by Edward Leo Lyman
Chapter Two: Planting the Colony
[p.35]Without intending to do so, when Brigham Young in the 1850s authorized the southern California settlement, he helped initiate what proved to be the largest colonization venture outside the main centers of Mormondom. In fact, San Bernardino would be second only to Salt Lake City in terms of its Mormon population in 1857. Unfortunately, the size of the original California pioneer company helped generate ill feeling toward the colony that persisted throughout its relatively short existence and was instrumental in its eventual disbandment. After arrival the financial obligations incurred from the property purchased for the settlement would place a burden on the colonists. Yet the commitment to this undertaking demonstrated, particularly in the first years, an impressive community spirit.
During the winter of 1850-51 a number of families were recruited for this “mission,” in many cases relatives and close acquaintances of Amasa Lyman and Charles Rich. Fully half of the 437 women and men were from the southern United States. Many of the Mississippi Saints had years of shared trials and achievements, and, although some were married to northerners, kinship ties within the group were extensive, with at least half of the thirty-four distinct family units related in some way to the others. The phenomenon would increase in the following generation, and it held true for the dozen adult African-American [p.36]former slaves who accompanied the southerners. Eighty individuals were connected to Lyman’s circle of close associates and extended families of four of his wives. Also fifteen Mormon Battalion members and their families—fifty-four in total—along with another half dozen battalion families joined the settlement immediately after its founding, and more than double that number subsequently gravitated there. Fewer than one hundred of the original company were not related or closely associated with the colony leaders, the southerners, or the battalion, making it an unusually close-knit group even before considering the religious commonality.
Some in the group were included partly because they intended to emigrate anyway. About a dozen missionaries called to accompany Apostle Parley P. Pratt to either Latin America or the Pacific Islands joined the party along with a dozen non-Mormon emigrants from the East, several with families, who attached themselves to the group for convenience.1
The colonizers spent the winter of 1850-51 preparing for the journey. Most of them probably still possessed the same travel outfit that had brought them to the Great Basin just a few years before. But food to last until the new location saw its first harvest, and other provisions were a major consideration. Since they would soon be far removed from such opportunities, many received religious ordinances provided only at church headquarters. Some were ordained to the order of the Seventy and some formally “set apart” for their colonizing mission.
Not all were anxious to leave their newly established Utah homes. Among these were Bishop Holladay’s sons-in-law, Henry G. Boyle and Thomas Bingham, who were probably designated at the behest of their mother-in-law who wished her daughters to be nearby. On occasion, as in the case of William D. Kartchner, [p.37]less-than-gentle persuasion was exerted. When he at first declined Lyman’s call, the apostle suggested that he would receive an even less desirable assignment if he refused this one. The settlement would need a blacksmith, and Kartchner’s rheumatic knees became painful in the cold weather, which leaders understood would be at least partly alleviated in southern California.2
Further insight into the company’s formation may be gained from Rich’s recollection years later that as news spread of the settlement, “we soon had a great many petitions from persons offering themselves to go.” While Apostle Rich considered his own assignment to be an obligation, by 1854 he presumed that some of the volunteers “felt more anxious to go there than they would have been to go anywhere else.” Judging from Brigham Young’s autumn 1851 comments on the difficulty of recruiting for the Iron Mission to southern Utah, there may be truth in Rich’s statement. But it was not immediately perceived.3
The group’s size is crucial since the colony’s population would be a major cause of Young’s later resentment toward the colony in general and Amasa Lyman in particular. During the entire period Lyman’s correspondence with Young demonstrates deference and obedience, and it seems improbable that he would intentionally disregard Young’s instructions concerning the number of people to accompany him. Although the “call” to settle [p.38]new communities was an important component of the Mormon colonization pattern, historian Eugene E. Campbell pointed out that no uniform pattern determined the selection of leaders or colonists, and sometimes the only factor limiting the size of the settlement was the availability of water for irrigation.4 Young’s aloofness during the preparation period calls into question his reputation as the “great colonizer.”
Young appears to have understood the advantage of sending those accustomed to warmer climates. He tacitly agreed to the Mississippi Saints being part of the venture, although it is doubtful he had any idea so many would choose that course. Including slaves, the total number of southerners was 220. Within a few months missionaries in Hawaii and Australia and other warm climates were instructed to send their converts to Lyman and Rich as well.
The southern California colony was partly conceived as a way station for emigrants on their way to Utah. The current route from New Orleans up the Mississippi River and overland was unhealthy. Church authorities instructed European mission leaders and others to establish means of crossing the danger-ridden Isthmus of Panama, the preferred route to the California gold fields, and on to Lyman and Rich through San Diego. Instructions to the California colony included locating as fast as possible other settlements back to the rim of the Great Basin, a “continuous line of stations and places of refreshment” between Salt Lake City and the Pacific Coast. Church authorities stressed that this route would be passable during the winter months.5
Young wanted his empire to be self-sufficient. He instructed Lyman and Rich to attempt to manufacture olive oil and to [p.39]cultivate grapes for wine and raisins. He also urged experiments with tea, sugar cane, and cotton.6
These instructions are evidence that Young was becoming enthusiastic about the scheme. But within a short time he would revert to a consistently negative view. San Bernardino never succeeded as a way station for the flow of European converts or as a source of tropical products. But the great number of people who demonstrated a desire to leave Utah with the California company was the greatest factor in his disaffection. When the colonists arrived at the designated gathering place, Peeteetneet (later Payson), in Utah County, some were surprised to discover more pioneers than had been called to go.
Young was more than surprised. His “Manuscript History” written by his office clerks notes that his original plan called for twenty families to accompany Lyman and Rich. The greater number made him “sick at the sight of so many of the saints running off to California.” In his mind they were abandoning Zion for the enticements of a corrupt world. He was so angered that he refused to address the company as it departed. He also expressed concern over the number of cattle emigrants proposed to take with them, suggesting that if they left them in his care he would pasture them on one of the islands of Great Salt Lake. None of the California-bound chose to comply with the suggestion.7Young’s close associate, Heber C. Kimball, addressed the group and, according to one account, “discouraged many from [p.40]going.” But since the 150 wagons carrying the 437 individuals who did depart comprised most of those assembled there, the situation was sufficient to place the colony distant from the leaders’ affections. Before Young had even heard of the final establishment of the colony, he confessed that neither he nor God wanted the Latter-day Saints in southern California, although the devil did. He claimed he had to “fight as hard as [he] could to keep the brethren from going with Amasa Lyman to hell at Payson.”8
If that was the way the matter was perceived by the highest church leaders at the time, they should have discussed it with their designated agents, Lyman and Rich, and resolved the number of settlers prior to the anticipated time of departure on the pioneering journey.
Not one of the colonists writing of the departure mentioned Young’s sentiments as expressed at that time. Although Kimball urged the unauthorized not to leave, after weeks of planning and probably disposing of their Utah property, it was long past the time of effective reconsideration. As disappointed as the First Presidency members were, by not acting more promptly to limit the company size, primary responsibility should be placed upon themselves. How many people were discouraged from making the expedition is difficult to ascertain, but a document in LDS church archives labeled “a list of names destined for southern California” identifies forty-seven families who embarked. It also contains the names of twenty-four others who did not, although at least three of these, the families of Henry G. Sherwood, Dr. Woodville Andrews, and Ellis Eames, would eventually emigrate.
