HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
MAPS AND REPORTS OF THE FORT KEARNEY, SOUTH
PASS, AND HONEY LAKE WAGON ROAD.
L E T T E R
THE ACTING SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR,
Reports and maps of the Fort Kearney, South Pass, and Honey Lake wagon road.
FEBRUARY 11, 1861.--Laid upon the table, and ordered to be printed.
DEPARTMENT OF THE
February 11, 1861.
SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith the reports and maps of F. W. Lander, superintendent of the Fort Kearney, South Pass, and Honey Lake wagon road, upon his operations during the years 1859 and 1860, and respectfully suggest that they be printed, and that two hundred and fifty copies be placed at the disposal of this department for distribution.
I am, Sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,
Acting Secretary.Hon. WM. PENNINGTON,
Speaker House of Representatives.
MAPS AND REPORTS OF THE FORT KEARNEY, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR PACIFIC WAGON ROADS.
Reports of F. W. Lander, esq., superintendent of the Fort Kearney, South Pass, and Honey Lake wagon roads, for 1859 and 1860, made under the direction of the honorable Jacob Thompson, Secretary of the Interior.
WASHINGTON CITY, March 1, 1860
SIR: Your instructions of March 25, 1859, directed me to proceed to the frontier and thence to the south pass of the Rocky mountains; to go over the road opened last year, make such improvement upon it as might be necessary; thereafter, to proceed to Honey Lake valley, by the Humboldt river route, for the purpose of obtaining a continuous survey over the whole road and further information of a route said to exist north of that river, or of such a route as might be developed by examination.
I was then directed to take immediate steps to close up operations at some convenient point, by disposing of all the public property in my possession to the best possible advantage to the government, to discharge such assistants as were not necessary for office service, and thence proceed to this place and prepare a final report of my operations.
The disbursement of the sum of five thousand dollars ($5,000) was placed under my direction for the purpose of making peaceful arrangements with the Indian tribes through which this road passes; in reference to which I received special instructions from the Acting Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and was directed to report to him thereon. This Indian report has already been made to the Hon. A. B. Greenwood, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and the accounts rendered.
As my report of January 20, 1859, embraced a description of the new road from the South Pass to the City of Rocks and an emigrant guide; and as at various points during the progress of the expedition of the present season I have fully, informed you of its operations, this statement may be regarded as a brief recapitulation.
It was thought expedient to despatch an efficiently organized advance party, under the direction of Wm. H. Wagner, esq., the efficient and energetic engineer of the expedition, to explore and map the entire country north and in the vicinity of the Humboldt River valley. This party devoted the whole summer to exploration, and met with great success. The able report of Mr. Wagner, which is herewith transmitted, and one by the same gentleman on Indian affairs, (which has been forwarded to the Hon. A. B. Greenwood, Commissioner,) contain valuable information, and cover the subjects referred to.
It was also thought expedient to send to Salt Lake City with this advance party, Mr. C. C. Wrenshall, a gentleman who had already distinguished himself for energy and efficiency while connected with the expedition the year before. Mr. Wrenshall was directed to relieve Mr. J. C. Campbell, who had been in charge of that portion of the expedition which wintered in the Mormon settlements, and who was required for service with Mr. Wagner. Under his instructions Mr.
SOUTH PASS, AND HONEY LAKE WAGON ROAD.
Wrenshall organized a party of Mormons, loaded a train with flour collected the tools and other property left at Salt Lake, proceeded to the western end of the new road, and commenced the repair of it, working towards the South Pass. His operations have been eminently successful, and I recommend him to your favorable notice.
The main expedition, under my direction, reached the South Pass on the 24th of June. During its passage to that point large numbers of the returning and destitute emigrants to the Pike's Peak gold mines were met and relieved; many of these men were permitted to join the train, and were afterwards of service in repairing and completing the new road. On reaching the South Pass, Mr. E. L. Yates was left at that point with an express rider and a small party of employes in charge of the provisions and property moved up from Fort Laramie. His especial duty was to inform emigrants of the completion of the new road, to give them information about it, and to furnish guides to those who desired to adopt it. He has performed this service to my satisfaction. From the delay in printing last year's Emigrant Guide, transmitted to the department January 20th, 1859, a great deal of labor has been thrown on the expedition in preparing guides, one thousand of them having been written and furnished emigrants.
