- Historic Sites
“here Is My Home At Last!”
When Brigham Young’s party abandoned Illinois to seek a final refuge for the Latter-day Saints, none knew where they would come to rest. But as they entered Salt Lake Valley, they were sure that the long quest was over
February 1963 | Volume 14, Issue 2
The bugle sounded at ten in the morning and the brethren met at a cool bower made in a little grove near the wagon of Willard Richards. Heber C. Kimball then spoke very earnestly. He recommended that the whole camp, except President Young and enough men to care for him, set out on the following day to find fertile ground in which to plant potatoes, buckwheat, turnips, and other crops. The project was unanimously adopted, and on July 20 the major division of the camp was moving in the wake of the advance party, though Heber Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, and Ezra Benson stayed with President Young, who now was improving rapidly.
Erastus Snow left the main camp in the morning and by strenuous riding overtook Orson Pratt’s advance group during the day. He bore messages, one of which was a letter to Pratt from Willard Richards and George A. Smith detailing President Young’s advice. The general happiness of the expedition was apparent in a humorous passage dictated by Brother Brigham:”… prosecute the route as you have hitherto done until you arrive at some point in the Basin where you could hear the potatoes grow, if they had only happened to be there.”
On July 22 historic events came with a rush. The main camp rattled down the roughest section of the long road it had covered, with clownish black-and-white magpies tumbling about before them on stumps the travelers had cut to facilitate the advance. Sandhill cranes gazed solemnly at them from the banks of steaming hot springs. A hawk sailed above them. The ground “seemed literally alive with very large black crickets crawling around up grass and bushes.” Thomas Bullock, camp historian, wrote in his journal,
We succeeded in getting through the narrow part of the canyon about 4 o’clock p.m. when we turned around the hill to the right and came in full view of the Salt Lake in the distance; its islands with their lofty hills towering up in bold relief behind the silvery lake … I could not help shouting hurrah, hurrah, hurrah, here is my home at last!
That night the camp bivouacked beside a little stream almost hidden by tall grasses. Several of the advance party joined them for excited talks. So happy were they all that when hot springs were reported only a few miles away, the brethren suggested that one would do for a barber shop and that the largest, pouring out of a large rock having a big stone in the middle, “would make a first rate … steam house.”
On the morning of the twenty-third the Pioneers set up a campground on the banks of the stream today called City Creek, and exactly at noon Seth Taft turned the first furrow. The plow broke! It was soon repaired, and there were other plows.
At two o’clock the brethren began work on building a dam and cutting trenches to carry water into the land. Word came, welcome word indeed, that Brigham Young was much better and would enter the Great Basin on the morrow.
On that morrow the President, still weak but gaining strength, asked Wilford Woodruff, in whose carriage he was riding, to turn the vehicle so that he might look out over the valley. From his seat, then, the tired commander surveyed the long sea of grass over which only one cedar lifted crooked limbs. Below him, but out of his sight, he knew that those whom he had brought to this Canaan were already enthusiastically at work making the flat acres bordering the wide blue lake a garden spot. “This is the right place,” he said to Wilford Woodruff. “Drive on.”
“This is the first Sunday that the Latter-day Saints ever spent in the Great Salt Lake Valley,” wrote Woodruff on July 25. “We washed, shaved and cleaned up and met in the circle of the encampment. … George A. Smith preached an interesting discourse, standing upon the cannon.” Other speakers followed, and at noon the program was interrupted until the afternoon. At two it began again. At its close President Young, though feeble, spoke. Brother Woodruff entered his memories of the President’s speech in his journal later on in the day. The brethren must not work on Sunday, said Brigham Young, and if they did they would lose five times as much as they would gain by it, and they must not hunt or fish on that day,”… and there should not one man dwell among us who would not obey these rules; they might go and dwell where they pleased but should not dwell with us.”
After a few remarks on the distribution of land, the speaker “warned the Saints against keeping anything that did not belong to them, that if they followed such a course it would leak out and they would stink in the nostrils of Jehovah, the Angels, and the Saints, and though they might live with the Saints and die with them, they would be damned at last and go to hell, for they were thieves and nothing but burning through hell would cleanse them.”
Brother Brigham was obviously and audibly himself again.