| Hastings Cutoff | Great Salt Lake Desert | The First Explorers | The Hastings Trail in 1846 | 1847 | 1848 | 1849 | 1850 |

Charles Kelly sums up the rush on the Hastings Trail in 1850:

"The gold rush of 1849, while the biggest spectacle that had ever been seen on the plains, was only a sketchy preview of the performance put on in 1850. Trails were jammed, grass scarce, and every known or imagined cutoff was followed by frantic men trying to reach the gold fields before all the yellow metal had been dug. Few of these appear to have possessed Jefferson's accurate map, since almost unanimously they complain of misinformation. Members of Stansbury's surveying party, still in Great Salt Lake City, were questioned about the desert route, and as a result the largest body of men ever to cross the salt flats was piloted by Stansbury's chief guide, Auguste Archambault."

"In earlier years the only supply points along the California Trail were Fort Laramie, Fort Bridger, and Fort Hall. The great gold rush of 1850 completely overwhelmed these small posts, making it necessary for a great many of those in need to go by way of Great Salt Lake City. In 1849, wagons had been overloaded with supplies, which later had to be abandoned along the trail; in 1850 the opposite mistake was made and additional supplies had to be obtained somewhere. But the greatest necessity for those on the trail this year was fresh oxen and horses to replace animals which had been driven too hard or were half starved for lack of grass on the overcrowded trail. Many impatient men found wagons too slow and wanted to trade for horses, saddles, and pack outfits. The Hastings Cutoff from Fort Bridger to Salt Lake was jammed with traffic, but its original name had been forgotten. A new road called the "Golden Pass" had just been opened from Weber River to the new settlement by Parley P. Pratt, which came down Parleys Canyon and thus eliminated many steep grades and difficulties of the original Hastings-Donner routes, besides furnishing better feed for animals. After obtaining fresh supplies in Salt Lake Valley the preferred route was still by way of the Salt Lake Cutoff, intersecting the Fort Hall road at City of Rocks. But hundreds of frantic men, led to believe they could reach California from 14 to 20 days sooner, decided to try the Hastings Cutoff. Where others had gone, they dared to go."


CARLISLE S. ABBOTT who was traveling the California Trail early in 1850, he recorded a humorous incident when he met his two friends, Marsh and Allen [Allyn] with four others who took the desert [Hastings] route. When their teams gave out they started on foot for the springs, nearly dead from thirst [U.H.Q., vol. 20, p. 15]:

Finally Allen and one of the other men dropped to the ground exhausted, when, to the amusement of the others, Allen began to pray. "O Lord Almighty, send us just one drop of rain!" Immediately from a few fleecy clouds scattering rain drops began to fall, and as Allen and his companions had a rubber blanket, they quickly spread it out. But not a sufficient quantity of water fell to admit of its running together.

''The damnphool," said Marsh, "might just as well have prayed for a barrel of water as for a drop, for he got ten times as much as he asked for." After resting at the springs the men went back for their outfits, only to find that someone had stolen all their food. This is the only record of thievery on the Desert Route.


Again we refer to the Utah Historical Quarterly, Vol.. 20, for 11 excerpts. The earliest dated reference to any crossing of the Salt Desert in 1850, is contained in the journal of Silas Newcomb, who arrived in Great Salt Lake City on July 8. He was using Bryant's book as a guide, and intended to take the desert route, but was told it was too early in the season, even for packers, so he took the Salt Lake Cutoff instead. Some of his friends, however, remained in the city and later decided to try the desert route. This party of packers apparently consisted of only six men: Vedder, Allyn, Marsh and three others, who seem to have made the first crossing of 1850. They left the city on July 19, three days after Newcomb's party.

On August 3, Newcomb passed the junction of the Hastings Cutoff with the old trail along the Humboldt River, and the next day made the following entry in his journal:

". . . About 4 P. M. Messrs. Allyn, Vedder and Marsh and company of packers came along and gave us some information concerning the route via South end Salt Lake. They make it out to be an unsafe, tedeous route and advise all to keep the old road as being safest and best. They are nearly out of eatibles and provisions being generally scarce they look with foreboding to the future. Capt. Clark gave them a supper free and they seemed to relish it well. They report the Indians troublesome. Only two nights before eight head of cattle and one horse stolen."


One member of Archambault's party was William P. Bennett, a young Canadian, in later years a resident of Salt Lake City. In his autobiography Bennett says:

". . . we reached Salt Lake City, July 14th [1850]. There we were told of a much shorter route than that taken by wagons, through which we might "swiftly glide" on horseback, with pack animals. We believed in this cutoff, therefore sold oxen and wagons and bought horses and pack animals. . . . We left Salt Lake [July 22] to take the much-lauded cutoff, under the guidance of a Frenchman who said he had traveled that way two or three times with Fremont and others. We took with us provisions for only fifteen days, as our guide said that within that time he would land us in California, instead of which we came out at the end of the period of time named, upon the main wagon road at the head of the Humboldt river. We had constantly traveled through a succession of waterless deserts, one of which was ninety miles across. In all of these deserts we were obliged to carry water and grass, and to travel much of nights. We were more dead than alive when we reached the Humboldt . . . . in our one party there were no fewer than three hundred men."

[U.H.Q., vol. 20, p. 15].

John Udell, who crossed the plains many times and by a variety of routes, left the next earliest record of the 1850 crossing.16 His party, consisting of four men, left the big springs in Skull Valley on July 22, crossed the valley to Redlum Spring, and on the 23rd crossed the Salt Desert to Pilot Peak, being mounted on horses and unencumbered with wagons. Reaching water on the west side they found that another party had preceded them, but its size is not stated and the only name mentioned is that of Rev. Hill. By comparison of dates it appears that this was the group which included Allyn, Vedder and Marsh. Udell makes no mention of any undue suffering by either of these parties.

JOHN UDELL wrote about looking for some friends while in Salt Lake City and found a cousin and the next day they resumed their travels, he writes:

"18th. Walked seventeen miles to the different encampments to find acquaintances. Met cousin Samuel Udell, from Portage County, Ohio. "

"19th. We put our goods on our horses, disposed of our wagons, and threw away part of our clothing. We then resumed our journey, taking an entirely new route. Passed west of the city one mile, crossed the Jordan and journeyed west to the Bluffs. Camped near a small lake and springs of brackish water. Plenty of grass, but no wood."

"20th. Traveled to the clear cold springs-five-miles. Mountains close to the left, Bluffs and Big Salt Lake to the right. The waters of this lake are so dense that a person cannot sink, and dry salt may be shoveled up on it's beach. Seven miles and fifty yards of rocky road to a lone craggy rock on the left [Adobe Rock]. This is a blind road, and we steer westwardly to the mountains on the opposite side of valley. Large springs in a deep ravine [Mill Springs], quarter of a mlle from the town off the road on the right. All the water, so far, is brackcish, but can be used. Good grass, but no wood; hard, rough gravelly road, Fifteen miles to Willow Creek [Grantsville or Twenty Wells] , for eight miles of the way no wood exc'pt sage brush; the rest of the way good willow brush for wood, and fine camping ground. Thirty three and a balf miles' travel; Camped on Wlllow Creek. " *

"21st. Sunday, Thirty five miles travel to the next fresh water . From Willow Creek the road turns to the right. Leaving the mountains and a marsh on the left, until you come down to the Sweet Water springs [Hope Wells]. We passed several brackish springs: their water is often used, howvever." **

"22d. From the fresh water springs you steer a little to north west across the low ground to the mountains on the oppsite side. The road keeps on into the bluffs. On the left we found sulpher springs in a deep ravine [Redlum Springs], and some other springs, mostly of brackish water. This water has a very unpleasant taste, but can be used by those on the plains."

"23d. We left the sulpher springs, and crossed the Great Desert. We could only obtain vessels enough to carry two gallons of water. This was insufficient for four persons forced to travel thirty miles under the burning sun. We were but one day going through. Before night several had become speechless from extreme thirst, and would have perished, had not others been able to go forward and bring water to the suffering. After passing around several high mountains, we came to a vast plain which presented a most singular appearance. There was no vegetation on it, and the whole expanse was covered to the depth of five or six inches with a white substance resembling gypsum, that reflects the heat of the sun's rays, making a bright glaring atmosphere, which together with the dust, causes extreme faintness and thirst."

"24th This day we concluded to rest from the fatigues of traveling."

"25th. I found here two christian minister: ameeting was plroposed, and we all joined in worship, which was very pleasant. . . ."

"26th. Traveled twenty-five miles before we came to another spring; it is in a deep ravine of craggy rocks on our rignt [Silver Zone Pass]. . . ."


Having all my things ready I took leave of my frienda, Dyke nnd Co., and with my brother and his wife, Charlie Woodruff and his wife's brothers we started for the southeren trail 8 miles up to the city snd atruck off swamps till ve came to the Eutaw River called by the Mormons, Jordan. There we found a bridge in very bad order which we made swift to cross. We then directed our courae over a dry hard plain toward the mountains which we reached in the evening and found a clear cold sping of brackish water. Two miles furthe furtherr, anothor, Three miles further still between the Lake and the mountains another where we camped haveing made sbout 32 miles.

In the evening I went into the lake to bathe. The water is perfectly clear nnd intensely salt, three measures producing one of salt, fine and white, The water will bear man's body, if he will lie still and straighten himself out, halfway out of the water, in fact he cannot sink in it. Salt lies on the bottom like sand in a river. The lake throws up a scum which stinks like carrion and attracts myriads of flies.

The spring where we lay came from a bluff of rocks near the lake and there is a high rock out in thc lake 100 yarde [Black Rock] with a natural causeway to it where some persons were boiling salt.

July 20th. Packed up and travelloed on. Passed some springs of brackish water and at one or two o'clock came to a nice little streom of sweet water and good grass where we took dinner. Several Eutaw Indians were here very unfortunate for food. They seem a poor starved degraded race. we gave them some little to eat, not having much to spare. We lay here al1 night and by dark nearly 100 men had assembled. There was thundor, wind, and rain. The horses took a little stamped about day, but were recovered.

July 21st. Morning cool nd pleasant and we made and early start and travelled over a saleratus plain and around the spur of the mountain passing several salt springs, till noon. At about 25 miles came to a spring on the right of the road, not so salt but quite brackish, where we dined and turned our horse out to grass. Thunder, wind and rain in the evening.

We camped at good spring and grass till 11o'clock and started for the desert, passing a salaratus spring in a ravine on the left at the foot of the mountains which we passed and reached the foot on the west side at dark. Here we struck the desert, 70 miles across. Travelled all night and all day.

July 23. Made out to reach a good spring and plenty of grass where we lay 24 and 25.


The next record we have is the journal of ROBERT CHALMERS who made the crossing on JULY 26-27. Chalmers refers to Auguste Archambault, a former guide for Fremont and at the time chief guide for Stansbury. He apparently took time off to guide about 300 gold-seekers across the Salt Desert for whicn he received $300. Part of the large group were packers but a majority had wagons and oxen. Chalmers writes [U.H.Q.,vol. 20, pp. 48-49]:

"July 20.-Fixing pack saddles and making bags to put our provisions in. There are hundreds here fixing to get a short cutt off in fifteen days to save twenty days travel, and we thought it best to go the nearest road. I wrote a letter home."

"July 21.-Went 5 miles. Crossed a small river called Jordan and several bad holes.16 Camped on the flat without any tent. It rained a little tonight and we had to lie still for there was no shelter to go to. Pasture good."

"July 22.-Went 20 miles. Arrived at Salt Lake. It is 100 miles long and 40 or 50 miles wide. The water is so strong that 3 pails full of it will make one pail of salt. Passed several springs. Camped at an old mud house by a spring.17 A company came up to us with a pilot to take them across the desert and he camped with us."

"July 23.-Went 15 miles and passed two springs. Camped at a small creek [Willow Creek] and laid up. Grass good. The guide is going to wait here to make up his company. He is a Frenchman and was Freemont's guide, for two or thre years and is here now with a company exploring around the lake."

"July 24.-Went 36 miles in the valley,-around the point of a high mountain [Stansbury Mountains]. The water was brackish and not fit to use. Arrived at a spring and camped where the road turns across the desert."

