The Division of Trails

Old Spanish Trail in Victorville, Ca. Mojave Desert
The Division of Trails

There is a book titled “Trails across the Mojave” that describes a fork in the Old Spanish Trail that splits off to John Brown’s toll road on the left and the Mormon Hogback and Sanford’s Pass to the southwest. Now the photo showing the fork located according to the directions provided most likely has no resemblance to what the original trail looked like if it were indeed at this particular point. I would say this fork is basically the same alignment in the same location as the trail was 150 years ago. The left goes to Cajon Summit while the right leads to Phelan to descend into the West Cajon Valley.

There is another important location to be remembered, it is the “Division of Trails”  that goes over Cajon Pass. The word “Cajon” is Spanish and means “box”. The steep sides of the formidable mountain pass made the name appropriate.  The rigors of El Cajon must be faced to arrive in San Bernardino Valley. The high Sierra Mountains were the last barrier to the weary travelers.

Here the trails divided. The left fork was the way used by the pack-trains of the Spanish traders and was called the Old Spanish Road. The other road was chosen by the Mormons for they had wagons which could not be pulled up or down the narrow canyon which the Spanish had followed. So, the Mormons made a bend westward to the right to avoid the higher portion of the mountains.  This division of trails is today a a few hundred yards to the east of Highway 395 at the crossroad of Duncan Road.

The Spanish trail turned back to the left and slowly climbed the summit, entering the edge of Horse Thief Canyon. From there they traveled down grade about 6 miles until reaching Crowder Canyon (earlier called Coyote Canyon), then from Cajon junction the road went south which is located today on the present Highway 66. This section in the 1860s and 1870s was known as John Brown’s toll road.

Trails across the Mojave – Grace Jackson, Lucille Matson – 1970

A Story of Four Indian Boys

Devil's Canyon, San Bernardino National Forest, Old Spanish Trail
Devil’s Canyon

One day a wagon train rolled in off the desert to San Bernardino. On this wagon train there were four sick and hungry Paiute Indian boys.

Each one of these boys was placed with separate families in San Bernardino, and each one of the boys, living in a good Mormon home, got better.

One boy went rabbit hunting with his foster brother. There they ran into the Thomas brothers who were also out hunting. One brother got into an argument with the Indian boy. They get louder and louder then the Thomas boy raised and aimed his pistol at the Indian and the Indian immediately raised his rifle and shot Thomas. He fell over dead.

Obviously, it was self-defense and no matter how they looked at it at trial it came out self defense. The Indian was acquitted and went free.

Sawpit Canyon. Old Spanish Trail
Sawpit Canyon

Life went on and things seemed as if things were forgotten and when it came time for the Indian boys to go home, an escort was provided for them. The escort was made up of one of the Thomas’ and several of his friends.

The party left San Bernardino and rather than going up the Cajon Pass, they took the old trail up Devil’s Canyon to the ridge then dropped down into Sawpit Canyon. The area was heavily forested and the young Paiute that had killed the Thomas boy figured out what was going on and slipped into the woods escaping.

Summit Valley, Las Flores Ranch
Summit Valley

The remaining three boys were brought down into what is now the Las Flores Ranch area and summarily murdered. Then they were decapitated and their heads placed on the top of long poles.

Not much was ever mentioned of the incident afterwards most, likely because the boys killed were Indian.

A few years later a caretaker on the property found two of the skulls. He took them and nailed one to each of the gate posts at the entry to the ranch. Being the braggart that he was, he would tell the story of the Indian skulls nailed to the gate and if an Indian wanted to know what that story was, they were welcome to come and an he would happily show them.

(retold from History of Victor Valley – Lyman)

A Story about Gold

Gold in the hills of the Mojave DesertMy friend’s mother used to tell me these stories about the desert. I loved them–nothing like sitting there listening to her–so interesting.

One story she told me was about a gentleman who found some gold. The gold was just laying there in this high, dry meadow at the top of a canyon which was at the top of a canyon at the top of yet another canyon. There was so much gold lying about free for the taking–right there in the open. The man took some home and sold it.

The man was of modest tastes and the money he had from the gold lasted quite awhile, but got spent as money tends to be. Of course he remembered the gold high up in the bare mountains, and there went and loaded up again. Over the years he went again and again. He didn’t need much so he didn’t take much, and when he died there was so much more left on the mountain. Just laying there.

My friend’s mom claimed this man told her where the place was. She said it was easy to get to yet required a little trickery to keep from being followed. “Nearly in plain sight,” she would tell me. A nugget or two or three here and there. Even now days no one gets suspicious. It doesn’t take much to live if you live a certain way.

