Handwritten copy of an article published in the Royal Good Words and Sunday Magazine on 1 June 1866 (vol. 7, pp.
380-393). A prominent British citizen. Verney served in the Royal Navy for twenty-six years and was elected to
four years' service in Parliament. After serving as a gunboat captain in British Columbia, Edmund Hope Verney made
the overland journey by stage coach from San Francisco, California, to New York City in 1865. Verney was a well-educated
traveler and his description of the overland route is extensive. Stage coach traveling was exhausting and Verney
describes both the rough conditions and his fellow travelers. Trouble with Indians pervaded. Verney made an extended
visit to Salt Lake City and met with Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball. While unimpressed with Mormonism, he approved
of Salt Lake City. The piece ends with Verney at the Fifth Avenue Hotel, New York City.
June 1. 1866 .pp 380-393.
AN OVERLAND JOURNEY FROM SAN FRANCISCO TO NEW YORK BY WAY OF THE SALT LAKE
On the 1st of July I quitted the valley in company with those whose society I so much valued, and the following
day we reached Coulterville. Our return journey seemed to me to pass away too quickly. We left Coulterville by
stage the same evening at midnight, and at six the next morning I parted from those friends whose unaffected goodness
and kindness to a perfect stranger has taught me a lesson of true hospitality I shall never forget. Having parted
with my charming Bloomer companions, I pursued my solitary way with depressed spirits. Taking the stage I passed
through Sonora , San Andreas , Mokelumne Hill , Jackson , and Drytown , and reached the Latrobe railway station
on the morning of the 5th of July , where I joined the direct overland route between San Francisco and New York.
Leaving Latrobe by the evening train, we arrived at Shingle Springs after a couple of hours' run. This place, to
the eastward of the 121st degree of longitude, is at present the end of that railroad which, starting from Sacramento
, is some day to cross the continent. Gigantic as the task appears, it is steadily and perserveringly pursued:
year after year do trains run further and further, to the eastward, and the railway levels mount higher and higher.
The Sierra Nevada mountains once crossed, the road will advance much faster; and I am persuaded that the central
plains of this great continent will be crossed by steam before many years are over. Some Americans think that this
railroad will soon be considered a political necessity, as a bond of union between the Eastern and Western States.
If the Federal Government would take the matter in hand, and furnish a guarantee for the money laid out, it would
be an accomplished fact in two years, and I am inclined to think it would not prove an unprofitable speculation.
Leaving Shingle Springs by a six-horse stage, I arrived at Placerville at eleven P.M. The next morning at half-past
four, I rose to go on by the early coach. When it arrived I found that it was full, two gentlemen having engaged
six seats, that they might sleep at ease. The night being now so far spent, I asked one of them to rent me a seat;
but he replied that the pleasure of obliging me on his arrival at Placerville was not the motive that had induced
him to engage his three seats at San Francisco . I begged him not to let it prey upon his mind; and I really don't
think he did, as I saw him settle comfortably down into his feather pillows for another nap as the stage drove
off. I tried to look happy, cheerful, contented, &c.; how far I succeeded, history must decide. However, when
the second coach arrived in the afternoon, I found a vacant seat, and pursued my journey to Virginia City . The
road between that place and Shingle Springs is always kept in first-rate order; during the summer it is watered
every night, and so kept hard. The coaches are first-class, the six horses are always carefully chosen and well
matched, and the drivers are selected for their skill and good character. It is said that some of the "tallest"
driving in the States may be seen on this road, and, as far as my experience goes, I certainly never saw such driving.
One passes heavy waggons drawn by long teams, both journeying east and west; the road is often narrow and steep,
with sharp turns; and when the driver, rapidly swinging his six horses round a bluff, sometimes comes suddenly
on a waggon labouring up the hill, only great skill and experience, and firm nerve, prevent either a collision
on the one hand, or a capsize on the other. The hills are descended at full gallop, and ascended at a smart trot.
At one place it became necessary for us to go very near the edge of the steep; the earth crumbled and sank under
the outer wheels, and for a moment the coach heeled over a little, but, at the pace we were going, soon recovered
itself. Accidents are very rare.
Placerville is a pleasant little town, with trees in the streets and ice in the hotels. Many of its houses are
of brick or stone, and well built. Wooden houses are common in all parts of the United States, and are by no means
ugly or uncomfortable; but in winter the better-built houses are far preferable. All houses are roofed with wooden
shingle, usually made from the cedar. There are on this road two high points, the First and Second Summits, said
to be about six thousand feet above the level of the sea. Between them lies Lake Tahoe , a large sheet of fresh
water about forty miles in diameter. A small steamer plies on it, and it is resorted to in the summer for the sake
of its excellent fishing. We passed the First Summit in the evening, just before sundown, and the view was magnificent;
mountain after mountain rolling away in the distance as far as the eye could reach.
I have seen many of the celebrated views of the world, but never one which seemed to command so vast and immeasurable
a view of this round earth. From the First Summit, the American river flows to the westward. During our ascent
we followed its banks for many miles, and saw in several places the old emigrant road used in former days before
the present one was made. Anything less like a road, or more like the track of an avalanche could scarcely be imagined;
and one could in some degree conceive what were the obstacles surmounted by the hardy gallant pioneers of the far
far west. In a few short years, Yankee go-ahead-itiveness will have wiped out even these memorials of the past.
A wayside house in Strawberry Valley is worthy of mention on account of the simple derivation of its somewhat romantic
name. It is kept by a man named Berry , noted for the good fare he provides for man and beast. It seems, however,
that during one severe winter he ran short of provender, and fed some packer's mules with straw, and from this
fact the valley has acquired its name.
The western slope of the Sierra Nevadas abounds with quail of two species. Near the plains is the common California
quail, but higher up is the mountain quail, distinguished by a crest of two long feathers, which quiver with every
quick nervous motion of its little head, as it runs over the rocks and among the bushes. Both species are numerous,
of beautiful plumage, and good eating. They are difficult to catch alive, but I have seen a large cageful of them
at a wayside house among the mountains.
Descending at a break-neck pace from the First Summit we reached the borders of Lake Tahoe , whose southern shores
we followed for nearly twenty miles. It was now night but a full moon gave to the scene a peculiar beauty, lighting
up points of the most distant hills, and shadowing valleys in the deepest gloom. All day had I been jolted on the
top of the coach, but when night came I took my place inside, where was a vacant seat. This was my first experience
of a night spent in a Concord coach. Looking back to my first middle-watch as a midshipman, to my last middle-watch
as a lieutenant, or to my first night after I caught the measles, I can remember no night of horror equal to my
first night's travel on the Overland Route. We all know how veal-and-ham pie increases the intensity of a nightmare;
and in the same way did the solid meal, bolted against time in the Strawberry Valley , affect this night's delights.
An American friend, who had himself crossed the plains, had recommended me to bring an air-pillow. This became
my main-stay: I sat on it by day, or interposed it between the hard side of the coach and my ragged skin and jaded
bones, and by night I put my head through the hole in the middle and wore it as a collar, like a degraded Chinaman.
This saved the sides of my head during my endeavours to sleep, but occasionally a heavier jolt than usual would
strike the cranium violently against the roof, driving it down between my shoulders.
I remember nothing between the shores of Lake Tahoe and the Second Summit; here I certainly did look out of the
window, and then fell to bumping about again until we stopped for a short time at Carson City , at one A.M. Here
we got out and stamped around for a few minutes while the horses were being changed, and were amused by a lady
who had no money wherewith, to pay her fare any farther, and at the same time declined to alight. The mail agent
was in an awkward fix: he did not like to engage in a fray in the dead hours of the night, as the awakened neighbours
would be sure to side with the woman they did not know, for the pleasure of abusing the man they did know; and
yet if he allowed her to proceed, the amount of her fare would be charged against his pay. At last, however, he
was persuaded to leave her in possession by her assurance that she was a person of great consideration, owning
houses and lands in Virginia City , and that everybody knew where she lived. So I poked my head into my air-pillow
again and off we went.
