Category Archives: Great Salt Lake

In Honor of James Bridger

Published / by Mark Trapasso / Leave a Comment

Write-up by Mark Trapasso

Placed By: Bear River Chapter of Future Farmers of America and Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association, No. 10

GPS Coordinates: 41° 38′ 7.44″ N, 112° 7′ 42.24″ W 

Historical Marker Text:

Early Western Fur Trapper, Frontiersman, Scout and Guide. To settle a wager among the trappers who were making their first winter rendezvous in Cache Valley, Bridger floated alone in a bull boat down the Bear River to its outlet to determine the river’s course in the late Autumn or early Winter of 1824, thus making the original discovery of Great Salt Lake, but believing he had discovered a salty arm of the Pacific Ocean, he halted at such view points as this en route to reconnoiter.

Extended Research:

Jim Bridger - Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area (U.S. ...
Photo Credit: Nps.gov (Accessed 4.24.20)

James Bridger, better known as Jim Bridger, was born on March 17, 1804 in Richmond Virginia. At the age of 8 Bridger’s father moved his family to a small farm just outside of St. Louis, Missouri. While in Missouri, Jim never received a formal education, but Bridger “apprenticed to a blacksmith, learned to handle boats, and became a good shot and skilled woodsman.”[1] In 1822 he was hired by the Ashley-Henry Fur Trading Company. While he worked for this company, he was crucial to the construction of the first fur trading post along the Yellowstone River. Bridger is also credited as the first Euro-American man to discover the Great Salt Lake. This, though, ignores the Native Americans who inhabited the region long before Bridger’s arrival. In 1776, the Spanish explorers, Dominguez and Escalante, traveled north from New Mexico looking for a more effective trade route from Santa Fe to the West Coast. During this expedition, Escalante kept a detailed journal of his voyage. In this journal he states, “the Timpanois assured us that anyone who wet some part of the body with them immediately felt a lot of itching in the part moistened.”[2] This entry proves that long before Bridger ever floated down Bear River, there were previous inhabitants of the area that were familiar with the Great Salt Lake. 

There is more to Bridger’s story than just floating down a river; he had a very complex relationship with Utah and its Mormon settlers. On June 28, 1847, Brigham Young and Jim Bridger met for the first time at Little Sandy River. Young described Bridger a “pioneer, hunter, trapper and trader, 43 years old, relatively short in stature but with a thick neck.”[3] During their meeting, Bridger mapped out and gave Brigham Young a detailed description of the Wasatch Front. Bridger was optimistic about the Great Salt Lake area sustaining a large population, but was skeptical if the weather was going to be too harsh for crops. 

Fort Bridger | WyoHistory.org
Photo Credit: WyoHistory.org (Accessed 4.24.20)

By the end of 1843, Bridger had built and established a very well known trading post located on Black’s Fork of the Green River. This trading post was known as Fort Bridger, and later served as a military outpost. In 1853, the relationship between the Mormon settlers and Jim Bridger started to boil over. Bridger was accused by Mormon leaders of illegal trading with Indians to profit himself, and potentially put the Mormons in danger with the sale of weapons and ammunition. Due to this accusation, Bridger’s trading rights were revoked and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Before anyone could reach Bridger, he had fled.[4] When he returned in 1855, Bridger sold his fort to the Mormons for 8,000 dollars. During the Utah war, the Mormons knew that this could be a valuable resource for the U.S., so they set fire to the fort before deserting it. Once the militia had arrived, they spent a miserable winter there with little to no supplies.

Jim Bridger - APRIL SMITH'S TECHNOLOGY CLASS
Photo Credit: Aprilsmith.org (Accessed 4.24.20)

After Bridger’s days of exploration and fur trading were over he took his family to a small farm in Westport Missouri. With no remaining contact between the Mormon settlers or Brigham Young, he lived the rest of his days in peace surrounded by his family. James Bridger died in Missouri at the age of 77 on July 17, 1881. 

[1] “Jim Bridger Born.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, November 16, 2009. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/jim-bridger-born.

[2] Sanchez, Joseph P. Explorers, Traders and Slavers : Forging the Old Spanish Trail, 1678-1850. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1997. Accessed April 24, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.

