Jul 242017

On this date in 1847 a group of Mormon pioneers led by Brigham Young entered Salt Lake Valley where they permanently settled after being forced out of Nauvoo, Illinois, which they had built, and other locations in the eastern United States. The date is a public holiday in Utah, known as Pioneer Day, celebrated with parades, fireworks, rodeos, barbecues and the usual hoopla. Although Pioneer Day is an official state holiday it is considered a special occasion by many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) both within and outside Utah.

Since its founding in 1830, members of the LDS Church were often badly treated by their neighbors, partially due to their religious beliefs, and partially as a reaction against the actions and the words of the LDS Church and its members and leaders. As an anthropologist I’ll make a small linguistic correction here to a common misusage of the term “polygamy.” “Polygamy” as a term is gender neutral. A woman with more than one husband is as much a polygamist as a man with more than one wife. So, yes, the early Mormons were polygamists but not in both senses. A woman could not have more than one husband. The technical term for the (legal) practice of a man having more than one wife is polygyny (-gyny from the Greek for a woman – as in gynecology), and is the most commonly allowed marriage practice worldwide, if you count cultures where it is legal rather than numbers of marriages. Even in cultures where polygyny is legal, monogamy is the norm. Polygyny is expensive for a man, which is why it stood as a sign of wealth and prestige in ancient cultures, such as ancient Israel (tell that to fundamentalists who call monogamy “traditional Biblical marriage”), and conflicts between co-wives is an ever-present reality. Why the early LDS Church (and still some breakaway groups) practiced polygyny is still an open question. Usually historians put it down to the preponderance of women in the early church, but I am not so sure about this. The LDS Church will never admit that there was a degree of misogyny (-gyny again !!) among early Mormon leaders, not to mention a desire to expand their numbers rapidly (which polygyny will do), and some well documented cases of church leaders being sexual predators.

Brigham Young had 55 wives (that is, women who were “sealed” to him by church doctrine), some of them conjugal, some not. Of Young’s 55 wives, 21 had never been married before, 16 were widows, six were divorced, six had living husbands, and the marital status of six others before being sealed to Young is unknown. Young was also a noted racist, banning African-Americans from the LDS church, asserting that they were descendants of Cain and, therefore, human outcasts to be shunned. This doctrine of the Church was only recently revisited. Because of these practices, as well as other conflicts with their neighbors, the central Church had moved from one place to another for many years: Ohio, Missouri, and then to Illinois, where church members founded the city of Nauvoo. Sidney Rigdon was the First Counselor in the LDS First Presidency and, as its spokesman, Rigdon preached several controversial sermons in Missouri, including the Salt Sermon and the July 4th Oration. These speeches are generally considered to be prime causes of the conflict known as the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri. As a result of the conflict, the Mormons were expelled from the state by Governor Boggs, and Rigdon and Joseph Smith, the Church’s founder, were arrested and imprisoned in Liberty Jail. Rigdon was released on a writ of habeas corpus and made his way to Illinois, where he joined the main body of Mormon refugees in 1839. In 1844 Joseph Smith, and his brother Hyrum Smith were killed by a mob while in custody in the city of Carthage, Illinois.

According to church belief, God inspired Brigham Young, Joseph Smith’s successor as President of the Church, to call for the Saints (church members) to organize and head west, beyond the western frontier of the United States (into what was then Mexico, though the U.S. Army had already captured New Mexico and California in late 1846). During the winter of 1846-47 LDS leaders made plans for the migration west of the bulk of church members, their equipment, and their livestock. For his role in the migration, Brigham Young is sometimes referred to as the “American Moses.” Brigham Young personally reviewed all available information on the Salt Lake Valley and the Great Basin, consulting with mountain men and trappers, and meeting with Father Pierre-Jean De Smet, a Jesuit missionary familiar with the Great Basin. Young insisted the Mormons should settle in a location no one else wanted, and felt the Salt Lake Valley met that requirement and would provide them with many opportunities as well.

Brigham Young organized a vanguard company to break the trail west to the Rocky Mountains, gather information about trail conditions, including water sources and local Indians, and to ultimately select the central gathering point in the Great Basin. The initial company would select and break the primary trail with the expectation that later pioneers would maintain and improve it. It was hoped that the group could, wherever possible, establish fords and ferries and plant crops for later harvest. In late February, plans were made to gather portable boats, maps, scientific instruments, farm implements and seeds. Techniques for irrigating crops were investigated. A new route on the north side of the Platte River was chosen to avoid major interaction with travelers using the established Oregon Trail on the river’s south side. Given the needs of the large volume of Saints who would travel west, Church leaders decided to avoid potential conflicts over grazing rights, water access and campsites.

