CHAPTER VI. THE MORMONS.
Utah was settled in 1847 by a religious community of people generally known by the name of Mormons, but they style themselves, "The Latter-day Saints of the Church of Jesus Christ."
In the great valley of a vast inland sea, the existence of which was unknown to the world seventy-five years ago, whose surroundings were a desert in the most rigid definition of the term, a great commonwealth has been established unparalleled in the history of its origin by that of any of the civilized countries of the world.
Out of the most desolate of our vast arid interior areas, in less than half a century has been evolved not only a magnificent garden spot, but a great city with all the adjuncts of our most modern civilization. Rich in its architecture, progressive in its art, with a literature that is marvellous when the conditions from which it has sprung are seriously considered, the Mormon community meets all the demands of our ever advancing civilization.
Neither the love of gold, nor the cupidity of conquest, those characteristics which have subordinated other portions of the New World to the restless ambition of man, were the causes that have revolutionized both the physical character and the social conditions of the now wealthy and prosperous state of Utah. As Bancroft very forcibly states: Utah was settled upon an entirely new idea of God's revelation to the world. Old faiths have been worked over and over; colonies have been built upon those tenets, but never before have any results comparable to those which characterize that of the Mormon faith been attained, in founding a community, based as it is upon an entirely new religion.
Originating east of the Mississippi, perhaps no sect in modern times has been so persecuted as was that of the Mormons in their early days. So great and unbearable had this persecution become that it was determined by their leaders to seek some remote spot where they could worship according to their own ideas, without fear of molestation.
The Mormon emigration to Utah was seriously considered by Brigham Young years before 1847, the date of their exodus. It is claimed that he was but carrying out the plans of Joseph Smith, who early in 1842 said that his people "would yet be driven to the Rocky Mountains, where they would be able to build a city of their own free from all interference."
In confirmation of this the following extract from Heber C. Kimball's diary shows that a migration to some point west of the Rocky Mountains was contemplated: Nauvoo Temple, December 31, 1845 - President Young and myself are superintending the operations of the day, examining maps with reference to selecting a location for the Saints west of the Rocky Mountains, and reading the various works which have been written and published by travellers in those regions.
When it had been determined to leave for the Great Basin, winter quarters were established on the Elk Horn River; and on the morning of the 9th of April, 1847, the migration began, but was not fairly inaugurated until the 14th. The party were allowed a wagon, two oxen, two milch cows, and a tent, to every ten of their number. For each wagon there was supplied a thousand pounds of flour, fifty pounds of rice, sugar, and bacon, thirty of beans, twenty of dried apples or peaches, twenty-five of salt, five of tea, a gallon of vinegar, and ten bars of soap. Every able-bodied man was compelled to carry a rifle or musket. His wagon served for bed and kitchen, and was occasionally used as a boat in crossing the streams. A day's journey averaged about thirteen miles, with a rest at noon to dine and to allow the cattle to graze.
For the benefit of those who were following them, the first party of Mormons adopted some curious devices to inform their friends among the latter how they were progressing. For post-offices, they used the bleached buffalo-skulls found on the prairie, which, after the letters were placed inside, they suspended from the limbs of trees along the route. For guide-posts and to indicate their camping-places, they painted on the bald fronts of other buffalo-skulls the date and number of miles they had made.
After over three months of hardship and suffering, this party of pioneers reached the portals of their destination. On the 19th of July, 1847, two of the number started from the advance camp soon after sunrise to make a reconnoissance of the road, which left Canyon Creek and ran along through a ravine to the west. The ascent was gradual for about four miles, when the dividing ridge was reached. Here the two pioneers tied their horses, and on foot ascended a near-by mountain, Big Mountain by name, to obtain a glimpse of the country. Previously, from the peaks of that neighbourhood, the pathfinder of the pioneer band had been met by a series of towering, snow-capped mountains, piled seemingly one upon the other, ever greeting his tired vision as he gazed eagerly westward, looking for the Promised Land. But this time a different view was exposed. To the southwest, through a vista of gradually-sloping mountains, through an opening in the canyons, the light blue and the fleecy white clouds above seemed to be sinking into a plain of gold. Two small portions of a level prairie were visible, and beyond rose a series of blue mountains, their peaks tipped with snow. It was the Valley of the Great Salt Lake!