Little Ellen Baley – Lost in the Desert Night

During this phase of the journey the wagon train was doing much of its traveling at night, owing to the great daytime heat of the desert and the long distances between water holes. At regular intervals during the night they would stop for a short rest. At one of these rest stops, eleven-year-old Ellen Baley, a daughter of Gillum and Permelia Baley, fell asleep and failed to awaken when the wagon train moved on. Somehow, she was not missed until the train traveled some distance. The poor girl awoke to find herself alone in the middle of a vast hostile desert. Filled with fright, she began running to catch up with the wagon train, but in her confusion she took off in the opposite direction. When she was discovered missing, her father and older brother, George, immediately rode back to where they had stopped. To their horror, she was not there! Captured by the Indians must have been their conclusion! Nevertheless, they continued their search by calling out the little girl’s name at the top of their voices as they rode back.Their efforts were soon rewarded when, far off in the distance, came a faint cry, “Papa, Papa.” Her father immediately answered and kept calling her name until he caught up with her.When reunited with her family and the other members of the wagon train, Ellen had a tale which would be told and retold by family members until the present day.

from –
Disaster at the Colorado
Beale’s Wagon Road and the First Emigrant Party

~ Charles W. Baley

When the Cavalry Saves the Day

“Two men were in charge of a station at Egan Canyon in Nevada. One morning a band of Indians captured them, after a battle. The chief chose to make the prisoners feed his braves before murdering them, and compelled them to cook an immense quantity of bread.  The Indians gorged themselves during the day, while the captives toiled and sweated over their cooking, probably no more cheerfully because of a promise that they would be burned at the stake at sundown.  A wagon tongue had been driven into the ground to serve as a stake, and preparations for their roasting were in progress, when in true story-book style, a company of cavalry happened along and saved them. This was the narrative given out as absolute truth in after years given by one of the men.”

from Outposts of Civilization – W.A. Chalfant

Coyote Holes

Note on: Freeman Stage Station (Coyote Holes).

Robber's Roost near Freeman Junction
Robber’s Roost near Freeman Station

Freeman Station was established by the ex-stage driver Freeman S. Raymond in 1872. On the last day of February, 1874, the Station was attacked by Tiburcio Vasquez. Although the station occupants had surrendered, “Old Tex” (who was sleeping in the barn) awoke and fired at Vasquez, wounding him in the leg.

Tiburcio Vasquez
Tiburcio Vasquez the ‘Gentleman’ bandito.

Vasquez returned fire and delivered a leg wound to Tex (Pracchia, 1994). In 1894, Freeman’s parcel became the first homestead in Indian Wells Valley.
~ R. Reynolds



An Orchestral Landscape

desert landscape
An Orchestral Landscape

“The point of view is born of the desert herself. When you are there, face to face with the earth and the stars and time day after day, you cannot help feeling that your role, however gallant and precious, is a very small one. This conviction, instead of driving you to despair as it usually does when you have it inside the walls of houses, releases you very unexpectedly from all manner of anxieties. You are frightfully glad to have a role at all in so vast and splendid a drama and want to defend it as well as you can, but you do not trouble much over the outcome because the desert mixes up your ideas about what you call living and dying. You see the dreadful, dead country living in beauty, and feel that the silence pressing around it is alive.”

~ E. Bush-Perkins – The White Heart of Mojave

The Story of this Picnic Table

Rattlesnake Flats

Way in back of a mining claim in a crack near a knob on a knoll up near Rattlesnake Flats there is some thick brush grown around a wobbly old picnic table.

Roy Rogers

My friend tells me that this table once belonged to TV legend, Roy Rogers.  I believe this to be true.  I am told that, well, look at it; it is a much longer table than normal. My friend has lived down the street and around the corner from the Rogers for years before Roy and Dale passed away.  My friend is quite credible.

Roy Rogers' old picnic table
Roy Rogers’ old picnic table

I sat at the table for a moment.  I hardly had to close my eyes to see cowboy cuffed shirts, checkered table cloths, barbecued ribs, potato salad and hear some old time country western pop.  The table spoke to me — it said, “Yep — they sat here.”

That is the story of this picnic table.

The end.

Trapper Andrew Sublette and Salt Springs History

Gold was discovered on December 1, 1849, by Mormons who were led by Jefferson Hunt to take gold seekers and others to southern California over the Old Spanish Trail. Most wagons left Hunt in southern Utah for a short cut to the gold country—ironically, short-cut survivors took up to two months longer to reach Los Angeles. It wasn’t much of a short cut. Those seven wagons that stayed with Hunt camped on the Old Spanish Trail at Salt Creek, near the present Hwy. 127 and Salt Creek Mountains. Some men rode up the Amargosa Spring wash and found gold. The Los Angeles Star dated May 7, 1851, reported the story.

When Hunt’s group arrived in Rancho Chino, owner Col. Isaac Williams sent out his right hand man Davis to examine the gold site. Ben Wilson, later mayor of Los Angeles and ancestor of General George Patton, fitted out another expedition to check on the Salt Springs site. Both expeditions brought back rich specimens and reported a “whole mountain” of gold bearing ore.

But as was the case of desert mining for years to come, there were obstacles to making desert mines pay off: transportation, distance, food and water, machinery to process the gold so that it would be practical to bring the ore to a smelter. Realistically, in the 1850s, miners still thought that in the Sierra Nevada gold country, gold could still be just picked up.

Old Spanish Trail/Salt Lake Road east of Tecopa, CA.
Old Spanish Trail/Salt Lake Road east of Tecopa, CA.

One explorer went to San Francisco and shared his enthusiasm for the Salt Springs gold. Investors in June, 1850, sponsored another party to investigate. When they came back in July, they formed the Los Angeles Mining Company and made plans to take possession and work the area.

