Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Henry and Eliza Tanner's trip to Arizona, Part 2

Some distance out from St. George, the company was joined by John Bushman and his second wife, Mary Peterson, and daughter Lois. They had previously arranged to travel together to Arizona. They were also joined by Edwin Lycurgus Westover and wife Joanna and two small children and Joanna Westover's father.

Speaking of the road to the river, John Bushman in his diary says, "This road was very bad, dugways for miles, very hilly and water scarce. This is a new road from St. George to the Pearce Ferry on the Big Colorado River. On Monday, March 19th, we reached the Ferry and found Father Pearce very glad to see us."

What is a dugway?
A road or trail carved into a cliff or steep slope. The Dictionary of the American West defines "dugway" as "a road or trail going through a high land form which is dug out of the land form or excavated into the land form or excavated into the land form to provide a path for transport." It is also described as a path scraped out of a steep hillside allowing cattle and wagons to travel the hillside. (; Outdoor Terminology)
Two days were used in getting the wagons and animals across the river. The wagons were ferried across without mishap but the livestock presented a difficult problem. The animals refused to swim the broad river and there was no other way to get them across. Henry was a skilled horseman and used to handling stock and it was his job to get the animals across.

After scores of attempts which met with failure, the company was about to despair. He related that on the second day after many failures, an old Indian came into camp and asked for food. While he was being fed, he noticed the men trying to get the animals to swim the river.

One of the women noticed that the Indian showed a great deal of interest in the ferry operation. It came to her that this Indian had had experience in crossing the river with animals and she mentioned the fact to one of the men. By the use of sign language, he was asked if he knew how to get the animals across. He said that he did and was asked to help. But he wanted to be paid. After some bargaining, he settled for a small sack of flour which he tied on the saddle of his horse. He then went down to the river and motioned for the men to drive all the animals into the edge of the water. At the right moment when all the animals were up to their bellies in the water, the Indian, who by this time had taken off what few clothes he had and was covered only with an Indian blanket, seized the top corners of the blanket in his hands and began flapping the blanket and letting out war whoops.

The animals, now more frightened of the Indian than the river, quickly took to the water and headed for the other side. The last animal to take to the water was an old, lazy mule. As he was getting out of his depth, the Indian threw his blanket to one of the men, seized the tail of the old mule and let him pull him across the river. When the mule saw the Indian on his tail he was so frightened that it is reported he made a new record in crossing the river.

Excerpts from George S. Tanner, Henry Martin Tanner: Joseph City Arizona Pioneer, 1964, pp 14-15. Some minor editing corrections made to the text.

Part 1
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

Photo of the Colorado River from Picture of the Mokee Dugway from

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