PSR Tent

Book Review: Death Valley '49ers

Article Index

     Listed below are samples of some of the numerous errors we noted in the book and we give most of the references needed to check our claims. We have not pointed out where current route analysis is at variance with Latta's. Page numbers are from Manly's original edition of Death Valley in '49, and the page numbers in brackets [] are from the Heyday edition, now readily available (Manly 2001).

p. 4	In 1849 Kit Carson resided in Taos, New Mexico, and began farming with 
Lucien Maxwell that same year at Rayado, New Mexico (Thrapp 1988: 234).
Thomas L. (Pegleg) Smith was running a trading post at Bear Valley on the
Oregon Trail in 1849 (Thrapp 1988: 1336). It is extremely unlikely either
of these men encountered any of the Death Valley '49ers. We did not bother
to track down the whereabouts of Bridger and Baker.

p. 4 The Hunt wagon train did not break up at Mountain Meadows. The division
point is five miles north of the meadows at a site between Enterprise and
Newcastle, Utah. A large monument commemorates this point. Latta quotes
Rev. Brier as his authority for this error (p. 67); Brier was mistaken.
Manly (1894:111 [67]) said the division point was
"very near ... Mountain Meadows."

pp. 5-6 Tom Shannon's letter to "all old Jayhawkers" was written on
January 17, 1894 (JA 878), and is housed in the Jayhawker Collection,
Huntington Library, San Marino, California. Hereafter, we will not track
down the ubiquitous, unreferenced quotations.

p. 8 The arrival of the Georgians at the Mariposa mines is documented in
Mexican Gold Trail, the Journal of a Forty-Niner
(Evans 1945: 254 & 259).

p. 8 "Jayhawker Well" is a few yards east of McLean Spring, which is unpotable
salt water and is the water source for Salt Creek. The well's name is not
an official name. This shallow well (two feet deep) has potable water (barely so).

p. 9. Colton got sick not at Valley Wells but from water at Searles Lake or at
Paxton Lake in Indian Wells Valley. Valley Wells, north of Searles Lake,
was developed by the potash mining company as a recreation site for the
plant's employees. The wells supplied water for the swimming pool at the site
and water for the chemical plant at Trona. There never was a spring at the site.

p. 11 There is no "spring located about one-fourth mile north of the present
ruins of the Old Eagle Borax Works." The nearest potable water north of the
borax works is Tule Spring; it is 3.3 miles north of the borax works. There is
poor potable water at the works (Eagle Borax Spring).

p. 11 It was not Manly's advice to go forward without scouting ahead. This was
Bennett's idea (Manly 1894: 213 [134] and Johnson & Johnson 1987: 116).

p. 41 Manly and Rogers traveled together only as far as Los Angeles, not
Benicia (Manly 1894: 384 [176]). However, Manly saw Rogers in Benicia years
later (Manly 1894: 469 [305]).

p. 57 We have copies of most of the letters in the Jayhawker Collection and
we do not agree that the Jayhawkers "[a]lmost always ... wrote the two words
separately, Jay Hawk."

p. 63 Acoma is not in Meadow Valley, Nevada. It is a place-name along the
Union Pacific Rail Road about twenty crow miles east of the valley.

p. 67 Brier's recollection is wrong; he was never at Mountain Meadows. The
"cutoff" is about five miles north of Mountain Meadows.

p. 69 "Cobble Creek" should read Hobble Creek.

p. 75 Charles Elliott Wade was born in 1838, not 1883.

p. 79 John Wells Brier, not John Welsh Brier (also wrong on pp 173 & 175).

p. 79 Asabel Bennett was born in 1814 according to the 1850 census, not 1807.

p. 79 The age of Melissa Bennett given here contradicts the age in the caption
on p. 300.

p. 81 Martha Bennett was born January 21, 1848, so she had her 2nd birthday
in Death Valley.

p. 83 Crumpton and Masterson did not demand they be given "all they wanted
to eat." Instead, they gave Mrs. Brier part of their small supply of flour and
she baked it "into twenty-two little crackers and put [them] away for an
emergency" (In: Belden 1954: 24). The man begging for the "entrails of a crow"
was Crocker (In: Belden 1954: 27).

p. 85 Throughout the book Latta refers to "Division Spring" in southwestern
Utah as the point where the Hunt wagon train divided. There was no spring at
the division point. There is a Division Spring associated with the '49er
packers but it is in Nevada (see index in Hafen & Hafen 1954).

p. 87 Acoma, Nevada is not a town. It is a place name on the Union Pacific
Railroad east of Caliente, Nevada. During the building of the railroad a small
construction-crew camp existed at the site.

p. 87 O.K. Smith did not cross Walker Pass; he crossed Cajon Pass
(Hafen & Hafen 1954: 43).

p. 99 Savage and Pinney did not have wagons; they were associated with the
packers who were ahead of the wagons (Hafen & Hafen 1954: 251- 253, 280 & 291).

p. 100 Kane Spring should be Cane Spring. There is no Kane Spring in Nevada
(per ) but there are five Cane Springs in Nevada.

p. 120 Jayhawker Spring is in Jayhawker Canyon. Latta meant Jayhawker Well,
which is just east of McLean Spring, the water source for Salt Creek.

p. 125 "McLeans Well" should read McLean Spring.

p. 136 When Death Valley '49ers was first published (1979) there was
no service station in Wildrose Canyon but there was one there in the 1940s
when Latta apparently wrote this section of the book.

p. 140 See comment for p. 9. In 1849-50 there was no "salt well a short
distance north of the lake shore [Searles Lake].

p. 140 The "dry camp" was at the east edge of the Argus Range; not at the
"west edge of the Slate Range."

p. 145 After the emigrants left Providence Spring (at the mouth of
Indian Joe Canyon), they crossed the Argus Range, not the Slate Range.

p. 172 Latta's insertion in brackets about Bennett having only one wagon
and the driver was Rogers is incorrect. Bennett had two wagons and the two
drivers left the party in Death Valley (Manly 1894: 147 [91]).

p. 188 Manly, not Rogers, worked for the Briers in Los Angeles for more
than a month (Manly 1894: 274 [176]).

p. 192 You can not see west over the Panamints from Gold Hill.

     So why do we recommend Death Valley '49ers for your well-stocked Death Valley library? Latta gathered important first hand letters from various locations and made them handy for the reader. And the pictures and anecdotes Latta gleaned from some of the descendants of the '49ers (particularly the Wade family) and memories about John Rogers are important contributions to Death Valleyanna.