[3] Bennett, Richard E. We’ll Find the Place : The Mormon Exodus, 1846-1848. 1997

[4] “BRIDGER, JAMES.” Utah History Encyclopedia. Accessed April 3, 2020. https://www.uen.org/utah_history_encyclopedia/b/BRIDGER_JAMES.shtml.

For Further Reference:

Primary Sources:

“Major Jim Bridger, the First Great Utahn.” Goodwin’s Weekly, 4 July 1908. Utah Digital Newspapers. Accessed April 3, 2020. https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/details?id=3497493&q=fort+bridger&sort=rel&page=2.

“Jim Bridger, ‘Covered Wagon’ Hero, Brave, Honest and True Frontiersman.” Salt Lake Telegram, 27 January 1924. Utah Digital Newspapers. Accessed April 3, 2020. https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/details?id=15435975&q=Jim+Bridger,+‘Covered+Wagon’+Hero,+Brave,+Honest+and+True+Frontiersman.&sort=rel.

Secondary Sources:

Bagley, Will. “Fort Bridger.” WyoHistory.org, November 8, 2014. https://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/fort-bridger.

Chan, Amy. “A Bridge Too Far.” HistoryNet. HistoryNet, July 17, 2019. https://www.historynet.com/a-bridger-too-far.htm.

Chiaventone, Fredrick J. “Jim Bridger.” Cowboys and Indians Magazine, August 2015.

Foster, Robert L. 2012. “A Bridger Too Far.” Wild West 25 (2): 28–35. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=asn&AN=76320993&site=ehost-live.

Mays, Kenneth. “Picturing History: Jim Bridger and the Little Sandy Crossing.” Deseret News, September 11, 2019. https://www.deseret.com/2019/9/11/20857787/picturing-history-jim-bridger-brigham-young-and-the-little-sandy-crossing-wyoming.

Sanchez, Joseph P. Explorers, Traders and Slavers : Forging the Old Spanish Trail, 1678-1850. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1997. Accessed April 24, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.

“BRIDGER, JAMES.” Utah History Encyclopedia. Accessed April 3, 2020. https://www.uen.org/utah_history_encyclopedia/b/BRIDGER_JAMES.shtml.

“Jim Bridger Born.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, November 16, 2009. https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/jim-bridger-born.

Donner Hill

Published / by William Root / Leave a Comment

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.”

Connor Statue at Historic Park

Published / by Zach Vayo / Leave a Comment

Connor Statue at Historic Park

Write-up by Zach Vayo

GPS Coordinates: 40.764399°N, 111.832891°W

Historical Marker Text:

“PATRICK EDWARD CONNER BRIGADIER GENERAL AND BREVET MAJOR GENERAL UNITED STATES VOLUNTEERS 1820-1891

Born in County Kerry, Ireland. Emigrated as a child to the United States. Enlisted in the army at age 19. Attained rank of Captain in the Mexican War. As Colonel, commanding the Volunteers, established Camp Douglas on Oct. 26, 1862. A soldier-statesman of great energy and vision, he was the “father of Utah mining”, published the first daily newspaper in Utah Territory, and founded Stockton, Utah. * * * * This park presented to the United States Army by the Fort Douglas Museum Association on the 124th Anniversary of the founding of Fort Douglas. Oct 26, 1986.”

Extended Research:

Aside from Brigham Young, perhaps no individual played a larger role in shaping nineteenth century Utah than Patrick Connor. Indeed, prominent Utah historian Dean May has hailed these men as the two founding fathers of modern Utah.[1] Today, Connor’s statue in Fort Douglas quietly rivals Young’s much grander memorialization across Salt Lake in Temple Square – a silent reenactment of what was in its day a bitter public rivalry between these two men and their competing visions. Young sought to establish Utah as the Kingdom of God on Earth according to the unique sensibilities of the LDS Church. Connor, meanwhile, aimed to bring Utah into the American mainstream by conquering the land’s indigenous peoples and opening the door for white settlers like himself, looking to make their fortunes out West. Intensely distrustful of Utah’s Mormon population, Connor was himself an immigrant who, having undergone a process of Americanization, now sought to “Americanize” Utah along the same lines as the rest of the West. Portrayed as everything from hero to murderous plunderer, Connor has been sweepingly characterized as “the archetypal nineteenth century man”, who was “representative of all that was good and bad in that age.”[2]