Salt Springs
Salt Springs

Another of the Los Angeles initial prospectors. Mr. Davis, went to the Sierras to find a supposed Gold Lake. When he returned to Grass Valley, he told Col. Lamb about his trip to “Gold Mountain,” i.e., Salt Springs. Lamb fitted out another exploratory trip, this time led by Davis. Col. Lamb’s group evidently arrived before the Los Angeles company and claimed what he thought were good areas, and sold three-fourth of his interest under the name Desert Mining Company in January 1851. By that spring the two mining companies had three Mexican arrastres (animal powered rock gold crushers) in operation, two for Desert Mining Company and one for Los Angeles Company. The latter company also bought, according to the Star, “a fine engine and machinery on the Amohave (Mojave) River, a little over half way out” —where it became stuck and was temporarily left in the sands of the Mojave River. The assay samples brought into Los Angeles were too few to be conclusive, but varied from 10 cents to many dollars per pound of rock. One of the companies had dug a mine 30’ deep.

Mojave River
Mojave River

Andrew Sublette, famed trapper and mountain man family of brothers, was encouraged to invest in the Desert Mining Company, his great hope to become wealthy. He had became ill gold mining in the Sierras and went to San Jose to recuperate. In a letter to his brother Solomon, March 20, 1851, from Los Angeles, we see his dreams:

“I am concerned with a Company in a gold mine. It is in the rock and very rich. I have been there for six months and will Start out to that place tomorrow [to] take charge and Start some machinery to grind the rock… I have invested all my means (which was but little) in that mine but hope to get it out with interest.”

He was so poor that he borrowed money at 5% to invest and took the job as “chief field man,” (Superintendent). The company did not have enough resources, and President James F. Hibberd tried to obtain additional operating money with more investors and by attaching assessments for the stock owners to pay, or they would forfeit their stocks. For example, on May 7, [1851 ?] the company set an assessment on $2.00 per share.  On June 10 it assessed another $1.00 per share. In August, 1851, the Desert Mining Company failed! Sublette declared insolvency. The partnership of B. D. Wilson and A. Packard dissolved.

Amargosa Mine ruins at Salt Springs
Ruins: Amargosa Mine at Salt Springs

A new mining company Salt Springs Mining Company, was formed. The new President was Benjamin D. Wilson, Albert Packard was Secretary-Treasurer, also partners in a transportation company. Since Andrew Sublette had no money to invest, he continued as chief field man. The company was running again in November 1851.

Always positive it seems, Sublette praised the mine to the Star, and said that Indians had been troublesome, had stolen tools and ruined machinery, but “The workmen were taking out remarkably rich specimens of quartz: on the whole the news is encouraging.”  Sublette sold his holding in St. Louis for $6,000 to pay off bills and invest again in Salt Springs Mining. He wrote to his brother again in March 1852 that he had started mining again with new partners and that prospects were good. He hoped to go back to Missouri and visit again soon. His health has been the best it has been for the last two or three years.

Things were really going well.

Ravine in Cajon Pass
Ravine in Cajon Pass

But that’s not usual for mining in the Mojave Desert. In the next couple months things were typical for desert mining: Two of his men killed in the Cajon Pass, more Indian difficulties, the 220-mile supply line to Los Angeles, the dwindling supply of money, the calling for  stock assessments–all led the Salt Springs Mining Company to try to sell to foreign investors—and that failed, and so did the mining at Salt Springs—for awhile at least.

Sublette, now broke again, went back to his mountain man roots: bear hunting to make some money. He provided some meat for the Los Angeles markets. He was badly wounded, but recovered.

Barracks, Ft. Tejon
Barracks, Ft. Tejon

Because of his freight experience and his friendship with Wilson, Sublette received a contract to provide supplies to the new Indian reservation at Ft. Tejon. He went into partnership with James Thompson. They prospered and even leased the La Brea Ranch. According to his biographer, Doyce Blackman Nunis, Jr., Andrew Sublette had quite a resume of occupations: trapper, trader, guide, soldiers, hunter, peace officer, miner—and sometimes with ill-health—he found success as a California Indian Department contractor. Yet, within a few months he was dead at age 40.

Andrew Whitley Sublette’s funeral was in the parlor of the El Dorado Saloon in Los Angeles, and as Major Horace Bell said, “…every gringo in town turned out for the funeral.”

Sublette and his partner, James Thompson, hunted for grizzlies in Malibu Canyon. The two became separated, and when Thompson heard a shot he ran toward it, and found “Sublette locked in hand to hand struggle with the ferocious animal. To one side, partly covered by a cloud of dust stirred up from the contest between man and beast, lay the huddled corpse of the attacker’s mate. Apparently Sublette had slain one of the bears with his rifle, and then before he could reload his weapon, was set upon by another. With knife flashing, his hunting dog, Old Buck, adding his bite to the fray, Andrew finally dispatched his assailant with a mortal thrust. Falling near the crumpled carcass Andrew lay bleeding and dying.”

Thompson got help and took him to the Padilla Building where Dr. Thomas Foster frantically tried to stop the bleeding. The next day Sublette’s trapping, hunting and mining days were over. He was buried at Foothill Cemetery, a dramatic end to a short but glorious life of one of America’s great trappers, Andrew Sublette. Despite his illness, he struggled to the end to make a good living in difficult occupations. His last years added interesting facets to the history of the Mojave Desert.

