Thursday, October 28, 2010

GQC: Beaver Dam Wash - above the Narrows to Motoqua

November 4, 1849 (Sunday):

Flake and Smith Companies (Beaver Dam Wash: above the Narrows to Holt’s Cabin):

“It rained through the night.”[1] George Q. Cannon “arose in morning wet through [and] felt very uncomfortable.”[2]  It was dark, cloudy[3] and “very cold.” When Henry Bigler “arose,” he was told that his mare had miscarried her colt. He “attributed” the miscarriage “to the crossing” of “the mountains and to the storm.” After the “rain had subsided,”[4] about 10:00 a.m,[5] they “packed up and started.”[6] They “continued down the canyon,” entering the Narrows of Beaver Dam Wash, and it began “raining and snowing like all blazes.”[7] A few hours later, after “crossing and recrossing the creek a great number of times,”[8] they rounded a point[9] and “came to a place beyond which it seemed impossible to pass.” They “were hemmed in by high mountains impracticable to cross, and the channel by that way seemed to be barred.”[10] Captain Flake, Captain Smith and Brother Rich “with some others”[11] “climbed to the tops of the mountains surrounding” them,[12] which were “several thousand feet high, to see if they could see any out let. To think of climbing over” the mountains with their “horses was out of the question, for the mountains were almost perpendicular.” However, all they could see were “mountains raised one after another as far as they could see.”[13] They “were in a bad fix. Further progress seemed impossible.” If they were to turn back to the “regular trail,” they “would not have half enough provisions” and “there was no way of obtaining more short of Salt Lake City or California.” If they “were to return up this canyon and strike off to the right or left,” they had no “assurance” that they “could get through” the mountains “any easier than by the route” they were traveling. “These were anxious moments, but none” of them “could think of returning.” They “must proceed at all hazards. Those who had climbed the mountains” reported “that the canyon grew wider a little below where” they were, and if they “could surmount the obstacles right before” them, they “could still proceed. There was a gleam of hope in this. Captain Flake and one or two others concluded they would try and descend the canyon on foot.”[14] “In about three hours they returned saying it was extremely bad for animals.”[15] It was “exceedingly rocky” and “the creek took a leap over a precipice ten or twelve feet in height, and at this waterfall the mountains which rose on each side, were steep and slippery; but on one side, they thought, a passage might be made.”[16] They “were glad to hear of this for” they had “been standing for about four hours in a drenching rain.”[17] “The animals were chilled, the packs were well soaked, and the men were wet to the skin.” They commenced their “descent of the canyon. By rolling rocks out of the way” they “succeeded in getting along tolerably well until” they “reached the precipice.”[18] Henry Bigler commented that it was “surprising to see where horses can go.” Some of the horses “fell and rolled over with their packs on.” Some were “helped up the precipice by putting ropes around their necks and 8 or 10 men” were placed “at the end to pull and so help them up.”[19] George Cannon’s ‘Croppy’ “had been gradually failing, and was not very strong. By pulling and pushing him he succeeded in nearly reaching the top of the steepest part of the ascent, when his hind feet slipped and he fell.”[20] Croppy “rolled over and over down the side of the mountain with his pack on”[21] and nearly carried those that were pulling him “along with him.” They “tried to get him on his feet again, but without avail. He was too weak, and the place was too steep.” They “had to roll him over on to a more favorable place, and then he got up.” With the help of more men, “the next attempt was successful” and they “all got over into the canyon.” Croppy “had his knee badly cut in his fall, and was much shaken. He acted as though his fall had crazed him. A sensible horse would, when turned loose, have followed the others. Croppy would have done so before he had this fall; but now, when” they drove him ahead of them into the canyon, “he seemed determined to get into the creek.” Despite their efforts to prevent him, Croppy “rushed down the steep bank into the water. The bottom on the side of the creek…was probably two or three hundred yards wide; and the Indian trail which the company followed ran close to the base of the mountain. Between that and the creek there was a dense growth of willows, wild rose bushes, and other brush.” To “drive Croppy ahead it was necessary to pass through this undergrowth.” As evening arrived, they “found this very disagreeable. Brother Joseph Cain remained with” George Cannon to “assist” him in getting Croppy into camp. They “were afoot” and “scrambling along through the brush” when they “suddenly came on to an Indian wick-e-up. The first notice” they had of it was when they found themselves “at its entrance.” They “had heard so many tales of the treachery and cruelty of these Indians” that they had a “dread of exposing” themselves or their “animals to their attacks or depredations.” Cannon thought he “could distinguish in the gloom an Indian inside,” but may “have been mistaken. At any rate,” they “did not stop.” The “company was a long way ahead of” them and their “riding horses had kept with the company.” Cannon’s “rifle was fastened to” his “riding saddle,” so he was “unarmed,” except for a “butcher knife,”[22] which he carried “Spanish fashion” in his “legging.” Brother Cain “had his rifle; but, unfortunately, in trying to load it a day or two before he had used too thick a patching, and the bullet had stuck halfway down the barrel. There it was, immovable.” He did not dare “fire off the rifle for fear of it bursting.” They “were glad to get out of the brush and to get Croppy out of the creek on to the trail again, and before long” were “gladdened” to see “the light of the campfires in the distance.”[23] Camp was about 1 ½ miles below the precipice.[24] Below the Narrows, Beaver Dam Wash opens up north of the area that contains Holt’s Cabin on modern topographical maps. It appears they camped about five miles below their prior camp in the vicinity of Holt’s Cabin.[25] “There was considerable interest felt in camp about Croppy. The fear was very general that he could not hold out much longer,” and “the loss of a horse or a mule by any one of the company was a general loss.” They “were dependent upon one another” and were “compelled to look upon” themselves “to some extent as one family.” It almost seemed like Croppy “was determined to commit suicide by drowning” for “the creek seemed to have great attraction for him. If the weather had been warm,” it might have been understandable, “but it was November and the nights were cold.”[26] There was “little feed” near camp.[27] The canyon was rough traveling. Several of them climbed out to see whether a trail could be blazed outside the canyon. All returned with unfavorable reports. They continued down canyon on the recommendation of Captain Flake, but it was extremely rough.[28]

