J. H. (John Hanson) Beadle.

Western wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... online

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Online LibraryJ. H. (John Hanson) BeadleWestern wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... → online text (page 16 of 62)
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the shadow of the North Dome and the Cap of Liberty the last a
wondrous cone, rising directly from the north cliff, 1,000 feet of
beautiful yellow and smooth rock, completely inaccessible. The
south-east branch of the Merced plunges down from its source in


the ice-peaks by two magnificent cataracts, Nevada and Vernal Falls,
and a series of beautiful rapids and cascades between them. But
there is no reaching the foot of the lower fall on horseback ; we
are to return by it from above, down a perilous stairway, and now
must make a wide detour to scale the cliff, or first offset, which frowns
2,000 feet above us.

No possible passage is visible to our unaccustomed eyes ; the side
seems almost perpendicular, and when the guide tells us we are to
"go up there," pointing with his finger at an angle of eighty to a flat
projecting peak seeming to our vision half way to the sky we shake
our heads incredulously. "But I have piloted two thousand people
Up there," says the confident Brightman, and we are reassured and
follow him. I dare not venture on a description; even now I can
shut my eyes, see it all, and shudder.

Imagine the route in, with all its difficulties doubled, and going up
instead of down, and some faint idea may be formed. Here, we are
told, there has been one accident. Three weeks before a saddle, not
carefully girted, slipped back, and the mule straightway went to
"bucking;" the rider jumped off on the upper side, and the mule
undertook to run down the mountain, but soon lost his footing and
went rolling from rock to rock, till ricocheting one hundred feet from


one offset, he fell upon the next flat, with every bone splintered, and
his flesh reduced to a jelly. Two hours climbing bring us to the
level above the Vernal, and turning a sharp rocky point, we come in
sight of Nevada Falls, the largest and highest continuous fall. The
approach here is easy, and we are soon at its foot. Rushing down a
rocky flume from heights four thousand feet above and miles away ;
the Merced comes clear as alcohol to the edge, and takes the first
plunge, four hundred feet clear; then dashes against the rocks, re-
bounding in comminuted foam of dazzling white; then collecting
again to a hundred tiny streams, it is off at last from the rocky face in
filmy slanting lines of cloud and foam, transparent mists so delicately
flowing downward that one can scarcely say they move. The silvery
sheen, like a hanging crystal- web, is lifted by the wind, swaying now
against the rocks, and now far out over the valley; then, in a mo-
mentary calm, falls back to break into a thousand transparent fluted
sections, gliding downward over the rocks in ever unfolding, ever re-
newing liquid lawn.

Suddenly the howitzer is fired from the Mountain House across the
gulch. The echo breaks sharply upon us from our side, and returns
from Cloud's Rest on the north ; then seems to die away amid peaks
and hollows, but suddenly breaks again upon the startled ear; then
repeats in slow declining reports from peak, cliff, and point, again to
renew and again die away in a thousand repetitions of splintered
sound. The effect of these sights upon different persons is a curious
study. The noisy are still, the garrulous silent, and even the least
profound are awed to a solemn reverence with something akin to fear.

After a frugal dinner at the Mountain House every thing has to be
carried thither on mules we come down by the hand-rail beside
Vernal Falls, while Brightman returns the mules by the other route
as far as Registry Rock, the first point where we can meet him.
Piwyack "cataract of diamonds" as the Indians call it, well de-
serves the name ; though known by the whites as Vernal Falls, from
the beautiful emerald tints it displays. It consists of one clear fall of
three hundred and fifty feet, and is accessible at more points than any
other fall in the valley. The water starts from the cliff in two great
rocky flumes, twenty feet wide, and perhaps a foot in depth ; but long
before reaching the bottom is utterly broken into minutest fragments,
and rolled into one great airy sheet of foam ; snow-white and dazzling,
bordered apparently by pearl-dust, it seems a column of cloud break-
ing upon the rocks to light surf and starry crystals. As the foam
floats upward the sky clears suddenly, and the sun pours a flood of



bright rays into the gorge ; the dropping lines of emerald take on a

brighter tint, and a rainbow in five concentric rings springs upon the

sight. The wind sways back the gauzy column; the penciled rays

lose their exact focus; the rainbows break into two, four, eight, an in-

finite division of iridic tints, and the whole presents a luminous aure-

ole a hundred feet in diameter : another draft of air, and we have a

dissolving view ; then a lull,

and back swings the fleecy

foaming column in two bod-

ies, and twice the number of

circling rainbows delight

the eye. Back comes the

Avind, and away swings the

watery column, bringing

again the double breaking

lines of iridic tints ; the eye

is relieved by new pris-

matic combinations, and the

overwrought senses roused

to new delight by fresh

showers of more brilliant


The stairways about Ver-
nal Falls are well arranged,
and the steps hewn in the
rock afford many favorable
points to view the entire
fall. Gladly would we have
lingered here, but the ap-

proach of evening called us away while our en-
joyment was still at its height.

