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Wyoming History

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The Cherokee Trail

Part five of five parts - First published 1994 Revised 2002

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Cherokee Trail Bibliography

By 1868 the Union Pacific Railroad had laid track all the way across southern Wyoming (Larson 1977). With this railroad completed, the emigrant trails began to lose their significance and freight roads emerged to serve areas south and north of the railroad. By 1868 the only roads in northwestern Colorado led to Wyoming (Athearn 1976). As communities emerged in northeastern Utah they too would be serviced by roads originating along the Union Pacific mainline.


Once the Union Pacific Railroad was completed through present southern Wyoming in 1868, roads into and out of northern Colorado and northeastern Utah led to railroad towns. The principal freight and mail routes out of these states headed for Rawlins, Rock Springs, Green River, and Fort Bridger. While Fort Bridger was not actually on the Union Pacific mainline, it was served by the nearby section camp at Carter. Owing to its proximity to Fort Bridger, Carter became a natural shipping and receiving point. When the Golden Spike was driven at Promontory, Utah, in 1869, remote places like future Vernal, Utah were within about 110 miles of a transcontinental railroad. Soon roads were opened south from Fort Bridger, Green River, Bryan and Rock Springs. Even though northeastern Utah still belonged to the Ute Indians, trails leading south into Brown's Park were evident prior to 1868. With the completion of the railroad, traffic southward increased.

In 1873, "The United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories" made a survey of the area south of the Union Pacific Railroad. The Survey ran from Rock Springs and Green River, Wyoming, south to the White River in Utah and Colorado. The survey clearly shows a road running from Green River to Brown's Park. The trail was simply called "the Wagon Road from Green River City to Browns Park." Following what would become the principal route south to Brown's Park and later Vernal, the road traveled east along Bitter Creek then turned and followed Little Bitter Creek south to the top of Miller Mountain. The trail then descended Miller Mountain to Sage Creek near Maxon Ranch where it crossed this stream and traveled up the flanks of Little Mountain. The trail moved over the eastern flank of the mountain and descended into the Red Creek Badlands. Following Red Creek through Richards Gap the trail followed the creek through Red Creek Canyon and into Brown's Park. More than likely here in the Red Creek area the trail joined the Bryan to Brown's Park Road. The 1873 map does not indicate that the Green River trail ever went any farther south than Brown's Park.

Throughout much of its history the routes south to Brown's Park would follow much the same route through Wyoming. In Utah, however, the trail would eventually be moved from Red Creek Canyon, east to what would be called Jesse Ewing Canyon.

cabin.11.jpg (19976 bytes)Probably one of the most reliable maps showing the route of the roads into Brown's Park dates to the turn of the century. A. R. Schultz was employed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to map and report on the nature of mineral deposits in southwestern Wyoming and northeastern Utah. His field notes contain an accurate turn-of-the-century map of Brown's Park (U.S.G.S. Photographic Archives, Schultz, A.R., R-12). His field map clearly shows the road from Rock Springs traveled through Jesse Ewing Canyon. The road enters Brown's Park and forks, similar to the way the modern road forks at the mouth of the canyon. One road goes west to Jarvie's Ferry, the other southeast to what was called "Taylor Ranch." The roads came together south of the Taylor Ranch and then ascended Sears Canyon. It also appears the Bryan to Brown's Park Road traveled through Jesse Ewing Canyon.


A. R. Schultz's map shows the route the historic Brown's Park to Vernal Road traveled in and out of the valley. According to his map, the trail clearly followed both Jesse Ewing Canyon and Sears Canyon. Sears Canyon is on the south side of the park while Jesse Ewing Canyon is on the north side of the park. These canyons were important corridors for freighters, mail carriers, stagecoach drivers, and residents of the area. While other routes in and out of the valley exist, the route south along Red Creek and later Jesse Ewing Canyon dates to the middle of the nineteenth century. While it is not easy to date when the route switched to the Jesse Ewing Canyon, it is safe to say that by 1900 this canyon was an important transportation corridor in and out of Brown's Park.

