Discription of Deseret—The Mormons and their Religion—Slavery and Gov. Brigham Young—The Grain Crop-Factorles—Salt Lake City and Valley—Immigration—Mor-mon Gold Miners—Price of Labor-High Tariff on Rum—Minerals—The Horned Frog—War with the Indians, &c. &c.
Correspondence of the National Era.
GREAT SALT LAKE CITY, Sept. 20, 1850.
The general term Desert may with much pro-priety be applied to all the country included in the Great Interior Basin, and all lying between the Great Basin and the Missouri and Arkansas riv-ers, embracing nearly all of our recent purchase from Mexico and much of our former territory.—There is here and there a fertile valley which is an exception.
Perhaps, of all this vast country, one twentieth part is arable land. The largest tract of fertile land lies just within the eastern rim of the Great Basin, Nobsatch mountains, and the Utah and Great Salt Lakes. This is about 200 miles long, and varies from 5 to 40 miles in breadth, but even in this valley there is much barren land, and much that requires artificial irrigation.
Beside this great valley, there are several small valleys would oases, in the Great Basin, but they are mostly so small, so far apart, and so bad-ly timbered, that they will never be settled while there is any unoccupied land in the valley of the Mississippi. Even the Great Salt Lake valley would in all probability have remained unsettled for years to come, had not the Mormons been compelled by persecution to seek within the limits of Catholic Mexico that freedom of conscience which was de-nied them in our own country.
But this persecution, like that which drove the Pilgrim Fathers to the shores of New-England, was destined in the course of events to work a great good. Having felt the yoke themselves, Liberty, with them, is something more than a word; and, in or-ganizing their infant State, their first care was to guarantee to every one who shall choose to settle within their borders, the most perfect liberty of person and conscience. And believing that those who are sent into the world have a right to live on the world, they al-low every one as much of the earth's surface as he can occupy, subject only to the expense of sur-vey and registry, and such regulations as are ne-cessary to prevent fraud. There has been no legislation on the subject of Slavery, as their Constitution declares, and the people believe, that "all men are created free and equal," and they very sensibly conclude that Slavery can have no legal existence where it has never been legalized.
There are indeed a few black persons, perhaps a hundred, in the valley, who have been sent in by and who still live with their former masters, but they are not considered as slaves; and I have been told by Brigham Young, who is Governor of the State, President of the Church, High Priest, Revelator, &c. that the idea of property in men would not be entertained a moment by any Court in the State—and, with the Mormons, (and the people here are nearly all Mormons,) the voice of Brigham is the voice of God.
This is a singular community; consistency and inconsistency, light and darkness, bigotry and toleration are strangely blended.
Reasoning clearly and logically, as they do, re-specting man's natural rights and duties, and hav-ing established the largest liberty for others, they are themselves the variest slaves of the priesthood. Over religious, and professing an unbounded reverence for all things sacred, believing that they are the chosen people, and have direct com-munication with God himself, they make the Sab-bath a day of amusement and recreation, of balls and fandangoes; and profanity is as common here as prayers are at Oberlin. Even the priests can, many of them, utter oaths that would make an ordinary Christian man's hair stand up.
Collected as they are from all parts of the world, and having been mobbed and persecuted, and driven from Ohio to Missouri, and from Mis-souri to Illinois, and from Illinois to the deserts and mountains, they are still devotedly attached to the American Union, and would stand by it, and defend it to the very last. In fact, they be-lieve that the Constitution of the United States was written by inspiration; and whatever others may do, they intend to defend it, and support it, till the final consummation of all things. They say that our Government is the best that the world ever has produced, or ever will produce till Jesus Christ shall come and claim the Earth as his inheritance, and reign over it himself.
There is but little known respecting their reli-gious creed by the world at large, and even the more ignorant "saints," as they call themselves, have never penetrated the sublime arcana of their religion.
A belief that Jo Smith and his successors were prophets, and held intercourse with the other world, and possessed all the gifts bestowed upon the Disciples, and that the book of Mormon was discovered and translated by inspiration, is usually supposed to comprise the theory of Mormonism; but this is by no means the case. Though com-menced in ignorance, they have finally perfected a grand theory, in the construction of which the mystic lore of the Brahmins, and the traditions of the Jews, and the precepts of Mahomet, and the vagaries of Swedenborg, all seem to have been pressed into the service, and having sifted, culled, and abridged, all these different systems, till they in some measure coalesce, they have cemented them together with a few ideas of their own, and this is Mormonism.
I believe that no one who has witnessed the friendship and harmony that prevail here, and shared the hospitality of these people, and seen their industry, and frugality, and benevolence, will quarrel with them about their religion, how-ever strange or absurd it may seem.