In April 1847, Young consulted with members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the LDS governing body) who had recently returned from a mission to Britain. John Taylor, Parley P. Pratt and Orson Hyde brought money contributed by the English Saints, a map based on John C. Fremont’s recent western expedition, and instruments for calculating latitude, elevation, temperature and barometric pressure. Chosen members of the vanguard group were gathered together, final supplies were packed, and the group was organized into military companies. The vanguard consisted of 143 men, 3 women, and 2 children. The following train consisted of 73 wagons, one cannon, 93 horses, 52 mules, 66 oxen, 19 cows, 17 dogs and some chickens, and carried enough supplies to fully provision the group for one year.

On April 5, 1847, at 2 p.m., the wagon train moved west from Winter Quarters (now Omaha, Nebraska) toward the Great Basin. With the afternoon start, they made only 3 miles that day before camping for the night. Thereafter, camp was typically awakened by a bugle at 5 a.m. and the company was expected to be prepared for travel by 7 a.m. Each day’s travel ended at 8:30 p.m. and the camp was in bed by 9 p.m. The company traveled six days during the week, but generally stayed in camp on Sunday to observe the Sabbath.

William Clayton was appointed company scribe and was expected to record an accurate description of their journey and the distance they traveled each day. After three weeks, Clayton grew tired of personally counting the revolutions of a wagon wheel and computing the day’s distance by multiplying the count by the wheel’s circumference. After consulting with Orson Pratt, an accomplished mathematician, he designed a mechanism consisting of a set of wooden cog wheels attached to the hub of a wagon wheel, with the mechanism counting the revolutions of the wheel. Clayton’s design, which he called the roadometer, is the basis for most modern odometers. The apparatus was built to Clayton and Pratt’s specifications by the company’s carpenter Appleton Milo Harmon and was first used on the morning of May 12, 1847. The roadometer showed that the company averaged between 14 and 20 miles per day.

The first segment of the journey, from Winter Quarters to Fort Laramie took six weeks, with the company arriving at the fort on June 1. The company halted for repairs and to reshoe the draft animals. While at Fort Laramie, the vanguard company was joined by members of the Mormon Battalion (from the Mexican wars) who had been excused from service due to illness and sent to winter in Pueblo, Colorado. Also traveling in the new group were Church members from Mississippi who had taken a more southern route toward the Great Basin. At this point, the now larger company took the established Oregon Trail toward the trading post at Ft. Bridger.

During the last week of June, Sam Brannan, leader of the Mormon emigrant ship Brooklyn, met the company near Green River, Wyoming. He reported to Young about his group’s successful journey and their settlement in what is today San Francisco, California. He urged the vanguard company to continue on to California but was unable to shift the leader’s focus away from the Great Basin. Young also met mountain man Jim Bridger on June 28. They discussed possible routes into the Salt Lake Valley, and the feasibility of settlements in the mountain valleys of the Great Basin. Bridger was enthusiastic about settlement near Utah Lake, reporting fish, wild fruit, timber and good grazing. He told Young that local Indians raised good crops, including corn and pumpkins, but that there was ever-present danger of frost. The company pushed on through South Pass, rafted across the Green River and arrived at Fort Bridger on July 7.

The vanguard company now faced a more rugged and hazardous journey, and were concerned about negotiating the passes of the Rocky Mountains. They had received conflicting advice, but Young chose to follow the trail used by the Donner-Reed party on their journey to California the previous year. Shortly after leaving Fort Bridger, the group met trapper Miles Goodyear, who owned a trading post at the mouth of the Weber River. He was enthusiastic about the agricultural potential of the large Weber Valley. During the trip through the rugged mountains, the vanguard company divided into three sections. Since crossing the Green River, several members of the party had suffered from a fever, generally accepted as a “mountain fever” probably induced by wood ticks. Young himself became ill soon after meeting Goodyear. The small sick detachment lagged behind the larger group, and a scouting division was created to move ahead on the designated route.

