Category Archives: Mormon trail

First Encampment Park

Published / by Jesse Hassard / Leave a Comment

Write up by Jesse T. Hassard

Placed by: Daughters of the Utah Pioneers

GPS coordinates Latitude: 40° 43’ 59.45” N, 111° 52’ 38.58” W

Historical Marker text 1

“First Encampment in the Salt Lake Valley. Daughters of Utah Pioneers. On July 22, 1847, the main body of the Mormon Pioneer Company, along with a few of the Mormon Battalion sick detachment and some of the Mississippi saints, camped near this location. After leaving Emigration Canyon, the group traveled in a southwesterly direction along the south side of Emigration Creek. Near where Emigration and Parley’s Creeks come close together, they camped. Thomas Bullock, the company clerk, recorded in his journal, ‘We descended a gentle sloping table land to a lower level where the Soil and grass improved in appearance… The Wheat Grass grows 6 or 7 feet high, many different kinds of grass appear some being 10 or 20 feet high – after wading through thick grass for some distance, we found a place bare enough for a Camping ground, the grass being only knee deep, but very thick; we camped on the banks of a beautiful little stream [Parley’s Creek] which was surrounded by very tall grass…’ Orson Pratt and his exploring expedition, who entered the valley earlier that morning, joined the camp in the evening. A council was held and the decision was made to move the next day to a site they had chosen to plant crops, on City Creek two miles to the north. Brigham Young, whose small party was delayed because of illness, did not enter the valley until July 24, going directly to the camp on City Creek. When surveyed, the area of the first encampment became part of the ‘Big Field’ farming plat. Among those with farms here was Wilford Woodruff, whose two houses still stand a half block north of this site. Beginning in the 1890s, the area was platted and subdivided for residential development. Parley’s Creek still flows through the neighborhood in an underground conduit. 1997. No. 509. Salt Lake Liberty Park Company.”

(First plaque)

Historical marker text 2

A mounted plaque on the east monument says: “Others Who Came. When the main body of the Pioneer Company camped here July 22, 1847, other members of the Company were in various locations. A group of pioneers and two Mormon Battalion men (James Oakley and George S. Clark) were delayed by Colorado tick fever and entered the valley two days later, July 24. It included: Brigham Young, Ezra T. Benson, Robert E. Baird, George P. Billings, James Case, Thomas P. Cloward, Hosea Cushing, Isaac P. Decker (child), Benjamin F. Dewey, Howard Egan, Addison Everett, Andrew S. Gibbons, Stephen H. Goddard, Artemas Johnson, Heber C. Kimball, Ellen Sanders Kimball, William A. King, Carlos Murray, Eli H. Pierce, Albert P. Rockwood, Henry G. Sherwood, William C. A. Smoot, Briant Stringham, Thomas Tanner, Horace K. Whitney, Orson K. Whitney, Wilford Woodruff, Clarissa Decker Young, Harriet Page Wheeler Young, Lorenzo S. Young (child) and Lorenzo D. Young. Four men had been sent to guide the valley members of the Mormon Battalion Sick Detachment and a group of Mississippi Mormons who had wintered at Fort Pueblo, Colorado. Amasa M. Lyman and Roswell Stevens of the Pioneer Company. John H. Tippets and Thomas Wolsey of the Mormon Battalion. Five men had been sent back along the trail to guide the large Mormon companies following, the first of which reached Salt Lake Valley, September 22, 1847. Rodney Badger, Aaron F. Farr, Eric Glines, George Woodward and Phinehas H. Young. Nine men had been left to build and operate a ferry on the Platte River at today’s Casper, Wyoming, to aid future companies and earn revenue from other travelers. James Davenport, Edmund Ellsworth, William Empey, Thomas Grover, Appleton M. Harmon, John Higbee, Luke Johnson Frances, M. Pomeroy and Franklin B. Stewart. Honor also to the families left behind at Winter Quarters and elsewhere; to 70,000 other Mormons who came in the next 22 years; and to 6,000 whose journey ended in death somewhere along the trail.”

Historical marker text 3

A mounted plaque on the south monument says: “How the Park Came to Be. This park grew from what began as a Federal Heights Ward sesquicentennial project – a simple monument to mark the first Mormon campsite in Great Salt Lake Valley. The vision expanded, and the park became a joint project of the Emigration and Wells Stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, bringing to reality a dream of the neighborhood and the historical community. Engraved on stones throughout the park are names of the 109 men, 3 women, and 8 children thought to have slept here that first night in the valley, July 22, 1847. The park design represents the landscape they encountered. Granite boulders mounded in the eastern part represent the Wasatch Mountains. The path through the mountain rocks represents Emigration Canyon, down which the Pioneers came. The dry streambeds represent Emigration and Parley’s Creeks. Primary children of the two stakes embedded pebbles in the fresh concrete of the streambeds. In addition to thousands of hours of volunteer labor by both stakes, the park was made possible by American Oil Company’s generosity in the donating the land and by liberal financial support, primarily by members of Emigration Stake. Contributing firms and organizations included Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Kelby Electric Company, Oakland Construction Company, Clean Cut Landscaping, United Fence Company, Lehi Block Company, Howe Rental, and others. Landscape Architect Stuart Loosli created the design and, with Mark Finlinson, managed construction. William B. Smart was general chairman. Dedicated by Elder M. Russell Ballard, July 22, 1997, exactly 150 years after the arrival of the pioneers here. Presented as a city park to the people of Salt Lake City and to all who honor our pioneer heritage.”

Extended research

Mormons were violently persecuted and pushed from Ohio to Missouri, from Missouri to Illinois and from Illinois, they were pushed west outside the bounds of the United States to northern Mexico. After Joseph Smith, the founder of the faith, was murdered in Illinois, Brigham Young, the faith’s new leader decided to move his people into unclaimed lands in northern Mexico. In 1846, members of the LDS church then began their long journey across the United States and into the Rocky Mountains. After spending the winter in present-day Nebraska, Brigham Young led a vanguard group into the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847. During the long journey, however, the Mormon wagon train was broken up into two different groups. The group that would continue into the Salt Lake Valley totaled 42 men and 23 wagons. They would be the first Latter-day Saints to reach the Salt Lake Valley, two days ahead of  Brigham Young who stayed behind because of an illness he was suffering from.1

The advanced party followed the Hasting’s cutoff trail blazed by the ill-fated Donner Party the year before. Three other groups also tried Hasting’s cutoff in 1846 but entered the valley through Weber Canyon.  The Donner Party instead pioneered a path through Emigration Canyon which the Latter-day Saints followed one year later. After leaving Emigration Canyon, The LDS pioneers traveled southwesterly along Emigration Creek till they reached a bank positioned where Emigration and Parley’s Creeks come close together. Thomas Bullock, the pioneer company’s clerk, wrote, “We descended a gentle sloping tableland to a lower level where the soil and grass improved in appearance.”

