Pres. Brigham Young, accompanied by Elders Kimball, Richards, Geo. A. Smith, Benson, Wells, and Joseph Young, visited Elder Parley P. Pratt, who had just returned from his Southern exploring expedition. Elder Pratt read a lengthy report of his journey.
His company reached Manti, Sanpete, Dec. 3, 1849—distance 130 miles; found the brethren there well pleased with the fine location, good stone quarry and abundance of cedar fuel adjacent, though some were annoyed with the more adhesive clayey quality of the soil; thence his company proceeded to the Sevier river, where they met Bros. Charles Shumway, James Allread and Elijah (Alias “Barney”) Ward, also Walker, the Utah war chief, and his band of Indians, many of whom were sick with the measles.
After obtaining information from Walker and Ward, they traveled up the Sevier several days, crossing it once on the ice, ther. 21 degrees below zero. When they arrived at a point where the river was hemmed in by mountains, they passed over these to their left and camped in the evening in a rich grassy vale [now called Mary’s Vale]. Continuing up the river for two days, they reached the forks of the Sevier above which they camped nearly a mile on the south west fork; the other fork bore eastwardly; a lofty range of mountains divided the river.
Proceeding up the valley of the south west fork they soon reached an impassable canyon [now called Circleville Canyon], through which the river rushed like a torrent between perpendicular rocks, an abrupt chain of mountains nearly surrounding them. Here the company encamped on the 17th, while they explored a road through the mountains; after which they spent five days in crossing a succession of hills and divides, in many places having to let down the wagons with ropes by hand; in other places they had to draw up the cattle by hand, while they in turn drew up the wagons. The cattle obtained some little subsistence by browsing on the trees and what shrubbery was not covered with snow. The weather was severe, snow falling much of the time.
On the 23rd, they reached Red Creek [now Panguitch, Iron Co., Utah], in Little Salt Lake valley, where it was decided that they worn out oxen should lie by and recruit, and a portion of the company should remain in charge of them and the wagons and continue the explorations of the surrounding country, while another portion of the Camp should proceed with the horses and mules and explore southwardly.
Accordingly, on the 26th, the company divided; about thirty brethren under the presidency of Elder David Fullmer were left in charge of the cattle, Bros. Joseph Matthews and Schuyler Jennings returned with letters, while Elder Pratt with nineteen others proceeded south. On the 27th, they crossed a stream called the Muddy [present site of Cedar City], clothed with hundreds of acres of scattering cottonwoods, some of which were large; below these is a handsome expensive plain of very rich land, consisting partly of overflowed wire grass meadows; other portions of this plain were dry, level and inviting to the plow, clothed with meadow grass and rabbit wood, soil mostly black loam, very rich, on which the water could be used, and thereby redeem the swampy parts. These meadows, about two or three miles wide, appeared through the telescope to extend from ten to twenty miles. On the south western borders of this good land are thousands of acres of cedar, constituting an abundant supply of fuel; in the midst of which rises a hill of magnetic iron ore, specimens of which were produced.
At the Muddy they left the road they had traveled on since reaching Little Salt Lake valley and proceeded along the base of the Wasatch range several miles and encamped at the summit of the Basin Rim [near the present Kanarra], with good soil, fine grass and several small streams issuing from the Wasatch mountains with rapid currents which flow on the highest points of land in the valley till lost in a lake near the summit or in alluvial meadow bottoms; the mountain range is here nearly perpendicular and in many parts composed or red sandstone in progress of dissolution. They passed an isolated dome or tower of red sandstone several hundred feet high around the head of which the clouds were passing swiftly.
Descending southward through an open valley, thence crossing over hills to their right, they encamped in a rough, broken country on a stream fringed with cottonwood, ash and oak, where they were visited by Piute Indians, nearly naked, who increased as they penetrated their country and who appeared well pleased and very talkative; though when they first saw the company they acted very sly, skulking along on a parallel line with and not daring to encounter them till next morning; the brethren, however, having seen the Indians kept strict guard that night.