Salt Springs had another 158 years of history. It continued its up’s and down’s in mining, with scandals where “miners mined the investors,” with a great glory hole, and now this important water hole on the Old Spanish Trail is marked by the BLM with a picnic area, restroom, signs and trails. It is just a hundred yards off Hwy. 127.

Thanks to Emmet for most of this information. I also sourced Andrew Sublette: Rocky Mountain Prince 1813 – 1853, by Doyce Blackman Nunis, Jr, at the Huntington Library.

by Cliff Walker – Mojave River Valley Museum

Flying Saucers Reported Over Mojave Desert

The latest flying saucer report comes from Silver Lake airport near Baker. Two aircraft communicators stationed at Silver Lake report they watched a brilliantly-glowing object speed through the desert sky for nearly 10 minutes Saturday night before it disappeared on the western horizon.

Their report was confirmed by crew members and 25 passengers of a United Airlines plane and by aircraft communicators at a station in Las Vegas, Nevada.

David Stewart of Redondo Beach, first officer of the United plane, said the object was more cigar-shaped than the previously reported pancake-shaped “saucers”.

L. M. Norman and R. E. Connor, the two aircraft communicators at the Silver Lake airport, said the object might have been a meteor.

“We first saw it some 15 degrees above the horizon north of Silver Lake,” Norman said. “It appeared to be a big ball of fire with a large luminous vapor trail.”

“We watched it from 7 to 10 minutes. It looked like it might have been falling, but then it swung off toward the west and disappeared.”

The fiery object was observed not only by the two communicators at Silver Lake, but also by four pilots  who had stopped at the airport for an overnight stay.

While the Silver Lake men watched the object, their station was in contact with the United Airlines plane which also spotted it.
Steward, the United officer, said his crew of five men all saw the object, as did the plane’s passengers.

He said his ship was flying at 14,000 feet and that the object flew a parallel course for 20 miles then faded in the distance. He estimated its speed as faster than his plane’s 290 miles per hour.

from the Barstow Printer-Review, June 29, 1950

Life in Harmony with Nature

Olive Oatman
Olive Oatman

Indians living in harmony with nature is an idealization to say the least. Life was hard and often got harder as evidenced by Olive Oatman’s observations of the Mojave Indians in the 1850s.

“One day I was out gathering. Chottatoe, when I was suddenly surprised and frightened by running upon one of the victims of this stupid, barbarous inhumanity. He was a tall, bony Indian of about thirty years. His eye was rather sunken, his visage marred, as if he had passed through extreme hardships. He was lying upon the ground, moaning and rolling from side to side in agony the most acute and intense. I looked upon him, and my heart was moved with pity. Little Mary said, ‘I will go up and find out what ails him.’ On inquiry we soon found that he had been for some time ill, but not so as to become utterly helpless. And not until one of their number is entirely disabled, do they seem to manifest any feeling or concern for him. The physician was called, and soon decided that he was not in the least diseased. He told Mary that nothing ailed him save the want of food ; said that he had been unable for some time to procure his food ; that his friends devoured any that was brought into camp without dividing it with him ; that he had been gradually running down, and now he wanted to die. O there was such dejection, such a forlorn, despairing look written upon his countenance as made an impression upon my mind which is yet vivid and mournful.”
~ Olive Oatman


Dolomite Ghost Town

Dolomite ghost town, Owens Valley
Downtown Dolomite

I suppose the good news is, is that I got this photo of a shack in the little ghost town of Dolomite. I suppose the bad news is that I shot it in 2001 with a low resolution camera. Then again, some good news is that I doubled the size of it and cleaned up a few rough spots on it with my fancy software. And I suppose the bad news is, is that for all my efforts, Dolomite isn’t an authentic ghost town. I’m finding out that it was built for a movie set. It is a bit of good news that the movie was Nevada Smith starring Steve McQueen, one of my favorite movies. The bad news is that I won’t e able to reshoot it because of circumstances beyond my control at the moment. That’s good because it was on private property. It could have been worse when I was caught trespassing the first time. The owner chased me down and started giving me hell for being on his property. So it was a good thing I told him I came in a few miles over and followed the base of the mountain shooting some other ruins while I went along. It was another good thing when he laughed at my little truck and said, “I wouldn’t think you could make it through there in that.” I told him I was just taking some pictures. He told me to “Have at it.”

At least I didn’t get shot.

Dolomite ghost town photos



11-year-old Kass, a desert girl born and bred, looks into a natural stream of water (Cajon Creek) for the first time in her life. She was amazed that there was so much life going on right in front of her–everything she could see was living!
looking into Cajon Creek
She pointed this all out to me as it was happening. She has such a wonderful sense of Nature. I’m so fortunate to have experienced this with her.

Tips for Stagecoach Travelers

from the Omaha Herald, 1877

The best seat inside a stage is the one next to the driver. Even if you have a tendency to seasickness when riding backwards — you’ll get over it and will get less jolts and jostling. Don’t let “sly elph” trade you his mid-seat.

Southern Hotel - San Bernardino (L.A. Co. Museum)
Southern Hotel – San Bernardino
(L.A. Co. Museum)

In cold weather, don’t ride with tight-fitting shoes, or gloves. When the driver asks you to get off and walk, do so without grumbling, he won’t request it unless absolutely necessary. If the team runs away — sit still and take your chances. If you jump, nine out of ten times you will get hurt.

