Category Archives: Mormon trail

Big Mountain

Published / by Grace Fahey / Leave a Comment

-Write up by: Grace Fahey

Placed By: Sons of Utah Pioneers

GPS Coordinates:  N 40° 49.683 W 111° 39.217

Historical Marker Text 1:

“On 19 July 1847, scouts Orson Pratt and John Brown climbed the mountain and became the first Latter-Day Saints to see the Salt Lake Valley. Due to illness, the pioneer camp had divided into three small companies. On 23 July, the last party led by Brigham Young reached the Big Mountain. By this time most of the first companies were already in the valley and planting crops. Mormons were not the first immigrant group to use this route into the Salt Lake Valley. The ill-fated Donner Party blazed the original trail one year earlier. They spent thirteen days cutting the trails from present day Henefer into the valley. That delay proved disastrous later on when the party was caught in a severe winter storm in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Mormons traveled the same distance in only six days. Until 1861, this trail was also the route of California gold seekers, Overland Stage, Pony Express, original telegraph line, and the other Mormon immigrant companies, after which Parley’s Canyon was used. This monument, erected and dedicated 25 August 1984, by South Davis Chapter, Sons of Utah Pioneers, replaces the original plaque erected 23 July 1933, by Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association and the Vanguard Association of the Salt Lake County, Boy Scouts of America”.

Nearby Markers: Little Mountain

Historical Marker Text 2:

“This is the last summit in the Wasatch Mountains along the pioneer trail. From this point the trail descends northwest until it reaches Emigration Creek. As William Clayton’s emigrants guide warns, “The descent is very steep all the way.”

The Donner Party passed over the summit August 21, 1846 and the Mormons on July 21, 1847.

Salt Lake City Chapter Son of Utah Pioneers

Extended Research:

Big Mountain is a landmark on the Utah section of the Mormon trail. The journey from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake City, Utah is now known as The Great Mormon Migration[1]. The Mormons embarked on this journey after facing violent religious persecution in both Missouri and Illinois. After their prophet and leader, Joseph Smith was killed in 1844, Brigham Young became the new leader of the main body of Saints and decided to flee persecution and seek a new home in the West.[2] As early as September 1845, Young favored the Salt Lake Valley as a potential new home for his followers.[3]

The Great Basin was attractive to the Mormons because of its isolation. At the time it was still a part of Mexico and largely unsettled. The Great Basin presented an opportunity for the Mormons to escape the religious persecution which they had endured in the United States. Brigham Young liked the idea that it was isolated and not under firm Mexican control, because he hoped no one else would want to settle there. The Mormon migration was thus a journey to escape persecution and find religious freedom.[4]

The Mormon migration began in February of 1846. During the first leg of the journey, Mormons suffered a loss of over 400 people. In response, they decided to stop in Omaha, Nebraska, for the winter. Then, in April 1847, the Mormons continued to the Rocky Mountains. Brigham Young led 142 men, 3 women, 2 children, 72 wagons, and cattle into the Great Basin. The steep, rocky conditions of the last portion of the trail made the migration treacherous.[5] At Fort Bridger, the Mormons took the Donner-Reed trail through the Rocky Mountains and into the Great Basin. The final leg of the trek was the most challenging yet. [6]

After months of climbing steep and rocky terrain, the journey soon came to an end. On 21 July, pioneers Orson Pratt and John Brown saw the Salt Lake Valley for the first time. Orson Pratt was enthusiastic in his assessment:

“After issuing from the mountains among which we had been shut up for many days, and beholding in a moment such an extensive scenery open before us, we could not refrain from a shout of joy which almost involuntarily escaped from our lips the moment this grand and lovely scenery was within our view.”[7]

One day later, after months of hardship and traveling, the advanced party of Mormon pioneers finally looked out over the Great Basin from atop what is now called, Big Mountain. Pioneer Thomas Bullock wrote that they viewed

“the Salt Lake in the distance with its bold hills on its islands towering up in bold relief behind the silvery lake —a very extensive valley burst upon our view, dotted in 3 or 4 places with Timber. I should expect the valley to be about 30 miles long & 20 miles wide. I could not help shouting ‘hurra, hurra, hurra, heres my home at last’—the Sky is very clear, the air delightful & altogether looks glorious; the only drawback appearing to be the absence of timber—but there is an Ocean of Stone in the mountains, to build Stone houses, & Walls for fencing. if we can only find a bed of Coal we can do well; & be hidden up in the Mountains unto the Lord.”[8]