Timothy Goodale, a mountaineer who resided at the South Pass, has rendered efficient aid to Mr. Yates and to the expedition, and has been specially recommended by me to the honorable Commissioner of Indian Affairs as a suitable agent to reside in that country and to act between emigrants who may desire to take the new road and the Indians who inhabit the country through which it passes. A slight affray occurred between Goodale and a party of traders from Salt Lake City, who endeavored to prevent emigrants from taking the new road, and who gave them false reports in regard to it. Much difficulty was experienced by emigrants in crossing the main Green river; they were efficiently aided while the expedition remained at that point by B. F. Burche, wagonmaster of the train, and his principal assistants. After the train left the river a new crossing was adopted by some emigrants a few rods above the one staked out by me. Below this new ford there was a rapid current and swimming water. One of the emigrants was swept off the sand bar into this deep water and drowned. On hearing of this accident a new road was laid out five miles above the usual crossing, over which trains afterwards crossed with safety.
The season has been an unusual one; the mountain streams swollen by constant rains, and Green river higher than ever known before in the memory of the oldest mountaineers. These rains compelled the necessity of moving the new road from where originally built along the river bottoms, which became impassable, to the high ground in their vicinity. Large jobs of grading we're required, and at one time over one hundred and fifty (150) men, hired from among the emigrants, were employed upon the road. It may now be regarded as an excellent highway, and passable under any event or contingency arising from such causes. Over nine thousand emigrants have signed a petition requesting that Green river may be bridged, and as this road will undoubtedly become the great thoroughfare of stock-drovers
MAPS AND REPORTS OF THE FORT KEARNEY,
and ox-team emigrants to California and Oregon, the subject is well worthy of your consideration. The river has a quick-sand, shifting bottom, and is undoubtedly dangerous at extreme high water to inexperienced travellers who do not understand hunting a ford. But all the great stock-drovers crossed the stream this unprecedented season, and my own train and the wagons of the expedition, constantly passing backwards and forwards to the South Pass for provisions and supplies, never experienced any difficulty.
In my own opinion there are numerous small mountain streams which, towards the close of the emigration, became bad and muddy crossings from the immense travel which passed over the road, and which might be bridged as profitably to the emigration as Green river.
It may be apprehended that the mountain traders, who have already moved their stations to this new road, will place common pole bridges upon these streams and charge toll for them. Green river and these smaller streams cannot be bridged for less than thirty thousand dollars, ($30,000.) and as your instructions did not direct me to do other than build a passable wagon road, I have not felt justified in incurring this additional expense without further instructions.
In reference to further instructions for this purpose, I refer to that portion of my report embraced under the heading of "All lines of travel west from the South Pass."
The main expedition joined that of Mr. Wrenshall, who had repaired and completed the western end of the road, on the 1st of August. Immediate arrangements were made for breaking tip the party and discharging the employes Wrenshall was directed to return to Salt Lake City, dispose of the public property in his charge to the best advantage, pay off employes, settle all bills out of sales of property, and report to me at Washington City. He was instructed to take charge of the property at the South Pass, dispose of it, or receive the report of Mr. E. L. Yates as to the disposition of it.
In the meantime a small party was despatched to the States under the direction of B. F. Burche, wagonmaster of the expedition. This party included those individuals who did Dot desire to go on to California. They were allowed to purchase at cost, paying for it out of the amount due them, transportation, and were given rations for their return trip.
The expedition then made rapid marches towards Humboldt river for the purpose of joining Wm. H. Wagner and the advance engineering corps, and overtook that party on the 31st of August. After halting one day the train moved forward to Honey Lake valley.
On its way to Honey Lake valley service was rendered to emigrants attacked by Indians. Full details of the circumstances of this collision, which resulted in loss of life, are embraced in my report to the honorable Indian Commissioner of February 18, 1860.
On arriving at Honey Lake valley the train was halted for two weeks, that the animals might recruit prior to a passage over the mountains to California. During this time I visited the principal
SOUTH PASS, AND HONEY LAKE WAGON ROAD.
stock markets of that State, and concluded to sell the mules, wagons, and harness at Marysville and Sacramento City. The animals brought a profit on first cost.
While closing up the affairs of the expedition and paying off employes from sales of property, Mr. Wagner was directed to report in Washington City, and brought on to you my preliminary statement of the result of the summer's work.
A .Bierstadt, esq., a distinguished artist of New York, and S. F. Frost, of Boston, accompanied the expedition with a full corps of artists, bearing their own expenses. They have taken sketches of the most remarkable of the views along the route, and a set of stereoscopic views of emigrant trains, Indians, camp scenes, &c., which are highly valuable and would be interesting to the country. I have no authority by which they can be purchased or made a portion of this report.
A map of the western division, drawn by Mr. John R. Key, under the direction of Wm. H. Wagner, esq., is herewith transmitted. An embodiment upon one sheet of the eastern, central, and western division of this road would seem expedient.
All lines of travel west from the South Pass.