On Sunday, 23 March, after Young, Kimball, and a few others had departed, the company held an organizational meeting at the Payson fort. They elected Mormon Battalion officer Andrew Lytle captain of the company with direct supervision of fifty wagons. Joseph Matthews and David Seeley were designated [p.41]as subordinate captains with fifty wagons each. Each group was subdivided into tens under men with military, ecclesiastical, or pioneering leadership experience. These included William Crosby, Sidney Tanner, Jefferson Hunt, Alfred Bybee, Robert Smith, Daniel Clark, Parley Pratt, Samuel Rolfe, Wellington Seeley, and George Garner, as well as Lyman and Rich. Immediately thereafter the first division embarked amid spring rains and mud. The tens spread out at intervals of approximately an hour apart which enabled them to better utilize the sometimes scarce water and grass for the 1,100 head of livestock accompanying them. In this interspersed manner they arrived in mid-April at the last outposts of Mormondom, the recently established settlements of Iron County.9
When the resident apostle, George A. Smith, came to visit the vanguard of the California-bound Saints near Parowan, perhaps on Sunday, he discovered some playing cards, pitching quoits, and demonstrating a tendency toward rowdiness. Reports reached Young that when apostles Rich and Pratt arrived to preach, they were driven away. The report was certainly embellished, but Young later commented that had he been present, he would have “broke their infernal necks to save” what he had already concluded was a wayward mission.10
After the last company arrived, which included Lyman, the Saints met at Summit Creek in conference with local members. Smith expressed surprise that so many Latter-day Saints were [p.42]going to California, saying, “I think about 30 or more are necessary to go … but beyond that I do not think any are called.” Pratt, besides urging observance of the Sabbath, reiterated Kimball’s recent message asking those leaving Utah “against the counsel of the presidency” to remain in Iron County to help the settlements there. He received no positive response. Besides the strong remarks rebuking “iniquity, worldly-mindedness, unbelief [and] profanity,” the thrust of the sermons was that they should obey their ecclesiastical leaders.11
At the conclusion of the conference the apostles “called on the company to know how many were willing to subject themselves to the presidents of the mission in relation to their settlement and operations in California.” In response, 111 men covenanted to “yoke themselves up with [Lyman and Rich] in the cause and building up of the Kingdom of God.” Some have suggested that since this number comprised only one-third of the entire body, insubordination was present.12 Yet of the adult males, who were the only ones called on to so signify, only a minute number did not pledge to obey Lyman and Rich. As nearly as can be determined, only four men neglected to sign the document. One was William Lay, a southern non-Mormon married to William Crosby’s sister Sythia; who cooperated willingly with church leaders. Robert Baldwin, an Englishman who in San Bernardino would work mainly as a liquor distiller; Mormon Battalion veteran Robert Egbert; and William Duel all declined, while a dozen non-Mormons signed the pledge. Lyman and Rich promptly wrote Young that the “spirit of peace and unanimity of feeling prevailed in all the camps” and included a list of brethren who had pledged obedience. But Apostle Smith’s contrary report [p.43]harmonized more with Young’s view of the departing Saints, illustrating a significant difference of opinion between Young and his own colonization agents.13
The 400-mile journey from southern Utah to southern California stands as one of the most challenging in the annals of American pioneering. The route traversed some of the most difficult desert passages ever attempted by wagon trains. The groups of ten wagons each left Cedar City at intervals throughout several days after the 20 April conference. They headed southwest to Pinto Creek and the Mountain Meadows, already well-known as the best place for livestock to recoup prior to the arduous desert trail. During the short interval that each group stayed at the Meadows, many made last-minute wheel and wagon repairs, cared for the sick, and searched for lost livestock.14
Of foremost priority throughout the remaining distance was the need for vigilance against Native Americans. The danger was not so much of attack, as long as the groups did not get too spread out, but in protecting the livestock. Sometimes cattle would stray at night and a search party would later discover signs that the animals had been butchered by Shivwits and Moapa bands of Piutes. Frequent messages left at campsites by preceding companies reported such experiences.15
The route beyond Mountain Meadows, blazed previously by both Jefferson Hunt and Parley Pratt, led south over the Great Basin divide and down the Santa Clara River bed. This long descent from the plateau was often sandy and rocky. Upon reaching the vicinity of the present Shivwits reservation, they veered farther southwest over Utah Mountain which necessitated [p.44]the first of several camps away from water. The next day they reached the Beaver Dam Wash near its confluence with the Virgin River in what is now the Arizona Strip. This emigrant train did not experience the difficulty David Cheesman had recorded the previous year on the alternate route down the Rio Virgin.16 At this point Rich and Hunt subjected their groups of ten to variant paths closely following the Virgin River almost to the mouth of the Muddy River. They were undoubtedly trying to find a way to eliminate the twenty-six-mile dry march from present-day Mesquite to Glendale, Nevada. But quicksand and hilly terrain convinced them that the “old route” was superior.
Perhaps the most appreciated spot on the entire Utah-to-California trail was the spring, brook, and meadow long known as the Vegas. Matthews’s groups arrived there at intervals of about an hour, not long after the Seeley division departed for the Death Valley area. After resting several days the Smith, Clark, Bybee, and Hunt tens moved several miles up the brook when the first tens of the Andrew Lytle division came into view.17 A report reached Lyman that the rear companies had lost horses and cattle and had killed the presumed Indian thieves. He “gave them a severe lecture.” He also chastised them for playing cards and for “the general spirit of recklessness which was manifested.” This demonstrated his extreme cautiousness and the fact that some in the company were troublesome.18
The stretch from Las Vegas to the Mojave River was the worst on the route. The terrain was rocky and difficult for oxen, and an even greater challenge was finding sufficient feed and water for so many cattle, horses, and mules. Illustrative of the problem was Lyman’s comment at Stump Springs that the scarce water would need to be managed. They [p.45]scooped out a hole adjacent to the water seep so that the next morning there was a greater, more accessible quantity of water. The livestock had to be driven several miles to where sufficient grass could be found for feed.19
Travelers continued to perceive Indians as menacing. Pratt noted that at camp some twenty miles from the Vegas they were assailed by a “shower of arrows,” some of which passed near their heads but fell harmlessly nearby. Soon after an ox and a mule were wounded though not severely enough to be abandoned.
Although there were several good camping locations in the Mojave Desert, particularly the oasis-like Resting Springs, the stretches between good water and grass necessitated considerable night travel and several dry camps. Animals were lost to thirst and exhaustion. Pratt observed old men, women, and children struggling along the sandy road between Salt Springs and Bitter Springs, west and southwest of present Baker, California, and wrote: “It was certainly the hardest time I ever saw.” While some fourteen miles from water they were forced to stop for rest every few minutes. They encountered members of their party who had been ahead of them “lost in slumber—every man and beast, by common consent, sunk in profound slumber and probably dreaming of water and feed ahead.” They quietly passed by and in the cool of the night reached the Mojave River. The pioneers had reason to be relieved since the worst part was over. They would then take a week to travel leisurely along the fifty-mile desert river extending south toward the San Bernardino mountains. Only one woman would die during the entire trip, and not directly from travel but due to complications after childbirth.20
[p.46]Upon approaching the end of the momentous trek, Lyman and Rich pushed ahead to the mouth of Cajon Pass, staking out several campsites about one-half mile apart before they hurried on to purchase the Chino Rancho. After the precipitous descent down the hogback, the companies began to establish long-term camp at designated spots among stands of native sycamore trees on both sides of the hills just west of present-day Devore. Dispersion prevented heavy concentration on any given pasture or water supply. During what turned out to be three months’ encampment, some of the party extended themselves a half mile farther west to what became known as Lytle Creek where they could find abundant but separate water and feed. Here the colony’s first child, Lorenzo Snow Lyman, was born along with the first of the three girls born while encamped, this one to the Captain Lytle family.21
The foremost challenge facing the company’s leaders was locating a place large enough for the entire community to remain together as well as for those expected to emigrate to their midst in the near future. Rancho del Chino disappointed them on several counts. Isaac Williams reneged on his offer to sell the ranch at the price previously named. When he had made the offer, he had been ill and recently lost his wife. The Lugo brothers-in-law and Hispanic neighbors were angry that he had cooperated with the American army during the Mexican war. His ranch house had been burned and many of his cattle stolen. But in the intervening months he had derived lavish profits from selling cattle at Gold Rush prices of over $50 per head and was no longer so anxious to part with his ranch. Undoubtedly, [p.47]Mormons had been mistaken to place so much trust in such a notoriously erratic individual.22 Although Williams’s pledges had been consistent over a two-year period, Hunt, Clift, Crismon, Rich, and Lyman had failed to obtain any kind of legal commitment prior to bringing this large population there. On the other hand, Lyman was not as enthralled with the location as the others had been. While Chino had good cattle range, it lacked the timber and water that Young had advised would be requisite for a proper site.23
Not that Lyman always followed Young’s directions, but this was partly due to the church leader’s ignorance of the local situation which made some advice impracticable. Young deemed it better to “take up new lands” rather than to purchase property previously occupied. Although Lyman and Rich traveled hundreds of miles looking for available public domain, virtually all good land had been granted during the Mexican period prior to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which had solidified existing ownership. With the large pioneer company anxious to plant crops for the coming season before the winter rains commenced, Lyman and Rich could hardly await surveys and land sales for less desirable public domain. When the frugal Brigham Young was notified of the eventual price of the occupied lands selected, he [p.48]was not inclined to forget what he considered, even a decade later, to be a major mistake. This seeming disregard of his advice was probably another cause of alienation of the church leader from the California colonization project.24
Lyman and Rich had little choice. They first visited the rancho closest to their camp—the Lugo family’s San Bernardino—spending the night with friendly mountain man Isaac Slover at his home near present-day Colton. From there, assisted by a local guide, the two leaders traveled down Santa Ana Canyon into what is now Orange County, visiting the village of Santa Ana. Then, crossing part of the present Camp Pendleton Marine Base, they climbed through Temecula Canyon to where former Mormon Battalion officer Jesse D. Hunter resided as Indian agent. Although Lyman had previously charged him to search for a settlement location, Hunter was of no assistance. The leaders turned back toward their camp, spending another night near the “lagoon” that would later be called Lake Elsinore, then back across the Lugo ranch to Sycamore Grove on 20 June, making a difficult week of travel.
