Within a few hours after the arrival of the vanguard upon the banks of what is now known as City Creek—the mountain stream which today furnishes Salt Lake City part of her water supply—plows were put to work; but the hard-baked soil, never before disturbed by the efforts of man to till, refused to yield to the share. A dam was thrown across the stream and the softening liquid was spread upon the flat that had been chosen for the first fields. The planting season had already well nigh passed, and not a day could be lost. Potatoes and other seed were put in, and the land was again flooded. Such was the beginning of the irrigation system, which soon became co-extensive with the area occupied by the “Mormon” settlers, a system which under the blessing of Providence, has proved to be the veritable magic touch by which the desert has been made a field of richness and a garden of beauty; a system which now after many decades of successful trial is held up by the nation’s wise and great ones to be the one practicable method of reclaiming our country’s vast domains of arid lands. It was on the 24th of July, 1847, that the main part of the pioneer band entered the valley of the Great Salt Lake, and that day of the year is observed as a legal holiday in Utah. From that time to the present, the stream of immigration to these valleys has never ceased.
The dangers of the first company’s migration were surpassed by those of parties who subsequently braved the terrors of the plains. In their enthusiasm to reach the gathering place of their people, many of the Latter-day Saints set out from Iowa, where railway facilities had their termination, with hand-carts only as a means of conveyance. Today there are living in the smiling vales of Utah, men and women who then as boys and girls trudged wearily across the prairies, dragging the lumbering carts that contained their entire provision against starvation and freezing. Such handcart companies were organized with care; a limited amount of freight was allowed to each division; milch cattle and a very few draft-animals, with wagons for conveying the heavier baggage and to carry the sick, were assigned. The tale of those dreary marches has never yet been told; the song of the heroism and sacrifice displayed by these pilgrims for conscience sake is awaiting a singer worthy the theme. Wading the streams with carts in tow, or in cases of unfordable streams, stopping to construct rafts; at times living on reduced rations of but a few ounces of meal per day; lying down at night with a prayer in the heart that they wake no more on earth, a prayer which had its fulfilment in hundreds of cases; the dying heaving their parting sighs in the arms of loved ones who were soon to follow, they journeyed on.