On July 22nd 1847, after a final trek down the canyon, the first emigrant group camped in the Salt Lake Valley.[9]

Brigham Young, sick from Mountain Fever, followed behind and reached Big Mountain the next day. On July 23, his history records,

“I ascended and crossed over the Big Mountain, when on its summit I directed Elder Woodruff, who had kindly tendered me the use of his carriage, to turn the same half way round so that I could have a view of a portion of Salt Lake Valley. The spirit of light rested upon me and hovered over the valley, and I felt that there the Saints would find protection and safety. We descended and encamped at the foot of the Little Mountain.”[10]

Young and his group entered the valley on July 24th and joined the members of the advanced camp who were already plowing the land and planting crops.

Big Mountain is more than just a landmark on the Mormon Trail. Big Mountain marks the first time that the Mormon pioneers witnessed their destination stretched out before them.

Photo of Emigration Canyon from Big Mountain, 2017, by Grace Fahey

[1]Mormon Trail HistoryUtah.com, accessed March 27, 2017.

[2]Brigham Young; 1801-1877” PBS.org; New Perspectives on the West, accessed March 27th, 2017.

[3] Council of Fifty, Minutes, Sep. 9, 1845, in Matthew J. Grow, Ronald K. Esplin, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, and Jeffrey D. Mahas, eds., Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844–January 1846, first volume of the Administrative Records series of The Joseph Smith Papers, ed. Ronald K. Esplin, Matthew J. Grow, and Matthew C. Godfrey (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2016), 472.

[4] This is the place’: The Mormon PioneersNational Historic Trails Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide; Utah- Crossroads of the West, National Park Services, Salt Lake City, UT, September 2010.

[5]Mormon PioneerNational Parks Service, accessed March 29, 2017.

[6] Stanley B, Kimball, “The Mormon Pioneer Trail, 1846-1847”. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Accessed March 27, 2017

[7] Orson Pratt, “Interesting Items Concerning the Journeying of the Latter-day Saints from the City of Nauvoo, Until Their Location in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake (Extracted from the Private Journal of Orson Pratt),” digital copy, LDS Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[8] Thomas Bullock Journals, Vol. 4, 1843-1849, LDS Church History Library, digital copy, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[9] ‘This is the place’: The Mormon Pioneers” National Historic Trails Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide; Utah- Crossroads of the West, National Park Services, Salt Lake City, UT, September 2010

[10] Brigham Young history, 23 July 1847, in Richard E. Turley Jr. and Lael Littke, Wagons West: Brigham Young and the First Pioneers (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2016), 142.

For Further Research:

Primary Sources:

LDS Overland Trails Datatbase: Brigham Young Pioneer Company 

Thomas Bullocks Journal Entry 

Orson Pratt’s Journal Entry 

Secondary Sources:

Mormon Trail HistoryUtah.com, accessed March 27, 2017.

Brigham Young; 1801-1877PBS; New Persectives on the West, accessed March 27th, 2017.

Mormon PioneerNationalParksService, accessed March 29, 2017.

‘This is the place’: The Mormon Pioneers” National Historic Trails Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide; Utah- Crossroads of the West, National Park Services, Salt Lake City, UT, September 2010

Will Bagley, The Pioneer Camp of the Saints: The 1846 and 1847 Mormon Trail Journals of Thomas Bullock (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2001).

Richard E. Turley Jr. and Lael Littke, Wagons West: Brigham Young and the First Pioneers (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2016).

Journal of Orson Pratt

Published / by Grace Fahey / Leave a Comment

Pratt, Orson, “Interesting Items Concerning the Journeying of the Latter-day Saints from the City of Nauvoo, Until Their Location in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake (Extracted from the Private Journal of Orson Pratt),”