"July 25.-Went 12 miles across a salt bottom. No grass on it. Camped on a side hill near a spring.20 Water brackish but the last seventy-five miles, good or bad. Grass good."

"July 26.-Went 45 rniles. Started across the desert this morning. The first ten miles was very hilly and rocky, [Cedar Mt.] but after that, sandy with sage bushes. Then we went on to a salt bottom where nothing ever grew. We followed a trail across this bottom until next morning. It blew and rained hard in the night but we were obliged to travel on because what little grass and water we had with us was gone."

"July 27.-Went 30, or 75 miles altogether, going 12 in the morning. The roads were gravelly round the end of some high rocks. Barren mountains [Silver Island]. Went across another salt bottom to a spring under a high hill where we arrived at noon. We were pretty fagged out. We passed several horses and oxen that had given out. A number of people had to leave their packs and drive their animals and feed them a day and then go back for their packs. We camped here to recruit."

"July 28.-Laid up all day. Went to a meeting in a large tent that was erected with blankets. The man who officiated said that he belonged to no persuasion but he gave us a good discourse. The guide [Auguste Archambault] arrived this afternoon with his company of two or three hundred, which gave him $300, to pilot them this far. They had lost some of their animals and had found one man dead on the plains. He had died of fatigue during last night."


Another man who was probably a member of this group was JOHN B. McGEE who wrote a letter from Pilot peak, dated July 29, and addressed to Capt. W. H. Hooper in Great Salt Lake City. The letter reads [U.H.Q.,vol. 20, pp.16 17]:


Pilot Peak, July 29,1850

Capt. Hooper-

"Sir. I am across the Great Desert after a hard drive, this Desert is over 80 miles without any doubt. Should any emigrants call on you for information you can say to them with confidence that they cannot get through with their animals without at least 2 gallons of water to each animal and one gallon for each person; without they can carry this quantity of water with a supply of grass, no man should ever attempt to cross. There was a great deal of suffering among those who came over at the same time I did, but no lives lost, but no doubt a great many would not have got through, had it not been for the active part of those who got across early and hauled water back for those behind."

"The road is very fine, especially across the desert, and plenty of grass and water on this route with the exception of the desert. I hope no one will endeavor to come 'chis road without they are well prepared.

Yours in haste,



COSTMOR HARRIS CLARK joined the emigration to California in the spring of 1850. The quotes following come from a book intitled -TRAIL OF HARDSHIP TO 'THE LAND OF GOLD AND OF PLENTY', 1850 by Marilyn Samuel, Noel L. Danner,and Ruth e. Danner (From Rangelands Vol. 8 No 4, August 1985, 147-154)

Costmor Harris Clark was born on the first of May, 1810, in Chester, Vermont. He was a stonemason by trade. At the age of 40 he left his family in Wisconsin and emigrated to California in the spring of 1850., worked in the mines then took up his old trade in San Francisco. He returned to the states in 1852 and brought his family to California in 1853. Lived in Napa and died in December, of 1905 at the age of 95 years and 7 months

We read from Costmor's journal just as he and his fiends leave Salt Lake:

"July 24th 28 M At 7AM. . . We struck out upon this long talked of "Cut off" travelling over the level plain towards the point of a mountain some 15 miles to the South West. After reaching it and travelling along its base some three miles we stopped for dinner rat a salt spring. The water was cool and limpid but too salt to be palatable or to quench our thirst. Here we encountered quite a copius shower of rain."

"In the affternoon we passed several other Salt Springs and a portion of Salt Lake the water of which is salt indeed and the shore slightly encrusted with salt. From this point our course lay nearly south over a soft salt marsh. Our path being crossed by several salt streams flowing from springs at the front of the mountains upon our left and producing a luxuriant groth of wild cane which seemed quite palatable to our animals.-Encamped-turning our horses into the canes. Salt water to cook with on wood so impregnated with salt as to be almost incombustible. Our blankets spread upon the canes-our bed."

"Th. July 25" 35 M. Over salt plains and marshes in many places so slightly encrusted as to be almost impassible-many places would not bear up a horse or even a man, and we were obliged to make circuits to void them. We travelled upon the plains to make a cut off. Most of the travel taking the surer but longer road at the foot of the mountains at our left. Towards night we left the "bogs" and joined the prudent travellers upon terra firma.-Reached our place of encampment sometime after dark-We can see nothing of the "lay of the land" but a very unpleasant smell reaches us from every direction said to be an emission of gass from the springs and bog in our neighborhood, The water that we are using is rather "bad to take". The grass is poor. I pity the horses-and prepare to make my, bed in the open air expecting it i sleep to dream of salt-of swimming in salt and breathing sulphurretted hydrogen and every other stink on earth-"

"Fr. July 26, 32 M. Not feeling inclined to breakfast at our encampment we left at an early hour and travelled on five miles to another camping ground where we found bitter water and grass. We remained here until 1 O'C. after noon, for the purpose of feeding our animals and cutting some teed for their use upon the "90 m. desert''.

"At 4 O'clock P.M. Ieft encampment each with his bundle of feed consisting mostly of canes. Bills back having bean badly chafed by the saddle I put him before Cameron a CO' s waggon and rode one of their ponies-Continued to travel in a Southerly direction along the front of the mountains for about 16 miles where we made a short turn to the North-west striking for a range of mountains ten or twelve miles ahead-we were obliged to make this angle-the softness of the ground at our right preventing our taking a more direct course."

"At this angle of the road we found a spring approximating more nearly to fresh water than any we have yet found West of the City. I was travelling alone-Some of our company ahead and others who had stopped to look for fresh water in the mountains behind. The night had set in with every indication of a severe thunder storm. I dismounted and hurried on the pony hoping to reach the mountains before the rain should soften our path and make it quite impassible- a result we had reason to fear from the nature of the soil. I succeeded in making 5 or 6 miles of the distance only when it commenced to rain violently-I turned out of the path, tied pony to a sage brush, wrapped my self in my blanket and waited the result-the continued flashes of lightning revealing to me distinctly the mountains which I feared i might not reach without great difficulty. Fortunately the violence of the storm soon abated and I started on, travelling however with great difficulty over the softened marl (if it is marl) and reached the mountain encampment at daylight where I found all hands drying themselves before a blazing fire made of a kind of dwarf fir which covers the sides of the mountains and ravines."

"Sat. 27 July Our encampment is upon the Eastern side of a chain of broken mountains-with lofty peaks and deep ravines. Some hundreds of emigrants are waiting here to recruit their animals and prepare for crossing the great '90 mile desert". The feed here is "bunch grass" which is found growing rather sparingly upon the sides of mountains and ravines. "

"Water is found by digging holes at the bottom of a ravine. It is of a very inferior quality. and flows so slowly as scarcely to supply the demand of immediate use & we shall have to economize in order to save what we wish to take with us for use upon the desert. "

"Sunday 28 July Remained in camp saving water and making preparations for crossing the desert until 4 P.M. when we left encampment, and the last place of grass and water East of "Pilot Peak"''. Twelve miles travel through the mountains brought us to the verge of the desert where we stopped for half an hour to take a hasty cup of coffee. and then lanched out upon the broad expanse before us just as the sun was setting. For the first 15 miles we travelled through a bed, seemingly composed of sand ashes and salt mixed with cobble stones into which we sunk almost knee deep-continually stubbing our toes against the stones until those of us who were travelling in moccasins (as I was and for the first time on the journey) were almost crippled. and worse than all, the dust raised by the travel ahead and blown into our faces by a strong wind was almost beyond endurance. It was the greatest difficulty we could either see or breath. At 12 O'clock reached a high rocky ridge which was very steep on both sides and difficult to cross on the summit of which I rested my horse a few minutes-threw away my moccasins and resumed the stogies- my feet so much swollen that my no. 11's were a very tight fit-"

"July 29 At 3 O'clock A.M. reached another ridge of sand where we fed our horses their bundle of canes and rested while they were feeding. At 4 resumed our journey travelling over salt plains towards aridge of mountains which bounded the horizon to the Westward--passing at short intervails the bones of animals, waggons and various other articals of property a small portion only remaining above the surface. this was property belonging a company of Mormoans, who, while attempting to cross the desert were overtaken by a rain which so softened the crust which covers the surtace ot the plain that It would not bear up their teams, they were obliged to abandon them to them fate. At this time in many places the crust will scarcely bear up a waggon however no one has broken through as yet and we have found it very pleasant travelling ever since we crossed the rocky ridge betore mentioned. With the exception ot these "ridges" of stone and sand the whole plane is a pertect level, resembilng a lake covered with ice-the salt on the surtace white and glittering in the sun like snow."

"At 4 P.M. reached the mountains for which we had been so long travelling with the expectation of finding feed and water at their base, but great was our disappointment to learn that we had still to travel 25 to reach "Pilot Peak".-All around us were animals dying of hunger thirst and fatigue and many men as well as women in nearly the same condition. After resting a few moments started again and it was with the greatest difficulty we could urge our animais to go at all and were obliged to stop again. We took off the packs trom our horses and let them rest for nearly an hour under the shade ot the mountain after which the poor things seemed willing to make another effort, and we continued our joumey along the base ot the mountains in a Northwest direction for about ten miles when we came to the point of the spur around which we tumed to the left and saw for the first time (at a distance ot 15 miles) the iong looked tor "Pilot Peak". Here we met a young man with two canteens of water and were invited to drink as much as we pleased, and intormed us (Mr Millard trom Whitewater and myself were together others of our company were travelling behind and some before according to the ability of their animals) that half mile ahead was a waggon load ot water sent back by parties who had reached the mountains before us. We soon came up to the "water waggon" and received a supply for ourselves and animals. The "water man" informed us that he was hired to meet the emigrants with water at this point-the money being raised by subscription or contribution rather, among the emigrants as they arrived at the 'Peak" and this humane arrangement wlil probably be kept up until all the emigration have passed."

"The danger ot famishing for want of water being over I determined upon staying where I was untli morning as I was quite lame in the feet and felt as I never did before the necessity ot sleep as I had not slept to exceed 3 hours in 84 or four days and three nights. Mr. Millard kindly voluntered to take my horse with his and if possible get them through to feed during the night. I crawled under a waggon to be out of danger of being run over by animals and men and soon forgot in sleep the fatigues of the "desert Pilot Peak", or the golden land. I slept until a late hour in the morning and arose quite refreshed and "put out" for the mountain and reached the encampment about noon. The place has quite the appearance ot a town. Tents are pitched on every side and men and women are moving about in every direction. And the beautifui plain which is watered by the streams flowing trom a range ot snow crowned mountains, are covered by animals luxuriating in "pIenty."

"1 Aug. 37 M. Lett encampment at an early hour. Myselt in poor trim tor travelling on account ot the lameness ot my teet, and poor Bill in a worse condition still-the effect ot hunger and tatigue in crossing the last desert. It is with greatest ditticuity he can be induced to travel, and I have been obliged to take upon my own shoulders a part ot his pack. This added to my rifle was a little more than Melt able to carry and I was obliged to lay down my arms, and surrender it to the desert over which we were travelling-hoping hovever that Cameron and Cook who were behind with the wagon would take it up-it they have not done so my poor old triend is lost. and I am detenseless. We have travelled today in nearly a Westerly direction-crossing in the moming through the range on which is ..Pilot Peak"-We decended upon a salt plain some 18 miles in width~crossed a rocky ridge 25 mile our morning encamped where we tound two small springs ot water and aher waiting our turn tor nearly an hour we succeeded in getting perhaps a quart ot water each tor our animals and perhaps a pint apiece tor our selves. Ten miles tarther travel over a Son sandy plain brought us to another range ot mountains where we find water grass and a large encampment but cannot succeed in finding our company who were mostly anead of us-so we have turned out our horses and must retire to rest, supperless. Wm Shields was my travelling companion today as far as the two Springs when he went ahead. Soon affer."


Journal in the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA. &
the National Frontier Trails Center, Independence, MO.

" July. 17. 18. laid in the G.S.L.C. & fixed for packing[.]"

"July. 19. started & went out of the City & camped for the knight[.]"

"July. 20. started & crossed the river Jordon. & as i was takeing one of the horses across he fell in pack & all but no damage done to either, After crossing we went to willow & camped[.]"

