DAYS 25-28 ......................................................................................................................................................... FROM LEES FERRY TO NEARLY TO CEDAR RIDGE

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Lees Backbone (Day 26)

Two Views of the beginning of Lees Backbone (North End)

September 27, 1884 - Lees Ferry to Navajo Spring
Day 26 of 44 - Week 4 (Day 7/7)
Lees Ferry to Navajo Spring = 10 Miles: Total Miles = 449
Total Trip Average Miles per Day = 17.3: Average Miles per Day - Week 4 = 11.1
Week 1 = 20.2 Miles
Week 2 = 21.7 Miles
Week 3 = 17.1 Miles
Week 4 = 11.1 Miles
Total Average = 17.3 Miles
The miles traveled each day in week 4 were significant less than previously.
September 26 - 27
September 27 - 28

Original Journal Entry (posted above)

Saturday 27
Crossed over the river all right paid $3.00 per wagon to Johnson for ferrying us across.  Then we crossed the "Back Bone" a very steep and rocky mountain to cross drove 10 miles from ferry to Navajo Spring - arrived after dark - no feed - heavy sand - turned horses out in the canyon horses very tired.

Final Journal Entry (Charles P Anderson Journal - p 6)
Saturday Sept. 27. Crossed over the river all right - paid Johnson $3.00 per wagon for crossing - then we crossed Lees Back Bone, a very steep and rocky mountain.  Anna drove buggy team, very dangerous.  Drove 10 miles to Navajo Springs - arrived after dark - heavy sand, no feed

Note Anna was mentioned in the second entry but not the original one.

The Anderson Family were the last of four sets of great great grandparents to cross the Colorado River and Lees Backbone from 1876-1884.  Davis, Peterson, LeSueur,  Richey, and Sherwood names are included in this group.  In total I had 13 directly line ancestors cross the backbone.

The Ferry

 Charles wrote they paid $3.00 per wagon for crossing the ferry.  In 1876 it was  $1.00 per wagon (which I believe was the missionary rate) ( Ensign)    The fact he mentioned the cost might be indicative, he wasn't pleased with the price.  This polite Swede  wouldn't say that in his journal.  The St. Johns missionaries were complaining bitterly to Warren Johnson about the ferry rates, claiming they should have reduced fares because of having been called to that country.  (Lee's Ferry by P. T. Reilly, p100).

The river crossing held much fear for the travelers and developed its reputation early in settlement history.  One of the early 1876 groups met with disaster during their crossing.  Tanner and Richards tell the story and explain why thereafter all settlers dreaded the crossing.  "A party of nine, including President Daniel H. Wells and Bishop Lorenzo W. Roundy, were Arizona-bound on the ferry when it dipped, throwing the whole party into the water.  Bishop Roundy, along the much of the equipage, was lost in the river and his body was never recovered.  This story was repeated almost endlessly.  Because of the prominence of the people involved it created a deep impression on the Arizona missionaries." (1977:26).  This happened about the time my great great grandfather, Marcor Peterson, crossed the ferry.

The Backbone

The most formidable obstacle of the trail was what they called Lees Backbone.  This huge rock formation had to be crossed.  The Backbone and Lees Ferry received more attention from the pens of nineteenth-century Honeymoon Trail/Pioneer Trail travelers than any other spot along the trail.  The more distinctive accounts are descriptions of the experience during the move to Arizona since pulling wagons over the three-mile rock required hitching two teams per wagon.  Often the movers unloaded wagons and carried belongings over on their backs.

The first  great grandparent crossed the river and backbone in 1876.  Marcor Peterson was with his friends Peter Isaacson and Ove Overson.  When they reached the ferry and Backbone, they had so many families with them and more than fifteen wagons, that is was a major ordeal to get them all across.  When his friend, Peter Isaacson's turn came, Anna Maria wrote that "It was all I could do to hold onto those mules (she drove her father's team of mules because he had to help with the cattle).  Mother was afraid every minute I would tip over and be killed.  Years later, when I went back to Utah and saw Mother for the last time, she didn't know me at first.  Father said, "This is Maria."  Mother said, "Oh, no  Maria was killed when we went to Arizona."  Anna Maria Isaacson, 1876

Wagon ruts on the Backbone 

1878 Mesa Company Rock Sentinel 
My  great grandparents John and Jane Caroline LeSueur Davis crossed the backbone in 1878. 
This inscription was dated December 4, 1878, during the three days the company they were with was camped at Lees Ferry.  Gov Phelps, the son of Hyrum and Elizabeth Bingham Phelps was born on December 2, 1878.  Gov Phelps, eleven year old sister Sarah, wrote:  "It was a long and tiresome journey for our parents, but enjoyable for the children.........We camped three days and then continued our journey.  Going over Lee's Backbone the grade was very steep.  Father took the lead team off and I drove the other team all the way over the dugway.  It was very narrow and straight down, and it looked as if it were miles deep.  I was eleven years old, but except when we traveled at night, I drove a team most of the way.  Though the mountains were covered with snow and we had to made our own road, it was not too cold.  We arrived in Mesa on January 17, 1879."  Sarah Lucretia Phelps Pomeroy

