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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/760

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

on the road in 1846, and as soon as the shout, "California gold!" was heard, the deep-trampled highways across the desert began to be strewed with wrecks of wagons and bodies of horses and oxen. Thousands of men made camp after camp in western Utah without washing out a panful of dust or breaking off a specimen of quartz. Meanwhile Mormon traders, anxious to sell supplies to wagon trains, established small stations along the trail. These traders were often colonists sent out from Salt Lake, under strict orders not to cross the mountains and not to mine for gold. According to a letter in the Sacramento Transcript of October 14, 1850, the hungry emigrants were often forced to sell "a horse, an ox, or a mule for twelve, ten, or even two pounds of flour," and in 1849 matters must have been even worse.

Placer gold was found in the winter of 1849 in a small gulch near Carson Valley, and one or two men worked the deposit, with poor results. The wandering Mormons abandoned their trading posts, but in 1851 Colonel Reese, from Salt Lake, made a permanent settlement. With him came, as teamster, bibulous, feather-brained James Fennimore, afterward known on the Comstock as "Old Virginia," who soon began placer mining in "Gold Cañon." By November the Carson region contained about twenty settlers; miners, herdsmen, and nomads of every description increased the whole population of western Utah to nearly one hundred. Squatter government began, and Congress, with unconscious humor, was petitioned to create a separate Territory for this handful of settlers. The Utah Legislature, with equally unconscious humor, endeavored to hold the region by dividing it into seven huge parallelograms of counties, only one of which appears to have contained any people. The judge sent to Carson County was referred by the Gold Cañon miners to their local "rules, usages, and customs," adopted in the main from California camps.

Local traditions contain much that is worth passing notice. Israel Mott, for instance, "built his house out of the beds of abandoned emigrant wagons." "Ragtown," on the Carson, received its name because of vast heaps of rubbish that marked the camp where the incoming host "ran into the water waist deep to drink like animals," and threw their desert-worn garments in heaps on the cacti and sagebrush. The last night of 1853 there was a dance "in the log house over Spafford Hall's store" at the mouth of Gold Canon. Eight women were present, and this number constituted "two thirds of all the white women in western Utah." Of white men there were about a hundred—from Lucky Bill's, Fort Churchill, Twenty-six-Mile Desert, Eagle Ranch, and other settlements, as well as from the placer mines.

In 1857 the Mormon settlers were called back to Salt Lake by a messenger from the Prophet. Some fifty families left claims.