At 4 A.M. just as the day was breaking, we stopped at the door of the International Hotel , Virginia City, and
more dead than alive I fell asleep on a real bed for several hours. A very frowsy looking saint, bound for the
Great Salt Lake , came with us, and started for his Eden two hours after arrival. Virginia City is a remarkable
specimen of the towns that seem to spring up by magic in the mining districts. It is situated near the foot of
a conspicuous hill, Mount Davidson , in a land where rain never falls, where not a blade of grass is visible, and
where trees are only to be seen in one distant valley. It lies in the focus of the rays of the sun reflected from
the naked hills, a dry and uninviting evidence of underground wealth. All that part of the State of Nevada , recently
admitted into the Union , is known as the Washoe country, and is celebrated for the richness of its silver mines.
The rain-bearing clouds that come floating in from the Pacific ocean are caught by the Sierra Nevada mountains
, and fall condensed before they reach the Washoe country. Snow falls heavily in winter on the Sierra Nevadas,
and on the high plateau of Nevada State, which is much more elevated than California . These snows melting in summer
feed two or three considerable streams which flow for some distance and are then lost in sinks in valleys, where
a few cotton-trees grow. The ground is hard, and mostly covered with a sage-brush like the common garden-sage.
A few attempts at irrigation have succeeded, and in one or two places round the town are small vegetable gardens.
There are many well-built brick buildings in Virginia City , including two theatres. The mines gave birth to three
towns, Gold Hill , Silver City , and Virginia City, and houses have now sprung up between them, making one continuous
street, three or four miles long, running along the side of a hill, which is burrowed and tunnelled in every direction.
Like most speculative towns, Virginia City lives in a condition of normal collapse; every man you meet assures
you that the place is "caving in", and that the mines are "played out;" yet, if you walk round
the town, you will see houses springing up, and much business being transacted in the "stores". Beautiful
specimens of petrified wood are found in the neighbourhood. They are very remarkable, as there are now no trees
within miles of the spot; and they seem to show that this country was once well wooded, and enjoyed a totally different
climate. About five miles from Virginia City are some hot springs. I had not time to visit them, but I believe
that there are several acres covered with small geysers of various temperatures.
From Placerville I journeyed with Mr Little , a merchant returning from China , where he had spent some years.
The pleasure of meeting an English gentleman in such a distant land cannot be exaggerated. I was also glad to renew
at Virginia City , my acquaintance with Mr. Rising Episcopal clergyman of that town, whom I had met at the Big
Trees . He has opportunity for doing much good, and it appeared that his efforts were appreciated. He has a numerous
attendance at his Sunday-school of both teachers and pupils, and their harmonious singing showed that trouble had
been taken to cultivate that art.
Some letters I had brought with me, assisted by kind recommendations from Mr Rising, secured for me the privilege
of visiting the Gould and Curry silver mine , in company with the foreman. To the uninitiated, I do not know that
there is any great interest in a mine. One mine is generally very much like another. One is sometimes dirtier than
another; in one there is sometimes more bad air than in another; in one there is sometimes more black water than
in another; but there is a strong family likeness. The Gould and Curry mine formed no exception. We entered the
side of the hill, following a level tunnel, and carrying greasy candles; we went down shafts, clambered up ladders,
crawled along drains, examined muddy pieces of rock, tapped them with pick-axes, broke off lumps and held them
to the candles, and declared they were very beautiful and very rich. We were soon wet through with perspiration
and envied the miners in the scantiest possible clothing. Although quite tired out after a couple of hours, I had
still to follow the foreman on his rounds, and did not reach the upper earth till I had spent three hours and a
half in this noisome hole. But although such a long visit was not very entertaining to me, two or three California
gentlemen made up the party and I was able to learn something from their remarks.
The Gould and Curry silver mine is one of the richest and probably the best worked in the world. The Company does
everything on a handsome scale: it gives the resident manager 2,500 l. a - year, and a good house; most of its
buildings and work-shops are of brick and hewn stone; and no expense is spared in order that the works should be
conducted as well as possible. The silver is contained in quartz, which is crushed in a steam quartz-crushing machine,
worked with ninety stampers; and it is found to contain 25 per cent of gold. Many mines are worked in the neighbourhood,
but none afford returns so rich as the Gould and Curry. It has a great advantage in being on a hill, because the
quartz is brought in waggons, which run down on a railroad by their own impetus to the store-rooms and mills below.
A visit to the top of Mount Davidson , which overhangs the town, rewards one with an extensive view of the country.
The ascent is steep, and stony, but the sight from the top, like that at the First Summit of the Sierra Nevadas
, is one never to be forgotten. The clearness of the sky in that pure mountain air makes the view almost illimitable,
but it is only the great distance one is able to see, and the endless succession of mountain ranges, that is beautiful;
for owing to the absence of all verdure, the nearer country looks painfully barren and repulsive. The grey sage-brush
which everywhere covers the ground, has a dreary monotonous appearance that is wearisome both to eye and heart.
At the top is a tall flag-staff, whence usually wave the stars and stripes; the pole is seventy feet long, but
from the town below it looks like a stick with a handkerchief on the end of it. I believe Virginia City is about
the ninth or tenth highest in the world.
At half-past six in the morning of the 10th of July , I left Virginia in a Concord coach. At last I felt myself
fairly off on the great Overland Route, and a very charming journey it promised to be. The morning was cool, the
sun was rising over the hills, and there was no wind to make the dust unendurable. Our coach was nearly a new one,
and six beautiful glossy black horses, with flowing manes and tails, proudly champed their bits and pawed the ground,
as we waited at the door of the stage-office for our final orders. Presently we dashed down the hill, through the
lower streets of the town, and were soon rattling over the plain through the eternal sage-brush. The coach was
quite full, nine inside and one out, the greatest number ever carried on this road. Three Mexican women and an
American lady were among the passengers; the other five were miners, and proprietors of mule or waggon trains.
After journeying for two or three miles, we found there was plenty to try the temper of the passengers. We began
to feel cramped, the heat of the sun made us hot and irritable: and not only was there a difficulty about stowing
away one"s feet, but we had even to fit in our knees one with another, and then occasionally give and take
pretty smart blows caused by the jostling of the carriage. Most of the men chewed tobacco, and those who occupied
centre seats had to exert considerable skill to spit clear of the other passengers. Americans are generally adepts
in this art, but we had one or two unskilful professors, although it must be admitted that they had hardly a fair
opportunity of showing off their proficiency, from the jolting of the coach. Occasionally they would unconcernedly
expectorate among the baggage on the floor. The smell caused by this abominable practice was intolerable and sickening
at first, until one became somewhat accustomed to it. In railway carriages, in the best hotels, and even at the
renowned West Point military academy , the disgusting habit of chewing tobacco prevails. Pocket-handkerchiefs do
not appear to be common, and my fellow-passengers occasionally resorted to the primitive custom probably handed
down to us from the Patriarchal ages, and religiously preserved among the London Arabs . The females of the party
had many small packages which they insisted on having inside with them, as is the wont of their sex. In this department
the ladies from Mexico were distinguished. One basket, with the contents of which I must confess they were truly
hospitable, this quite disarming the grumblers, contained cheese, biscuits, dried fish, and onions. A very large
soft flabby bundle contained dirty linen which they had not had time to have washed, I fear one of the gentlemen
who chewed tobacco found it rather in his way.