The man who would come to identify himself as P. Edward Connor was born Patrick Edward (“Paddy”) O’Connor in County Kerry, Ireland. Very little information exists on Connor’s early life; he claimed to have been born on St. Patrick’s Day, 1820.[3] Economic stagnation in Ireland drove his family to emigrate to New York when he was perhaps sixteen. Connor spent several years working odd jobs as a laborer before beginning his military career by volunteering for the First Dragoons in 1839. It is possible the young Irishman viewed military service as a useful means to “Americanize” himself in an era animated by nativism and anti-Catholicism.[4]

Connor’s five year tour with the Dragoons took him to the lands in and around the newly-created Iowa Territory to maintain relations with the region’s native peoples. This fledgling military presence in the trans-Mississippi West, with the US fresh off the Jacksonian ethnic cleansing of native peoples in the East, would foreshadow atrocious military violence against the indigenous peoples of the West during and after the Civil War, in which Connor himself was to play a leading role.

While relatively uneventful, Connor’s tour with the Dragoons gave him valuable experience as a soldier. More importantly, he appeared to become enamored with the West, where he would spend almost all of the remainder of his life. Following the end of his tour of duty, he returned to New York for several years, engaging in “mercantile business” and becoming a naturalized citizen (a process no doubt made easier by his military record).[5] Also around this time, he removed some of the conspicuous Irish-ness from his name by dropping the O’ in his surname and shortening Patrick to an initial, becoming P. Edward Connor. With the outbreak of war with Mexico in 1846, Connor headed west again, joining a company of Texas Volunteers. He participated in the US victory at the Battle of Buena Vista, receiving praise for his bravery.[6]

Connor ca. 1860s

The war resulted in the US seizure of a vast swath of land claimed by Mexico. Connor was among many who viewed these lands as a place to make it big, travelling to California in 1850 on the heels of the Gold Rush. After an ill-fated attempt to establish a community on the Trinity River, he settled in Stockton. Over the next decade, his numerous entrepreneurial ventures, particularly a gravel quarry on his property, resulted in Connor accumulating a degree of wealth. He emerged as a leading citizen of Stockton and came to head its militia, the Stockton Blues. In 1854, he married Johanna Connor, another emigrant from Kerry County.[7] The couple would raise five children to adulthood, enduring the loss of two sons who died in childhood.

This relatively peaceful period of Connor’s life came to an end in 1861 with the outbreak of the Civil War. Eager to serve his adopted country once more, he took the lead in recruiting several companies of California Volunteers to serve under his command. In spite of his (and his troops’) desire to fight the Confederacy in the East, he found himself assigned to protect overland mail routes in Utah, as the Lincoln administration sought to preserve California’s tenuous connection to the Union.[8] In Utah, Connor’s troops were to serve as an occupying force to both native peoples such as the Shoshone and to the territory’s Mormon population, practitioners of an enigmatic and fanatical religion in the eyes of many, whose loyalty to the country seemed particularly dubious, particularly in light of the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre.

During the journey across Nevada, Connor began to hone his reputation as an Indian fighter, launching attacks that killed several dozen Shoshones. Reaching Salt Lake City in 1862, Connor remarked with disgust on the apparent un-Americanness of the Mormons, calling them “a community of traitors, murderers, fanatics, and whores,” claiming “the people publicly rejoice at reverses to our arms,” and “Brigham Young rules with despotic sway.”[9] For their part, the Mormons had good reason to fear federal troops due to the “Utah War” of 1856-58. As such, they were none too happy when Connor, despairing of the state of the old Camp Crittenden (Camp Floyd) in Utah Valley, planted his troops directly above their capital, establishing Camp Douglas on an eastern bench of the Salt Lake Valley on October 26, 1862. Connor cited this new location as all the better to “say to the Saints of Utah, enough of your treason.”[10] Connor’s troops thus became the most visible symbol of “Gentile” (non-Mormon) presence in the territory, sparking a war of words between the two groups lasting for decades.

Camp Douglas (later Fort Douglas) ca. 1865. Connor named the fort for Lincoln’s great political rival, Stephen Douglas.