The Mormons had finally arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. Thomas Bullock described the campsite in his journal: “… after wading thro thick grass for some distance, we found a place bare enough for a camping ground, the grass being only knee deep, but very thick; we camped on the banks of a beautiful little stream which was surrounded by very tall grass.”

The original landscape of the area that would become the first encampment park is described as very beautiful as stated by Bullock: “we found a place bare enough for a Camping ground, the grass being only knee deep but very thick. We camped on the banks of a beautiful little Stream; which was surrounded by very tall grass. in digging a place down to the stream. cut thro’ a thin bed of Clay. After about a foot depth of rich soil; then rich soil again.” The camp was reportedly very sound and was located close to the present-day intersection of 1700 South and 500 East, in modern-day Salt Lake City.

This makes the First Encampment Park the approximate location where the First Pioneer Company of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints camped when they first arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 22, 1847. The group included three enslaved men, Green Flake, Hark (Lay) Wales, and Oscar (Crosby) Smith. Their Latter-day Saint enslavers had sent them ahead to prepare cabins and to plant crops so that the white enslavers would have a place to live and food to eat when they arrived the following year. African American Slavery thus arrived in the Salt Lake Valley two days ahead of Brigham Young. 

On July 24, 1847, Brigham Young arrived at the second encampment two miles north, close to City Creek, where they began to grow crops and establish a layout of the new city they would build.

In 1997, 150 years later, community leaders established a small pocket park at the first encampment location, now known as the first encampment park. Its granite stone landscape bears the names of the first pioneers to arrive and represents the Wasatch Mountains and Emigration Canyon through which they traversed. This monument is a representation of the hardships and sacrifices of the Mormon pioneers. It details their journey across the mountains into the Salt Lake Valley. This place is the end of their long journey and the first place in the Salt Lake valley that they camped. For this reason, this marker is very significant in the history of Utah, much like Plymouth rock and its importance as the beginning of the United States. The first encampment park serves as the beginning of the Mormon story in Utah; it represents the beginning of Euro-American settlement in the Salt Lake Valley. Latter-day Saints hoped to be free from outsiders or others that would threaten to run them out of their houses and change their lives. The First Encampment Park represents the end of the Latter-day Saints’ long journey and the beginnings of their new settlement.

For Further Reference

Secondary

Dixon, Randall W. “From Emigration Canyon to City Creek: Pioneer Trail and Campsites in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847,” Utah Historical Quarterly 65, no. 2 (Spring 1997): 155–64.

Franzwa, Gregory M. The Mormon Trail Revisited. Tooele, UT: Patrice, 2007.

Grandy, Joellen. “First Encampment Park Report.” Public Lands Department. Accessed February 2, 2022. https://www.slc.gov/parks/parks-division/first-encampment-park/.

Kiser, Benjamin Kiser. “Green Flake,” Century of Black Mormons, accessed April 8, 2022.

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

Weiss, Megan. “Hark Wales,” Century of Black Mormons, accessed April 8, 2022.

Primary

Thomas bullock journal, July 13- 22,1847, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Echo Canyon Breastworks

Published / by Christopher Rich / 1 Comment on Echo Canyon Breastworks

Write-up by Christopher Rich

Placed by: Boy Scouts of America Troop 681 and 738.  Funded by Summit County Restaurant Tax and Summit County Historical Society. The aging wood was replaced with steel in 2015 by the Summit County Historical Society.

GPS Coordinates: 41.008377, -111.380923

Photo Credit: Christopher Rich

Historical Marker Text:

The Echo Canyon Breastworks were constructed during the autumn of 1857 under the direction of Daniel H. Wells, commander of the Mormon militia.  They were set atop high cliffs where they would provide the greatest advantage against possible attack by Johnston’s Army during the Utah War (1857-58).  This 2,500 man force was sent by President James Buchanan to silence what was perceived to be a rebellion by the Mormons.

The dry masonry wall, constructed of uncut stones stacked on random courses without mortar were 1 to 2 feet above ground and 4 to 12 feet in length.  These fortifications stretched some 12 miles along the [sic] section of Echo Canyon.  These breastworks were part of a larger defensive network that included plans to dam the creek to force the troops against the canyon wall where the breastworks are located, and large trenches across the canyon to impede the passage of horses and men.

More than 1,200 men worked together completing the breastworks on the cliffs in a matter of a few weeks.  However, the peaceful resolution of the Utah War in the early summer of 1858 rendered the fortifications unnecessary.

Extended Research:

The Utah War of 1857-58 was grounded in a dispute between Latter-day Saints and the federal government concerning the extent of local sovereignty.  Utah was organized as a territory as part of the Compromise of 1850.  While this permitted the citizens of Utah to elect a legislature, all executive and judicial officers were appointed by the President.  Millard Fillmore appointed Brigham Young as governor and split the remaining offices between Mormons and Gentiles (a nineteenth century term used in Utah to designate non-Mormons).  Nevertheless, there was continual friction between the Saints and federal appointees. Points of contention included theocratic governance in Utah, alternative judicial structures, Indian affairs, and of course, the practice of polygamy.  In 1851, and again in 1857, a number of federal officers left their posts in Utah claiming that they could not adequately fulfill their duties, and that a military force would be necessary to enforce federal sovereignty in the Territory.[1]

Brigham Young

In March 1857, President James Buchanan was inaugurated as President.  From the beginning, his administration was plagued by growing sectional animosity over the extension of slavery, including the volatile situation in Kansas Territory.  Within weeks of taking office, his administration received a memorial from the Utah Legislature that indicated an unwillingness to submit to the authority of federal officials who did not conform with their expectations.  Soon afterward, Judge W.W. Drummond of the Utah Supreme Court published a letter of resignation that provided a highly inflammatory account of affairs in Utah and demanded military intervention.  The President did not take the trouble to independently investigate these allegations.  Instead, in May he decided to replace Brigham Young as governor and deploy a military expedition to Utah consisting of 2,500 soldiers.

