Tuesday, November 9, 2010

GQC: Mojave River - Fork of the Roads to Barstow

This is a continuation of George Q. Cannon’s 1849 journey to California.

December 3, 1849 (Monday):

Rich Company (Mojave River: Fork of Roads to Barstow):

At Mojave River Forks on the Mojave River, Henry Bigler “went out to hunt the horses before breakfast [and] came across a [grape] patch[, with grapes] as sweet as r[ai]sons.” He ate until he found himself sick.[1] “There was considerable timber…& an abundance of grass,” but “there was no running water in the bed of [the Mojave.] What water [they] had [they] found standing in pools.”[2] They also found “about a dozen wagons camped there,”[3] with “some men with their wives and children.”[4] “They were in distress[,] some of them had been out of bre[a]dstuff for 6 weeks. They were living on their cattle that gave out.” One of the wagons “had a woman and 10 children” and another wagon had a “woman and 11 children,” the “families of two brothers[,] one or both of them [being] Methodist preachers [named] Gru[w]ell. They [were] from Iowa and…known to be in [a] mob party that burned some barns and stacks of grain that belonged to some of the [Saints in Iowa].” While “they were in…Utah [V]alley[,]” they were “told” that men “were in persuit of them[,] to take their lives[,] and the two [Gruwell brothers] fled as Soloman says the wicked do.” It “was a pitiful sight to see these poor haggard women and children,”[5] so the Rich company, though they “had but little flour [themselves,] let them have what flour [they] could spare.”[6] At 1:00 p.m. the Rich company “left camp, traveled up the [Mojave] River for [about 15 miles] and camped for the night”[7] just east of present-day Barstow. George Q. Cannon said it was "round the point of a Red Butte." The Mojave “was a considerable…stream at this place.”[8] Charles Rich noted that they had “but little to eat.”[9]

December 5, 1849 (Wednesday):

Hunt Company (Alvord Mountain to 6 Miles Southwest):

The Hunt company and its wagons were considerably behind George Q. Cannon and the Rich company of packers. Addison Pratt, James Brown, Hiram Blackwell and Francis Pomeroy of the Hunt company, although behind the Rich company, were ahead of the rest of the Hunt company in a wagon below the summit of Alvord Mountain. At “4 o’clock a.m. Captain Hunt hallooed to [them] and called for a cup of coffee. He seemed to be chilled to the bone, so [they] stirred the fire and got him something to eat.”[10] Captain Hunt “revived again, said the snow had fallen 18 inches deep on the wagons and they were in a bad fix[.] The snow had melted and run down by the wagons until [the] cattle had plenty to drink[,] but there was nothing for them to eat.[11] Captain Hunt “told [them that] all [of] the teams would make the [ridge], but” that they should “have a good fire [ready], for some of the men would be chilled nearly to death. Then he directed [them] to go ahead until [they] found feed for the stock.”[12] As Pratt, Brown, Blackwell and Pomeroy were getting “ready to start off[,] Mr. Swan came up driving a pony he had picked up on the road[.] He was much chilled[.]” They “gave him some hot coffee and bread and he revived. [They] left him to gather sticks and keep a fire until the other wagons came up. Capt[ain] Hunt went on with [Pratt and his wagon].” After leaving the canyon they went “into a desert that was crusted over with gravel[…] In dry weather [the ground] was hard and smooth[,] but the rain and snow had softened it until [they] sank into it half [a] leg deep. This made heavy work for [their] jaded cattle[.] After [they] crossed this flat [they] came on to a sort of bench covered with sagebrush and among it some bunch grass. Here [they] went into camp” having gone a distance of 6 miles. Around 3:00 p.m. they “saw all the wagons coming”[13] “down the slope of the mountain.”[14] “Capt[ain] Hunt went back to meet them.” Some of the cattle had been left back in the snow and “Mr. Lawderwaper had gone back after them.”[15]

December 6, 1849 (Thursday):

Hunt Company (6 Miles Southwest of Alvord Mountain to Fork of the Roads on the Mojave River):

