Brigham Young’s Spyglass

    Museum Treasures

    Brigham Young used this collapsible brass and leather spyglass on the first trip to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Members of the company used spyglasses like this to scout the trail, search for game, and watch for danger.

    In early May 1847, while the company was still on the plains of central Nebraska, some of their cows wandered too near a buffalo herd. Concerned that the cows would run away with the herd, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Thomas Woolsey chased after them. They were able to turn the cows back, but Brigham lost his spyglass in the confusion. The three men made a careful search but could not find it. Brigham Young chastised Erastus Snow for the loss of the spyglass, because he had been responsible for watching the cattle that day.

    Company member Thomas Bullock reported that on the next day they encountered “thousands & thousands of Buffalo … marching directly in our Path, & going the same way as the Camp. There were such a mass of living blackness that the Van Guard could not see the Prairie beyond them.”

    Knowing that Brigham Young was upset about the loss of his spyglass, Porter Rockwell and several others returned to search for it. William Clayton recorded, “About four p.m., Porter and the others returned, having found the spy glass which was a source of joy to all the brethren.” Miraculously, the spyglass was intact and undamaged, despite the thousands of buffalo that could have trampled it.

    Brigham Young likely used this spyglass on his later journeys across the plains and in his work settling Utah.