 July 21st. No frost this morning, but a heavy dew. We resumed our journey, travelled 2 1/2 miles, and ascended a mountain for 1 1/2 miles; descended upon the west side one mile; came upon a swift running creek, where we halted for noon: we called this Last Creek. Brother Erastus Snow (having overtaken our camp from the other camp, which he said was but a few miles in the rear,) and myself proceeded in advance of the camp down Last Creek 4 1/2 miles, to where it passes through a kanyon and issues into the broad open valley below. To avoid the kanyon the wagons last season had passed over an exceedingly steep and dangerous hill. Mr. Snow and myself ascended this hill, from the top of which a broad open valley, about 20 miles wide and 30 long, lay stretched out before us, at the north end of which the broad waters of the Great Salt Lake glistened in the sunbeams, containing high mountainous islands from 25 to 30 miles in extent. After issuing from the mountains among which we had been shut up for many days, and beholding in a moment such an extensive scenery open before us, we could not refrain from a shout of joy which almost involuntarily escaped from our lips the moment this grand and lovely scenery was within our view. We immediately descended very gradually into the lower parts of the valley, and although we had but one horse between us, yet we traversed a circuit of about 12 miles before we left the valley to return to our camp, which we found encamped 1 1/2 miles up the ravine from the valley, and 3 miles in advance of their noon halt. It was about 9 o’clock in the evening when we got into camp. The main body of the pioneers who were in the rear were encamped only 1 1/2 mile up the creek from us, with the exception of some wagons containing some who were sick, who were still behind.

July 22nd. This morning George A. Smith and myself, accompanied by seven others, rode into the valley to explore, leaving the camp to follow on and work the road, which here required considerable labour, for we found that the kanyon at the entrance of the valley, by cutting out the thick timber and underbrush, connected with some spading and digging, could be made far more preferable than the route over the steep hill mentioned above. We accordingly left a written note to that effect, and passed on. After going down into the valley about 5 miles, we turned our course to the north, down towards the Salt Lake. For 3 or 4 miles north we found the soil of a most excellent quality. Streams from the mountains and springs were very abundant, the water excellent, and generally with gravel bottoms. A great variety of green grass, and very luxuriant, covered the bottoms for miles where the soil was sufficiently damp, but in other places, although the soil was good, yet the grass had nearly dried up for want of moisture. We found the drier places swarming with very large crickets, about the size of a man’s thumb. This valley is surrounded with mountains, except on the north: the tops of some of the highest being covered with snow. Every 1 or 2 miles streams were emptying into it from the mountains on the east, many of which were sufficiently large to carry mills and other machinery. As we proceeded towards the Salt Lake the soil began to assume a more sterile appearance, being probably at some season of the year overflowed with water. We found as we proceeded on, great numbers of hot springs issuing from near the base of the mountains. These springs were highly impregnated with salt and sulphur: the temperature of some was nearly raised to the boiling point. We travelled for about 15 miles down after coming into the valley, the latter parts of the distance the soil being unfit for agricultural purposes. We returned and found our wagons encamped in the valley, about 5 1/4 miles from where they left the kanyon.

Source: Orson Pratt, “Interesting Items Concerning the Journeying of the Latter-day Saints from the City of Nauvoo, Until Their Location in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake (Extracted from the Private Journal of Orson Pratt),” digital copy, LDS Church History Library.

see: Big Mountain 

Ensign Peak

Published / by Jake Bardsley / Leave a Comment

Ensign Peak

Write-up by Jake Bardsley

Placed by: Pioneer Trails and Assoc.

GPS Coordinates: 40.7944° N, 111.8905° W

 

 

 

 

 

Historical Marker Text (1): 

Plaque A: (on S. side of monument, replica of original PTLA 43) ENSIGN PEAK July 26, 1847, two days after the Mormon Pioneers entered this valley Brigham Young and party climbed to this point and with the aid of field glasses made a careful survey of the mountains, canyons and streams. In the group were Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, Ezra T. Benson, Willard Richards, Albert Carrington and William Clayton. Wilford Woodruff, first to ascend the Peak, suggested it as a fitting place to “set up an ensign” (Isaiah 11:12). It was then named Ensign Peak, subsequently the stars and stripes were raised here.

Historical Marker Text (2): 

Plaque B: Free-standing concrete slab, NE of monument 1.5’W 2.5’H 8″D (drawing of flag raising) THE SUMMIT Before he left Nauvoo, Brigham Young said that Joseph Smith, the deceased prophet, had appeared to him in a vision and shown him a place where the banner of liberty should wave. When he viewed this peak as he entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, Brigham reportedly said, “This is the place,” adding “I want to go there.” Two days later, still weak from fever, he insisted on climbing the summit. Eight others made the hike with him where they spent several hours in prayer and counsel. They gazed over the valley and made plans for a new city. They wanted their new home to become the “ensign for the nations” of which Isaiah had prophesied in the Bible, hence the name Ensign Peak. No ensign, or flag, was flown on that occasion, but perhaps a yellow bandanna, tied to a cane, was raised as a symbolic gesture. Within a few weeks, an American flag was hoisted on the summit. Elevation 5,416 feet the elevation of Ensign Peak is 5,416 feet. This is 1,085 feet above the southeast corner of the temple block where the Salt Lake Baseline and Meridian were established on August 2, 1847 while Orson Pratt was laying out the city. At that point, the city was 4,331 feet above sea level.