The hours of rest pass pleasantly at our hotel
on the banks of the pellucid Merced. The in-
habitants are only second in interest to the
valley. In 1862, Mr. J. M. Hutchings walked in,
and pre-empted the land where his hotel now
stands. Years ago he came in on snow-shoes to
see if the valley was habitable in winter, and soon after moved his
family in. From May till October all is lively in the valley, then a
gloom, born of perfect isolation, settles upon the place; and the few
who winter through are as completely cut off as one can imagine.




Once a month or so, an Indian works his way down the south slope on
snow shoes, bringing in mail and taking out reports from the impris-
oned. With three hotels, saw mill, and two ranches, some fifty per-
sons reside in the valley. There is a saloon, billiard-hall, bathing-
rooms, barber shop, and reading-room ; and the general arrangements
are such that one could spend the summer there very pleasantly.

Want of space
forbids a fuller
account of the
sights upon the
southern cliffs : of
Pohono " Spirit
of the Evil
Wind _ ca lled
by the whites
Bridal Vail, a
tiny stream with
a fall of over
nine hundred
and forty feet ;
of Lung-oo-too-
koo-ya " Long
and Slender "
or the Ribbon
Fall, amounting
in different cas-
cades to 3,300
feet ; of Tis-sa-
ack " Goddess
of the Valley"
or the South

Dome ; or of Tu-lool-we-ack " The Terrible " the wild, craggy
gorge of South Canon. Nor is my pen equal to the task of doing
justice to Tu-toch-ah-nu-la " Great Chief of the Valley" or El
Capitan, rising at something more than a perpendicular, leaning
over the valley, to an elevation of 3,300 feet; nor to Wah-wah-
le-na "The Three Graces" whose heads shine from a height of
3,750 feet. All that the utmost stretch of fancy can picture of the
giant-like, the colossal and Cyclopean, is but a shadowy conception
of this immense reality. No description has ever been written.
None can be written on this earth. The subject is beyond the prov-




ince of mere word-painting. A man must die and learn the language
of the angels before he can describe Yosemite.

The return route, all the way down hill, was as rough as the going,
but took less than half the time. We found four changes of climate.
From the cool Sierras to the hot valley was a trial of endurance. Tak-
ing the steamer at Stockton, we were soon down among the tules on


the San Joaquin. At 3 P. M., the thermometer stood at 100; at
dusk, on the river, it was just pleasantly cool; we woke next morning
at the San Francisco wharf, where the cold sea-breeze made over-
coats a necessity. The seasons are all mixed up in that city. August
is the coldest (to one's feelings) and September the warmest month
in the year. There is no perceptible difference between January
and June. Ladies wear furs in July and August, then lay them off
till November. The changes in the ocean-winds account for this

A day in August is a miniature copy of the seasons, except that no
snow falls to represent the hard winter of the East. We rise at 7 A.
M., to a balmy early spring morning ; if very hardy, even a visitor
can go without a summer overcoat; but, to stand around the streets.

I find it more pleasant to wear mine. The rising sun scatters the


light, fleecy clouds, and shines out with some fervor, and by 10 A. M.,
I take off my overcoat, for a mild summer has set in. This continues
with beautiful steadiness until 2 or 3 P. M. ; then the thermometer falls
about five degrees very suddenly, as the afternoon fog comes rolling
over the city. November continues from 4 till 7 P. M., at which time
regular winter sets in. It is, in reality, only eight or ten degrees
colder than at noon, but the change makes it seem to me like Decem-
ber. I button tight my overcoat, slap my fingers vigorously, and ex-
ercise till I get acclimated; then take a hearty dinner, and two cups
of hot coffee, put on my muffler, and go out for an evening view of
this most cosmopolitan of cities : first to the Chinese Theater, and then
in turn to all the local oddities.