"July. 21. started & went to the Utah Mormon Settlement[.]'

"July. 22. started & crossed a creek about noon & fed, then went along the lake shore for twenty miles & camped without any water to drink[.]"

"July. 23. we started early in the morning for to get to water which was about eight miles from us. and then camped[.] grass & water very good [Hope Wells][.]"

"July. 24. we started at noon & went to another spring twelve miles, water rather salty, [Redlum Springs] grass midling good[.]"

"July. 25. we started at three oclock to cross a desert said to be 60 miles wide but it proved itself to be nearer 80. as we suffered severely for water, we got water; about twenty miLes from the spring, brought by men that had sufered before us, it was the greatest blessing we ever received, we traveled all knight[.] it was on the 26. we sufered so much, i will remember it as long as i live[.]"

"July. 26. still traveling across the desert, this was the day we suffered so much, it was as hot a day as ever I saw but one they were nearly alike[awk], we got to the spring about sundown[.] grass & water good[.]"

"July.27.&.28. laid still to rest & glad to do it, untill evening[.] we went three miles."

"July. 29. traveled over another small desert of 35. miles[.] some water but no grass."

"July. 30. 31. August. 1. 2. we laid by on account of our companys Mules & Horses straying away. we stayed & helped them to hunt for three days. two of them came in on the first of August[.]"

1850 DIARY

A typescript of the Wilson diary and related family information is at the California State Library at Sacramento

"July 26th. Aimed for Willow Creek. Traveled 10 miles south and then turned West. traveled 8 miles and came to the creek. Good fresh water. Lay by until evening and prepared to enter a 35 mile desert. Started 4 o'clock and traveled till daylight. Encamped between the mountain and the Lake. The course was west. "

"July 27th. Turned south round the point of the mountain and came to a fine spring off the road [Dell Springs] 35 miles from creeks. Good water and grass. We lay by until the next day."

"July 28th. Filled our vessels full of water for this was the last fresh water until we had to cross a 60 mile desert. Turned south 8 miles and turned north west across the valley to a Salt Spring [Redlum] said to be last water. 10 miles and encamped."


MADISON BERRYMAN MOORMAN, another emigrant in 1850, wrote about his travels past Great Salt Lake to Grantsville [MBM]:

"July 26th. - After an early breakfast we were in regular file moving on towards Salt lake-our road circling around a mountain. Five miles brought us to the briny sea, at a point where an exploring party, under pay of the U.S., had erected an observatory upon an isolated rock of immense magnitude, which had been surronded by the waters of the Lake . . . " He then goes on to tell about a man making salt and swimming in the lake. He continues: "We nooned upon a creek near to a lone house where some men were engaged in fitting some timbers for a sawmill, [Bensons Mill] to be supplied with stocks from the Kanyons, the only places where timber is found in this region. we purchased from them an imperfect guide for our road, and just before sun down we encamped on Willow Creek, a deep, clear and cold little stream of about four feet wide, having travelled for the day twenty five miles. While we were luxuriating in Salt Lake, Drs. T. A. T.[homas] & P.H.T.[hurston] kept ahead and seeing a road, which they imagined to be a cut-off, leading over a plain covered with a white incrustation, they took it, and the consequence was we camped without them."

MADISON BERRYMAN MOORMAN on July 27th 1850 tells about two missing mules the night before and how they found and surrounded them. He continues writing about their journey on the 27th [MBM]:

"We got an early start and when we had travelled eight or ten miles, we came to where our Drs. spent the night and were awaiting our arrival [The Drs. had apparently taken Jedediah Smiths, Fremonts and Clymans trail along the edge of Great Salt Lake between Lake Point and Dolomite.] They joined us and we pursued our journey frequently seeing large wolves and affrighted antelopes. About 1 o'cloock we came to water, quite brackish, but the freshest we had seen since leaving camp, a distance of twenty five miles, and as pretty fair grass surrounded it we stopped for dinner. Five or six men kept on in search of better, expecting to find it at the 'next point of the mountain.'_ Two hours rest and we again started _all nearly famished for water: _the salt water used making us more thirsty than before. Seven miles brought us where the road forked_the left hand one leading up a ravine towards the mountain. We took it and after going about three miles we came to one of the finest springs that ever ran from the earth, gushing from the mountain side. Several of the men could not wait to get to the fountain, but leaped from their mules and quaffed bountifully from the brook below. I could scarcely refrain but as the source was so near I resolved to hold out and take large draughts from the fountain pure. A considerable number of emigrants were here_providing grass & water for the Desert, which was twenty five miles off._ The place was a lovely one_grass and water abounding and of the finest quality, as well as plenty of good dry cedar wood and as the desert was so soon to be encountered and our mules were somwhat fatigued from the day's march of thirty five miles, with but little grass and no water fit to drink we determined to remain here until Monday, and let the boys who had gone ahead do the best they could."

On July 28th they rested and MADISON extolled the beauties of the placed, he talked and read. The wagon had gone on ahead to Hope Wells.

MADISON BERRYMAN MOORMAN continues with his travels past Hope Wells and on to Redlum Springs [MBM]:

"July 29th. . . .We soon made the distance to the next spring [Hope Wells] where we found Mr. K.[ingston] with his wagon all the rest of the boys had left about midnight for the next and last spring before entering upon the Desert. We had provided us a supply of water, before starting, for drinking purposes as we understood it was the last good water we would have before crossing the dreaded waste._A short time was consumed here in watering our animals and seventeen miles more brought us to the last watering place [Redlum Spring]_ a number of small wells dug in a ravine that were ever kept stirred up and muddy. The water would have been bad enough had this not been the case, it being very brackish, but now intolerable. _ We found the van of our train encamped near by and their mules about half a mile off in the hills upon good bunch grass, to last us across a desert of seventy five miles, was to [be] cut and arranged _ cooking for the same had to be done, and many other little things of importance were to be attended to."

MADSION BERRYMAN MOORMAN continues his narrative about their camp at Redlum Spring and their trek into the desert [MBM]:

"July 30 & 31st.-A double guard or rather twice the usual number of men were put upon duty last night, so that no one should stand more than two hours. I was on the first watch and the entire guard were to take their blankets and spend the night in the mountains with the mules. The first relief, from some cause or other did not relieve, which kept me on duty till 12 o'clock, and when I did lie down the relief kept so much noise in herding the mules- which were very much disposed to run about, that I did not sleep more than an hour."

"At 3 o'clock P.M. we started on our dreaded tour and after travelling six or eight miles over a very rough and mountainous road, we struck the immense barren plain covered with a white saline incrustation. The road here was very dusty and the train already strung along for a mile or two. The sun was nearly down, shining directly in our faces and the dust rose straight up in dense clouds that nearly choked us-there being no breeze to fan it away. Each couple had to provide for their mules, which left but one saddle mule to two men-the other packed with grass. We travelled on in this way and about 8 o'clock we were on the summit of a low mountain twenty miles out [Grayback]."


The Utah Historical Quarterly, volume 20, pps. 17-19 states: During the last week of July and the first two weeks of August there was an almost continuous procession of packers and wagons on the Salt Desert, moving day and night. MADISON BERRYMAN MOORMAN gives a vivid a description of his difficulties [U H.Q.,vol. 20, pp. 17-19]:

July 30th & 31st.-. . . . I did not sleep more than an hour. At 3 o'clock P.M. we started on our dreaded tour and after travelling six or eight miles over a very rough and mountainous road [Cedar Mountains], we struck the immense barren plain covered with a white saline incrustation. The road here was very dusty and the train already strung along for a mile or two. The sun was nearly down, shining directly in our faces and the dust rose straight up in dense clouds that nearly choked us-there being no breeze to fan it away. Each couple had [p.18] to provide for their mules, which left but one saddle mule to two men-the other packed with grass. We travelled on in this way and about 8 o'clock we were on the summit of a low mountain twenty miles out [Grayback]. We made a stay of near an hour awaiting the coming up of several of the men who had got behind . . .About 11 o'clock the moon rose and showed us that our road was much better which . . . cheered us no little on our way. The night was pleasantly cool and about the dawn we stopped to feed our animals and give them a short rest. I was nearly dead for sleep and fell down upon the ground, with the laryette in my hand, . . About 8 o'clock we stopped again, in sight of the point of a mountain, at which we had expected to find water and grass. We gave our mules the residue of the water and grass & ate a little ourselves. Several wagons were here being guarded by several men, while the rest of their parties were gone on with their stock in search of grass & water, which, they told us, were twenty five miles off. This unfavorable intelligence gave us a good deal of uneasiness. There we were without grass and not more than a quart of water. The sun was already oppressively hot and one or two of our mules began to show signs of "caving in." We tarried but a short time and when we had traveled five or six miles-which brought us to the point of the mountain above mentioned [Silver Island], one of the mules refused to go any further. We gave it the last drop of water we had, which was but a few swallows and the train moved on leaving Dr. [illegible] with his mule. After travelling a short distance we met a wagon loaded with water which had been sent out by subscription to relieve the distressed. The teamster gave us as much as we could drink but would not let us have any for our mules. We told him of Dr. T.[homas]'s situation and pushed on seeing numbers of poor animals dead & dying and about 3 o'clock P.M. we reached the long looked for fountain, gushing out of the earth in a large bold stream while all around were emigrants and their stock grazing up on the immense meadow. In the lapse of an hour or two Dr. T.[omas] came in leading his mule, almost exhausted. We soon had a good supper prepared, which seemed to be more appreciated than any we had partaken of in our lives. We felt grateful that we had been so fortunate in crossing what was called a "Seventy-five mile Desert," but is, in reality, according to several Viameters, Ninety miles!"

"Aug. 1st.-They still continued to pour in from the Desert, many of whom were almost exhausted. Great suffering of man & beast reported We had all the tanks filled with water and a considerable quantity of grass cut and packed upon mules and sent back to relieve them and bring in the wagon. The company contributed to the relief of the suffering still out, some of whom were reached just in time to safe life. I felt much better today than it would supposed having slept but one night in three..."


On the heels of the Moormon party came Henry S. Bloom, who had been given the same misinformation as to the width of the desert, and whose experiences were similar [U.H.Q.,vol. 20, p. 19]:

"July 31.-A good many in camp here preparing to start this evening. They are filling their water sacks, kegs and canteens. . . . I have seen men start off today to cross the desert of 70 miles with not more than a pint of water. Some have filled their boots and their oil cloth pants and everything capable of holding water."

"Aug. 1.-Started at 3 o'clock p.m. Traveled all night; stopped at 4 o'clock in the morning. . . rested about an hour."

"Aug. 2.-Started again a little after daylight . . . Got to the Rock of Misery [Crater Island] 6o miles, our water all gone and our horses nearly famished for water. Teams giving out, men lying by the side of the road in the hot sun speechIess for the want of water. Some lying in the shade of the rocks nearly dying from thirst. Men offering one, ten, twenty and five hundred dollars for a single drink of water. It was a sad sight to see strong, healthy, robust men reduced to such an extremity in a few hours time...We took the packs from the horses and concluded to rest a little and then try to reach the spring with the horses if possible. While sitting there a man came along and inquired how far it was to the spring. Ireplied '16 miles'. He then exclaimed 'Oh, my God, I can never reach there without water!'...Just as we were prepared to start for the spring the water wagon came and Oh, what a relief to ourselves and others. It seemed like an act of an angel of mercy at the eleventh hour...Got to the spring at 10 o'clock p.m."

"Aug. 3.-Got an opportunity to send a canteen of water to Kinney and to have our packs brought in. . . . . [p.20] The desert just passed over is 90 miles across as measured by roadometer. We were on this desert 31 hours and I never slept a wink during that time."


All journals of 1850 so far quoted here were written by men traveling by pack train. Fortunately we have in the journal of John Wood the well-written account of his experiences with a group of 24 men with wagons and oxen. There is some reason to think that Wood's party carried a copy of Jefferson's map. Beginning at Salt Lake City, Wood writes:

"July 30th.-. . . . Our cattle seem to be considerably revived. We traveled 16 miles over a very dusty road to a good spring-encamped and found good grass [near Garfield]."