I assure you it is a pleasant sight, after having traveled twelve hundred miles across the deserts and mountains, to look down upon this beautiful valley, with its lakes and mountains, and moun-tains and lakes, and dotted all over with the little white houses, the gardens, and the farms, of these enterprising pioneers. They have been here but three years, and in that time they have opened good farms, built houses and barns, erected mills of various kinds, made bridges across the river, built school-houses, and established schools, built a State-House, chartered a University, and, in fact, they have done more to advance the real prosperity of a State than some of the original thirteen.
The present population of Deseret is estimated at about 30,000, and this year's immigration will swell the number to 40,000, and I presume the immigration will increase in a geometrical ratio, as the people here have raised a large fund to as-sist the poor of their church in the old States and in Europe, who wish to come here and settle. They last year sent out $6,000, and the sum has this year been augmented to $500,000. This is raised by voluntary contributions, and deposited with Trustees, and loaned in small sums at 7 per cent, to assist in buying teams and outfits to cross the Plains.
The teams so bought will sell here for more than enough to pay the debt and interest, so all parties are benefited, and the original sum is con-stantly increasing.
The wheat crop of this season is estimated at from 500,000 to 1,000,000 bushels. The climate and soil seem remarkably well adapted to wheat. There is no wevil nor fly, nor winter-killing, nor rust—smut is its only enemy. Fifty bushels per acre is about an average crop. Corn is an unprof-itable crop, and there is but little raised. Other grains usually do pretty well. Stock of all kinds do remarkably well, and require but very little feed in Winter. There have been a great many sheep brought in this year, and there will be sev-eral woolen factories erected next Summer. Pow-der has been manufactured here ever since the first settlement; and judging from all indications it will be needed soon, as the Snakes and Utahs have banded themselves together and are becom-ing very insolent, committing their depredations and robbing in open daylight, and daring the whites to resist. There seems a probability of a general war. A small band of the Utahs became hostile last winter, but they were pursued to the mountains, and forty or fifty of them killed, since which they have been quite peaceable until re-cently.
But I must give you a more particular descrip-tion of the city and valley. The city is situated at the foot of the mountains, and is watered by two clean, rushing mountain streams, that are carried by innumerable channels to every house and garden in town. It is, at present, about seven miles long and two miles broad, and is laid out in regular squares, each lot being large enough for good buildings and a garden. The houses are mostly built of "adobes," or unburnt bricks, and are generally small, though there are some good buildings going up this summer. Among the pub-lic buildings are the State House, the Council House, the Post Office, and the College building, in which a school will be opened this winter, as a branch of the University. The Temple block is yet vacant, the Mormons hold their large meet-ings in a large building called the Bowery, which will seat several thousand persons. They will probably commence their Temple next summer. They say they intend to erect a Temple that shall be surpassed in size and magnificence by no build-ing on earth, and I presume they will accomplish it, as they are all zeal, and as rich as gold can make them. The population of the city is about 5,000. There are several smaller cities or villages in different parts of the valley.
The valley is here about twenty miles broad. It is very smooth, and ascends gradually from the lake to the base of the mountains, which then rise abruptly, and in many places, almost perpendicu-larly to the region of perpetual snow. The sum-mits of the mountains are frequently obscured by clouds, but in a clear day the scenery here is de-cidedly the finest I ever saw. Fremont has just-ly remarked that the Great Basin is, in many re-spects, much like Western Asia; and I will add, that this valley bears a striking resemblance to Palestine. We have the Salt Lake, with no visi-ble outlet, and so strongly impregnated with min-erals that fish cannot live in it, which makes a very good Dead Sea. We have sulphur, and naph-tha, and manna—fact, Sir—we have bone fide man-na. I have, myself, collected a bottle of it, which I shall carry with me to the States. We have boiling springs, of both fresh and salt water, and a great many other curious things. It is true, I have not yet found Lot's wife, but I have found several other wives. And I presume, that if Lieutenant Lynch were to come here he could find lots (of wives.)
The valley is remarkably healthy. Agues and bilious fevers are absolutely unknown, and the boys and girls look as fair and fresh as the flow-ers of May. I believe, in fact, that this whole region of country from the frontier to the Sierra Nevadas is very healthy. It is true, there has been much sickness among the emigrants this season, and out of about 50,000 who have crossed the Plains, I believe that at least 1,000 have died. But I am fully convinced that the mass of these deaths were caused by fear and over doc-toring.
The Plains abound with the buffalo, elk, deer and antelope, and the bear and gillo, or wild sheep, are found in all parts of the Mountains. But next year's emigration will have but few difficulties to encounter, as the roads will be better, ferries and bridges will be established at all the bad crossings, and there are now trading posts established along the whole road, at which supplies of all kinds may be procured. Even the Great Desert will be re-moved next year, as a company of men have es-tablished a rancho on Salmon Trout River and undertaken to turn the waters of that stream across the fifty-mile Desert; so that, instead of emptying into Pyramid Lake, the Salmon Trout shall fall into the sink of Humboldt or Mary's River, which is some 200 feet lower. This will require but little labor, as nature has formed the design; and before Spring there will be a continu-ous line of water from the Humboldt Mountains to the Sierra Nevadas.
