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Wyoming History

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The Cherokee Trail

Part four of five parts - First published 1994 Revised 2002

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 5

Cherokee Trail Bibliography

Having crossed the Green River, John Lowery Brown's party moved west and crossed through an area "destitute of any  vegetation." The only entry in the diary that provides any way of knowing where he was -- is his reference to the Green River.  From the Green River west to the Blacks Fork Valley, sage and  grasses grow close to the ground.  Brown though the area "desolate looking country."   While it is difficult to trace the precise route, it appears the company angled in a westerly direction toward Millersville on the Black's Fork. From Millersville to Fort Bridger is less than twenty miles.  Brown's diary provides the only clues as to the exact route the travelers took. Brown writes:

July 24

Snow topped Mountains near by

This morning about 10 o'clock the Pack Co. left Green River and Traveled Due west over very desolate looking country, Destitute of vegitation of any kind & water. After Traveling about 25 miles, we came to and camped on a small stream of Muddy & very Bad tasting water. Camp 69--

[July] 25

Today we traveled over country the same as before Rugged & Rough. No grass Bad water. after Traveling about 12 miles we came to a large creek of good water [this is probably the Black's Fork River], with plenty good grass. We stopped for the day, Clem McNair being sick. Camp 70--

 [July] 26

Today we lay Bye McNair being unable to travel light showers, every day since we came to Green River

[July] 27

113 miles from this place to the Salt Lake

Snow mountains to the Left many springs of cold water 12 miles from Bridger

 

After Traveling this morning about 8 miles we came to Bridger's Ft. on Black Fork of Green River. At this place the Trace from Independence to the Salt Lake passes. a large Train of waggons were in sight bound for California. we were told by the Inhabitants at this place & also by Emegrants, that Thousands of persons were dying on the upper Rout which leads by Ft Hall of the Colara. we were also told that about 8 miles ahead, Oliver's Co had camped & one of the Cherokees belonging to the Train had died, they could not recollect his name. we traveled on, came to the grave By the side of Road & found, by some writing on a board, that it was Charlie McDaniel who had died. we traveled on a few miles father & camped 1/2 mile to the left of the left of the Road. good water & grass Made today 20 miles Camp 71--

 

We find this Trace to be crowded with Emegrants to the Gold diggins. We are har[d]ly ever out of sight of waggons

[July] 28

grave on the Bank J. A. Drake

Traveled 30 miles today crossed Bear Creek at noon. Camped 1/2 mile to Right of the Road. Good water & grass. Camp 72--

[July] 29

today we struck into a Narrow valley, with high Rockey Bluffs on the right of the Road and high hills on the left. Plenty of grass along the valley. Many springs of very cold water. we Traveled along the bank of a creek which runs through the valley, crossing it a Great many times

the Mormons have a toll bridge on this road

at evening we came to Webbers River, quite a large stream, good water & timber, grass scarce. At this place the Road Forks. The left hand is a cutoff to Salt Lake. We took the right hand which leads down the River, 2 miles & camped having made 30 miles Camp 73-- (Wright 1934:193-197)

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The "young" Cherokee, as Muriel H. Wright calls John Lowery Brown, provides the best intact record of the Cherokee Trail. Later records are sketchy and entire diaries have not been found that describe the same route John Lowery Brown followed. In fact it would not be until the 1860s that a map of the route would be made by surveyors traveling the trail. This map was made by Captain Clarence King's geological survey crew and would serve as the basis for late nineteenth century maps of the trail.

There is a reference to an 1851 journey by Cherokees who followed the Cherokee Trail back to Oklahoma. Samuel Houston Mayes, who traveled west with Brown's company in 1850, returned to the Cherokee Nation. Shortly after reaching California Mayes married Nancy Adair, who was from a distinguished Cherokee family. On his westward trek, Mayes was accompanied by his four sons: George W. Jr., John, Frank, and James. Samuel Mayes remained in California but only a few months. "In the spring of 1851, he went back over the Cherokee Trail to California, taking with him a herd of two hundred cattle" (Wright 1934:212). Samuel Mayes sold most of his animals "before he returned to the Cherokee Nation and left the rest with his son Frank to be sold." After selling nearly all of his father's cattle, Frank set out for home in present Oklahoma, "but was robbed and killed on the way" (Wright 1934:212).