"July 31st.-Started early this morning and traveled until 9 o'clock, when we reached the Great Salt Lake, which is certainly a great curiosity. . . . We traveled 22 miles and encamped at a good spring and good grass, but had awful dusty roads. The water generally along here is brackish [near Grantsville]."

"August lst.-This morning we met some Mormon men who had been conducting some emigrants out 10 or 12 days travel on this road,20 and they told us that we were within 28 miles of an 80 mile desert, and that we would have to cut grass here to feed our cattle, while crossing, so we took our scythes and mowed each team a large pile of grass and loaded it into the wagons and got ready to start by 2 o'clock this evening. We now have to travel 28 miles from here before we reach water, so after cooking enough here to do us this evening and in the morning, and filled our kegs with water, we started on and traveled late; our cattle must suffer all night, for water, and travel all day tomorrow, through the dust until night, before we reach it-this is too hard."

"August 2nd.-Bright and early this morning we were on the road and traveled on through dust and heat for 18 miles, when we reached two good springs, away upon the side of a mountain, two miles from the road, [Dell Spring] and going these last two miles, up hill, you ought to have seen the bullocks heave when they smelt the water; some of them, however, gave up and would not pull a pound, for they couldn't. At these springs is a great camping place, and about 50 wagons are now camped here. . . . We are now 17 miles from the starting point across the desert, and having good water and plenty of wood, all are engaged in cooking for the desert."

"August 3rd.-This forenoon all were engaged in cooking yet. . . . We stayed at the springs until 2 o'clock, then started and drove six miles to another good spring and camped for the night [Hope Wells]."

"August 4th.-This morning we filled all the kegs we had, for this is the last fresh water spring for perhaps over a hundred miles, and started on and went 11 miles to the last spring on this side of the desert [Redlum] and camped for the day. Here we found only tolerably good grass and the water uncommon brackish and scarce, so we cannot get enough for our stock."

"August 5th.-This morning there are hundreds here preparing to make a start about 12 o'clock into the dreaded desert. Hundreds are gathered around this spring, which is very brackish, and contains a portion of sulphur, quarreling about who shall fill their cask first or get water for their famishing cattle or horses. Many are fearful they will never get any of their stock across. No one knows the exact distance across the desert, but the most that are here now are filling everything that will hold water. It is from this spring about 90 miles to the City of the Desert, which we left six days ago."

"About one o'clock today we started into the field of desolation; for the first 14 miles we had to travel over [p.22] a very high and rough mountain [Cedar Mountains], the road over which being so rough and sliding that we had to hold our wagons from upsetting, with ropes. We reached the foot of the mountain on the other side about sunset, where we rested a short time and took some refreshment; then we started on our nocturnal journey. The road is exceedingly dusty, and appears to be perfectly level. Nothing grows along here but wild sage, which grows in dry sand, and after traveling until midnight the country appears to assume a different appearance somewhat, being an extensive plain, destitute of everything, even of wild sage, and yet we crossed a steep hill in the night, when we had to put our shoulders to the wheel in earnest, lifting the wheels over rocks three and four feet high almost perpendicular [Grayback ridge]."

"We passed a wagon which had a sick man in it, who was about to perish for water, so Captain Robinson put him in his wagon and we traveled until daylight, when we found that some of our cattle were nearly gone, and some of us not much better."

"August 6th.-This morning we stopped and rested about an hour, taking a little breakfast, giving our cattle about a quart of water apiece and some hay. It has the appearance of being cloudy today and of rain; if it does it will be almost an interposition of divine providence, in our favor."

"The road has now become good, being very level smooth and solid, and now while I am sitting here by the wagon wheel I discover that one of our steers is so near gone that he will not eat any hay; poor fellow, we will have to make a mile stone of you shortly, and probably all the rest."

"We suppose that we are about 35 miles from water and can it be possible that the cattle can ever take these wagons through. The desert is a barren waste, generally level, and mostly covered with a thin saline crust; some places the ground being very soft. We had not gone far until the steer spoken of above gave way, but on we went pushing for life and death, not knowing how far we have to go, but rather expect to reach the water by dark; we traveled on hard until night and reached a high bluff of rocks [Silver Island], where we were told we could find [p.23] plenty of water, but lo and behold, it was 25 miles farther on [actually about 15]."

"Ah, who can imagine our feelings; disappointment sinks the heart of man. Here, around these rocks, our hopes had lingered the live-long day, but now they are transplanted 25 miles ahead, around a beautiful group of springs."

"Before reaching these bluffs, we met an old lady, with some water in a coffee-pot, going back to meet her husband, who had lost his wagon tire and had gone back to hunt for it, but she found him ready to perish; he had laid down to die. We also passed Mrs. [E. S.] Hall, a lady from Cincinnati, on the road, who had stayed with the wagon, while her husband drove the cattle to the water, which he expected to find in a short distance, but found it to be 40 miles, and was unable to return; his wife was left to perish or be supplied by others; our company gave her some water to do her until morning."

"At the bluffs we fed the last of our hay and gave the cattle the last drop of water, and started on; now we begin to pass a great many dead and dying cattle, and we see men suffering extremely for water, but here some men have hauled out water to relieve the emigrants, which they sell at $1 a gallon."

"Several of our cattle about dark are giving way and cannot go much farther, they look awful bad, and I know they feel worse than they look. I judge them by myself. Soon after dark another steer in our team gave way, and he was left, and some others in the company have also gone the way of all flesh, but we are going to see how many can go through, roll on is the cry now with everyone; we are going through or die. We have not an ox in the company now but what will take hard cracking with the whip and never flinch, but they certainly can endure more fatigue than I ever expected."

"About 10 o'clock two more steers gave out, which left us but two yoke to take our wagons through; some other teams gave way entirely and stopped for the night. When we got within 10 miles of the water our cattle seemed to know, by some instinct, that water was not far ahead and became animated with new life, and the two small yoke we had attached to our big wagon, walked as fast as I could, and sometimes would trot, and when we got within a mile of the water, I had to walk before them to keep them from running. Who could [p.24] not sympathize with flesh and blood, suffering in this way?"

"It was one o'clock at night when we got through. This was the severest trial I have had by far, the desert proving to be 93 miles instead of 75, as we had understood and having to walk all the way almost without stopping, with but little to eat and drink, and no sleep, was soul-trying in the extreme. We dropped our bodies under the wagons and in less than five minutes were in a state of unconsciousness. . . ."

"August 7th.-This morning we found ourselves near a burning mountain, surrounded by a number of good springs and good grass. This morning our case is deplorable, notwithstanding it is heart-cheering to see water and grass; our team is broken and we must leave McLean's last wagon; the only resort we now have is to make pack saddles and pack our provisions on our remaining cattle, as many others have had to do."

"Emigrants are arriving here all the time from the desert, almost famished for water; they say men, women and children are dying with thirst and fatigue. All start in ignorance of the distance across, and many take but little water and they must perish. Mr. Hall, who left his wife on the desert yesterday, is preparing to go back after his wife and wagon."

"Our company rigged out a team loaded with water and have gone back on the desert to relieve the suffering, without money and without price. They found many at the point of death, and saved them, many suffering extremely. Mr. Ogle, who carried water back in the desert, on his back, 20 or 30 miles, tells of one man that could not speak, whom he relieved, and many others almost in similar condition."

Ye Galleon Press Fairfield, Washington 1997

"2nd day of August. Friday. We have had the satisfaction to pass over Gordon, [Jordan] on the bridge, by paying Sl.25 toll, and are taking Hastings cut off, the lefthand road from the city contrary to the advice of the Mormons and Captain Stansbury. Thus we intend to risk the alkalie swamp or desert. Sixteen miles from the city, in sight of Salt Lake, which is 25 miles west from the town, we find a beautiful spring of very salt water. Two miles further we take dinner there is another, although not quite so salty. Roads fine, and grass dry but plenty. No wood. Large numbers of dead creatures about the city. Salt Lake and springs are now upon our right hand, and the mountain from one and a half to three miles high dothed with some snow upon our left. This lake s a beautiful body of water so strong that a crustation of salt is formed upon the bodies of those who bathe in it; and is so transparent that a small bright substance can be distinctly seen at the depth of twenty five or thirty *et in the water. Near the south part of the lake, 26 miles from the city we are camping for the night, and close to a sulphur spring upon the left hand side of the road upon a small mound. The water, I think, is healthy and not disagreeable to the taste. About t/2 miles before reaching this mound spring we passed a small salt water spring to our right. A curiosity that two sorts of water are discharged so near each other."

"3rd day of August. Saturday. Five or six miles travel this morning brings us to a small break or dropping in the ground [mills spring] from which a large body,of salt water is dashed out. Ten or twelve miles from this place we reach Willow Creek. So called from the quantity of willows on the edge of the stream. This is the first pleasant pure fresh water since leaving the city. Roads dreadful dusty. Abundace of grass here and of an excellent quality. Plenty of dry willows for wood; this is quite a luxury. Passed four dead oxen. We camp upon the bank of this creek."

"4th day of August, Sunday. A Montana company share with us in the grass. Mr. Misner, Dr. Griff~n's former partner in Georgetown is with them. Jones of Milford is with them. One of the company died of the cholera last night, another is not expected to live this morning. Seven or eight miles travel north of west we came to a number of large salt springs remarkably clear, from these springs we bear to the south up a valley, the mouth of which borders upon the south part of the lake. The road which runs in some places close to the base of the mountain on our left is very stoney, and when the road is further from the bluffs upon the bottom the dust is intolerable from one half to two feet deep. From this bend or point in the mountain we have travelled in a south direction up this valley 37 miles, making the days journey 45 miles without any grass or fresh water. We cut hay at Willow Creek, and there flled our cans with good fresh water so that we and our horses have not suffered. We are camping where the road turns west and crosses the valley which is 15 miles. Passed two dead horses and four oxen. Plenty of good grass here and an abundance of fine water."

"5th day of August. Monday. We are busy this morning cutting and curing hay for our horses where we will remain during the day. From this place there is no grass for 75 miles. Here is an abundance, and numerous springs of fresh water boiling up in all directions. These springs are very deep like wells, and dangerous for cattle. If they slide into them, they are gone forever."

"6th day of August. Tuesday. Started early, and find at the foot of the mountains after crossing the valley 15 miles a large supply of water. Tastes very much of copperass & sulphur Whiles here a heavy thunder storm came up which lasted three hours. From this copperass spring the road passes over a succession of rough steep hills, by far the most perpendicular of any we have found upon the whole route, bearing north of west for the distance of 40 miles when we gained the summit where we begin to descend similar hills upon the west side of the mountain until we come to the desert, which is level; and the road from one to two feet deep with sand and dust. Twelve miles from the foot of the mountain, or edge of the desert we come to what is called Stoney Ridge. It is a poor hogs back mountain with a tremendous steep stoney hill to descend."

"7th day of August. Wednesday. Large portions of this desert bears a low rough prickly shrub or weed other parts appear like the base of dried lakes; the earth is a sort of ashy substance filled with lye, and a very little rain makes it impassible. One place which we have crossed this morning was made very bad from the rains yesterday, and while resting our teams and taking a bite of breakfast it has rained here some and from appearance more west. Upon the middle and west side of this desert the surface is covered with bright scales of crystalized salt, which resemble by reflection large bodies of water to persons at a distance. There is also another peculiarly beautiful deception caused by this bright substance reflecting the rays of the sun, which magnify, or represent a horse to be ten times taller, and larger than an elephant; and a man to be from fifty feet to one hundred feet high. Some parts are as smooth as a house floor as far as the eye can see. The sun beats down here with indescribable heat. We have travelled the 60 miles and are told here by some whose teams have given out, that we are yet thirty miles from water and grass. They have left their wagons, freight, and families upon this burning desert, and have driven what stock can travel through to grass and water. When they recover, the people will return for their wagons. No alternative for us but to drive our tired horses thirty miles further without water. We gave them the last fifteen or twenty miles back, to avoid the weight of drawing, expecting from information to get water at the edge of the desert or foot of the mountain. This false information has produced universal disappointment and with it much loss of stock; and no mouth can tell the amount of human suffering and misery! ! We have seen a number of men and women begging and trying to buy more water. Passed twelve dead creatures and four horses. And many more that might be called dead left upon the road. We have travelled all night and have passed an immensely increased number of giving out and dead stock. About 2 O'clock in the night or morning we met two carts loaded with water for the use of those persons and creatures that are back, and are unable to proceed any further. Those who had money paid from one to five dollars per gallon. Those who had none of the ready rino received it 'without money, and without price.' Mr. Misner has just got over the desert. He left the balance of his company upon the side of the 15 mile valley. Several of the company have died since we left with the cholera, and others are very low and not expected to recover."

