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Captain Bonnevilles Explorations

The State of Utah being the last State to be admitted into the Union, lies north of Arizona, west of Colorado and the Rocky Mountains, east of Nevada and south of Wyoming and Idaho. Its greatest length is 345 miles by 275 miles in breadth, and encloses an area of 87,970 square miles. It is intersected from north to south by the Wasatch Range of mountains, which forms a water shed and drains the eastern part of the State into the Colorado River system, while the Central part of the State drains into the large lakes that are situated in the north central part of the State.

The principal rivers flowing into the Great Salt Lake are the Weber, Bear, and Jordan that forms an outlet to Utah Lake, and these rivers drain the section west of the Wasatch Range. Sevier River, which flows through the southern part of the State, after many windings and turnings becomes lost in the desert. It formerly emptied into Sevier lake, situated in Millard County, but on account of being: used so extensively in irrigation, only the overflow in the spring enters the lake. The land lying east of the Wasatch range is drained by the White, Price, Grand, Green, and San Juan Rivers, being the headquarters of the Colorado River System. The valley of the Great Salt Lake was explored, according to Washington Irving, by Captain Bonneville, who started on the 24th day of July, A. D. 1833, at the head of forty men to complete a circuit of the lake. He left the valley of the Green River, and intended to trap on all the principal streams flowing into the lake, while he should make a journal and chart so as to impart a knowledge of the lake and the surrounding country. All the resources of the brave trapper were tasked to make this journey. This whole country lying to the southwest of the mountains down as far as California were totally unknown, as the buffalo at that time had not been driven that far west; and the trappers preferred to stay where the roaming herds of that animal furnished a comparatively easy and luxurious life. The deer, elk, mountain sheep, and bear, however, more than replaced the lack of buffalo, but this was known only to the Indians that were living in this section of the country.

Captain Bonneville, however, not knowing of the food resources that awaited him, had prepared a quantity of dried buffalo meat while he was encamped on the Bear River preparatory to his expedition into what at that time was a trackless desert.

After leaving camp on the Bear River, he beheld to the southward, the broad inland sea that had no outlet.

Deserts, second only to the Sahara, extended around them as far as the eye could reach. No trees or grasses greeted his eye, no spring or stream could be discerned upon either side, and the wastes of sand must have been most discouraging, even to Captain Bonneville, whose love of exploration and danger had brought him thus far into the unknown west.

Traveling along the sands to the east of the lake they were almost overcome from thirst, when they saw a stream issuing from the mountains, where they quenched their thirst and refreshed their tired horses on the grasses and herbage that lined the stream. After recuperating themselves they proceeded along this river, trapping the beaver as they went and subsisting upon its meat, thus saving their dried buffalo meat until they should again encounter the sandy wastes.

The stream that they had found was called Mary's River, but was afterwards named Ogden River, from Peter Ogden, that first explored it while in the employ of the Hudson Bay Company.

This country was then inhabited by very shy tribes of Indians called Root Diggers, a branch of the Snake tribe. The trappers frequently met trails and could see the smoke arising from the camp fires of the Indians, but for a long time could not see any of the Wary Diggers.

Their presence, however, could be felt each morning, as they missed traps and various other articles from their camps. It was among this harmless people that the first Indian blood was shed, as Captain Bonneville believed them to be of a hostile disposition. As he traveled along the plain on the left of the river he came upon a horde of the Indians gathered together upon the bank of the stream, and conceiving that an ambuscade had been laid for them, the Captain ordered his trappers to charge upon the natives, who, howling and whining, fled in terror before the guns of the white man, only to be overtaken and slaughtered. Not a weapon did the Indians discharge during the horrid butcher. This is the dark spot to the otherwise bright picture, when we consider the achievements of the intrepid explorer. Following on down the Ogden River until it became lost in a swampy lake, he then headed directly west for California, leaving the valley of the Great Salt Lake for future generations to conquer and to bring the desert lands into subjection, and to cause cities, towns and hamlets to arise upon every hand. Along with the names of Captain Bonneville must be mentioned Provost, from whom Provo in Utah County, gets its name, Col. Bridger and Wm. N. Ashley; Peter Ogden, from whom the city of Ogden is named, and John C. Fremont from whom Fremont, Ireland, derives its name.

Thus in solitude lay the desert wastes only to be crossed now and then by some predatory band of Indians, until Brigham Young beheld it in 1847, on July 24th, when at the head of a band of people who were seeking homes, he looked down upon the broad expanses and decided that here his noble band would settle and make their homes. How well this band of Mormons fulfilled their mission the monuments reared by their hands can testify. Where nothings but sandy wastes could be seen now stand the cities of Salt Lake, Ogden and Provo, while the landscape from Idaho on the north to Arizona on the south is dotted by smaller towns. Acres upon acres of orchards now give forth their fruits for the thousands of people that inhabit the towns, while the fields of flowing grain and the gardens give bread and food to the miners that are delving in the hills for the precious metals.

Utah was organized as a territory on September 9, 1850, out of that part of Mexico that had been ceded to the United States by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and in 1868 was reduced to its present size.

After repeated attempts to be admitted into the Union, it finally obtained statehood January 4, 1896, when the people divided on party lines. The Enabling Act was passed by the House of Representatives Dec. 12, 1893, and by the Senate of the United States July 10, 1894, and was signed by President Cleveland July IS, 1894.

It deferred Statehood for eighteen months. The Constitutional convention that framed the present Constitution was composed of 107 delegates who met March 4, and completed their labors May 8, 1895.

On November 5, 1895, this work was submitted to the people and the Constitution was adopted by about 24,000 majority.

The general elevation of the State is 6100 feet, while Mt. Emmons rises 13,694 feet, and Mt. Gilbert and Mt. Wilson are nearly as high. The Great Salt Lake is situated at an altitude of 4210 feet, and is 83 miles long by 30 miles wide. The waters of this lake are so salty that animal life, except brine shrimp, and the larvae of flies, is extinct.

The waters being so buoyant they are much sought for bathing. Saltair and Garfield beaches are the chief resorts.



Source: History of the Scofield Mine Disaster, by J. W. Dilley, The Skelton Pub. Co., Provo, Utah, 1900.

Editors Note: The I.. O. O. F. were very active in raising money for the benefit of the widows and children along with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This information is included for historical value, it does not mean the people of this project support these institutions.


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