The most definitive description of the Cherokee Trail is given by Clarence King. In the late 1860s King was commissioned by the infant United States Geological Survey (USGS) to survey the "Fortieth Parallel" (King 1870:i). This heralded survey of the fortieth parallel proved the worth of the newborn USGS. For example, in southern Wyoming King reported the presence of minable materials and mapped the geological strata at several spots along the survey route.

While conducting his survey King found remnants of the Cherokee Trail in several areas. Along the present Colorado/Wyoming border, in the Powder Rim area, King mapped the location of the Cherokee Trail. King noted that the Cherokee Ridge in this area was "called from the old Cherokee trail, which follows its summit for a considerable distance . . . " (Hague and Emmons 1877:218). In many ways King's survey, while not documenting the segment of the Cherokee Trail from Vermillion Creek to the Black's Fork provides the best description of the Trail. This is due to the fact King mapped the trail in relation to topographic features. Gillipes, when he drafted his map in 1876, used King's notes to aid in making his map of the Cherokee Trail (Figure 3). Since King only physically surveyed the Cherokee's road along the Fortieth Parallel, the area north of Brown's Park and along Muddy Creek in present Carbon County, could only have been guessed at on Gillipes' map. The  route of the Cherokee Trail from the mouth of Currant Creek west to the Black's Fork River was not precisely drawn. Interestingly, Gillipes ties the Cherokee Trail into the Bryan to Brown's Park Road. This is probably an error; since it is not likely that Gillipes had any additional information to draw from and if he did have additional data the accuracy of the map within the project area is questionable. The scale Gillipes uses for his map prevents using it to precisely determine the location of the Cherokee Trail west of the Green River. Knowledge of this route would assist travelers long after King's initial survey.

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During the Civil War the Cherokee Trail was the recommended route between Denver and the Montana gold fields.  The Rocky Mountain News, told travelers to rmn.bmp (24660 bytes)take the Cherokee Trail from Denver north and then follow the route west to Fort Bridger.  At Fort Bridger the traveler was advised to head north to Fort Hall near present Pocatello Idaho.  At Fort Hall the traveler was "200 miles from the mines."  According to the reporter for the News, it was a simple feat to travel the last 200 miles to the "Montana Gold Fields" (The Rocky Mountain News, October 30,1862:1)

Historically, eastern transportation systems provided the national model for how roads would evolve in the rest of the United States. Allan Kulikoff, who discusses the evolution of roads in colonial America, provides a generalized model of how wagon roads developed without large-scale funding. Kulikoff (1986:209-212), states in the colonial period roads linked scattered neighborhoods with more densely populated areas. On the frontier farmers and planters united to improve roads. Ultimately, it was farmer's demands to provide improved public highways that led to formal road networks evolving. As the frontier pushed further west new settlements needed to be connected with older areas. New roads emerged to link older roads with newly settled areas and short cuts were built to facilitate cross-country travel. Ultimately, a system of roads emerged that both facilitated communication between neighbors and the marketing of crops as well as the resupply of needed goods to the homestead. This historic model meant roads were built based on the needs of early settlers and as the settlers pushed west, roads had to be lengthened to tie farms to towns.