James Buchanan

On July 24, 1857, Brigham Young was informed that a federal army was on its way to Utah.  However, he had received no word of explanation from the Buchanan Administration.  Young feared that the Utah Expedition presaged the reenactment of the Saints’ previous experiences in Missouri and Illinois where they had been dispossessed by a combination of mobs and state militia units.  He also had a bitter taste left in his mouth from a much smaller contingent of troops who had wintered in the Salt Lake Valley from 1854-55.[2]  As a result, Young and his associates prepared a strategy to slow the oncoming army and keep it outside population centers until snow blocked the mountain passes. At the same time, they prepared to defend the Territory from attack.

The breastworks at Echo Canyon were part of this larger strategy.  Echo Canyon was a narrow choke point through which the Utah Expedition had to pass in order to reach the populated areas of the Territory.  Other routes required the army to take a long march around natural barriers that would significantly slow its progress. Fortifying the canyon therefore served two major purposes.  The first was as a strong line of defense in case the army attempted a direct assault through the mountains.  But perhaps more important was the canyon’s value as a deterrent.

Echo Canyon Breastworks. Photo Credit: Kenneth Mays

It is unclear how effective the Mormon defenses might have been in the face of a determined attack.  One Latter-day Saint observer wrote to his wife in the fall of 1857 that the “position [at Echo Canyon] is such with its defenses as to defy any army that may ever seek to break through it.”[3]  Upon seeing the breastworks nine months later, Captain Albert Tracy of the Utah Expedition was less impressed.  Although he noted certain earthworks and walls that would be “difficult to carry,” he concluded that with the proper application of artillery, “the ‘corrals’ of rocks which they had erected by the shelves and gulches and along the ridges of the cliffs, would have been knocked about their ears, and rendered untenable in but a brief time and the way opened for our own light troops from the hills at rear.”[4] 

As a deterrent, however, Echo Canyon proved formidable.  Captain Stewart Van Vliet of the Quartermaster Corps preceded the main body of the Utah Expedition and met with Brigham Young in early September 1857.  Young outlined his defense strategy to Van Vliet who took the message back to the army, and eventually on to Washington.  Van Vliet passed through Echo Canyon both on his way to Great Salt Lake City, and on his way back.  At this time, the Mormons had not prepared significant defenses in the canyon.  Nevertheless, Van Vliet reported that there “is but one road running into the valley on the side which our troops are approaching, and for over fifty miles it passes through narrow canons [sic] and over rugged mountains, which a small force could hold against great odds.”[5]  This report unnerved the senior officer commanding the lead elements of the expedition, Lieutenant Colonel Edmund Alexander, who turned away from the direct course into Utah, only to countermarch.  However, the delay was enough to permit a heavy snow fall that effectively cut-off the road to Great Salt Lake City for the winter.  With the Utah Expedition stuck at the burned-out remains of Fort Bridger, diplomacy was able to resolve the crisis.

For Further Reference:

Primary Sources

Tracy, Albert.  “The Utah War Journal of Capt. Albert Tracy, 1858-1860.”  In Utah Historical Quarterly 13, no. 1,2,3, 4 (January, April, July, October, 1945): 1-119.

Van Vliet, Stewart. “Van Vliet’s Report.” In Mormon Resistance: A Documentary Account of the Utah Expedition, 1857-1858, edited by Leroy R. Hafen and Ann W. Hafen, 50-55. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005, 1958.

Watt, George D.  “Pvt. George D. Watt to Alice Watt, 14 October 1857.”  In At Sword’s Point, Part I: A Documentary History of the Utah War to 1858, edited by William P. MacKinnon, 361-63.  Norman, Oklahoma: The Arthur C. Clark Company, 2008.

Secondary Sources

Furniss, Norman.  The Mormon Conflict, 1850-1859.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1960.

MacKinnon, William P., ed. At Sword’s Point, Part I: A Documentary History of the Utah War to 1858.  Norman, Oklahoma: The Arthur C. Clark Company, 2008.

McKinnon, William P. “Sex, Subalterns, and Steptoe: Army Behavior, Mormon Rage, and Utah War Anxieties,” Utah Historical Quarterly 76, no. 3 (Summer 2008): 227-246.

Rogers, Brent M. Unpopular Sovereignty: Mormons and the Federal Management of Early Utah Territory. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2017.


[1] Brent M. Rogers, Unpopular Sovereignty: Mormons and the Federal Management of Early Utah Territory (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2017).

[2] William P. McKinnon, “Sex, Subalterns, and Steptoe: Army Behavior, Mormon Rage, and Utah War Anxieties,” Utah Historical Quarterly 76, no. 3 (Summer 2008): 227-246.

[3] George D. Watt, “Pvt. George D. Watt to Alice Watt, 14 October 1857,” in At Sword’s Point, Part I: A Documentary History of the Utah War to 1858, edited by William P. MacKinnon, 361-63 (Norman, Oklahoma: The Arthur C. Clark Company, 2008), 362.

[4] Tracy, Albert.  “The Utah War Journal of Capt. Albert Tracy, 1858-1860.”  In Utah Historical Quarterly 13, no. 1,2,3, 4 (January, April, July, October, 1945): 1-119, 20.

[5] Stewart Van Vliet, “Van Vliet’s Report,” in Mormon Resistance: A Documentary Account of the Utah Expedition, 1857-1858, edited by Leroy R. Hafen and Ann W. Hafen, 50-55 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005, 1958), 53.

Indian Trails Monument

Published / by Colbie Hymas / Leave a Comment

Write-up by Colbie Hymas

Placed by: The Sons of Utah Pioneers

GPS Coordinates: N 41 degrees 19.227 W 111 degrees 53.922

Historical Marker Text (1):

Early explorations:

Indian bands of the Shoshone tribe were located throughout northern Utah, southern Idaho, and western Wyoming long before the advent of the white men. Northern Utah was inhabited by hunting and wild berry – pine nuts – roots gathering bands of the Northwest Shoshones and some Ute Indians. The Indians wandered from area to area on a network of well-traveled trails throughout the region. 