The Mormons who went to the mines last Spring are beginning to come in, and their stories and their gold have created quite a stir here, especial-ly among the new-comers. They have nearly all been at work in the new mines on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and have been as successful as heart could desire. Those who went out in March have brought home from $1,000 to $20,000 a piece. I saw one man, by the name of Carpenter, who went last Spring, and re-turned a few days ago. I asked why he returned so soon, and he quietly replied that his provisions were about to give out, and that he had as much gold as his mule could pack, and so he thought be had better come home. I saw his "pile." It looked like about five quarts, and he said it weigh-ed over a hundred pounds; lie valued it at $20,000. But they say the miners on the western side of the mountains have not done so well this season. How it is I do not know, as I have not been over. Labor is worth here from $1 to $10 per day.—Board is from $4 to $8 per week; flour $20 per barrel; and other provisions in proportion. Ardent spirits of all kinds are very high, as there is a duty, or fine, of one hundred per cent, ad valorem upon the "critter," whenever he is sold in the valley, come in whatever shape he may. With this exception, we have perfect free trade. The settlements feel the want of nothing so much as a "railroad, connecting with the Mississippi and the Pacific. Such a road would be a giant under-taking, as we all know, but it could be made, and it would pay well—and any road that will pay, ought to be built.
I have seen coal at four different places along this road, west of the Missouri line—on Bull Creek, in the Shawnee country; on Deer Creek, one hundred miles above Fort Laramie; on Echo Creek, at the eastern base of the Nobsatch moun-tains; and on the western side of the Humboldt mountains, about two hundred miles west of this place. I saw lead, or galena, on Big Sandy, be-tween the Kumas and Platte Rivers, and also west of North Platte, below the mouth of Sweetwater. Iron is found in various places; gold is found in small quantities on Goose Creek, between this place and Fort Hall; and the Sweetwater moun-tains contain the finest marble in the world. I saw it there of every hue and shade, from the purest white to a perfect jet; and I never saw any, from any country, of as fine a quality. I pre-sume it exists there in inexhaustible quantities.
This whole region of country possesses one sin-gular feature that is not generally known—or, at least, it is not generally known that the phenom-enon is so common. From the mouth of the Platte to the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a large portion of all the moist land is in dry weather covered with salt. Below Fort Laramie it is generally a pure chloride of sodium, and appears only in small quantities, frequently resembling a heavy hoar-frost It disappears with every rain, but is held in solution by the water in the earth, till brought to the surface by capillary attraction, and deposit-ed by evaporation in fine white crystals. Above Fort Laramie, especially north of the Platte, it is found in larger quantities, and usually mingled with other substances, the carbonate of sodium frequently predominating over the chloride.—There is a small lake or pond near the Sweetwa-ter, around the margin of which this salt is depos-ited to the depth of several inches. There are several naphtha springs around this lake. It may be smelled for two or three miles. This is called the "Alkali Lake," and is spoken of by nearly all the guide books.
The most curious animal that I have seen on the plains is the "horned frog," or "round lizard," or "air frog," as some call it. I presume it is pecu-liar to these plains, and I know of no other name for it. But I should presume, from the manner in which Fremont writes Latin and compound names, that he would call it the ranu-longi hornu, although it is by no means a frog, and its horns are scarcely a quarter of an inch long. It is a spe-cies of lizard, much resembling a frog, with two small horns on its head, and a row of smaller ones extending down each side. I have had five of them in a bottle for more than three months; and, though they have had neither food nor drink, they are as lively and active as ever. ASA C. CALL.
P.S. September 24.—The Indian war has com-menced in good earnest. On the night of the 21st, the Indians made an attack upon the north settle-ment, and did considerable mischief, burning houses and stacks of grain, and killing and driving off stock. On the first alarm, the inhabitants as-sembled at Captain Brown's Fort, fortified them-selves as strongly as possible, and sent to the city for assistance. General Eldridge with two hundred cavalry, and Captain McBride's light ar-tillery, were instantly dispatched to their relief.—Word has been received, that upon their approach the main body of the Indians fled to the north, and that General Eldridge, leaving a small detach-ment to protect the inhabitants and guard a few Indians that be had picked up, pushed on in pur-suit. A scouting party came in yesterday morn-ing, and reported that a party of Indians had col-lected at Weber river canon and Captain Green, with a company of mounted volunteers composed principally of "Gentiles," as the "Saints" call us outsiders, started out to dislodge them. At our approach, they fired a few guns, and then fled up the mountains. We succeeded, however, in get-ting thirty-five of them, which exceeded our whole number. Yorrakee, a principal Snake chief, was killed. One white man was killed, by the name of Campbell. A. C. C.
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