Monday, October 26, 2009

Other 1849 Mormon Trail Participants

This is a continuation of my retracing George Q. Cannon’s 1849 journey:

The Jefferson Hunt Wagon Train of 1849:

Most of the emigrants traveling to California as part of the gold rush were going by the northern route. However, the experiences of the Donner Party were now common knowledge and in mid to late summer, 1849, it was felt it was too late in the year to travel the northern route without risking the same fate as the Donner Party. Jefferson Hunt, Captain of Company A of the Mormon Battalion, had been to California the year before over a southern route, a good portion of which followed the Old Spanish Trail. He offered to “pilot” a group of emigrant wagons to California by this southern route if they could find 100 wagons willing to pay $10.00 apiece.[i] The wagon train would start the first part of October as it was currently too hot to take the southern route.[ii] In the interim, Hunt suggested to at least some of the emigrants that they move down to the Fort Utah area where he lived, where there was “good grass and water,” so that their stock could “get fat by October.” Jacob Stover, a non-Mormon emigrant, indicates they “corralled” their “wagons on the banks” of the Provo River, “a nice stream of water” and “a good camping ground”[iii] and he described Fort Utah as follows:

The Mormons were very good to us. They had log cabins built in or around a square of about one acre of land; inside of it, in the center of this lot, they had planted forks, putting poles overhead and brush, straw and dirt, and had planted a cannon on top of the dirt to protect themselves from the Indians.

Sheldon Young, another non-Mormon emigrant, and his party left Great Salt Lake City on July 25th and arrived at Fort Utah on July 29th where they camped. On September 30, 1849, Young noted that they moved to Hobble Creek where they would start.[iv] There were 107 wagons.[v]

Joseph Hamelin, noted that “a large company left” Great Salt Lake City on September 25th to take the “southern route under the guidance of Captain Hunt.”[vi]

It is unclear whether Jefferson Hunt actively sought out emigrants in order to get 100, or whether he told a group that wanted him to guide them that he would guide them if they could find 100 wagons.[vii]

The Gruwell-Derr Wagon Train:

Peter Derr notes that the Gruwell-Derr wagon train consisted of a group of emigrants that spent six weeks at Fort Utah and Utah Lake waiting for the weather to cool off before taking the southern route, but “who could not afford to pay the pilot fee” of Captain Hunt. Their train “was composed of families with but little money.”[viii] They originally intended to go with Hunt and then apparently determined they could not afford to do so.[ix] There was obvious animosity between the members of this company and the Mormons and that may also have contributed to their decision not to join Hunt. Shearer stated:

We lost many cattle and believed the Mormons stole them and hid them in the canyons of the mountains. Some of our cattle had been taken from the herds and found at work many miles distant. They call us Gentiles and regard themselves as entitled to superior privileges. They are more troublesome beggars than the savages and to take the united voice of the emigrants for it, they are worse thieves.[x]

Gruwell notes that they learned the Mormons were about to “attack” them so they “broke camp and with a Mexican guide” started on the route south. Gruwell also pointed out that they were “the pioneer train over that route”[xi] which up to that time was “only a mule trail.” Derr stated:

Those never having been over a mountain trail can have no idea of the difficulties to be overcome to pass wagons over them. Often they would have to leave the trail for miles and cut their way through brush and trees in the canyons, not being able to follow over the steep and narrow mountain side.

The Gruwell-Derr wagon train started with 23 wagons.[xii]

Mission Calls:

At the general conference of the LDS Church on October 6, 1849, Addison Pratt, James Brown and Hiram H. Blackwell were called to go to the Society Islands to preach the gospel and Charles C. Rich was called to join Amasa M. Lyman in California and assist him in the presidency of the mission. Rich was to succeed Lyman as president of the mission when Lyman returned to Great Salt Lake City (Lyman had been in California since April 1849).[xiii]

Pomeroy Wagon Train:

“There were two brothers,” named Pomeroy, “who were Gentiles that came into Salt Lake City”[xiv] with wagons[xv] “loaded with merchandise” and pulled by oxen.[xvi] After selling all of their merchandise, the Pomeroy brothers wanted to go to California by “the southern route” and sought “teamsters” to assist them. “There were so many” Mormon boys “that wished to go through to California as teamsters” that they “had to board” themselves “and received no wages.”[xvii] The Mormon teamsters included Goudy Hogan,[xviii] several Browning brothers,[xix] Edwin Pettit,[xx] David Seeley and his brother, J.W. Seeley.[xxi]

The Mormon Way-Bill:

Joseph Cain and A. C. Brower produced the Mormon Way-Bill which gave distances between various points from Salt Lake to Los Angeles based on mileage readings from the rodometer attached to Addison Pratt’s wagon on this trip.[xxii]

