Make a Road to Carson Valley-Meet Emigrants-Their Joy At News of Gold-Enter the Valley By the Deep Creek Route-“Mormon” Enterprise in San Francisco-Adventurous Trip From San Francisco to Council Bluffs
At Rock Springs the company halted two or three days, and with the entire force were only able to work the road for a distance of three miles to another opening, after which the camp marched only five miles, which took them over the highest mountains, though not over the main dividing ridge.
This was about the first of August, and yet, strange to tell, those prairie farmers of the Middle and Western States, with their wagons, had to be hauled over various banks of “the beautiful snow,” in some places from ten to fifteen feet deep. On this short day’s march, two wagons were upset and two broken, the spokes in the hind wheel of one being all broken. New spokes were, however, soon made from a dry pine tree near at hand, which did such good service that the wheel required no further repairs until the company reached Salt Lake Valley.
Other work was required upon the road, and then a journey of about five miles brought the company near to the summit of the dividing ridge of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
The next morning, the wagons were lightened by the heaviest freight being packed upon mules over the ridge and down the steep descent of the mountain. They camped near the eastern base, giving the place the name of Hope Valley; the spirits of the explorers who first discovered it reviving when they arrived in sight of it.
The next day’s travel, took them to the lower end of the valley. Before they could advance farther, four days more were spent in working the road. They then traveled five miles down the canyon to the head of Carson Valley. Here, like the Puritan fathers upon landing at Plymouth Rock, they tendered thanks to God who had delivered them, not from the dangers of the sea, but the far more dreaded merciless savages, the ferocious wild beasts that abounded in that region, and from being dashed to pieces while traveling over and around the steep precipices of the everlasting snow-capped mountains. They had no idea of the magnitude of the work they had performed, nor did it once enter their minds that in less than twelve months many thousands of their fellow countrymen would gladly avail themselves of this road to reach a land they had so cheerfully and recently left.
They traveled down the Carson river a few days, but not feeling satisfied to go farther in that direction, they halted, and Israel Evans, with a few others, went on another exploring tour. They sighted a grove of cottonwood trees several miles to the northward. They returned to camp, and the next day, after toiling all day, as they had done several previous days, through sage brush and sand, the grove was reached. On arriving, they were almost overjoyed to find themselves in the emigrant road, near the lower crossing of the Truckee river. They now knew where they were and about the distance they had to travel, and governed themselves accordingly. They soon met a few trains of California emigrants, who, on learning that they were fresh from a new Eldorado, were anxious to learn what the prospects were.
One of the men began to explain, and, taking his purse from his pocket, poured into his hand perhaps an ounce of gold dust and began stirring it with his finger. One aged man of probably over three score years and ten, who had listened with intense interest while his expressive eyes fairly glistened, could remain silent no longer; he sprang to his feet, threw his old wool hat upon the ground, and jumped upon it with both feet, then kicked it high in the air, and exclaimed, “Glory, hallelujah, thank God, I shall die a rich man yet!” Many very interesting and somewhat similar scenes occurred as the tidings were communicated to other trains, this company having brought over the snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains, the first news of the discovery of gold in California.
When this enterprising little company reached Goose Creek mountains, instead of following the old emigrant road via Fort Hall, on Snake river, some two hundred miles more or less out of their way, they struck across the country, by what is now known as the Deep Creek route, crossing the Malad and Bear rivers a few miles above their junction. They arrived in Salt Lake Valley about the 1st of October, 1848, feeling happy and thankful that they had exchanged the land of gold for wives, children and friends-the home of the Latter-day Saints.
In all of the travels of the Battalion, making in the round trip about five thousand miles, often in close proximity to far superior forces of the enemy, as well as passing through several strong nations of wild and ferocious Indians, there was “no fighting except with wild beasts.” Taking into consideration their many hardships and privations, there were but few deaths, and it may be safely stated that no portion of the veterans of the Mexican war of the same number, did more effective service, or accomplished as much in the way of filling the coffers of the nation’s wealth as did the MORMON BATTALION.
To the members of the Mormon Battalion, who remained in California after their discharge, to seek work, is also due considerable credit for improvements made and enterprises established in San Francisco and the surrounding region. Zacheus Cheeney and James Baily, of the Battalion, were the first persons to make brick in San Francisco. They commenced the Kiln in April, after which Brother Cheeney went to the mines, and Brother Baily burned the bricks-50,000, in June, 1848. Some tiles had previously been burned, and possibly some bricks may have been imported as ballast, but none had ever been made there.
Among those of the Battalion who remained in California until 1848, were William Hawk, his son Nathan Hawk, Silas Harris, Sanford Jacobs,-Slater and another whose name is forgotten, who, together with four men who were not Latter-day Saints, were employed by Samuel Brannan to carry private mail from California eastward to emigrants journeying to California and Oregon, also to Salt Lake and Council Bluffs. They left San Francisco on the 1st of April, 1848, and passed Sutter’s Fort on the 15th. On reaching the Sierra Nevada mountains, they had some trouble with the Digger Indians, who ran off seventy-five of their horses, but all were recovered. They also encountered deep snow, which, in some places, was very soft. On reaching the Truckee river, they found it very high and rapid, with rocky, dangerous bottom, but they crossed in safety. They were twenty-three days in traveling about forty miles. On reaching Salt Lake, Silas Harris remained there, and the others continued on. They had difficulty from high water more or less all the way to the Platte river. When near the east end of Grand Island they had eighteen head of horses stolen by the Pawnee Indians, and, when in pursuit to recover them, had a skirmish in which several shots were exchanged and one Indian was supposed to have been killed. William Hawk, one of the pursuing party, was miraculously saved by the guns of the Indians failing to go off, when several aimed at him while only a few feet distant and attempted to fire. One Indian, also, tried to shoot him with an arrow, which Brother Hawk parried off, upon which the Indian struck him a heavy blow across the forehead with his bow, the mark of which he bears at the present time. He was stunned for the moment, and bled profusely, but otherwise escaped uninjured. No other members of the company were harmed, and the animals were all recovered.