Monday, November 8, 2010

GQC: Cottonwood Spring to Mountain Springs

This is a continuation of George Q. Cannon’s 1849 journey to California. On the morning of Saturday, November 23, 1849, both the Rich company of packers and the Hunt wagon train left Cottonwood Spring. East of the spring they followed the trail through a gap in the hill.
A closer look at the road up to the gap.
From the gap, looking back, Blue Diamond is among the trees and a water tank holding spring water is in the center of the picture. Cottonwood Spring is just to the right of and below the water tank.
After following the trail and looking back, the Spring Mountains are still evident in the background.
Looking ahead, they headed toward a wash going up the mountain toward Mountain Springs. The wash is just to the right (west) of the modern highway.
The wash is in the foreground, looking south toward Mountain Springs.
The traveled three miles[1] and went up a sandy, rocky stream bed[2] to the grass found by Charles Rich the evening before. There was a “weak spring of water affording sufficient to supply Capt Hunts Co.” and the packers[3] and plenty of grass which was “dry and yellow, but [the] cattle filled themselves.”[4] Henry Bigler spent most of the day hunting jack rabbits but did not get a shot.[5] “Bro. Emmet had a blacksmith bellow and some tools along [and some of the men] went about shoeing the barefooted cattle.”[6] The Mormon Way-Bill, published in 1851, as a help to emigrants going to California, recommended that all cattle be shod for the journey.[7] It also gave distances between various points from Salt Lake to Los Angeles. The distances were based on mileage readings from the rodometer attached to Addison Pratt’s wagon on this trip.

The next day, November 25, 1849, on a “fine pleasant morning” the packers and the wagon train continued their “rough” travel[8] up the rocky stream bed. The beautiful Spring Mountains were ahead of them.
As they gained altitude and got further south, more of the Spring Mountains opened up to them
and the got a glimpse of Red Rock Canyon.
Looking back (northeast), they could see the hills above Cottonwood Spring and the area of modern-day Las Vegas in the distance.
Approaching the Spring Mountains.
The canyon through the Spring Mountains becomes evident.
From the modern road, looking back, Las Vegas becomes more visible.
As they traveled higher and got through the canyon, things began to open up. Looking back.
From near the summit, looking back.
The summit at Mountain Springs is at an elevation of 5,502 feet.[9] On their left hand “were high mountains of solid rock.”[10] The picture below was taken in November 1997.
The next picture was taken in November 2010 when it was clear and no snow was on the mountains.
A short distance beyond the summit, to the right of the road on a “grassy ridge,”[11] 8 ¾ miles from where they camped the night before,[12] they found what is today called Mountain Springs.[13] They called it “Cedar Springs” because of the abundance of cedar. They camped there and used the cedar for firewood.[14] Mountain Springs was a small spring that came out of the hill, ran a little way, and sank into the ground.[15] There was “rather poor pasturage for [the] animals[,] having all been eaten off,” but they “found some good feed on the side of a mountain about ¾ mile from camp.”[16] This was at another spring which oozes out of the side of the mountain, north of the spring on the road.[17] At Mountain Springs they found a note left by the advance party of the Gruwell-Derr wagon train that had passed through a week previously. The note requested that Mr. Dallas (whom the Hunt wagon train passed at the Muddy River[18]) come ahead as soon as possible, as their wagon train was starving. They “had seen things that made [their] blood run cold. They had killed several oxen and had sent some men to the settlements for provisions.” Captain Hunt estimated that those men would have to travel 220 miles to get to the first settlement, which was the Williams Ranch near present day Chino, California.[19] Addison Pratt described some “large kilns [near Mountain Springs], where the Indians burn their pottery wares, as these hills are clayey, and from the number and size of their kilns I expect the business is carried on at times with some energy.”[20] The “kilns” were large pits surrounded by a high ring of burned out rocks. Rather than pottery kilns, the pits were actually used by the Indians to roast mescal cactus. The Indians would dig a hole, put in heated rocks and mescal cactus to roast. The next time they would remove the rocks used before, which had lost their power to retain heat, and put more rocks in the pit to heat the cactus. Over time the pit would be surrounded by a high ring of rocks.[21] Henry Bigler stood guard for the night.[22]