David Cheesman, in 1850, noted that in August the missionaries who had “gone to California to mine and look after the interests of the church” arrived in the valley “under the guidance of Capt. Hunt.” They had come the “South Route” up the “Spanish trail to Sante Fe and Fremont trail” and it was said they “had made a detailed report of the route, grass, water, passes, deserts, and such information as would be of use to an emigration over that route.” Cheesman and a committee of gentile emigrants sought out Brigham Young to obtain a copy of the report. He promised them one, but he never provided it (Cheesman believed Young was discouraging them from using the southern route so that they would spend the winter in the valley). Ultimately, Cheesman had to rely on a “memorandum” of watering and camping places provided to him by a Mr. Hudson that had been with Hunt’s group.[xxiii]

The Deseret News of November 2, 1850 gave notice that a Way-bill guide was available for the southern route for $1.00. It warned that the route should not be taken without a guide or written instructions.[xxiv]


[i] Stover [where is journal]; Lorenzo Dow Stephens indicated the contract with Hunt “called for a thousand dollars to Los Angeles, or ten dollars a wagon.” (GQC Journal, pp. 23-23, citing L. Dow Stephens, Life Sketches of a Jayhawker of ’49 (San Francisco, Calif.: Nolta Brothers, 1916), hereafter “Live Sketches of a Jayhawker”, 16-17)
[ii] Young [where is journal]
[iii] Stover; The Mormon Way-Bill, prepared from data obtained on this trip and published in 1851, recommended that “emigrants who have cattle” should “shoe them” and “exchange them” for other cattle or horses. “It is useless for men to start from” Great Salt Lake “with worn out cattle, as they never will get them to their journeys’ end. Thousands of cattle and horses were sacrificed, because emigrants knew no better last year.” The emigrants were also instructed to “throw away” any “old yokes, chains, boxes, &c., for you will do so before you cross the desert. No wagon should have more than 800 lbs.” And “three yoke of cattle.”
[iv] Young; Sidney P. Waite, a youth of 12, in a retrospective account, states that his “outfit” was organized at Hobble Creek “in the middle of September.” (Waite)
[v] Derr
[vi] Hamelin; This indicates that some wagons either joined the wagon train later or declined to go to the Fort Utah area to prepare for the trip.
[vii] Jacob Stover noted that he and his group “looked around for a few days, found 100 wagons that would go,” and moved down to Utah Lake. However, the large group of emigrants that traveled to Fort Utah over a month later suggests that all of the wagons may not have been rounded up initially and that some emigrants joined the group over time.
[viii] Derr. However, Shearer indicates he left Salt Lake City on September 16th, then stayed at Cottonwood Creek until September 24th, and then moved to Utah Valley.
[ix] Pratt (in his journal dated October 15th)
[x] Shearer (entry dated October 1, 1849)
[xi] Gruwell; Pratt refers to their guide as a “vagrant Spaniard.”
[xii] Derr; Pratt indicated it had 23 wagons. However, he was not in Utah Valley when they left.
[xiii] CHC 3:384-386
[xiv] Hogan
[xv] Hogan indicates there were 100 wagons; Pettit indicates there were 20 wagons; and Seeley indicates there were 50 wagons.
[xvi] Hogan indicates there were three or four pair of oxen to each wagon; Pettit indicates there were two yoke of oxen to each wagon.
[xvii] Hogan
[xviii] Goudy Hogan was age 20 and received consent from his father to go to California upon learning that Brigham Young had sent Charles C. Rich and Amasa Lyman to preside over the brethren in the gold fields of California and receive tithing from them. His family had come to America from Norway in 1837, had joined the Mormons in 1843 and emigrated to Utah in 1848. (49ers, p. 298)
[xix] Hogan states that the Browning boys were from Farmington and their father stayed with the Hogans for a night. He indicated that he was allowing his boys to go to California to dig gold. He was apparently the person that told Goudy Hogan’s father about Charles Rich and Amasa Lyman being in California to collect tithing.
[xx] Pettit; Pettit took charge of “forty or fifty head of cattle” and drove the cattle during the day while on “horseback.” During the evening, he corraled the horses “to keep them from the Indians.” Each morning, he had to “turn out the cattle” and “let them eat” while the men “had breakfast and got ready” to move.
[xxi] Seeley; David Seeley was 39 years old and married to Mary Pettit, the sister of Edwin Pettit. He went to Utah in 1847. After working in the mines he returned to Utah by a northern route. Later, in 1851, he was part of the Mormon colony that founded San Bernardino. (49ers, p. 296)
[xxii] 49ers, p. 321, n. 1
[xxiii] Cheesman Memoir, p. 273-274, 283, 285
[xxiv] Reeder, p. 92

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