Sunday, November 7, 2010

GQC: Las Vegas Springs to Cottonwood Spring

On Friday, November 23, 1849, the Rich company of packers and the Hunt company of wagons set out from Las Vegas Springs in a southwest direction over a barren “dry hard desert…the ground covered with stones from the size of gravel to that of a man’s head[,]…covered with sharp points and corners, [and]…very hard black and shining.”[1] It was “very windy and cold” and “tedious traveling”[2] and the “worst days travel we have had for our cattle’s feet, those that are barefooted cripple very much.” Addison Pratt led James Brown’s horse, which “got his back so badly galled at Beaver Creek that he had not been fit to ride much since.” James Brown and Hyrum Blackwell drove the wagon team.[3] After 17 miles they reached “the dry bed of a stream, that had some cottonwood trees on it.”[4] They followed the stream bed up until they reached what is known as Cottonwood Spring and camped right below it. Addison Pratt described the area as “a mountainous romantic looking place.”[5] Below, a look at Red Rock Canyon in the vicinity of modern-day Blue Diamond.
The spring was “rather warm”[6] and the “camping was poor as most all the grass had been eaten off by emegrants animals ahead of us.”[7] Because of the poor feed for the animals, Charles Rich went out in search of grass and found some that evening three miles up the trail.[8] Near the Spring, they found the head and horns of a large bighorn sheep, killed by an advance party of the Gruwell-Derr wagon train which was ahead of them.[9] Henry Bigler stood guard for the night,[10] and with good reason, for just a month later, at 2:00 a.m. on Christmas eve, the Howard Egan wagon train was raided by Indians at this spot. The Indians fired on their cattle which caused the cattle to scatter. The Indians ran off with four of the cattle which the wagon train members eventually recovered, although one of the cattle was found “killed & quartered” and “one of the three was shot four times with arrows.”[11]

Orville Pratt, who traveled the same route in 1848, called the area “Paiute Canyon at a noble spring which we have named Pearl Spring.” It had “fine water and very decent grazing.”[12] David Cheesman, who traveled the route in 1850, stated, “Cottonwood [spring]…Here was good feed and water. We camped in a grass patch…” Some of the men had “gone out to see a magnificent bluff mountain, the grandest sight of the kind since Echo Canyon.”[13]

Cottonwood Spring is located in the Village of Blue Diamond, Nevada, near the general store. Below, a picture of Blue Diamond and Red Rock Canyon in the background.
There is a bronze historical marker located just to the right of the store entrance commemorating the Old Spanish Trail, but making no reference to Cottonwood Spring.
I asked someone who worked in the store about the spring. She indicated that the spring was located in the grassy area which is a private park near the store. It is near where an old adobe was located. I went around the park and it appears to me that the spring must be located in the little building on the south edge of the park.
There is a little bridge just north of the building and a small amount of standing water.
[1]  Pratt, p. 91

[2]  Farrer, p. 213
[3]  Pratt, p. 93 (this statement was made several days later, on November 26th, but implies that this had been the general mode of travel for awhile)
[4]  Pratt, pp. 91-92
[5]  Pratt, pp. 91-92
[6]  Farrer, p. 213
[7]  Bigler, pp. 18-19
[8]  Bigler, p. 19; Farrer, p. 213
[9]  Pratt, pp. 91-92
[10]  Bigler, pp. 18-19
[11]  Egan, p. 315; Ethnographers refer to these Indians as the Las Vegas subgroup of Southern Paiutes. In their native tongue, their name is “people of Charleston Peak.” D’Azevedo, Warren L. (volume editor) Handbook of North American Indians, “Great Basin,” Vol. 11 (1986), Washington: Smithsonian Institution, p. 395.
[12]  Hafen, LeRoy R. and Hafen, Ann W. Old Spanish Trail, Sante Fe to Los Angeles: With Extracts from Contemporary Records Including Diaries of Antonio Armijo and Orville Pratt, Vol. 1. Glendale: Arthur H. Clark. 1954, pp. 355-356
[13]  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. 294-295

1 comment:

  1. Looks familiar :-) It's fun to learn of some of the history that took place here.