The beauty of Sunday afternoon tempted us to accept the local cus-
tom and use that day for an excursion to the Cliff House. It stands
on the opposite, that is, the western side, of the peninsula, about
four miles from the main part of the city. Whirling along through
the sand-hills, on which I noted a plentiful supply of two old Utah
acquaintances sagebrush and greasewood a sudden turn to the left
gave a free outlook towards the West ; there I took my first view of
the Pacific, and in a few minutes was upon the seaward porch of the
Cliff House.

The day was calm and almost cloudless; the sight westward free
even to the meeting of sea and sky ; the blue vault, and the soft air
of the Pacific, were over and around us ; to the right the Golden Gate
opened into the bay ; while below us, and far down the coast, the white
surf was breaking upon the shore, with that sublime music which has
been the delight and the despair of poets since the poluphloisboio of
Homer. The house stands upon a projecting rock, some forty feet
above the waves, which beat incessantly upon the jagged points below,
and at times even dash their light spray into the faces of those upon
the seaward porch. Apparently a hundred yards out really three
times as far stands the cluster of rocks which are the resort of the
sea-lions. They were there in numbers, not playing in the waves as
sometimes, but lying in groups upon the top of the rocks, their deep,
hollow bark mingling with the roar of the surf. A lone rock, a little
further out, is covered in the same way with gulls, visitors not being
allowed to fire at either.

Below the Cliff House a road, cut' into the rock and walled on
the side next the ocean, leads down to a sandy beach below, where
the hills recede from the shore. A long salt marsh, easily forded,
is shut off from the ocean by a sand "spit," on which is a firm and


excellent drive, even to the edge of the surf. Taken altogether,
this may be called the Long Branch of the AVest.

As the afternoon drew on, while we were watching the gambols
of the sea-lions, which had aroused to unusual activity, the air sud-
denly grew dim, the rocks appeared to recede, the view of the ocean
was shut off, and a dense bank of fog came rolling inland, while
long lines of mist spread over the hills and went creeping through
the hollows towards the city. By 4 P. M., the breeze was coming
in strong from the ocean ; the air, which three hours before was
quite warm, grew uncomfortably chilly, and the crowd turned to-
wards town. Reaching Montgomery Street, we found it dark with
fog and mist, and a damp cold night set in where the morning had
been so bright and warm.

A week was scant time to see and enjoy San Francisco, but the
mines of Utah were fast rising into importance, and demanded a
historian ; my old friends called for me, and I regretfully left the
Pacific coast for the very unpacific Territory.



THE Gentiles were all talking of silver mines; the Mormons of
"persecution of the Saints" and "God's wrath at the wicked Gentile
government." Chief-Justice McKean had ruled all the Mormon offi-
cials out of the District Court, and made the United States Marshal
the ministerial officer ; the latter had selected non-Mormon grand
juries who were ferreting out all the crimes committed by the Saints
in the old " blood-atonement era." Lawsuits as to mining titles
doubled and redoubled. The District Court at Salt Lake City, which
formerly finished the term in two weeks, now sat ten months in the
year; one-half its time settling titles to mines, the other half trying
Mormon criminals. Five indictments were pending against Brigham
Young; a hundred Latter-day Saints were under arrest, or hiding in
the mountains. Money by tens of thousands was pouring in to pur-
chase silver lodes ; every body swore by the Emma Mine which had
given the Territory such a reputation. Every miner expected a for-
tune; many Gentiles looked forward to the early overthrow of Brig-
ham. There was no little bird to whisper " Schenck Stewart
Trainor Park Baron Grant," or hint that before twelve months the
Supreme Court would upset the Utah Judiciary. There were visions
of \vealth beyond the dreams of avarice, of monstrous lodes of silver
ore, of a Territory redeemed ; the Gentile speculator rode on the crest
of a swelling wave, and smiling hope beckoned him on to greater