Phelps said "The early frost and cold long winters caused me to make a change to a warmer climate.  With consent of Apostle Charles C. Rich, I disposed of all my belongings and put it into teams, wagons and cattle.  On October 3, 1878, in company with Charles Dana and son Roswell, John Hibbert,  John Taylor LeSueur,  William LeSueur, Charles (Warner) Warrener (married  Harriet Ellen LeSueur) and Robert Williams, we set out for Salt River Valley, Arizona...............The first settlers had only been located since October (about three months).  They were living in tents and sheds mostly.  The company let us join them, giving us a chance to work out water rights to get shares in the company."     (History and Autobiography of Hyrum Smith Phelps)-also see (Phelps).

Although he wasn't mentioned in the Hyrum Smith Phelps History,  another set of great grandparents John Davis who married Jane Caroline LeSueur (a sister to John and William) were also in this company.  They are named in William LeSueur's history which gives a few addition details on this trip to Arizona.  Also their mother Caroline LeGresley LeSueur (my great great grandmother) made this journey.  Four of her children were with her.

When I discovered this rock on a hike up the backbone, I felt a connection to  the Phelps Company which my  great grandparents John and Jane Caroline LeSueur Davis and my  great great grandmother, Caroline LeGresley LeSueur were part of when they passed by here on December 4, 1878.

Proof I finally found the Phelps memorial.  Three of my
direct line ancestors were in that company.

Me on the trail.  The rock part behind me was built up
so the wagons could get by

"There is one place where if a person went two feet out of the road they would go down a precipice hundreds of feet.  Thomas (age five) had a narrow escape of stepping over as we were walking across, after this we had splendid roads most of the way."  Catharine Cottam Romney, 1881
(Note:  They probably seems "splendid" after passing over the backbone).

"We finally reached the top to find a narrow road winding around the mountain." Anna L Anderson. 
THE BIG DROP/notice the rocks to built out this portion so the wagons could get through
I can't imagine doing this in a wagon.  On the hike we even went around it.

"It is a curious looking river from where I viewed it in the afternoon from the top of what is known as Lees Backbone, over which we passed the same day.  Here you can see the river hundreds of feet below you winding its way between perpendicular banks of solid rock without a tree to be seen and devoid of vegetation."  Catharine Cottam Romney, 1881

"From this side of the road the big Colorado River can be seen hundreds of feet below.  We had to travel very slowly around this mountain, then the coming down the mountain-side.  The wheels had to be locked and every precaution taken.  This was a real ordeal and extremely terrifying.  The children and I got out of the buggy and walked to the bottom of the mountain where my husband had driven his wagon and returned for the buggy.  Viewing the wagon from a distance it looked as though the drivers would be pitched head first onto the backs of the horses.  We were very thankful to have this part of the journey over."  Anna L. Anderson (wife of Charles Anderson in 1884  (Life Sketch)

top of the backbone with the Colorado River below

Wilford Woodruff

Wilford Woodruff and Lees Backbone

"It was the worst hill Ridge or Mountain that I Ever attempted to Cross with a team and waggon on Earth.  We had 4 Horses on a waggon of 1,500 lb weight and for two rods we Could ownly gain from 4 inches to 24 with all the power of the horses and two men rolling at the hind wheels and going Down on the other side was still more Steep rocky and sandy which would make it much worse than going up on the North side."
 President Wilford Woodruff

Crossing Lees Ferry with cattle to purchase land in St. Johns, Arizona

In November 1880 David K Udall, James Ramsey and Andrew S. Gibbons went to Salt Lake City to request cattle to purchase land in St. Johns from Mr. Barth.  After holding a Council meeting President Taylor requested the Presiding Bishop, Edward Hunter, to give Bishop Udall an order for 450 cows from the Canaan herd of the church cattle running near Pipe Springs, Arizona just south of Kanab.  At Pipe Springs they receive their cattle and some local cowboys helped them drive the herd to the Colorado over at Lees Ferry. 
crossing the Colorado River over the ice
Their chief and immediate worry was how to cross over with so many cattle.  To ferry them was almost out of the question.  It would be impossible to swim them over, so few men would not be able to crowd a herd of that size into the ice cold water.  When the they reached the river it was as though a miracle had happened.  the mighty Colorado was frozen solid from bank to bank and they crossed their herd without incident.  They arrived at St. Johns in mid February, 1881, after a hard, cold winter on the trail.