Historical Marker Text (3): 

Plaque C: Free-standing concrete, E of monument 1.5’W 2.5’H 8″D (just to S. of B) FLAGS ON ENSIGN PEAK (Drawing of flag flying on peak, smaller drawings of American Flag, Joel Hills Johnson, Utah State flag, Ebenezer Beesley) Ensign Peak has been a place for much flag-flying. Shortly after the coming of the Mormons in 1847, an American flag was flown from the summit. Early settlers have also flown their special “flag of the kingdom” here. This “kingdom flag” was never formalized into an exact pattern, but likely had twelve blue and white stripes and one or more blue stars. It was likely flown from Ensign Peak as part of the first Pioneer Days Celebration in 1849. In 1897, the Salt Lake Herald, a local newspaper, erected the first flag pole on Ensign Peak, and the summit was designated by Utah leaders as an official place to display the American and State flags. Fifty years later, volunteers carried a seven-hundred-pound pole to the top of Ensign Peak where it was erected. The pole was later damaged by vehicles and removed to the Council Hall near the State Capitol.

Historical Marker Text (4): 

Plaque D: Free-standing concrete 3’W 3’H 6″D (Drawing of Salt Lake Valley) THE VIEW Ensign Peak provided Brigham Young’s 1847 exploring party with a good view of the Salt Lake Valley. Cradled between the Oquirrh Mountains to the west and the Wasatch Range to the east, the valley was covered with tall grass, sagebrush, and desert flowers but few trees. A river, which they later named the Jordan, ran the length of the valley and emptied into the Great Salt Lake. They observed a number of mountain streams flowing into the river. Below where they stood, efforts were underway to cultivate the land. From this vantage point the group began to lay plans for the city. Beyond the State Capitol Building lies State Street, stretching long and straight until it disappears from view in the distance. The Salt Lake Temple, now practically surrounded by tall buildings, once dominated the landscape. The small communities that formerly dotted the valley have grown to the point that it is often hard to tell where one ends and another begins.

Small Plaque below: 

Construction of this plaza and restoration of the monument have been made possible by the generous contribution of the family of David Aurelius Robinson (1905-1986). HIGH ON THE MOUNTAIN TOP Ensign Peak inspired pioneer poet Joel Hills Johnson, to write the verses of the popular hymne “High on the Mountain Top.” A fitting tune was written by Ebenezer Beesley. The peak has been the subject of many other poems and stories.” “Markers and Monuments Database.”

Extended Research:

In 1869, Mormon Apostle George A. Smith reported that Joseph Smith, the deceased founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), appeared to Brigham Young in vision sometime after Smith’s death and Smith showed Young a peak where the Saints should settle.  On July 24, 1847, when Young entered the Salt Lake Valley for the first time he reportedly recognized Ensign Peak as the place he had seen in a vision.[1]

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries Ensign Peak was utilized in many ways. In 1847 the “Peak” symbolically and literally represented a gathering place for the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to historian Ronald Walker, Young proposed several flags to represent “the gathering” and to create an identity for the occupants of Salt Lake City. Some suggested that the most fitting flag should be an American flag to fly on Ensign Peak, despite tensions between the Federal Government and the Mormon settlers. Mormons felt alienated but still maintained an American ideology.[2]

Apart from flying flags, members of the LDS church received and performed temple endowments on the peak while the Salt Lake City Temple was under construction. The temple endowment is a ceremony where members make covenants with God in order to receive promised blessings in return. Addison Pratt prior to his LDS mission received his endowment on July 21, 1849 on Ensign Peak.[2] During the Utah War (1857-1858) members of the Utah militia used the peak as a lookout spot for federal troops. Militiamen used smoke to signal during the day, and fire light to signal at night.[3]