After we had been an hour or two on the road the heat became oppressive; a light westerly breeze sprang up, which
carried the dust along with us, and was at times stifling. The severe discomforts of this travelling can hardly
be exaggerated, but one learns to endure them. The character, the language, and the manners of the class of people
who chiefly use this route, however, became if possible even more repugnant to me each day. These I could not endure
without disgust, and at the end of my journey, in spite of all attempts at reserve or civility, I felt myself cowed
and humiliated in a manner not to be described. Even now I cannot think of my companions in some parts of the overland
journey without a shudder. We changed horses about every ten miles, and soon discovered that distance did not lend
enchantment to the horses. The beautiful long-tailed prancers of the morning were shortly changed for muddy bony
beasts, with drum-like skins, which suggested the idea that they were only walking about to save funeral expenses.
But great was our chagrin, after bolting our dinners at Cottonwood , forty-five miles from Virginia City , to find
that the coach went no further, and that our journey must be pursued in mud waggons. This accounted for our starting
with only one outside passenger in the morning.
I must endeavour to give some idea of a mud-waggon. If it had springs, it would be something like what in England
is called a spring-van; but it hasn't. Like a Concord coach, it rides on thorough-braces; its sides and top are
of leather or folds of stout painted canvas stretched over a wooden frame; inside are three seats, each carrying
three persons; a platform behind carries the mail-bags and heavier luggage, while the front boot holds the express
bags and small parcels; and there is one seat for a passenger alongside the driver. These carriages are generally
painted red, without expensive or elaborate ornaments, and drawn by four, or sometimes six horses. Some mud-waggons
are rather better than others, but all are very rough. It may be doubted, however, whether any better kind of carriage
would stand the hard usage they receive. Some of the teams are fierce little mustangs, which draw very well, but
are difficult to drive; others are respectable old carriage-horses that have seen better days, but staging is severe
work, and soon kills them. I did see one fine horse that had been staging for ten years in the wildest country,
and appeared ready for ten years more, but he was an exceptionally sturdy old fellow. The quality of the food supplied
at the way-side houses, distinguished from the stations where only horses are changed by the name of home-stations,
varied much. The meal set before us at Cottonwood was certainly good, consisting of meats and vegetables, bread,
butter, and milk, and tea and coffee. And as a rule the meals supplied where the line is in regular working order
are passable; but at some home-stations there was very little to be had; in one or two instances only bread, beans,
and bacon, and even those very bad. The stages profess to stop for three meals a-day, and to allow half an hour
each time. This sounds fair enough, but it must be remembered that no other time is allowed for washing or change
of clothes; the latter is a luxury never attempted, the former seldom. Between Virginia City and Salt Lake City
the electric telegraph follows the stage-road, and so the number of passengers and the hour at which they may be
expected is telegraphed from station to station. Ten minutes after arrival the food is on the table; ten minutes
afterwards, you choke yourself as the driver calls out "all aboard"; and ten minutes after that again,
you are fairly under weigh, inhaling dust; and ten minutes later still you are suffering from a severe attack of
indigestion. During the first part of the journey, tolerably punctual time is kept, but time once lost cannot be
made good afterwards, and as the home-stations are at irregular distances, the results are apt to be inconvenient.
One night at 11 o'clock we reached a home station where we ought, according to the way-bill, to have breakfasted.
Breakfast was ready, but dead tired as we were, we refused to turn out. The driver warned us we were a long way
from the next home station, but who thinks of the morrow when he is worn out with fatigue? The next day we had
to pay for our neglect, as we did not reach a home station until two in the afternoon. By that time we were all
more or less ill, and only a box of prunes from my hamper kept us at all alive.
The journey from Virginia City to Salt Lake City lasted five days and four nights. On the evening of the second
day we crossed a brook called Reese River , and passed through a small town called Austin City . This was the only
place on the road worthy of the name of a town, and it contained a few brick and stone houses. It stands among
the hills, and is purely a mining town, some of the mines opening on to its street. A year or two ago there was
a rush to the Reese River district , but the gold and silver mines have not quite answered the expectations formed
of them. Prospecting parties are often formed by speculators, and sent out to examine ledges or ranges of hills
which are not well known. These parties often make valuable discoveries, and bring back rich specimens of the precious
metals, and accounts of districts where such specimens abound. On the strength of their report companies are formed,
and a rush to this particular spot takes place. Sometimes these reports are false, the specimens having been procured
elsewhere to abet the fraud, but more often there is no deception in the matter. Reese River is marked on most
maps as a stream of some importance. It rises from two or three springs to the northward of Austin, flows some
seventy or eighty miles to the southward, and sinks nowhere in particular. It is at best a mere ditch, probably
in no place above two feet deep; and yet it is drawn on the map as a respectable well-conducted river, and gives
its name to a large district. I believe that a bogus company was got up recently to run steamers on the Reese River
. But nobody made any money out of it except the secretary, who has not been heard of since. The road lay through
desert alkali plains, barren red hills and mountains, marshes, and sands. The winds traversing these plains become
impregnated with the alkali, which causes a bad taste in the mouth, and dries up the lips and the skin on the face
and hands In some places there are pretty views: some of the hill tops and a few of the valleys were relieved by
pine and cedar scrub, but little can be said in favour of the scenery. The ground was invariably covered with dull
grey sage-brush; the ranges of hills and mountains run north and south, and between them are absolutely level plains,
varying from ten to twenty miles in breadth; but the hills are seldom ascended. It is very remarkable that in almost
every instance there is a natural pass through the hills on nearly the same level as the plains. One of these,
nearly four miles long, had the regularity of a railroad cutting; it was in these passes that two or three years
ago the Indians used to attack the stage.
On the morning of Friday the 14th , we reached Fort Crittenden , about fifty miles from Salt Lake City . Here we
stopped to breakfast, and I made acquaintance with the Mormon innkeeper. He had but two wives, the youngest of
whom I saw, herself a mere child, with her baby at her breast. Our mud-waggon from hence was rather better than
those we were accustomed to, and the horses were finer and fatter. At a distance of twenty-five miles from Salt
Lake City we forded the river Jordan , the water being about four feet deep. It runs in a northerly direction about
forty miles, from the fresh-water Utah Lake to the Great Salt Lake . These lakes lie at each end of a valley some
fifteen miles in breadth. At the north end, the Salt Lake does not run across the whole breadth, but the mountains
sweep round to meet its eastern shore; and on an elevated "bench" at their foot, sheltered from the north
and east, is situated the famous city of the Latter Day Saints .
We entered the valley from the southward, passing over a rising ground from which we could see it stretching out.
For twenty-five miles the road ran due north, and at its termination the city was before us, bearing the appearance
of white specks on a green ground - a striking contrast to the surrounding arid desert. On our right rose grand
mountains, six or seven thousand feet high, thrown like a sheltering arm behind the City of the Saints; and on
our left stretched the broad Salt Lake, with two mountainous islands standing out in bold relief, while the river
Jordan , passing almost under our feet, was seen winding its way to the Dead Sea. The air of these regions is so
pure, that distant objects are seen with a distinctness very deceiving. The drive into the city passes between
fields irrigated by streams descending from the eastern hills. We changed horses every ten miles, and as we advanced,
signs of prosperity were more numerous, for we saw houses, gardens, and small farms.
At length it became dark, and it was not until 9.30 P.M. that our long, long drive terminated as we drew up in
front of the Salt Lake House . I was too much knocked up for sight-seeing on the first day after my arrival. Without
feeling actually tired, I found myself continually dropping off to sleep, but the excitement of the journey gradually
wore off. The first piece of news we heard by telegraph that morning was that a stage-coach, which runs three times
a-week between Virginia City in the Idaho territory and Salt Lake City , had been attacked and robbed by highwaymen.
