Monday, September 13, 2010

Las Vegas and the Old Mormon Fort

Las Vegas is a town that I enjoy visiting.  I am not a gambler per se.  I do a roll or two of nickels when I am there but I am really interested in many of the shows and especially the eats!

The restaurants and smorgasbords are fantastic.  One of my favorite things to do in Vegas is to watch the parades.  I am a people watcher and there are hundreds of spots in the big casinos or on the mall they made on the old Fremont Street.

Just pick a spot and sit back and watch all the people who go by.  It can be very fascinating to just watch the variety of people who are present.

Another treat are the many museums that are to be found in Vegas.  Many are within the casinos out on the strip but there are also a number elsewhere in the city like the Liberace Museum, which I hear will close in October of this year, but also the Elvis Museum and there are a number of other interesting sites to visit.

In wandering around Vegas I got a surprise to find the Old Mormon Fort and also to learn that it was the first settlement in Las Vegas.    

Las Vegas is a Spanish name and means the Meadows and the area was an oasis on the Old Spanish Trail from New Mexico to California.  Paiutes, trappers, the early Spanish explorers used it as a rest stop in their travels and at that time there was clear running water and green grass meadows as far as the eye could see.  

In 1855 Brigham Young sent a group of 30 missionaries to settle in the Las Vegas area.  They were to establish a settlement and work with the Indians and teach them farming.  Brigham Young wanted a settlement in this area because it was a half way point between Salt Lake and the San Bernardino Mission.

They built a small building out of adobe and started raising some crops and began to work out some irrigation but soon abandoned the endeavor when the San Bernardino Mission closed.

The building was later added to and a 14 foot wall was built around the site by later ranchers and such.  It was called a fort but there was never any permanent troops posted there.  The Old Mormon Fort sat on what must have been a pretty good source of water and is a look into the history of Las Vegas.  In the 1850s there was water and what must have been some good grassland but the water source later dried up -- I suppose?                                                                    

Lake Havasu City, Arizona - London Bridge

London Bridge is a bridge that was first built across the Thames River in England nearly 2000 years ago.

The first bridge that was built was built about 50 AD by the Romans and was probably a pontoon bridge.  Over the years a number of bridges have been built and destroyed on the site where London Bridge stands.

I remember as a kid playing London Bridges Falling Down when I was in grade school.  That game is said to come from a poem that was written by an English poet after a Norwegian Prince destroyed the bridge in 1031 AD.

Time and again London Bridge was destroyed and rebuilt and sometimes the structure was altered.  At one point in time they even let people build shops and houses on the bridge along side the roadway.  The bridge authorities rented the space for them to build on with the intent of generating revenue to pay for the upkeep of the bridge.

The shops and houses were allowed to jut out into the roadway by 7 feet on each side and then overhang the water by 7 feet the other direction.  Some were built as high as 7 stories.  That meant that 7 feet of the roadway was taken up on each side of the bridge or 14 feet.  Out of the 26 foot roadway that left only 12 feet for travel, 6 feet in each direction.

During that time it was not unusual to take over an hour just to cross the bridge.  Many times people would take the ferries that ran at the side of the bridge so they could get across faster.

Another period of time saw pikes placed on the South Gate of the bridge and heads of individuals who had been executed were placed on the pikes and displayed.  William Wallace of Braveheart fame was the first of those displayed and that display grew to 30 heads displayed.

As time passed the bridge kept changing and adapting to try to handle the traffic flowing across it until in about 1970 it was decided that the bridge needed to be replaced.  The old one was no longer able to accommodate the volume and crush of traffic and so the Common Council of London placed the old bridge on the market and started looking for buyers.

That is when an American entrepreneur, Robert P McCullough, stepped in and bought the bridge for 2.5 million dollars.  

The bridge was then dismantled and each of the stones were numbered so they could be reassembled and then shipped to Arizona in the U.S.A.  The bridge was then reassembled over a strong concrete base and now stands there for all to see.

London has a new bridge in the place where London Bridge stood for nearly 2000 years but the older London Bridge that participated in so much English History including the German Blitzkrieg over London in World War II now stands in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Porter's Place

Orrin Porter Rockwell is a well known character in Utah and Mormon history.  He joined the LDS Church in the early days and was a very close friend to Joseph Smith the church's founder.  He was Joseph Smith's bodyguard and assumed those same duties for Brigham Young after Joseph Smith's death.

Porter Rockwell migrated west with the church and was a deputy US Marshal in the Utah Territory and had the reputation of never bringing prisoners back alive.  He did say that he never killed anyone who didn't need killing tough.

He settled in Lehi, Utah, and I have been told he had a Livery Stable on Main Street.  He also had the Hot Springs Brewery and Hotel at a site near the point of the mountain.

Orrin Porter Rockwell's presence is still here with us though.  He sits on the point of the mountain at the Porter Rockwell Business Park just off the freeway where he waves to all the passers by, and Lehi's Main Street still sports a restaurant bearing his name, Porter's Place and it is a place that warrants a visit or two or more.

The restaurant is owned by descendants of Porter Rockwell and they have a varied menu, but some very good steaks.  The atmosphere is very special though.  It is reminiscent of those days in which Porter lives and the place is filled with items and mementos from that era.

It is well worth the effort to visit.

Besides the Steaks are Good!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Granite Quarry for the Salt Lake Temple

In 1860 the Granite Quarry in Little Cottonwood started operation.  Construction of the Salt Lake Temple had begun with the laying of the cornerstones for the foundation in 1853 but in 1857 with the coming of Johnston's Army the foundation of Red Butte Sandstone was covered and all activity at the site hidden.