In the 20th Century several people proposed different uses for the peak. Lon J. Haddock, a member of the Salt Lake City Manufacturers and Merchants Association ,with the support of Senator Reed Smoot, promoted the peak as a park.[4] Smoot and Haddock, however, did not gain enough support for their idea and it did not bear fruit. In the early 1900s, automobile dealers drove their cars to the top of the peak as an advertising opportunity. In 1910 the first automobile reached the top and other drivers followed, generally as publicity stunts.[5] In 1916, LDS Presiding Bishop, Charles W. Nibley proposed that a stone cross be built on Ensign Peak. Nibley suggested that the cross would represent the sacrifices of early Mormon pioneers, and also signal to the world that Mormons were in fact Christians.[6] Nibley’s proposal created controversy and the community ultimately rejected it. A year later advocates proposed a monument in honor of the Mormon Battalion (a military unit in the US war with Mexico comprised of around five hundred Mormons), but it also did not gain support.

In the fall of 1924 the Klu Klux Klan held a demonstration and used the peak for its own purposes. The 1920s marked a resurgence of the Klu Klux Klan nationwide. In Utah the Klan held a demonstration on the same day as LDS General Conference–a meeting for Mormons from around the world to gather and listen to their leaders. During the conference proceedings, the Klan burned a large cross at the top of the peak in a show of force for the KKK in Utah.[7]

The monument that sits atop Ensign Peak today was built on July 26, 1934. Standing at eighteen feet high, the Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association are responsible for its construction. Speakers and leaders of all faiths participated in the celebration.[8] In 1996, Ensign Peak was renovated and the construction of a permanent park began. [9]

[1] George A. Smith, “Historical Discourse,” 20 June 1869, Journal of Discourses (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854–1886), 13:85.

[2] Ronald W. Walker, “A Banner Is Unfurled,” Dialogue 26, no. 4(1993): 71-91: https://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V26N04_89.pdf

[2] William S. Harwell and Fred C. Collier, eds., Manuscript History of Brigham Young (Salt Lake City: Collier’s Publishing Company, 1997), 224–25.

[3] B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1912), 4:507.

[4] Ensign Peak,” Deseret Evening News, August 8, 1908, 4.

[5] “Velie Automobile Climbs Ensign Peak,” Salt Lake Tribune, March 10, 1910, 4.

[6] To Erect Cross on Ensign Peak,” Deseret Evening News, May 5, 1916; “Ensign Peak Cross! Never! Cries Lund in Protest,” Salt Lake Telegram, May 7, 1916.

[7] Larry R. Gerlach, Blazing Crosses in Zion: The Ku Klux Klan in Utah (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1982) ,105–110.

[8] Ensign Peak Monument to Be Unveiled,” Deseret News, July 24, 1934, 9.

[9] R. Scott Lloyd, “Park at Ensign Peak Dedicated,” Deseret News, August 3, 1996, 3, 13.

Primary Sources

George A. Smith, “Historical Discourse,” 20 June 1869, Journal of Discourses (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1854–1886), 13:85.

Ensign Peak,” Deseret Evening News, August 8, 1908, 4.

Velie Automobile Climbs Ensign Peak,” Salt Lake Tribune, March 10, 1910, 4.

To Erect Cross on Ensign Peak,” Deseret Evening News, May 5, 1916

Ensign Peak Monument to Be Unveiled,” Deseret News, July 24, 1934, 9.

Scott Lloyd,Park at Ensign Peak Dedicated,” Deseret News, August 3, 1996, 3, 13.

Secondary Sources

William S. Harwell and Fred C. Collier, eds., Manuscript History of Brigham Young (Salt Lake City: Collier’s Publishing Company, 1997).

Brigham H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1912), 4:507.

Larry R. Gerlach, Blazing Crosses in Zion: The Ku Klux Klan in Utah (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1982).

Ronald W. Walker, “A Banner Is Unfurled,” Dialogue 26, no. 4(1993): 71-91: https://www.dialoguejournal.com/wp-content/uploads/sbi/articles/Dialogue_V26N04_89.pdf

Ronald W. Walker, “A Gauge of the Times: Ensign Peak in the Twentieth Century,” Utah Historical Quarterly 62, no. 1 (1994): 4–25.

Dennis A. Wright and Rebekah E. Westrup, “Ensign Peak: A Historical Review,” in Salt Lake City: The Place Which God Prepared, ed. Scott C. Esplin and Kenneth L. Alford (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 2011), 27–46.