The driver and four passengers out of five were shot dead; the fifth fell down severely wounded in the bottom of
the coach, and was only saved by the bodies of his companions falling on him. The murderers escaped with a booty
of seventy thousand dollars, or fourteen thousand pounds, in gold dust. Last summer this same stage was robbed,
and the passengers murdered; some of the robbers were caught and hung, while others escaped.
The general impression given by Salt Lake City is an agreeable one. The streets divide the town into ten-acre blocks:
they are all 128 feet broad, and at right angles to each other. On each side is a stream of living water, and rows
of cotton-wood and locust trees border the side walks. There is but one main street, in which the houses are built
close to each other; everywhere else each house stands in its own garden or orchard. Some of them are large, two
or three stories high, built of burnt bricks, red sandstone, or granite, but most are of white sun dried bricks.
They look clean and cheerful: the door-posts, window-sills, &c., are of wood, painted bright green, or of rich
red sandstone, and creepers adorn the walls. The gardens are well and tastefully kept, and fruit-trees are particularly
successful. The streets chiefly used are gravelled; and as the plateau on which the town stands slopes gently to
the southward, there is good drainage. Altogether, few towns have been so judiciously designed and so perfectly
built; few enjoy so great natural advantages, which have been cleverly made the most of. The barren country we
passed through would have prepared us to appreciate any place where there might be a spare blade of grass, but
Salt Lake City would be considered beautiful anywhere. When it is remembered that seventeen years ago, this end
of the valley was a desert, like the other, one is astonished at the enterprise and perseverance of the Mormon
leaders. The city is 4000 feet above the level of the sea, so the climate has greater extremes than that of England
. In summer it is hot and dry, and rain rarely falls at any season; in winter there are heavy snows, which caused
great suffering to the Mormons on their first arrival. The Wahsatch Mountains , on the east side of the valley,
are a spur of the Rocky Mountains , and much higher than the hills on the west side. From the east flow all the
streams used for irrigation, fed by the ever-melting snows.
On the morning of Sunday, July 9th , I attended Divine Service, which is held in the rooms of a Young Men's Literary
Association lately formed. The service was conducted by a Congregationalist clergyman, a Scotchman, the Rev. Norman
M'Leod . Chaplain to the Forces stationed here. He is a gallant determined fellow, of considerable force of character.
I believe he will do a great work here. I think the days of Mormonism are numbered: and its fall will be brought
about by such agencies as Mr. M'Leod's ministry, by immigration,and by education, but not by persecution. In the
afternoon I attended the Mormon service. I was prepared to hear something of Mormon doctrines, or perhaps some
gospel truths with which I could myself agree, but was utterly disappointed. During his address, the Mormon marshal
twice stopped - once to bless the bread, and once to bless the water. These were handed round: the Sacrament being
administered in that way every Sunday. Water is used instead of wine, until the Mormons shall be able to obtain
the pure juice of the grape. The people were assembled in a large booth in the Temple Block . It is one of the
squares, which has been walled in, and on which the temple is being built. When the first address was concluded,
a second was given by a cadaverous-looking man. He urged that great weight his opinion of Mormonism ought to have
with his audience, because, he said, he had tried all other religions and found them to be false. He said he was
educated as a Baptist , but that religion did not satisfy him: he felt he wanted more, so he tried Presbyterianism
; but that did not satisfy him, so he tried the Church of England and various sects, till at last he had found
a home among the Mormons, and was happy. This climax was received with a sensation approximating to applause. At
the conclusion, a hymn was sweetly sung by a large choir, most of whom were Brigham Young "s sons and daughters.
The congregation did not join in this the only devotional part of the service, which otherwise, neither in the
subject-matter of the addresses nor in the behaviour of the people, had in it any appearance of reverence or devotion.
It is difficult to believe, that there can be any elevated sentiment among a people who allow themselves to led
by such palpable ignorance and folly.
After the service, we strolled round the Temple Block , which, like the other squares or blocks in the city, is
ten acres in extent. Besides the booth in which the service was held, it contained two finished and two unfinished
buildings. The former are the tabernacle and the endowment-house, presently in use, and the latter are the new
tabernacle and temple. The tabernacle is used for preaching in on cold or wet days, when the booth cannot be used:
the ceremonies performed in the endowment-house are secret. It is very difficult to ascertain anything about the
Mormons which has not been published to the world, owing to the over-whelming flood of gossiping - stories which
are retailed from one Gentile to another, many of them palpably false, and nearly all exaggerations. I believe,
however, that one of their ceremonies -that of initiation - I received a tolerably accurate account. The candidate
is left in the temple, to fast and pray for a day and a night; at the expiration of which he is brought, in a state
of nudity, before Brigham Young , who sits as the representative of God, with Elder Heber Kimball seated on his
right hand to represent Our Lord. He is then baptised by total immersion, takes certain oaths, and is invested
with a white robe, woven in one piece. This is bound with red round the throat, and has gashes bound with red cut
in it over the heart and stomach, to signify that if he is unfaithful to his creed, his throat shall be cut, his
heart taken out, and his belly ripped open; and that any brother may, without sin, perform these kind offices for
him. Rigid Mormons are said always to wear this garment under their clothes, day and night. The tabernacle is a
long building, like a chapel, with a round roof; the sun's rays, emblems of divinity, being carved in wood at the
ends. I did not go inside. The interior of the endowment-house can of course only be seen by saints; but from without
it appears to be a plain two-storied house. The new tabernacle is to be an oval building, surmounted by a huge
dome, sustained on oblong red sandstone buttresses, in place of walls. The spaces between the pillars are to serve
for windows and doors, and to be filled in winter by large glass frames on rollers. At the time of my visit, the
last pillar was nearly finished, and it was hoped that the building would be completed in autumn. It is intended
to hold fifteen thousand people. Only the foundations of the temple are, however, as yet built.
After walking round the block, we had some conversation with an old Scotchman who was in charge of the buildings.
He appeared to me to be a genuinely pious man - the only Mormon I met whom I should be disposed so to characterise.
He was well acquainted with the Bible, and able to bring many texts in support of the Mormon doctrine, and seemed
sincerely to pity all who did not belong to the Church of Latter-Day Saints. Were there many such men among them,
they would command our sympathy but I hardly think this character can be common, as I neither met with nor heard
of a second. It is hard and thankless to condemn a whole people, but the more I saw of the Mormons , the more was
I convinced of the utter corruption of their chief men, and of the blind folly of the lower class. I believe Mormonism
may be described as a system of extravagant fanaticism and unbounded licentiousness. It is often asked whether
the women can get away if they are miserable. The answer is that, theoretically, there is no restraint; but what
hope is there for a helpless woman in the middle of that continent, surrounded by vast deserts, and having probably
alienated from herself the affections of her family? That some are unhappy, and deeply feel their desolate condition
I know, and I believe there must be many such. If they choose to go to the Camp they can have personal protection;
but what they want is home and kindred. One case was mentioned which seems too monstrous to be true, but I found
no reason to disbelieve it. Two widowed sister arrived, one with four daughters, and the other with five, and one
Mormon married the whole eleven of them! Polygamy is the doctrine of the Mormon faith which most readily strikes
a civilised man as being false and unnatural; and so this is the doctrine which is most commented on and ridiculed.
It is not, however, the point on which a Mormon can be the most easily shaken. Polygamy is so great a plunge into
a new order of things that it is only taken when a man has well fortified himself with arguments. Most Mormons
I spoke to seemed to view this question just as I did myself - as a bare-faced gratification of the passions. Of
course, they would not say it in those words, but not one attempted to defend it on religious grounds.