Plans called for the foundation to be of sandstone and the walls to be build of Granite, however after the Army left in 1861 and the foundation uncovered it was found to be defective.  So it was decided to tear out the  sandstone foundation and replace it with Granite.  

The Quarry operations had started just the year before and were working very hard to provide the Granite to build with.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Lake Bonneville

In the distant past Lake Bonneville covered a good sized part of Utah.  It also extended west into part of what is now Nevada and also north into what is now Idaho.  It is said to have been over a thousand feet in depth and was about the size of Lake Michigan.

There were no outlets for this lake and so it kept rising until the water level reached over 5000 feet in elevation and was able to breach a place called Red Rock Pass in Idaho where it began to flow down into the Snake River.

However the water quickly eroded nearly 400 feet of elevation from Red Rock Pass and caused much devastation and flooding in the area heading for the Snake River.  It also caused the level of the water in the lake to drop drastically.

That drop and a diminished flow of water into the lake caused it to shrink over several thousand years.  Because of the drop in water level there was no more outlet and the water just evaporated.  The lake shrank and because it was from evaporation the salinity of that water grew and grew and grew and grew.

Salt and chemicals that came into the lake from the streams were left behind with the evaporation that was taking place.  As the waters evaporated and the lake shrank the concentration of salt and chemicals became stronger and left deposits of salt on the areas where the lake had once been.

These deposits are still there in the form of flats and if you drive west from Salt Lake City on I-80 and look to the north it is possible to see these stretches of white salt, perfectly level, going for miles and miles.  Nothing grows, no plants, no grass, no trees just white salt.

But the demise of Lake Bonneville has left remnants to remind us that it was here.  The Great Salt Lake is a very definite mark that is still here and has been a source of wonder for years.  Utah Lake further south is another remnant of that once great lake.

And the salt flats that stretch for so many miles to the west, all the way to the Bonneville Raceway where so many come to see who can go the fastest and possibly be crowned as the fastest driver on this earth.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Salt Lake Temple - A Monument in Stone

In the latter part of July of 1847 the first group of pioneers arrived in this the Great Salt Lake Basin.  Due to the fact that it was late in the season and they would have to sustain themselves through the winter, that was just a few months away, work started immediately to get crops planted.  Also building of shelters was started to help sustain themselves in the coming months.

Even though there was an urgent need for the work of building shelters and planting crops on July 28, 1847, Brigham Young selected a 40 acre site for the Temple to be built on and from that site the city was to be laid out perfectly square, north, south, east and west.  The Temple site was later reduced to 10 acres and now sits at the center of Salt Lake City.

Truman O. Angell was chosen as the architect in 1852 and the ground breaking for the new Temple was in 1853.  The corner stones were laid for the Temple on April 6, 1853.

By the end of June of 1855 the foundation of Red Butte sandstone was nearly complete but troubles with crops and failures required most of the workmen to be pulled from the project.

Monday, August 10, 2009

This Is The Place Monument

On April 7, 1847, a group of Mormon pioneers led by Brigham Young left Winter Quarters in Nebraska (Omaha area).
They were going to the Great Basin to settle and develop a place for them to live where they could exist without the persecution they had suffered for many years. In this vangaurd company there were 73 wagons, 143 men, 3 women, and 2 children, making in all 148 souls.
They traveled across the plains through the center of this country and continued on through the canyons of the Rocky Mountains until on July 24, 1847, they arrived at the mouth of what we call Emigration Canyon and beheld the Valley of the Great Salt Lake.

Brigham Young had been sick for several days preceding the 24th and was riding in the back of Wilford Woodruff's carriage.
The accounts say a carriage but Wilford Woodruff's wagon in the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers Museum is a wagon. But then..........................

Anyway upon arriving at the spot where they could look over the valley Brigham arose from the bed he had in the wagon and after surveying the scene he beheld before him he made the statement that "This is the right place, drive on."

There was a small group that had entered the valley three days before so the group that entered on the 24th was not really the first but the event is commemorated on the 24th of July with Brigham's arrival and declaration.
This marked the beginnings of serious settlement of the areas around the Great Basin and eventually led to many towns and cities being established and Utah becoming a state in the Union.
It was decided that a monument should be erected to commemorate the arrival of the pioneers in this valley. In 1937 Mahroni M. Young, a grandson of Brigham Young was selected to design the monument which he did and in 1947 the monument was dedicated in conjunction with the centennial celebration of the entrance of the pioneers to the valley.

The monument is 60 feet in height and 86 feet long. At the top of the pedestal stand Brigham Young in the center and Wilford Woodruff on the south and Heber C. Kimball on the north. All three were prominent leaders in the beginnings of Mormonism and were very important part of the move to and settling of this part of the West.
Along with the three men on top there are a number of other individuals and groups memoralized on plaques, reliefs, and statues.

The early explorers and trappers and others who helped to open this part of the west for exploration are remembered.

The monument is very interesting to see and it is worth the time to stop and really look at all that is shown about the early settlers and explorers.

The monument is easy to get to and is right across the street from the Hogle Zoo. And the Hogle Zoo could be another part of a trip to the area. They also have a restaurant on the site, the Monument Cafe, serving a monumental sandwich.

I went back to get a sandwich but found out the cafe is closed on Sunday.

One note of interest. The site of the monument must be on a place that was more suited to
build because there is a white obelisk about 200-300 feet up the hill from the parking lots, to the northeast that is the original marker of the site where Brigham Young made his statement.