Soon after starting next morning they came to a few acres of fertile bottom covered with old corn stalks and a few squashes; the present farms of the Indians were further down. A short distance brought them to the Virgin river, which here runs a westerly course, eighteen yards wide, one foot deep, swift current with rocky bottom, and flowing through canyons, this forced the company to pass over a high, sandy, hilly country to the left, encamping again on the river on a small fertile bottom; the distance from G.S.L. City to the Rim of Basin by their route was 311 miles.
From the Rim of the Basin thirteen miles rapid descent brought them to milder climate and first cultivation and a mile or so farther to the Virgin river before mentioned. The Wasatch range terminated here in several abrupt promontories.
Southwardly for about eighty miles there appeared a wide expanse of chaotic matter, huge hills, high sandy deserts, grassless, waterless plains, perpendicular rocks, loose, barren clay and dissolving beds of sandstone; in short a country in ruins, dissolved by the pelting storms of ages, or turned inside out, upside down by terrible convulsions. Eastward the view was bounded by vast mountain tables, one rising above the other, and presenting a level summit at the horizon, as if the whole country had occupied a level several thousand feet higher than its present surface. Poor and worthless as was the country broken pieces of pottery, well glazed and striped with unfading colors, lay strewn around.
On the 1st of this month (January) the company traveled down the Virgin river, the bottoms of which expanded about a mile in width and several miles in length; there was loose, sandy, fertile soil, easily watered, sometimes subject to overflow; also some cottonwoods along the river. The explorers soon encountered a range of hills which divided the valley from another, both containing some three or four thousands acres of desirable land; at the lower termination of this second valley a tributary form the north, called the Santa Clara, entered the Rio Virgin, which below the junction flowed through rough canyons, amid a rugged, worthless country. The view about twenty miles southwest was bounded by a rugged mountain chain with snow on the summits. The junction of these two streams was estimated eighty miles distant from where the brethren had left their wagons in Little Salt Lake valley and three hundred and fifty-two from G.S.L. City by their route.
The climate at this point appeared that of early spring, the buds of trees swelling and the new grass springing up; the weather was warm and pleasant during the day, and at night moderately cool, sometimes freezing a little. Thermometer ranging in the shade at noon 64 degrees Fah., evening and morning 34 degrees; rain at intervals all day and during the night.
Learning from the Indians the unpromising character of the country beyond, and their animals growing very weak, having frequently to be unpacked and lifted out of the mire, Elder Pratt and company deemed it imprudent to venture farther. They turned to the north up the Santa Clara and encamped about two miles above the junction on New Year’s evening in a wet miry bottom, rain falling heavily, surrounded by an equal number of Indians well armed with bows and poisoned arrows, whose chief welcomed them cordially, wishing to be friendly with Walker’s band of the Americans, and all good people. The chief strongly invited the brethren to settle amongst his people and raise something to eat. The company gave the Indians presents of flour, dried meat and peas, fed them and sang for them, they joining with much glee in the chorus of bro. Pratt’s new hymn “O come, come away.”
On the 2nd, the company passed up the Santa Clara thirteen miles, piloted by many Indians, who raised good crops on the rich bottoms by irrigation, and encamped in a good grove of cottonwood and ash, mingled with grape vines. Continuing up the Santa Clara, they struck Capt. Hunt’s new wagon road passing some fertile bottoms, well timbered, and encamped among cottonwoods on the 3rd, where there was some good bunch grass on the mountain sides, the best they had seen for several days; also some quails and hawks were seen.