In July 1847 the first company reached the Salt Lake Valley, with scouts Erastus Snow and Orson Pratt entering the valley on July 21. Pratt wrote: “We could not refrain from a shout of joy, which almost involuntarily escaped from our lips the moment this grand and lovely scenery was within our view.” The two scouts undertook a 12-mile (19 km) exploratory circuit into the valley before returning to the larger party. The next day, larger segments of the valley were explored, streams and hot springs investigated and the first camp established in the Salt Lake Valley. On July 23rd Pratt offered a prayer dedicating the land to God. On July 24th Young first saw the valley from a “sick” wagon driven by his friend Wilford Woodruff. According to Woodruff, Young expressed his satisfaction at the appearance of the valley and declared “This is the right place, drive on.” Today a monument stands in the spot where he made this declaration. Young later reported that he had seen the valley, including Ensign Peak, in a vision and recognized the spot.

While Pioneer Day has strong links to the LDS Church, it is officially a celebration about everyone, regardless of faith and nationality, who emigrated to the Salt Lake Valley during the pioneer era, which is generally considered to have ended with the 1869 arrival of the transcontinental railroad. Notable non-LDS pioneers from this period include Episcopal Bishop Daniel S. Tuttle, who was responsible for Utah’s first non-Mormon schools (Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s) and first public hospital (St. Mark’s) in the late 19th century, and a handful of African-Americans.

I spent part of a summer in 1967 in Provo, Utah, with a fairly conventional Mormon family of the time, and can confidently assure you of the truth of the assertion that traditional Utah Mormon “cuisine” consists of green Jell-O, funeral potatoes, and lots of casseroles of meat with vegetables and condensed soup. I’m told that things have improved since the 1960s, but I’m not going back there to find out. I’ve never made funeral potatoes and have no wish to. Anything casseroled with condensed soup and a topping of corn flakes is pretty well anathema to me. I had a lifetime’s supply when I was in Provo. Here’s a website giving 10 recipes for funeral potatoes “to die for”


I suppose the website title is ironic. Funeral potatoes got the name because they were (and are) a common dish for potluck suppers following funerals. They are also popular at picnics and celebrations in general.  There will be plenty of dishes of funeral potatoes served today in Utah. You’re on your own with this one.

Mar 102014


On this date in 1848 the U.S. Senate ratified the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (Tratado de Guadalupe Hidalgo) which officially established peace, friendship, national boundaries, and terms of a financial settlement between the United States of America and the Mexican Republic, thus ending the Mexican–American War (1846–48). With the defeat of its army and the fall of the capital, Mexico entered into negotiations to end the war. The treaty called for the United States to pay $15 million to Mexico and pay off the claims of U.S. citizens against Mexico up to $3.25 million. It gave the United States the Rio Grande boundary for Texas, and gave the U.S. ownership of California, and a large area consisting of New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado. Mexicans in those annexed areas had the choice of relocating to Mexico or receiving U.S. citizenship with full civil rights; over 90% remained. The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty by a vote of 38-14, against the Whigs who had opposed the war, rejected Manifest Destiny in general, and rejected this expansion in particular.

The peace talks were negotiated by Nicholas Trist, chief clerk of the State Department, who had accompanied General Winfield Scott as a diplomat and President Polk’s representative. Trist and General Scott, after two previously unsuccessful attempts to negotiate a treaty with General José Joaquín de Herrera, determined that the only way to deal with Mexico was as a conquered enemy. Nicholas Trist negotiated with a special commission representing the collapsed government led by Don Bernardo Couto, Don Miguel de Atristain, and Don Luis Gonzaga Cuevas of Mexico.

Although Mexico ceded Alta California and Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico, the text of the treaty did not list territories to be ceded in specific, and avoided the disputed issues that were causes of war: the validity of the 1836 secession of the Republic of Texas, Texas’s unenforced boundary claims as far as the Rio Grande, and the 1845 annexation of Texas to the United States.

Instead, Article V of the treaty simply described the new U.S.-Mexico border. From east to west, the border consisted of the Rio Grande northwest from its mouth to the point Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico (roughly 32 degrees north), as shown in the Disturnell map, then due west from this point to the 110th meridian west, then north along the 110th Meridian to the Gila River and down the river to its mouth. Unlike the New Mexico segment of the boundary, which depended partly on unknown geography, “in order to preclude all difficulty in tracing upon the ground the limit separating Upper from Lower California,” a straight line was drawn from the mouth of the Gila to one marine league south of the southernmost point of the port of San Diego, slightly north of the previous Mexican provincial boundary at Playas de Rosarito.