    Pathfinders, trappers, and explorers followed the well-worn Indian trails through Utah territory. In May 1825 Peter Skene Ogden of the Hudson’s Bay Company led a party of trappers south from Cache Valley on trail #2 and in seven days the party took 585 beaver pelts in New Hole as Ogden called the valley. The Ogden party left from New Hole and followed trail #4 south to the Weber River. After skirmish with some American trappers at Mountain Green Ogden retraced his steps North, never descending to the lower valley. Mountain men called the valley Ogden Hole, such men as Smith, Fitzpatrick, Weber, Sublette, Bridger, Russell, Clyman, and Goodyear. In 1843 John C. Fremont and his expedition traveled south on an Indian trail from Fort Hall, arriving at the Weber River they launched a boat and visited the island in the Great Salt Lake which now bears his name. In 1849 Capt. J. Howard Stansbury led an expedition of Topographical Engineers of the U.S. Army to the west. He left the Donner Trail south of Evanston and descended the Bear River until he found “an Indian lodge trail” going west (Trail #3). “We soon arrived at the headwaters of Pumbar (Lost) Creek, a tributary of the Weber”. The party took Trail #1 west and visited Brownsville, now called Ogden. Later while encamped on the west side of Promontory Mountain Capt. Stansbury noticed indications of the area’s having been inundated at some remote time by “a vast inland sea”. Stansbury thus became the first person to record the existence of an ancient Lake Bonneville. 

Historical Marker Text (2):

Five Indian Lodge Trails radiated from Ogden Valley long before the arrival of White men. Trail #1 ascended North Ogden Creek to North Ogden Pass where we are, veered to the North as it descended to the valley. Trail #2 crossed the divide north of Liberty and descended the South Fork of the Little Bear River to Cache Valley. Trail #3 went east up South Fork, ascended Skin Toe Trail between Causey Creek and South Fork, crossed Lost Creek on its way to the Bear River north of Evanston. Trail #4 went up Hawkins Creek south of Huntsville, over the low hills and connected with a trail on the Weber at Mountain Green. Trail #5 went west down Ogden Canyon to the narrows near the west end of the canyon, ascended the mountain between Cold Water and Warm Water creeks, continued west above the cliffs and emerged from the canyon near 21st street. All of these trails joined other migratory trails. 

Historical Marker Text (3):

Pioneer Settlements:

Brigham Young learned much about the geography of the region near the Great Salt Lake from the writings of a few of the mountain men and from interviews with others. Soon after the arrival of the first company of Mormon Pioneers in the “valley” in July 1847 Brigham Young sent exploring parties north and south along the Indian trails west of the Wasatch Mountains to locate places for settlements. One of these parties contacted Mills Goodyear at Fort Buenaventura. In 1848 Brigham Young sent a party to explore the country around Bear Lake. The group went up Weber Canyon and took Trail #4 to Ogden Hole and then Trail #3 up South Fork on their way to Bear Lake. In 1854 Brigham Young sent an expedition over Trail #1 to find a shorter route to Fort Bridger for the settlers near Ogden so that they would not need to go via Salt Lake City. This expedition took the first wagon into the valley in (Ogden Hole). Charles F. Middleton wrote, “The first wagon that was taken into the valley was taken by hand of man. No mules or oxen hauled that vehicle. I steered the wagon. The wheels were locked, and my companions held onto the vehicle with ropes to prevent its breaking loose and dashing down the steep incline.) In 1856 Ogden Hole became a summer grazing area for cattle. The next year the first herd houses were built where Eden is located. The first permanent settlers arrived in 1858 and located near the herd houses. Huntsville and then Liberty were settled soon thereafter. A toll road through Ogden Canyon constructed in 1860 by Lorin Farr and Isaac Goodale, subsequently became the main route into Ogden Valley. Each summer for a number of years Indian bands passed through the valley over the old trails on their way to and from their hunting grounds. The Indians were not hostile for they had learned that they could get more food by bartering with leather goods and by the settlers being aware of their needs than by fighting. 

Extended Research:

The Indian Trails Monument stands in the North Ogden Canyon and showcases a series of trails created by the movements of early Native American tribes, primarily the Northwestern band of Shoshone. The monument was placed by the Sons of Utah Pioneers and benefited from the research of people such as Mae Parry who was a very impactful Native American leader in Weber County, Utah.[1] Parry and others established a commitment to Native American history in the area, as it had largely been forgotten. The monument not only traces five Indian trails, but also gives a brief history of the early peoples who used these trails, such as Native Americans, early mountain men, and Mormon pioneers.

Long before white men arrived in the areas now known as Huntsville, Liberty, Eden, Ogden, and Cache Valley, Utah, they were inhabited by the Northwest band of Shoshone Indians. The Native Americans who lived there called the area “Opecarry,” which translated to “stick in the head.”[2] The Shoshone Indians were spread out around Utah and Idaho, however, the Indian Trails Monument in North Ogden Utah, specifically documents the trails established and used by the Northwestern band. These native peoples were nomadic hunters and gatherers who moved from place to place in search of water, edible vegetation, and wild game. They traveled with the seasons and learned over time the best places to obtain the greatest amounts of resources at the most opportune times. This took the Northwestern band into Northern and Eastern Nevada where they would harvest pine nuts, into southeastern Idaho where they found hot springs in the winter, and many other places throughout the year.[3]

Older Shoshone Indians used the term “So-So-Goi” to describe themselves, the term translates to “those that travel on foot.”[4] Before horses were introduced to the Northwestern band, this is exactly how they traveled, and from the young to the old, everyone was expected to pull their weight. The concept of sharing what one had, even with a stranger, was deeply engrained in the Northwestern band, and the concept of personal property did not exist. Helping neighbors and receiving help from neighbors was a way of survival for these early Indians, and therefore, they were constantly moving between different encampments of Shoshone and other nearby native groups for means of trading, socializing, and establishing kinship networks.

            After years and years of travel between encampments, and areas known to harbor significant amounts of resources, the Shoshone established well-worn trails. These trails could be followed to get to several places in Northern Utah. The trails not only traversed large areas of Northern Utah, but they also connected to other migratory trails, and could be followed into places such as Fort Hall and other important sites in early Utah. As a result of their useability and effectiveness, early trappers in Utah also utilized these trails. The monument discusses the paths and trails early trappers such as Peter Skene Ogden, John C. Fremont, and Captain Howard Stansbury traversed in the area.