After a brief rest the colony leaders traveled to Pueblo de Los Angeles to “see about some land,” perhaps a last desperate effort at securing a preliminary right to some public domain. It is doubtful that they seriously considered locating in Los Angeles, however, so close to so many neighbors, although Lyman noted that “applications for us to settle and purchase land” came “from every quarter.” These were prompted, he observed, by expectations that their proven industry—as the Los Angeles Star affirmed—would enhance the value of adjacent lands.25
The first Los Angeles newspaper notices were restrained, assuring readers that Mormons showed “no disposition in the [p.49]slightest degree to interfere with the rights of others.” The Star noted that Mormons deserved “kindly consideration and every encouragement in their plans of settlement.” Thereafter, press notices became increasingly positive, asserting that the colonists would “build up a great city” and fully develop the resources of the area. The paper was particularly confident concerning future wheat and flour production, which in fact was a stated aim of the settlers. The San Francisco Alta California lavished even more praise, calling the Mormon settlers “the most industrious beings on the face of the globe.” They were said to be persevering, intelligent, and under competent leadership. An ensuing item concluded: “We predict that important results will follow the acquirement of a position on our coast by these people.”26
Of greatest interest to southern Californians, as the Star mentioned, was that the current Mormon settlement commanded Cajon Pass and thus protected the surrounding valleys from further “Indian incursions.” General J. H. Bean had previously brought a company of U.S. army troops to patrol the passes, but the soldiers had been dismissed, to the disappointment of civilians. Even in August, with the Mormons encamped in the area, Utah Indians reportedly under the leadership of Chief Walkara battled local Cahuillas, wounding one of their chiefs. Officials in Utah later ascertained that the Utes had been fed at Isaac Williams’s Chino Rancho allegedly to prevent incursions against his own cattle and horses. It was also noted that the same Indians carried off an undisclosed number of the Lugo livestock from San Bernardino. Since Juan Antonio and his Serrano and Cahuilla tribesmen had long served as “watchmen” for the Lugos, it is probable that the skirmish occurred during the raid on livestock. Although the subsequent half-dozen years would bring [p.50]occasional losses of animals, the area would be more secure than it had been, or than it would be for a long time after.27
During the wait, prolonged by the difficulties in securing a suitable tract of land, there was much-needed relaxation and some unaccustomed idleness. But there was also considerable exploration of the surrounding mountains and canyons. Some settlers made repairs and preparations that would be useful once word came to begin settlement. Kartchner established a makeshift blacksmith shop and set wagon tires for 12 1/2 cents each, purchasing charcoal produced by others at a nearby pit. The women were engaged in hatching eggs so that when word came to move on they would have hundreds of two-month-old chicks. Southerners grew a substantial crop of potatoes, probably in association with Charles Crismon who already had a farm plot at the Chino Rancho. Branch records indicate that between December 1851 and March 1852 at least 1,394 pounds of potatoes were paid in kind for tithing. At least ten times that amount, then, was produced and consumed by the community.28
By all accounts the most impressive endeavor was the establishment of a school in a convenient grove of sycamores near the main camp. A large number of students was taught first by J. Henry Rollins, then by Daniel N. Thomas a month later. Another [p.51]school, probably a smaller one closer to Lytle Creek, was apparently taught by John P. Lee.29 This demonstrated a consistent commitment on the part of the colonists to education and actually commenced what was for most of the decade the most exemplary school system in the entire state.
During this encampment the most difficult challenge was maintaining morale. Several disobeyed counsel and left for other settlements, but almost all maintained their commitments to the common mission with impressive determination. In late July Lyman reported to church headquarters, “The Saints here seem disposed to remain and act together subject to the counsel of the church.” He cited as proof the fact that Bishop John Holladay and Father Samuel Shepherd, known for abhorrence of idleness, were bearing their leisure without complaint. Lyman observed that they awaited deliverance as had the Children of Israel, although, he presumed, with more patience. During what proved to be a quarter of a year, the normal cycles of life continued with at least three little girls born, including two named Eveline (Clark and Rollins). Three children died, losses to the Grundy, Thomas, and Tenney families. And there was at least one marriage—Marshall Hunt to Sarah Ann Runyan.30
By the end of three months the group’s supplies were depleted. Fortunately, Lyman and Rich discovered a large store of flour and bacon abandoned by soldiers who had been temporarily stationed at the Chino rancho. They purchased this from the government at a low price and added it to the camp larder. [p.52]Next colony leaders took a more detailed look at San Bernardino Rancho and recognized, if not previously, that it had the most farming potential, best cattle range, and abundant timber. Also, the property was sufficiently isolated that conflicts with neighbors would be minimized.31
Even more important, the San Bernardino Valley rancho had a good water supply. That had been Lyman’s chief reservation in considering the Chino rancho. If anything, the San Bernardino Valley was over-endowed with water. The area north of present-day Baseline, particularly between A and D streets, had such a high water level that ponds were visible amid the tule swamplands and dense willow thickets. Similar conditions existed to the southwest, particularly between the Lytle Creek channel, I Street, and Third and Fourth streets (in the vicinity of the later Santa Fe Railroad yards). There were numerous springs, including warm and hot ones later named Harlem, Rabel, Urbita, Sienna, and Arrowhead, several of which emitted sufficient heated water that in the cooler seasons adjoining swamplands formed fog banks on many mornings. The prevailing health superstitions of the day made such areas undesirable for settlement.
Other springs and streams in the valley were more appreciated as water sources. One spring near Third and E streets helped feed Warm Creek, which combined with other sources would prove sufficient to power a gristmill and dams would divert it onto garden plots and fields. There were springs near Sixth and Waterman, which combined with Town Creek originating near Little Mountain would provide water directly to the settlement. So would Lytle Creek, flowing in a southeasterly direction into the same vicinity. At the time Lytle Creek, like most other [p.53]watercourses in the valley, was lined with trees (sycamore) covered with wild grapevines.32
Some visitors to the area were informed that thirty-two streams converged on the valley floor, which would only be true during heavy rains. Still, a number were worth considering for irrigation. During the Mormon period attempts were made to farm near the mouth of the “Twin Creeks” that flowed from present-day Waterman Canyon, along with City Creek and Plunge Creek to the east, a considerable distance from most initial agricultural activity. The valley’s major water source, and one of the main streams of southern California, was the Santa Ana River. Unlike the wide, deep, sandy channels of recent times, early descriptions portray a single channel at the same level as the surrounding land, lined with sycamore, alder, willow, and cottonwood trees, with seepage moisture sufficient for extensive grasslands extending back from the ribbon of forest along the banks. Similar gallery forests, particularly of cottonwoods, were found wherever the water table was high, especially along the numerous washes and streambeds intersecting the valley. The largest stand of trees was east of the San Bernardino settlement on the north bank of the river near present-day Norton Air Force Base, within several years the location of the Timber Settlement. Another substantial willow grove between branches of Lytle Creek near the present-day Inland Center, called Jackson’s Grove, was sometimes the designated spot for community celebrations.33
[p.54]These trees provided fuel and building material long before settlers obtained better materials higher in the mountains. Besides the swamplands and woodlands the settlers appreciated some upland and foothill chaparral or brushland area and used it as the first to be transformed into cultivated fields. Of equal importance was the vast portion of the valley covered with clover, and mustard growing as high as the backs of the cattle that grazed some of the best rangelands in the West. In 1851, on the eve of the Mormon period, there were reportedly between 8,000-10,000 Lugo livestock pastured in the San Bernardino and adjacent Yucaipa valleys.34
Upon their return to Sycamore Grove, on the weekend of 5 and 6 July, Lyman and Rich gathered their fellow colonists and conducted the “first conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in California.” The initial order of business was Rich reiterating their mission to plant a “standard of righteousness” to gather church members who had already migrated to California as well as those who would later do so. After Rich called on the congregation to sustain Young and the other church authorities, he proposed that David Seeley be president of the new San Bernardino Stake, with Samuel Rolfe and Simeon Andrews as his counselors. They were unanimously approved as was a new high council composed of Theodore Turley, William Matthews, Andrew Lytle, Benjamin Taylor, Joseph Matthews, Alfred Bybee, Jefferson Hunt, Sidney Tanner, William J. Cox, Charles Crismon, Daniel M. Thomas, and J. Henry Rollins. [p.55]William Crosby was accepted as bishop, with counselors Robert M. Smith and Albert W. Collins. Lyman cautioned the congregation in regard to their conduct. He proposed that they promise to settle any difficulties in ecclesiastical courts rather than by civil authority and implored them not to associate with lapsed Mormons. Lyman’s motion was carried unanimously. It was undoubtedly at this time that Lyman also warned that if their community was ever disrupted or endangered, it would not be from outside but from conflicts arising among themselves. The clerk of this conference, Richard R. Hopkins, thought so little of the statement that he failed to record it at the time, but he would later recall it on several occasions when he would be compelled to acknowledge the prophetic nature of the remarks.35
Lyman and Rich then proposed the purchase of the San Bernardino Rancho, explaining that they would do so as an individual undertaking to secure financial arrangements and property transfer, but that they would depend entirely on the full group to repay whatever obligations were incurred. Completing the ranch purchase depended on borrowing the down payment and a major portion of subsequent payments, probably from northern California sources. Although on occasion locally collected tithing funds would be applied to the debts, it was clear to all assembled that they could not expect backing from the church for their unique and, among the Utah hierarchy, less-than-fully-approved venture. When the proposition was put to the congregation, they committed to purchase individual inheritances from the leaders. Lyman, on several later occasions, would remind those who had been present at the Sycamore Grove conference that they had promised to pay the ranch debt, and he and Rich [p.56]acknowledged later that “the united energy of the people” enabled them to build the colony. The financial obligation would become the most burdensome aspect of the entire San Bernardino colonizing experience. Most of those who made the original pledge would stick to it through the entire six-year struggle. Later colonists would more often shirk responsibility for this debt incurred at least partially for their benefit.36