Comparing the boundary in the Adams–Onís Treaty to the Guadalupe Hidalgo boundary, Mexico conceded about 55% of its pre-war, pre-Texas territorial claims and now has an area of 1,972,550 km² (761,606 sq mi). In the United States, the 1.36 million km² (525,000 square miles) of the area between the Adams-Onis and Guadalupe Hidalgo boundaries outside the 1,007,935 km2 (389,166 sq mi) claimed by the Republic of Texas is known as the Mexican Cession. That is to say, the Mexican Cession is construed not to include any territory east of the Rio Grande, while the territorial claims of the Republic of Texas included no territory west of the Rio Grande. The Mexican Cession included essentially the entirety of the former Mexican territory of Alta California, but only the western portion of Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico, and included all of present-day California, Nevada and Utah, most of Arizona, and western portions of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming.

Articles VIII and IX ensured safety of existing property rights of Mexican citizens living in the transferred territories. Despite assurances to the contrary, the property rights of Mexican citizens were often not honored by the U.S. in accordance with modifications to and interpretations of the Treaty. The U.S. also agreed to assume $3.25 million (equivalent to $88.6 million today) in debts that Mexico owed to United States citizens. The residents could choose whether they wanted American or Mexican citizenship; all but 1000 or so chose American citizenship, which included full voting rights. Article XII engaged the United States to pay, “In consideration of the extension acquired”, 15 million dollars (equivalent to $410 million today), in annual installments of 3 million dollars.

Article XI of the treaty was important to Mexico. It provided that the United States would prevent and punish raids by Native Americans into Mexico, prohibited U.S. citizens from acquiring property, including livestock, taken by the Native Americans in those raids, and stated that the U.S. would return captives of the Native Americans to Mexico. Mexicans believed that the United States had encouraged and assisted the Comanche and Apache raids that had devastated northern Mexico in the years before the war. This article promised relief to them. Article XI, however, proved unenforceable. Destructive raids continued despite a heavy U.S. presence near the Mexican border. Mexico filed 366 claims with the U.S. government for damages done by Comanche and Apache raids between 1848 and 1853. In 1853, in the Treaty of Mesilla concluding the Gadsden Purchase, Article XI was annulled.

The land that the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo brought into the United States became, between 1850 and 1912, all or part of ten states: California (1850), Nevada (1864), Utah (1896), and Arizona (1912), as well as the whole of, depending upon interpretation, the entire state of Texas (1845) that then included part of Kansas (1861), Colorado (1876), Wyoming (1890), Oklahoma (1907), and New Mexico (1912). The remainder (the southern parts) of New Mexico and Arizona were peacefully purchased under Gadsden Purchase, which was carried out in 1853. In this purchase the United States paid an additional $10 million (equivalent to $280 million today), for land intended to accommodate a transcontinental railroad. However, the American Civil War delayed construction of such a route, and it was not until 1881 that the Southern Pacific Railroad finally was completed, fulfilling the purpose of the acquisition.


The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo completed the much disputed aspirations of the doctrine of Manifest Destiny which proposed that the U.S. was destined to expand to fill the central portion of North America from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Canadian border to the Rio Grande.  Its goals were to be achieved by conquest and imperialism, and set the tone for much of the 19th century including wars such as the Mexican-American War and the various wars against Native American nations.

Historians have emphasized that “Manifest Destiny” was a contested concept—many prominent politicians (such as Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and most Whigs) rejected it. Historian Daniel Walker Howe writes, “American imperialism did not represent an American consensus; it provoked bitter dissent within the national polity. [Whigs] saw America’s moral mission as one of democratic example rather than one of conquest.”

Manifest Destiny always limped along because of its internal limitations and the issue of slavery, says Merk. It never became a national priority. By 1843 John Quincy Adams, originally a major supporter, had changed his mind and repudiated Manifest Destiny because it meant the expansion of slavery in Texas. Merk concludes:

From the outset Manifest Destiny—vast in program, in its sense of continentalism—was slight in support. It lacked national, sectional, or party following commensurate with its magnitude. The reason was it did not reflect the national spirit. The thesis that it embodied nationalism, found in much historical writing, is backed by little real supporting evidence.

The treaty led to numerous conflicts which had to be adjudicated, and it was constantly subject to revision well into the 20th century.


The treaty extended U.S. citizenship to Mexicans in the newly purchased territories, before many African Americans, Asians, and Native Americans were eligible. Between 1850 and 1920, the U.S. Census counted most Mexicans as racially “white,” despite the actual mixed ancestry of most Mexicans. Nonetheless, racially tinged tensions persisted in the era following annexation, reflected in such things as the Greaser Act in California, as tens of thousands of Mexican nationals suddenly found themselves living within the borders of the United States. Mexican communities remained segregated de facto from and also within other U.S. communities, continuing through the Mexican migration right up to the end of the 20th century throughout the Southwest.