The Hunt company started for the Mojave River, 12 to 13 miles away.[16] They passed some wagons that had been left by the Gruwell-Derr wagon train “and soon overtook an old Dutchman who was dragging a chest.” The Dutchman indicated to them that he was part of the Gruwell-Derr wagon train that was now camped on the Mojave River. His team had given out and his was one of the abandoned wagons they had just passed. He had come back from the Mojave to obtain the chest. About 4:00 p.m. the Hunt company reached the Mojave River and “found plenty of grass” and “wild grapes and water standing in holes,” but no water “in the bed of the river.” They also found the wagons of the Gruwell-Derr wagon train camped there and “gave them a little bread,” although they, themselves, “were nearly out.”[17] James Brown noted that upon reaching the Mojave River, he “felt as pleased as a man liberated from a life sentence in a dungeon, for we had reason to feel assured that we would succeed in our journey.”[18]

This area on the Mojave River is known as the “Fork of Roads” and is about four miles east of the present town of Yermo, just south of Interstate 15[19] and east of Minneola Road. Hafen states that it is about nine miles below (east of) Daggett. It is an area where a submerged clay reef retards the sub-surface flow of water in the Mojave and brings it to the surface, producing a tract of native verdure.[20]

December 7, 1849 (Friday):

Hunt Company (Fork of the Roads on the Mojave River):

The Hunt company rested at the Mojave River for the day. Addison Pratt shot two rabbits.[21]

December 8, 1849 (Saturday):

Hunt Company (Mojave River: Fork of Roads to west of Daggett):

Addison Pratt left the rest of the wagon train to walk up the dry Mojave River bed in search of deer, but he found none. They traveled about eleven miles to the vicinity of the current U.S.M.C. Logistics Base, east of Barstow, where they camped. There they found some running water in the Mojave River and some wild ducks and raccoon tracks.[22]

Sixteen years later, from 1865 to 1872, a trading post was established in this area by Lafayette Mecham, the first post after reaching the Mojave.[23] It was known as the Fish Ponds, now the location of the Marine Corps Supply Center, Nebo.[24]

December 9, 1849 (Sunday):

Hunt Company (Mojave River: west of Daggett to Barstow vicinity):

The Hunt company traveled five miles and camped in the vicinity of present-day Barstow, where the Mojave River “took a broad bend to the right.” They camped as there would be no water for the next 15 miles. The Gruwell-Derr wagon train had joined them at this spot and were met by the two Gruwells who “came to their families. They left Salt Lake Valley in a fright, had taken the northern route to Upper California, had gone down the coast to Pueblo de Los Angeles, then up the Cajon Pass.” Addison Pratt speculated that they must have been “chagrined at meeting Brother Henry Rollins” who was ahead with Brother Rich “and was their supposed enemy.” The Gruwells “said they had suffered very much on the northern route” and “told of seeing 500 head of dead cattle in sight of each other” and that “water was so scarce they drank cattles blood.”[25] They were also met by “about twenty footmen,” with “packs on their backs, half starved.” These men were “part of the company who had taken the cut off” at the “Rim of the Basin” near Headwaters Wash and informed the Hunt company that “they had left the wagons in great distress” and “thought some would starve.” The “new arrivals [told the Hunt company] that when [they] parted from them they were sorry for us.” But now, James Brown pointed out, “we were more sorry for them than they had been for us.”[26]

Years later, Ellis Miller built a trading post at this site to supply travelers with food and other items. The Mojave flowed extensively enough above ground in this area to have Cottonwood trees, fresh drinking water and animal forage. Because of the abundant wild grape vines growing on the banks of the Mojave, Miller called his place Grapevine. In 1880, Robert Waterman located and developed a silver mine about three miles north of Grapevine and a little community developed at Grapevine, including a store owned by Waterman. The railroads passed nearby and the name of the area came to be known as Waterman’s Station, displacing the name Grapevine. Later, the price of silver plunged, the Waterman Mine closed and the Waterman community declined and was absorbed into the Santa Fe Railroad headquarters developing in the Mojave River bottom area. This site took the name Barstow, from the middle name of William Barstow Strong, the pioneer president of the Santa Fe organization.

