Saturday, May 30, 2009

Stump Spring to Resting Springs: Retracing an 1849 Journey

This is a continuation of my retracing George Q. Cannon's 1849 journey. On Monday, November 26, 1849, the Rich and Hunt companies left Mountain Springs and descended 1,300 feet into the Pahrump Valley. Toward evening they reached Stump Spring which, Addison Pratt noted, was in a “dry bed of a creek with one or two large willow trees on it and some water standing in holes.” They startled some jackrabbits near the spring and Addison Pratt shot one which he kept for dinner later that evening. Henry Bigler noted that they “thought of camping [there] but what little feed thare had been was eat off.” During the days journey the Rich company on horseback had gone ahead of the Hunt company wagons, but the Hunt company caught up with them at Stump Spring.

Four years later, on August 13, 1853, Gwinn Harris Heap, referred to Stump Spring as Agua Escarbada, Spanish for water obtained by digging. When I visited Stump Spring, the ground was damp and I saw evidence of holes being dug by others to look for water.
When I returned to the area in November 2010,  I found a large sign-post with information about Stump Spring, but no directions on how to find it. I did not have my map or directions to see if the dirt road that leads to it is still there and open.
Both companies continued on another three miles. At a dry creek bed running through a ravine, the Rich company left the Old Spanish Trail to follow the creek bed. After about a mile George Q. Cannon noted that they found some "excellent bunch grass of very fine quality" and decided to camp. Addison Pratt cooked and ate his rabbit which he called a "godsend." The Hunt company of wagons stayed on the Old Spanish Trail.

The next morning, Tuesday, November 27, 1849, Peter Fife and Henry Gibson of the Rich company started out early to find water and found some one and a half miles further west down the creek bed. They notified the rest of the company which joined them there for breakfast. After breakfast, the Rich company retraced their route east, back up the creek bed, to the Old Spanish Trail. There, Pratt noted, they “overtook the [Hunt] wagons just as they were yoking up.” The Rich company, still including Addison Pratt, who normally was with the Hunt company, went ahead of the wagons across the Pahrump Valley. They “saw a half dozen head of horses and cattle that had been left by those that were ahead of [them], some were dead and others were nearly so, one horse [they] drove along.” Henry Bigler noted, I “saw one live ox so poor he had give out. I felt sorrow for him when I seen him standing alone with no other cattle about and was perhaps at least 5 m. from water. Yokes and kags was lieing along by the way.” Below, a view looking south from Stump Spring, across the Pahrump Valley.
A view of Mount Charleston from the Pahrump Valley, which is northwest of Stump Spring.
They crossed over a low divide which separates the Pahrump and California Valleys, and went down into the California Valley. Below, a picture of the low divide, looking from the California Valley north toward the Pahrump Valley.
In the California Valley, it appears they may have gone between a couple of small hills (based on my observations of the direction of the trail from Emigrant Pass). Below, the hills, from the north looking south.
From Emigrant Pass area, looking back toward the same hills, from the south, looking north.
From the nearly level California Valley, the trail went steeply up the Nopah Range to Emigrant Pass. There was an earlier horse trail, still visible, and a later trail for wagons. I walked the visible horse trail, the one likely used by the George Q. Cannon, from Emigrant Pass down into the California Valley. Below, the trail is visible as a dark rut running vertically up a portion of the left side of the picture, skirting some rough rocks to the right. The trail then proceeds up the hill in the center.
From the top of the hill, looking back (north) into the California Valley. The trail is visible in the foreground (right/center) of the picture. The trail went just to the left of the ridge-line, then angled toward the left down into the California Valley.
The Rich company reached the base of the Nopah Range about noon. Addison Pratt noted that “The road over it was stony and steep [and] as we were some way ahead of the wagons, we went to cleaning stones out of the road, and by the time they came up we had it so well cleaned that they went over [the pass] without doubling teams.” From the small ridge pictured above, the trail traversed across the side of the mountain to Emigrant Pass. Below, the trail is visible in the right foreground and also in the center of the picture. A white Old Spanish Trail signpost is barely visible toward the upper left.
Looking back, the trail is visible is it comes down from the ridge and in the left foreground.
From the white signpost at Emigrant Pass, the trail goes down toward Resting Springs, goring down through the valley to the right.
Below, further south at Emigrant Pass, the white signpost is visible and the old horsetrail can be seen angling diagonally toward the left of the picture.
From this angle, the horsetrail is more visible, angling downhill toward the bottom of the picture.
A different perspective of the valley they followed after Emigrant Pass.
Below, from further south at Emigrant Pass, the Resting Springs Range (horizontal mountains in the center of the picture) can be seen in the Amargosa River Valley. Resting Springs is located at the far left of the range and is not visible.
The picture below is of the wagon trail going up Emigrant's Pass, looking north across the California Valley. This trail was built later than the horse trail and is further south in Emigrant's Pass. The trail is still faintly visible. The question is whether the Rich company built this trail up the pass, or made the existing horse trail more wagon friendly. My guess is that they worked on the existing horse trail because there is no indication they re-located the trail to make it better for the wagons.
Below, the wagon trail viewed from below as it goes up Emigrant's Pass.
From Emigrant's Pass, looking in more of a north-easterly direction across the California Valley.
From Emigrant Pass, Cannon noted, they "travelled about five miles and camped upon a spring with very good feed[,] but very strongly impregnated like all the grass in this country with saleratus." This was Resting Springs. Below, as they entered into the Amargosa River Valley the left end of the Resting Springs Range became visible, and particularly the greenery around Resting Springs.
A view of the greenery at Resting Springs as you get closer.
From Resting Springs, looking north toward Emigrant's Pass.