In reference to any further expenditures upon this road, I have to lay before you the following statement, which, in view of your very particular instructions, both to Superintendent Magraw and myself, becomes highly important.
In the "Alta California," of September 20, appeared the following statement:
"CAMP ROUND PRAIRIE, U. T.,
(En route for Fort Leavenworth,)
"August 20, 1859.
"EDITORS ALTA: Believing that the publication of the enclosed itinerary of my return route from Genoa to Camp Floyd, in a paper of the extended circulation of the Alta, ought to prove of value to overland emigrants, I send it to you for this purpose. My outward route was greatly superior to what I had been led to expect from the popular notions of the country traversed; but my return route, which was still farther south, I found still better. Emigrants will find either of these routes about three hundred miles shorter than the old City of Rocks and Humboldt route, and about one hundred and forty-four miles shorter than the present postal route. Besides, from all I have heard and read of either of these routes, there can be but little doubt that in all the essentials of a good emigrant road, namely, wood, water, and grass, it will be found incomparably better. Both the outward and return route have these requisites to a superior degree; but in point of grade, the return route is much the best, and I therefore recommend it in preference. It is this route an itinerary of which I enclose. Stock-drivers will find the route of great value early in the spring and late in the fall as well as in the summer.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
"J. H. SIMPSON,
"Captain Topographical Engineers."
MAPS AND REPORTS OF THE FORT KEARNEY,
You have called my attention to a letter of Chief Justice Eckles, of Utah, addressed to you on the subject of Indian massacres. In this letter appears this remarkable paragraph:
"The road by this camp (Camp Floyd) recently made by the array is More than three hundred miles the nearest and much the best road from the States to California, and the public would soon follow it but for interestedly false representations made to emigrants."
The annual report of the honorable Secretary of War contains the following:
"Captain J. H. Simpson, of the Topographical Engineers, has, during the past season, explored and opened two new routes from Camp Floyd to California, either of which is about two hundred and fifty miles shorter than the old emigrant route by the way of the Humboldt river, and far better for grass, wood, and water. Over both these routes he conducted a party of sixty-five men and a train of fourteen wagons, and, since his return to Camp Floyd, many emigrants with large herds of cattle have passed over the route by which he returned, which is the better of the two. Itineraries for both have been furnished to the public through the press in California and Utah. The saving in time of travel by these roads to emigrants for California is about fifteen days, and for the mails about four. The saving in stock and draught cattle on these routes over those formerly travelled, owing to pure water and abundant grass, is estimated at twenty-five per cent."
All these statements refer to roads laid out by Captain J. H. Simpson, south of Salt Lake City, across the lower desert and intervening mountains which extend from Camp Floyd to Carson Valley.
They are not confined to the fact that the route described is an excellent mail road for winter travel, which is universally conceded by all the mountaineers, but absolutely direct and advise the overland emigrants to take it. The earlier emigrants would arrive upon it the last of July. The emigration would travel it during August and September. At this time the snow pools and springs of the lower sand plains are in a measure dried up, and tired stock would suffer greatly for grass and water. It is at the season when the cattle of California, Oregon, and Utah are driven into the more elevated mountain valleys. The sufferings already encountered by the less experienced of the Pike's Peak emigrants, who were directed to travel other routes than the well-known ones of the Arkansas and Great Platte Valleys, demand that a full statement of facts, not only in regard to the road you directed me to build, but also of the Simpson route, should now be laid before you.
In previous reports to you I have never thought it my duty to refer to other routes than the one in my charge, and in fact have ever confined myself to explicit statements as to the work itself. In a guide written to give information to overland travellers, and embraced in my report to you of last year, the only advice given was:
"You must remember that this new road has been recently graded and is not yet trodden down; and, with the exception of grass, water, wood, shortened distance, no tolls, fewer hard-pulls and descents, and
SOUTH PASS, AND HONEY LAKE WAGON ROAD.
avoiding the desert, will not be the first season as easy for heavily loaded trains as the old road, and not until a large, emigration has passed over it.
"All stock-drivers should take it at once. All parties whose stock is in bad order should take it, and I believe the emigration should take it, and will be much better satisfied with it, even the first season, than with the old road."
My instructions to Edmund L. Yates, esq., road agent of the South Pass, written in reply to this notification, that interested individuals were endeavoring to turn emigrants away from the new road, informs him that, "respecting the traders of Green river and Mormon agents, we cannot do more than simply inform the emigrants of the actual facts in regard to our road. Let them choose which of the two roads they care to travel; it is nothing to us; we simply and plainly obey instructions from the department; therefore do not persuade any one to take the road, although we know it to be the best."