The year 1863 was a critical one for Connor. Denied the chance to fight in the East, he seized on a chance to “chastise” the Northwestern Shoshone instead. Increased Anglo-American incursions into what is today southern Idaho had strained relationships with the Shoshone, producing intermittent fighting and claims of kidnapping. In the bitter cold of January, Connor marched his troops from Camp Douglas to a Shoshone encampment on the Bear River. One California newspaper offered a telling insight into the attitudes of the day by publishing a gleeful letter from a Salt Lake correspondent, stating that “before [Connor’s troops] quit the entertainment Mr. Redskin is to be well thrashed, and, if possible, ‘wiped out.’”[11]

Arriving at the encampment, Connor’s troops launched an attack on the 29th of January. What began as a battle became a bloodbath as Connor’s troops flanked the Shoshones, trapping them in a ravine. The troops proceeded to massacre anyone within reach, including women and children. The death toll may well have exceeded four hundred, making it the largest massacre in the history of the American West. Connor’s troops destroyed homes and food supplies, murdering dozens more women who refused to submit to rape by the soldiers.[12] His actions would make him one of the most despised figures in Shoshone memory, with one survivor, Sagwitch, later recalling the bitter irony of “that merciless battle, when women and suckling babes met their death at the hands of civilization.”[13] Those same actions, however, made Connor a hero to white colonizers in the West, and earned him a promotion to brigadier-general.

Bear River Massacre site.

Back in Salt Lake, Connor became fixated on the notion of publicizing Utah’s mineral wealth so as to draw non-Mormons into the territory, contending that “inducements … to the teeming population of the East and West, seeking new fields of exploration and prosperity” would spell political and social doom for the Mormonism that he saw as “not only subversive of morals, in conflict with the civilization of the present age, and oppressive on the people, but also deeply and boldly in contravention of the laws and best interests of the nation.”[14] To that end, he founded the Daily Union Vedette, a staunchly non-Mormon newspaper that wrote extensively on the wealth to be had in Utah. Connor helped to establish and personally invested in numerous mining districts, including what would become Bingham Canyon, earning the honorific “father of Utah mining.” In 1863, Connor also established the town of Stockton, near Tooele, named for his former home in California. Connor intended Stockton as a hub for non-Mormon settlement, though his grand visions could never elevate it beyond a minor settlement on the fringes of Brigham Young’s Mormon kingdom. Of course, Young and his disciples were none too happy to see these capitalistic incursions into their Zion. After Young petitioned unsuccessfully to have Connor and his troops removed from Utah,[15] he was spared of the general for a time when Connor was sent to present Wyoming for the Powder River expedition in 1865.

Connor thus departed Utah to crush resistance from the Cheyenne, Sioux, and Arapaho in response to a mining boom that had drawn a wave of white colonizers into Montana. While Connor’s campaigns failed to win any “victories” as decisive as that at Bear River, he nonetheless killed several hundred indigenous persons in a series of battles and skirmishes such as Tongue River (at times fighting alongside indigenous allies such as the Omaha). Such militancy undermined the capacity of indigenous communities to sustain themselves, leaving little recourse to federal economic dependency and reservations (with poverty ironically reinforcing white perceptions of indigenous nations as primitive and backwards). The Powder River endeavor was largely regarded as a failure, in part due to negative publicity surrounding another event to the south: namely, the army’s 1864 Sand Creek Massacre against the Cheyenne and Arapaho, which had soured the nation for a time on war with native nations.[16] Reflecting this shift in attitude, the Salt Lake Tribune expressed desire for “some sensible plan” regarding “the poor Indian race.”[17]Nonetheless, the expedition cemented Connor’s status as to hero to white colonizers in the West. This would be Connor’s last major military mission, as he resigned his commission in 1866.

After a brief return to Utah (and a trip to Washington DC to testify against the evils of the Mormons), Connor returned to California with his family. By 1869, however, the looming completion of the transcontinental railroad brought him back to Utah. This time, his family stayed in California, establishing a permanent residence in Redwood City. Over the next decades, Connor would become increasingly estranged from his family as he bounced between various mining and railroad endeavors in Utah and Nevada in largely unsuccessful attempts to amass his fortune, made all the more difficult by the market instabilities laid bare in the Panic of 1873. Johanna Connor would eventually die in 1889, making no mention of her oft-absent husband in her will.