This eastern model where roads were built to connect homestead.jpg (10756 bytes)ranches to market did not emerge in Wyoming until after the building of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1868. Transportation systems prior to 1868 generally served the sole purpose of providing a means of crossing present Wyoming as quickly and safely as possible. With the completion of the transcontinental railroad and the rise of railroad towns, the traditional ranch-to-market road emerged. After 1868 there was the added development of mine-to-railroad roads. But even mine to railroad roads followed the colonial model of developing road systems that transported goods to markets. In southwest Wyoming the scattered ranches, farms, and mines were linked to relatively densely populated railroad towns such as Evanston, Bryan, Green River, Rock Springs, Rawlins, Laramie, and Cheyenne. As settlers spread north and south from the railroad, the roads were extended farther away from the towns. Longer roads were employed to tie together distant towns. Places like Billings, Rawlins, Bozeman, and Cheyenne were knit together by a complex road system. Ultimately new railroad construction diminished the need for these long roads. Yet the building of railroads did not end the need for shorter roads to serve scattered settlements. The Bryan to Browns Park Road was one of the shorter roads built to link remote settlements to the railroad.

The town of Bryan came into existence in 1868. Built with the intent of supply the newly built Transcontinental Railroad with locomotive repair facilities, it witnessed a great boom in the late 1860s. Yet the town was doomed to failure. Constructed along the Black's Fork River it was soon found that there was not enough water in the river to supplying the local residents. More importantly, in Union Pacific's mind, there was not enough water for the locomotive steam engines nor the roundhouse. Soon the roundhouse would be moved to "Green River City." Ultimately the town of Bryan vanished.

During the years Bryan prospered, it served as a transportation hub. Stagecoaches from Bryan ran north to South Pass, and east to Green River; mail wagons traveled south to Brown's Park and eventually on southward to newly founded communities in northeastern Utah. Freight, mail, and passengers were off-loaded at Bryan and then were taken to ranches along the Henry's Fork or to mines in the Uintas. While the amount of freight and passengers shipped north or south from Bryan is not known, it is known that maps dating to the late nineteenth century show numerous roads leading in and out of this railroad town on the banks of the Black's Fork (Figure 4).

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The best descriptions of Bryan is found in the Frontier Index. The Index, published in "Green River City" during the fall of 1868, provides a brief insight into wagon traffic in and out of Bryan. The newspaper also provides one of the few descriptions of the town at its economic height. The Frontier Index reported that Bryan would be the largest town in southwest Wyoming. At least in 1868 those reports were not without some validity.

In the fall of 1868 "round trip" stagecoach servicesstage.3.a.neg.bmp (474056 bytes) from Bryan to Green River began. The "Bryan Express" ran covered spring carriages "with fast teams" between the Jenks House restaurant in Green River and "Martins" in Bryan. The carriage left every morning at nine o'clock "carrying passengers and light packages" (Frontier Index, September 29, 1868:3). Traveling the Overland Trail between these two towns the "fare for roundtrip" was five dollars.

Bryan, like many towns along the track, was filled with people bent on making a profit and once they earned their fortune, or in many cases lost their fortune, their idea was to move on to new towns. In this atmosphere corruption abounded. When elections were held, they were often designed to benefit those bent on making a profit and moving on. And at times this meant not counting the election returns. In the fall of 1868 Bryan was mistakenly placed in Utah, not Wyoming Territory, and the town's votes were counted in Salt Lake City. This sleight-of-hand was not overlooked by Leigh Freeman, the editor of the Frontier Index. Freeman responded: "the [perpetrator] of such a foul outrage upon the community should be swung by his toes . . . (Frontier Index, October 13, 1868:3). Some merchants in Bryan felt their votes were needed in Utah not Wyoming. Freeman, quick to smell trouble, quickly moved to keep Bryan in Wyoming where profits would flow to Cheyenne instead of Salt Lake City. Not knowing the entire nature of the election, it seems those who would gain the most profits from the booming economy at least played a small role in depriving voters of their rights. Bryan was prospering. It was a town with a future and controlling the elections in part meant controlling that future.

By late September Bryan was the model of a wide-open frontier town. "Williamson and Co.'s new bank building [was] nearly completed the front having been painted and grained. . . ." A two-story grand hotel, "fifty by one hundred and twenty-five feet," was "halfway up." Water wells had been dug. The streets had been laid out and the town had saloons for all in need of liquor. In fact, one of those in need of liquor having found plenty of whiskey "fell into a well . . . " one night "and remained several hours before [being] discovered . . . " (Frontier Index, September 22, 1868:3).