In very cold weather, abstain entirely from liquor when on the road, because you will freeze twice as quickly when under its influence.

Don’t growl at the food received at the station — stage companies generally provide the best they can get.

Don’t keep the stage waiting. Don’t smoke a strong pipe inside the coach. Spit on the leeward side. If you have anything to drink in a bottle, pass it around. Procure your stimulants before starting, as “ranch” (stage depot) whisky is not “nectar.”

Don’t lean or lop over neighbors when sleeping. Take small change to pay expenses. Never shoot on the road, as the noise might frighten the horses. Don’t discuss politics or religion.

Don’t point out where murders have been committed, especially if there are women passengers.

Don’t lag at the wash basin. Don’t grease your hair, because travel is dusty. Don’t imagine for a moment that you are going on a picnic. Expect annoyances, discomfort, and some hardships.

Cyrena Dustin Merrill – Part VI

Continued from Part V
Salt Lake

Philemon’s mother hearing that we were coming started out to meet us but got on the wrong road, missed us, and had to walk back a long distance — we were about two weeks making the trip and the worry of it all must have told on me for when my sister-in-law first met me she said “is this you, Cyrena, or your ghost?”

About a week after I got back, my two children were taken sick with chills, then I was sick; then baby took croup and only lived about 12 hours, dying on the sixth of September.

I let father and mother Merrill take my fitout (of wagon, oxen etc,) and they went on with the first company that went to Salt Lake in 1847, but I stayed here at Kanesville until my husband’s return on December 11, 1847 from Battalion.

He spent his time in getting land warrants for the Battalion Boys and assisting Brother Young to get emigrants across the plains.

Here on September 10, 1848, our third daughter, Melissa Jane, was born.

In the spring of 1849 Brother Young having sent our teams back Salt Lake we fitted up and crossed the plains. Now we were really going to Zion and as our hearts were filled with gratitude to our Heavenly Father for His love and protecting care, we were enabled to endure all our trials with cheerful fortitude. Our faith was strong — we loved each other and lived in unity and we were blessed abundantly, and our souls often rang out on the prairies.

While passing through the Rockies we encountered severe snowstorms in many of our cattle perished, but again the Lord helped us, for father Merrill sent a team with a nephew to assist us into the city of Salt Lake.

Our first stopping place was in Salt Lake City where we built a log cabin in the Southwest or 19th Ward stayed here until 1857.

On the Big Cottonwood 7 miles from Salt Lake City, our first Utah baby, our second boy, Morgan Henry was born on February 17, 1850. And when he was three weeks old we moved into the 19th Ward of the city and my husband again left me alone with my little ones.

Houses then were scattered and the measles broke out among the Indians and they would rush past our cabin howling and screaming — run and jump into the warm springs and then take cold and die — then others would bewail and screech — and at all times of the day or night their howls or mournings rent the air and my hairs would stand on and from fright; the only times I ever slept that night was one of my brothers-in-law would come up from Cottonwood to stay a while.

Philemon had gone back to the Platte River to keep the ferryboat.

— continued —

Snake Bite — Don’t Make it Worse

A description of events in one day in April of 2010 while I worked as a volunteer at the California State Poppy Reserve in Lancaster, CA.

I was working the trails one hazy midday when two very excited young gentlemen came running toward me and told me that their uncle had stepped on a snake and it had bit him. The uncle, limping badly, looked pasty-pale and with his friend and brother made their way into the visitor center after once again telling me the man had stepped on a snake. The victim’s brother (as I found out later) while closing the door whispered to me, “He didn’t step on it, he kicked it to get it out of his way.”photo of snake bite.First, I inspected the wound.  Yep, it was a snake bite hole. Next, I asked if he knew what kind of snake it was, or what it may have looked like. He told me, “It looked like a snake. I told you that already.”  I bit my lip. He was regaining color.Morris is my friend although he never looks at the camera when I take his picture.Since I’m not a doctor and I felt the patient was being a jerk I decided a medical professional would have to take it from this point. I called 911. It takes about 20 minutes or so for emergency response vehicles to get from Lancaster to the reserve. The dude was looking better and looking at me as if he expected me to suck the poison out of his leg. “Not my job,” I thought. There were other volunteers there that were far more capable than I, so I went out with my buddy Morris (Volunteer of the Year) to stand in the parking lot.599-DSC_7355The fire truck came first with a support vehicle, whatever they call the service truck that follows. The fire truck couldn’t make it up the sidewalk to the visitor center, but the smaller truck could. I wanted to ride on the back too, but I didn’t ask. It looked like fun.599-DSC_7360The paramedic rushed into the building with about a dozen other personnel and did a triage-type-thing. Assessing the wound he confirmed my suspicions that it was a snake-made-hole in his leg.

599-DSC_7363Next, the helicopter came. There was no place to land so it went away. That would have been so cool to see the guy get a ride in that. I would have asked if I could go with them, but I would have had to walk back.

So they took him away in an ambulance.599-DSC_7365One of the guys with him asked me,  “Where did they take him?  I said, “I don’t know. I’m not from around here. I live about 70 miles away.”