"8th day of August. Thursday. We have come to water just at day break. Our horses very much fatigued, as well as suffering excessively from thirst. We intended to lay by today, and rest our horses. Grass very poor. Two loads of water have been sent back today. As Captain H. Stanbury told me this is a very dangerous desert. A stick can be shoved down by the hands into the ground any depth. An ordinary rain would make the road altogether impassible for footmen, say nothing about stock and wagons. Out of the roads there is no bottom to this ashy, sticky, stuff. The travelling upon this road makes it solid. In a long dry season a smoothe crust is formed, over which light wagons and stock can pass with ease. But this is the result of a very dry hot season Many people have been unable to get over without assistance of their friends, who have gone back from here with water and fresh teams to their relief. Some have already perished. I was told that a purse of $500 was given for a Cup full of water which he drank, and asked for another which he hastily drank and asked for the third. The taker of the purse told him that for his own safety he would refuse him the third cup full; although he had paid dearly for it. And with a hearty laugh generously gave the suffered back his purse. This is probably one instance out of many to show how little money is worth under such suffering circumstances. Thirty eight miles back upon the desert, yesterday evening, we passed Doctor Boyce and Misses Hall in their wagons without a drop of water. We had a little in our can which we gave them. The teams had given out and were driven loose by Mr. Hall and others of the company, in hopes of finding feed and water in a few miles; when they had to go thirty eight. This false information as to the precise distance across the desert to grass and water was mostly given by a Mormon who was building a saw mill 25 to 30 miles this side of Salt Lake. He sold to the emigrants, who are generally too ready to grab at any information or receive any man's story, a chart or a map of the road over the desert, marking the springs, feed distance, etc, etc, etc. He sets the distance at 60 miles, where as it is at least 90 if not 100. I here send you a fact simile of his map. As you hold this sheet in your hands, our travel was from his mill to the Salt Springs west, then north 45 miles, then west across the valley 15 miles. Then north up to the summit and down to the foot of the mountain 8 miles. Then west again to the hogs back or rocky ridge 12 miles & so on to the 40 mile bend in the road which we expected would lead out to the mountains; but it gently inclined to our right hand and took us 30 miles beyond where we were told that we would find water and grass. A particular description of this map route you will find between the first and eighth of August."

"9th day of August. Friday. People coming acrosst this morning continue to give the most alarming intelligence from the desert. Several teams and many pack mules have been loaded with water for those famishing upon the plains. I now learn from Mrs. Hall who has just got through that Mr. Hall reached the wagon worn out and sick. Then she was forced to become an ox driver, took the whip and at their side footed it through. Over this last 30 miles the dead horses, cattle, and mules literally cover the ground. And here they are numerous, making a smell that is intolerable. We have moved out to the last fresh water spring this side of another desert of 37 miles to avoid this offensive stink from the dead stock. The grass although cleaner here is very poor."

"10th day of August. Saturday. From six to eight miles travel this morning, between the base of two mountains has brought us upon a plane, over which, we pass when we come to a canyon leading through another range of mountains. At the mouth or one and a half miles up the canyon there are two small springs; where we had to wait our turn some 3 hours to water our horse. On account of this delay, we cannot pass through the mountains before dark; therefore we think it best to stay all night. I took the horses, buffalo robe, and gun and started up in the mountains two or three miles for grass where I watched them during the night. Notts, Cagle, Sergent & Co. who were in advance of the train went on soon after we came to the springs. They said that they saw some Indians there as they were coming up the canyon. Others said there were two or three hundred of the Shew Shew [Shoshone] tribe living but few miles off. However, I did not see any. I counted twelve dead creatures, six horses and five mules at these springs; and several before reaching the spring."

"11th day of August. Sunday morning. We filled our can with water and started up the mountain which is about four miles to the top, where we began to descend upon a sloping plane . . ."


In 1850 a another Cherokee wagon train decided to take the Hastings cutoff to the California gold fields, again the following we excerpted from the book CHEROKEE TRAIL DIARIES, Volume II-1850 Another New route to the California Gold Fields, by Patricia K. A. Fletcher, Dr. Jack Earl Fletcher & Lee Whiteley. The book gives details of the John Lowery Brown packing company who mentions the Holmes or the Oliver ox companies which traveled the Hastings Cutoff in 1850.

"There are Two Routs...the Northern [and the] Cutoff Heretofore Trveled only with Pack Animals.... We Took the Cutoff Rout"---John Lowery Brown

Thomas Fox Taylor had assumed the role of captain of the Cherokee company at the Cache la Poudre River. At the Green River many members of Captain Taylor's company decided to pack; others retained their wagons, proceeding with either the Holmes or the Oliver ox companies. References to them and their wagons surfaced later when diarist Brown, with the packing company, caught up to the ox trains on the Hastings Cutoff. Brown arrived in Salt Lake City at noon July 31, 1850. His was the last of the documented companies of ox trains, horse/mule wagons and packers who traveled over the southern Edmonson/ Cherokee Trail that year. Brown passed through the city, crossed the Jordan River and camped on the west bank. The company was ready to proceed the next morning.

Some members of the Taylor company reportedly stopped longer at Salt Lake. "They [Mayes'] tarried a week and helped the Mormons cut wheat with old-fashioned cradles." The Mayes' family arrival at Salt Lake coincided with harvest. Their efforts may have been an advantageous exchange--labor for wheat. Samuel Houston Mayes and oldest sons George Washington Mayes and John Thompson Mayes, cousin Richard Fields, and uncle Devereaux J. Bell would have been a more than adequate field crew.

Opposite the page dated August 1, Brown noted the information gathered by the company to help decide which route to take:

". . .at this place there are two Routs to the diggins, one called the Northern Rout, down the Humbolt River, another called the "Cutoff heretofore traveled only with Pack animals but this Season, the Emegrants are going it with their waggons. about 80 miles from the city, there is said to be a Desert Destitute of water or grass 75 miles wide, and which is covered with hard crust of Saleratus, which a shower of ten min[u]tes duration will render it impassable, though it never rains."

Whoever gave the company this information about the Hastings Cutoff made two errors. First, the 1849 Evans/Cherokee wagon company from Arkansas and Cherokee Nation had traveled this route. Captain Oliver, ahead on the Hastings in 1850, had Evans' 1849 journal of the traverse. Second, in 1849 it did rain. That rain was ruinous to the Evans/Cherokee wagons, left with possessions in the desert twenty-one miles east of Donner Spring.

Other emigrant companies preceded Taylor's 1850 company. Reported to be approximately 300 people, one was guided by Auguste Archambault, who had been with Stansbury in the just completed survey around the Salt Lake. William P. Bennett, an emigrant with this mixed packer and wagon party wrote "We left Salt Lake [July 22]." John Wolfe, captain of the Cherokee packing company, reportedly wrote a letter from Salt Lake to the Cherokee Advocate dated July 22. It is possible his entire pack company was included in the group of 300 traversing the Hastings. Grant Foreman mistakenly put both Wolfe and Taylor in the same company, probably because they both left the Verdigris River rendezvous in the same company. According to Foreman, "Wolf's company left Salt Lake City August 2.'' Captain Taylor wrote a letter to the Cherokee Advocate: "we left the Salt Lake the 2nd of August." Taylor's wagon company, last in line in 1850, became a pack company only after crossing the Green River. Wolfe's company had packed from Pueblo, Colorado, and was far ahead.

Another 185O emigrant, Robert Chalmers, already on the Hastings Cutoff, at Donner Spring noted the arrival of a company, probably that guided by Archambault: "July 28...The guide arrived with. . . two or three hundred. . . . They had lost some. . . animals ."

News of this large company ahead was surely available to the Taylor, Oliver, and Holmes companies. It was enough to instill confidence that they could make the desert crossing safely. In the diary margin Brown noted the company's decision: "From this place we took the cuttoff Rout." Captain Taylor moved west from Salt Lake City on the Hastings Cutoff one day, then rested.

Brown: "Aug 1st...13 miles Traveled 13 miles to the first water which is a large spring of water, which tastes a little salty, but is very good. plenty good grass, no timber. Camp 76. . ."[east of Black Rock, Salt Lake Co., Utah]

"[August] 2 Lay Bye."

Diarist Brown made his first mention of the Holmes and Oliver ox trains, last seen at the Green River on July 22.

Brown: "[August] 3. . . 27 miles Traveled by the edge of the Lake. passed many salt Springs at noon, 12 miles. we passed a mill [Benson Mill] belonging to the Mormons. at 3 oclock A.M. we came to good water & grass where we camped Olivers & Homes, ox Trains camped near Made today 27 miles Camp 77. . ." [Twenty Wells, Grantsville, Tooele Co. , Utah]

Brown's margin note called it: "Willow Spring." The first Hastings Cutoff [Cherokee] death occurred here. Whether they stopped for a funeral or because it was Sunday is unknown.

Brown: "[August] 4 This morning a man died in Capt Olivers Train (Palmer) We lay Bye today."

That there were many other emigrants taking this Hastings route is indicated by Brown's entry:

"[August] 5...35 miles Traveled today 35 miles to good water and grass. found a great many emegrants here resting their horses & cattle, before entering the desert, also cutting grass to carry to feed their stock with Camp 78. . ." [Hope Wells, west side of Stansbury Mountains, Tooele Co., Utah] Brown's margin note identified the place as: "Elbow Spring." According to Grant Foreman: Wolf's company..."traveled 75 or 8O miles when we had to lay by for the purposes of recruiting our stock and cutting hay to take with us" across ninety miles of Salt Desert."

Foreman evidently used Captain Taylor's letter again as the source of information about Wolfe's pack Company. Taylor wrote:

"[we] traveled 75 or 8O miles, when we had to lay by for the purpose of recuiting our stock, and cutting hay to take with us across a desert of ninety miles."

Cholera struck a well-known Cherokee. Return Jonathan Meigs began his journey with the Cane Hill Company after crossing the Verdigris River. He moved to McNair's Cherokee company for a few days. Before reaching the Santa Fe Road he broke off to go with Wolfe's wagons. At Pueblo, when Wolfe's company changed to pack, Meigs kept his wagon rejoining McNair/Taylor from Pueblo to the Green River. There Taylor/McNair's company converted to pack, but Meigs kept his wagon, joining either the Holmes or Oliver ox trains to Salt Lake and out over the Hastings Cutoff.

Brown: "Aug 6 Lay Bye. Resting stock today about 2 oclock Mr. R.J. Meigs was taken sick with the colera, and about 9 oclock same evening he died. . ." [Hope Wells, Tooele Co., Utah]

Captain Taylor's letter home confirmed Meigs' death. On an opposite page Brown noted there was a doctor among some new arrivals, and a new total number in the company. Before the companies traveled again, there were more cholera deaths, and Brown began recording the company members who died along the way:

"Aug.6. -Dr. Barker of Missouri with eight men Joined our company which now consists of 53 persons Dr. Barker attended Messrs. Meigs Russell and Tuff during their sickness."


Charles McDaniel July 25
R.J. Meigs, August 6
Runaway Tuff & Russell, Aug 7
Henry Street & Davis, Aug 17
G.M. Martin Aug 17
Tolbert Bean Sept 6th."

"[August] 7 Lay Bye this morning we Buried Meigs, Runaway Tuff & Russell, the two last having died this morning. we moved two miles back among the hills. and Lay Bye, Meigees waggon & other effects were taken charge of by Mr. John Clark, which was the request of the (Deceased) Camp 79. . ."[two miles east of Hope Wells, Tooele Co., Utah]

Note: Fifteen slaves had begun the journey in the combined companies. Perhaps Runaway Tuff got his name because of participation in the 1842 Slave Uprising in the Cherokee Nation.