Bryan was a town with both color and potential and as such it quickly developed citizens bent on marketing the town's virtues. In newspaper "ads" the merchants of the town advertised their goods and Union Pacific Railroad offered their land. For example a Union Pacific real estate agent advertised:

The

Winter Town U.P.R.R.

Bryan is located on Black's Fork on the line of the U.P.R.R. and will be the terminus of the Railroad for freight and passengers during the coming winter, and probably until the connection is made between the U.P.R.R. and the Central P.R.R. Bryan is the most accessible point to the Sweetwater mines [South Pass], and will be unquestionably be the best town for trade between Omaha and Salt Lake City. Large mechanic shops and a Round house will be built there immediately.

Bryan will be a permanent town, being the base of supplies for the Sweetwater mines in the northeast and the mining region south. Now is the time to purchase lots at the low valuation placed on them by the Railroad company.

                                       J. A. Williamson

                                                             Real Estate Agent, U.P.R.R.

                                 Bryan, August 23, 1868 (Frontier Index, August 25, 1868:3).

When the Union Pacific Railroad "Real Estate Agent" mentioned mines south of Bryan he was more than likely referring to the beginning efforts to find gold and copper in the Uintas. To reach Jesse Ewing Canyon, where copper is evident, travelers would have more than likely traveled due south in their search for precious metals. Not only was copper found in Jesse Ewing Canyon, but Douglas Mountain contained this metal. Rumors of gold abounded and flour gold was found in the tributaries of the Green River. Brown's Park, where Jesse Ewing looked for gold, had long been fabled to contain deposits of minable metals; it is these prospects that the Bryan to Brown's Park Road served. Ultimately travelers south from Bryan could continue east or south into Colorado and Utah. Leaving Bryan, the road was headed, as the Frontier Index proclaimed, to the mining region south.

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Bryan's initial growth spurred interest in the area north and south of the Union Pacific Railroad. As a merchandising and distribution point, the town founders envisioned the village would serve as a major supply center for the area. The Frontier Index attempted to convey a bright future for the town, that future never quite emerged.

Leigh Freeman in September of 1868 observed that many people passed through Green River bound for Bryan. By September 11, it was noted that a large "supply of lumber coming in from Sweetwater and Fort Bridger" has arrived and that a number of "substantial buildings are in course of erection" (Frontier Index, September 1 and 11). Ever the optimist, Freeman wrote: "From appearances we are to have two cities within fourteen miles of each other, and a number of contractor's winter-quarters between." He added, "we would be glad if the streets of the two towns will connect directly, and have the whole under one vast corporation. It would just suit us" (Frontier Index, September 11, 1868:3).

z.cabins.bmp (200456 bytes)The town of Bryan boasted numerous retail stores. One wholesale house owned by Ira Pendleton and Company sold "goods of quality" (Frontier Index, September 15, 1868:3). Combined with Williamson and Company's bank, Colonel Martin's two-story hotel, and the saloons, Bryan was a first class service center, at least by 1868 standards (September 22, 1868:3). From this service center at Bryan roads radiated north and south to the mines and ranches. Slowly, the number of homesteaders and miners began to increase in the area north and south of Bryan.

After the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, travel across Wyoming by wagon to reach the Pacific Coast declined sharply. However, railroad transportation was expensive and immigrant farmers usually could not afford to pay for passage. Nor could they pay the freight charges for shipping essential supplies and animals needed for farming. By 1890, trains had replaced the covered wagon as the most common form of travel yet there were still reports of seeing prairie schooners from railroad car windows bound westward (Winther 1964:24: Larson 1978:9).