My shift was over then. So I went to my brother’s house to stay the night with him. I hope the snake is alright. I can’t see how the guy with his little-skinny-toothpick-legs could have kicked it hard enough to hurt it. Good example though. Nobody else kicked a snake for the rest of the season. One of my best times ever, so far, yet.

Cyrena Dustin Merrill – Part V

Continued from Part IV

The Call for 500 Men

During 1845, although we were preparing to leave Nauvoo for the Rocky Mountains, they were pushing the work on the Temple and on May 24 the walls were finished and the Apostles administered to hundreds of the people — the services often continuing all day and all night. We received our endowments in the last of December going through the Temple at night.

photo of the Mormon Battalion flag
Mormon Battalion flag – note the spelling of the word “Battalion.”

Now as the mob it said “we will still drive all the Mormons into Nauvoo and all Nauvoo into the Mississippi,” preparations were made immediately evacuating the city and on February 6, 1846, my husband left with the first K guards to guard the records across the river, and went on to Garden Grove, leaving me with my little ones in Nauvoo. When he came back near the last of April with a team, our second daughter Lucy Cyrena, was three weeks old — she, having been born on April 7 — and taking only our bedding and clothing — leaving everything else in the house we went by wagon to Mount Pisgah.

Authorities held counsel and concluded to move on, after putting up some huts which could be used by those coming later.

When within a few miles of Council Bluffs we were met by an United States officer to enlist men for the Mexican War. Coming to a halt Brother Brigham called for 500 volunteers. On July 16 the troops were mustered, my husband being among the number, thus we were left without our natural protectors and as this took our stoutest and best the way much hard work was thrown on the women and the aged. I had only one week’s provisions on hand.– But our faith was strong and Brother Brigham would lead us on. After they had been gone three days some men returned from the Battalion and started to the camps that Capt. Alan had sent them to gather up 50 families of the Battalion Boys, and they could travel with their husbands to California as the government would pay all expenses.

At first I did not wish to go but being over persuaded, I joined the company to follow my husband. My driver was Monroe Frick, a boy of 14 who was such a good kind boy. I arrived at Fort Leavenworth about August 1, 1846.

The joy of once more meeting my husband was of short duration for he could not consent to me traveling with them with my little children and the young babe; so after putting up a wagon with 18 months provisions and to yoke of oxen, Monroe and I started back over that lonely road of 200 miles to the camp of Israel. This was done by the advice and counsel of Brother P. P. Pratt.

Philemon went a day’s journey with us and when he left us in the morning was the hardest of all my trials — we had to travel through Missouri whose swamps were full of malaria, and several times we came to places where the rain had washed out the road and we had to unload our flour and provisions, get the wagon across, then carried the things over and reload. It seems a miracle that we ever succeeded in reaching Winter Quarters, but in God was my trust and he protected us and cared for us.

— continued —

Cyrena Dustin Merrill – Part IV

continued from – Part III

Cyrena’s New Family

Again joining Brother Stanley’s company in the spring of 1839 I traveled to Quincy, Illinois. My health was very good and I walked every step of the way; sometimes with my skirts wet to my knees and at night we slept only the canopy of the heavens for a roof and it rained every night thus soaking our bedding through before morning. We often cheered ourselves on our march by singing the songs of Zion and we kept our health.

Brother Stanley had managed to procure some flour before leaving Far West, and we had plenty of squash pies — not made with eggs and sugar and milk as it is generally made — but just squash boiled and put in between two crusts, and oh, how good it tasted. Anything eaten with God’s blessing on it and with thankful hearts is sweet and good.

At Quincy was residing a brother of my father’s who had joined the Church, and there I lived for a few weeks but his wife persecuted him and made it so unpleasant for me that I could not stand it but went out to work; while here oue goods and clothing came which we had sent by water from New Portage — coming back from St. Louis where they had been stopped — nothing traveled fast in those days.

I now wrote to the home folks and they were glad to hear from me, particularly about my good health, but they wanted me to come home and not have to endure any more of such privations; they would send me the money and if I did not want to return alone, one of my brothers would gladly come for me — but I answered “I would live and die with the Latter Day Saints.”

I worked out all summer for two dollars a week and was always treated well and my health was good.

In December or late in the fall of this year I went to Nauvoo with Brother Tarletan Lewis and family. They were such good people and so very kind to me.

At Nauvoo we found nearly everyone sick with chills and fever so I went to nursing sick folks. I went to nurse at Stephen Markham’s, for they were all down sick and while there — their daughter — a lovely girl about my age — and her parents would not hear of me leaving them, so I made my home with them from that time.

Sometime in February 1840, Philemon C. Merrill was passing through Nauvoo from Fort Madison to Carthage and had stopped to see his friend, Brother Markham, who brought him home to dinner and I waited on the table. After dinner he asked Brother Markham “Who that young lady was” and when told, he remarked, “I’ll be back here someday, where she will be my wife.” Brother Markham laugh at him and also some at me, but so it proved, or on September 30 we were married, and went to housekeeping in Nauvoo.

Nauvoo Temple in the 1840s
Nauvoo Temple in the 1840s

On August 21, 1841, a daughter, Sabrina Lodena, came to gladden our home. While my husband worked on the Temple which the Saints had begun to build in our beautiful city on the Mississippi River — a son, Philemon Alisandre, was born to us to cheer us and bind our hearts together. His birthday was November 18, 1843, and oh, how happy and contented I was with my loving husband and little daughter and son — the clouds were gathering around our beloved Prophet, and everyone knows the terrible times of the next year — the assassination of Joseph and Hyrum and how we obeyed the voice of the twelve when they told us to be peaceable, quiet citizens and blessed would be those who held out faithful to the end.


