Sunday, November 21, 2010

GQC: Mojave River to Sycamore Grove

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

December 8, 1849 (Saturday):

Rich Company – Forward Group (Mojave River [Silver Mtn. Road vicinity] to the Cajon Pass):

Charles Rich, with half of the company, started early from Point of Rocks on the Mojave River. After six miles of travel, they crossed the Mojave River near the present town of Oro Grande. They then left the Mojave River and traveled 17 miles to the Cajon Pass where they camped near a spring. There they were met by a wagon loaded with provisions, sent out by Isaac Williams, and were able to re-supply themselves.[1] The wagon was apparently sent as a result of the advance members of the Gruwell-Derr wagon train notifying Isaac Williams that there were many emigrants on the trail in need of supplies.[2]

December 9, 1849 (Sunday):

Rich Company – Forward Group (Cajon Pass to Sycamore Grove):

Charles Rich and the forward part of his company traveled ten miles down the canyon from Cajon Pass over a bad road and camped at Sycamore Grove.[3]

Rich Company – Rear Group (Mojave River [Oro Grande vicinity] to Cajon Pass):

The rear group of the Rich company made an early start for the Cajon Pass. The “ascent was very gradual” and “scarcely perceptible.”[4] The two messes split up. Before reaching the summit, Thomas Whittle’s mess stopped for a few minutes where the snow had completely melted to enjoy the warmth generated by the sun. Henry Bigler took a short nap and dreamed that he was eating bread. When he awoke, he found that his and James Keeler’s last horse, a mare, had given out. They unpacked their mare and “put the pack on a loose mule.” They were then able to get their mare over the summit, but ultimately had to leave her about a mile from camp.[5] Joseph Cain’s mess continued, independent of Whittle’s mess, and met Henry Gibson who told them that Charles Rich and the rest of the forward company had gone ahead and he “had stayed to come back after a saddle they had been obliged to leave yesterday on account of one of their mules giving out.”[6] Gibson told them that they “would find a wagon loaded with provisions at the camping place in the canyon on the other side of the Pass. The wagon had been loaded and set out by a Mr. [Isaac] Williams, for the purpose of selling food to the people who were coming in.” This news “imparted new strength” to them and almost helped them to “forget” their “fatigue.” When Cain’s mess arrived at the camp, “a fire was speedily kindled” and “while the bread was being baked, numerous slices of beef were cut off and broiled.”[7] Whittle’s mess reached camp a little later. To their joy they found the man with the wagon load of provisions and Cain’s mess already baking bread. They helped themselves to some of the bread prepared by Mr. Davis,[8] Williams’ man, and then quickly unpacked and got their cooks preparing supper. Bigler noted that the bread he was eating in his dream was precisely like the bread being offered by Mr. Davis from the wagon.[9] George Q. Cannon noted, “Luckily the flour was unbolted, for had we eaten fine flour as freely as we did that, it might have killed us. I cannot state positively what quantity our mess ate,” but Whittle’s mess, “five in number, bought fifteen pounds of flour, and in the morning had none left for breakfast! Besides the flour, they had eaten a large quantity of meat!”[10]

December 10, 1849 (Monday):

Rich Company – Rear Group (Cajon Pass to Sycamore Grove):

Early in the morning Henry Bigler “went back and brought in the mare” he had left the day before. He “felt” in his “heart to pity the poor animal. There appeared to be something else the matter with her besides fatigue.” She “seemed to be stiff behind and about every 200 yards she would lie down.” He was compelled to leave her behind again. He noted, “Nothing makes me feel more sorrowful than to leave a good faithful animal in the wilderness to perish and die alone!” Later, “after eating a good hearty breakfast” they took up their “line of march traveling down the Canyon.”[11] From the summit of Cajon Pass, at 4,200 feet in elevation, the trail descended rapidly for over a mile and then leveled out as it connected into Crowder Canyon, a tributary of Cajon Creek. The lower two miles of Crowder Canyon were known as the ‘Upper Narrows.’ Particularly the last mile was narrow, windy, steep and rocky. A small stream meanders through the bottom surrounded on either side by lots of trees and other vegetation. Crowder Canyon ends quite dramatically in Cajon Canyon, where the very narrow canyon comes out into a much wider expanse. From there, the trail followed Cajon Creek in Cajon Canyon. Henry Bigler noted crossing “the stream a great many times.” It was very rocky and “the wind blew hard,” making it cold and “remarkably bad traveling.” He noted seeing signs of gold. After ten miles, they camped “on the edge of the Great Valley”[12] at what became known as Sycamore Grove.[13]

