First day of Autumn.
Roosters from farms down the valley name this morning.
Cacti- I can tell it is becoming as brittle as the life around it. Love this place. Jays squawk. Crickets still sing in the fresh sun. I can see my breath for the first time. Little specks of birds flit and won’t sit still for me to name them. Sage sways, and today I enjoy them for their movement.
Knoll- Twenty-four maple leaves. It seems to be molding to the surroundings. The leaves on the ground give the world a different smell. The Earth’s been given another layer of skin and these leaves bring with them the freshness of the height they once danced in. With each twist of wind they stored the altitude. And now my toes feel the release of air stored crisp and cold, now breathing. A chickadee lands on a branch behind my sitting rock.
Aspen- It’s still there, my rocks and sticks. Two aspen leaves, one brown, one yellow. And a closer look shows four yellow slivers of rabbit bush.
Trees- Deer before I arrived again. It seems harder to see each time. Nothing in it, but spider webs…dancing with the light. Mesmerized.
From the first year of their arrival, Mormons knew of the Oquirrh’s mineral deposits. Church leaders though, especially Brigham Young, discouraged the people from mining.
“Instead of hunting gold,” Young said, “let every man go to work at raising wheat, oats, barley, corn and vegetables and fruit in abundance that there may be plenty in the land. Raise sheep and produce the first quality wool…. In these pursuits are the true sources of wealth.”[i]
But in October 1862, two U.S. Army units, the Second and Third California Volunteers arrived in Salt Lake. Their leader was Patrick Connor. They were dispatched to protect the overland mail route to California, and also to keep an eye on the Mormons. The two units were “composed largely of miners.”[ii]
Connor unabashedly expressed his thoughts about Mormons. He told his superior, “It will be impossible for me to describe, what I saw and heard in Salt Lake, so as to make you realize the enormity of Mormonism; suffice it, that I found them a community of traitors, murderers, fanatics, and whores…. I have a difficult and dangerous task before me, and will endeavor to act with prudence and firmness.”[iii]
Connor soon found his answer to his “difficult and dangerous” task.
He wrote headquarters in 1863, “The Territory is full of mineral wealth. I have instructed commanders…to permit the men…to prospect the country…. Already…in the East and West mountains, mines have been discovered yielding…silver…lead…and copper ores…. If I be not mistaken in these anticipations, I have no reason to doubt that the Mormon question will at an early date be finally settled by peaceable means, without the increased expenditure of a dollar by Government, or, still more important, without the loss of a single soldier in conflict.”[iv]
Connor saw mining, with its dependable influx of miners, as the way to break the Mormon cultural and political monopoly. He endorsed and encouraged his soldiers to mine. He personally mined. In 1863, Utah’s first mining claims were established, in the Oquirrhs.
The same year, Orson F. Whitney, a Mormon church leader, wrote, “A tremendous effort is now being made to bring to light the rich minerals and the enemy has already partially succeeded. The greatest trial to the integrity of the saints is now before them, to prove whether their religion or wealth is of most value to them.”[v]
They sought the mountains for protection. Now, their “mountain solitudes,” both literally and figuratively, began to fall.[vi]
[i] Lynn R. Bailey, A History of Bingham Canyon, Utah: Old Reliable (Tucson: Westernlore Press, 1988), 13.
[ii] Ibid., 13.
[iii] Richard H. Orton, Record of California Troops (California Adjutant General’s Office, 1890), 508. While the relations between Connor and the Mormons, specifically Brigham Young, began poorly, those relations later thawed. So much so that “Connor is said to have offered to furnish $100,000 bail when Brigham Young later met with court action” and Young said of Connor, “Men have been here before him; to our faces they were our friends; but when they went away they traduced, vilified and abused us. Not so with Connor. We always knew where to find him. That’s why I like him.” See E. B. Long, The Saints and the Union: Utah Territory during the Civil War (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981), 270.
[iv] Fred B. Rogers, Soldiers of the Overland (San Francisco: The Grabhorn Press, 1938), 112.
[v] Colleen K. Whitley, From the Ground Up: The History of Mining in Utah (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2006), 59. The quote is from a letter, written by William Clayton to Jesse A. Smith, dated November 28, 1863.
[vi] Spendlove, A History of Bingham Canyon, 3.