Cyrena Dustin Merrill – Part III

continued from – Part II

It rained a little during the night and our bedding was soaked through and not being used to exposure of any kind of course I took a severe cold, which with the long walk and the worry of leaving home under such trying circumstances brought on a fever and a nervous prostration.

I shall ever remember how kind and good to sisters and brethren were to me during that long ride from New Portage, Ohio to the Missouri River; they gave me every attention that I could be given under the circumstances; many times sacrificing their own comfort for mine.

As day by day went by and I still remain so very low, albeit Brother Stanley sadly concluded that I could not recover — and several times I was taken from the wagon and laid down by the roadside while they all gathered round expecting me to breathe my last — but I had great faith, for my blessing said I should go to Zion and I clung to that, (and so did Brother Stanley) and I felt as if that must be true. Sometimes as we were traveling along, people would come to our camp and talk to us and they would say “Why do you drag that sick girl with you? Can’t you stop long enough to let her die in peace? It looks inhuman to take her over these rough roads.” And when told it was prophesied that she should go to Zion, they would shake their heads and say, “She’ll never lived to get there anyway.” We were stopped several times by mobs who were determined we should not go on, but we were strong in faith and continually prayed to the Lord to deliver us from these people and so we finally overcame all difficulties and arrived at the Far West. I had been getting some better before the end of the journey — and oh, how we rejoice that are long tiresome traveling was ended and we could meet and have sweet concourse with the Saints here. But our rest and comfort was soon broken, for in a few days Far West was surrounded to our enemies and I saw Joseph’s aged father and mother weeping over their son as he was taken away a prisoner. During the winter our fate which tried to the utmost — in a strange country – our beloved leader was torn from us — and our food and clothing very scarce — at times we had nothing to eat but parched corn with a little squash.

My health continued to improve daily and Father Smith obtained a place for me to work at Little  Platte (about 20 miles from Far West), with an aged couple who treated me like a daughter but thought I ought to return to my parents. They begged me to go home to my mother who must be so lonely without me, even offering to pay my fare back to Ohio and send their son with me for company — but my faith in the Gospel was strong and I never had any desire to give up our religion or leave the Saints.

To my great joy I found (while living here) Brother and Sister Horn living near, although I had no idea that there was a Latter Day Saint within miles of me — the us is the Lord cheered my heart at all times when I most needed consolation. These new friends told me that the Saints were moving to Quincy, Illinois. After staying with these good folks three months I went with brother and sister Horn to Far West, to again cast in my lot with the Saints although the lady where I had been working went over me and wish me to stay with her or return home to my parents, but I now felt that the Saints’ home was mine.


Cyrena Dustin Merrill – Part II

continued from – Part I

Accordingly, I left home and went to reside in the family of elder Alexander Stanley, who was an old acquaintance and neighbor. He was like a father to me and there I lived until I gathered with the Saints in Missouri.

A few nights before we started for Missouri, I went to my father’s house and I talked with all of them. My father and mother cried and begged me not to go, even until late into the night; when they found pleading was of no avail, they tried hiring me to stay, and when that also failed, father said he would follow me and have me arrested and brought back by a process of the law. We all then retired and in the morning early father went away for he could not say goodbye.

As I was leaving the house, I turned back at the door and bore a papal testimony to the truth of the gospel; and that was the last time I ever saw any of my father’s family (except Sylvenus who passed through Utah on his way to Montana in 18__).

I was strongly impressed that my going was not only for my own salvation before that of the family also; yet at that time I little realized in just what manner this might occur, and in fact never did thoroughly understand, until the work for the dead was revealed. It was a source of great satisfaction to me to know that I stood in a position to do a work for them which would give them the privilege of accepting in the Spirit world, the gospel which was neglected in this. In April, before starting to Psion, I, with Brother Stanley’s family, went to a Blessing meeting held at the house of brother Sears, in Randolph, Ohio, a few miles from where we then lived, and received a Patriarchal Blessing under the hands of Joseph Smith Sen. (the first one who held the office of Priesthood and Patriarch in this dispensation.)

My blessing has been a great comfort to me in the trials which I have had to pass through and it also assisted to give me the necessary faith, courage and fortitude to make this sacrifice of leaving home and friends and to start out alone in the world to fight the battle of life among strangers. I went forth trusting in the Lord, in full faith that he would give me grace sufficient to overcome all obstacles and difficulties which might be thrown in my way, and that I might endure to the end.

In September following we left our homes and commenced our wearisome journey – with Alexander Stanley as leader. His family, his father and family, three of his brothers in law – Sam Kent, Brother Sears and Brother Ellsworth – and their families and myself; all in one wagon.

We started early in the morning and were fearful that father would stop us, for we had to pass his house, but as we neared home we saw the hand of the Lord in causing a dense fog to envelope the house until after we had passed; we could not see even the signboard at the street door.

