The Bixbys are a legendary name in the history of Long Beach and the Rancho Los Alamitos, and deservedly so. The true start of the family fortune goes back to the early 1850s when cousins Benjamin and Thomas Flint and Lewellyn Bixby returned home to Maine from Gold Rush California, where they had some success as merchants. After visiting with family, they took the train to Indiana, Illinois and Iowa and bought 2,000 sheep and drove them 2000 miles overland to California, parallelling the Oregon Trail, dealing with friendly and hostile Indians, new Mormon converts on their way to Salt Lake City, and making their way south from Salt Lake City along the Old Spanish Trail (roughly today’s Interstate 15) through the Las Vegas and Mojave deserts before arriving in San Bernardino area on New Year’s Day 1854. Thomas Flint kept a diary of that trip. Here are the October 1853 excepts.
October — Saturday 1st:
More delay and trouble. Bought some potatoes of a Mormon who was not on time in delivering them, so left Ben and Jennings with team to get them while the rest of us moved on to Tulare Creek and camped. It was late when Ben and Jennings came in. Before starting this morning Frazer got a left hand benefit from the Mormons of Naphi. They drove his horses into their corral and fined him $20 costs and damages, alleging they had strayed to their wheat stacks but would not show him the damage, threatened to double the amount if he found fault or swore.
Drove to Sevier River and camped on a point made by a crook in the stream. Frazer on another. White and Viles and the Judge on still another further down. Good feed. Pleasant and cool as usual.
Started out early. Had to cross the river. Water so deep that it came up over the axles of the wagons. Bad crossing for sheep on account of high steep bank on opposite side. The bridge had been washed away. Drove some 13 miles from the river which terminated in lake Sevier (where a party of U. S. Engineers was killed a short time after we passed). Camped in Round Valley. Frazer here joined our party to drive along together — thereby doubling our guard at night to prevent thieving Indians from stampeding our horses and cattle. Sheep if frightened would huddle around the camp fire but the other stock would run away and scatter more or less.
Travelled over the divide between Round Valley and the main valley which extends southerly from Great Salt Lake, a long drive without water. Mrs. Johnson quite ill and has been two or three days. Drove to Cedar Creek and Spring and camped in a barren valley. No fish in the stream. Pleasant and warm.
Crossed Pioneer Creek soon after starting out. Had 15 sheep die from some kind of poison — a great many more on the ground in spasms. I discovered something was wrong from seeing so many carcasses and rushed back and had the flock hurried across as quickly as possible. Col. Hollister lost 86 head out of about 4,000 — a larger proportion than our loss. His train was a day’s drive ahead of us. After a short drive from the creek we came to Fillmore, the capitol of the territory of Great Salt Lake. Camped and waited for the flock to get upon their feet and come up to us. Here we found Ed. Potter from Col. Hollister’s train. Dined with him at Bishop Bartholmew’s. Potter came back to assist two girls to join Colonel’s train, with it come to California and return by water to Ohio as they refused to join the Mormons.
Mrs. Bartholmew being a saint and the bishop their stepfather who proposed to have them sealed to him as celestial wives. Potter arranged with the consent of the mother that they should ride in the wagon with Mrs. Johnson to overtake Hollister’s train who would hold up for them the next day. We went into camp nearby the town.
In the morning the girls came out to milk their cows and told us that the old folks had concluded not to let them go East that way but they were promised that in the Spring they might leave with some of the Mormon trains that would go east at that time with Mormon missionaries. So Potter rode away to overtake his train.
After purchasing a few necessary articles we drove 8 miles to Chalk Creek. Frazer killed a small beef of which we have one-half to be repaid when we kill. It is a very warm day. Hollister’s train 12 miles ahead. Road very dusty.
Took a late and leisurely start and drove to Corn Creek or Willow Flat, 4 miles. As Mr. Burnap and I were selecting a place for camp an Indian came up and showed us water and feed. He soon left us and returning brought in Capt. Connuse and party of about a dozen Indians. Next move they sent for their squaws. All of whom we out of friendship had to feed. This same party had killed one of Hildreth’s men who was trying to disarm the Captain. Hildreth’s men in turn killed an Indian and wounded two, camped near the Indian wickeups.
