Monday, November 1, 2010

GQC: Meadow Valley Wash - above Leith to near Elgin

On Sunday, November 11, 1849, the Flake and Smith companies “set off” about 9:00 a.m. south “down the creek about a mile,
then struck off” to the west “over low mountains,”[1] contrary to the advice of Charles Rich who “advised” Smith and Flake to continue “down the creek.”[2] The “days travel was an uninterrupted succession of hills,”[3] over “some rough ground and quite a high mountain” in a northerly direction.[4] “In the afternoon, two of” Henry Bigler’s animals “gave out,” one of them his “best,” “a horse belonging to Thomas Callister.” Bigler noted in his journal:

Here I could of cried! I pitied the poor dumb brutes, leaving them without a drop of water to perish or for the Indians to kill and eat, after serving me so faithfully to the very last until they could go no longer. I left them to overtake the company.[5]
“To avoid climbing the hills which were steep and high,” they “frequently had to make considerable of a circuit.” They “met with no water through the day, and when night approached”[6] they “saw a creek” to their right “down in a canyon a long distance” from where they were. “After searching awhile,” they “found a place” where they “could descend.” They ultimately determined that it was “Providence Creek” or Meadow Valley Wash, the same “creek” they had camped on the night before.[7] Bigler gave the only estimate for the days travel, that being 20 miles. However, there was a great disparity among their estimates for how much further they were up the creek from their camp the night before. Bigler estimated four or five miles, Captain Flake estimated ten or more,[8] Farrer estimated three or four and Rich estimated eight miles. Whatever the distance, the men felt “rather out of sorts to think” they had traveled “so many miles and made so little.”[9] Brother Rich made up his mind “to leave Captain Smith and take those that would go” with him.[10] He indicated to the men “that he was not going to be led round in this manner any longer” or they would “all perish in the mountains.” If “he could not have his way,” and guide the direction of the companies, he would “go back to the wagons as quick as he could,”[11] and “those that would follow” him “might, and those that chose,” otherwise “might go some other way.”[12] If “his counsel had been taken,” they “would not have been there.” It “had been his mind to travel in the table land and keep out” of “the mountains.”[13] The men in the Flake company were “glad to hear him talk so, for it was plain that Captain Flake had not traveled according to the mind of” Brother Rich and “that Captain Smith’s opinion” had taken precedence.[14] Since leaving the Spanish Trail, they “had been wandering about” in the “canyons, mountains, and deserts for eleven days.” Their “progress in the direction of California had been very slow,” but their appetites had not abated. Their “provisions were disappearing,” their clothes were “wearing out,” and their “animals would soon be too thin to afford much sustenance,” if they “had to kill them.” George Cannon noted that “it seemed as though the Lord had permitted” them “to wander about” that day “without making any progress, to arouse everyone to a sense of the peril” they “were in,” so that Brother Rich “whose right it was to lead” them “might be justified in the eyes of all in dictating” their “future movements.”[15] Both Captains Flake and Smith “agreed to yield the point,” and allow Brother Rich to guide their course thereafter.[16] “Smith’s company soon learned that there was to be a change” in the leadership. George Cannon speculated that members of the Smith company “sneered at the idea of the ‘Mormon’ apostle leading them. They would now see how successful” Rich would be “in finding feed and water and a good route.”[17] Bigler noted that this reminded him of “a dream” Brother Rich had while “on the Spanish Trail. He dreamed he found a large old woman in the way. He spoke to her and asked her if she would…get out of the way and let him pass.” The old woman “muttered something,” moved “a little to one side,” and let Rich pass “around her.” Henry Bigler stood guard for the night.[18] They followed Meadow Valley Wash down about a mile south, then headed west over a series of low mountains. Bigler noted they traveled 20 miles and wound up on the same creek, only a few miles upstream. Cannon reported only 3 miles progress upstream. They camped only a few miles north on the same creek they’d left that morning. Below, Meadow Valley Wash near Kane Springs Wash.
They probably camped near Elgin. It was this day’s travel that convinced Charles Rich to leave Captain Smith’s group and go south for the Old Spanish Trail.[19]

[1]  Bigler

[2]  Rich; Had they followed Rich’s counsel, they would have arrived at the Muddy River several days earlier.
[3]  Farrer
[4]  Rich
[5]  Bigler
[6]  Cannon
[7]  Farrer
[8]  Bigler
[9]  Bigler; Rich noted that “All seemed dissatisfied”; Cannon noted that “most of the company felt low spirited.”
[10]  Rich
[11]  Farrer
[12]  Rich
[13]  Farrer
[14]  Bigler
[15]  Cannon
[16]  Rich
[17]  Cannon
[18]  Bigler
[19]  Landon, Michael N. (editor), The Journals of George Q. Cannon, Volume 1, To California in ‘49, (Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah: 1999), p. 106.

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