After coming into the area and having success trapping beaver, Peter Skene Ogden of the Hudson Bay Company would name this area “Ogden Hole.”[5] Some of these trails and expeditions even led John C. Fremont to the Great Salt Lake where he would discover the island that now bears his name and record other important scientific information about the Great Salt Lake. Many other early trappers and mountain men used these trails to move from area to area trapping and trading goods and interacting with Native tribes.[6]

            The Mormon pioneers followed the same pattern and utilized the Native American trails for their own purposes. When the Mormons began arriving in the area, Chief Sagwitch led the Northwestern band of Shoshone. Contrary to the mountain men who often had good relationships with native tribes and integrated themselves into their culture and societies, the early Mormons often clashed with native tribes. When Chief Sagwitch learned of a group of Mormon pioneers coming their way, he went to meet their leader, Brigham Young, to offer peace and communication, as well as discuss stewardship over the land. Due to Brigham Young being ill, the Shoshone chief instead met with Heber C. Kimball who told him that the land belonged to the Lord, and the Mormons planned to cultivate and plant it. This is not what the Shoshone chief hoped to hear, but due to the peaceful and neighborly nature of the Northwestern band, Chief Sagwitch and his tribe continued to offer peace and assistance to the Mormon pioneers for years to come.[7]

            The Mormon pioneers continued to use these trails for several reasons. As more saints continued to arrive in the Mormon settlements, farmland became scarce, and Brigham Young sent out scouts to find new land to settle. These scouts would undoubtably have used these well-worn trails as they moved through the area looking for promising ground. Furthermore, Brigham Young sent missionaries to find native tribes and assimilate them into Mormon society. Native Americans were thought to be descendants of the Lamanites, an important group of people in the Book of Mormon, which is the leading spiritual text of the Mormon faith. Therefore, missionaries would seek out native tribes to teach them of their importance to the Mormon faith and attempt to convert them. This was successful with many native tribes, especially the Northwestern band of Shoshone.[8] Many Shoshone converted and continued to share this land with their new neighbors.

            The trails blazed by early Native Americans were important for many people occupying the area throughout the years. By traversing these trails, Native Americans were able to thrive in Northern Utah by migrating with the seasons and working with the land. The trails later made it significantly easier for mountain men to gain access to the frontier and trap animals and make early trading connections with native tribes. Furthermore, the Mormon pioneers would have had limited success moving throughout the area to settle and convert Native Americans had it not been for these trails that literally acted as a “golden brick rode” to the most resource rich areas, and native tribes.

The trails continue to be used today for recreational purposes and are favorite hiking trails for many residing in or near these areas. The history of these trails makes hiking them even more fascinating for many people, and through the work of the Sons of Utah Pioneers, and people such as Mae Parry and Darren Parry, author of The Bear River Massacre, the history of Native Americans and their homelands is being preserved and shared to the greater public.

For Further Reference:

Primary Sources:

Stansbury, Howard. An Expedition to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake of Utah. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott, Grambo & CO, 1855.

Miller, David E. “Journal of Peter Skene Ogden; Snake Expedition, 1825.” Peter Skene Ogden’s Journal of his Expedition to Utah, 1825. Accessed March 1, 2022. https://user.mission.com/drudy/mtman/html/ogdenjrl.html.

Secondary Sources:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. “Lamanite Identity.” Accessed March 2, 2022. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/history/topics/lamanite-identity?lang=eng.

North Ogden City. “About North Ogden.” Accessed February 18, 2022. https://www.northogdencity.com/community/page/about-north-ogden.

Parry, Darren. The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History. Salt Lake City, UT: Common Consent Press, 2019.

Roberts, Richard, and Richard W. Sadler. A History of Weber County. Salt Lake City, UT: Utah State Historical Society, 1997.


[1] Richard C. Roberts, and Richard W. Sadler, A History of Weber County (Salt Lake City, UT: Utah State Historical Society, 1997), 396.  

[2] “About North Ogden,” North Ogden City, accessed February 19, 2022, https://www.northogdencity.com/community/page/about-north-ogden.

[3] Darren Parry, The Bear River Massacre: A Shoshone History (Salt Lake City, UT: Common Consent Press, 2019), 12.

[4] Parry, Bear River Massacre, 13.

[5] “About North Ogden,” North Ogden City, accessed February 19, 2022, https://www.northogdencity.com/community/page/about-north-ogden.

[6] Ibid, About North Ogden.

[7] Parry, Bear River Massacre, 28-29.

[8] “Lamanite Identity,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, accessed February 27, 2022, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/history/topics/lamanite-identity?lang=eng.

Old This is the Place Monument

Write up by: Kauriana Kendall

Placed by: Mutual Improvement Association of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

GPS coordinates: 40.75319429362746, -111.81347150355577

Historical marker text (1):

THIS IS THE PLACE

BRIGHAM YOUNG

JULY 24 1847

Historical marker text (2):

THIS IS THE PLACE: A Rededication

In commemoration of a most significant historical event, this monument was first dedicated July 25, 1921. It marked the arrival in this valley of the Mormon Pioneers 74 years earlier, and more specifically, the moment when President Brigham Young rose from his sick-bed in Wilford Woodruff’s carriage and proclaimed to all the world: “This is the Place.”

Even in 1921, there was much disputation as to the exact location of the noted event. This monument was located here as the definitive answer as to where the event occurred. This answer came primarily from two speakers, very different in their presentations, but equally convincing in their conclusion.

The first speaker was 83-year-old W.W. Riter. As a lad of 9 years, he and his parents had followed Brigham Young to this valley. W.W. Riter was the living authority for the correct placing of the monument. In his early years, Wilford Woodruff had taken him to the spot and stated that this is exactly where Brigham Young had uttered those important words.

The second speaker was Brigham H. Roberts, aged 64, a prolific historian, theologian, congressman, eminent scholar, and a member of the Quorum of the Seventy. He said, “There has been much discussion as to whether this particular spot just outside the mouth of Emigration Canyon was really the place.” Then, quoting often from the journal of Wilford Woodruff, Mr. Roberts proved conclusively that there can be no doubt that the spot now marked by this concrete monument is very near to the actual place. In fact, speaking of the question, he remarked: “Seventy four years ago yesterday an incident occurred on or near the spot where we now stand that is destined to live in the memory of men through the ages to come.”

The above comments have been taken substantially from three articles published in the Salt Lake Tribune and three in the Desert News of the period. The comments came before and after the event.

The project of refurbishing the monument jointly undertaken by the Mills Chapter of the Sons of Utah Pioneers and Zachary Mahoney, a Scout who used his skill and wisdom to make his Eagle Project not only memorable but lasting.