In Utah, the railroad spelled doom for Brigham Young’s bucolic conception of an economically isolated Zion. Anticipating an economic and demographic influx to the territory, Connor took an interest in the town of Corinne, near the mouth of the Bear River, which emerged in the wake of the railroad’s completion as Utah’s leading non-Mormon community. His assessment of this emerging landscape proved somewhat overly optimistic, with his vision of a steamboat service across the Great Salt Lake connecting Corinne to Stockton never truly materializing. As the most esteemed non-Mormon in the territory, Connor became the symbolic leader of Utah’s anti-Mormon Liberal Party, which denounced polygamy and sought to block statehood for fear of losing federal leverage against the dominant religion. Speaking at an 1880 Liberal rally, Connor declared his intention of “taking up the fight with renewed vigor,” and “helping forward the good work of regulating and Americanizing Utah.”[18] This symbolic leadership notwithstanding, Connor proved unsuccessful in parlaying his notoriety into political office, losing a bid even for the modest office of Salt Lake County Recorder. He died in Salt Lake in 1891 with much prestige and little wealth, and was buried in the Fort Douglas Cemetery.[19]

Connor with President Hayes during the latter’s visit to Fort Douglas, 1880.

The decades after his death saw Patrick Connor’s vision of an Americanized Utah come to fruition to a remarkable degree. Booming mining industries throughout the new state in regions such as Carbon County and Bingham Canyon attracted waves of non-Mormon immigration from countries including Greece and Italy, and, to a lesser extent, Japan and China. Mining in particular signified Utah’s increasing integration into the national economy; while providing economic opportunity, this new colonial economy also spawned appalling working conditions and environmental degradation. Connor would no doubt also have been pleased to see the LDS church, the object of his perpetual contempt, take a firmer stance against polygamy and recede from the political sphere in the first decades of the twentieth century (though the latter change did not prove permanent). Furthermore, the twentieth century also saw emphasis on Brigham Young’s model of economic cooperation decline as many Mormons made their peace with Connor’s capitalist vision. Indeed, while not abandoning their distinct identities, Mormon communities have undergone a noteworthy degree of Americanization since Connor’s time.[20] Connor himself practiced what he preached with regards to Americanization: the Irish-born immigrant epitomized the self-made man of fame and fortune. While this rugged, romantic image has become iconic in conceptions of the West, Connor’s case also illustrates its shortcomings. Never truly successful in making his fortune later in life, his obsessive quest for wealth resulted in considerable alienation from his family. Underpinning all of this is Connor’s darkest legacy (and one that is conspicuously absent from his historical marker): the brutalization of indigenous nations, on whose dispossessed land the processes of “Americanization” played out. Particularly for the Northwestern Shoshones, the impacts and bitter memories of Colonel Connor’s atrocious actions on the Bear River echo into the twenty-first century.

For Further Reference:

Primary Sources:

P. Edward Connor, Official Report on the Bear River Massacre, February 6, 1863.

Secondary Sources:

Madsen, Brigham. Glory Hunter: A Biography of Patrick Edward Connor. Salt Lake: University of Utah Press, 1990.

May, Dean. Utah: A People’s History. Salt Lake: University of Utah Press, 1987.

Varley, James. Brigham and the Brigadier: General Patrick Connor and His California Volunteers in Utah and Along the Overland Trail. . Tucson: Westernlore Press, 1989.

[1] Dean L. May, Utah: A People’s History (Salt Lake: University of Utah Press, 1987), 194.

[2] James Varley, Brigham and the Brigadier: General Patrick Connor and His California Volunteers in Utah and Along the Overland Trail. (Tucson: Westernlore Press, 1989), x.

[3] Brigham Madsen, Glory Hunter: A Biography of Patrick Edward Connor (Salt Lake: University of Utah Press, 1990), 3-5.

[4] James Varley, Brigham and the Brigadier, 2.

[5] Brigham Madsen, Glory Hunter, 18-19.

[6] James Varley, Brigham and the Brigadier, 4.

[7] Brigham Madsen, Glory Hunter, 30.

[8] Ibid, 48.

[9] P. Edward Connor, letter to Major R. C. Drum, September 14, 1862.

[10] Ibid.

[11] “A Big Expedition – Connor and the Volunteers after the Indians,” Sacramento Daily Union (Sacramento, CA), Feb. 7, 1863

[12] Scott Christensen, Sagwitch: Shoshone Chieftain, Mormon Elder, 1822-1887 (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1999), 52.