Though Judge McKean was then the central figure, the other Fed-
eral officials came in for an equal share of Mormon abuse. No matter
what they had done or left undone, they were guilty on the main
point: they recognized no sovereignty in Brigham Young; they loved
republicanism and hated theocracy. Governor Geo. L. Woods es-
pecially came in for unstinted abuse. His conduct in suppressing the
Mormon militia was painted in frightful colors. History and Script-
ure were ransacked for precedents. The fruitful annals of Israel
furnished the Mormon preachers with abundant similes: He was a
Roman governor, oppressing the Holy Land ; an Amalekite, hindering


the march of Israel ; he was Pharaoh, enslaving God's chosen ; he was
Herod, thirsting for innocent blood; he was Pilate, crucifying the
Lord afresh. Daniel and Revelations were reopened : the Govern-
ment was like haughty Babylon rushing on to destruction ; war was
soon to scourge America ; all our cities were to be desolated, and
Washington in particular was to be sown with salt and rooted up by
swine ! The Gentiles were equally
fierce in their zeal to prove Utah's
mineral wealth ; religious fanaticism
and the love of gain were playing a
strange drama in the shadow of the

It was the dryest and sickliest
season I ever knew in that Terri-
tory. The Great Salt Lake, which
had risen year by year till it stood


fifteen feet higher than when first

surveyed, had suddenly fallen far below the water-marks set up by
Captain Stansbury in 1849. On the north and east the bordering
marshes were dry, their basins shining with salt. The pleasant babble
of the water-seeks along the city streets was not heard; the channels
were dry, and full of dust and refuse. What little water City Creek
supplied was needed for irrigating the inner lots, and every-where on
the streets the shade-trees had a strange, half-dead look, the leaves
curled and withering. When I arrived from California, September
1st, fifty-five persons had died in three weeks out of a population of
fourteen thousand. Two-thirds of the people complained of the
malaria. No such season had been known in Salt Lake since the
notable " famine year." So I soon took stage for the hills, and for
three months devoted most of my time to inspecting the mines.

Sixteen miles across the valley and over the " bench," brought us
to the mouth of Little Cottonwood Caflon ; while a storm swept over
us and tipped the summits of the Wasatch with snow. In these en-
closed basins clouds rise from the lakes and marshes and float away,
without shedding their moisture, to the mountains; there they are
checked and fall in rain, causing the mountain sides in places to be
covered with timber, while the valleys are always bare. A damp,
numbing wind swept down the cafion, growing colder as we gained in
height, till overcoats and gloves failed to secure warmth ; while above
and around us every-where the peaks glistened with snow, seeming by
imagination to add to the cold, and by the middle of the afternoon we


saw the trees on the slopes gray-white with rime, and knew that we
had invaded the domain of winter.

For two days the storm continued, and then the late mild autumn
of the mountains set in. In summer and autumn the Cottonwood dis-
trict is the most delightful of cool retreats; in winter a lofty snow-
bank, with here and there a gray projection. In the winter sunshine
it would, but for the occasional patches of timber, present a painfully
dazzling expanse of white; and as it is, serious snow-blindness is not
uncommon. When a warm south wind blows for a day or two, there
is greater danger of snow-slides. In January, 1875, the snow fell
there, without intermission, for eight days, filling the deepest gulches,
into which the few stray animals plunged and floundered helplessly.
In the circular mountain-hollows, with a good growth of timber, the
snow drifted from ten to forty feet deep, leaving the largest trees
looking like mere shrubs. Distant settlements were quite isolated,
and the narrow passes thereto stopped by snow. However, in the
best developed mines work went on under ground, all the side
chambers and vacant places being stacked full of ore as fast as it
was mined. In a few more days the sun came out bright and clear,
and though the thermometer rarely rises above the freezing point
during the first two months of the year in the higher camps, yet the
warmth seems to have been sufficient to loosen the snow not yet
tightly packed; and in every place where the slope was great and
the timber not sufficient to bind it, avalanches of from one to a hun-
dred acres came thundering into the cafions, sweeping all before them.
One of the largest swept off that part of Alta City, Little Cottonwood,
lying on the slope. Six persons were killed outright, either crushed
by the timber of their own cabins or smothered in the snow, and
many more were buried five or six hours, until relief parties dug them
out. One woman was found sitting upright in her cabin with a babe
in her arms, both dead. The cabin had withstood the avalanche, but
the snow poured in at the doors and windows, and they were frozen
or smothered. Thirty-five lives were- lost in Utah that winter by
snow-slides. Six men were buried in one gulch a thousand feet under
packed ice and snow. Search for them was useless. But at length
the breath of June dissolved their snowy prison, and the bodies were
revealed, fresh and fair, as if they had just ceased to breathe.