December 15, 1849 (Saturday):

Hunt Company (Mojave River [Oro Grande vicinity] to near Cajon Pass):

The Hunt company left the Mojave River. As they “drew near the [Cajon] Pass [they] could see a notch in the Sierra Nevada range.” There “was nothing beyond it higher than the ground [they] stood on and the clouds beyond it looked as though [they] were coming to a jumping off place. As [they] were on a high dry desert dotted here and there with grease brush, [they] camped within three miles of the pass among dwarf cedars as [they] found some bunch grass in a hollow. In the night there came up about twenty men more from those that had taken the cut off.” The first men they talked to would not “tell [them] much about their proceedings [along the trail,] but there was an Irishman among [them] that was overjoyed to see Captain Hunt.” The Irishman told Captain Hunt “that they [had been] in great trouble and…that when they found so many mountains that they could get no farther[,] they began blaming one another for leading them that way.” They were saying, “if they had…followed Capt. Hunt they would have been safe.” The Irishman told Captain Hunt that they would rather have had him there to show them the way “than to have seen the face of God.” By “such expressions” they “found that Captain Hunt would have been looked upon as their Savior[,] not withstanding some of them were so bitter against him when [they] were among them.” Addison Pratt indicated he “could not pity them much as [he] knew their hatred was unfounded.”[14]

December 16, 1849 (Sunday):

Hunt Company (Near Cajon Pass to Crowder Canyon):

“It began to snow about daylight.” By the time the “teams were ready to start the ground was covered with snow” and the snow “was still falling fast.” They started and “soon came to the head of the Cajon Pass.” After “passing over some rough ground,” they “came to a divide” which was “a sharp ridge between two rivers that led into the pass.” The road leading down the ridge was “crooked,” “steep” and difficult to descend, but they were able to get to the bottom of the ridge “without upsetting” their wagons.[15] The snow was still falling fast” and the Hunt company had a “difficult time finding the road.” They continued on until, with the elevation drop, the snow turned into rain. They reached a wash or dry creek bed and “followed down the bed.” In “some places,” water flowing down the wash in times past had left “perpendicular banks” nearly “one hundred feet high.” After traveling down the wash a “few miles” they reached a spring where they were forced to camp. There was “little feed,” but “just below” them “was a very rocky pass,”[16] which later came to be known as the “Upper Narrows” and is now known as Crowder Canyon,[17] which they were going to “have to build a road through.” Further, it was “raining hard” and water “began to run down the creek.” The water “rose so high” that they “were obliged to stay there two days.”[18]

Rich/Hunt Route: The Rich and Hunt company route down Cajon Pass started just east (or left, as you are traveling south) of the current I-15 freeway. However, the route taken in 1849 and the current freeway quickly diverge from each other. At the summit, I-15 turns dramatically to the right and travels west down the canyon. See below.
The Rich/Hunt route continued straight south down the canyon until it reached Crowder Canyon. There is a dirt road which exists today which is very close to the Rich/Hunt route.
It is road 3N45, which begins at the summit and travels sharply south down the mountain until it levels out, crosses over three sets of railroad tracks, and eventually ends at SR 138 in Crowder Canyon.
3N45 can be reached at the summit or north end by taking the Oak Hill Road exit off of I-15 (the last exit before the summit when traveling south). From the overpass drive .6 miles south to the end of the paved road. There, a winding dirt road veers to the left. Take the dirt road for .8 miles. To the right is 3N45, marked by a sign. This is the summit and the road leads quickly down hill from this point. A low clearance two-wheel drive vehicle may be able to make the trip, depending upon the condition of the dirt road. The south end of 3N45 in Crowder Canyon can be reached by taking the SR 138 (Palmdale/Silverwood Lake) exit off I-15. Travel 2.4 miles east (toward Silverwood Lake) from the overpass. The marked dirt road is off to the left.

Alternate Routes: There were a number of other routes through Cajon Pass.