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When Mormon companies began to colonize Ashley Valley in 1877, a mail route was established that passed through Brown's Park. Initially mail service into the Park occurred on a regular basis only in the summer. This would soon change as mail routes were extended south to present Vernal. In the 1880s and 1890s the Southern Stage Lines ran from Green River to Ashley Valley. From Green River and Rock Springs the stage line took a route

. . . up Little Bitter Creek, angled east to Gap Creek, along the Tabor Mountain Dugway to Richard Springs,   then followed the Bridger Road down into the Park. They crossed the Green on Jarvie's Ferry, went up Sears   Canyon, up over the slopes of Diamond Mountain across Pot Creek, through Mail Draw,   past the Barton claim  at Diamond Springs, across Brush Creek, then wound down the slopes to . . .Vernal (Dunham and Dunham 1977:198).

At Richard's Gap or Richard's Springs and at Spitzy's Springs there were relay stations to supply fresh horses. This trail was also used by freighters. In addition to this road south to Brown's Park, another freight road ran southeast from Blairtown to Salt Wells Creek, through Titsworth Gap, and cut west to the Red Creek road (Ibid.).


By 1883 a U.S. Bureau of Statistics, Department of Commerce and Labor, map clearly shows a road leading south from Rock Springs to present Vernal (Modelski 1984:50-51). The road crossed the Green River near Jarvie's Ferry and traveled south out of Brown's Park towards "Fort Uintah." This fort is shown on the map as being near present Fort Duchesne. However, the map is not accurate enough to pinpoint the exact legal locations of the road.


The various roads south from the Union Pacific mainline grew in importance and the 1890 Rock Springs newspapers took note of this fact. Wool shipments from Ashley Valley sheepmen found their way north along various routes and the conditions facing the sheepherders in Utah were often reported in the Rock Springs Miner. An 1893 article reported the following:

C. S. Carter, of Vernal, Utah, arrived in town from the south on Sunday last. He came in for wool [sacks] preparatory to shearing which will begin about the 15th of June. Mr. Carter informs the Miner that the settlers have experienced a very long winter in his section of the country, although not severe, and consequently all vegetation is late. The loss in stock was very small. He will shear his sheep near Diamond Mountain and haul his wool to Rock Springs for shipment east (Rock Springs Miner; June 22, 1893).

Both Green River and Rock Springs served as shipping centers. Both of these towns also looked to the Ashley Valley as an important source of revenue. This source of revenue was threatened when the Denver-Rio Grande Railroad reached Price, Utah. Rock Springs and Green River both felt a sense of urgency and suggested improving the road south through Brown's Park. The matter was summed up in an article published in 1898.
The question of a bridge being built over Green River, between here and Rock Springs, has been somewhat [discussed] of late among the prominent business men of Vernal. This would provide another route to and from the valley. In consideration of the thousands of dollars worth of freight yearly shipped over the R. G. Ry. to Price, the question is one of vast importance. If this bridge were built, it would not only save . . . miles of freighting, as goods could be shipped to Rock Springs, and be delivered here much more quickly and with considerable less expense. Products from the valley could be taken to Rock Springs and marketed, and a load of freight brought back. Another advantage to this proposed new route is good feed and water, as there is no desert to traverse. The united efforts of our citizens might induce the directors of the UPRR to consider building of a bridge at the point . . . which if accomplished would be a benefit to the whole valley - Vernal Press (Rock Springs Miner, October 27, 1898, p. 7).

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The bridge was never built but merchants in Rock Springs and Green River persisted in lobbying for a better road south to Vernal. Nonetheless,Rock Springs lobbied long and hard for a better road south. Editorials reflected this desire stating:

It is about time long-suffering Rock Springs was throwing off that spirit of dependence which it has so long possessed and wading into business on its own responsibility. Our many-a-time promised depot has again been put off for another year and the bridge across Green river at John Jarvie's place, "a matter of so much importance to the U.P. railway company that it would have immediate attention," has dropped clean out of sight. But Rock Springs must have this bridge built regardless of all inaction and opposition. Let us be friends to ourselves for once. Let us study our own interests in preference to those of other people. The Vernal and the Ashley valley people are with us. They have promised--and their promise is good--to put the road in first class repair up to the Wyoming line, and Sweetwater county has previously pledged itself, in good faith, to make all necessary repairs to the road up to the Utah line. To insure the fulfillment of the promise of both of these parties is, therefore, the assurance that the bridge across Green river will be built. The Miner would suggest that such firms as Tim Kinney & Co, Wyoming Mercantile company, Beckwith Commercial company, Ed. Thorpe, Bartagnolli [Bertagnolli] Brothers, O. D. Rasmussen, in fact all the business men of Rock Springs, including our two Banking houses, meet together and form a bureau for the purpose of corresponding with the Vernal merchants and Ashley Valley stockmen, with the view of arriving at the best plan for building the bridge. Its cost would not be heavy and easily within the possibilities of a stock company. A toll could be charged until the bridge paid for itself. Direct connection between the Ashley valley settlements and Rock Springs would be of inestimable value to both communities, the exchange of trade being mutually advantageous, the farmers of Utah finding a ready market for their produce, while in them our merchants would find large buyers of all kinds of goods. There should be no further delay in this matter. The business in the south is worth going after and as the stockmen and farmers are only waiting for Rock Springs to take the initiative, surely this town will take courage and push ahead. The prize is there and it is a big one (Rock Springs Miner, August 17, 1899, p. 4).


New impetus was given to improving the roads south to Brown's Park when it was learned there was copper in the Uinta Mountains. Considerable discussion was given to improving roads, but most of it did not come to pass as the copper industry in Brown's Park never developed beyond its infant stages. In 1894 a copper smelter was hauled along the "old Carter Road south to the Dyer Mine." It is not clear how much the smelter was used, but there was considerable excitement over the potential of the Dyer Mine (Green River Star, June 16, 1899).

There was also interest in copper deposits in both Jesse Ewing Canyon and at Douglas Mountain on the south side of Brown's Park. John Jarvie, who owned the ferry on the Green River in "the Park," also owned the Bromide mine, the copper mine on Douglas Mountain. It was reported that Jarvie's partner tried to travel to Vernal in April 1898 over one of the roads out of Brown's Park. While not mentioning the route by name, the Rock Springs Miner noted: "They will be obliged to wait until the road is opened between [Vernal] and Brown's Park" before Jarvie and his partner could bring in a smelter to their mine. "On account of the deep snow," the miners could only reach Vernal by traveling south through Lily Park on the Little Snake River (Rock Springs Miner April 14, 1898:4). The traveler could then turn west and reach Vernal following a trail that did not cross the Uintas.Some of the copper mines were located directly in Jesse Ewing Canyon. The Vernal Express, dated August 31, 1899, gives a good description of the venture along this canyon.

Honorable William O'Neal is in from the Jesse Ewing canyon where he has a number of men driving a tunnel and developing a group of claims in which he, Mr. Shepard and Mr. McCane are interested. When seen by an Express reporter Mr. O'Neal stated that he was not at liberty to talk concerning these claims and would only say that everything looks promising and encouraging. From Mr. B. D. Nebaker who has just returned from a week's trip in that country, we are enabled to learn that the outlook is the very best and as a proof that such is the case he established a piece of ore from the Mammoth, one of the group, which shows very high in copper. In fact it would take a picked specimen from the Dyer to surpass it. While the vein which carries the high grade ore is set very large, there is no end of ore which runs from 5 to 18 per cent copper. Mr. Nebaker as well as Mr. O'Neil, and the numbers of others feel confident that the future of the Jesse Ewing camp is ensured and it is only a matter of time when the ore from that country will be on the market and the money expended in developing the claims begin to flow back in a golden tide.

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The copper mines in Jesse Ewing Canyon would never expand into large operations, but interest ran high in the area's potential to yield copper. Ore could be shipped to Rock Springs and then loaded onto the railroad for transport to a smelter. Copper ore had long been hauled from the Uintas north to the Union Pacific Railroad, some of it more than likely being shipped up the Bryan to Brown's Park Road.
The 1891 newspaper relays exactly how difficult it was to freight ore north in the winter. A January article reads, "It seems that the last team loaded with ore, called a halt 20 miles from camp after four days buffeting with wind and snow drifts." The freighters were "48 hours without feed or water for their horses . . . " (Vernal Express January 16, 1891:2). The freight wagons were headed north to Carter Station on the Union Pacific mainline. This ore was valuable enough to ship by wagon at about $40 per ton, load onto trains, and ship to smelters in the east and still return a profit. It was estimated that the Victoria mine bins held "$40,000.00 worth of ore" still waited to be shipped (Ibid.).