Site No. 129

July 21, 2007

Rededicated by Elder Boyd K. Packer

Historical marker text (3):

THIS IS THE PLACE MONUMENTS

The first marker to commemorate the arrival of the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley was a wooden cross. The eight foot post carried the name “Brigham Young.” The crosspiece said “This is the place.” In 1921, the wooden cross was replaced with the obelisk monument. This spot is where Brigham Young, in viewing the valley, made the statement, “This is the right place. Drive on.”

Extended research:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a relatively new religious movement in 1847, but the persecution its members faced up to that point was great. They were driven out of three states, faced an extermination order in one, and had received little support from local and federal governments. Their first leader, Joseph Smith, was murdered, and the process of setting up new leadership led to major dissension within the Church. The new leader, Brigham Young, initiated an effort to move his followers outside of America (to what would later be known as Utah) to avoid more persecution and government restrictions on their worship. Starting in 1846, members of the Church began making the trek west in wagon companies and, later, some handcart companies.

Brigham Young and his wagon company arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24 1847, where Young probably said something along the lines of, “this is the right place. Drive on.” According to his journal, at the top of Big Mountain, Brigham Young saw “the Spirit of Light…over the valley” and knew this was the spot the settlers were looking for. However, he made no note of the phrase “this is the place.”[1] Historians have debated whether Young actually said these words that became a monument and the name of a state park. Despite the certainty implied by the “This is the Place” monuments, there is no documentation of exactly what Brigham Young said that day. Pioneer Levi Jackman’s journal is perhaps as close as historians will get to Young’s actual words that day. Four days after Young’s arrival, Jackman paraphrased Brigham Young during a meeting called in order to decide “whear the city should be built.” As Jackman recorded it, “After a number had spoken on the subject a voat was calld for unanimosiley aggread that this was the spot. After that Pres Young said tha he knew that this is the place. he knew it as soon as he came in sight of it and he has seen this vearey spot before.”[2]

Wilford Woodruff, whose wagon the ill Young was riding in, made no comment on the words of his leader the day they entered the Salt Lake Valley; however, he is the one who eventually said the famous phrase during a Pioneer Day speech given in 1880—thirty-three years after the arrival of the wagon company and three years after Brigham Young’s death—that is so often repeated today. Here, Woodruff attributed to Young the words “This is the right place. Drive on.” Then, in 1888, Woodruff repeated the story, but quoted Young as saying “Drive on down into the valley; this is our abiding place.” Finally, in 1897, Woodruff told the story in another speech, this time quoting “That will do, drive on; this is the place.”[3] Clearly, there is no way to know exactly what Young said that day, but the catchy line written on the monument and advertised by the This is the Place Heritage Park continues to evoke feelings of pride from Utahns, especially every July 24th when Pioneer Day celebrations rival those of the Fourth of July.

Also despite the certainty of the text contained in the old monument’s longest plaque, historians do not all agree that the cement obelisk actually stands on the spot where Brigham Young looked out over the valley and declared that they had found the right place to settle. Historian W. Randall Dixon provides a description of the trails taken by the various groups of pioneers based on several journal entries. He explains that the Mormon Battalion took a vastly different route than Brigham Young’s wagon company into the Salt Lake Valley when they arrived five days later on July 29. Since this was the most direct trail to Emigration Road, where emigrants finally ended their trek and camped until finding a home, it is likely the one most of the later wagon companies used. Dixon concludes that “Most of the newcomers probably assumed that their trail was that which had been followed by their predecessors on July 22 and July 24. This may explain some of the later confusion on the matter of trails.”[4] W.W. Riter, named on the plaque as the “living authority for the correct placing of the monument,” was one such case, arriving in the valley 10 weeks after Brigham Young, according to his speech at the dedication of the monument. In this speech, he refuted claims that the first pioneers climbed over a hogback, but does not give any possible explanation for the “steep pitch” both Howard Egan and Heber C. Kimball, members of Young’s wagon company, mentioned ascending. Riter also claimed that he “crossed this same spot,”[5] meaning the location of the cement monument, probably not realizing that he would not have followed the same trail as Young, since a shorter, better blazed trail had been carved out for him by then. Therefore, even if he did cross that spot, it does nothing to prove that Young ever did.

Brigham H. Roberts, the second witness to the correct location listed on the monument plaque, is quoted a little misleadingly. In the speech he gave at the dedication of the old monument, he does in fact say that “an incident occurred on or near the spot where we now stand,” and he did quote Wilford Woodruff extensively, as the plaque says. However, his quote that “There has been much discussion as to whether this particular spot just outside the mouth of Emigration Canyon was really the place” is not from the same speech as the plaque suggests. In the dedication speech, Roberts was not at all concerned with the correct placement of the monument, but rather focused on the emotional aspects of the pioneers’ journey across the country and the mission of the saints in the valley.[6] Records such as the old This is the Place monument plaques and even the official history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints published by the Church which present the location and words of Brigham Young on that historic day as certain facts show that many people, including historians, have accepted half-explained truths and uncertain quotes in order to keep alive the idealized image of Brigham Young rising from his sick bed to announce “this is the right place; drive on.” The truth is that we do not know the exact spot where Young first saw the valley, nor do we know the words he said when he saw it. There are several other testimonies that suggest that the Old This is the Place Monument is placed accurately to the north of Emigration Creek, and there are many other historians who are certain Woodruff’s wagon stopped to the south of the same creek. While we can assume that the famous event took place somewhere around the mouth of Emigration Canyon, we must accept that the This is the Place monuments are more about commemorating a day of new beginning rather than giving us a perfect historical record that does not exist.