For all intent and purposes, the southern Cherokee Trail declined as an emigrant route after 1869. The trail then became an all-purpose road, serving portions of northwestern Colorado and southwestern Wyoming. Segments of the route taken by the Cherokees between Brown's Park and the Green River became the Green River Ashley Valley Stage road. Based on the 1888 Sweetwater County map, part of the Cherokee Trail would serve as a section of the Bryan to Brown's Park Road. The Brown's Park Road, through Irish Canyon north to Rock Springs, also incorporated portions of the Cherokee Trail (Gardner 1981). Portions of the road from Craig to Rock Springs via Powder Wash, which became modern Wyoming Highway 430, was also originally part of the Cherokee Trail. The road from Powder Springs to Baggs also closely followed the Cherokee's emigrant route the entire distance (Burroughs 1962). All of these roads served the ranching communities in the area by either connecting one area to another, or providing access into town. Eventually these various roads that spun off the Cherokee Trail would serve the oil, gas, and uranium industries.

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Whether the transition from the emigration road to ranching roads was smooth or not is hard to determine. But ranching did provide the nucleus for permanent settlement in the area. Aside from the development of coal, and the emergence of the transportation industry resulting from the construction and completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, cattle ranching provided the major activity in the area for nearly fifty years (Athearn 1981:4). As a result of this growth, Baggs emerged as the primary merchandising center serving northwestern Colorado and southcentral Wyoming. Between 1868 and 1909 when the Denver Rio Grande arrived in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Baggs supplied the ranching communities in the vicinity (Athearn 1981:70). Since Baggs served the surrounding area, the development of the Cherokee Trail into a freight road was natural. Towns further west, like Rock Springs, Green River, and Bryan, served the same function as Baggs. The roads to these towns became the lifelines for farmers and ranchers.

Some of the documentation relating to the use of the Cherokee Trail during the ranching phase is the result of the infamous occupants who lived at Powder Springs, Wyoming. Powder Springs lies on the Outlaw Trail and it was frequented by such men as Elza Lay, Butch Cassidy, Matt Warner, the Sundance Kid, and the Dick Bender Gang (Burroughs 1962:131, 122-123). Whenever the Wild Bunch left Powder Springs for Baggs it created "a stir" and their trips were well documented. Apparently they used the Powder Springs to Baggs road to reach one of their favorite party towns (Burroughs 1962).

Oral interviews further support the existence of a wagon road between Baggs and the Powder Springs area (Glenn Miller 1981:personal communication). The fact that a wagon road connecting Craig, Colorado, and Rock Springs, Wyoming, ran through Powder Wash and followed along the Old Cherokee Trail, is borne out by interviews with "old-timers" in Craig and Rock Springs (Ibid; and Lee Ratcliff 1981; personal communication). However, none of the above informants refer to the wagon roads as the Cherokee Trail. Yet the placement of the wagon roads described by these men correlates well with the location of the Cherokee Trail. One Brown's Park resident also recalls hearing of a rough wagon road in the Powder Wash area that corresponds with the location of the emigrant's route (Steve Radosevich 1981:personal communication).

Furthermore, in 1925 one Wiff Wilson "equipped with a tough team of driving horses, a buckboard with heavy duty springs, and a light camp outfit" began drilling for oil in the Powder Wash area (Burroughs1962: 263). His partners consisted of a cashier at the Baggs State Bank, and Elza Lay, the reformed outlaw. Wilson struck oil in that same year. In reaching the oil field he navigated the road from Baggs to the Powder Spring area. This discovery marked the beginning of oil exploration at Powder Wash.

The Cherokee Trail is routed from Powder Springs west to the Currant Creek crossing of the Green River and then on to Fort Bridger. It received continued use after 1868 when the railroad was completed through southern Wyoming. This supposition is borne out by the 1888 Sweetwater County map which shows an existing road traveling east and west along what was originally the Cherokee Trail. It also appears that people traveling west from Baggs to Fort Bridger may have used the Cherokee Trail to reach this military post on the Black's Fork River.

The 1888 Sweetwater County map clearly shows portions of the Bryan to Brown's Park Road . The significance of the road was that it tied markets to mines and/or ranches. For late nineteenth century residents of the area the road from the 1868 boom town at Bryan south to Brown's Park was one of the first roads designed to serve the area south of the railroad. Its significance rests in the fact it served as a route to open the area along the Colorado-Utah-Wyoming border. Looking at other routes south to Brown's Park helps place the Bryan to Brown's Park Road into a broad regional context. 