Crossed over a ridge to a small round valley without water, then over another ridge to a spring 25 miles from our last night’s camp. All hands tired. Stock wearied. Warm day. Roads dusty. Poor watering place. Feed good. Supper over all hands excepting the guard turned in. Pleasant weather.
Laid by to rest stock and ourselves as much as possible, though it is about as hard work on the men as driving. White, Judge Burdick & Co., drive on. Windy with a little rain in the afternoon. Pleasant at night though cool. Mr. Burnap and I go ahead of the train nowadays to select camping places.
Started again, when about two miles out met Lewell coming back from the sheep which were as usual in the lead, having lost his Colts Revolver went back to our camping place in search for it, but did not find it. We overtook the train in camp some six miles from last camp in good place, recruiting for a drive of 16 or 22 miles tomorrow. Pleasant.
Sheep started before sunrise. Cattle grazed for a short time and started, crossed a high ridge. New snow on a mountain near by. Mountain scenery to the east of us very grand. Frazer’s teamster broke down a wagon wheel when about six miles on our way. Delayed about 2 hours putting a skid in place of the wheel. Camped at 7 o’clock on Sage Creek. A miserable watering place as the water ran in a deep gulch. No feed. Pleasant.
Started as early as we could see to pack up. Drove 5 miles to Beaver Creek and laid by for the day. A good place. Mended the wheel. Mountains all around us. Clear cold night.
Had a long tedious drive today without feed or water. At sunset arrived at a small spring of water and a plat of poor grass where we camped. Cattle troublesome from want of water but had to stand it with very little of it. Cold and pleasant.
Left our inconvenient quarters early for the next creek about 5 miles ahead. On reaching it we camped. Ben and Frazer went into Parowan City to purchase some supplies needed to last us until we should arrive in California. Overtook White & Co., resting in camp. Poor feed. Pleasant weather.
Laid by to recruit. I, as usual bossed the making of a stew, after the preliminary for it had been accomplished by the men. Seven miles yet to Parowan, the last settlement in Great Salt Lake Valley.
Found a party of Mormons had arrested Potter for seduction of the two girls at Filmore. They had attempted to do it a few days previous but he slipped away from them, mounted his horse and they were not able to catch him — his horse being the fleetest. This time they got ahead of him and laid for him in a canebrake through which the road ran. They talked of taking him to Salt Lake City for trial but we were strong enough to say No. As there were some 60 men in the three trains that had stopped there, we were at least for the time, master of the situation. Word was sent to Col. Hollister that if he thought best we would send the posse back and take Potter along with us. The Mormons however were only on a raid, so trumped up the charge and were ready to make terms. It was arranged that a fine of $300 would answer of which $150 would be allowed for the horse that they could not catch when Potter gave them the slip, and $150 cash. By that time our party had got up quite a warlike feeling and wanted Col. Hollister to refuse the offer so that we could have a chance at the Mormon posse of seven men, but the Col. accepted and thus the matter was settled ; the leader of the posse giving a U. S. receipt and discharging Potter, turned with his men. Ben and Frazer are in Parowan.
Arrived in Parowan the last fortified city in the valley and the most southerly of the Mormon settlements — pleasantly located at the foot of a mountain range on the east side of Little Salt Lake Valley, a clear stream of water running in ditches in the front and back of the houses. One for house use, the other for stock and the public. A square corral in the center into which all the stock belonging to the city was driven at night for safety and control of the church officers. All affairs here as elsewhere being under church direction. Camped just east of the city. Pleasant.
Traded some with the Mormons — groceries for butter, cheese, etc. Had some blacksmithing done by a Mr. Whitney, originally from Maine. Mailed a letter to father and one to Postmaster Grant, Salt Lake, requesting all letters, if any to be forwarded to Los Angeles. In afternoon drove to a small creek 8 miles out and camped. Pleasant. Five wagons of Mormons going out for California, joined us here, requested the privilege of travelling with us. Their stock very troublesome at night but not one of the men would go out to look after them at night — it was said for fear of the ‘”Destroying Angels.”
