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The Trek

West

Forty-niner John Benson

Journal Entry: Great Salt Lake Valley Emigration Square

 

July 24, 1849

Crossed Big Mountain, descended Emigration Canyon and arrived in time for the Twenty-fourth of July celebration:

Monday, July 23rd [1849]

"One of Flack's oxen was left to die. The road this morning led over a low mountain. We had to double teams in crossing the summit. It is one mile of heavy hauling. After passing over the summit the descent is very steep and we had to lock both wheels. It is a rough road, crossing a creek several times. At about noon we came into the valley of the Great Salt lake in sight of the City of Great Salt Lake. We passed through the city, crossed over the River Jordan and camped one mile west of the city."

Tuesday, July 24th [1849]

"This was a great day for the people in this vicinity. They were celebrating the second anniversary of their entrance into the valley. An immense amount of work and energy had been expended in preparing for the celebration. . . . It was estimated that 6000 to 8000 took dinner. I think 200 emigrants took dinner with them. All were urged to sit in. I hesitated but did so after two urgent invitations. The tables were spread with the greatest plenty and in taste and quantity not to be excelled. . . .

"As I walked away from the bower, I turned and looked back. There were more people (except emigrants and Indians) 200 to 1 than I had seen since I left the Missouri River. Where did they come from? How did they get here? I pinched myself to make sure that I was not dreaming. I have seen tables set for probably 100 or more, but here were tables for thousands. But the greatest marvel is how they could, in so short a time, produce in a desert, the variety of food stuffs with which the tables were spread. Men do not gather vegetables from sage brushes or cereals from cactus. The seeds, the tubers, the roots, the fouls, the pigs, the sheep, the cows, everything from which this abundance was produced had to all be transported a thousand miles or more over such roads as we have traveled. Even then, how could they in so short a time with so small a beginning, have produced so much. It seems incredible. I take off my hat to those who planned and executed it."

(John H. Benson, Diary, May-Sept. 1849, typescript, Nebraska State Historical Society, Lincoln, Nebraska; photocopy of typescript, HDC.)

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