Though the arrival of the pioneers who were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Salt Lake Valley was important for a people trying to leave a country where they had faced persecution at every turn, they themselves then became the persecutors and the beginning of an end for the Native Americans inhabiting the same land. Brigham Young, consistent with his personality, wanted to be kind to the Native Americans and convert them to his religion, but was also wary and ready to mete out justice to any he believed deserved it. He said:

They [the Indians] are of the House of Israel, and the time has come for the Lord to favor Zion, and redeem Israel. We are here in the mountains, with these Lamanites for our neighbors, and I hesitate not to say, if this people possessed the faith they ought to have, the Lord Almighty would never suffer any of the sons of Jacob to injure them in the least; no never. But I am suspicious that this people do not possess the faith they should have, therefore I calculate to carry with me proper weapons of defence, that if a man should aim a blow at my person to take away my life, before he is aware, he himself is numbered with the dead.[7]

Even when attempting kindness, the Mormon pioneers inevitably changed the lives of the natives by settling on valuable lands and trying to end the slave trade. Then many white settlers grew tired of kindness, leading to attacks on Native Americans for stealing, which culminated in events like the Walker War and the Black Hawk War. All of these tensions eventually ended to the satisfaction of the settlers: the natives were federally ordered and violently rounded up onto reservations which by 1900 represented four percent of the land native peoples controlled before the Mormons arrived in 1847. In addition, between 1847 and 1900, the natives suffered an estimated 90% population decrease.[8] While the larger “This is the Place Monument,” placed in 1947, does a better job at commemorating more groups of people involved in the history of Utah, the small 1921 obelisk focuses only on the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While Utahns should be welcome to celebrate their heritage and the hardships their own ancestors endured, we would do well to remember that a home gained for one group meant a home lost for another.

[1] Jeffery Carlstrom and Cynthia Furse, The History of Emigration Canyon: Gateway to Salt Lake Valley (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2003), 32.

[2] Levi Jackman, Levi Jackman Journal, 1847 March-1849 April, microfilm, MS 138, Church History Library, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.

[3] Jeffrey Carlstrom and Cynthia Furse, The History of Emigration Canyon: Gateway to Salt Lake Valley (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2003), 32-33.

[4] W. Randall Dixon, “From Emigration Canyon to City Creek: Pioneer Trail and Campsites in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847,” Utah Historical Quarterly 65, no. 2 (1997): 163, accessed February 24, 2020, https://issuu.com/utah10/docs/uhq_volume65_1997_number2.

[5] W.W. Riter, “Correct Placing of the Monument, Pioneer View,” Improvement Era 24, no. 11 (1921): 969-973, accessed February 24, 2020, https://archive.org/details/improvementera24011unse/page/962/mode/2up/search/mouth+of+emigration+canyon.

[6] B.H. Roberts, “Monument at Pioneer View,” Improvement Era 24, no. 11 (1921): 963, accessed February 24, 2020, https://archive.org/details/improvementera24011unse/page/962/mode/2up/search/mouth+of+emigration+canyon.

[7] Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses Vol. 1, (Liverpool : F.D. and S.W. Richards, 1854), https://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/digital/collection/JournalOfDiscourses3/id/1805.

[8] Forrest S. Cuch, ed., A History of Utah’s American Indians (Salt Lake City: Utah State Division of Indian Affairs/Utah State Division of History, 2003).

For further reference:

Primary Sources:

Jackman, Levi. Levi Jackman journal, 1847 March-1849 April. Microfilm, MS 138. Church History Library.. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, Utah.

Roberts, B.H. “Monument at Pioneer View.” Improvement Era 24, no. 11 (1921): 957-1049. Accessed February 24, 2020. https://archive.org/details/improvementera24011unse/page/962/mode/2up/search/mouth+of+emigration+canyon.

Riter, W.W. “Correct Placing of the Monument, Pioneer View.” Improvement Era 24, no. 11 (1921): 957-1049. Accessed February 24, 2020. https://archive.org/details/improvementera24011unse/page/962/mode/2up/search/mouth+of+emigration+canyon.

Young, Brigham, Journal of Discourses Vol. 1. Liverpool : F.D. and S.W. Richards, 1854. https://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/digital/collection/JournalOfDiscourses3/id/1805.

Secondary Sources:

Carlstrom, Jeffrey and Cynthia Furse, The History of Emigration Canyon: Gateway to Salt Lake Valley. Salt Lake City: Utah State Division of Indian Affairs/Utah State Division of History, 2003.

Cuch, Forrest S., ed. A History of Utah’s American Indians. Utah State University, University Libraries, 2003.

Dixon, W. Randall. “From Emigration Canyon to City Creek: Pioneer Trail and Campsites in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.” Utah Historical Quarterly 65, no. 2 (1997): 100-195. Accessed February 24, 2020. https://issuu.com/utah10/docs/uhq_volume65_1997_number2.

Hales, Scott A., David C. Nielsen, Angela Hallstrom, Dallin T. Morrow, and James Goldberg. Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Edited by Matthew J. Grow, Jed L. Woodworth, Scott A. Hales, and Lisa Olsen Tait. Vol. 2. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2020.

Donner Hill

Published / by William Root / 2 Comments on Donner Hill

Placed by: LDS 38th North Ward Priests[1]

GPS Coordinates: 40° 45’5.76″N, 111° 48’3.28″W

Historical Marker Text:
Lured by Lansford Hasting’s assurance that his shortcut from the well-known trail to Oregon and California would save 250 miles and weeks of travel, the ill-fated Donner-Reed party reached this place August 23, 1846, after spending 16 days to hack out a 36-mile road through the Wasatch Mountains. Here at this narrow mouth of the canyon, they were stopped by what seemed impenetrable brush and boulders. Bone-weary of that kind of labor, they decided instead to goad the oxen to climb the hill in front of you. Twelve-year-old Virginia Reed, later recalled that nearly every yoke of oxen was required to pull each of the party’s twenty-three wagons up the hill. After this ordeal, the oxen needed rest, but there was no time. The party pushed on to the Salt Flats, where many of the oxen gave out. This caused delays, which led to disaster in the Sierra Mountains.

A year later, July 22, 1847, Brigham Young’s Pioneer Party, following the Donners and benefitting from their labor, reached this spot. William Clayton recorded their decision: “We found the road crossing the creek again to the south and then ascending a very steep, high hill. It is so very steep as to be almost impossible for heavy wagons to ascend…Colonel Markham and another man went over the hill and returned up the canyon to see if a road cannot be cut through and avoid this hill. Brother Markham says a good road can soon be made through the bushes some ten or fifteen rods. A number of men went to work immediately to make the road…After spending about four hours of labor the brethren succeeded in cutting a pretty good road along the creek and the wagons proceeded on.”

Donner Hill looking east towards Emigration Canyon

Among the lesson learned that day was one stated succinctly by Virginia Reed in a letter to prospective emigrants back home: “Hurry along as fast as you can, and never take no shortcuts.”