A young Indian calling himself Mike invited himself to stay with us. Drove to Coal Creek or Little Muddy. Passed Johnson Springs, a very pleasant farm but now deserted, as the occupants were ordered to go into the fort at Parowan. We helped ourselves to garden vegetables in variety. Camped near by. Pleasant.
Drove to Iron Springs and creek where we camped. Boulders of Magnetic Iron ore laying around in abundance. Barren country all around. Little bunch grass. Train of 17 wagons of disappointed Mormons left here this morning for California before we did. Cloudy.
A clear cold autumn morning with piercing wind. Indians call it coch wino (very bad) . Travelled over a barren road. No feed, but sagebrush. Came to a spring in the side of a mountain, scarcely enough water for our use. Some scattering bunch grass on the foot of the mountain. A kind of valley without water. Mike, the Indian decamped about 10 o’clock and with him went a powder horn, blanket, and a piece of carpeting. The men on guard were instructed to keep a close watch on him every night, but he gave them a slip.
Grazed the stock the best we could on the scant bunch grass and started out on the trail. Had a chase after the horses and a cow until pretty well tired out — they seemed possessed with a spirit of getting away. There might have been Indians about which caused the uneasiness. Somewhat cloudy in the afternoon. After an uncomfortable drive arrived at Pinta Creek and camped. Eleven of us took the cattle off l!/2 miles to feed and camped with them. The sheep remaining with the wagons at camp. Pleasant.
Had a cold night. On returning to the wagons in the morning found the sheep drivers had started off ahead, so we followed after them. Road rough — rocky and hilly. Crossed the summit of the southern rim of the Great Salt basin 54 days since we crossed the eastern rim. Overtook the sheep in a valley on Road creek and camped near Col. Hollister’s train of 11 wagons, 154 cattle and about 4,000 sheep. 31 men employed. Cold all day. Overcoat, gloves and muffler in use. Had charge of the whole train. Frazer and Burnap being in the rear — their wagons and stock with us.
Finding good feed for our stock we did not move out. Not so cold as yesterday, yet the altitude of the ridge made it colder than we had experienced for the month. Latitude about 371/2° North.
Coldest night yet experienced. Ice formed inch thick. Drove 3 miles over the ridge and camped just at nightfall. I climbed a nearby peak from which I could see mountains in every direction but of less altitude than the one I stood upon. Warmer weather.
All hands in motion early. Right glad that we have passed out of Mormon territory. As for our individual selves we cannot complain of the treatment received since being in Brigham Young’s worldly kingdom for we have been most kindly received and treated by Mormon church officials and members which we attributed to kindness returned for the relief given to their little trains that were robbed by the Indians on the Platt River. We were not robbed or molested to an amount more than a set of horseshoes. With other trains the treatment received was harassing in most every conceivable manner, particularly if they were from Illinois or Missouri. Fines were imposed by the authorities for every infraction of their regulations, real or fictitious—enforced by men with rifles on their shoulders, making their demands very emphatic. The Mormons that joined us were so much in fear of the “Destroying Angels” that they did not dare to venture away from the camp fire at night. Road very rough and descending to the Santa Clara River — followed it down from where we struck it about a mile and camped. No feed of much account. High bluffs on each side of the canon. Weather milder and pleasant.
Drove some 5 miles through thick willows, mud and water. Found an Indian corn field with the old stocks standing and some caches of large pumpkins. We took possession of the place and let the stock, cattle and sheep feed on the cornstalks but guarded them from the caches of pumpkins. An old Indian tried to make objections as nearly as we could make out from his pantomine gestures. In the afternoon a dozen Indians came to camp and we gave them some clothing and provisions in payment for our trespassing.
The stock fared well however. Found 10 head of cattle got away in the willows and it took a long time to hunt them up. One Indian who seemed to be big man of the tribe stayed in camp over night under guard. About midnight he stood up before the camp fire facing the east ridge of the mountain, made a lot of signs with his arms, blanket and body which we supposed had some meaning to the tribe on the ridge.