On 7 July the apostles headed for the seacoast, taking passage on the steamship Goliath for San Francisco. After a short visit with Parley Pratt and the small group of Latter-day Saints gathered there, the apostles took a river steamboat up the San Joaquin-Sacramento River to Mormon Island where a considerable group of church members was located. They spent the next few days visiting other Mormons in surrounding locations, summoning them to a Sunday “business” meeting at Salmon Falls, another center of Latter-day Saints. Returning to San Francisco, the apostles held a similar council meeting “to take into consideration the object of buying a ranch.” While there is no mention of specific financial commitments, these church members undoubtedly pledged support and exerted influence with outside financiers. For the next week Lyman and Rich, joined later by Richard R. Hopkins, procured provisions using $8,000 apparently borrowed from the colonists.37 On 9 August Rich and Hopkins embarked for the Southland on the slow-moving brig Fremont, met at San Pedro Harbor by some forty wagons to haul the goods they had procured. After an overnight stay in Los Angeles, they reached Sycamore Grove at midnight the following [p.57]day. Since the camp was entirely destitute of provisions, there was much jubilation.38
As Rich was en route to the Sycamore Grove camp carrying substantial funds, a group of outlaws apparently plotted to rob him. The stories vary as to whether a sick mule, the returning party taking a different route and traveling at night, or the robbers lying down for a snooze thwarted the crime. According to the uncorroborated account of Emeline Rich, one of the outlaw band was a former camp member who periodically returned to visit a sister and brother-in-law. She recalled that after the man confessed he, “mysteriously disappeared” and was not heard from again. Whether or not this was true, there was anxiety about the possibility.39
Lyman had remained in San Francisco to make further financial arrangements. He sent a progress report to Brigham Young, describing their choice as “a place which combines the natural facilities of timber and water in abundance to sustain a settlement of up to one hundred thousand inhabitants.” Lyman said that the four joint owners of the Mexican land grant were “anxious to sell,” and he hoped the purchase could be completed by paying approximately half of a total price estimated to be $50,000-$60,000. Since the colonists had depleted their cash reserves, the funds were being raised “through the medium of the Brooklyn brethren.”40
Whether Young ever received this report is unknown, since he later complained about the lack of dispatches during this period. Yet the original letter is located in his papers. On occasion Young demonstrated carelessness in reading the reports. Lyman [p.58]and Rich were in a poor bargaining position with the Lugos. Lyman explained: “We have done the only thing that we could do. We sought, we explored, we prayed, we went and returned but it was the same and only place every time and the only place for which we could deal on a home for the saints or a resting place for the weary pilgrims.” Young had advised them against this course, and judging from later statements, it is probable that he never forgave them for what he considered a bad transaction.41
Upon Lyman’s return to San Pedro on 24 August, carrying funds for the ranch down payment, he was met by a group of friends concerned that the earlier plot to rob Rich would be repeated. The guarded party arrived safely. The next week negotiations with the Lugos began in earnest, though slowly. After another trip to the Los Angeles area, which was now home to most of the ranch owner clan, the transaction was consummated on 22 September 1851 when the Lugos accepted a $7,000 down payment and a total price of $77,500. The money was borrowed at Gold Rush interest rates of 3 percent per month, which would compound so rapidly as to necessitate supplemental loans. Though the prices seemed high, Lyman and Rich had the backing of their fellow colonists and good prospects to recoup far more than the purchase price.42 However, in this undertaking they incurred perhaps the greatest burden they would experience in their entire lives.
[p.59]About the first of October 1851 Mormon settlers commenced building the first predominantly Anglo-American community in southern California.43 There were feverish efforts to erect houses before the winter rains set in. The arrangement of the homes is not recorded, but it is safe to assume that promptness was a higher priority than careful arrangement. The ranch owners occupied the two existing structures in the vicinity. Lyman moved into the adobe structure built by the Lugos near what is now Arrowhead Avenue, at the site of the present-day county courthouse. Lyman’s young son, Francis Marion, recalled that two of the rooms had tile floors, while the others were still earthen. Co-leader Charles C. Rich initially moved into three rooms of the asistancia buildings several miles south, across the Santa Ana River, in the district referred to as old San Bernardino or the mission district. Emeline Rich recalled the family covering the existing thick walls of the ruins with temporary fabric roofing.44
Jefferson Hunt’s married daughter, Nancy Daley, described her cabin and efforts to make it livable. In the absence of sawmills there was no lumber for roofs or floors, so the structures were thatched overhead with brush and clay and the floors were of packed dirt. Unsatisfied with this, Nancy cured dry grass and covered it with rough fabric used to pack sugar for shipment. She procured from a Los Angeles Chinese vendor matting for the [p.60]final layer of her floor. On her walls and ceiling she spread cotton “factory” cloth brought from back east, as was the custom among those fortunate enough to secure such material. Just as Nancy was attaining a modest level of comfort, it became necessary for the house to be moved. Undoubtedly, her innovations were reinstailed at the new location.45
In late November San Bernardino was beginning to look like a town, with a hundred houses nearing completion. Then word arrived from Los Angeles of an Indian uprising spreading from the Colorado River to Temecula, half-way to San Diego, led by renegade Native American Antonio Garra. The nearby Cahuilla-Serrano tribesmen were reportedly allied and were planning simultaneous attacks on Americans all the way to Santa Barbara. Mormons rounded up their free-range livestock and dispatched scouts to ascertain the situation. They requested additional arms and ammunition from the closest military outpost at Chino.46
When the scouts found general alarm prevailing throughout southern California, they organized a militia and enveloped the community with a guard. Their ranking Mormon Battalion member, Jefferson Hunt, was selected as commander, with fellow veteran officers Jesse D. Hunter and Andrew Lytle as captains of two divisions. After two days of further discussion, colony members decided to build a fort large enough for the entire population. Some families congregated at the designated fort site that night, and most would live in those close confines for more than two years.47
After the 25 November decision to construct the fort, they began dragging the newly built log houses into a line opposite [p.61]Lyman’s residence, where, with horizonal breastworks in between, the outer walls formed the west side of a stockade variously reported between 700 and 760 feet long. The opposite wall along with both ends between 300 and 320 feet wide was a palisade, constructed of cottonwood and willow trunks from nearby watercourses, split in half and standing upright close together. Even when the butt end was set three feet in the ground, the walls supposedly extended twelve feet into the air on the north, east, and south sides of the fort. Since the residence structures on those sides were set back from the wall, there was plenty of room for defenders to fire out of gun portholes. At each corner were bastions or blockhouses eight feet wide, each extending outward so that riflemen could fire straight down the outside wall. The Mormon fort was the largest ever erected in southern California.48
According to Emeline Rich, while the Saints were thus engaged, the Indians selected a certain night to attack, a night that also witnessed the worst storm of her memory. Consequent!y, the marauders decided to postpone. Gale winds blew throughout the day and night of 26 November and into the following day, lifting the roofs off houses and overturning wagons. If such an attack had been averted in such a miraculous manner, it should have been mentioned by others. With no other reference to the planned attack, it is unlikely that such a plot actually developed to that extent.49
The colony was then placed under martial law. The men, many of whom were expert marksmen, drilled and were organized into companies. When the Chino garrison failed to provide [p.62]much in the way of arms and ammunition, Los Angeles County generously provided all that was required. Citizens were taught to recognize a series of bugle signals sounded by ex-slave Grief Embers who had a tin horn some six feet long which he also played for entertainment. He and his “bishop’s horn,” since he was closely associated with Bishop William Crosby, would thereafter serve to summon the community for a variety of purposes.50
Almost as soon as the defensive preparations were completed, the crisis passed. On the first days of December 1851 Juan Antonio took two dozen warriors in pursuit of Antonio Garra. Just over a week later it was reported that the friendly Indian chief had taken Garra “by stratagem” and delivered him into the custody of the California rangers commanded by General J. H. Bean. The renegade was subsequently taken to San Diego and tried by a military court. During the proceedings a Garra associate and former British sailor named Marshall attempted to implicate the Mormons in the conspiracy to drive out or kill California settlers. Though Charles C. Rich worried that problems might arise from the allegation, apparently no one gave credence to it. Garra and several associates were executed early in 1852.51
During the excitement settlers had heard rumors that Juan Antonio had joined in the Indian offensive. In fact, the old chief received persuasive offers but had firmly rejected them. Upon hearing such reports, he sent assurance to San Bernardino prior to personally ending the rebellion by capturing his rival, Garra. Antonio had risked his life and the safety of his tribesmen in support of Rancho San Bernardino on many occasions.52
[p.63]For services rendered against Garra, California ranchers, including Isaac Williams, Benjamin D. Wilson, and Abel Stearns, rewarded the friendly Native Americans with $200 in cash and goods. The following month, through a treaty with southern California Indian commissioners, Antonio was awarded a grant of land his people could call their own, though the treaty was not destined to be ratified by Congress.53
The plight of Juan Antonio and his people was in no way the fault of the Mormon settlers who simply purchased a Mexican land grant where the native inhabitants had continued to reside and serve as guards and ranch hands and where such labor was no longer needed.
Although there is no direct record of the agreement, Mormon leaders and Juan Antonio concluded that the Indians should move onto neighboring unoccupied lands in San Timoteo Canyon, with permission to maintain their San Bernardino cornfields for the remainder of the season. One of Lyman’s and Rich’s first acts of leadership in dealing with their Native American neighbors was to negotiate reimbursement for damage to the corn crop caused by Mormon livestock. They repaid in cattle and assigned guards to protect the corn each night until the harvest was completed. This satisfied the Indians and helped cement relationships prior to a more serious crisis. But the sometimes aggressive Duff Weaver, subsequently married to a dissident Mormon woman, was the Indians’ closest Anglo neighbor and did not help [p.64]mollify the indigenous group and probably caused some to wonder if friendship to whites was as profitable as opposition.54
Though no longer a necessity, the fort remained home to almost 400 people for more than two and a half years. The press of other business, along with some uncertainty about how to proceed with the final layout of the community, necessitated the prolonged confinement. Life in such cramped quarters was inconvenient, but there is no record of serious quarrels. In fact, harmonious life in the fort has to be considered one of the foremost demonstrations of community spirit so often evident during the first years of the settlement of San Bernardino.