At the north end of the town are some hot sulphur springs. The waters are much resorted to, and are considered
very healthy. Great attention has been paid to the internal economy of the city. It is divided into twenty wards,
each of which is presided over by its own bishop, and controlled by its own sanitary and other officers, who all
report regularly to Brigham Young . Among these officers are the watermasters, whose duty it is to see that the
water of the streams is fairly divided among the streets by day and among the gardens by night. These last depend
for their moisture entirely upon irrigation, but when carefully tended they are very fruitful. All English fruits
and vegetables thrive well; the currant grows to a great size, but its skin becomes hard, and it losses its flavour.
Ice is stored in the winter in large quantities, and is cheap even through the dry hot summer.
At Salt Lake City I made the acquaintance of Captain Charles Dahlgren , son of the distinguished American Admiral.
He had done good service, both by sea and land, during the rebellion, and had now come to Utah as superintendent
and confidential agent for a silver mining company, about to commence operations in the neighbourhood. Though he
knew me only as an officer of the Royal Navy , he introduced me to Colonel George and the officers of the camp,
and laid himself out to make my visit as agreeable as possible. This national habit of recognising the claims of
strangers to be treated as guests is one that we in England would do well to cultivate more generally, especially
when Americans visit this country.
On Monday Captain Dahlgren took me to Camp Douglas , where the American troops were stationed. A cheerful site
has been chosen for their barracks on a plateau somewhat higher than the town, and distant from it about two miles
to the eastward. Here there is a parade ground, encircled, Mormon-fashion with young locust-trees and running water,
where their brass band plays daily. The houses are built of adobie (sun-dried) bricks or timber, and command a
fine view of the valley to the southward. A small theatre has been built, and there are some workshops and storehouses.
Three newspapers are published at Salt Lake - two in the city, and one, The Vidette , in the Camp. This last is
a Gentile daily paper, and is probably safer in the Camp then it would be in the city. The Deseret News is a weekly
Mormon paper, printed and published at the Tithing Office; and there is also a daily Mormon paper. At only one
shop in Mormondom could books be purchased, and they were few in number and of the most paltry description. This
is a significant fact with regard to a town which has a population of at least 10,000 souls. It is difficult to
estimate the amount of personal safety in the city , but there is no doubt that there is a most perfect system
of espionage, and that little goes on with which the Prophet of the Lord - as Brigham Young is styled - is not
An artisan told me that seventeen years ago he joined the Mormons , and left them again about two years since.
He said he still had some faith in Mormonism as it first existed, when there was probably a good deal of earnest
piety among them. He held that now it was entirely changed and corrupted, and that the chiefs were a set of the
lowest, most sensual, and degraded men. I doubt whether half-a-dozen years ago life was safe for anyone offending
Brigham Young, but now, in the presence of the troops, the Mormon authorities would be afraid to have a man made
away with. Some years ago a band of men existed, called Danites , or the destroying angels, whose business it was
to execute the vengeance of the Prophet. They are now, however, released from that duty. One of them was pointed
out to me, a man of most ferocious appearance. He was drunk, and driving a waggon through the street. The town,
however, has generally a sober and moral aspect; no retail liquor shops are allowed, and it is rare to see a drunken
man. Offences are few. Sunday is scrupulously respected, and the people walk about in an orderly and quiet manner
in their "Sabbath-day suits." The social evil is supposed not to exist, but this is not exactly the case.
It is commonly said by the Gentiles that it exists for Mormons only, under the sanction and control of Brigham
Young. I certainly know that all Mormons in good standing are not moral men.
I was warned by Gentile residents not to send my letters through the post, and was positively assured that they
are often opened, and if considered expedient burned. As a people the Mormons are supercilious and insolent to
outsiders, generally treating them with coldness and reserve - often with rudeness. There is great jealousy against
them, and no prudent effort is spared to render their residence here uncomfortable. The insulting bearing of the
Mormon hotel-keeper of the Salt Lake House , his indifference to the comfort of his guests, the bad food and slovenliness
of the establishment, made me rejoice when on Sunday night I moved into a boarding-house, kept by Mrs. King , where
I spent the remainder of my stay in the enjoyment of cleanliness and civility. Mr. Little and Captain Dahlgren
joined me there, so we Gentiles consoled each other. Excellent food is always to be had: fresh meat, vegetables,
cream and eggs as good as in an English country town. The Mormon women wear large sun-bonnets, and when they meet
a Gentile they turn away their heads and look down. As a class I believe them to be modest and well-behaved -probably
above the average - but ignorant and unintellectual.
On Monday evening I was invited to become an honorary member of the Young Men's Literary Association . Its president
is the Chief Justice of the territory, Judge Titus , appointed by the Federal Government, - a man of high reputation,
who ably fills his difficult post. Owing to the acquaintance with English law and precedents which he must have,
a first-rate American lawyer is usually an agreeable and interesting man to meet. The Association is of considerable
importance, because it forms the only point of union for the Gentiles, who probably do not number more than a couple
of hundred residents, besides the troops. The strong point of the Mormon government is its union and centralisation,
so that the institution of this association was a first step by the Gentiles towards mutual help and sympathy,
and accordingly the Mormons regard it with great disfavour.
On Wednesday morning I visited Elder Heber C. Kimball at his house. He is next in rank to Brigham Young . I had
a conversation with him, in which he stated his belief that in a few years polygamy would be legalised all over
the world; that the rapid strides made by the social evil proves this; and that it is a necessary thing for all
young men. He is an uneducated and low-minded man. I did not hear him speak in public, but I was told that when
defining the position and duties of woman in his sermons, his language is most gross and indelicate. With chivalrous
gallantry, he alludes to his wives as "his cows." The Mormon leaders are evidently in tribulation respecting
the fate of their sect. The Speaker of the House of Congress , and other influential Americans who have lately
visited Salt Lake City , plainly said that the Federal Government would insist on its laws being respected. During
the late rebellion, the Mormons cannot be accused of having assisted either party. In the most candid unblushing
way they gloried in the strife between North and South, and prophesied the disruption of the Union . Of course,
they looked forward to asserting their own independence - a future they have steadily in view; and the compete
triumph of the North has been a serious disappointment to them. Some of the sermons preached during the rebellion
were little else than treason and sedition. Seven-tenths of the population are from the British Isles , the remainder
being Swedes , Danes , Norwegians , or Americans . The leading men are generally "cute Yankees, while the
others are from the most ignorant classes of various countries, especially remote parts of Wales and Scotland .
It is a disgrace to England that this should be so. It is argued that as polygamy and murder are essential parts
of Mormonism, a Mormon missionary is in fact soliciting people to commit a crime, and may therefore be apprehended
and bound over to be of good behaviour. I say murder, because every Mormon, on donning his endowment robes, swears
that, if directed to do so, he is prepared to take the life of a brother who violates his oaths or speaks against
the Mormon priesthood. In Prussia the former view of the case is taken, so there are no missionaries there. When
we remember that from the shores of Old England hundreds of poor deluded creatures annually cross the sea and the
desert, and arrive at Salt Lake City , it would be well if some steps could be taken to stop the proselytising
of the missionaries. Whatever modicum of good or of genuine piety there may have been among the early Mormons,
their city is now a hot-bed of vice, ignorance, and sensuality.