Alta City, the metropolis of Little Cottonwood, is at the center
of an amphitheater, the ridges rising one or two thousand feet high
on all sides, except the narrow opening down the cafion. In this
circuit is a mining population of twelve or fifteen hundred people,


and most of the old arid noted mines of Utah The Emma, Flag-
staff, Davenport, South Star, Titus, and a dozen others. The ore
carries from $100 to $200 per ton in silver, and from thirty to sixty
per cent, in lead. Thus the base bullion produced from this ore
is from ninety-six to ninety-nine per cent, fead, and is shipped
eastward for separation. The old question, " Which is the heavier,
a pound of wool or a pound of gold?" has its correct application
among miners ; for gold and silver are estimated by Troy weight,
wool (and lead) by Avoirdupois. This distinction is preserved even
when lead and silver are in the same ton of base bullion. Hence
a pound of wool is heavier than a pound of gold or silver, though
an ounce of either metal is heavier than an ounce of wool !

North of Little Cottonwood, and also opening westward upon
Jordan Valley, is the caiion of Big Cottonwood, with a similar class
of mines. Far up the cafion is Big Cottonwood Lake, in the center
of a beautiful oval vale, where the Saints usually celebrate Pioneers'
Day the 24th of July, on which date, 1847, Brigham Young and
party first entered the valley. From any commanding point above
either cafion, one can look out westward over Jordan Valley, over
the lower sections of the Oquirrh Range, over Rush Valley west of
it, and on a clear day, upon the far summits of Deep Creek Range,
glittering like silver points in the dim distance. But the grandest
view is from the summit of Bald Peak, highest of the Wasatch
Range, and nearly 12,000 feet above the sea. Thither I climbed to-
wards the close of an autumn day, and overlooked one quarter of
Utah. Eighty miles South of me Mount Nebo bounded the view,
its lowest pass forming the " divide" between the waters which
flow into this basin, and those flowing out with the Sevier into the
Great Desert. Below me lay Utah Lake and vicinity a clear mir-
ror bordered by gray slopes ; far down the valley, Salt Lake City
appeared upon the plain like a green blur, dotted with white; north-
ward the Salt Lake rolled its white-caps, sparkling in the sun-
shine, while, the Wasatch Range, glistening along its pointed sum-
mits with freshly-fallen snow, stretched away northward till it faded
in dim perspective beyond Ogden. A hundred and fifty miles from
North to South, and nearly the same from East to West, were in-
cluded in one view twenty thousand square miles of mountain, gorge,
and valley.

Eight days sufficed to visit most of the mines of Little Cottonwood.
From thirty to fifty tons of "ore were leaving the cafion daily, and
at least a thousand new locations had been made, every one of


which the confident owners expected to develop into an Emma. The
last day the air suddenly grew hazy, and, looking northward, we
saw the sky of a peculiar ash and copper color. Old miners shook
their heads ominously and said : " The fire is sweeping Big Cotton-
wood." Next morning the peaks were shrouded in smoke, and
about 4 P. M., a great white column shot into the sky for thousands
of feet, apparently just over the "divide," then, swaying back and
forth, settled into the shape of an immense cone, and we knew to
a certainty that the wind was "down the cafion," and, consequently,
the fire nearing the Big Cottonwood smelting works. It took me
all the next day to pass the " divide," for the lowest point on the
ridge is 2,000 feet above Central, and the descent still greater on
the northern side. When I reached Silver Springs the fire was near-
ing the town, and after night-fall the sight was indescribably grand.
From the summit of Granite Mountain, dividing the heads of Big
and Little Cottonwoods, down through the lake region and Mill
Cafion, to the tops of Uintah Hills for eight miles in a semicircle
around and above us the view was bounded by great swaying sheets
of flame. The sky to the zenith was a bright blood-red, and down
to the West a gleaming waxy yellow ; while almost over us Honey-
comb Peak, where the timber had burned to a coal, and which was
divided from us by a large rocky gorge, stood out detached and glow-
ing red like a volcano outlined against the sky.

Morning came, and with it detachments of miners from neighbor-
ing camps, working their way through the lower defiles, to fell tim-
ber and " burn against the fire." The town is in a grove of quaking
asp, and was in no great danger ; but, across Cottonwood Creek, where
the Smelting Works stand, the growth is mountain pine, which burns
green or dry. The whole cafion was so full of smoke that the sun

Online LibraryJ. H. (John Hanson) BeadleWestern wilds and the men who redeem them : an authentic narrative embracing an account of seven years travel and adventure in the far West ... → online text (page 16 of 62)