          Mojave River Route. The earliest routes followed by the Spanish Fathers, Jedediah Smith, some of the Santa Fe pack trains and horse thieves followed the Mojave River all the way to its source at Deep Creek at the edge of the San Bernardino Mountains. From there they traveled west down Summit Valley. Some took a route up and over the mountains, known as the Mojave Trail, which dropped down into Cajon Canyon near Devore. Others continued further west through Horsethief Canyon and then through Crowder Canyon.[19] The route followed by the Rich/Hunt companies and other 49ers, although referred to by them as the Old Spanish Trail, was a short-cut, developed at a later time from an even older Old Spanish Trail.

          West Cajon Route. The short-cut route followed by the Rich/Hunt companies from the summit down through Crowder Canyon was too difficult for wagons, so several other wagon routes, further to the west, were developed later. In 1850, William Sanford found an easier route from the summit further west (west of the current I-15). In December 1850, David Cheesman took this route. He indicated that “the route” was “not a bad one, though exceedingly tortuous and with an occasional big rock. Sanford’s teams that we had met on the Mojave had rendered the Canyon passable.” Cheesman describes the beginning of the route:

Once on the Summit, the ridge was so narrow that the fore and hind wheels were on either side. I locked tight both hind wheels of the wagon, took off all but the wheel oxen and started down. For a distance of fifty or sixty feet it was so steep that the cattle and all slid down. After that the descent was gradual.”[20]
This route was taken by the Mormons in 1851 when they came into the San Bernardino Valley to settle San Bernardino. However, they still had to lower their wagons with ropes. In 1853, Sanford found an even easier route for wagons further west. Wagons used these new routes and those traveling by horse or by foot tended to continue to use the shorter Crowder Canyon route.[21] In August 1853, Heap, who took the Crowder Canyon route, made reference to at least one of these trails. He indicated that about ten miles from the Mojave River, traveling toward the Cajon Pass, the road forked. “The left hand fork, which we took, follows the Old Spanish Trail, whilst the other, which had been recently opened by the Mormons, makes a bend to avoid a rough portion of country. They both join again in the Cajon Pass.”[22] These routes joined at the junction of Crowder Canyon and Cajon Creek.[23]

December 17, 1849 (Monday):

Hunt Company (Crowder Canyon):

The Hunt company “explored the mountains about” and “found some very rough and broken country.” They found “some sign of deer,” but “the emigrants before” them “had frightened” all the deer away. “Grease brush” [creosote] grew “very rank and plenty” and on the distant mountains they could see plenty of pine and fir” trees. Addison Pratt concluded that there was likely “gold among the hills” as they found plenty of “granite and quartz.”[24]

December 18, 1849 (Tuesday):

Hunt Company (Crowder Canyon):

The Hunt company stayed in Crowder Canyon and continued to explore the surrounding hills and likely spent time working to better the path through the canyon. The Gruwell-Derr wagon train, now including the two Gruwell’s who had rejoined them with supplies, came up to the same point with the Hunt company in Crowder Canyon and the two groups were “all jammed together in the narrow pass.”

December 19, 1849 (Wednesday):

Hunt Company (Crowder Canyon to Sycamore Grove):

“The wagons started down the canyon.” All of the wagons, except Addison Pratt’s, had to be “lifted and pried to get them up and down” the rocks.[25]
Some of the wagons had to be taken “apart and packed a wheel at a time down over the boulders.” The “axle trees” and other heavy parts of the wagons were slid on “sycamore poles down over the precipices and boulders.”[26]
After getting through the Upper Narrows of Crowder Canyon, they entered into Cajon Pass and began following Cajon Creek. After reaching the Lower Narrows, near Blue Cut, the wagons again had to be taken apart and carried through the canyon.[27] Jefferson Hunt and Addison Pratt “took the horses and some worn out cattle over a spur of mountains” from the Cajon Creek wash below Sycamore Grove, to Sycamore Flats, at the mouth of Lytle Creek Canyon.[28] Pratt described Cajon Creek at this point as “a wide bed of a stream” which was “nearly dry but in the spring of the year, from its appearance, must be a large stream.” The wagons stayed in the Cajon Creek wash and “went around the spur” to meet up with Hunt and Pratt. Cajon Pass to this point was the “roughest place” they “found between Salt Lake and California.”[29]
This was the first group of wagons to cross the Cajon Pass going west.[30]

