Many old maps, dating from 1795 to 1826, have laid down upon them an inland sea, or lake, together with many other strange rivers and creeks, which never had any existence except in the minds of their progenitors, taken from the legendary tales of the old trappers, who in turn got them from the savages.
The early emigrants to Oregon and California did not travel within many miles of the Great Salt Lake, so but very scanty reports are to be found in relation to the country. General Fremont, too, like a great many explorers, got puffed up with his own importance, and when, on the 6th of September, 1846, he saw for the first time the Great Salt Lake, he compares himself to Balboa, when that famous Spaniard gazed upon the Pacific. Fremont, too, says that he was the first to sail upon its saline waters, but again, as in many of his statements, he commits an unpardonable error; for Bridger’s truthful story of the old trappers who explored it in search of streams flowing into it, in the hopes of enlarging their field of beaver trapping, antedates Fremont’s many years.
Captain Stansbury, of the United States army, made the first survey of the lake in 1849-50. Stansbury Island was named after him; Gunnison Island after Lieutenant Gunnison, of his command; Fremont’s Island, after that explorer, who first saw it in 1843, and called it Disappointment Island.
Members of Captain Bonneville’s company first looked upon the lake from near the mouth of the Ogden River, in 1833. His name has been given to a great fossil lake, whose shore line may now be seen throughout the neighbouring valleys, and of which the Great Salt Lake is but the bitter fragment.
The outlet to this vast ancient body of water has been shown by Professor Gilbert to have been at a place now called Red Rock Pass.
The Otoes, once occupying the region at the mouth of the Platte, were a very brave and interesting tribe. When first known to the whites, in the early part of the century, the chief of the nation was I-e-tan, a man of great courage, excellent judgment, and crafty, as are always the most intelligent of the North American savages. His leading attributes were penetration of character, close observation of everything that occurred, and a determination to carry out his ideas, which were remarkable in their development. An old regular army officer, long since dead, who knew I-e-tan well and spoke his language, said that he had known him to form estimates of men, judicious, if not accurate, from half an hour’s acquaintance, and without understanding a word that was spoken. But beneath his calm exterior there burned a lava of impetuous passions, which, when strongly moved, burst forth with a fierce and blind violence.
I-e-tan had the advantage of a fine and commanding figure, so remarkable, indeed, that once at a dinner, on a public occasion, at Jefferson Barracks, his health was drunk, with a complimentary allusion to the lines from Shakespeare: