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Jews in the Wild West

Chapter 33.

Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West

On the Road to California—Iron Springs—Meadow Springs—Entrance to Las Vegas de Santa Clara—Prairie Flowers—Rim of the Basin—Santa Clara River—Difficulty of Crossing with Wagons—Wounded Indian—Serpentine Course of the River—Waterfall—Natural Cave.
 

AT three o'clock, our party, consisting of twenty-three Mormons, missionaries to the Sandwich Islands, under command of Parley Pratt, started on their journey. We have six wagons and teams. A woman who is going to her husband at San Bernandino, has permission to accompany us. She also has a wagon and team, but her horses look as if they would not travel fifty miles. She is an encumbrance, and I anticipate trouble with her. We proceeded twelve miles, and camped at Iron Springs, with good water.

22nd.—At seven this morning, we were on our road, travelling due west, until two o'clock, when we camped on Penter Creek, twenty-five miles distant from last. camp.

The road now forms an elbow, and heads to the south. We followed the course, until we came to Meadow Springs, the entrance to Las Vegas de Santa Clara, noted on Fremont's map-distance twelve miles from noon camp.

This stream is clear and cool. The meadows abound in good grass and rushes, while the surrounding mountains would afford sustenance to thousands of cattle and sheep.

23rd.—The weather last night was cool and delightful. This morning we left camp at half past seven o'clock and followed the road in the centre of the valley meadow to the base of a picturesque mountain, studded with large cedars and umbrageous foliage.

The meadow formed a perfect carpet of various colored flowers, among which were larkspurs, lupines, and many varieties of wild flowers which I have never before seen. I have gathered and preserved specimens of those I considered most valuable.

The contrast of the colors of prairie flowers, as they are thrown carelessly on nature's carpet, is truly wonderful; the greatest harmony prevails—you see the yellow and purple, green and red , orange and blue, arranged always in juxtaposition, producing the primitive colors of a ray of light, through which medium only we are able to distinguish them.

The ancient masters always produced harmony in their pictures because they closely studied nature; at the same time, they could not have known the science of colors, as there is no work extant on the theory of colors, when Raphael or Titian lived. Modern researches have discovered the reasons why nature is thus harmoniously beautiful in all her varied dresses.

The works of modern artists, therefore, should be always correctly delineated, as they not only have the same nature to study from as the ancients had, but science has assisted them with theoretical problems, founded on scientific investigations, in the different branches of Natural Philosophy.

The road continued through a romantic pass, which wound around the foot of the mountains.

When we reached the divide where the waters flow towards the Gulf of California, the scene that presented itself was grand and sublime.

We camped on the banks of a beautiful stream, the Santa Clara, on the margins of which I observed the rose-tree, in full bearing, also cottonwood, ash, besides shrubs of different kinds, all in bloom. The air was filled with fragrance, and the scene presented a harmonious and refreshing landscape. This paradise is without a solitary living human inhabitant. These plants and flowers are literally

"Wasting their sweetness on the desert air."

We travelled twenty miles this morning, when, after giving our horses a resting-spell, we continued on our journey through this luxuriantly beautiful valley, crossing and re-crossing the Santa Clara six times. This river runs in a serpentine direction, almost due south, the waters of which were, at this time, much swollen. At the last crossing, my mule went in over his head, and I got a wetting as the price of my ferriage.

The wagons had to be pulled over quickly, with all the horses attached to them, by long ropes; the current was so strong as nearly to overturn them. Almost everything at the bottom of the wagons was wet.

The east side of the river, is a continuation of picturesque, abrupt rocks, very much the appearance of the canons on Grand River, except that the formation is a black ironstone rock, while that of the Grand River is sandstone.

The Santa Clara River, has no connection with the Seveir River, as was formerly supposed, but is one of the tributaries of the Great Colorado, emptying into the Gulf of California, while the Seveir River empties into Seveir Lake.

We camped on this romantic stream, and at night I took a refreshing bath in its crystal waters.

24th.—At an early hour this morning, our camp was visited by a number of Paiede Indians; they were almost in a state of nudity; we supplied them with food, and some few clothes. One of them, who walked lame, said, he was shot by an exploring party, about ten years ago corresponding with Col. Fremont's first expedition over this country. With those Indians Col. Fremont had several skirmishes, and I have no doubt, he was wounded in attempting to waylay that expedition. One of the men told him, I was an American, in contradistinction to Mormon. "Ha!" said he, pointing to his wound, "I got that from Mericats"—he looked very savagely at me, and I have no doubt, would have taken delight in making me a target for his arrows: if I had told him I was one of Col. Fremont's men, I am pretty sure I would have had to give him satisfaction. This man followed our camp on foot several days afterwards.

We left camp at eight o'clock, our road lay through scenery similar to that presented yesterday. We crossed the Santa Clara, six times to-day, making twelve crossings, in as many miles. Box, elder, cottonwood, honey locust, grow luxuriantly all along the river, about a mile from the end of the valley where we left it. There is a romantic fall of water on this stream. The fall is twelve feet; on the opposite side of the road there is a natural cave, formed in the red sandstone, which overhangs the road, of nearly fifty feet in depth, and thirty feet high. I explored it, and found only the remains of some Indian articles.

It was about this spot where Lamphere was killed a few weeks before, a description of whose murder I gave in my notes of Salt Lake City. We exercised great vigilance while in camp, and also while travelling through the dense undergrowth of many parts of this river. I looked for enemies in every tree, and was truly rejoiced when we reached the open country again.
 

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