Michael Witt, Copy and revision of the autobiography of Mr. Blackburn, 1966, 11-13.
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On April 20, 1847, we started for Fort Laramie to strike the California road over to the south Platte River; passed the old St. Vrain Station and from there to the cash Tapood [Cache La Poudre] and onto Ft. Laramie. Here we fell in company with Brigham Young's pioneers going to look for a place for the saints to make a home in the far west. We journeyed on with them. We passed through the Black Hills, crossed the north Platte, and came to the great Sweet Water River and camped at Independence Rock, a huge mass of granite that covers several acres.
With hundreds of names marked on its huge sides, it is quite a sight, and a short distance above is Devils Gate, which was left by a river cutting through a mountain and leaving a wide chasm several hundred deep. It looked as though one could step across on top. If there was any difference in width, the bottom was the widest. Some of the people were afraid to go through the gate, so we went around the gate over the ridge. We came out into a most beautiful valley, carpeted with green grass and herds of buffalo, elk, and deer grazing on its rich meadows. The Sweet Water River rippled along in its course from the lofty summit of Fremont's Peak of the Rocky Mountains. There was a small mountain, running parallel with the river. The mountain was of granite and not a particle of vegetation growing on it, nor was there any dust of the earth on it. I had never seen one like that before. All of the companies laid over to rest for a few days in this lovely place. After the hunters got their game and the sightseers had viewed the mountain, we continued our journey on this stream with a gradual ascent until we reached the summit on the south pass.
There was a young couple on this journey with us who had been spooning and liking each other all the way. The whole company was tired of it so they persuaded them to get married then and not wait until the journeys end. The next evening we had a wedding, and a regular minister to unite them. After supper, which was the best the plains could furnish, came the dancing or the how down. The banjo and violin made us forget the hardships of the plains. The next day was the Holy Sabbath. Some of the people were in the shade reading novels, others the Bible, some were mending clothes, others were shoeing cattle and a number were in a tent playing the violin. By and by a runner came by and told us the minister was going to observe the Sabbath and preach a sermon. All hands quit what they were doing, and the fiddle stopped playing. Some of them went into the tent to play cards, a few heard the sermon and some took their guns and went hunting. Such is the life on the plains.
This is a beautiful country with a most invigorating climate, good feed for the cattle and tired animals, and nearly all kinds of wild game. Finally we arrived at the pass. Here the water divided. We will follow down the Pacific slope from here and camp at Pacific Springs. The next stream was a little sandy creek, we crossed it and camped on Big Sandy River. The next day we came to Green River, the prettiest in the west. It rises in the Wind River Mountains and is the longest fork from there to Ft. Bridger.
Old Jim Bridger and his trappers gave a hearty welcome to our company. He is the oldest trapper in the mountains and can tell some wonderful stories.
We crosssed over to a stream called Muddy and thence to Bear River where we camped. We then crossed over to Echo Canyon, that celebrated place where every noise makes an echo. The boys made all the noise they could going through and it was truly wonderful.
We next camped on Weaver River where we started to work on making the road ahead of us over the mountains to Salt Lake Valley.
The next camp was Emigrant Canyon, where the dust was deep and black. All of the hands looked like negro[e]s. We stayed here one day to finish the road ahead.
Three of our soldiers undertook to climb the highest mountain in sight of the camp to take a view of the surrounding country. They climbed and climbed until nearly exhausted but kept going until the top was reached. We would not have undertaken the job had we known the difficulties to be surmounted. As we landed on the summit, the highest peak in sight, it was the grandest view a mortal ever beheld. The air was clear, and perfect for the view. The great Salt Lake glittered under the suns rays. Range after range of mountains in every direction. The great desert to the west, and Utah Lake in the southeast and the mountains beyond. A more sublime view was seldom seen from a mountain top. There were some very large granite boulders on top which would weigh several tons. We dug and pried them loose and started them down the mountains. They sped through the air and some split to pieces and some held together and crashed down the mountains until they reached the timber line. They would strike the fir trees near the tops and go right through them, starting other rocks to fall and practically making an avalanche. The grouse and wild animals scattered in all directions.
Brigham Young went ahead of us one day to examine the place the Lord had showed him in his vision, and sure enough, he found the identical landmark in his dream.
They had all the wind work down before we came to the place, the 24th of July, 1847, is the day they celebrate as a commemoration for the arrival in the valley of the Great Salt Lake.