Captain Taylor wrote:

"Russell and Tuff from Honey Creek were attacked the same night [as Meigs]; the former died during the night and the latter about day-light the next morning. We buried them the next morning and started on our journey about two o'clock P.M."

The fear of even more death triggered their resolve to secure the services of Dr. Barker. Cholera was with them, and they considered it essential to keep a doctor with them.

Brown: "Aug 8. . .15 miles the company started this morning. we cut grass and filled our canteens with good water, which is said to be all the good water we would get until we crossed the Desert. We traveled untill Noon 15 miles when we came to Sulphur Spring, [Redlum}where we stoped we found no grass here Jack Hilldebrand was taken very sick with the cholera. The company were detained waiting on him, and in consequence of the Sickness pervading in the company & apprehending more the Company deemed it proper to engage the Medical services of Dr. Barker though it was therefore agreed & stipulated that each member of the Company should pay the said Doct. on their arrival in the diggins or as soon after as possible the Sum of Five Dollars & he the said Doct. is to attend to all cases of sickness that may occur in the Company Camp 8O. . ." [Redlum Springs, east slope of Cedar Mountains, Tooele Co., Utah]

Captain Taylor's letter:

"Jack Hildebrand was attacked; we stopped for the night and the next morning put him in a wagon and pushed on as we could not stop no longer without wood or water. Hildebrand soon recovered."

The Cherokee Advocate editor wrote ,"Those who went the Evans [route], arrived in [California]" during the first or second week in August. {Those) were no doubt packers, possibly from the Edmonson company. Taylor's company was struggling in the desert.

Another set of notes in Brown's diary outlines what they anticipated in crossing the desert, how they planned to accomplish it, and what might be the outcome.

Brown: "Aug. 8 at this place we enter the desert it is 70 miles across it [the Salt Desert] without Grass or water and persons crossing it will have to travel day and night to get across. Many persons have perished with their animals while crossing. perhaps we may find water sooner than we expect, as we have had several showers of rain for the last two or three days."

The Taylor pack company, having engaged the doctor, then made arrangements to transport their sick, which allowed them to continue traveling.

Brown: "Aug 9. . . 4O miles. This morning Hildebrand was better though unable to travel on horseback. we therefore made arrangements with J.M. Estell to haul him to California also to haul B.F. Trott (who was also sick) across the Desert. at this place the Desert commences it is 85 miles from this S----[ulphur] Spring to where good water and grass is to be found. after making Suitable arrangements for the Sick of our Co--at four oclock A.M. we started the Road passed over hills & through winding hollows [Hastings Pass] for a few miles when it entered the Desert we traveled at the rate of four miles an hour. Good Road firm and hard. at two oclock in the morning we stopped to rest, & fed to the horses the grass which we had cut and packed since the morning of the 8th Slept, having made 40 miles. Camp 81." [about eight miles north of Knolls, Tooele Co., Utah]

In May 185O, James M. Estell and James W. Denver began operations on their "Express Mail Line for the California Emigration." They purchased three spring carriages and twenty-four horses to go to Pacific Spring near South Pass. One carriage would go through to California; the other two would bring mail back to the States. Each of the wagons carried twenty-four mailbags, each stamped with a letter of the alphabet. An express went in advance of the carriages handing out printed alphabetical lists of the letters as it passed the emigrants.

On July 1O, Estill wrote to Brigham Young from Pacific Spring notifying him of his coming to Salt Lake. On July 27 Estill was in Salt Lake laying a proposal before Brigham Young for a stock investment company for mail and passengers between Independence and San Francisco. On August 9, proceeding from Salt Lake to California, Estill met and contracted with Captain Taylor's Cherokee emigrants on the Hastings Cutoff.

Leaving camp in the middle of the desert, Captain Taylor's company endured one of their longest marches, to Donner Spring. After 2O miles they met the first of the enterprising water "agents."

Brown: "Aug 1O...45 miles. Started by sun rise having stopped about 3 hours to rest. We found (by daylight) the Desert to be covered with a hard crust resembling Salaratus, no grass or groath of any kind except wild sage now and then we Traveled Steadily. within 25 miles of the spring we came to where some Emegrants had waggons loaded with water which they had brought from the spring to sell to folks, as they came up they sold it for one dollar per gallon at four oclock this evening we reached the Springs having Traveled 45 miles since morning without stopping & without water for our horses. Good water & Grass. Camp 82... this evening a young man of Dr. Barkers mess died of the Diarear." [Donner Spring, Box Elder Co., Utah]

On July 29, an emigrant had written from nearby Pilot Peak: "no doubt a great many would not have got through, had it not been for the active part of those who got across early and hauled water back for those behind.''

Captain Taylor's letter: "we traveled day and night till we got through the desert." In the margin, Brown wrote: '`A great many Dead horses, Cattle & dogs which died for want of water. These springs are called Relief Springs." Here three more of the company breathed their last. The deceased were noted by Brown:

"Aug 11 today we lay Bye resting our horses. this morning G.M. Martin was taken very sick. about 12 oclock two men belonging to Capt Olivers train Died within a few minutes of each other and were both buried in one Grave today about 2 oclock G.M. Martin died. After burying him the Co--removed up on to one of the Kanyons of the mountain about 3 miles distance. Good water & Grass. Camp 83--"

Brown named the Oliver company men who died at Donner Spring and were buried in one grave: "Davis a white man & Henry Street a Seneca." Captain Taylor's letter gave more information:

"C.V. McNair, Gabriel Martin and a black man belonging to Peter May were also attacked. Martin lived but a short time; the other two recovered."

The Cherokee Advocate reported that Peter May died "on his way to California, near the Salt Lake." But Captain Taylor's letter printed two weeks earlier mentioned only that a black of Peter May's was ill. Later in the trip, both Peter and John May were reported to be "very sick...left behind...and...may have died."

Company members continued to get sick. Apparently he still transported Ben Trott in his express carriage for three days, leaving him with the Taylor company at Pilot Peak. Brown:

"Aug 12. . . B.F. Trott came to us last evening quite unwell today we lay Bye, waiting on C.V. McNair, B.F. Trott & others who were too unwell to travel--" [East slope of Pilot Peak, near the Utah/Nevada border]

Some action was necessary for the good of the majority. More members of the company might die. The decision was to split the company. Those too ill to travel were left in the care of Dr. Barker; the rest traveled on. The distance between Camp 83 and Camp 84, one day's pack travel in 1850, took the Evans/Cherokee forty-niners two days to travel with wagons. Brown:

"Aug 13. . .35 miles. This morning several of our men being to weak to travel Dr. Barker and part of the Co--remained with them. and myself and the rest of the Co--traveled on about ten miles to a Spring of Good water. at this place another Desert commences, which we had to travel over During the night we remained at this place untill late in the evening when we started and traveled on about 25 miles when we came to water where we stopped untill morning. No Grass Camp 84." [Big Springs, south of Oasis, Elko Co., Nevada] During the day, the Company had crossed Pilot Creek Valley, Silver Zone Pass, and the Goshute Valley.

Traveling south, the Taylor Company found a good place to rest, staying for an additional day.


Arizona and the West Quarterly Journal of History, The University of Arizona Press.

The discovery of gold in 1848 at Sutter's Mill in California caused the largest migration of people in the history of the nation. By sea and by land, they hurried west anticipating great riches in the new El Dorado. During the first season of travel, more than 30,000 gold seekers set out on the overland trail which passed through Missouri and stretched on to the Rocky Mountains, across Nevada, and into the diggings. In western Missouri, alone, at lease 300 persons from Platte County joined the cavalcade in 1849, and over 400 the following year. Included in this number was James W. Denver, an attorney and newspaperman of Platte City, who later became prominent in California and national politics. Denver traveled west in 1850 with several business associates and friends, and kept a diary of most of his journey. The diary is now in the University of Kansas Library, Lawrence. Unlike most of the trail diaries of that year, the Denver journal presents a pleasant view of the trip and also some insight into the "express lines" that ran over the busy highway to the Golden State.

"August 8th - The spring we encamped at last night was some two or three miles to the left of the road up in the mountains. It is a new discovery - is excellent water, and here we filled our vessels for the desert. Repaired our broken cart and filled it with water. Travelled only to Elbow Spring today, about eight or ten miles. Here we found plenty of grass and water. There are a number of Springs here all of excellent water."

"August 9th-Made an early start intending to go to the Last Spring [Redlum Spring] before entering the desert. This we found full fifteen miles off, instead of eleven or twelve as represented. The water is a little brackish, but very little. There is no grass in the immediate vicinity, but plenty at a short distance. Here we had been told the desert commenced-a flat plain covered with salt and usually devoid of vegitation. Instead of this we at once struck into a range of mountains as rough as any we had yet passed over, without water it is true but with plenty of wood and grass for about eight miles where we stopped to graze and rest."

"August 10th-Left our resting place in the canon at half past twelve at night, and after travelling a short distance debouched into an open plain, which we crossed to a rocky ridge [Grayback Mountain] and stopped to take breakfast and dinner . This ridge is entirely of volcanic formation, quit steep and abrupt on the east but sloping off more gradually towards the west until it extends out into the sandy plain. Passing over this we entered a plain perfectly level and covered with salt. The rains of the last few days had partially dissolved the salty surface, rendering it soft and in places muddy. On this plain there is scarcely a vestige of vegetation. All is salt-even the atmosphere seems to be impregnated with saline particles. There is nothing here to break the water-like Ievel of this plain for a distance of about forty miles. The road where beaten was generally good but rather heavy in some places."

"At sunset we stopped to rest-gave the last of our water and feed to our animals and pushed on. The wind blew very hard and the thunder and lightning in the distance indicated an approaching storm. Jacks-o'-the-Lantern [popular name for lights supposedly caused by marsh gas] frequently appeared, moving about with great rapidity and often in the very teeth of the wind."

"When leaving the rocky ridge, the road took a course direct for Pilot Peak for ten or twelve miles. It then inclined to the left towards the southern point of the mountain range [Silver Island], considerably lower and directly between us and the Peak. About sunset our course turned to the right and at last run along the foot [ a ] low range just before us. With two teams we had pushed on after dinner in advance of the rest of the train to send back water. About midnight we passed a fire which we had seen for several hours and at first took it for an Ignis fatuus [light caused by marsh gas]. It was made out of a cart that had been abandoned. Near-it we found a man nearly dead from thirst. Gave him some water which revived him and he came on with us several miles. After this time we passed dead and abandoned animals frequently, and shortly came to several trains of wagons left with a guard to watch them while the teams were taken twenty and twenty five miles to water. "

"Turning a point of the mountain we had been coursing for some time, the road bent short to the left and passed over another rocky ridge also of volcanic origine. It was now sunrise on Sunday the 11th of August, and crossing another salt plain of about fifteen miles we arrived at a fine spring of good cool water at the foot of Pilot Peak, having been travelling almost constantly for fifty-four hours. Having rested our animals three hours we sent back one team with nearly 200 galls. of water to relieve the train behind, and all of them did not come in until about twenty hours afterwards. Fortunately, however, we lost only four head of stock on the way."

"From the last spring across the mountain and first plain to the first volcanic ridge is twenty five miles. From thence to the salt plain is ten miles. Thence across this plain to the east foot of the second rocky ridge forty miles. Thence to Pilot Peak spring twenty five miles-making in all ninety miles."

"Many emigrants suffered terribly from the misrepresentations of a fellow by the name of Brown who told them there was no place of more than 27 miles with out water. Some lost nearly all their teams and came near losing their own Iives."

"August 12th-Remained in camp all day to let our animals rest. Grass and water is fine here, but there is very little wood-nothing but small willows. The weather has been hot and oppressive. Some Indians came to our camp today."

"August 13th-We did not leave camp today until late in the afternoon. A train that came across the desert today reports having measured it with a Roadometer, and found it ninety one miles from the Last [Spring] to Pilot Peak spring. Travelled only three or four miles and encamped at one of the fine springs so numerous around Pilot Peak."

"August 14th-Left our camp and travelled about two or three miles, when we stopped at a spring until nearly three o'clock P.M. . . ."


