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Then & Now: Indian skirmishes common near Deep Creeks, tiny Callao   PDF  Print  E-mail 
Written by Jaromy Jessop  
Thursday, 19 January 2006

PONY EXPRESS TRAIL EXPLORATION

Fish Springs Willow Springs

"Courage is being scared to death

And saddling up anyway"

John Wayne

Leaving Fish Springs, the Pony Express trail heads west nearly to the base of the barren Fish Springs range. At this point the road heads north around the end of the mountains. Along this stretch you will pass North Spring, which could have been one of the springs in which George Bean and Porter Rockwell saw the mummified Indians. The spring is very picturesque and accessible from the Pony Express trail.

As the road rounds the point of the mountain there is sparse grass out on the plain. This grass disappears a bit farther north as the plain turns to salt and becomes incredibly level. As I drove this stretch coming from the west, I kind of got the feeling that the road was skirting the valley at the base of the range as if to avoid a body of water. There is no water here but you will doubtless have the same sensation as you look west into the desert. As you head farther south to where the road bends to the west, you will notice some abandoned mine workings on the south side of the road. Back in the 1890s and early 1900s these mines were extremely productive. The chief producer was the "Utah" mine. Ores that ran 50 percent lead with 500 ounces of silver to the ton were produced regularly from the mine. The auto hulks and mine tunnels near the road are an interesting side adventure. From these mines the road heads west with the towering peaks of the Deep Creek Range filling the horizon.

From south to north the peaks are Red Mountain 11,550 feet; Ibapah Peak 12,120 feet; Haystack 12,020 feet; and Ibapah Azimuth 11,987 feet. This group of peaks is a truly remarkable sight from the desolate desert. There are many live streams, seven different types of conifers in its forests, aspens and an abundance of wildlife. Pioneer journals claimed these peaks oftentimes were snow capped year round. A few miles farther along the Express trail, you will pass a curious, isolated group of very large tamarack bushes on the south side of the road. This is a good place for a game of hide and seek.

About a mile further on you will come to the remains of Boyd Station. This is the junction where the old Chorpenning mail route headed south around the Deep Creek Range via Pleasant Valley. The Pony Express Trail heads due west from this place toward present day Callao, which was known as Willow Springs Station back in the 1860s. There is a small knoll with some curious wind blown rock formations rising south across the road from Boyd Station. If you park at the station, cross the road and climb the knoll, you will have a bird's eye view of the station and a fine panorama of the surrounding terrain. To the southeast is the seldom visited summit of George H. Hansen Peak in the Fish Springs Range. Walk around the rim of the knoll and you will have a fine view of Red Mountain and the rest of the Deep Creek Range. Look north and you will see the different old trails emanating from Boyd Station out onto the Salt Desert.

This station must have been a real crossroads back in the day. George Boyd worked under Major Howard Egan and had a contract to furnish hay and wood to Willow Springs, Boyd Station, Fish Springs, Black Rock and Dugway Station. George built these stations as well.

Boyd's Station was a small stone structure, complete with rifle ports. There are only a few walls remaining but it is still one of the best preserved stations along the trail. Examining the walls, it appears that the rock was held together with some sort of crude mortar. These remains are now protected by a chain link fence. There is a good parking area, and some interesting information panels. On a clear day you can make out "Round Station" at the entrance to Overland Canyon some 25 miles distant to the northwest.

There was constant threat of Indian attacks and an 1860 article in the Deseret News stated "Boyd's station was attacked 3 horses taken and some hay burned." The problems suffered at Boyd station paled in comparison to what happened at the next station about eight miles down the road to the west & Willow Springs.