November 5, 1849 (Monday):

Flake and Smith Companies (Beaver Dam Wash: Holt’s Cabin to Motoqua):

“Sometime in the night,” George Q. Cannon was awakened by Brother Joseph Cain, who wanted him “to get up. Croppy was in the creek, and help was needed to draw him out. He had been in the creek before, and it had taken three of the guard to bring him to the bank. With some trouble” they “managed to get him out and on to his feet, but he was chilled through.” George Cannon was “very doubtful” about Croppy “being able to live.” Cannon “led him away from the creek and left him under the shelter of some brush in a place where he could get feed and be warm” and “returned to sleep.” Croppy “wandered off again to the creek” where Cannon “found him the next morning stretched out stark and cold,” drowned. Cannon noted that his own “position” could have been “very disagreeable,” left “with but one animal at a distance of nearly five hundred miles” from where he could “obtain supplies,” but “the only feeling of unpleasantness” he had was from “being dependent” on the “brethren.” The brethren “divided” Cannon’s “pack” and “carried a portion on each of their horses.” This allowed Cannon to continue to ride his mare.[29] Also that morning, some of the men were sent to the “top of the mountain” and returned to “report” that they could “see a valley about eight miles ahead. This was good news” for there was little “feed in this canyon” as well as very bad traveling. At 10:00 a.m. they were “on the march” and “crossed the creek a great many times.” Bigler noted losing one of Brother Fife’s spurs.[30] They expected to “see a valley” at “every headland” they “rounded, but were disappointed until the afternoon about” 3:00 a.m. when they “came into a small valley” with “about 20 acres of cultivated land.” The soil was sandy and there were “old cornstalks standing around.” After three miles, they “came to another small valley with a standing cornfield” with the “ears of corn taken off.” There were also “beans, morning glories, squash vines,”[31] pumpkins, “prince’s feathers,”[32] wheat straw and sunflowers, all “in a very good state of cultivation.”[33] Large ditches[34] were evidence that the “crop had been raised by irrigation” and “the frost had only slightly killed” the “vegetation.”[35] It was “surprising” to them “to see the foliage so luxurious and green as it was.” It almost appeared to be “July rather than November.”[36] They camped in the “Indian cornfield” and allowed their animals to feed on the corn stalks. The road was better this day, but they still had not found the valley they expected. More men were sent to “the top the mountain” and returned to report that there was “a valley close by.”[37] Charles Rich estimated that they traveled eleven miles during the day.[38] Michael Landon, based on mileage and descriptions, believes they camped in the vicinity of Motoqua, Utah.[39]

In October 2010, I drove to Motoqua, Utah with my brother, Chris, and cousins Russell Cannon, Bill Barnes and Ted Barnes. As we drove into the canyon, large green fields jumped out at us from amidst the desert landscape.
No water was running in Beaver Dam Wash,
but it is obvious they are tapping the underground water for use in the fields.
We were stopped from driving into Motoqua by a locked gate, but had a nice lunch in the shade of some large trees. We drove a short way up Beaver Dam Wash from Motoqua,
but had to cut it short due to time.
The day before, we talked to Ramon Mathews who owns the property below Beaver Dam State Park. He indicated that there used to be a large precipice in the Narrows, but that a very large flood a number of years ago had deposited large boulders and eliminated the steep drop-off.

[1]  Rich

[2]  Cannon
[3]  Rich
[4]  Farrer
[5]  Bigler
[6]  Farrer
[7]  Bigler
[8]  Cannon
[9]  Farrer
[10]  Cannon
[11]  Bigler
[12]  Cannon
[13]  Bigler
[14]  Cannon
[15]  Bigler
[16]  Cannon
[17]  Farrer
[18]  Cannon
[19]  Bigler
[20]  Cannon
[21]  Bigler
[22]  George Brewerton carried a “large bowie-knife” with him on the Old Spanish Trail in 1848. (Brewerton, p. 40)
[23]  Cannon
[24]  Farrer
[25]  Bigler and Rich
[26]  Cannon
[27]  Rich
[28]  Landon, p. 103
[29]  Cannon
[30]  Bigler
[31]  Farrer
[32]  Rich
[33]  Bigler
[34]  Cannon
[35]  Rich
[36]  Cannon
[37]  Bigler
[38]  Bigler estimated 15 miles.
[39]  Landon, p. 104

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