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Devils Gate

Distance: 970 miles from Nauvoo

Pioneer Trail

About

A significant landmark noted by most journal keepers, Devil's Gate is a narrow cut made by the Sweetwater River through an immense rock with sides measuring three hundred seventy feet in height and more than a quarter mile in length. It was here that the suffering members of the Martin Handcart Company were brought by the rescuers before being carried west to the Salt Lake Valley during the bitter winter of 1856. Twenty men, under the leadership of Daniel W. Jones, remained for the winter at Devil's Gate to guard freight unloaded there by the independent wagon companies, in part to make room for exhausted members of the Martin Company. The Jones party suffered misery and starvation at Devil's Gate, at one point being reduced to eating boiled rawhide until friendly Indians gave them some buffalo meat. The episode was immortalized in Wallace Stegner's story "The Man Who Ate the Pack Saddle."


Journal Entries

George E. Grant

October 1856

"It is not much use for me to attempt to give a description of the situation of these people, for this you will learn from your son Joseph A. and Br. Garr, who are the bearers of this express; but you can imagine between five and six hundred men, women and children, worn down by drawing handcarts through snow and mud; fainting by the wayside..." Read More

 

Elizabeth Horrocks Jackson Kingsford

October 1856

"I was six or seven thousand miles from my native land, in a wild, rocky, mountain country, in a destitute condition, the ground covered with snow, the waters covered with ice, and I with three fatherless children with scarcely nothing to protect them from the merciless storms..." Read More

 

Elizabeth Sermon

November 1856

"Many cruel and painful things happening, the dying and dear ones all around us, poor souls, would sit down by the roadside and would never move again until carried into camp on handcarts by someone. It is a wonder any of us lived through it. My husband's health still failing, a young woman by the name of Caroline Marchant assisted me with the cart..." Read More

 

Levi Savage

15 October 1856

"Today we traveled fifteen and a half miles. Last night Caroline Reeder, aged seventeen years, died and was buried this morning. The people are getting weak and failing very fast. A great many are sick. Our teams are also failing fast, and it requires great exertion to make any progress. Our rations were reduced last night, one quarter, bringing the men to ten ounces and the women to nine ounces. Some of the children were reduced to six and others to three ounces each" (as quoted in Journal of the Trail, ed. Stewart E. Glazier and Robert S. Clark, [1997], 104).

Information

Devil's Gate is a narrow cut made by the Sweetwater River through an immense rock with sides measuring three hundred seventy feet in height and more than a quarter mile in length. Go to Next Location on the Trail.