The following day I called on Brigham Young . He was very reserved, but courteous and obliging. His dress and appearance
are those of a farmer of the better class. I should say that his countenance has in it nothing sensual or repulsive,
but he gives one the idea of a man of strong character and determined will. He is about sixty years of age, but
looks ten years younger. His manner is perfectly natural, without the smallest vanity or arrogance, and he seemed
by far the most superior Mormon I saw. Yet vanity or affectation might well be expected in a man who has done what
he has done. It is not easy to realise what noble qualities must have been essential to the man who led a small
body of people into the most desolate and least known part of the New World; who cheered and encouraged them during
days of great hardship; and, after seventeen years, has built up in this distant valley a well-ordered town, surrounded
with smiling farms and suburbs. However much the Mormons may now be degraded and deluded, their leader must have
been no common man to have performed his life's work. From many things I heard, I am somewhat inclined to fear
that, in spite of his talents and some admirable qualities, he is at heart a bad and wicked man; but no one will
blame me if I shrink from too hasty a judgement. As far as I could learn, he has sixty-four carnal wives, beside
two or three hundred spiritual wives. It is part of the Mormon creed that a woman cannot receive salvation except
through a man. Brigham is said to have forty-eight sons capable of bearing arms, and he has a school-house set
apart for his younger offspring. He is said to be enormously wealthy, but his wealth is probably exaggerated. No
doubt, he is anxious to provide for his family. Every Mormon is expected to pay tithes to the Church , the control
of which rests with the bishops and leaders. I could not find out that any check is kept on the disposal of these
funds, or that there is anything like a public audit. This, to say the least, is a great temptation to those who
finger the money. Most of it is supposed to be spent on public works, but there were not many buildings to show
for it. Some is said to be spent in bribes to American officials; but I should be inclined to doubt this. It is
also said that one of the Sandwich Islands has been bought as a refuge in case of further persecution. One of the
richest Mormons - a chemist, owning a large shop in Main Street - has for the last two or three years very wisely
declined to pay his tithes, the arrears of which amount to a considerable sum. He has been publicly rebuked for
it in church, but to no purpose. I requested permission to visit schools, and Brigham Young directed Mr. Campbell
, the superintendent of education, to take me round. There were, however, only two in session at the time, and
of these two I formed but a poor opinion, both from the appearance of the children and from their stock of knowledge.
I frequently met people who admitted they were not very good Mormons, and, when pushed with a little close questioning,
confessed they would leave the Mormon faith if there were any way open to them; but that at present to secede from
it would entail some distress, and perhaps even personal danger.
On Friday, the 21st four of us Gentiles hired a carriage-and-pair, and drove across the valley - twenty miles -
to visit a point on the Great Salt Lake , where is a small inn, and where boats are kept. The only bridge over
the Jordan is on this road: it is remarkably well built, and very creditable to its designers. The shores of the
lake are covered with dark brown salt to a depth of three or four inches, and the only living creatures we could
detect were minute flies, myriads of which settled on the water in patches, looking like scum until, on being touched,
they rose in a cloud. The water holds in solution the greatest possible quantity of salt. When we bathed, we found
it very buoyant; and when we dived, its great specific gravity forced it into our eyes, noses, and ears to an extent
that was acutely painful. Mr. Little courageously dived with the view of reaching the bottom, and when he came
up his sufferings were so severe that we were quite alarmed lest he should be seriously injured: however, patience
and a little fresh water at length relieved us, leaving us sadder and wiser men. The water is of a deep blue -
an effect probably caused by the salt, which makes it so dense as materially to check a boat sailing through it,
though making her float lightly. The depth of water is nowhere greater than thirty feet, and in many places only
five or six. There are many islands in the lake, one of which - Church Island , at the east side - can be reached
by fording. It contains good pasture.
At the inn we were amused by seeing two full-length profile portraits of the martyrs, Joseph and Hiram Smith .
I am afraid there is something ludicrous in the idea of a martyr in a claw-hammer coat. Driving back, we were struck
by the parallel water-lines, one above another, on the sides of the hills. At one place we counted seven distinct
marks. The idea most readily suggested is that this country has all been under water, and that these lines represent
the different levels to which it has from time to time sunk, until at last only the existing lake has been left.
This theory is the most generally received; but the marks on the hills are to be seen all over the high plateau
in the centre of the continent. Some say that the sandstone strata are harder in some places than in others, and
that these lines are caused by the action of the sun and rain. Banks of fallen sand and gravel at the foot of the
cliffs seem to give some colour to this theory.
On Saturday, the 22nd , I took my ticket for Atchison , on the Missouri River , and prepared to continue my journey
eastward. On this day we heard of a Mormon settlement about fifty miles to the southward being attacked, and two
Mormons killed, by Indians . We also heard of two murdered bodies being found in a stream near Fort Bridger , and
that the stage from Virginia City in Idahoe, had again been stopped in the same place, but allowed to proceed,
as it contained neither passengers nor treasure.
At this time, passenger traffic between Salt Lake City and Denver City was stopped on account of Indian troubles
on the road. I received permission, however, to overtake the superintendent who had started for the east this morning
and to obtain his sanction to proceed. From Mr. Roberson, the mail agent at Salt Lake and from Mr. Carleton , the
agent at the telegraph office I received the same courtesies and goodwill that I experienced from so many Americans
. But for the assistance that each afforded me in his particular line, I might have been detained many days.
The fare on the overland route is exorbitant. Approximately in English money it is as follows:
- From San Francisco to Salt Lake City, twenty-five pounds; from Salt Lake City to Atchison , seventy pounds; and
from Atchison to New York by rail, ten pounds: total of fares from ocean to ocean, one hundred and five pounds.
The time in which the journey should be performed, if everything were in good working order, is about twenty days.
During this time the traveller, of course, has to feed himself. Three meals a day, averaging at least a dollar
a meal, amount to twelve pounds. He must also provide himself with suitable clothing, arms, blankets, and a small
basket of provisions. So that on the whole the journey cannot be accomplished for much less than one hundred and
thirty pounds. This is at least double what it ought to be. The voyage by Panama occupies about twenty-eight days,
and the expense is about thirty pounds; so great press of business alone, or a desire to see the country, would
induce any one to take the overland route, and few would wish to try it a second time.
On the morning of the 23rd of July , I bade farewell to the Great Salt Lake City ; and while following the course
of a stream flowing down from the Wahsatch Mountains , I looked back rather regretfully at the peaceful valley
I should probably never revisit. Accounts of the eastern road were gloomy: rumours of Indian troubles, of drivers
and travellers murdered, and stage-horses driven off, were not wanting. Our mud-waggon was a poor make-shift, and
our horse were but sorry beasts. As the stage professed to strart at 4 A.M., I rose at three, and came downstairs
at the half-hour, to "fix a bite" before starting. At that moment the waggon drove up, and the driver
declared it was four o"clock, and he could not wait a moment. I bundled in my chattels, and we drove off.
Presently we stopped at a house in the suburbs, to pick up another passenger. The driver with many execrations,
surlily declared he was behind time, and could not wait a moment. This passenger, who had not finished his breakfast,
understood the language which had been lost on me, and produced a bottle and glass, which the driver enjoyed, while
the passenger concluded his meal at his leisure. Presently, he got up on the box-seat, which had been refused me,
and we went on our way. I have no doubt that a box of cigars and a keg of whisky judiciously applied, would have
smoothed at least some of the unpleasantness of stage-travel.
After ascending mountains the whole forenoon, we came to a plateau of comparatively good land, watered by the Weber
and Bear Rivers . These are seperated from each other by a rocky ridge, which we passed through by a gorge called
Echo Cañon The forms assumed here by the soft red sandstone were more grotesque and striking than on any
other part of the road. In some places we saw solid buttresses projecting far from the side of the rock, or standing
out like towers, unconnected with the cliff, and in other places were caverns and archways, with the face of the
rock seamed in all directions. The portion of the overland route which lies between the western and eastern limits
of civilisation, might be in general terms divided into three parts, each averaging about six hundred miles. These
divisions would be - from Virginia to Salt Lake City ; from Salt Lake City to Denver ; from Denver to Atchison
, on the Missouri River . List any hypercritical reader should cavil at the term "limit of civilisation,"
let me once for all declare that civilisation terminates at that point where boot-blacking at the hotels is made
an extra charge
In this second division of the journey we used mules more than horses, and found them on the whole quite as serviceable.