The greatest challenge now was clearing, plowing, and planting wheat fields before the onset of winter rains essential to maturing the crop. While the settlement was still under martial law, military leaders selected and surveyed the 1,800 to 2,000 acres to be used for common fields. The main tract was situated two miles north of the fort, close to the foot of the mountains between the mouth of Twin Creeks Canyon, later renamed Waterman, and Little Mountain to the southwest. Individual plots were allocated in the so-called “big field,” the labor accomplished mainly by family enterprise. The branch clerk’s 24 December entry stated: “Plowing seems to be the absorbing object. Plows are seen to be moving briskly through the ground in all directions.” Soon he added that a great deal of wheat and other grain had been sown. The Alta California described the field arrangement: “[T]he large enclosure was not common property; but each person had his share to sow and reap.” Two months later settlers noticed that Lyman and Rich had not been able to prepare their own plots, so in response to the bishop’s call a large number of volunteers accomplished the entire task on 23 February [p.65]1852. Soon afterwards Rich reported to the absent Lyman that prospects were excellent for an abundant harvest.55
The gigantic grain field depended entirely on seasonal precipitation, which during the first two years was more than adequate. There was apparently no thought of developing an irrigation system, although there would be later efforts to divert some of the flow from Twin Creeks. The numerous livestock ranging widely throughout the valley required fencing, which was accomplished primarily with poles from the nearby foothills and canyons, although the barrier along the north side of the field closest to the mountains was a deep ditch. This may also have served to divert floodwater away from the crops. While there is no mention of the procedure in local records, the tradition was to give individual assignments to build a fence segment proportionate to the land an individual was allotted.
Attention was also devoted to grapes and other summer crops needing irrigation. This was centered near the old San Bernardino “mission,” more accurately designated as the asistancia. Here a zanja or canal dug in 1819 by Indians under the supervision of Franciscan missionaries still brought a good stream of water a dozen miles from Mill Creek and was perfectly suited for use on the lands surrounding the adobe buildings which had been in a state of degeneration for some twenty years. Lyman and Rich had personal interest in this land and arranged setting out some forty acres in grape cuttings. They soon engaged Nathan C. Tenney to locate his residence in one of the old buildings, vacated by Rich during the Indian uprising, and oversee their interests in what was thereafter designated as the “summer field.” Stake president David Seeley and others used part of the 300-acre tract that first year. Seeley’s son later recalled obtaining grape cuttings from the San Jose Rancho, near present-day Claremont, to help [p.66]establish the vineyards. At least three wagon loads of these starts were delivered in late February 1852.56
A third plot was readied for cultivation that first spring. The “bishop’s garden” comprised several hundred acres close to the fort, undoubtedly on land that could be irrigated from Lytle Creek. This was where most of the impressive vegetable crops were produced during the two years before individual garden plots were made available. Large amounts of cucumbers, beets, onions, and cabbage were grown, along with potatoes and entire wagon loads of squash and pumpkins. When properly stored, much of this produce could be used far into the winter.
While residents were preoccupied with establishing an economic base for the community, on 10 December 1851, as Lyman was leaving for San Francisco to procure further loans, he summoned his fellow citizens to a public meeting and called attention to the pressing need for establishing more permanent schools. He also reminded them that they had agreed to construct a council house which could serve as a general meeting place. Those assembled recommitted to the project and promptly hauled foundation stone to a site adjacent to Lyman’s house in the fort’s northwest corner. There was some delay before the walls were put up, probably due to the inclement weather that precluded the immediate manufacture of adobe. Finally, during the last week in March work on the council house was redoubled and walls sixty feet long and thirty feet wide were raised within a week. The first worship service was held within the walls on 3 April 1852, and the ensuing week saw a good shingle roof [p.67]constructed and the edifice completed in time to convene a semi-annual conference that weekend.57
Thereafter, day and sabbath schools were “agitated with success.” Sunday school and Bible study began 11 April, with 103 young people in attendance. The first formal session of the public school started that same week with between 125 to 150 pupils under the direction of recently arrived William Stout and his assistants. Undoubtedly, some sort of less formal instruction had continued from the Sycamore Grove schools, probably under the tent top stretched over a comer of the fort, but now the school was organized with paid teachers and more careful supervision.58
Lyman urged his fellow Latter-day Saints to more strictly obey the law of tithing, demanding 10 percent of their annual income to be contributed to general church funds at Salt Lake City. Perhaps anxious to demonstrate the faithfulness of those under his charge, he challenged them to make arrangements so that when Rich returned to Utah later that spring, the tithing “could prove they had not forgotten [those] principles of righteousness.” Rich urged Lyman to undertake a similar effort among northern Californians. They wanted to make a good report to Brigham Young.59
The one hundred family heads who would have been nearly all settled at San Bernardino in March 1852 contributed $2,775 in cash plus $146 in produce that was probably consumed locally and not converted into money. Besides this, fifteen other Latter-day Saints from outside San Bernardino made donations amounting to $3,765, which meant Rich carried some $6,500 to Utah. In light of the fact that these contributions came before any field crops had been raised, this was an act of considerable generosity. [p.68]The California offerings reveal an important facet of the economic situation among church members there. Only two of the hundred San Bernardino families donated more than $50, with the average being just over $29, indicating an amazing equality of financial condition. The contributions from elsewhere were much more diverse, with a San Jose resident, John Horner, donating $1,300 and several others $500 and $400 each for an average of $231.
Brigham Young’s chief clerk, Thomas Bullock, noted to another church leader, Jedediah M. Grant, that Rich “brought in considerable tithing” upon his arrival that April. Later in the year Young acknowledged to the San Bernardino leaders, “You and the brethren with you, rendered effective assistance last spring, which was gratefully received.” He recognized that the California brethren must have felt “the spirit of the times to have been able to accomplish what [they had contributed].” However, Young hedged his compliment, saying that since San Bernardino was situated in close proximity to Californian mines, “we naturally look in that direction for considerable amounts in money.” Perhaps his assumption was valid for northern California, but San Bernardino received little benefit from contact with California commerce, particularly gold mining. There are no known responses to Young’s remarks, and the tithing funds continued to be forwarded obediently. However, two years later, when the population had doubled, the number of individuals paying tithing had not increased.60
As the ranch proprietors faced their second mortgage payment of some $18,000 in March 1852, their associates resolved to take advantage of the cattle buyers in their midst and sell as much as they could of their livestock, not all of which were surplus [p.69]animals. Many sold valuable draft oxen assuming they could break in less expensive horses before the summer harvest. Thus the settlement raised $6,000 offered to Rich to apply toward the payment due. Even more impressively, since the group had no assurance that Lyman had been successful in northern California raising the remaining amount by loan, citizens pledged that if necessary they would sacrifice other property to the amount of $16,000. Lyman secured the funds needed and the more severe liquidation proved unnecessary, but the characteristic generosity was duly demonstrated nevertheless.61
It is probably impossible to reconstruct the full details of the San Bernardino ranch purchase, but several points are sufficiently clear. Completing the full second payment of $25,000 resulted in Lyman and Rich securing a deed to the property. The remaining $52,000 was not due for two years, with no interest to be accrued until that time. Yet the proprietors had to borrow $18,000 of the first payments, which would have cost between $5,400 and $6,400 interest annually. Lyman mentioned that the loans were “secured” by John Horner and Company “as personal security,” which means that he probably co-signed on them.62
On the twenty-second anniversary of the Mormon church’s founding, 6 April 1852, the San Bernardino congregation met in semi-annual conference in their new council house. Presiding elder Lyman acknowledged the favorable circumstances of their meeting compared to the previous year and credited “the united energy of the people” for their success in making such improvements. Senior high councilors Theodore Turley and Jefferson Hunt offered similar remarks. At some point Lyman reminded his listeners of their debt. His report to church headquarters was that “the people had concluded to remain in their present [p.70]situation for the next year or two and unite their efforts with ours to raise the money to pay for the place.” This meant that they would continue to reside in the fort and use existing common fields while they focused on public improvement projects such as the gristmill, wheat storage facilities, and a lumber road into the mountains, all of which the colony leader specifically mentioned.63
The pledge to defer individual farms and homes until the obligations incurred as a group had been fulfilled was perhaps the greatest demonstration of commitment to the San Bernardino community ever displayed in the history of the settlement. By any standard, the participants were placing greater priority on the general welfare of the colony than on their own preferences or well-being. Like other requests made during the first two years in the settlement, this was accepted without question by those who had pledged to follow the direction of those called to preside over them. The branch clerk noted early in the spring that a “pleasant feeling pervaded our community” and, in describing the attitudes at spring conference time, asserted “a unanimity of feeling such as is only seen among [Latter-day] Saints.” Perhaps Rich’s wife, Mary Ann, was most accurate in her assessment of the situation when she said the citizens “worked almost as one family, they were so united.” Few instances in the history of the American West would have better exemplified true community spirit and enterprise than San Bernardino at this time.64
Planting the new colony was demanding for the women, as well, since they were destined to spend most of their time in the closely confined quarters of eight acres housing a hundred families within the fort. They deserve high plaudits for their [p.71]patience and neighborliness. The women of each household were constantly occupied baking bread, making and mending clothes, and housecleaning, which was made all the more difficult by the mud and dust and frequent winds. One resident recalled that at times “the sand drifted [through the house walls] until it was inches deep on the floor.” Since a hundred children were below school age, this meant an unending stint of babysitting. At least twenty-five infants were born between the Utah census of March 1851 and the San Bernardino census of October 1852, a rate that hardly relented during the entire six years. Also, the quantities of marketed eggs, butter, and cheese attest to the women’s ability to produce cash products.65
Without exception living quarters in the fort were cramped. There were wagon boxes, covers still intact, scattered in close proximity to the houses, serving during much of the year as extra sleeping quarters. Although some homes included a loft and a master bedroom, “front rooms” served at night as bedrooms as well. Most of the housework was accomplished in the front room, which in most cases included a fireplace where the cooking was done using heavy iron cookware. Likewise, the washing was done in the same room. Although clothes were not washed as often then, it is easy to imagine a constant flapping of laundry on clotheslines strung between the small houses.