Crowder Canyon: From the south end of 3N45 in Crowder Canyon, the wash that the Spanish Trail followed is to the right and north of SR 138. After traveling SR 138 west for a short distance the wash crosses the road and continues on the south side. SR 138 parallels the wash for another mile before the wash veers away from the road to the southwest through the lower portion of Crowder Canyon which was known as the Upper Narrows.
The Pacific Crest Trail comes into the Old Spanish Trail about .2 miles south of SR 138 (it paralleled 138 much higher up on the mountain above the wash) and follows it for over a mile through the Upper Narrows. This is a beautiful hike, particularly in the spring or fall when there is water flowing in the creek.
The canyon is full of sharp curves, rock and lots of vegetation.
 The lower end of the Upper Narrows is easier to find. It can be reached by taking the SR 138 (Palmdale/Silverwood Lake) exit off of I-15 toward Lake Silverwood. Turn right on the side road which parallels the freeway on the east side and go past a McDonalds .6 miles to the end of the road. There you will find a white-washed monument with a marble plaque honoring the pioneers that took the Spanish Trail in 1849.[31]
Crowder Canyon is behind the monument to the left. To follow the Spanish Trail further south, continue in the wash underneath the I-15 overpass and follow the creek until it connects into Cajon Creek. Then follow Cajon Creek.

Cajon Creek: Cajon Boulevard follows Cajon Creek for about six miles. Cajon Boulevard can be reached from the I-15 by taking the Cleghorn Road offramp or the Kenwood Road offramp. The site of what was known as the Lower Narrows, now known as Blue Cut, is where the San Andreas fault crosses Cajon Canyon and where exposed bluish rock can be seen from the road. Below, Cajon Creek in the Lower Narrows.
A bronze plaque describing the history of Blue Cut is shaded by trees, about 2.8 miles south of the Cleghorn Road offramp.[32]
In 1850, David Cheesman wrote, “We came to Willow Grove, nine miles from the divide, a good camping place. From this point to Sycamore Grove, two miles from the entrance of Cajon Pass, was down a narrow and rocky gorge to the entrance of the canyon.”[33]

Sycamore Grove. Sycamore Grove is located in Glen Helen Regional Park near Devore. Travelers camped in the hills on both sides of the little pass.[34] Glen Helen Regional Park can be reached by taking the Devore exit off of I-15. At the stop sign, turn left for .1 mile and then turn south on Devore Road and go .8 mile. The road crosses railroad tracks and the Cajon Creek wash. There are two peripherally related historic signs located there.
They are to the left of the road just inside the Regional Park.[35] In 1850, David Cheesman wrote, “Sycamore Grove…a most beautiful spot; a small valley dotted with large sycamores and clover nearly waist high. The only drawback was a strong current of wind which set in toward the Canyon.”[36]

December 20, 1849 (Thursday):

Hunt Company (Sycamore Grove to San Bernardino Valley):

The Hunt company continued down a “tolerable road” that sometimes had too much water as they “occasionally [had to stay] in the bed of the creek.”[37] They found “plenty of grass, wild oats were just coming up and birds were singing as in spring[.] The hills [were] covered with s[c]rub oak, that afford[ed] an abundance of acorns.” The acorns “invite[ed] the gri[zz]ly bears out of the mountains, as [they] saw frequent excavations made by [grizzlies] and several skulls of monstrous size.”[38]

ENDNOTES:[1]  Rich, pp. 191-192 (Rich indicates it was 15 miles to the Cajon Pass, but the Mormon Way-Bill indicates it was 17 miles)