Me again in the same area.  I had been where my ancestors were

Tom Jensen my guide

on the south end of the backbone/notice the truck below
south ascent of Lee Backbone viewed from the crest
an enclosure (corral?) on the north side  of the
backbone at the bottom

The horses started back to Utah on a trot.  They had enough of the backbone

One last story which is perhaps the best indicator of how challenging the Backbone was is how Joseph Fish's horses reacted to the experience in 1879.  "After spending all day pulling their wagon up the Backbone, they decide it would be a good idea to take their horses back down to the river for a drink before embarking on the long waterless stretch to the Little Colorado.  Back at the river, the horses waded in for a drink.  They waded in a little more, still drinking, and a little more, then took off swimming for the opposite bank.  Once there, they laid down and took a roll in the sand and then started off for Utah on a trot.  You can hardly imagine my feelings as we sat and watched them taking the back track for home."  Fortunately for Fish and Company, stranded on the other side, the ferry operator saw the horses before they got too far and corralled the animals.  Joseph Fish, 1879 (told by Tanner and Richards (1977:26) (Fish 1970:197-80)

map of the backbone and surrounding area

Although the Anderson's arrived at Navajo Springs today (September 27, 1884), I won't post about it until the next post.  I'll admit it.  I still have to take pictures of that area and do some exploring.  But I do have this inscription by George S Brown at Navajo Springsl.  He arrived there two days after the Andersons and  is mentioned later in the Anderson journal.  Since they are close to them on the trail, we will get to know more about them and their journey to St. Johns.  Mrs. Brown (Minnie Petersen Brown) told of some happenings along the trail that we don't find in the Anderson account.

Geo Brown at Navajo Spring - September 29, 1884

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Day At Lees Ferry (Day 25)

Lees Ferry
September 26, 1884 - Lees Ferry
Day 25 of 44 - Week 4 (Day 6)
Lees Ferry = 0 Miles: Total Trip Miles = 439
Total Trip Average Miles per Day = 17.6:   Average Miles per Day - Week 4 = 11.3

September 24 - 26
September 26 - 27

Note:  A video has been added on (Day 24) of the 5 miles road trip to Lees Ferry.

Original Journal Entry (posted above)
Friday 26
Arose Early to cross the river.  but the arose so we could not cross - made a dug way to land at went up on the Back Bone to examine it went boat riding in the afternoon.  Paid $1.00 per span for feed.

Final Journal Entry (Charles P Anderson Journal - p 6)
Friday Sept. 26.  Arose early to cross the river but the wind arose so we could not - made a dugway out of river - went up on the Back Bone - returned and went boat riding in afternoon.  Paid $1.00 per span for feed again.

Note: I did the same thing.  I crossed the river and went up on the Back Bone (Day 26)   I went boat riding in the afternoon (Day 24).

Anna Anderson (Charles wife) in her life sketch said:  "We (Mrs. De La Mare and herself) were very tired from driving and at the same time holding on to the little children so they would not tumble out.  The road was rough, such big rocks and boulders in the way that going was extremely difficult.  Here made camp and rested for a day and night, very thankful that all was well."

The Andersons spent the day at Lee's Ferry.  Charles went up Lee's Backbone to examine it and went boat riding in the afternoon.  This blog will explore what was there then and what is there today.  Little did Charles know that boating would be the main activity at Lee's Ferry in years to come.  You would be able to cross the river in a kayak as the flow would be controlled by a dam above it.  This video will give you an idea of what the area was like on the day they spent there.  The surroundings certainly have not changed much.  Today we will explore the surrounding on this side of the ferry.  Hopefully this video will give you the feeling of being there. 

John D. Lee for whom Lees Ferry is named

Walking Tours
Lees Ferry Walking Tour

In January, 1874, three young Navajo men were killed in a confrontation with Anglo settlers, near what is now Bryce Canyon National Park.  Tensions ran high between Navajos and white settlers, and Mormon settlers coming through Lees Ferry trickled to a halt.  In June that same year Brigham Young ordered a fort be built at Lees Ferry.  This fort was complete by mid-July.  Tensions soon eased and colonization resumed without incident.  The fort was never attacked, and became a trading post instead.  In March 1876, new ferryman Warren Johnson moved over into the fort where he lived for the next three and a half years. ("Lees Ferry Historic District - A Walking Guide" National Park Service)
Lees Ferry Fort