During the early part of the nineteenth century, westward travel was funneled over South Pass, Wyoming, and into the Salt Lake Valley or north towards Fort Hall in present Idaho. Northeastern Utah and northwestern Colorado were largely ignored by emigrants hurrying west to the Salt Lake Valley or points further west. This would soon change. In 1848 gold was discovered in the Sierra Madre Range of California. In the hurry to move west in 1849, many travelers began to search for easier routes west. One of these groups, hearing the Brown's Park was a good place to winter, possibly pioneered the first wagon road into Brown's Park.

The route into Brown's Park was known to trappers working the area in the early 1800s. When Fort Davy Crockett was established in Brown's Park in the late 1830s, traffic into the area naturally increased. In 1849 when the Cherokee Indians traveled west through southern Wyoming, they followed what would be called the Cherokee Trail. It actually followed a known trappers route. James Vann wrote in 1849: " we ... passed over the Laramie Plains to the headwaters of Yampah River [possibly the Little Snake  River] , down said River to the Vermillion Mountains, across said mountains to Brown's Hole" (Fletcher, Fletcher, and Whitely 1999: 86).   

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In June of 1849 thirty Cherokee and "white" packers left Pueblo Colorado for the Green River.  A well seasoned guide, Dick Owens agreed to take the party west.  Owens had traveled to Brown's Hole in 1839 (Fletcher, Fletcher, and Whitely 1999: 89).  The 1849 party of Cherokee went up the Poudre River, traveled into North Park followed the Platte River Valley north and then crossed the Continental divide at Twin Grooves.  From Twin Grooves they went west along the Little Snake River to Vermillion Creek.  The entered Browns Hole,  more than likely skirting Vermillion Canyon.  Form Brown's Park the Cherokee packers went north and angled towards Fort Bridger.  Crossing the Green River proved disastrous.  Using a skin boat to transport supplies and an ill member of the company, Hiram Shores, the raft sank, "to rise no more" (Fletcher, Fletcher, and Whitely 1999: 92-93). 

One version of this travel west contends that when the Cherokee made it as far west as the Rock Springs Uplift, winter set in and they turned south, down Red Creek, spending the winter in Brown's Hole. This party thus claims the honor of being the first group to drive cattle into Brown's Park.  However, as can seen by the above description there are still some questions as to who this group of Cherokee were.  Following their winter stay in the park the Cherokee travelers returned up Red Creek and upon reaching the dividing ridges between Sage and Currant Creeks, continued westward to the Green River. Crossing the Green River at Sage Creek, they apparently moved west along the Black's Fork until they reached the Oregon/Mormon/California Trail east of Fort Bridger (Burroughs 1962; Dunham and Dunham 1977; Tennent 1981).

The next year another Cherokee emigrant, John Lowery Brown, set out from the Cherokee nation. This was a mere year after the Cherokee Trail's inception (Wright 1934). Leaving Stillwell, Oklahoma, on April 20, he arrived in California on September 28, 1850. Lowery, while apparently never detouring south into Brown's Park, followed portions of the route pioneered the previous year by James Evans. John Lowery Brown appears to have come close to Brown's Park. Evans, according to Howard Stansbury, traveled well north of Brown's Park, at least in some areas. Whether Evans took a detour into Brown's Park is an interesting possibility, but something that has been clouded by second-hand documents and the Stansbury journal. Brown's diary suggests that he traveled along the Powder Rim then wound his way north to Sage Creek. Possibly, Brown crossed the Green River near the mouth of Sage Creek (Wright 1934). Both groups of Cherokee who traveled west in 1849 and 1850 deserve mentioning as they passed through or near Brown's Park.

The Cherokees who traveled into Brown's Hole in 1849 did pioneer a historically significant road. The road's significance is gained not only as a national trail but as a freight trail and a mail route. Possibly the greatest use came in the late 1800s when the road became one of the principal freight routes in and out of Brown's Park.