On the 4th, they passed over a hilly country, and leaving the Santa Clara, ascended the Rim of the Basin; and proceeding a few miles they encamped in the cedars, snow falling. This valley was subsequently named “Mountain Meadows.” On the 5th, the explorers passed through a fertile valley, and reached a stream where they found Perbelow’s camp of four or five wagons; about twelve miles further they met Captain Fly’s camp, 25 wagons, lying by shoeing their cattle; here was found rich specimens of iron ore, said to be scattered over the hills in large quantities; there were cedar fuel and pasturage in abundance; snow continued to fall. The country west and northwest expands into a vast plain, dotted with mountain ranges lost from view in unexplored immensity. On the 6th, the explorers traveled twenty-five miles and encamped by a stream at the foot of the iron hills and cedar groves, a few miles from the Muddy. On the 7th, they crossed the Muddy and its bottoms and encamped at the springs, on the brow of the hill, at the southern extremity of Little Salt Lake valley. Elders Parley P. Pratt and Dan Jones proceeded to Fullmer’s camp which they found at Centre Creek [now Parowan], where they on the following day erected a liberty day pole, forty feet high, hoisted a free soil banner, prepared a public dinner, and on the arrival of Bro. Pratt’s pack company, about noon, under Capt. Brown, the cannon and the small arms were discharged, and all set down to a substantial dinner, being the first celebration of the settling of Little Salt Lake valley.
Elder Fullmer’s division had explored Little Salt Lake and found what Walker calls “God’s own house” in a canyon of perpendicular rocks, penetrated by a branch of Little Salt Lake and covered with hieroglyphics or strange figures out in the rocks; further west they found some good lands and a small lake separated from Little Salt Lake by a low mountain range; they had also explored the valley of the Muddy and found the iron ore; in the canyons they found an abundance of pine timber, also quarries of free stone, plaster of paris and lime stone.
On the 10th, the whole company commenced their return journey and on the 12th reached Beaver Creek, which was pronounced an excellent location for a large settlement. They reached Chalk Creek [now Fillmore] on the 19th, after encountering much snow, which, as it continued to fall, rendered it impossible to proceed further with their wagons and teams. It was therefore agreed that Elder David Fullmer with the young men should remain in charge of the wagons and cattle, while Elder Pratt and twenty-three others, with twenty-six horses and mules, should proceed home, that there might be provisions sufficient for those who should remain till the weather opened. Elder Pratt, although very sick, started with his party on the 22nd; after wallowing in the snow for nine miles, they encamped; Bro Pratt, not having eaten any thing for nearly two days, during which time he had vomited considerably, was unable to proceed any further.
On the 23rd, they traveled ten miles, each one going ahead in turn and breaking a track through the snow; they encamped long after night in snow waist deep, completely exhausted, their horses being tied to cedar trees or wallowing up the hill in search of bunch grass. On the 24th, several of the horses were unable to proceed. The company passed through Round Valley [now Scipio] and encamped four miles south of the Sevier river, where their animals found some grass on the hill sides. On the 26th, they encamped about three miles south of Salt Creek; by this time their provisions were nearly exhausted. On the 27th, Elders Parley P. Pratt, Chauncey W. West and Dimick B. Huntington, with some of the best animals started ahead of the others for Fort Utah (Provo) to send back provisions. Bro. Huntington soon gave out and fell behind for the rear company; Bros. Pratt and West proceeded, breaking the track on foot and leading their animals sometimes riding them; traveled all day about knee deep in snow and camped at 11 p.m. on Summit creek, extremely hungry and feet badly frozen; it being the coldest night they had experienced. After trying in vain to thaw out their frozen shoes, stockings and the extremities of their drawers and pants they rolled themselves in their blankets and lay trembling with cold a few hours.
On the 28th they arose long before daylight, ate a few mouthfuls of the last black frozen biscuit, saddled up their animals and after another laborious days travel reached Provo at dark; and the same night raised a party of men and animals with provisions and started them back. These picked up one of Bro. Pratt’s company, named Taylor who had wandered off ahead of the others and was within eight miles of Provo; he was found sunken down in the snow in a helpless condition, his horse standing by him nearly frozen to death; Taylor survived, but measurably lost the use of his limbs. The relief company met the others of Bro. Pratt’s advance company at Peteeneet creek [now Payson] and brought them in safety to Provo on the 30th.
[Thomas Bullock Journal, L23]
[Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jan. 31, 1850, 1-6]