[13] F.W. Warner (Sagwitch), “Sagwitch Writes The Citizen About New Monument,” Franklin County Citizen (Preston, ID), Jul. 11, 1918.

[14] P. Edward Connor, letter to Major E. McGarry, October 26, 1863.

[15] Brigham Madsen, Glory Hunter, 114.

[16] Ibid, 121.

[17] James Varley, Brigham and the Brigadier, 258.

[18] Brigham Madsen, Glory Hunter, 237.

[19] Brigham Madsen, Glory Hunter, 271.

[20] Dean L. May, Utah: A People’s History, 190, 194-198.

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).

Garfield and Lake Point Resorts

Published / by Ben Kiser / 1 Comment on Garfield and Lake Point Resorts

Written by Benjamin Kiser, MA History Student, University of Utah

Placed By:  Daughters of Utah Pioneers Tooele County Company

GPS Coordinates:  40°42’57.0″N 112°14’21.9″W

Historical Marker Text:

Garfield and Lake Point Resorts Marker

DAUGHTERS OF UTAH PIONEERS No. 115

ERECTED 1954

GARFIELD & LAKE POINT RESORTS

            From 1881 to 1893 Garfield Beach was the most famous and finest recreation resort on the shores of the Great Salt Lake, with its railroad station, lunch stand, restaurant, bath houses and pier leading to the dance pavilion, and with the pioneer steamboat “City of Corinne” exhibited at anchor.  Lake Point was located 1 miles west.  A three story hotel erected there by Dr. Jeter Clinton became a stopping place for overland stages.  The boulder used for this shaft was taken from “Old Buffalo Ranch” one half mile west.

TOOELE COUNTY

Extended Research:

Marker with Great Salt Lake on Right, I-80 and Oquirrh Mountains on Left

From the beginning of Euro-American settlement in Utah, Utahns have enjoyed recreation.  Before the rise of Wasatch Mountain ski resorts, hiking, and biking trails, residents turned to the Great Salt Lake for their recreational pursuits.[1]  The late 1800s were the heyday of Great Salt Lake resorts.  Two of the earliest resorts were at Garfield Beach and Lake Point.  Dr. Jeter F. Clinton, Mormon physician and Salt Lake City alderman turned resort promoter, founded Lake Point resort, also known as Clinton’s Landing, in 1870, building a large “Lake House” near the beach at the northwest point of the Oquirrh Mountains.  The resort remained small until 1875 when the Utah Western railroad completed a branch out to the area.  Expansion began leading to the construction of a multitude of bathhouses along the beach.[2]  Bathers came to Lake Point to experience the Great Salt Lake’s saline water, described by one local booster as “so buoyant; never chilling, it is so warm, free from danger, recreating and invigorating, a tonic for all, a healing for many ills, health restoring and strength renewing.”[3]  Lake Point was also a hub for the renowned steamboat “City of Corinne” which would transport passengers across the lake to Corinne, a railroad town on the Bear River.  Eventually, Black Rock and Garfield Resorts would eclipse Lake Point in grandeur and visitation.[4]

Lake Point Illustration from the Great Salt Lake
Courtesy Utah State Historical Society

Lake Point also served as a backdrop to an interesting incidence in the Utah Territory.  A breakaway from Mormonism, a group called the Morrisites under leader Joseph Morris, formed in the early 1860s.  Conflict quickly ensued between the dominant Mormon population and the newly formed sect.  In 1862, the territorial militia was called out to subdue the Morrisites, ultimately leading to the death of Joseph Morris.  A member of the Morrisite presidency, John Banks, was mortally wounded in the skirmish.  Dr. Jeter Clinton attended to Banks but he ultimately succumbed to his injuries.  Shortly after Banks’s death, some Morrisites began spreading rumors that Clinton killed Banks while tending to him.  Authorities largely left the rumors unheeded until 1877 when they arrested Clinton at his Lake Point home, indicting him for the murder of John Banks.  While ultimately exonerated of the crime, the Deseret News reported the 1877 case as an example of “shameful abuse” of a “prominent Mormon” in which “the bigotry, intolerance and persecuting spirit of our opponents…have been among the bitterest and most unprincipled.”[5]  Taken in the context of increased federal weakening of Mormon control over the territory through the 1874 Poland Act, the Clinton case provides a curious commentary on how Mormons perceived one instance of judicial persecution in the territory.