Community property rights in California are a legacy of the Mexican era. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo provided that the property rights of Mexican subjects would be kept inviolate. The early Californians felt compelled to continue the community property system regarding the earnings and accumulation of property during a marriage, and it became incorporated into the California constitution.

Border disputes continued. The U.S.’s desire to expand its territory continued unabated and Mexico’s economic problems persisted, leading to the controversial Gadsden Purchase in 1854 and William Walker’s Republic of Lower California filibustering incident in that same year. The Channel Islands of California and Farallon Islands are not mentioned in the Treaty.

The border was routinely crossed by the armed forces of both countries. Mexican and Confederate troops often clashed during the American civil war, and the U.S. crossed the border during the war of French intervention in Mexico. In March 1916 Pancho Villa led a raid on the U.S. border town of Columbus, New Mexico, which was followed by the Pershing expedition. There were constant disputes concerning boundaries between purchase lands and those of the state of Texas, as well as between the U.S. and Mexico. Controversy over community land grant claims in New Mexico persists to this day.

Disputes about whether to make all this new territory into free states or slave-holding states contributed heavily to the rise in North-South tensions that led to the United States Civil War just over a decade later. The treaty was leaked to John Nugent before the U.S. Senate could approve it. Nugent published his article in the New York Herald and, afterward, was questioned by Senators. Nugent did not reveal his source.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo led to the establishment in 1889 of the International Boundary and Water Commission to maintain the border, and pursuant to newer treaties to allocate river waters between the two nations, and to provide for flood control and water sanitation. Once viewed as a model of international cooperation, in recent decades the IBWC has been heavily criticized as an institutional anachronism, by-passed by modern social, environmental and political issues.

In a recent battle between tourists, fishermen, surfers, other members of the public, and venture capitalist billionaire Vinod Kholsa, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Gerald J. Buchwald invoked the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to deny public access to a portion of the California coastline. See, Friends of Martin’s Beach v. Martin’s Beach 1, LLC, San Mateo County Civil Case #CIV517634. Despite the California State Constitution’s specific provision enabling members of the public to access the beach, Judge Buchwald ruled that the Treaty trumped the California Coastal Act because it predated it, and officially ended a century of access to Martins Beach in Half Moon Bay, CA. In this controversial ruling, Judge Buchwald found that the treaty, which settled the Mexican-American War, granted the 200-acre beach property to Jose Antonio Alviso before California’s Constitution in 1879 established the public trust doctrine that preserved access to such areas for all state residents.

The region ceded to the U.S. by Mexico covers territory that is quite diverse culturally.  I have already given several recipes from the Southwest, so I thought it might be interesting to move farther afield.  I settled on Utah because the outdoor Dutch oven is the state cooking utensil, symbol of pioneer days. It is made of cast iron with three legs so that it can sit stably in coals, and a concave lid to hold hot coals.  It is an incredibly versatile cooking pot that can be used for stews, baking, frying, and roasting.

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The cherry is the state fruit of Utah, so here is a recipe for Dutch oven cherry cobbler.


Cherry Cobbler


2 (12½ ounce) cans unsweetened dark sweet cherries
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp poppy seeds
1 egg, beaten
½ cup butter


Drain cherries and reserve juice. Combine the cherries and brown sugar in a small bowl.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and poppy seeds in a medium bowl. Stir to blend well.

Stir in egg and ¾ cup reserved cherry juice to make a fairly thick batter. If necessary, add a little more juice so you can just stir the heavy batter with a spoon.

Melt butter in a 12″ Dutch oven. Spoon batter over butter. (Butter will come up over batter at the edges.) Gently spoon cherries and any juice remaining in the bowl into center of the batter. Bake at 350°F (see below) or cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour with 16-18 coals on top and 8 coals on bottom. Be sure to rotate oven cover every 15 minutes for even heating when using coals.

Cobbler is done when the sides just begin to pull away from the pan and a knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Note: You can estimate the temperature of a Dutch oven by holding your palm 6 to 8 inches from it and rotating it.  The number of seconds you can hold it there indicates the temperature: 8 = 250-350°F; 5 = 350-400°F; 3 = 400-450°F; 1 = 450-500°F.