not by ascertaining the
depth of the water and the character of the bottom.

The water was very clear and the bottom seemed uneven, there being some
deep holes. Striking my stick on the bottom it seemed solid as a rock,
and breaking off a small projecting point I found it to be solid rock
salt. As the teams rolled along they scarcely roiled the water. It
looked to me as if the whole valley which might be a hundred miles long
might have been a solid bed of rock salt. Before we reached this water
there were many solid blocks of salt lying around covered with a little
dirt on the top.

The second night we found a good spring of fresh water coming out from
the bottom of the snow peak almost over our heads. The small flow from
it spread out over the sand and sank in a very short distance and there
was some quite good grass growing around.

This was a temporary relief, but brought us face to face with stranger
difficulties and a more hopeless outlook.

There was no possible way to cross this high steep range of mountains
anywhere to the north and the Jayhawkers had abandoned their wagons and
burned them, and we could no longer follow on the trail they made. It
seemed that there was no other alternative but for us to keep along the
edge of the mountain to the south and search for another pass. Some who
had read Fremont's travels said that the range immediately west of us
must be the one he described, on the west side of which was a beautiful
country, of rich soil and having plenty of cattle, and horses, and
containing some settlers, but on the east all was barren, dry, rocky,
sandy desert as far as could be seen. We knew this eastern side answered
well the description and believed that this was really the range
described, or at least it was close by.

We had to look over the matter very carefully and consider all the
conditions and circumstances of the case. We could see the mountains
were lower to the south, but they held no snow and seemed only barren
rocks piled up in lofty peaks, and as we looked it seemed the most
God-forsaken country in the world.

We had been in the region long enough to know the higher mountains
contained most water, and that the valleys had bad water or none at all,
so that while the lower altitudes to the south gave some promise of
easier crossing it gave us no promise of water or grass, without which
we must certainly perish. In a certain sense we were lost. The clear
night and days furnished us with the mean of telling the points of
compass as the sun rose and set, but not a sign of life in nature's wide
domain had been seen for a month or more. A vest pocketful of powder and
shot would last a good hunter till he starved to death for there was not
a living thing to shoot great or small.

We talked over our present position pretty freely, and every one was
asked to speak his unbiased mind, for we knew not who might be right or
who might be wrong, and some one might make a suggestion of the utmost
value. We all felt pretty much downhearted. Our civilized provisions
were getting so scarce that all must be saved for the women and
children, and the men must get along some way on ox meat alone. It was
decided not a scrap of anything that would sustain life must go to

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