[2]  Three days later the same wagon met the Gruwell-Derr and Hunt wagon trains out on the Mojave River with supplies. (Pratt, p. 102)
[3]  Rich
[4]  Farrer
[5]  Bigler; The diarists do not state that their messes split up, but the circumstances told are so different that it is apparent they did split up.
[6]  Farrer; Cannon states that Gibson had come back “to hunt a mule which had strayed off.” Gibson may have been seeking both the saddle and the mule (in hopes that the mule had recuperated enough to travel). There is no indication whether or not the mule found by Bigler was Gibson’s mule, but Bigler was not in the mess that met Gibson..
[7]  Cannon
[8]  Pratt, on December 11, informs us that the man with the wagon is named “Mr. Davis.”
[9]  Bigler
[10]  Cannon
[11]  Bigler, p. 25
[12]  Bigler; Bigler mentioned the distance as 12 miles, but the Mormon Way-Bill lists the distance as 11 ½ miles.
[13]  Spanish Trail Map, pp. 119-121
[14]  Pratt, p. 105
[15]  Pratt
[16]  Pratt
[17]  Haenszel, Arda M. Historical Cajon Pass: A Self-Guided Driving Tour in Three Parts, Redlands: San Bernardino County Museum Association , pp. 2, 9, 11 (1976) (“Historical Cajon Pass”)
[18]  Pratt
[19]  Haenszel, Arda M., “History in the Rock Camp Area,” a chapter in a larger article titled, “Rock Camp, San Bernardino Mountain Archaeological Excavation,” San Bernardino County Museum Association Quarterly, XX:1 (Fall 1972), p. 33 (Rock Camp History); Historical Cajon Pass, pp. 3, 5-8 (Haenzel refers to the alternate route down the Mojave River to Deep Creek and then through Horsethief Canyon as the Spanish Trail. She refers to the short-cut route followed by the 49ers as the Santa Fe to Salt Lake Trail.)
[20]  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 (Cheesman Memoir), , p. 301
[21]  Historical Cajon Pass, p. 9 (Haenzel refers to the Spanish Trail route as the Santa Fe to Salt Lake Trail and to these later routes as the Mormon Trail and Sanford’s Pass.)
[22]  Heap, Gwinn Harris, Central Route to the Pacific: With related material on railroad explorations and Indian affairs by Edward F. Beale, Thomas H. Benton, Kit Carson, and Col. E. A. Hitchcock, and in other documents, 1853-54, ed. Leroy R. Hafen and Ann W. Hafen (Glendale: Arthur H. Clark Company. 1957 (Central Route), p. __
[23]  Historical Cajon Pass, p. 11
[24]  Pratt, p. 106
[25]  Pratt
[26]  Waite
[27]  Waite; Waite indicates they had to take their wagon apart and pack it over both the “upper and lower narrows in the Cajon Pass.” The Lower Narrows are located at Blue Cut, where a bluish rock can be seen in the mountain. This is where the San Andreas fault runs through Cajon Canyon. (Historical Cajon Pass, p. 13)
[28]  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), p. 107, n. 126
[29]  Pratt
[30]  Brown; Several wagons had gone through Cajon Pass going east, including a wagon of __________ Davis, a year before, and the wagon of Isaac Williams which had helped the emigrants earlier in the week.
[31]  The plaque on the monument reads: “Santa Fe and Salt Lake Trail 1849: Erected in honor of the brave pioneers of California in 1917 by pioneers. Sheldon Stoddard, Sydney P. Waite, John Brown Jr., George Miller, George M. Cooley, Silas C. Cox, Richard Weir, Jasper N. Corbett.” Sheldon Stoddard was with the Rich company and Sidney Waite was with the Hunt company. The others may have been with the portion of the Hunt company that broke off to take the Walker Pass short-cut and eventually returned to the Spanish Trail.
[32]  Historical Cajon Pass, p. 13
[33]  Cheesman Memoir, p. 301
[34]  Historical Cajon Pass, p. 15
[35]  One sign is a bronze plaque which reads: “Sycamore Grove: This campsite on both the Mojave Trail over the mountains and the Cajon Pass route was probably first seen by Spanish and American travelers in the 1770’s and was noted by them in 1806, 1849 [a reference to the Rich and Hunt companies] and 1850. Michael White, grantee in 1843 of the Muscupiabe Rancho lived near by. The Mormon colony camped in 1851 on either side of this little pass for about four months while Amasa Lyman, Charles Rich, Jefferson Hunt, David Seely and Andrew Lytle negotiated the purchase of the San Bernardino Rancho from the Lugo family.” The other is a wood sign in the shape of the United States. It reads: “U.S. Mormon Battalion Trail: During the Mexican War a detachment of 30 Mormon Battalion soldiers of the United States army left headquarters at Pueblo de Los Angelos on April 12, 1847 to establish a camp, build a fort of logs near this site and “to defend the pass and the ranchos in the vicinity and prevent the passage of hostile Indians.” A few days later in an actual battle 6 Indians were killed, F.T. Mayfield was wounded in the groin and George Chapin was wounded over the eye. This unit of soldiers also built a wagon-road through Cajon Pass known as the Utah or Mormon Road to Las Vegas and Salt Lake.”
[36]  Cheesman Memoir, p. 301-302
[37]  Pratt’s description for December 21 and 22 are confusing. He indicates they traveled 10 miles each day for a total distance of 20 miles, yet the distance between Sycamore Grove and the Cucamonga Ranch was only 11 ½ miles.
[38]  Pratt, p. 107

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