Descriptions of the fort layout show a small stream intersecting the long sides, with two catch basins deep enough to fill water buckets. Accounts mention water coming either from the springs to the northeast or from Lytle Creek to the west. Since the branch record mentions a work crew digging a ditch to bring a water supply to the fort as late as April 1853, the original stream probably came from the smaller and less consistent springs. The Lytle Creek ditch entered the fort through the west wall then curved [p.72]south to exit through the east gate which was situated in a natural depression, a portion of the Town Creek drainage system which provided an outlet for the colony’s excess culinary water.66
There was little understanding of sanitation at the time, but the residents must have dealt with such matters adequately as nothing indicates ill effects. The presence of 400 people would have necessitated a substantial number of outdoor toilets within a reasonable proximity. Livestock must have been banned from the fort, as well as chickens. The hens probably had human-constructed nests close by, if not henhouses. Similarly, although extant sketches show only fragments of a corral outside the stockade, there must have been designated areas for milking twice a day throughout the year. The general clutter caused by such a large population caused church leaders occasionally to call for entire days to be devoted to cleaning the fort premises.67
In early March, prior to Rich’s departure for Salt Lake City, he, Lyman, and George Sirrine searched the San Bernardino Valley for the most suitable site for a flour mill. Sirrine was one of the Latter-day Saints who had come to California with Brannan on the Brooklyn and had recently arrived in southern California. At the age of sixteen he had assisted his father in constructing two such mills and had operated one himself. He was enlisted as a full partner in an enterprise essential to the community. Their primary cash crop, wheat, had to be transformed into a more profitable form for sale. Although Louis Rubidoux was already operating a small gristmill on his ranch fifteen miles away, there were few such mills in operation in southern California and flour was imported at exorbitant costs.
The location selected was about a mile south of the fort, near present-day Mill and Allen streets. It adjoined the Warm Creek [p.73]drainage arroyo where water diverted farther upstream could be forced toward the waterwheel at greater velocity to propel the machinery. This demanded a mill race ditch almost a thousand feet long and ten feet wide from where Warm Creek now intersects Waterman Avenue. While awaiting the mill works from San Francisco, Sirrine employed Native American laborers to dig portions of the ditch. Other parts and the diversion dam, built when the project was nearing completion, were accomplished by the bishop’s call for volunteers. The branch record for 19 July 1852 states that “large numbers” turned out, and in a few hours the entire Warm Creek flow was running through the race. The water wheel was installed the same day, and the final installation and adjustments of machinery commenced. By 7 August the mill was “doing good work making flour.”68
In the meantime the high council discussed the need for a grain storehouse sufficiently large to accommodate the crops. They submitted a proposal that all who desired its use should help build it. The granary, one hundred feet long and thirty feet wide with adobe walls twelve feet high, promptly appeared next to the gristmill. Yet even a structure of this size was insufficient to house the entire grain production of the community, much of which was stored in barrels and in sacks of wheat in homes and vacant rooms.69
An equally important enterprise was lumbering. Some timber had previously been cut in the mountains east of Cajon Pass where Juan Bandini had men rolling logs down the steep slope adjacent to the Old Mojave Trail. But the U.S. government had disallowed Bandini’s claims to the timberland. Los Angeles vintner Louis Vignes was more successful with his claim from California’s Mexican government. He took a local partner, Daniel Sexton, who lived on the site in the extreme eastern end of the [p.74]valley with his Indian wife, and employed other Native Americans to saw lumber, at first hand-hewn and pit-sawed. In 1852 Sexton built a water-powered saw mill, which gave Mill Creek its name. This was probably the source of the timbers used for the frame of the Lyman and Rich gristmill.70
That same spring of 1852 Lyman, assisted by William Stout, Robert Clift, Jesse D. Hunter, Charles Crismon, and Bishop William Crosby, investigated possible routes for a road to the top of the San Bernardino mountains. They determined the feasibility of such a passage through what would later be called Waterman Canyon, with Lyman naively reporting that the timber was “easy of access.” At the next worship service available manpower was again requisitioned. The next week about one hundred men reported with mule and ox teams, scrapers, shovels, axes, and other tools essential for the massive undertaking. They cleared the thick growths of trees and underbrush, moved boulders, and graded a steep roadway up the side of the mountain, which even today appears a heroic feat to anyone who examines the roadway route. The task was completed within ten days, entailing a total of 1,000 man-days of arduous unpaid work. Marcus L. Shepherd, one of the laborers, later observed, “One of the greatest public works performed was the building of the road into … the timbers, which was accomplished by every man in the camp leaving his family … and freely laboring … upon the road incessantly until finished.” This project will always stand as a classic example of community activity crucial to tapping the timber resources of the nearby mountains. Soon Latter-day Saint lumbermen would be filling the need for building material for most of southern California. The boards became known as Mormon banknotes.71
Crismon, who had earlier built the first gristmill and sawmill [p.75]in the Great Salt Lake Valley, procured a steam engine abandoned at the Salt Springs mine on the Mojave Desert and placed it in the lower portion of Waterman Canyon. He began sawing the nearby alder, hemlock, and sycamore trees. One of the first loads was used to construct the roof of the grain storage facility adjacent the San Bernardino gristmill.
Throughout the spring observers noted the beneficial effect of the abundant rains on the crops. Hopkins mentioned on 10 May that the barley was turning yellow and soon after noted the pleasing sight of “the immense field filled with wheat bowing its golden heads,” almost ready for harvest. A month later he correctly surmised that the heavy mists of the summer mornings had adversely affected the wheat, helping bring on rust that would diminish the yield. In subsequent years this would adversely affect each harvest.72
Notwithstanding, the harvest commenced. Nothing indicates that the farmers yet possessed any of the reapers Cyrus McCormick had invented some twenty years earlier. There was little alternative but to cut the crop in the traditional manner, using sickles, scythes, and cradles. It was probably at this, the only harvest without reapers, that the men engaged most extensively in contests to see who could cut and bind the most grain. Matthew Stewart, who would later die in a Confederate prison camp during the Civil War, acquired at this time the reputation as the champion cradler.
In anticipation of the harvest, several partnerships were formed to procure threshing machines and fanners. These continued operating on stacks of grain sheaves hauled from the fields long after the crop was ripe. There would have been two of these [p.76]machines ready by the harvest season had not George Garner, charged with the task of procuring them in San Francisco with his own money and that raised from a group of San Bernardino farmers, supposedly lost $3,100 when his steamship pitched and the money box slid overboard. His partners and the Star readers had no choice but to believe the story until one of the contributors, John Brown, later discovered the money had been lost in a gambling spree. Such was human frailty—even among the Mormons.73
Farmers often exchanged labor with neighbors, and at least for the first two years excess profits were expected to help pay for the ranch, although the proceeds were still regarded as legitimate remuneration for individual enterprise. Participation in debt redemption earned each individual cancellation of his personal debt for lands allotted and for additional lands if he paid a greater proportion of the funds needed. Harvest seasons especially witnessed instances of genuine community activity, as when President Rich’s grain was ripe and he was still in Utah on colony business. On Sunday, 4 July 1852, Lyman preached “a very interesting sermon” based on Luke 6. Some outside neighbors who expected an Independence Day feast and celebration were disappointed. At the close of the Sunday proceedings members agreed by the show of hands to celebrate the following day by harvesting Rich’s field. At the early Monday sounding of the bishop’s horn, the men gathered and “commenced a furious [p.77]attack.” By day’s end the entire crop was cut, bound, and put up ready to thresh. One further reminder of the fungus infestation was the branch clerk’s observation that there was “scarcely a cessation of the rusty work until the crop was put up.” Later in the month Lyman’s crop was cut and bound by a similar effort.74
If anything, the first yield of other crops, particularly garden vegetables, was even more spectacular. To celebrate their success, they designated 4 September as a harvest feast. With most of the population of the settlement expected to turn out for the occasion, the 30-by-60-foot council house was inadequate. During one of the warmest seasons of the year any building would have been suffocating. Therefore a “bowery” was built. This was probably similar to the one some would have helped build several years earlier in Salt Lake City: a large area shaded by brush or willows and other make-shift thatch, raised on long posts and supporting cross poles. The structure was apparently closed on one end, or possibly adjoined an outside wall of the council house. There was a speaker’s stand, perhaps a raised platform with some kind of rostrum or podium. Thereafter the entire premises of the meeting house and shaded area outside were sometimes referred to as the bowery.75 For the harvest festivities the premises were festooned with pine boughs and grape clusters, with a sign above the speaker’s stand inscribed “Holiness to the Lord” and underneath, “Harvest Feast.” Arranged around the gathering place were specimens of their produce, including cornstalks sixteen feet high, four onions totaling nine-and-one-half pounds, a cabbage weighing twenty-four-and-a-half pounds, a thirty-eight-pound [p.78]melon, “gigantic pumpkins,” and other similarly proportioned items.