An ANONYMOUS DIARIST from Fayette County, Ohio, on the Hasting Cutoff & Carson route in 1850, who might be John H. Robinson. Whereabouts of original diary unknown. Typescript of 19 pages at Nebraska State Historical Society in Lincoln, Nebraska. Apparently several pages were missing. He wrote on July 29th, 1850:

Mr. ANONYMOUS wrote on July 29, 1850 as they were begining to leave Salt Lake City on their journey:

29th . . .The boys are getting ready to move on and will leave in the morning some of them are hauling their wagons across Jordan while others are standing on the banks " and cast a wishful eye, to Californias golden land where all our prospects lie; Filled with suspense, their doubting souls Can no longer stay, Tho Jordans stream beteen them rolls With gad in hand they drive away. This evening an imagrant died from stabs he received from a fellow enmigrant; cholera can't kill them fast enough and men help a little.

30th- -The teams all start again this morning, it is like taking a new start, only worse for we have taken this road against the advise of all who know anything about it. We have no guide, and certain it is, that we nave a desert to cross 70 to 80 miles wide without grass or water, but to our minds the other route is worse,for so many cattle have passed over it that the grass must be all cut down, and it is only starve our cattle any how- In fact we nave very little to encourage us on our long, tiresome, and soul trying journey; but we move on and sing,"O, California~that's the land for me-."

31st- I left the city in company with Thomas Wright and H. Burnett, and I must own, it went hard to leave a place where I had been treated so kindly. But we crossed our Jordan ,and was again on our weary way to the land of gold Twenty miles travel brought us to the lake which is a grand body of water, and a pleasant bathing place. The Mormons make their salt here After traveling 40 miles we overtook our train where they encamped, and again met our old friend Sawyer, from Missouri, who is a good traveling companion The grass is good here.

August l- [1850] being informed by guides whom we met this morning on their return from having conducted a party of emigrants out, ten days ago, that we must cut grass here to take across the desert, and that it was only 28 miles distant we went to work and cut grass and did some cooking, after which we traveled 12 miles and encamped for the night at a brackish spring. All the water is so salty we can hardly use it. This night we slept in the open air for the first time but we slept as fine and sound as though we were in bed.

2nd.--There were some more dust and worse roads today than commonly, and but little water.

We passed one spring where we halted for dinner, but it was the poorest water for drinking I ever tasted, it being very salty. After a long drive through a burning sun with no other water, we encamped at the foot of a mountain, where is one of the best springs we have passed for a long time. This evening, my horse gave out and I could scarcely get him into camp; I was very little better, for I have before suffered so much for want of water. We are now close to the desert and there being good bunch grass here we intend to graze our cattle until tomorrow evening.

3rd- Bogg' poney is missing this morning, and the probability is that the Indians have stolen it, as they are all around and through our camp; they are the Utah tribe,very poor and almost naked some quite so. This evening, we drove down seven miles to the last fresh water this side of the desert, and encamped for the night.

[4th] Filled our water vessels with water,to last across the desert, and drove fourteen miles to a mountain which is an introduction to the Desert, where we encamped. Here is a spring but miserable water; we dug a ditch for our cattle to drink out of, and while some of us were guarding the cattle, Heddington killed the largest rattle snake we have ever seen, right by our bed.

5th- We are now about to try the great desert,- at daylight are watering our cattle- all hands busy getting ready- some of the thinking ones doubting that we will get one yoke of cattle over, At twelve o'clock all is ready- we are under way, and toiling up the sides of a very steep mountain. In places we have to hold our wagons with ropes, to prevent their upsetting. When we got to the foot on the other side we rested our cattle, and took some supper. In an hour we started on our nights journey. At twelve o'clock we came to a very steep stoney hill, which was difficult of ascent. About two o 'oclock we passed a wagon on the other side of the rood, with three men in it, one of whom was very sick; they had but one pint of water and was more than fifty miles to the other side of the desert. We put the sick men in my wagon and went on..

6th- At seven o'clock this morning, we stopped to feed and rest our cattle and take a little refreshment ourselves, we have traveled about forty miles. The desert at this place as far as we can see looks like the bottom of a lake, or large body of water,that had dried up. Here I had a very severe pain in my side and back At first I thought it was from fatigue, but after the teams started, I found that I was getting sick . I started to catch the teams, but they traveled faster than I could, when I got on my horse and after riding some fifteen miles, came upon them. By this time I was very bad, not being able to get into the wagon without help: but Ogle and Heddington were soon at work on me, and after giving me some pills I got a little better. All this time every man was driving as though the devil was after them; there was no no time to stop, even for men to die. We were going along, we met a woman carrying water back to her husband who had gone back to hunt a wagon tire he had lost. She got to him in time to save his life, as he had lain down to die for the want of water. WE passed Mrs. Hall on the road who had been left by her husband to watch the wagon, while he drove the cattle out for water, which he expected to find within fifteen miles~but when he got started, it was forty miles. In the meantime she got out of water,and when we passed some of our boys gave her a quart. We came to the point of rocks where we were told we could find water, but was again informed that it was twenty five miles yet; but here a man had some to sell, for one dollar per gallon, I told the boys to get a gallon, but we had plenty without it,. the boys are doing their best to get through, although I was dangerously ill, and this was no place for a sick man. At one o'clock at night we drove into camp where there is plenty of `water,after passing~ over a desert of ninety miles thirty five hours, with heavy loaded wagons. Some fifteen miles back we left five steers and one wagon, the boys say they will be up in the morning. After I got into camp and my medicine took effect, I felt much better and went to sleep.

7th- I found my self lying along side of a good spring of water- feel much better. Here we found Mr Hall making arrangements to get water to his wife on the desert; Our boys getting ready to take water out to the sufferers; Heddington and Wright have got up a team with one hundred and twenty gallons of water, wile Ogle, Davis and S. Millikan have started back On foot,With water In sacks. Ogle has eight gallons on his back. There are some hard tales coming in, in regard to suffering. This evening I had my wagon moved out one mile from the crowd and am now able to walk again. Grass is very scarce and if was not for the water it would be desert. Here is a burning mountain Emigrants coming in at all hours, some tell hard tales of the suffering of those yet on the desert, many of whom have been relieved by our boys who met them and gave them water Ogle went out about twenty five miles and several cases that were about to die; one man could not speak, another had been drinking his urine; he also found the man and his wife who lost the wagon tire. This time they were both out of water, and the man about gone, but Ogle was in time to save him. they got to camp today. . .

David Hobson briefly recorded the experiences of another party who left Great Salt Lake City on August 10, and probably made their crossing on the 14th and 15th.25 (UHS)

Hastings Cutoff - Trkuckee River - Nevada City
Diary held by the Society of California Pioneers, San Francisco

"Via council Bluffs, Fort Laramie, Great Salt Lake City, thence to California by the way of Hastings Cutoff. A seven months tour across the plains. With correct account of distances from place to place." Edwin M. Primes

EDWIN wrote when he was leaving Salt Lake:

"Aug. 13 When we went after our cattle we found them in a Mormon's wheat stacks.. Hitched up and took Hastings cut off.. Crossed the River Jordan and paid $1.75 for crossing the Toll bridge (O Jordam am a hard road to it's a bell ?) Put on a supply of water from the Jordan.. Drove ten miles to a good patch of grass and stopped to wait for part of our train that are behind. While we stopped we were very much annoyed with flying ants which covered our wagons in swarms. Drove eight miles farther and camped at Black Rock. We had a good feed but very poor brackish water"

"Aug. 14 Drove four miles and came to the beach of Salt Lake.. Here the Mormons were boiling salt The water is so strong that four barrels of water would make one of salt! We took a bathe in the lake and found we could lay on the surface without any exertion whatever. It being impossible to sink We staid in the water about an hour and when we came out we were pretty well pickeled.. Our hair and whiskers were white with salt enough to season our food for a week.. Drove six miles and came to four springs of water. These springs were about one rod apart and no two were alike. One was strong salt water The second little brackish the third was salt---- and the fourth pure cold water.. Two miles farther we saw a number of springs which were more or less salt. Drove fifteen miles farther without any water and came to Willow Creek [Grantsville] where we camped having driven twenty three miles"

"Aug. 15 Laid by today some grass for the desert which was very good at the place. We were very much annoyed with the howling of the wolves all night. Had a very heavy thunder storm"

"Aug. 16 This morning we found two oxen belonging to the train swamped in one of the natural wells which abound in this part of the country. The wolves had torn one so bad that we obliged to shoot him to put him out of his misery. |Laid by all day waiting for part of our train to come up who were still back. The arrived in camp about dark."

"August. 17 Bound up a quantity of grass and filled our casks with water not knowing when we shall get an good water again as we have no guide for this part of our route. Drove ten miles and came to a number of salt springs which our team would not drink of. Fifteen miles farther came to some more springs the water rather better than the first although not fit to drink. Camped here for the night with plenty of good feed."

"August 18 Had to cook our breakfast with grease wood and sage brush. Drove ten miles and came to a spring of good pure water [Hope Wells]. Here we camped being the last good water we can get untill we cross the big desert."

"August 19 Laid by all day to cook some provisions for the deseret. A number of Utah Indians came into camp during the day. They were filthy looking devils as a person would wish to see. Our train has increased since leaving Salt Lake so that we number at present forty persons with nine wagons. Three being horse teams about three o'clock in the afternoon filled up all our cask with water amounting to about ninety gallons and put as much grass in our wagons as we could conveniently carry. Drove fifteen miles over a level plain destitute of feed or water and camped at the foot of a mountain. Here we found some water but not fit for man and hardly suitable for stock as it was very brackish and tinctured with sulphur [Redlum Springs]. No wood but Sage brush."

"August 20 Rolled out of camp about three clock. P.M. for the desert.. Drove over a range of mountains five miles across [Hastings Pass].. The road was very rough and long and some places so steep that we had to double the teams. In company with a young man ffom Ohio climb to a high point of mountain where we had a beautifull view of the desert which way out before us as far as the eye could reach. If we stood and gazed at the scene before us a feeling of loneliness would steal over our senses and our thoughts would naturally wander back to the scenes we had left far away. In descending the mountain we saw Three mountain sheep which were feeding on the side of the mountain but too far off for rifle shot.. The team arrived at the edge of the desert about dark. The first four or five miles of the road was very dusty being from four to six inches in depth after this our road was beautifull being as hard and as level as a house floor. Our teams traveled very fast having made during the night thirty five miles of desert by sunrise.

"August 21 Stopped a short time and gave our teams a little grass and water likewise took a cold bite ourselves for breakfast. Rested about an hour then drove ten miles farther when we gave our teams another turn at the grass and water giveing from two to three quarts to an animal. It was rather small dose but the best we could do for them. The sun shone very hot and the ground being encrusted over with salt it make our eyes ache from the reflection.. The thermometers stood during the day at one hundred and forty degrees not a sprig of anything could be seen on the desert as far as the eye could reach. Drove untill dark when we came up to a waggen that had stopped and sent their horses on ahead the day before to find water. One of the men having returned told us that we were still twenty five miles from water which was sad news for us as we were nearly choked for the want of water. Stopped a few minutes and gave our teams the remaining water which was about two quarts to an animal the grass being all gone. The cattle began to look thin and jaded as well as ourselves. Rolled on again as fast as the state of our teams would allow passing any quantity of dead animals that had given out for the want of feed and water. An hour after sunrise we reached Pilot Peak Creek across the desert. The loose stock having got across about two hours ahead of the team. Our cattle were completely worn out by the time we got across having traveled ninety three miles without rest and scarcely ant thing to eat or drink. Had to use great precautions in giving our cattle water for fear of killing them.

"August 22 Took care of our teams and then had some breakfast for ourselves, which we greatly stood in need of as some of us had not eat a mouthfull for the last twenty four hours. We then took our blankets and stretched ourselves out for a good sleep having had no rest for the last forty eight hours. We slept untill four oclock in the afternoon when we hitched up and drove on three miles father to a better camping ground where we had a good feed and plenty of water."

"August 24 Rolled out about nine oclock. drove six miles to a number of springs of good water. Here we found another desert of thirty five miles to cross. . ."