Moved out quite early leaving our Indian visitor at the camping place where he breakfasted with us. On arriving at an open place about a mile out we had a count of the cattle and found one, a black cow, missing. Mr. Burnap and I started back on horseback to look for it. Had gone but a short distance when two Indians met us and one made an attempt to get on behind Mr. Burnap and he appeared to be willing to let him do so, but I spoke sharply to him to stop that kind of procedure for Mr. Indian would quickly have been the sole rider. At this stage of affairs some Indians drew up their bows with arrows ready to shoot, but perceiving that my revolver was in my hand they did not care to try conclusions. All this made it evident that they had the animal. We returned quickly to the train and reported.
Six of us armed with rifles and shotguns besides our revolvers rode back to where the Indians had blocked the way but they had skipped. An old Indian by gestures warned us not to take a trail, a broad one leading to the summit of the ridge but we rushed up toward the top for we were sure the cow had been driven up there by finding her tracks. About half way up some Indians came driving the cow towards us pretending they had found her and asking by signs for a reward. We came upon the Indians before they could get the cow over the ridge out of sight, else we could have said goodbye to the pet black cow we had taken along from Illinois. On looking back when at our camping place the crest of the ridge was alive with Indians of all ages and sex who probably felt that they had lost a good breakfast. Drove on until tired with excitement and fatigue and camped in the canon. Pleasant.
Continued on down the canon. Trail crooked and full of brush. High bluffs on either side. No Indians in sight to trouble us for a mile or so when we came to a patch of thick brush full of them. They cut out some of our stock but they for some reason turned them back again. Camped at Camp Springs. Paid Indians two hickory shirts for bringing in a cow and one shirt for a calf. At night we killed a beef and gave the offal to the Indians, some 30 in number, who made way with every particle in short order. The chief took the hide. They came to camp almost naked and begged for everything they could get and when they obtained what they could, retired one side and reappeared dressed up in fine style in their clothing which was laid away in the brush.
Started early for a 22 mile drive. Indians cross because we had got away before they dared to approach our camp as they knew full well that if they came near in the night they would be shot. We entered a narrow canon with abrupt rocky sides nearly perpendicular. From a cliff an Indian shot an arrow into one of Frazer’s oxen. The arrow was pulled out leaving the head in the animal’s paunch without seeming injury afterwards. About 10 miles drive we came out of the mountains into the Valley of the Rio Virjen. Camped with the sheep. Cattle driven on 6 miles to water. Found here the beehive cactus. Had to hunt for a yoke of oxen with a lantern to see their tracks. Found them about 10 o’clock at night. Pleasant.
Started sheep at day break as there was ahead of us a long drive to the Rio Virjen for water and 2 miles down for feed. Found the cattle drivers who had driven ahead 6 miles yesterday trying to get their animals out of the thick brush into which they had strayed during the night. It was late at night when they came into camp where the sheep had stopped. Lost 2 head of the cattle. Camped 2 miles down river.
Started the sheep out on the trail. Ben, Frazer, Ed Wickersham and I turned back to hunt the 2 lost cattle. Saw a cow of Frazer’s running along the ridge with Indian arrows sticking into her skin very thickly; the irritation crazed her and made her madly wild so we could do nothing with her. Going back a little further we found the tracks of the ox we had missed with Indian footprints following. We hurried on hoping to overtake them but at about 2 o’clock had to give it up. For variety gave chase to two Indians and they got away by dodging into a rocky gulch. We took the trail to get where our train would camp for the night. At sunset came upon Lewell with the sheep balked at a ford where they had been for six hours.
Not a sheep would go into the water, although the water was not over 100 feet wide, so they were packing them over one at a time and their herd only about two thirds over.
With our additional assistance soon got the balance across and it was nearly dark and cold. To make matters worse the cattle men with the wagons that had our camping outfit, food, most of the bedding, etc. Jennings with his wagon stayed with the sheep as usual. Frazer, Wickersham, Ben and I started to get up to the cattle train and found them about 11 o’clock in camp with Col. Hollister’s party. We got some food and blankets and returning got back at 2 o’clock in the morning.