During the first two days we passed upwards of a hundred west-going waggons. It must be a hard road for emigrants,
but men, women, and children all appeared the very picture of health. The cattle were usually poor, and in some
places the road was literally lined with the bones of beasts who had died from cold, starvation, drought, or overwork.
The long trains of waggons we met on the road from time to time, were sources of frequent pleasure. Sometimes we
were detained for a short time, in the neighbourhood of an encampment, where the waggons were "coralled,"
the camp-fires lighted, the cooking stoves at work, the jaded cattle in the distance trying to pick up a meal,
and little heaps of children rolling over each other in the dust. In these cases we always found the emigrants
cheerful, in good spirits, and anxious to be sociable. When their party happened to include an aged or sick person,
their thoughtfulness and care for his comfort was quite touching. A horse-shoe bend of a river is often chosen
as a camping-ground, because the corall of waggons is placed on the narrow neck, while the cattle graze on the
broad enclosed land, and are easily caught when wanted. These emigrant trains have on several occasions been attacked
by Indians , both when coralled and while on the road, but in no case with success. It is estimated that about
five thousand waggons, with an average of four souls each, cross these plains every year. This annual emigration
of twenty thousand persons is a constant drain that no country by America could sustain without feeling it a serious
It is, besides, an evidence of the boundless resources of the United States, which are ever developing more and
more, to an extent of which few people in the Old World have any idea. Salt Lake City is the point where the paper
and the gold currencies meet: there, paper is universally used. At the same counter the man travelling west pays
his fare in gold, and the man travelling east, in paper. It was impossible to resist the conclusion, that even
the high plateau on which we were travelling had at some time been under water. The ground was in many places covered
with alikali and salt, and the everlasting sage-brush. Here and there were hills of sandstone rocks, deeply scored
with horizontal water - lines, appearing like islands in an unruffled sea. A few streams flow in a northerly direction,
along green ravines that appear to have been washed out when the waters were swollen. They abound with bushes and
shrubs, which relieve the dreary monotony, but the extreme cold in winter makes it impossible to cultivate the
For the first three days I was the only passenger, and having the interior of the waggon to myself, succeeded by
crafty disposal of my blankets and kit in making myself tolerably comfortable. Sometimes on arrival at a station
we found no mules, and had to rest and feed our team and take them on another stage. On each side of the road were
here and there burrows of ground squirrels and prairie dogs. The latter is a comical animal, not the least like
a dog: he is a sort of ground rat, or rather like a grey guinea-pig. When the coach is heard he comes up to see
it go by, and squats himself on the brink of his hole, where he gives vent to a peculiar squeak, which people have
thought fit to designate a bark. These prairie dogs congregate in villages, and make a great noise as each sits
at his front door; but the least offensive movement on the part of the passer-by, the lifting of a stick, or the
presenting of a gun, sends them all out of sight in an instant, A sort of large grouse is also seen, called by
some the sage hen, and by others the prairie chicken; it differs from the grouse in the legs not being feathered.
On the evening of the second day we came to a river known as the North Fork . The night was dark, and in fording
it we went a few yards out of the way and stuck in the mud. The driver had an assistant with him who held the reins
and beat the mules with a rope, while the former jumped into the water, broke his whip over them, dragged them
from one side to the other, and lavished upon them all the most endearing epithets from the slang dictionary of
a Western rowdy. Strange to say, even this had no effect; all four mules quietly lay down, with their heads just
above the stream, and broke the pole. There was no help for it but to unhitch the team, which the two drivers drove
to the bank, leaving me in the waggon with the water up to the floor. I cried to them to carry me on shore, which
after a little hesitation one of them did. We walked to the nearest station about half a mile off, where we slept.
In the morning I was the first up, so I lighted the fire, and began preparing breakfast. Soon the drivers joined
me, and one of them addressed me thus: "I guess, Mister, you"ve travelled round a bit." I replied
that I had "travelled some," and inquired what made him think so. He said, "Wall, now! When we was
stuck in the crick last night you sat still and says mothin; now if you'd a begun cussin at us, as some does, there
you might have stayed, or got yourself wet walking out." After this we became bosom friends of course, and
he borrowed my knife, which he quite forgot to return until he had been asked for it three times. He asked me many
minute details about my personal and family history, and expressed great admiration for the cat-o-nine-tails, which
he said was just the "institootion" the American army wanted. We persuaded some emigrants to lend us
a team of eight oxen which dragged the coach out at once, after which we spliced the pole and pursued our journey.
The electric telegraph follows the stage road beyond Fort Bridger, to a distance of about one hundred and fifty
miles from Salt Lake City ; then it keeps along a more northern road, which was formerly the stage road, but, owing
to the frequent Indian troubles, was abandoned. On the morning of the 26th I overtook Mr. Reynolds , the superintendent
of the line, and travelled with him as far as Denver City . It was to me a matter of no small satisfaction that
he consented to allow me to go with him, and a favour of which I am very sensible.
I was fortified with letters from Colonel George to the officers commanding the troops along the road, and these,
together with Mr. Reynold"s office which he made the most of, secured us attentions by the way, large escorts,
and occasionally government mules. At first our escort numbered only four men, but as we penetrated to the more
dangerous country, it was increased to twelve. We were ourselves well armed with rifles and revolvers. The escort
was changed every ten or fifteen miles, when we came to small detachments posted at those intervals. Generally
I found one of the escort very glad to travel in the waggon and to allow me to ride his horse - a benefit to both
parties. The air in this high country is very exhilarating, and on one or two days I rode sixty or seventy miles
without being the least knocked up. The stage has been molested by Indians on more than one occasion. It was attacked
a fortnight before I passed by about seventy. There were seven or eight passengers who, with the escort, made up
twenty persons, and after an hour's skirmishing they completely discomfited the savages, with only the loss of
one horse killed and two wounded. The Indians are very chary of their lives; they usually gallop round and round
the waggon, their bodies being bent down and sheltered behind their horses, to which they are always attached by
stout leather thongs, so that if wounded they are carried off and do not fall into the enemy"s hands. Their
weapons are bows and arrows, and rifles, with which they are expert, but they prefer fighting at long range. It
is said that there are white men among them who teach them to fight, and encourage them in their present rebellion.
They have good telescopes, and signal by directing the rays of the sun from looking-glasses, reflecting from one
to the other.
Riding for some miles every day, I had opportunities of conversing with the soldiers composing our escort. They
were generally from a volunteer regiment, and in every instance included two or three men of good education: probably
all were able to read and write, and held decided views on public questions, which they discussed with intelligence.
The troops at Salt Lake City were volunteers, but well disciplined and cared for. The dress of our escort was at
times little more than parti-coloured rags. At some places on the road between Denver and Atchison , they did not
start until half-an-hour after the stage had gone on; in one instance they were all drunk; on another occasion
they were too lazy to bring their carbines, and would fire off their revolvers at marks on the road, leaving themselves
quite defenceless. In conversation with the soldiers, I was surprised to find how readily they admitted the many
advantages of a monarchical form of government, and the incorrectness, to say the least of it. of the passage in
the beginning of their Declaration of Independence, which says that all men are born free and equal, and entitled
to the blessings of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They confessed that it was all "bunkum"
in a marching regiment in war-time. All whom I saw were armed with breech-loading rifles, but different kinds were
in use in different corps. Among both officers and men it seemed to be quite the general opinion that on the whole
the Joslyn rifle was the best, and ultimately would be adopted throughout the army.