In the 1860s there was some interest in building a road connecting Denver with Salt Lake City, via the Uinta Basin. While records are not clear as to where the road traveled, it is worthy of note due to the fact that the future states of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming were developing parallel (east to west) transportation networks. It would only be natural that some attempt would be made to connect these parallel routes. It would also be natural that such a route follow either segments of the Cherokee Trail or one of the numerous roads in and out of Brown's Park.

In Wyoming the Overland Trail became the principal east-west route in the years between 1862 and 1868. This trail passed through Rock Springs and Green River, Wyoming, on its way to Salt Lake City. Construction of the Uinta Wagon Road in 1865 created a new route that paralleled both the Cherokee and the Overland trails. The Uinta Wagon Road would travel south of the Uinta Mountains, the Overland Trail ran north of this mountain range. Once the Uinta Road was completed, it would take little time for a road south from future Rock Springs and Bryan to be considered.

The Rocky Mountain News, in Denver, had long supported a road over Berthoud Pass west to Salt Lake City. The building of the wagon road through the Uinta Basin caught the attention of this newspaper since it was their goal to build a road directly from Denver to Salt Lake City. The Rocky Mountain News gave the following report on September 9, 1865.

The Uinta Wagon Road--The Salt Lake Telegraph, publishes the following letter from Gen. Hughes; it will be seen that the new road through Uinta Valley will be open for travel, probably this fall, certainly next spring. The great saving of distance by this route will doubtless be of inestimable value to the folks of the Territories, and we doubt not it will be the principal road traveled between the Missouri River and the country west.

The newspaper also published the following letter detailing the route west:

                                        Green River, August 14, 1865

                        Jos. S, Roberson, Agent O. S. Line, Salt Lake City.

Dear Sir:--We reached this place on the 11th, and delayed to put a boat in the river, which is quite deep, and I should think never fordable at this point. The current here, is as gentle as the Ohio river, but not exceeding four miles an hour, the banks high, and firm on both sides, rocky and clear of mud or sand, and admirably fitted for a ferry. The bottom on the east side is high and dry, and not supposed to overflow, the stories published otherwise to the contrary notwithstanding.

We have found a good route, on the north side of Uinta all the way to this place, with water, grass and timber abundant, and no alkali plains, or streams.

Since we passed along we have ascertained that we can shorten the route by 15 miles and will do so this fall, as soon as Mr. Owens can return to Salt Lake City. We shall have one important bridge alone to build, on the route west of this place, and that will be on the Duchesne, which we shall arrange to cross but once.

We shall push on to Denver as rapidly as we can, to do justice to the road, and will report progress, if opportunity offers, for the satisfaction of friends in your city.

                                            Yours truly;

                                            B. M. Hughes (Rocky Mountain News September 9, 1865)

The exact route of the "Uinta Wagon Road" is not known, but more than likely it U.S. Highway 40 closely follows this 1865 road. It does appear that the route crossed the Green River near present Jensen, Utah. The Uinta, referred to in Hughes' description is more than likely the Uinta River that flows through present Fort Duchesne, Utah. It is clear that Hughes is south of the Uinta Mountains and his discussion of having to build a bridge across the Duchesne River substantiates this. This new wagon road, while a pet project of people in Denver would face severe competition from the Union Pacific Railroad. When the article about the "Uinta Wagon Road" appeared in the Rocky Mountain News in 1865, the transcontinental railroad was four years away from completion.

It is not known if a road ran from Brown's Park south to the "Uinta Wagon Road," but the new route did make "the Park" more accessible from the south. Several routes could be followed from the Uinta Wagon Road into Brown's Park. Unfortunately, it is not known how much, if any, traffic moved north from the Uinta Basin into "the Park" in the years prior to 1868. With the arrival of the transcontinental railroad in 1868, freighting goods south via the wagon roads originating in Wyoming Territory was more attractive than shipping goods along the Uinta Road. The railroad established the transportation corridors the north-south trails would follow.

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If you have any questions please feel free to contact Dudley Gardner.

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