Plan Reunion In Honor of Pioneers

The following historical summary of the arrival of the Pioneers in Salt Lake Valley 76 years ago, is submitted in connection with the Pratt Family reunion to be held in Mill Creek canyon Saturday, July 21.

Appropriate to the memory of the heroic band of pioneers who entered this valley July 1847, under the direction and leadership of President Brigham Young, and especially in memory of Apostle Orson Pratt, who with Erastus Snow, entered the valley on 21st day of July, 1847—three days in advance of the main company with President Young—the Pratt Family association, in accordance with their Articles of Agreement, will hold their annual reunion Saturday, July 21, 1923, in Mill creek canyon, commemorating that event, and at which time officers of the association will be elected.

Orson Pratt was one of the first company of 148 persons, consisting of 143 men, 3 women, and 2 children led by President Brigham Young from the Missouri river westward during the spring and summer of 1847. They started from Winter Quarters (now Florence, Neb.) about the middle of April, arriving in Salt Lake Valley on Saturday, the 24th of July, Orson Pratt having entered the valley on the 21st—three days in advance of the general arrival of the main companies.

It happened thuswise: President Young after leaving Fort Bridger had been attacked by mountain fever, and under his direction, Orson Pratt, with a number of men and wagons, led the way down Echo canyon, up East canyon, through and over the Wasatch mountains. From the summit of Big Mountain on the 19th of July, Orson Pratt and John Brown, riding ahead of their companies, caught the first glimpse of the valley.

On Wednesday, July 21, 1847, the advance company under Orson Pratt resumed their journey, traveling two and a half miles down a canyon leading from the summit of the Big Mountain to the foot of the eastern side of the Little Mountain, which they ascended for one and a half miles; then descended upon the western side one mil, where they came upon a swift running creek and halted for noon. This they called Last Creek. Brother Erastus Snow (having overtaken the advance camp from the other camp, which he said was but a few miles in the rear and from which he had come as a messenger from President Young), after lunch and some instructions given to the camp as to making the roadway passable for the wagons down Last Creek later called Emigration Canyon—in company with Orson Pratt left the camp to explore the canyon and valley below. They had a single saddle horse, which they rode by turns on the “walk, ride and tie” method of travel used by the pioneers.

In this way they proceeded in advance of the camp, down Last Creek four and a half miles, to where it passes through a canyon and issues into the broad open valley below. To avoid this impassable gulch at the mouth of Emigration Canyon they had to diverge from the creek and ascend an exceedingly steep and dangerous hill from the top of which a broad open valley about twenty miles wide and third miles long, lay stretched out before them, “at the north end of which,” says Orson Pratt in his diary of that day, “the broad waters of the great Salt Lake glistened in the sunbeams, containing high mountain islands from twenty-five to thirty miles in extent. After issuing from the mountains, among which we had been shut up for many days, and beholding in a moment such extensive scenery open before us, we could not refrain from a shouting joy, which almost involuntarily escaped from our lips the moment this grand and lovely scenery was within our view.”

It was about at his point where the recent monument has been erected commemorative of the event which happened three days later, July 24, 1847, when the great Chieftain Pioneer—President Brigham Young, who was then the sick guest of Brother Wilford Woodruff lying in his light-spring wagon convalescing from the mountain fever, requested Brother Woodruff to turn the carriage in such a position that he might see the beautiful valley destined for the resting place of the Saints. And after expressing his entire satisfaction of the appearance of the valley and feeling amply repaid for his journey, and “while lying upon his bed in my carriage,” says Brother Woodruff ins his notes of that day, “gazing upon the scene before us, many things of the future concerning the valley were shown to him in a vision. ‘Drive on Brother Woodruff: This is the place.’” (The now slogan of our State.)

“We left Brothers Orson Pratt and Erastus Snow on the afternoon of July 21, ready to descend into the valley below from the hills near the mouth of Emigration Canyon, after drinking in with rapture the inspiring scene which had burst some moments before upon their view.”

As said, they had but one horse between them and Erastus was now riding. The day being warm—the temperature about 96 degrees Fahr., he had taken off his coat and flung it loosely over the saddle. When some distance below from the mouth of the canyon he missed his coat and returned to look for it. Orson Pratt continued his journey father down into the valley, and in making his circuitions route he came upon the waters of City creek, and traversed the land where the Temple Block and central portions of the city are now located. After having traveled thus far on foot and alone, he turned his course southward and met Brother Snow on the creek several miles below where it issues from the mouth of Emigration Canyon, and from thence the two returned to the camp in the canyon, which they found encamped one and a half miles up the canyon from the valley, and three miles in advance of their noon halt. It was about nine o’clock in the evening when they got into camp. The main body of the pioneers who were in the rear, were encamped only one and a half miles up the Canyon creek from the advance camp, with the exception of some wagons containing those who were sick, and who were still behind.

Thus it was that Orson Pratt, in reality, was the first of the pioneers to set foot upon and tread the site of Salt Lake City.

–Milando Pratt

[Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, July 14, 1923, 5]
[Deseret News, July 14, 1923]

[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, Jan. 2006]


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