Traipsin’, tradin’ and explorin’

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Posing with a business-like look on his face is 1892 postmaster Billy Kern. The two-story building housing this post office remains until this day on the south side of San Juan Street just across the alley from the Spa Motel. Many Wild West events took place in this building, including a cowboy hurrah that interrupted the open house celebration.

On Sept. 20,1776, the Dominguez/Escalante expedition traveled westward in Utah through the present Uinta National Forest from Strawberry Valley along Fifth Water Creek and Diamond Creek to Wanhodes Canyon.
Cool temperatures, blustery winds and hazardous terrain including soft ground with holes that allowed the horses to sink, plus dense groves of cottonwood trees and shrubs, made travel difficult. At the same time, recognizing he was close to home, the guide Silvestre jumped out ahead so many times, expedition leaders were compelled to force him to remain near the main party.
Two days later, not far from Wanhodes Canyon, many columns of smoke snaked across the westward horizon. Silvestre said they must have been made by a hunting party of his people.
“We replied in like matter,” Silvestre said, “so they would not take us to be enemies and run away, or worse, greet us with arrows.”
“And so they replied with larger smoke signals in the pass through which we must travel to the Great Salt Lake and this caused us to believe that they had already seen us,” Silvestre said, “because this is the most prompt and common signal used by all the people of this part of America under any extraordinary circumstances.”
At about 2 o’clock in the morning when, according to Sylvestre, there might be one or more Indians nearby, he made a long speech in his language, informing them that they were peaceable people, friendly and good.
On Sept. 23, Silvestre and Joaquin were give woolen cloth and red ribbon with which to adorn themselves before entering the village of their people. Silvestre tied the cloth around his head with the long ends hanging down his back, and wore a cloak that had been given him earlier. After camping near Spanish Fork, the guides visited their people and talked with their chief. When the chief learned that some of the expedition might want to return in future years and live on these lands, he readily offered permission.
The nearby Utah Lake Valley was described by Escalante as conducive to settlement. The temperature was comfortable day and night. There were four rivers, large meadows for farming, and sufficient fish, fowl and animals for hunting. Because of the abundance of fish, the Timpanogos were described as fish eaters. Although they heard of Salt Lake Valley, and the salty lake located there, the expedition did not travel into the Salt Lake area.

This story was posted on April 14, 2019.