In his 1848 journal, Orville Pratt referred to Mountain Springs as Paiute Spring.[23] In 1850, David Cheesman stated in his journal: “From Cottonwood Springs to Mountain Springs a distance of 12 miles. The road to this Spring was good. We passed to the summit up a gravelly canyon of excellent grade. It was a remarkably smooth road.”[24]

I visited Mountain Springs on November 28, 1997. There was a small dusting of snow on the ground and it was quite cool. There is a bronze Nevada State Historical Marker located on State Route 160 at Mountain Springs Summit.[25] In the area between Blue Diamond and Mountain Springs I saw a number of wild horses. I visited Mountain Springs again in November 2010 and got some more pictures of the area. The following picture was north of Mountain Springs.
To the west, snow-capped Mount Charleston is visible.
To the southwest, the canyon that will lead them to the Pahrump Valley is visible. 
To the south, a closer smaller mountain.

[1]  Farrer, p. 213; Rich, p. 190; Pratt, p. 92. Bigler states the distance was 4 miles (Bigler, p. 19)

[2]  Crampton, C. Gregory, and Madsen, Steven K. In Search of the Spanish Trail: Santa Fe to Los Angeles, 1829-1848, Layton: Gibbs M. Smith. 1994 (Spanish Trail Map), p. 93
[3]  Farrer, p. 213
[4]  Pratt, p. 92
[5]  Bigler, p. 19
[6]  Pratt, p. 92
[7]  Hafen, LeRoy R. and Hafen, Ann W. Journals of Forty-Niners, Salt Lake to Los Angeles: With Diaries and Contemporary Records of Sheldon Young, James S. Brown, Jacob Y. Stover, Charles C. Rich, Addison Pratt, Howard Egan, Henry W. Bigler, and Others, Glendale: Arthur H. Clark. 1954 (49ers), pp. 321-323
[8]  Farrer, p. 213
[9]  Spanish Trail Map, p. 93
[10]  Pratt, p. 92-93
[11]  Bigler, p. 19; Farrer, p. 213
[12]  Bigler, p. 19 (who states it was according to the rodometer). Rich (p. 190) and Pratt (p. 92-93) both state that they traveled 10 miles.
[13]  Spanish Trail Map, p. 93
[14]  Rich (p. 190) and Pratt (p. 92-93) both refer to the spring as “cedar springs” and Bigler (p. 19) and Farrer (p. 213) refer to the abundance of cedar which they used as firewood.
[15]  Pratt, p. 92-93
[16]  Farrer, p. 213
[17]  49ers, p. 213 n. 80 (there are now several springs there, most of which developed at the time of the San Francisco earthquake in 1906)
[18]  Pratt, p. 87
[19]  Bigler, p. 19; 49ers, p. 166 n. 41; Addison Pratt, two days later on November 27th, indicates they “had seen before we got here [Resting Spring], some wagons that had been left by those ahead of us, and also a note left for Dallas stating that they were short of provisions and were in great distress, were living on the cattle that gave out.” (pp. 93-94) This was presumably the same note two days before, and not a second note.
[20]  Pratt, p. 92
[21]  49ers, p. 92 n. 100
[22]  Bigler, p. 19
[23]  Spanish Trail Extracts, p. 356
[24]  Cheesman, David W., “By Ox Team From Salt Lake to Los Angeles, 1850,” (a memoir edited by Foy, Mary E.) Historical Society of Southern California: Annual Publication (1930), p. 280, p. 295
[25]  It is a general commemoration of the Old Spanish Trail, identical to the one located in Blue Diamond, and says nothing specific about Mountain Springs. However, several miles below Mountain Springs, on State Route 160, there is a faded sign which specifically discusses the importance of Mountain Springs. The marker reads: “"This portion of the Old Spanish Trail was discovered in January, 1830, by Antonio Armijo during his first trip from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. The springs just north of this marker provided excellent water and fed meadows of luxuriant grass for draft animals. Two days were required to travel between Las Vegas and Mountain Springs Pass. The trip was broken at Cottonwood Springs, the site of Blue Diamond, where an early start was usually made in order to climb the pass by nightfall. Early travelers often referred to the area as Paiute Springs, but the present title has been used for over a century. The altitude made Mountain Springs one of the favorite camping spots on the Trail."

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