[1]  Bigler, p. 22

[2]  Farrer, p. 216
[3]  Pratt, p. 100 (Pratt saw them three days later, but his descriptions which tend to be more detailed, are used)
[4]  Cannon, p. 37
[5]  Pratt, p. 100; Farrrer indicates the emigrants “had been living the last 4 or 5 weeks upon beef.” (p. 216); J.D. Gruwell stated the following: “It being late in the season we concluded to winter at Utah Fort but learning that the Mormons were about to attack us we broke camp and with a Mexican guide took the south route for Los Angeles which was the pioneer train over that route.” (Gruwell, p. 54)
[6]  Cannon, p. 37
[7]  Bigler, p. 22; Rich confirmed the distance as 12 miles (p. 191) as did Farrer (p. 216) The distances and locations along the Mojave River are more difficult to pinpoint because of the inconsistencies between the Mormon Way-Bill and the diarists and the lack of geographic landmarks to pinpoint specific places. The Mormon Way-Bill (based on the rodometer) lists the distance traveled along the Mojave as 51 ½ miles. Addison Pratt lists the distance as 53 miles and the diarists in the Rich company list the distance as 47 or 48 miles. They had at least two common camping spots along the Mojave. The first known spot was between Hodge and Helendale where the Rich company camped on December 4th and the Hunt Company camped on December 11th. From this point to the second known joint camping spot, near Oro Grande, Rich diarists give a distance of 16 miles and Addison Pratt gives a distance of 17 miles, nearly identical. As the Rich group estimated low and Pratt estimated high, I estimate the distance at 16 ½ miles. On the first leg of the trip to the first known joint camping spot, Rich diarists list a distance of 32 miles and Pratt lists the distance as 36 miles. Given the 16.5 miles for the second leg, the first leg would be 35 miles to equal the distance given by the Mormon Way-Bill. Pratt indicates the Hunt company camped on December 9th near Barstow, where the trail left the river near the bend of the river. On December 10th, they traveled overland to meet up with the river again about 15 miles distant, near the town of Hodge. It was then five miles on December 11th to the first joint camping spot. It was a 20 mile day for the Rich company to reach that spot on December 4th, which would be consistent with Pratt’s estimate for the two days if the Rich company camped at Barstow on December 3rd. That would be the logical point as the trail left the river there and was the last water for 15 miles. Therefore, it appears that the Rich mileage for the first day was understated. Instead of 12 miles, it would have been about 15 miles. The Pratt mileage would have been 15 miles for the two day period of December 8th and 9th, giving the two companies a third joint camping spot at Barstow which appears probable.
[8]  Farrer, p. 216
[9]  Rich, p. 191
[10]  Brown, pp. 125-127
[11]  Pratt, pp. 98-99
[12]  Brown, pp. 125-127
[13]  Pratt, pp. 98-99
[14]  Brown, pp. 125-127
[15]  Pratt, pp. 98-99
[16]  Pratt states the Mojave was 12 miles distant. (p. 100); The Mormon Way-Bill lists the distance between Bitter Springs and the Mojave as 30 ¾ miles. It was about 12 miles to the summit of Alvord Mountain and about another 6 miles to where they camped, leaving a distance of about 12 ¾ miles for this day.
[17]  Pratt, p. 100
[18]  Brown, p. 127
[19]  Spanish Trail Map, p. 110; The trail came to the Mojave River a few miles east of Calico Mountain and was known as the Lower Crossing. It was seven miles down river from Camp Cady, a military post established in 1860 for protection of the trail from Indian attacks. (Mecham, G. Frank, “The Old Trail,” (Reprint from the Pioneer Cabin News, San Bernardino Society of California Pioneers, 1968) Once Upon A Desert, Barstow: Mojave River Valley Museum Association, 1976 (The Old Trail), p. 20)
[20]  Spanish Trail Extracts, p. 288
[21]  Pratt, p. 100
[22]  Pratt, p. 101
[23]  Salisbury, Alice, “Early Map Names for Barstow,” (Barstow Womens Club 1963-1964) Once Upon A Desert, Barstow: Mojave River Valley Museum Association, 1976 (Barstow Names), p. 202
[24]  The Old Trail, p. 20
[25]  Pratt
[26]  Brown and Pratt
[27]  Barstow Names, p. 202; The Old Trail, p. 20

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