The route has never been reported by me as suitable for kin overland mail, but I have repeatedly stated that it was utterly unfit for an overland mail, and in my report of January 20, 1859, said: "If it is to be held that the new road is to be used as a winter mail route across the continent, then it is not properly placed. It is especially and emphatically an emigrant road, so located as to avoid the tolls of bridges, alkali plains and deleterious and poisonous waters, and to furnish fuel, water, and grass to the ox-team emigration. And it is neither the very shortest nor the very best which would be selected for a winter route in the vicinity of the same parallel of latitude. The overland emigrants reach the mountain sections in the latter part of July and August. The chief difficulties and obstacles which they encounter arise from the extreme dryness and heat of the artemisian deserts. The passage of the line is located nearer to the base of the snow-capped mountains, in a more elevated region, richly grassed, and along the great summer trails of the Indians, is favorable to their health, the preservation of their stock, and gives them abundance of pasturage, with water at short intervals from mountain streams. These very streams, stocked with mountain trout, soon disappear, or become stagnant pools after reaching the sand plains."
And, as a doubt appeared to exist in the minds of some parties as to whether the appropriation for building this road through the South Pass was made for the purpose of improving mail facilities or to aid the overland emigration, I took particular pains when in California to inquire the origin and course of the movement which eventually led to the passage of the bill.
It appears that in 1856 a petition, signed by seventy-five thousand (75,000) citizens of that State, and praying that a road might be built through the South Pass, reached Congress. It was the result of a series of movements commenced in 1846, and caused by the sufferings of a large party of emigrants who arrived too late to cross the Sierra Nevadas. In 1849 and 1850 the subject excited the public mind in connexion (sic) with the interest taken in the hardships of the overland travellers of those years. It continued to be agitation, and meetings were held in 1852,'53, and '54. The plan of memorializing
MAPS AND REPORTS OF THE FORT KEARNEY,
Congress was at length suggested, and at a large assemblage in San Francisco carried out. The names on the memorial, which was sent through the upper counties of California for signers, at length covered reams of paper. It was remarked by the Hon. John B. Weller, when presenting this petition in the Senate, that it was the largest, by many tens of thousands of names, ever introduced into that body.
Whatever changes may have taken place in the public mind in the east in reference to the purpose of this bill, it is evident that the intention of those who first sought its passage was to procure the means of building a road to facilitate overland emigration,
As to the choice of route along the great river valleys, none know better than the class of individuals who signed the memorial what line of travel was required. They were undoubtedly themselves, at least the greater part of them, overland emigrants. The road was first laid out by the best explorers in the world--the old beaver-trappers and hunters of the fur companies. As an example of the want of knowledge of theoretical explorers, as compared with these men who pass year after year of their lives in the interior, I remember passing early in the month of June, 1854, over a well grassed and watered country southwest from Fort Hall. In September, 1857, I again made the trip, proposing to halt at night upon the same stream of water; I found it entirely dried up and the whole region an arid and almost grassless desert.
The new cut-off road was constructed at great cost by clearing out timber and grading the mountain sides expressly to throw the emigration away from such long stretches which divide the larger river valleys, and in August and September become deserts without water. A leading newspaper of California very justly remarks that "The wagon road bill was passed as an encouragement to spring emigration - to benefit the ox-team emigrant rather than to build a mail route. The humbler class of emigrants of small means makes preparations and leaves Missouri and Iowa in April, designing, with a single team, or without a relay of animals, to reach California or Oregon in one season. After passing over what is called the mud section, reaching about two hundred and fifty miles from the border, no other obstacle is encountered of great difficulty until the plains near the Sweet-Water are reached. Here commences the barren region, increasing in sterility to Hain's fork of Bear river. The new overland cutoff road just completed by Superintendent Lander avoids this desert region, and enables the animals of the emigrant to retain their strength until the upper Humboldt is reached. But it is now late in the dry season; the whole country parched up, water existing on the lower plains and even in many places in the bed of the Humboldt only in pools. While the relay animals of an overland mail, changed at short distances and starting fresh, can make passages of twenty, thirty, and even fifty miles, without water, such trips have become almost impossible to the travel-worn teams of the emigrant,. It is only after a week's rest at the last meadows of the Humboldt and cutting grass for his broken down animals that lie dares attempt the desert just eastward from our own mountains; for this last obstacle, and the greatest, has not yet had one dollar expended on it by the
SOUTH PASS, AND HONEY LAKE WAGON ROAD.
government. The new out-off road extends westerly from the South Pass. It was laid out over elevated mountain meadows to furnish water during the dry season. It would, therefore, road for emigrants during the heat of summer, probably be completely impracticable as a winter mail route."