Several hundred people, including many guests from outside, gathered for the celebration which featured singing, speeches, and dancing. There was not sufficient room for all to dance at once, so numbers were distributed. Young and old, married and single, mingled on the dance floor as their numbers were called. Midway through the festivities tables were assembled in three rows down the entire length of the bowery and filled with food. There were so many present that they had to feast in shifts. According to the clerk, even the various races—”white, black and red”—mingled without distinction.76
Two days after the harvest feast, and probably connected to it, was another conference. Lyman and Rich were sustained as “Presidents of the church in Western California” and thereafter began to act as supervisors of a rather decentralized regional structure. They were essentially heads of the missions not only in California and the Pacific Islands but also Asia and Latin America. Although they continuously sought direction from Brigham Young and the other leading general authorities, they were usually encouraged to conduct affairs according to their own “inspiration.” Representatives of the other California congregations in the San Francisco Bay area attended and gave reports. Visiting apostle Parley P. Pratt addressed the conference, complimenting the citizens on the progress of the colony and confessing he liked all aspects of San Bernardino except the climate. He conceded it was good for southerners, along with those from southern Europe, Latin America, and Polynesia. He encouraged continued development and predicted success under the leadership of Lyman and Rich.
In his conference talk Lyman expressed pride that so much [p.79]harmony prevailed. He pointed out that the high council had never yet been called on to adjust difficulties arising between quarreling members. He observed that nearly every person who had been in the colony from its beginning was in attendance, demonstrating what was assumed to be a continuing spiritual commitment to the church and its mission. He encouraged listeners to remember that they had come to the area “to make a home for the people of God right in this land,” not so much to acquire farms and wealth but to serve higher causes of the gospel. Lyman stated that it “had been fashionable” in San Bernardino to serve God, and he did not want any “new fashions” to be introduced which might detract from that. In his report to Salt Lake City Lyman optimistically asserted that “the spirit of the Gospel [was] on the increase in [that] branch of the church.”77
If the recent feast had been to celebrate the end of the harvest, it was indeed premature. Much of the wheat was, if not still standing, at least unthreshed. A week after the celebration a good deal of the precious commodity was damaged by thunder showers when it was caught on the threshing floors. In the absence of machinery the grain sheaves had undoubtedly been hauled by wagon closer to either the fort or the gristmill where the grain was in the process of being separated from the straw either by flailing or trampling under livestock hooves. Farmers devised a “fanning mill,” undoubtedly a more effective means of blowing the straw away from the wheat than winnowing or throwing the threshed mixture into the air so the wind could blow the chaff away and leave clean wheat.78
[p.80]Other threshing partnerships had ordered the component parts essential for partially homemade machines and placed two into operation soon after the grain was cut and stacked. These were both said to be of “domestic manufacture,” one water-powered and one propelled by horses. Local farmers were probably less diligent in hand-threshing because they anticipated these machines to be soon in operation. Some days later Lyman, Rich, and Company began assembling another water-powered thresher which commenced operation 28 September. This and the other water-powered machine ran night and day throughout most of October, one proving capable of threshing 720 bushels of clean wheat in each twelve-hour period. Yet the grain harvest crisis was still perceptible in late November when unthreshed grain was again soaked by rain. On that and one other occasion church leaders dispensed with Sabbath worship services. Saving the wheat was a higher priority than listening to preaching at that time. Such efforts proved beneficial. Soon after, gale force winds toppled wagons and blew away much that was not tied down. Any remaining vulnerable stacks of grain sheaves would have been destroyed.79
Later in the autumn, as Lyman and Rich returned to Utah for a winter visit, they met at Resting Springs a company of thirty-eight missionaries bound for San Bernardino on their way to various fields of labor beyond. The occasion was transformed into a two-day training session at which the apostles offered instruction and bolstered enthusiasm. Several accounts mention this as an extraordinary experience. While thus occupied, Lyman and Rich also composed a letter to the San Bernardino Saints offering additional advice on the colony’s spiritual affairs. They directed church members just arriving in the community to renew their membership through re-baptism, particularly those [p.81]coming without a recommend from another organized church branch. The presiding authorities were instructed to appoint experienced teachers to visit each family to “teach and impress upon them their duty as Saints” and to insure that no “hardness nor evil speaking” crop up in their midst. They further admonished those remiss in attendance at church meetings to be more faithful. All church members were urged to sustain and support President Seeley and Bishop Crosby just as they would the apostles if present. They suggested the organization of prayer meetings during the winter months to “call upon the name of the Lord and speak as [they were] moved upon by the Holy Spirit to the edification of each other.” Subsequent reports indicated that the suggestions were implemented.80
Another timely item of advice sent back to San Bernardino was to receive the missionaries “not as strangers but as brothers,” providing temporary homes for them. It is doubtful if such direction was actually needed, since many in both groups were already acquainted. In fact, the spirit of the request was carried out prior to reading the letter. When the bishop’s horn summoned the residents to the council house to meet the new arrivals, all were promptly offered shelter. The diaries of several missionaries making the month-long stop mentioned that they were “joyfully received.” Reddick Allred noted, “It seemed much like home to meet with the Saints,” attending church with them and visiting in their homes. He said his host family, the John Harris household, did “all anyone could to make him comfortable.” It was common practice for missionaries to seek employment to facilitate travel. Allred, for example, found work laying adobe walls for a shoemaking and repair shop in exchange for the proprietor, Brother Hakes, mending his shoes and paying some cash. Allred [p.82]plastered Gilbert Hunt’s room for a few dollars and a shirt. Other missionaries were similarly engaged.81
During their stay missionaries disposed of their property, including travel-worn livestock, usually at “about full value,” which is what the animals would be worth after recovery. The purchasers understood the money was going to a worthy cause, and it was probably regarded as a contribution. When a missionary appeared deficient in funds, the bishop sometimes appealed to members at a worship service. The missionaries were frequently invited to dinner. Allred observed that he could not possibly accept all the invitations he had received, and his diary indicates he ate well. Often these visits were accompanied by gifts and additional cash donations. Sometimes they were told to go to the newly established store and pick out what they needed, while some generous brother assumed the bill. When the temporary respite in their journeys ended, the missionaries were transported to San Pedro by volunteer teamsters for steamboat passage to San Francisco where a greater variety of ocean-going vessels was available. The visit by the missionaries gave the burgeoning colony yet another opportunity to demonstrate the extent to which the community spirit was present at that time. It is doubtful if there was any place in contemporary Mormondom where missionaries were more generously treated prior to leaving for their various fields of labor.
While visiting San Bernardino several missionaries commented on the settlement. Allred noted that the “saints were all in a prosperous condition and times [appeared] favorable.” He described one feast held in honor of Jefferson Hunt as “set with all the luxury of the ‘promised land.'” Amos M. Musser described the colony as “a beautiful place, though [the residents] had not built any nice houses” while still in the fort. Hosea Stout termed [p.83]it a “happy country with no winter” and observed that “nothing appears to hinder the saints [there] from soon becoming rich.” The most noteworthy characteristic of the settlement, mentioned by all, was the liberal assistance given by many to those called to serve missions.82
Thus by the end of the second year of the California colonization venture, the Latter-day Saints involved were successfully located in the San Bernardino Valley. They yet faced many challenges of debt and establishing individual farms and homes, but they had demonstrated that through working together they could accomplish whatever was deemed essential for fulfilling their perceived missions. Indeed, they had fashioned a community in the truest sense of the word, one of the outstanding examples of selflessness and commitment to others ever demonstrated in American history.
2. Henry G. Boyle to Brigham Young, 17 May 1857, Young Papers, archives, Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah (hereafter LDS archives); William Decatur Kartchner Journal, undated, 33, 35, Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.
3. Leonard J. Arrington, Charles C. Rich: Mormon General and Western Frontiersman (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1974), 157; Brigham Young, Bowery Speech, 5 Oct. 1851, Young Papers, includes Brigham’s lamentation: “[W]hen we ask you to fill up the valleys, you won’t do it. Its a disgrace. If there was a barrel of whiskey at Iron Co. they would go.”
7. Kartchner Journal, 36; “Manuscript History of the Church, Brigham Young Period, 1844-1877,” 20 Mar. 1851, LDS archives; “Sketch of the Life of James Henry Rollins,” LDS archives, also states that “there were three papers gotten up for the people to sign which were going, which was that the people should obey the council, California [sic] which most of them signed. This was satisfactory to President Young and Kimball.”
9. Amasa M. Lyman Journal, 23 Mar., 2, 25 Apr., 18 May 1851, LDS archives; Charles C. Rich Journal, 23 Mar., 20 Apr. 1851, LDS archives; An Illustrated History of Southern California (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1890), 551.
10. Young, Bowery Speech, 5 Oct. 1851. A few brethren—such as “Doc” Cunningham, who had been excommunicated in Utah, and Jesse W. Folkes—had questioned or defied church authority, but the rowdiness reported was mainly among the gentiles accompanying the group.