Garfield Beach Resort Pavilion and Bathers
Courtesy Utah State Historical Society

Garfield Beach resort, located approximately 1.5 miles to the east of Lake Point, opened its doors in 1875, remaining the premier Great Salt Lake destination until the opening of Saltair in 1893.  A product of the Utah Western Railway’s expansion into Tooele County, Garfield Beach wowed visitors with a 165 by 62 feet dance pavilion over the lake.  The resort cost $70,000.  Six trains a day serviced Garfield bringing 80,000 people to the beach in 1888.  The “City of Corinne” docked at Garfield, as well, where it furnished steamboat rides on the lake for 25 cents.[6]  The great resort dwindled after Saltair’s opening, as it experienced a reduction in visitors and beach degradation due to the pesky nature of the Great Salt Lake’s fluctuating levels.  Garfield Beach resort ultimately succumbed to a fire in 1904.[7]

Garfield Beach Advertisement
Courtesy Utah State Historical Society

A 2017 trip to the southern shores of the Great Salt Lake reveals a landscape greatly changed from the high point of lake recreation from the 1870s to the 1890s.  An interstate highway runs where both resorts once stood.  Little evidence remains of the great pavilions, lunch bars, railroad stations, and dance halls that were the highlight of a trip to Utah in the late nineteenth century.  Though a reconstructed Saltair remains, the specters of Lake Point and Garfield are long gone, eclipsed in a recreational shift from the Great Salt Lake to the Wasatch Mountains.

Garfield Beach from the Foothills of the Oquirrh Mountains
Courtesy Utah State Historical Society

[1] Jared Farmer, On Zion’s Mount: Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009).

[2] Dale L. Morgan, The Great Salt Lake (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1973 [1949]), 355-356.

[3] Ovando James Hollister, The Resources and Attractions of the Territory of Utah (Omaha: Omaha Republican Publishing House, 1879), 66, accessed March 29, 2017, https://archive.org/details/resourcesattract00holl.

[4] Tooele County Daughters of Utah Pioneers, History of Utah’s Tooele County: From the Edge of the Great Basin Frontier (Tooele, UT: Transcript Bulletin Publishing, 2012), 177-179.

[5] “The Infamous Proceedings against Dr. Clinton,” Deseret News, April 30, 1879, retrieved on February 16, 2017, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/details?id=2661652&q=jeter+clinton&page=3&rows=50&fd=title_t%2Cpaper_t%2Cdate_tdt%2Ctype_t&sort=date_tdt+asc&gallery=0&facet_paper=%22Deseret+News%22#t_2661652.

[6] Marcus E. Jones, Resources and Attractions of Salt Lake City (Salt Lake City: Salt Lake Real Estate Board, 1889), 46-48, accessed on March 29, 2017, https://archive.org/details/saltlakecity1889eng.

[7] Ouida Blanthorn, comp., A History of Tooele County (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1998), 154-158.

For Further Reference:

Primary Sources

Ovando James Hollister, The Resources and Attractions of the Territory of Utah (Omaha: Omaha Republican Publishing House, 1879), accessed March 29, 2017, https://archive.org/details/resourcesattract00holl.

“The Infamous Proceedings against Dr. Clinton,” Deseret News, April 30, 1879, retrieved on February 16, 2017, https://newspapers.lib.utah.edu/details?id=2661652&q=jeter+clinton&page=3&rows=50&fd=title_t%2Cpaper_t%2Cdate_tdt%2Ctype_t&sort=date_tdt+asc&gallery=0&facet_paper=%22Deseret+News%22#t_2661652.

Marcus E. Jones, Resources and Attractions of Salt Lake City (Salt Lake City: Salt Lake Real Estate Board, 1889), accessed on March 29, 2017, https://archive.org/details/saltlakecity1889eng.

Secondary Sources

Jared Farmer, On Zion’s Mount: Mormons, Indians, and the American Landscape (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.)

Dale L. Morgan, The Great Salt Lake (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1973 [1949].)

Tooele County Daughters of Utah Pioneers, History of Utah’s Tooele County: From the Edge of the Great Basin Frontier (Tooele, UT: Transcript Bulletin Publishing, 2012.)

Ouida Blanthorn, comp., A History of Tooele County (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1998.)