I reported all these facts to you, as early as 1857, as the result of a long exploration by detached parties of the whole country between the South Pass, the waters of the Great Basin, and the Pacific. In that report I said that I had discovered two excellent lines, both of them at the extreme verge (north and south) of the limits named in my instructions. The southern one would be excellent for winter mail, when furnished with forage stations, but would not avoid the Green River desert; the northern one was a line "so abundantly furnished with grass, timber, and pure water, with mountain streams abounding with fish, plains thronged with game, and so avoids the deleterious alkaline deposits of the south, that it may be described as furnishing all that has been long sought for through this section of the country-an excellent and healthy emigrant road, over which individuals of small means may move their families and herds of stock to the Pacific coast in a single season without loss."
Thirteen thousand emigrants travelled the road the present year; over nine thousand - all the males of the trains - signed papers of which the following are copies:
"We, the undersigned, emigrants to California and Oregon, having just passed with our wagons and stock over the new government road, from the South Pass to Fort Hall, (called Lander's cut-off,) do hereby state that the road is abundantly furnished with good grass, water, and fuel; there is no alkali and no desert as upon the old road, and while upon it our stock improved and rapidly recovered from sickness and lameness. We were much surprised at the great amount of labor that had been done in cutting out the timber and bridging and grading the road, and in all respect it more than met our expectations, especially those of us who have heretofore travelled the other routes. But we would most respectfully suggest that a bridge should be erected, as soon as possible, over Green river, the fording of which is dangerous and the cause of much trouble to the emigration, and in one instance the loss of life. We have been treated kindly, and in every case when the circumstances required it aided and assisted on our way by the Wagon Road Expedition; and we have likewise recieved (sic) the kindest treatment from the Indians; and we advise the overland emigration to California and Oregon to take this road as the shortest and best adapted for the comforts of the traveller and the preservation of stock, especially if the government, in view of the many advantage: of this route, should cause Green river to be bridged."
Signed by Ferguson Chappell and over nine thousand others.
"FORT HALL, OREGON, July 15, 1859.
This is to certify, that we, the undersigned, have travelled over the Pacific wagon road, better known as Lander's cut-off, and find
MAPS AND REPORTS OF THE FORT KEARNEY,
it a very acceptable road for emigrants. We think it preferable to any other road across the mountains in many respects. Most of the way it is well worked, and with a bridge across Green river (the only stream at all troublesome) it would be as good a road as many now travelled in the States. It is some five days' travel shorter than any other road across the mountains; there is no desert to cross on this route, no alkali to kill your stock, but instead, plenty of good water, abundance of grass, and wood enough to satisfy any reasonable man.
"Many of the undersigned have crossed by other routes and give this the preference."
Signed by William Glaze and nearly three hundred others. The originals, with the accompanying affidavits, are on file in this office.
The leading papers of California have most emphatically endorsed the road. The Democratic Standard says: "Emigrants pass by it over thousands of acres of fine mountain grass, and a well watered and timbered country. The road is of equal advantage to Oregon and California. Thus, after years of persevering effort, a great work, important to the whole Union, but most especially useful to California, has been executed. To the able, efficient, and popular Secretary of the Interior we may give the credit of this great work."
The "Alta California," the "Sacramento Union," the "California Express," the "Evening Bulletin," the "Plumas Argus," with many other journals, and the leading papers of Oregon, endorse it as fully.
In the following correspondence I call your attention to the important statement of the well known mountaineer, Timothy Goodale.
The letter of Major Lynde, embodying the result of the observations of an old officer of great merit and of long experience in interior life, is likewise important.
"WASHINGTON, February 1, 1860.
"SIR: In reply to your request that I would state to you, in writing, my opinion as to which of the overland central routes is the best, I have to say, that so far as my knowledge of the country goes, the new route opened by you, from Camp Floyd to Carson City, is the best known road for an overland winter mail south of the pass at the head Of Marsh creek.
"The pass at the head of Marsh creek was named McDougall's Gap by Lander in 1857. There is no road through it, only a fair pack trail. 'Jim Baker,' 'Bad Hand Martin,' and the rest of the mountaineers in that country, think it the easiest winter pass over the Snake river. When you are on Snake river there is no trouble about snow. This pass, so far as I can understand what is wanted, would be first-rate for a railroad.
"There is a good deal of yellow pine timber in it, and the country is sheltered so that the snow don't drift. I think it would be going too far round for Salt Lake City. West from Salt Lake City your road is the best, for a mail of all the southern ones, because it avoids the Goose Creek mountains. These have always been bad for winter travel. I think the old road by the Platte, by Lander's new cut-off, and by
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