To give you an idea of what a day in the life at Willow Springs could consist of back in the days of the Pony Express, consider this excerpt from Nicholas Wilson's book "White Indian Boy." "About 4 o'clock in the afternoon, seven Indians rode up to the station and asked for something to eat. Peter Neece, the station keeper, picked up a sack with about 20 pounds of flour in it and offered it to them, but they would not have that little bit, they wanted a sack of flour a piece. Then he threw it back into the house and told them to get out and that he wouldn't give them a thing. This made them pretty mad, and as they passed a shed about 4 or 5 rods from the house, they each shot an arrow into a poor lame cow that happened to be standing there under the shed. When Neece saw them do that, it made him mad too and he jerked out a couple of pistols and commenced shooting at them. He killed two of the Indians and they fell off their horses right there. The others ran. He said, "Now, boys, we will have a time of it tonight. There are about 30 of those Indians camped up in the canyon there, and they will be upon us as soon as it gets dark, and we shall have to fight."

The story continues to tell of a really scary night of fighting with the Indians and it is a really good read. Nick Wilson talks about how they set an ambush for the Indians and how he was too scared to even fire a shot and hid on his belly, face down in an alkali depression. When you visit Willow Springs, think about this and other battles and skirmishes that took place in the vicinity. These Express riders had to have incredible courage and stamina. Reading books written by the riders, occurrences such as these happened almost daily. Sir Richard Burton wrote of an attack at the station "In June of 1860 the Willow Creek Station was attacked by a small band of Gosh Yuta, of whom 3 were shot and summarily scalped, an energetic proceeding which had prevented repetition of the affair." It seems that the Indians got the worst of it most of the time out in the desert, but that was not always the case as you will see in the next article.

When Captain James H. Simpson visited the area in 1859, he described the first Indian that he and his men encountered in stunning detail: "He wears his hair tied up at the temples and behind; carries a buckskin pouch and powder horn, a bow and quiver swung on his right side, wears a pink checkered American shirt, buckskin leggings and moccasins, and a blanket around his loins. An old black, silk handkerchief is tied about his neck. He has one huge, iron spur on his right heel, and rides a sorrel pony. His height is 5 feet 7 inches, has a stout square frame, age probably 35; carries a rifle. His bow is 3 feet long and is made of sheep's horn, arrow, 25 inches long, feathered and barbed with Iron." Sounds like a very interesting fellow. Those who are familiar with the history of the Goshute Indians and their customs and ways of life back then will recognize that this fellow does not fit the description. He was probably a Western Shoshoni brave as they tended to frequent the area & especially at Deep Creek. One thing is for sure, you wouldn't want this guy after you or prowling around your station late at night.

George Boyd sold Willow Creek Station to Charley Baggley in 1885 and moved to Salt Lake City. E.W. Tripp came to the Callao area in 1867 and helped George Boyd with the contract to supply the stations with wood and hay.

If you visit the area today you will see very large, even ancient cottonwood trees with small log cabins at their bases at various locations. The ground is lush, fed by many springs in the area and the grasses are in many areas knee high. It is rural life to the extreme out here on the very border of Juab and Tooele counties. There is a conical Pony Express Marker at the entrance to the Baggley ranch, which is the location of the Willow Springs station. There are approximately 25 people who call Callao home now and there is a tiny school house in operation there. What does Callao mean? Who knows? But there is a city named Callao in Peru and given the resemblance of the Andes and the Deep Creeks with their adjacent deserts, it is plausible that a sheep herder from Peru named it in honor of his hometown.

Other interesting sites abound near Callao including Granite Creek, Indian Farm, and Tom's Creek Canyons in the Deep Creek Mountains to name a few. The site of the Civilian Conservation Corps camp is now a BLM campground on Tom's Creek a short distance south of town on the Gandy road. Gold Hill to the North and West is also very interesting and has a colorful history all its own. Regardless of what you decide to visit, a trip to Boyd Station and Callao will not soon be forgotten.

Jaromy D. Jessop grew up in West Valley City where he attended Kearns High School and earned the Eagle Scout award while exploring the Utah Desert. A graduate of the University of Utah, B.S. in geography, U.S. Army Reserve Captain Jessop lives with his family in Dugway where he is employed by Jacobs Sverdrup at Michael Army Airfield.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 19 January 2006 )

 
   
     

 
 

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