A. S. DAVIES 1850

Davies, A. S. Journal to California, Commencing April 5 1830 And ending Nov. 5 1850. MS 2/75, Emigrant Journal Collection, Idaho State Historical Society. Collected in the 1990's. Wisconsin, Kanesville. Buys ferry at North Platte due to cholera attack. AlcohoUc [Alkali] Swamp and Alcoholic Creek (near Blacks Fork, Salt Lake: "there are abundance of women here." Hastings Cutoff Salt Desert Crossing, notes "a bend in the road to the north west." To South Fork: "the Indians have become so hostle that we thought best to travel days and sleep nights. Donner Pass, 19 October, "Commenced diging gold." Lake: '


"15th [August 1850] This morning we took in 65 gallons of water and rolled out 12 miles to the last spring [Redlum Spring] here we watered our teams rest &c til 4 pm, then went out 4 miles to the summit of the mountain thence 3 miles to the foot plenty of bunch grass on the mountains thence 18 miles at sun rise stoped for breakfast and had made 37 miles"

"16th [August 1850] At 7 drove on 5 miles to rocky ridge [Grayback Mountain] thence 8 miles stopped & gave the cattle 4 gallons of water each rested 4 hours thence 8 miles to big salt flat thence 7 miles to a bend in the road to the north west thence 8 miles to a point of mountain [Floating Island] left of the road here we saw men and beast suffering for water men offering $5 a pint for water thence 11 miles to the west point of the mountain [Silver Island Range] by 9 oclock the morning of the 17th thence 10 miles to the spring [Pilot/Donner Spring] a welcome sight I must say that I saw the most suffering here that I ever saw with man and beast we was told it was only 60 miles accrost but it is 90 miles measured we reached the spring at 12 pm, passed many on [sic] the road."


WILLIAM EDMUNDSON of Oskaloosa, kept a diary while crossing the western plalins in 1850:

"Aug. 11th- ... We Traveled 25 miles to day and Camped at the Willow Springs, where we remained during the 12th to recrut our Horses and Procure a supply of Hay for the Desert belong the last opportunity we shall have."

"Aug. 13th-Traveled 26 miles over a very dusty road and camped at a spring of Bracklsh water with very little grass or wood. here two men who were Traveling ahead of us passed us In the night returning towards Salt Lake City, with a Woman and little Girl whom they had found In the road having been abandoned and left by their Company. (They belonged to a company of Cherokees)"

"Aug. 14th-We traveled 10 miles to day over a dusty road and about noon came to some springs of good water with plenty of grass but no fuel except wild sage. here we stoped for the remainder of the day."

"Aug.15th-This morning we took In a supply of water for the Desert and after Traveling 15 miles over a plain covered In places with salt we came to the foot of a Mountain where we found a spring of Brackish water plenty of fire-wood and some grass: here the Desert commences."

"Aug. 16th-To day about 3 Oclock P. M. we commenced our Journey across the Desert and at 7 Oclock on the Morning of the 18th we arrived at the first spring where we found plenty of water and grass where we remained till the Morning of the 21st. during the Trip we stoped In all about 8 hours. The distance across the Desert according to the best accounts is 91 miles. The first 8 miles is over a Mountain. The next twenty miles is a sandy plain, when we come to a ridge or low Mountain running East and West, after crossing the ridge the road lies over a level plain covered more or less with salt. This plain is evidently covered with water during the winter season and probably communicates with the Salt-Lake which rises and falls several feet during the year. At the time we passed ponds of salt-water were still standing In many places."

"Aug. 17th-This Morning we started and after going 5 miles we stoped at a large spring of rather Brackish water where we remained till 6 Oclock P. M. when we again started and at about 2 Oclock In the Morning we came to some holes of fresh water but found no grass here we stoped till 8 Oclock next Morning during this day and night we traveled about 26 miles."


Joint Collection U MO Western Historical MS & MO SHS, Columbia Papers (diary)!. C348 folder I, photostat, I8 P [3 page sketch map from Salt Lake City to, and 5 days down, the Humboldt River]

CARLTON wrote when he left Salt Lake in August:

"Left Salt Lake August the 11th on Sunday[.] traveled 15 miles[.] Encamped at a Sulphur Spring[.]"

"Monday [August] the 12'h traveled to willow Creek 25 miles passing many Springs Strongly impregnated with Salt[.] no good water until we got to willow Creek whare we found good water and grass[.] here we suppled ourselves with grass for the Great Desert[.]"

"Tuesday the 13'h left willow Creek and traveled west and South passing many large Boiling Springs verry strongly impregnated with Salt. Camped at the foot of mountain near an sulphur Spring but little grass and no wood[.]"

"14 Wednesday morning Started for Elbow Springs [Hope Wells] distant from Willow Creek 35 miles[.] arrived here late in the Evening[.] plenty of Good Water and Grass[.]"

"15 Thursday supplied ourselves with the water for Crossing Desert and started about 10 ocloc and traveled west across a Low Sandy Valley 15 miles to the foot of a range of high mountains whare we encamped for the night[.] Water[Redlum Spr] not Good being Sulphur. Some Grass[.] here a Separation took place in our train[.] we all had expected to travel to night but owing to our Oxen being verry tired[,] and more the unfavorable appearance of the weather itcommencing to thunder and lightning and verry dark[,] a part thought it advisable to Stay all night[.] the rest of the Company was for going throug So they Started about dark and left us. the mountain [Ced estimation was the worst mountain we had crossed and it being verry Dark their team must have Suffered[.] they then had to take the desert which was represented as being 75 miles. But which proved to be 105 miles[.] their team Suffered verry much and they themselves for water[.]"

"l6th Started in the morning across the mountain 10 miles[.] mountain in many places verry Steep[.] arrived at the Base of mountain on the other side at 12 ocloc[.] Thare rested one hour and Started across the desert[.] traveled until an hour by Sun. Watered and fed some Grass then hitched up and traveled all night crossing rocky ridge[Grayback] soon after dark. passed Dr Lampkin Just before day[.]"

"[August] 17 The morning of 17th August found us on the wide and barren Desert[.] We ware now in Sight of Water and Grass as we Supposed So we fed all of our Grass and water[.] But Alas after travelling untill 12 oc We we[sic] then learned it was Thirty miles to water. Oh God what suffering[.] we here passed the Boys who left us and traveled untill Sundown[.] we ware then Some 15 miles from water[.] we then unyoked our oxen and Dick, Charley, and Louis[?] started for the spring and the morning of the [August 18]"

"18th found me solitary and alone in this lonely Desert[.] then the boys returned from Spring with water and oxen"

[August 19] "and the Morning of 19'h found us Encamped at the Spring [Donner Springs] thankful for our preservation[.] 19 rested here all day[.]"

"[August 20] raised camp l P.M. traveled a South course six miles passing several Springs[.] we then turned west 3 miles to mountains [Silver Zone Pass] [.] traveled 9 miles in mountain and Camped 12 oc at night whare we found water in Some deep holes in the mountain[.] no grass[.]"

"[August] 21 started by light[.] passed through mountain and traveled south west [west-northwest]15 miles to a Spring [Flowery - transcriber wrong not Flowery but Big Springs] on the right and Encamped for the night[.]"

"[August] 22 Thursday traveled a South course 15 miles to Sulphur Spring[.][Flowery Lake] . . ."


JOHN R. SHINN whose wagon train was ten days behind that of John Lowery Brown recorded the following [U.H.Q., vol. 20, p. 26]:

"August 18.-Traveled 10 miles camped at Elbow spring [in Skull Valley]. Here is the last good water for 95 miles. Road good but very dusty weather warm."

"August 19.-Traveled 15 miles over a desert country without water or grass. Camped at a spring, at the foot of the mountain [Redlum Spring]. This water is a little Brackish but does very well for camping purposes, & is the last of any kind until after crossing the desert we found some feed and plenty of wood. Weather pleasant."

"August 20.-Left the above camp at a quarter before 3 o'clock P. M. Traveled all night & the day following & the next night, & until half past 6 A. M. on the 22nd making the distance of 80 miles in 89 hours which time is about 27 hours traveling time, on the desert. After crossing the Mountains [Cedar Mountains] which took 5 1/4 hours, to travel 8 miles, it being very Steep & [p.27] Rough. Camped at Pilot Peak creek untill noon then traveled 2 miles to better grass & water. [Munsee Spring] Weather good."

"August 23.-Laid by to recruit the cattle weather pleasant."


Joseph Cain, who with Arieh C. Browe published an immigrant guidebook, which pointedly ignored the Hastings Cutoff, returned from an expedition to California in the late summer of 1850. After reaching home in Great Salt Lake City he wrote a letter dated October 2, 1850 (published October 5), to the Deseret News, in which he says:

"We met a number of persons who had come "Hastings' Cutoff," who have all declared it is a much longer road, and a much more dangerous one, on account of the Desert of 91 miles, and also the Indians; many of the emigrants having to travel on foot, packing their provisions on their backs, the Indians having driven off all their animals."


SARAH DAVIS in 1850 tells about her travels past the Great Salt Lake to Grantsville [CWW]:

"august 23 we traveled fifteen miles and past plenty of salt the lake is as salt as brine let it be made as strong as it can be the road is good here and plenty of good water we then come to a nother mormen setelment whare they was building a mill a saw mill [Benson's] we then went about a mile to the good springs caled bentons mill springs one was salt and the other not we then camped being vary tired"

"august 24 we started on and come to salt works of the mormons we then went on to miles and s[t]oped to noon whare their was a salt spring we then went and came to a cane break or grass grain rather thick this is caled willow creek [Grantsville] a good spring of fresh water we stoped here to put up grass for our catle a cross the desert their is plenty of the best kind here for people that is crossin the desert went twenty miles to day"

SARAH DAVIS continues her narrative from Grantsville past Timpie Point to Hope Wells and beyond [CWW];

"august 25 [Sunday] we traveled twenty miles we past more than twenty salt springs the water loocked clear and as if it was the best water ever drinked the one whare we nooned plased me the best the water about five feet deep and boiled up in evry direction the place it boiled up and spouts as large as a man head and I think of beads their thaught of all colors and s[h]apes the rivers run in every direction"

"august 26 this morning it is raining it seams so plesent to see it rain as we have not seen it rane since we came in the valey before we now noon near a salt spring we then went on to elbow spring fresh water [Hope Wells ?] it is vary good to we then [went] on twelve miles father to the mountain and found a spring [Redlum Spring] it is rather brackish but good water we traveled nineteen miles to day"

SARAH DAVIS continues with her diary while at Redlum Spring [CWW]:

"august 27 we lay buy all day fixen for the desert we start in the morning our catle wer[e] drove to miles to grass the mountains here are vary high and some cedars growin on them and are vary rockey"

SARAH DAVIS continues with her story [CWW]:

"august 28 we left the springs and started over the mountain and first thing we done to help us along was to turn over Elicks wagon were about one hour loading but had nothing broke we then [went] on and had rufest road we have had atall the distance over mountain was five miles and it took us till night we had to duble teams twice coming over and then it was vary harde drawing for the catle team yoke"

august 29 this day it was vary hot and seams to me as if every thing will perish we traveled all night of the twenty eight and all night of the 29 buy this time I have got use to it a litle we have now got all most a crost the desert it apears to me as if this has bin a nother great salt lake and I am all most ready to believe it is the grounde is white with salt all over plenty of it we are now in sight of a mountain"

august 30 we rived at land and water about eight o clock this morning we are a cross the great horn valley the men are all tired nearly to death as well as the catle the men are all a sleepe and the catle are a resting themselves we [lost] no catle nor horses we got through safe and are thankfull the Indians swarm around us and are vary saucy it is easy to day I think their was no one perished on the desert"

Arrived at Donner Springs on August 30

This was the Iast known diary telling of the crossing of the Salt Desert in 1850, and perhaps the last use of the Hastings Cutoff in its entirety between the Salt Lake Valley and the Humboldt River.

The life threatening experience crossing from Redlum Spring [the last water] across the next 76 miles to Donner Springs, with some 40 miles of that being mud flats that were treacherous when it rained, and without water or feed for the animals, was the ultimate test of human and animal endurance on the Hastings Cutoff. The remaining way to the Humboldt River and the California Trail provided a different experience. That was the threat by Indians, who would steal or kill the oxen and horses or kill the emigrants themselves.