The following is an extract from a letter written by Apostle Parley P. Pratt in Great Salt Lake City, Sept. 5, 1848, to President Orson Pratt and the Saints in Great Britain and published in the “Millennial Star:”
Early in March the ground opened, and we commenced plowing for Spring crops. I plowed and planted about twenty acres of Indian corn, beans, melons, etc. My corn planting was completed on the 15th of May; most of it has done extremely well. We have no ears to boil; and my large Missouri corn will be in roasting ears the beginning of September. Many of the ears are as high as I can reach.
I had a good harvest of wheat and rye without irrigation, though not a full crop, those who irrigated their wheat raised double the quantity on the same amount of land. Wheat harvest commenced early in July, and continued till this month. Winter and Spring wheat have both done well, some ten thousands bushels have been raised in the valley this season.
Oats do extremely well, yielding sixty bushels for one of sowing; barely does well; also all kinds of garden vegetables; we had lettuce by the 4th of May in abundance, and radishes by the middle of May. We have raised a great quantity of beets, onion, peas, beans, cucumbers, melons, squashes and almost all kinds of vegetables, as well as corn, oats, rye and wheat; and I expect to sell this year, some two hundred bushels of Indian corn. My cousin, John Van Cott, has a fine crop of corn, say twenty-five acres; he has also been successful in raising wheat, oats and crops of all kinds.
There has been no prevailing sickness of any kind, and very few deaths. Everybody seems strong and healthy, and full of activity. This is certainly the most healthy and delightful climate I ever lived in or read of. It has rained more or less every few days. The rains are light in summer, but the rains and snows of winter and spring are sufficient to keep the ground abundantly moist till some time in May, when the work of watering the land commences which is effected by means of the numerous and living streams which flow from the mountains, and can be conducted over nearly all farms in every direction.
We have at this time three saw mills in operation by water power, and another nearly completed. We have one water mill for grinding wheat, and another large and substantial flouring mill will be ready for running in a few weeks. We have a thrashing machine in operation by water power, which will thrash between one and two hundred bushels in twelve hours. Spaniards, Indians, and others have supplied our market with horses and mules in great abundance. Our cattle and sheep increase fast.
On the tenth we met, to the number of several hundred, under a large awning, to celebrate our first harvest in the Great Basin. We had a feast, which consisted of almost every variety of food, all produced in the valley. We had prayer and thanksgiving, music and dancing, and firing of cannon, together with loud shouts of Hosannah to God and the Lamb.
Recently Walker, the celebrated Utah chief, paid a visit to this place, accompanied by Soweite, the head chief of the Utah nations, and with them some hundreds of men, women and children. They had several hundred head of horses for sale.
We have had but little time to explore the country as yet; but have found many fine valleys with fertile soil, excellent water and a good supply of timber. In the mountains there are extensive forests of pine and fir trees, and along the streams in the canyons, are found the cottonwood, sugar maple and aspen. Timber in the mountains, though distant and difficult of access is discovered in great abundance.
The supply of pasture for grazing animals is without limit in every direction. Millions of people could live in this country and raise cattle and sheep to any amount. We have found an abundance of lime, slate and freestone.
The Utah Lake abounds with suckers, trout and various kinds of fish. It is a body of fresh water about thirty miles long and fifteen broad, a smooth, uniform bottom, of a depth varying from seven to fifteen feet. This beautiful lake is surrounded by lofty mountains, enclosing a fine, fertile valley on its eastern shores. The country south of this place is found to be rich in pasturage; west and south west from the Great Salt Lake we believe is principally desert. On the east of the range of mountains, which form the eastern boundaries of our valley, we find a fine park country, abounding in fine streams, luxurious grass and timber. It commences within twenty miles of our city, and connects with the Weber river and its tributaries and with the valleys and streams of the Utah Lake. These parks abound with antelope, and with the old bones and skulls of buffalo.
Dear Bro. Orson, I have now resided almost one year, in this lone retreat, where civilized man has not made his home for the last thousand years, and where the ripening harvest has not been enjoyed for ages, until this present season. During all this period, the sound of war, the rise and fall of empires, the revolution of states and kingdoms, the news of any kind has scarcely reached my ears. It is but a few days, since we heard of the revolutions and convulsions which are agitating Europe.
All is quiet, stillness. No elections, no police reports, no murders, no war in our little world. The legislation of our High Council, the decision of some Court or Bishop, a meeting, a dance, a visit, an exploring tour, an arrival of a party of Trappers and Traders, a Mexican caravan, a party arriving from the Pacific, from the States, from Forts Hall or Bridger, a visit of Indians, or, perhaps a mail from the distant world, once or twice a year, is all that breaks upon the monotony of our busy and peaceful life. No policeman has been on duty to guard us from external of internal danger. The drum has beat to be sure, but it was mingled with merry making, or its martial sound was rather to remind us that war had been among the nations.
Oh, what a life we live. It is the dream of the poets actually fulfilled in real life. Here we can cultivate the mind, renew the spirits, invigorate the body, cheer the heart and enoble the souls of man. Here we can cultivate every science and art calculated to enlarge the mind, accommodate the body, or polish and adorn our races; and here we can receive and extend that pure intelligence which is unmingled with the jargon of mystic Babylon, and which will fit a man, after a long life of health and usefulness to enjoy the mansions of bliss, and the society of those who are purified in the blood of the Lamb.
[Millennial Star, 11:21]
[Journal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Sept. 5, 1848, 3-5]
[transcribed and proofread by David Grow, July 2006]