We traveled on unmolested until noon — when they stopped to rest the horses. I, being fearful of fathers overtaking us, walked on with Sister Kent, but in her haste and anxiety we got on the wrong road; after walking some distance, we inquired and found the right one — but now our minds were more anxious than ever, being afraid we would miss our friends altogether as from fresh tracks in the road we knew that they were ahead of us. We walked as fast as we could but my strength was failing and finally the worry and exertion proved too much for me, and I laid down by the roadside completely exhausted and frightened lest father would still overtake us. Sister Kent sat by me, encouraging me and comforting me and together we pray that someone might return for us, for we dreaded passing the night by ourselves.

While we were resting the company had gone on to New Portage and unloading goods to go by water; then not finding us there, they brought back the wagon to meet us. With renewed faith because our prayers were answered we got into the wagon and went on to New Portage where we made our camp and I slept out of doors for the first time in my life.


Cyrena Dustin Merrill – Part I

A Sketch in the Life of Cyrena  Dustin Merrill as Given by Herself
(Courtesy of the descendants of Cyrena Dustin Merrill)

I, the daughter of Seth Dustin and Betsy Redfield, was born January 6, 1817, in Genesee County, New York. My father, with his family, moved into Ohio, portage County when I was a bout a year old, where you lived until after I left home. I never had good health and was never expected to do anything around the house but all the family waited on me. I first heard the gospel when about 19 years old and believed and embraced it later, going into the waters of baptism in March 1837 – Elder James Emmett officiating.

I am the only one of my father’s family that ever embraced the gospel; yet I know that my father believed, and had it not been for some unwise conduct in one of the Elders who my father had befriended and assisted, he probably would have been baptized at the same time I was. My brothers and sisters were greatly mortified at my joining the church and as long as I lived at home I had to endure their persecutions.

Sometimes during the summer of 1837, I visited Kirkland and viewed the temple; the first one reared by command and under the direction of the living God in this generation. It would be difficult to describe my feelings while going through that edifice where the Savior and holy Angels had appeared to the servants of God. Truly I felt like thanking God that my mind had been enlightened and that I had been permitted to embraced the gospel and partake of its blessings.

I remained at home during the coming winter, but the spirit of gathering seem to come upon the Saints about that time and I felt I could not be left behind and so determined to go with them to Missouri. This was a severe blow to my father, who had sympathize with me from the beginning, and when he found that I was determined to go he requested me to leave home immediately, that he might become reconciled to the separation before I left entirely; his real motive was a hope that I might become so homesick that I would give up the idea of going with the Saints and return home to stay.


Dirty, Thirsty and Half-Baked Hiker Conquers Death Valley

July, 1966

Dirty, bearded and nearly done to a turn, Jean-Pierre Marquant staggered yesterday to the end of what you might call a cooked tour — a 102 mile hike through boiling Death Valley.

Hiker conquers Death Valley

“I’m happy it’s over,” said the footsore and weary Frenchman.

He was taken to Death Valley National Monument headquarters at Furnace Creek and left shortly thereafter for Los Angeles.

Friends who met him as he finished said he appeared in good physical condition, except for swollen, blistered feet and a mighty thirst.

The 28th-year-old former paratrooper began his walk last Wednesday, announcing he still wanted “to show there is still adventure in the States.”

But he lost his cool during a week of air temperatures that shimmered between 115 and 135° and ground temperatures as high as 190–so hot his shoes burned off.

Uncounted dozens of men have died in the long, salt-bottomed Valley — the lowest, hottest, driest spot in the U.S. – since white men first found it in 1849.

Marquant carried an umbrella and wore a 10 gallon hat. He also wore three T-shirts and three pairs of socks to preserve body moisture as much as possible, and kept his mouth filled with damp gauze to prevent it from becoming parched.

His hiking ensemble also included blue-tinted glasses, gloves, short pants and tennis shoes, which were burned to shreds by the searing sand and rocks. He was forced to protect his feet with socks and gauze.

Marquant was met daily by a support truck that furnished him with water, watermelon, soft drinks and clothing.

Desert Wife – Desert Life

Check out how I made this into a story relevant to the desert:

Walter Feller photography truck in desert
My Chevy — camouflage white. I can blend in alongside a big pile of salt or in a desert snowstorm.

My desert wife went to the desert store today, then comes back to our desert home and tells me she finds $25 in cash on the floor of the desert store. Wo0T-w0ot-WOot!!! My thoughts start racing and I begin calculating all the numbers involved. How cool–I could use her money to buy me gas to drive about 150 miles out into the desert! Then she tells me that she gave it to the clerk at the store. Now I can’t use her money that she found to drive about 150 miles out into the desert. Then she tells me the clerk told her that if the money isn’t claimed by the end of the day, the store would call her and they would give it to her.  I have hope. If it is unclaimed and they give it back her and I could drive out into the desert about 150 miles with gas I bought with her money. Then we get a phone call from a little girl who lost the money that my wife found thanking her for finding the money she lost. Now for sure I can’t use my wife’s money to buy the gas to drive about 150 miles into the desert.

I suppose they way everything went is for the better. $25 can be a lot to lose, especially for a kid. Reluctantly, I admit, my wife, who by the way, is always right, did the right thing. Thinking about it, if I would have used the money to buy enough gas to drive 150 miles out into the desert, well, how would I have been able to buy the gas to drive back?