When it was reported in 1899 that there was a potential copper bonanza in Jesse Ewing Canyon, the newspapers were once again reporting something the citizens of Vernal, Rock Springs, and Green River had grown used to hearing. While the freight roads were vital to the infant copper industry, poorly maintained roads hampered its growth. Without a railroad to the copper fields, it seemed unlikely mining would ever be as profitable as hoped. It was too expensive to haul copper ore out a wagon load at a time, and the copper veins did not seem large enough to warrant building smelters and railroads near the mines. By the turn of the century interest in the copper deposits in the Uintas began to wane. However, United States Geological surveyors (U.S.G.S.) working in the area after 1900 still noted both copper mines and stage stations.


By the turn of the century, news from Brown's Park was carried in several issues of the Rock Springs Miner. News from the Park was reported in detail in these issues, but careful consideration was given to the importance of freighting into the valley. One such news note read:   "The freighting trips frequently made by W. K. Sterling from Rock Springs to Ladore, have resulted beneficially to inhabitants of the district enabling them to purchase necessary provisions at moderate prices." (Rock Springs Miner, October 23, 1902, p. 1)


When the mail contract for Brown's Park was issued, the Miner noted who obtained the contract. Moreover, they also reported the comings and goings of Brown's Park residents who shopped in Rock Springs. Of special interest were merchants and freighters as the paper more than once reported on the affairs of Mr W. K. Sterling, who was "ready to furnish all kinds of groceries and dry goods at lowest prices" (Rock Springs Miner, December 18, 1902, p. 11).


The newspaper articles, the government reports,x.sunset.bmp (204056 bytes) and oral interviews all show how important the link from ranch or mine to service center was for both merchants and miners or ranchers. A network of roads had evolved connecting areas south of the railroad to the all-important transportation centers at Bryan, Green River, and Rock Springs. The evolution of transportation routes from 1868 to 1900 proceeded without large-scale funding. As settlements pushed further south from the Union Pacific Railroad, roads were extended to reach remote ranches or newly developed communities. New roads emerged to link new settlements with older areas. As older settlements faded or disappeared as viable economic communities, the older roads to these towns were absorbed into a new network that tied economically viable communities and settlements together.


The freight route continued to be used after the turn of the century, but with the building of the Uinta Railroad to Dragon, Utah in 1903 (Athearn 1976), the stage route from Vernal to Green River and Rock Springs became obsolete. Freighting over the Red Creek Road also fell off sharply, yet as a service road to Brown's Park, the road through Jesse Ewing Canyon would always be important.                                             

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Oral interviews of individuals who lived in and near Brown's Park provide insight into the importance of the roads in the area. One man, Eugene Cox, whose family homesteaded on Cold Springs Mountain, relates how his family would take several days in making the trip north to Rock Springs. Cold Springs Mountain lies at the northeast corner of Brown's Park. Atop this mountain a number of homesteaders attempted to raise cattle and potatoes. Both the potatoes and cows were sold for profit. Since the nearest market was Rock Springs, they traveled north on a road that paralleled the Vernal to Rock Springs route. The Cox interview is enlightening in the sense that it relates what wagon travel was like from Brown's Park to Rock Springs and also points out the relation of farms and markets in the area.


Eugene Cox tells of his childhood and how potatoes were harvested and taken to market.

. . . then come spud time, I'd take a sack and drag it down there and store as many potatoes as I could when Dad plowed them up . . . I'd drag the sack as far as I could, and then Dad would have to come and get it because it'd get too heavy, and he'd throw them up from there.
They were good spuds, real good. In fact, we brought a wagon load of them to Rock Springs and sold them. At that time we come around on top of Quaking Aspen, around the south side of it, down around the Dugway. Now, of course, there's another road down home.
We come up through Bull Springs, because we always stopped at Bull Springs, and we'd kill sage chicken for supper. We always stopped there and there was always sage chicken there and they were young ones. Yep, that's right. They didn't have spikes . . . (Cox 1988:11, 12).