A view of resting springs from the east.
From Resting Springs, looking east. Note how desolate the country is. Joseph Hamelin, who stayed at Resting Springs a month later, wrote that it had “sulphur” water and was surrounded by a “large salaratus plain.” As far as the eyes could see, the “surface of the earth was covered with alkali.”
The Rich company reached Resting Springs about 8:00 p.m. and found live coals in the campfires and clothing which had been left by wagons ahead of them. The Hunt wagons arrived an hour later around 9:00 p.m. They traveled about 22 miles that day. The story of John C. Fremont and Kit Carson finding two murdered New Mexicans at this place, five years earlier, was well known among the travelers. Many of them referred to the spring as "Hernandez Spring," what Fremont had labeled it in honor of Pablo Hernandez's father who was murdered here. The Rich and Hunt companies discussed that grizzly story that evening around the campfire (see the Amargosa River post).

Henry Bigler wrote that it “rained in the night” and continued “cloudy and cool” during the day, which was Wednesday, November 28, 1849. Charles Rich recorded in his journal that they “lay in camp all day to recruit [their] animals.” Bigler also stated that the Rich company, who had been “living on rashions,” examined their provisions. They had only “4 days provisions” and determined it would take them “at least 8 days before [they could] reach the settlements. Bro. Rich let [them] have 23 lbs of flower and 3 of hard bread. One man of the wagon train killed a beef and [they] got 43 lbs at 8 cts. Per pound so that [they then had] 8 days provisions.” George Q. Cannon noted that they "dried the beef." Addison Pratt, who was always looking for wild game, noted “hares [jack rabbits], conies [cottontail rabbits], and quails about” the spring.

When I visited Resting Springs, it was a privately owned by Harry and Jo Godshall. They graciously gave me a tour of the property and answered my questions.
The spring is at the base of a large red hill and is found in a tangle of brush and trees.
The hill.
Water from the spring has been diverted to a pond on the property.
According to the Godshalls, the water is a constant 79 degrees.
From Resting Springs, the Amargosa River Canyon area is visible to the south, below.
On Thursday, November 29, 1849, the Rich company left Resting Springs about noon for the Amargosa River. The view of Resting Springs from the southeast, looking back.

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