One night we were awaked by a loud report close to our ears. We started up and seized our arms, but were quieted
and soothed by the assurance that it was only a double-barrelled blunderbuss loaded with slugs which had gone off
by accident, and blown out the side of the coach. One day, as I rode on the right side of the serjeant in command
of the escort, his revolver went off; the bullet pierced through the saddle, wounded his horse, and passed down
close to my foot. For the remainder of that stage I rode on his left side.
On the 27th we rode through the pass in the Rocky Mountains called Bridger Pass . This is the watershed of North
America . Here we saw two tiny streams within a few yards of each other: the one joins the Colorado , and flows
into the Pacific ; the other joins the Platte River and Mississippi , and flows into the Atlantic . This then,
was the summit of the Rocky Mountains in that latitude, yet we were only among hills, and no mountains were near.
Nevertheless, the patches of snow a few yards up the hill-side, - still remaining through hot days when we were
glad to wear broad-brimmed hats and linin coats, - showed that we must be at a considerable altitude. Near this
spot we came upon a covey of sage-hens; the whole detachment opened fire on them with rifles and revolvers, but
they walked majestically away through the sage-brush unhurt. The following day we reached Fort Halleck , where
we heard reports of Indians being in the neighbourhood, so our escort was increased. After leaving this place,
the barren aspect of the country somewhat changed; the hill-sides were lightly timbered and picturesque, and the
sage-brush was replaced by course prairie grass. There were many streams, so that the land appeared as if it might
have been brought under cultivation by irrigation. More or less gold is found in all these hills, which it will
be profitable to mine when transport and provisions are cheaper. The reddish soil abounding in quartz is just like
the gold-bearing earth of some parts of California . Coal is also found in the neighbourhood, and so near the surface
that it is dug up and used as wanted at Fort Halleck . On the 30th we arrived at a romantic little station among
some rocky hills, called Virginia Dale ; after which we entered the prairie country. These stations consist in
most instance of only the stage-house and stables, and at the best there are but one or two houses besides. In
themselves of no interest, they are nevertheless the only landmarks across a great continent, and may some day
give their names to cities or districts. The houses are invariably loopholed between the logs; no man stirs out
without at least a revolver, and everywhere one sees signs of being in a hostile land.
On the afternoon of the 31st , we reached Denver, a young and thriving town, with many brick buildings. It is built
at a ford over the south fork of the Platte river . Last year the water rose suddenly, carrying off some houses
on its banks, and since then all new houses have been built on higher ground. Denver is a centre of what is called
the Pike's Peak mining district; the stage-road makes a deep bend to the southward to pass through it, and a line
of telegraph wire follows the South Platte as far as Fort Kearney , where it takes a northerly direction and joins
the main overland wire from Salt Lake City . This formed a period in the long journey. Here was a fair inn, a daily
newspaper, telegraphic communication, and iced drinks; but I was only two-thirds of the way across the uncivilised
country, and was anxious to press on. Early in the year there were Indian troubles between this and Atchison :
the savages came in large bodies and drove off the stage-cattle, killed and horridly mutilated the station keepers,
and carried off the women. Lately, however, they have been comparatively peaceful. A Concord coach arrives and
departs daily, and a small escort of only three or four men accompanies it.
On the morning of the 1st of August I left Atchison. Mr. Reynolds at parting gave me letters to his subordinates
at the different stations, which proved valuable credentials. Our journey was chiefly through rolling prairies,
with but little variety - all sure to be brought under cultivation sooner or later. We saw several antelopes, and
got a shot or two at them, but without damage to either party. At Denver , we heard by telegraph that a body of
fifteen hundred Sioux Indians had attacked some troops at Platte Bridge , near Fort Laramie , about seventy miles
from the stage-road, and defeated them with a loss of one officer and twenty-six privates killed, and sixteen wounded.
Along the road we found the telegraph operators and station-keepers in some alarm, fearing another Indian raid.
On the second day we reached Julesburg . Four days previously two waggons travelling near this place were attacked
by a party of Sioux , the occupants were killed and shockingly mutilated, the waggons burned, and their contents
carried off, with the team of horses.
On the 4th we passed Fort Kearney , where is a small village. In the afternoon we stopped to dinner at a home-station,
where we picked up another passenger, who travelled in the coach for a few miles. He studiously strove to pick
a quarrel with me, which I as carefully avoided. At last he abused me outright, saying I was not the sort of man
for that country; that he knew quite well who I was; that there were too many of my sort in the country already;
that he saw through my little game perfectly, &c. I saw he had been drinking, so I laughed, and took no notice
of him; and after he had got down I enquired of a fellow-passenger what I had done to provoke his wrath. He told
me that I had mortally offended him by asking for a second plate off which to eat my tart, instead of using the
same one I had for my meat, and that he believed me to be a New York travelling-clerk to a dry good shop and "putting
on style" in the far west.
On this overland journey I saw the roughest men I ever saw in my life. I have been among gold miners and coal miners,
and I have seen the lowest specimens of "long-shore bargees", but I never met such utterly degraded and
repulsive men as some of the stock-keepers on this road. Two or three generally live together; they are unmarried
and rarely see a woman. They never get hold of a book or a newspaper, unless it is one dropped by a passing traveller
- whose baggage is not likely to contain much literature - and, as might be expected, they become thoroughly degraded
and brutalised. I have always been able to make some headway with every class of people until I came across these
men, and I must confess that with the exception of the driver, who brought us to grief in the river, I hardly met
with a decent or civil word from any one of them.
In the evening we saw a body of about twenty horsemen a couple of miles distant, making for the road behind us.
The driver walked his horses, in order that if they were Indians they might not think we were afraid of them, while
we felt rather uncomfortable and got our arms ready. Presently, however, we opened out a hollow where was a military
camp, so we concluded that the horsemen were either a cavalry picket or an Indian picket watching the soldiers.
An hour or two later we saw a body of thirty or forty Indians travelling northwards. They passed close to an emigrant
train that we met, without attempting to molest them, probably deterred by the proximity of the soldiers. After
Fort Kearney we left the Platte , and followed the course, first of the Little Blue and then of the Big Blue Rivers
. Our progress now was slow, as late rains had made the roads heavy, and swollen the streams so that some were
impassable. The damp cherished the mosquitoes, which came about us in clouds, adding much to our discomfort. At
night the bushes swarmed with fireflies, or, as Americans elegantly describe them, "lightning-bugs."
On the morning of the 6th we reached the banks of the Big Blue, and found upwards of twenty feet of water dashing
down over the ford. A stout rope was stretched over it, and we went across one at a time, on a raft made of three
shapeless logs nailed together, which our weight completely submerged. The swift current rushed by up to our knees,
and of course some of our baggage got wet, but all crossed without accident. Another coach was waiting for us,
on the top of which we spread our wet things, and they dried quickly in the sun.
On the following evening we drive into Atchison , and found ourselves once more in civilised parts. From the Missouri
river, New York may be reached by two or three railroads. I left Atchison the same evening and travelled by Quincy,
Chicago, Detroi , and Buffalo . Hurrying at railroad speed over one thousand miles of country, and journeying with
but few hours' interval for four days and nights, I was of course unable to form much idea of the several States
through which we passed; and the comparative smoothness and rest of railway travelling produced a feeling of continued
drowsiness, to which I was only too glad to give way. Thankful indeed was I when, on the afternoon of the 11th
of August , I found myself safely housed in the Fifth Avenue Hotel, New York . EDMUND HOPE VERNEY .