The trip north to Rock Springs generally took two days so stopping at a point where food and water could be obtained was a necessity.


Making a trip to Rock Springs was usually only a yearly venture because of the time involved. Fred Stoll relates that when cattle were moved from the Henry's Fork Valley to Green River, it also took two days. The Stoll ranch is located west of Manila, Utah, just inside the Wyoming state line. Stoll provides excellent insights into the time needed to drive cattle north from the Utah border to the railroad. He also points out that cattle trails did not follow just one route north. Stoll relates:

Well, just head 'em down the road. Follow all the roads. Take 'em where you want to take 'em. We'd leave home with 'em early in the morning and we'd hit Black's Fork about midnight, especially if we had a big bunch. [This area is just west of the Black’s Fork River.] We left there one day with about fifteen hundred head and another time we left there with eleven hundred head, all together, everybody's. And we'd get into Black's Fork about two o'clock in the morning and let 'em rest and drink and rest and then we'd make Green River about, oh, we'd make Green River the next afternoon, three o'clock. Put 'em in the stock yard, load 'em up, for Denver, Omaha, or wherever you happened to be going (Stoll 1987:8).

Rose Teters Logan, who lived on Sage Creek in Wyoming, along the route of the Cherokee Trail, travelled into town along portions of the Rock Springs to Vernal Road. Living on Sage Creek, Mrs. Logan's family would have to climb Miller Mountain, then follow "Little Bitter Creek" into Rock Springs. From Miller Mountain north, she followed the "Vernal Road." Rose Logan recalls:

We came [similar to the] way the road is now. Then when we got to Bacon we come down [Little] Bitter Creek instead of coming down the way the road comes now. You know where it says Bitter Creek, then we came down that way and into Blairtown. We came in right below the slaughter house. Where that road comes in right there across that bridge there at Bitter Creek now, that's where we come into [Rock Springs]. [It would take] one day. But you got up at 4:00 a.m. and start[ed] moving. Got in [Rock Springs] just about dark. . . . In the fall when we shipped our cattle [we would] buy a thousand pounds of flour, three hundred pounds of sugar, all the staples we needed. Coffee, oatmeal . . . (Logan 1987:3, 4).

To work the ranch, the Logans used horses. Until 1923, x.cabin.t.bmp (313256 bytes)every trip Rose made into Rock Springs was either on a horse or in a horse-drawn wagon. Mrs. Logan relates that they owned "25 head" of horses. "We had three work teams, several saddle horses, then some brooding mares. All horse power. Mowing machines, rakes, bull rakes, but everything was horse power. Never did have any machinery. . . . Just horses and wagons until . . . the first car we had a Chevy. We bought it when Billy was born [1923]. . ." (Logan 1987:3, 4). Mrs. Logan witnessed the transition from horses to automobiles. In the 1920s the Rock Springs to Vernal Road would undergo changes to accommodate automobile travel. The road was altered and portions of the trail fell into disuse.

Currently, there are vestiges of the historic trail still evident in Jesse Ewing Canyon, but most of the historic trails have been removed by blading and building the existing crowned and ditched road to accommodate automobiles. The remnants of the historic trail show that extensive work was needed in some places to build the road in this canyon. Rip-rapping and blading (using horse drawn blades) were required. Some of the rip-rapping exhibits excellent workmanship. Along the Bryan to Brown's Park Road, rip-rapping occurred south of the Black's Fork. As the automobile traffic increased, mechanical blading and bulldozing routed the road away from some of the steeper slopes, leaving the rip-rapping in place. Currently, there are some remnants of the original trail exhibiting the workmanship involved in building the road through Jesse Ewing Canyon and along Wyoming Highway 530 not far from where the Bryan to Brown's Park Road crosses the Black's Fork. Ultimately the transition from wagons to automobiles altered the historic trails in the region, as wider roads were needed to accommodate cars and trucks.

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

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