|Looking West from South Pass. Pacific Butte on the left.|
My grandson and I had a wonderful trip exploring portions of the Overland Trail in Wyoming in commemoration of the day after Pioneer Day and my wife's birthday, as she is out of town. The OT refers to four recognized trails that crossed here although Native Peoples have crossed here for millennia. The trails are: Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, and the Pony Express. We could also add in the Astorians in 1812, Mountain Men, the Whitman-Spaulding Missionaries of 1836, some commercial stage lines, the overland telegraph, and many visitors, but only us two last Tuesday.
As one of our purposes was family history, I will illustrate a few sites with reference to the Ellsworth Handcart Company of 1856 with my direct-line ancestor, Elinor Jenkins Vaughan, her daughter Jane Vaughan Lewis, Jane's husband John Lewis, and their son, John Samuel Lewis. They crossed South Pass on September 13, the 96th day out from Iowa City. They camped three miles down this road at Pacific Springs which can't be seen but is at the base of Pacific Butte on the left, just before the small ridge, just left of center. My Grandson and I walked down and back to get a feel for the trail. It was a good walk and a better talk.
At one point, I explained that while pioneer children may have sung as they walked and walked, they were probably not always happy. I told him that he was big enough that he would likely have helped with the family handcart, but the younger children above toddler age would get up, have a breakfast of biscuits and tea (long before Pres. Grant started enforcing the Word of Wisdom) and head out on the road in a group led by adults while the others packed up the camp. Eventually, the handcarts would pass the children. Then, the two or three wagons with the company would pass as the oxen were slower than people with handcarts. Hopefully, the new camp would be ready when the children came in. We imagined that mothers might have gone back up the trail to meet their children if they weren't needed for cooking or setting up their camp. I also explained that the children were sometimes guided by the adults with long sticks, like a gaggle of geese. And they were poked or prodded (or worse) if they lagged.
Reflecting on this story for a bit, my grandson explained to me that if he wasn't with the handcarts, he would be with his two younger brothers. And if someone tried to poke them with a stick he would push the stick away and tell them, "You don't have to use the stick. Just tell them what they need to do and I will be sure they do it."
Keeping emotions in check, I told him that he would have been a very good pioneer and was a very good big brother.
|Pacific Springs, from the Southwest, just left of center, below the lower ridges of Pacific Butte on the right.|
South Pass is the low point on the horizon just left of that with the darker diagonal of the draw going down to the right.
It had to have been a relief to cross South Pass. Ellsworth was also met that day by wagons coming from LDS HQ in Salt Lake City to provide additional supplies for the handcart companies. That was the usual system breaking down later that year when two handcart companies headed out without anyone in Salt Lake getting advance word.
The day after Pacific Springs, Ellsworth camped just three miles beyond at an unknown location. On September 15, they camped at the Little Sandy River, just northeast of the present town of Farson.
|Little Sandy Crossing. The hills on the horizon right of center are the Oregon Buttes.|
Left of center you can still see Pacific Butte, just this side of South Pass.
|Big Sandy at Farson, looking to the southeast. James Birch grave somewhere on the other side.|
|My Grandson and the representations of unknown, pioneer graves (not James Birch) at the Pilot Butte turn-out.|
|Pilot Butte across the Big Sandy, a marker on the trail and the later teens of my youth.|
(and why Cabezon in New Mexico haunted me!)
|The Green River at the Lombard (formerly Mormon) Ferry interpretative site and Wyo. Highway 28.|
. . . while we were descending the hill to Green River, we very suddenly met Elder Edmond Ellsworth with the advance company of English Saints, over 309, with their hand-carts, trudging cheerfully up the hill; as we neared each other, the heavens and the hills resounded with the loud Hosannahs of the Saints, while the waving of hats, bonnets and handkerchiefs was a lively scene that a daguerrian artist might covet. On our asking why we had not heard from them until we saw them, we were answered, "We have out travelled every other company, not one has passed us, not a horse company, or even a solitary horseman, so we have to carry our own report; and we should have been here sooner, if our ox teams which carry the heavy dunnage, could have travelled any faster." They were very cheerful and happy.
. . . walked on a Head rode a few milles in Brother Oakelys waggon met Brother Parley Pratt and many other Brethen going on missions they gave away Biscuits Potatoes cheese fish &c Hannah got a Potato and had it ready Boiled by the time I came up to the camp I thought it was the nicest I ever Eat, walked to camp in the afternoon
This is the trail heading up the hill where I believe the missionaries were descending and met the handcarts coming up:
|We pulled over at signs marking a crossing of the four historical trails on Wyo. 28, but did not follow this portion of the OT.|
|Ham's Fork at Granger, Wyoming.|
Below is my eldest grandson and fellow trail explorer. I can't wait for more grandchildren to become Scout age (boy and girl) as there is some hiking involved in adventures with Grandpa. And I know I can't be poking them with a stick with this guy around.