Extended Research:

In 1846 a wagon party led by George Donner departed Independence, Missouri and began a perilous journey from the United States towards Alta California in Mexico. The wagons were late in reaching the Sierra Nevada mountain range and disaster awaited the 88 members of the Donner Party. Extreme suffering and starvation followed, with 41 members of the group dying and eventually the incident drew national attention over reports that some members of the ill-fated party resorted to cannibalism in order to survive.[2] The Donner Party originally planned to travel to California via Oregon, but real estate speculator Lansford Hastings promoted an alternate route published in his famous Emigrants Guide to Oregon and California in 1845, and the Donner Party opted to try it.³

Hastings was not certain if he should promote the cutoff from Fort Bridger through the Salt Lake Valley and westward following John C. Fremont’s expedition in 1845, but he received support in favor of the cutoff from Fremont and Jim Bridger. Hastings thus advised the Donner-Reed party that they would save some 350-400 miles if they took his “cutoff.” One of his partners, James Clyman, however became convinced that the route was not suited for wagons and therefore tried to dissuade members of Donner-Reed Party from taking the cutoff. Joseph R. Walker, who successfully guided the first wagons over the California Trail by way of Fort Hall, also thought the route an unproven risk.[3]

Other migrant groups, which included the Bryant-Russell Party and Harlan-Young wagons, left Fort Bridger in mid-July 1848, following the Bear River into East Canyon where they passed through Devil’s Gate with difficulty along the Weber River. Hastings subsequently directed a group of German migrants from the Heinrich Lienhard party on a direct route through Echo Canyon into Devil’s Gate, where they caught up with the Harlan-Young party near the Jordan River. The Donner Party departed Fort Bridger two weeks later on July 31 and Hastings talked them out of going via Weber Canyon and Devil’s Gate, instead telling them to blaze a new path over to what would come to be called Emigration Canyon. On August 7, 1846, James Reed began carving a trail for the wagon train, chopping down bushes and trees in the Wasatch Mountains towards the canyon. Reed was joined by the remaining members of the wagon party who continued to hack and dig their way for 35 miles from present-day Henefer, Summit County, to Salt Lake City.²

Emigration Creek along Donner Hill

The Bryant-Russell, Harlan-Young and Lienhard parties would successfully pass through the Sierra Nevada Mountains into California, while the time the Donner Party spent trailblazing in Utah foreshadowed later events. After the three week trek through the Wasatch Mountains, the oxen were already exhausted and their supplies began to run low.

After entering the Salt Lake Valley, the first member of the party died of tuberculosis near the Great Salt Lake. A site near Grantsville, Utah provided temporary relief with underground water springs, their last source of water until reaching the Humboldt River. In the Salt Flats, Reed’s thirsty oxen ran off and were never seen again. Upon reaching Iron Hill, a fight broke out between one of Reed’s teamsters and John Snyder, a driver for the Graves wagon. Reed stabbed Snyder in the chest and was banished by the Donners after Snyder died. Reed thus avoided being pinned down by the early winter storms which trapped the rest of the party. His departure in October towards Sutter’s Fort allowed him to organize a rescue party in Sacramento that arrived in February 1847. Along the Humboldt River a band of Paiute Indians killed 21 of the Donner Party’s oxen and stole another 18, with more than 100 of the party’s cattle now gone. Two Indian guides assisted the Donner Party in reaching the summit of the Sierra Nevada, but turned back with the first sign of snowfall in early November.1

Donner-Reed Party burial remains discovered in the Salt Lake Desert

The delayed timing and trek through the west desert led to the party becoming snowbound in the Sierras. Malnutrition was a common cause of death, and Irish immigrant Patrick Breen wrote in his journal on Christmas Eve that he was living in a “Camp of Death”. 1 Some of the members of the party camped along the banks of Alder Creek and frozen Truckee Lake, now Donner Lake, where most of the cannibalism occurred. The first rescuers arrived at Truckee Lake in February 1847, composed of soldiers from the U.S. Army stationed in California during the U.S.-Mexican War, among them were members of the Mormon Battalion. One week after rescuers arrived, other isolated camp sites were still using the corpses of the dead for food. Breen wrote in his diary on February 26:

Martha’s jaw swelled with the toothache: hungry times in camp; plenty hides, but the folks will not eat them. We eat them with a tolerable good apetite. Thanks be to Almighty God. Amen. Mrs Murphy said here yesterday that [she] thought she would Commence on Milt. & eat him. I don’t [think] that she has done so yet; it is distressing. The Donners, 4 days ago, told the California folks that they[would] commence to eat the dead people if they did not succeed, that day or next, in finding their cattle.1

Patrick Breen’s diary entry describing the routine cannibalism in the encampment

Three additional relief efforts occurred in April in an attempt to find members who had become separated while camping along Truckee Lake. In the last effort they found only one survivor, Louis Keesberg, who was surrounded by half-eaten corpses. As the survivors departed with the rescuers, members of the Mormon Battalion were ordered to bury the dead bodies inside the main cabin on what is today Donner Pass and then set fire to the cabin.[4]

The Donner Party, in essence, blazed the trail into the Salt Lake Valley which Brigham Young and the Mormon Pioneers used the following year. Young left Winter Quarters, Nebraska with his encampment and passed through the mouth of Echo Canyon by mid-July 1847; he then picked up the Donner-Reed trail and followed it into the Salt Lake Valley. Instead of three weeks, it took Young’s party one week, a matter of great importance since it enabled the Mormons to plant wheat and potato crops in time for their first harvest in the fall. In the last quarter-mile, rather than hauling their wagons over Donner Hill, the Mormons decided to hack through the brush and go around Donner Hill. The Mormons emerged four hours later at what is now This is the Place State Park.[5]

For Further Reference:

Primary Sources:

Breen, Patrick. Diary of Patrick Breen of the Donner Party, 1846-7. Berkeley: University  of         California Bancroft Library, 1910.

Secondary Sources:

Campbell, Eugene. “The Mormons and the Donner Party.” BYU Studies Quarterly, Vol. 11 no. 3 (1971).

Miller, David. “The Donner Road through the Great Salt Lake Desert.” Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 27, no. 1 (February 1958): 39-44


[1] Originally installed by “Mormon Explorers” Y.M.M.I.A. In 2010, the original plaque was stolen and re-erected in 2016 by the LDS 38th North Ward High Priests

[2] Campbell, “The Mormons and the Donner Party.”

[3] Miller, “The Donner Road through the Great Salt Lake Desert,” 39-44

1 Breen, 18

1 Breen, 28

[5] Campbell, “The Mormons and the Donner Party.”

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.