11. Journal History, 20 Apr. 1851; Transcript of Conference at Summit, Sunday, 20 Apr. 1851, LDS archives; Henry Lunt Journal, 13 Apr. 1851, copy, William R. Palmer Papers, Southern Utah State University Library, Cedar City.
13. Charles C. Rich to President Young and Council, 20 Apr. 1851, Young Papers; Amasa M. Lyman to President Young and Council, 22 Apr. 1851, Young Papers; “List of those willing to be counseled by A. Lyman and C. C. Rich,” LDS archives.
20. Parley P. Pratt Journal, 21, 23 May 1851, in Journal History; Lyman Journal, 25 Apr. 1851, mentions that Sister Swarthout was ill prior to leaving Utah; Amasa M. Lyman and Charles C. Rich to President Young and Council, 30 July 1851, mentions but one death on the road: “that of Sister Swarthout from improper treatment at or subsequent to her confinement.”
21. Luther A. Ingersol, Ingersol’s Century Annals of San Bernardino County, 1769 to 1904 (Los Angeles: the Author, 1904), 684; Kate B. Carter, ed., Heart Throbs of the West, 12 vols. (Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1947), 7:424.
22. George William and Helen Pruitt Beattie, Heritage of the Valley: San Bernardino’s First Century (Oakland, CA: Biobooks, 1951), 72-73, recount an instance during the Mexican war when Williams betrayed his Anglo-American allies to Mexicans. Journal History, 4 Mar. 1851, relates another instance of his duplicity: Williams fed and entertained a band of visiting Utah Indians promising to keep their presence a secret if they would not harm his herds. He had to understand that the logical focus of their subsequent depredations would be the livestock on the ranch of his brothers-in-law, the Lugos.
27. L. A. Star, 17, 21 May, 12 July, 9 16, 22 Aug., 27 Sept. 1851; Journal History, 4 Mar. 1851; Robert G. Cleland, The Cattle on a Thousand Hills: Southern California, 1850-1880 (San Marino, CA: Huntington Library, 1951), 64-70; Leonard B. Waitman, “The Watch Dogs of San Bernardino Valley: Chief Juan Antonio and Lorenzo Trujillo,” San Bernardino County Museum Quarterly, Winter 1970, 7-11.
28. Office Account Book for San Bernardino Branch (Stake), LDS archives, lists John D. Holladay, Joseph Matthews, Archibald Sullivan, and Charles Crismon as paying nearly a ton of potatoes as tithing on 1 December 1851, with Jesse Foulks, John M. Lewis, William J. Cox, Robert Egbert, and William Matthews paying a similar amount over the next two months.
30. Pauline Udall Smith, Captain Jefferson Hunt of the Mormon Battalion (Salt Lake City: Nicholas Morgan, Sr., Foundation, 1958), 171; Lyman and Rich to Young, 30 July 1851; perhaps a widower at age twenty-eight, Nathan Swarthout married Emma Tanner, age twenty, on 25 August 1851.
32. San Diego Herald, 20 May 1854, describes San Bernardino Valley as having “a multitude of springs”; H. F. Raup, San Bernardino, California Settlement and Growth of a Pass-site City (University of California Publications in Geography 8, no. 1), 11-12; George William Beattie, “San Bernardino Valley in the Spanish Period,” Historical Society of Southern California 13 (1923), pt. 3:6.
33. William B. McBride Journal, 22 May 1855, LDS archives, not only mentioned the thirty-two streams but noted the difficulty seeing the settlement from a distance partly because “it was encircled about with skirts and belts of timber.” See also the recollections of Mrs. Byron Waters (John Brown’s daughter), “Life in the 50’s and 60’s,” Beattie Papers, Huntington Library.
34. L. A. Star, 5 July 1851; David Seeley, “Autobiographical Sketch,” Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, states that in 1849 “the cattle as they roamed at large made trails through the young and verdant clover.”
35. Andrew Jensen, comp., “History of San Bernardino, California,” being mainly material recorded by Richard R. Hopkins, San Bernardino branch and stake clerk in his “San Bernardino Branch Record,” 5, 6 July 1851, 17 Aug. 1855, both LDS archives (hereafter Hopkins-Jensen).
37. Rich Journal, 16-26 July 1851; Erwin G. Gudde, California Gold Camps (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975), 225, 302. Mormon Island is on the South Fork of the American River three miles from its junction with the North Fork, where the Gold Rush actually began; Salmon Falls is also on the South Fork of the American River a few miles from the junction with the Middle Fork.
41. Brigham Young to Amasa M. Lyman and Charles C. Rich, 23 Oct. 1851, Journal History. Almost nine years later, while serving together as presidents of the European missions of the church, Lyman and Rich were again chided by Young on the matter. In the context of proper use of tithing funds, the church leader remarked, “I presume you are well convinced, through your operations in San Bernardino, that disregarding my counsel in financial matters is followed by sinking and wasting money.” Brigham Young to Amasa M. Lyman and Charles C. Rich, 13 Sept. 1860, Young Papers.
43. The next largest anglo settlement in southern California at the time was at El Monte on the San Gabriel rivers some twelve miles east of Los Angeles. There were eight adult men and their families, and they would be joined over the next two years by about fifty others, mostly from Texas and bordering areas. They grew corn and raised hogs and cattle and technically have some claim to being the first small Anglo community. An Illustrated History of Los Angeles County, California (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1889), 339.
49. Carter, Heart Throbs, 426. Rich interpreted this as a miraculous coincidence. No one else remembered these concurrences in the same way, leaving the possibility that Rich may have either telescoped events or accepted unconfirmed rumors of an impending attack.
52. Hopkins-Jensen, 26, 28 Nov. 1851. Prior to the arrival of the Mormons in the spring of 1851, Antonio followed what he understood to be the wishes of his friends by killing several parties perceived to be enemies of the Lugo family. For the last of these actions, the virtual eradication of the notorious Irving gang, authorities at Los Angeles granted the Indians $100 worth of supplies as a reward; San Diego Herald, 11, 18 Dec. 1851, 17 Jan. 1852.
53. Hopkins-Jensen, 7 Jan. 1852; San Diego Herald, 10 Jan. 1852; L.A. Star, 10 Jan. 1852, 18 July 1868, cites Benjamin D. Wilson, “Report of Indian Agent,” as authority that General Stephen W. Kearney “breveted Juan Antonio a general and the Mexican authorities did so as a regular practice,” G. W. Beattie notes, 1852, Beattie Papers; Cleland, Cattle on a Thousand Hills, 67-68.
56. Hopkins-Jensen, 27 Feb., 13, 15, 31 Mar. 1852; Beattie, Heritage of the Valley, 188; Beattie, “San Bernardino Valley in the Spanish Period,” 6-15. The asistancia or branch mission was slated to become a full-fledged mission in 1834, but that was the year the Mexican government desecularized all existing missions. Thus it never reached full mission status. Within a decade after the Mormons left the area, the mission district emerged as a major wine-producing center.
60. Amasa M. Lyman to President Young and Council, 23 Mar. 1852, Young Papers; Journal History, 17 Oct. 1852, contains Young’s letter to Lyman and Rich of same date; San Bernardino Branch (Stake) Tithing Records for 1850s, LDS archives.
66. Ingersol, Annals of San Bernardino County, 134. Hopkins-Jensen mentions “within the fort, a stream of water was brought for domestic purposes through a ditch from Garner’s Springs or Lytle Creek.”
72. Hopkins-Jensen, 7 June 1852. Some old-timers recalled that the Spaniards had solved the rust problem on a small scale by having two mounted vaqueros ride through the field each damp morning holding each end of a rope so that the dew drops would be knocked off the grain heads.
73. L. A. Star, 7 Sept. 1852; Hopkins-Jensen, 8 July 1852. Journal of John Brown, 3 Apr. 1853, copy in Beattie Papers, states that while on a cattle drive in the Gilroy area, Brown met an old acquaintance, Captain Head, “who told [him] how Gamer gambled off the money he took to San Francisco to buy thrashers [sic] in 1852.” Gamer was the first to bring a reaper to Salt Lake Valley, where he eventually sold the machinery to Brigham Young. Hopkins to Rich, 23 June 1852, Rich Papers, reported Garner was in San Francisco to purchase two threshers—one for himself and one for other partners.
75. Ibid., 3 Apr., 14 Aug. 1852. Adding to the confusion about meeting places, the two-story, two-room office constructed early in 1854 was also called the council house. When the first brush bowery burned, a second was built at the same spot, with apparently a third constructed at the town square several blocks away during the last year and a half of Mormon domination.
78. Charles C. Rich to Amasa M. Lyman, 18 Nov. 1851; Hopkins-Jensen, 28 Sept., 11 Oct. 1852; Amasa M. Lyman and Charles C. Rich to President Young and Council, 11 Sept. 1852, published in Deseret News, 27 Nov. 1852. William J. Cox and William Matthews apparently possessed the first thresher assembled, John Lewis and William Hyde, the second, along with the third machine owned by Lyman, Rich, and Company.
82. Allred Journal, 5-17 Dec. 1852; “Biography of Amos Milton Musser,” LDS archives; Diary of Ephraim Green, 4-17 Dec. 1852, Lee Library; Juanita Brooks, ed., On the Mormon Frontier: The Diary of Hosea Stout 1844-1861 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1964), 464-67.