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Mormon Newsroom
Mormon Pioneers entering the Salt Lake Valley through Emigration Canyon in July 1847.

Not every pioneer expressed excitement over their first view of the Great Salt Lake Valley in July of 1847.

For example, one pioneer, Mrs. Harriet Young, said, “Weak and weary as I am I would rather go a thousand miles farther than remain in such a forsaken place as this” (see "Utah in Her Western Setting," by Milton R. Hunter, 1956 edition).

Still, once LDS Church President Brigham Young said the Salt Lake Valley was the right place, all the pioneers accepted that and settled there.

(There were 147 members of the July 1847 vanguard pioneer group, including three women and two children. None of the first group died — all made it safely to the Salt Lake Valley, after traveling some 1,031 miles.)

One pioneer shared an excited response with his first view of the Great Salt Lake Valley. Also, he experienced one of the first confrontations with native wildlife by the pioneers, as he encountered a coiled rattlesnake while trying to get a glimpse of the Great Salt Lake.

Ray Boren, Deseret News archives
Among the statuary and tableaux on This Is the Place Monument is this scene depicting the arrival – and celebratory “hosannas” and hat-waving – of trail scouts Orson Pratt and Erastus Snow. They were the first Mormon pioneers to enter the Salt Lake Valley from Emigration Canyon, on July 21, 1847, three days before their leader, Brigham Young.

Erastus Snow recorded this account during his first view attempt of the Great Salt Lake Valley, on July 21, 1847, and Hunter also shares:

“The thicket down the narrows, at the mouth of the (Emigration) canyon, was so dense that one could not penetrate through it. I crawled for some distance on my hands and knees through the thickets, until I was compelled to return, admonished to by the rattle of a snake, which lay coiled up under my nose, having almost put my hand on him; but as he gave me the friendly warning, I thanked him and retreated. We raised on to a high point south of the narrows, where we got a view of the Great Salt Lake and this valley, and each of us, without saying a word to the other, instinctively, as if by inspiration, raised out hats from our heads, and then, swinging our hats, shouted.”

Most histories of early Utah would have you assume that Miles Goodyear was the lone non-Native American living in Utah territory when the Mormon pioneers arrived in 1847.

However, there may have been as many as six other non-Native Americans living in the region before the pioneers.

Details on these men are sketchy, but here is what is know about several of them them according to a Deseret News article from Dec. 15, 1906, under the headline of "Utah Legends, Indians, Trappers and Pioneers.

• A mountain man, Peg Leg Smith, was living in the Bear Lake Valley (partially in Utah) before the pioneers arrived there. He told the settlers many Native American tales about Bear Lake, and also operated a trading post at Dingle (Idaho), on the north end of the valley.

• Two brothers, by the last name of Goodall, operated a horse and goat ranch in the Ogden "Flats" area and could have been bought out too, like Goodyear was.

William H. Kimball, Heber C. Kimball's oldest son, was sent by Brigham Young in 1848 to buy out the Goodalls. They apparently had 750 horses grazing on 10 square miles. Kimball moved the horses to Antelope Island ("Church Island"). Although no purchase price to the Goodalls was recorded, they told Kimball they had secured the land from Mexicans, who had started a mission there.

• The younger Kimball had also reported that a Mexican man named Gibo had discovered a small Spanish fort in southwest Ogden, complete with a safe that contained some coins.

• Barney Ward was also mentioned as another mountaineer who was living in the Ogden area when the pioneers arrived. He dealt in tobacco and liquor sales, products not much in demand by Mormon settlers.

• Finally, "Daddy Stump," another non-Indian, was living on Antelope Island when the Mormon pioneers started exploring the island in 1848. That’s also the first mention of the man. Stump, believed to be a mountain man and perhaps also known as a bear killer, had built a small cabin and had a small orchard of peaches on Antelope Island (see the LDS Improvement Era Magazine of March 1907).

1 comment on this story

Daddy Stump has other historical references, as does Peg Leg Smith, but the others men remain mysterious, with the single mention in history. Sadly, the 1906 Deseret News article did not list its source or sources on the men's existence. But assuming there is some accuracy to the account, then the area was certainly not quite as deserted when the pioneers arrived, as is so often envisioned.

In addition, an Ogden Canyon legend claims it supposedly contained a dugout and a cabin that was reputed to have been built by Peter Skene Ogden.

Additional source: “\Brigham Young the Colonizer,” by Milton R. Hunter.\