This building (below) was constructed in 1911 as the headquarters for Charles H. Spencer's gold mining company.  It was the first of eight stone building Spencer put up along the road to the ferry, giving the place the feel of a small village.  When Spencer failed to recover gold, he moved on in 1912 and the office stood empty.  Cowboys, miners, and travelers occasionally camped in the building.  Lees Ferry Post Office was opened in this building in 1922.  Almost no mail was sent or delivered and the post office closed seven months later. ("Lees Ferry Historic District - A Walking Guide" National Park Service)
Lees Ferry Post Office

 Lees Ferry is the launching point for most river trips within the Grand Canyon.  It is approximately one mile upstream from the Grand Canyon National Park boundary.
boat launch ramp

Scattered around the parking lot are these big white flowers
Caution this plant may be poisonous

Charles H Spencer

Ferrying was not the only means of business at this river crossing.  The American Placer Company headed by Charles H. Spencer, set down roots in 1910.  He expected to obtain gold from chinle shale.
the Spencer mining operation in 1911

evidence of the Spencer mining operation today

Investors in Spencer's company built a 92-foot steamboat to improve coal transport and gold production, but it burned most of the coal it transported in the process.  By 1912 the company was shut down.
92-foot paddlewheel steamboat built for the Spencer company
evidence of the paddlewheel steamboat

The Dominguez-Escalante Experience at the Ferry

On our trip we again run into Dominguez and Escalante.  They were mentioned in Day 22 when they arrived on October 25, 1876 at the San Bartolome Campsite.  The following day they approached the Colorado at Marble Canyon, a spot they described as "a corner all hemmed in by very lofty bluffs and big hogbacks of red earth which..... present a pleasingly jumbled scene".  Crossing the mouth of the Paria River, they then made their camp amid the more difficult terrain of what's now Lees Ferry, roughly a hundred yards downstream from the present-day boat launch site.    Two members of the party managed to swim across the Colorado.  They returned having been too exhausted to climb the cliffs on the far side.  Next they built a raft, but three times failed to pole it all the way across.  After eleven days convinced of the impossibility of coaxing their horses (some of which they were in any case by now having to eat) through quicksand and onto makeshift rafts, they gave up.

They headed north instead, managing to climb out of Paria canyon a few miles along, and eventually forded the Colorado on horseback on November 7 at what became known as the Crossing of the Fathers in Glen Canyon. (The Rough Guide to the Grand Canyon by Greg Ward)  It is also called Ute Ford and is about 35 miles north of Lees Ferry.  More can be found  here. The crossing is now under nearly four hundred feet of water in Padre Bay in Lake Powell.

Lonely Dell Ranch Walking Tour

For more information on Lonely Dell Ranch click here or here

Lonely Dell Ranch Historic District

Historic District Map.  Click here for explanation of sites.  The main ranch buildings are about 700 feet up the dirt road from
the parking near these signs.  The tour is about a 1 mile round trip 
"picture window" cabin
pioneer cemeter

One of many stories that can be told at Lees ferry is of Warren Johnson was the ferryman at Lees Ferry for 21 years.  In 1891 death struck the Warren Johnson Family.  Within less than two months four of their children age 5 to 15 died.  Everything possible was done to save them, but nothing helped.  The four children were buried side by side in a small cemetery near a bend in the Paria River.  Belatedly, the cause of death was determined to be diphtheria unwittingly borne to Lees ferry when the Johnson took a family into their home while they waited for the river to drop for safe crossing.  The visitors had buried a child by the side of the trail just days before, dead of an unnamed illness.  Warren John felt forsaken.  He revealed his anguish in a letter to church elders: "What have we done that they Lord has left us?"  Church Prophet Wilford  Woodruff replied that he had done no wrong and urged Johnson to remain steadfast. (Arizona Highways (p16-21)

 Johnson preserved as ferryman at the "Mormon Crossing" for another four years.  Right around the time of his release from the ferry he was involved in a wagon accident that paralyzed him from the wait down.  He spent the rest of his life in a wheel chair ("Welcome Home")

More on Warren Johnson and the trial of his faith can be found in this talk by Elder Faust.

Johnson family headstone

Warren M Johnson

Tomorrow they would cross the Colorado River and Lees Backbone.  It is difficult to imagine Lee's Backbone as a road, but thousands of vehicles passed over it.  The route to Lee's Ferry from the Utah settlements was bad enough, with its long waterless stretches, its deep sand that clung to the wagon wheels and forced the draft animals to strain in the desert heat, its impassable washes. during rainy weather. And the ferry crossing was no picnic, with the swift current, makeshift equipment, and Marble Canyon yawning below.  But it was the Backbone that struck most vividly in the memories of many who followed this route.  The next blog will share accounts from some who made this journey

The beginning of Lee's Backbone just after crossing the Colorado River

anything is possible after crossing the river and the backbone