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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 Spring 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 Well.  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

1 comment:

  1. I so love your blog. My family took this trail to Pima, AZ in 1883 but left no mention of the trip except for an encounter with some Indians. You have brought this trip alive for me. I knew they had to cross a Lee's Ferry and now I can visualize what they went through. Thanks for your efforts.

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