Letter from Aaron McLaughlin Richey

Great Salt Lake City
Utah Territory Aug. 30/62

Dear Uncle, Aunt & Cousins

       Finding myself idle this afternoon, I thought I would drop you a line to inform you that I am still upon the land and that I have not forgotten that I left a fine family many hundreds of miles east of me. I don’t recollect when I wrote to you last, whether I informed you of my intention of going to California or not. Such however is my intention. Early in the spring I filled out to go to Idaho Territory to the new gold mines, but sold out and made up my mind to go to California. I left St. Joe, Mo on the 7th day of May and went to Quincy, Ill. From there I went to buy mules for the outfit I was going with. I traveled through a considerable portion of Ill. Way to Galesburgh, Aurora and Chicago. Finished buying and fitting up ready to start by the 19th of May. Then I took charge of the train and left Quincy on the 20th drove up the Mississippi river and crossed at Keokuk into Iowa drove across the state of Iowa and met the owner of the train at Plattsmouth in Nebraska City.
Staid at Nebraska City a few days and then on the 7th day of June we struck out on the plains and left almost all signs of civilization and have been on the Plains and crossing the Rocky Mountains ever since until a week ago we arrived in the Mormon City in the great Salt Lake Valley.

       To undertake to give you anything like even a brief outline of the Journey would consume too much time. Suffice it to say we have come through safely without losing a single mule or one of our company. We have had no sickness of any consequence only something simple and mild. We have never been attacked by Indians although twice before us and behind us have. We saw many Indians, but they all appeared friendly. Probably they were afraid of us, we were well armed and did not fear them. We had some of Henry’s 16 shooter rifles, and plenty of revolvers and single barrel rifle and felt ourselves equal to about any number of Indians. We kept a guard out every night and watched our stock. There is soldiers stationed At Ft. Kearney, Cottonwood, close to L**tha* at Cache a poudre at the foot of the Black Hills and Ft. Halleck at Twin Bridges and at Salt Lake City, besides several minor points here and there are a few soldiers so they keep Indians pretty well subdued. Last year there were 1500 Indians killed along this road and they killed many Emigrants, this year they have not been as bad.

       The scenery along the route, in some places is magnificent, other places it is somewhat dreary. Hundreds of miles, it is one vast ***** without a tree or bush, nothing to be seen but the prairie grass with the Antelope and deer bound over it or grazing at his leisure. Some days we were hardly out of sight of Antelope, sometimes there would be 20 in sight at a time and I have seen more than 100 at a time. Miles of prairie dog towns and burrowing owls. The prairie dogs are very nice to eat. I killed a great many. There the Jack Rabbit, an animal about as large as four common rabbits and one of the fleetest animals on the plains. It takes a very fleet greyhound to catch one.

       The Antelope and Jack Rabbit the fleetest animals on the plains. Nothing but the best of Grey hounds can take them, and then they must be close when they start, for one day down on the platte we started a Jack Rabbit and put in two good greyhounds not more than 100 yds behind it and they caught it. There is Elk, Black tailed Deer and many smaller animals there is also plenty of ducks, snipe brauts, wild geese and Sage hens. Sage hens are about half way between the size of a chicken and a turkey. They live in the sage break and are very tame, often let one approach within a rod before they fly. And these mountain streams are all full of the finest trout.

       The speckled trout is as fine a fish as you ever saw.  On Green river we caught them from 10 inches 2/2 feet in length. We have caught them in all the mountain streams. The weather was very cold on the mountains. Ice froze some night near half an inch thick. On the 12th of July at Bridger’s Pass we caught a fine mess of trout and dressed them and left them in a pan of water. The next morning water fish and all was frozen solid.

       Salt Lake City or the City of the Saints is near the Eastern side of the Salt Lake Valley beautifully laid out with wide beautiful streets mostly skirted with shade trees. I suppose the The land is fertile but has to be irrigated because of the dry weather. They  irrigate all the land they cultivate in the territory.

       Everything is high here at present. Flour $24 per hundred, Oats $4 pr. Bushel, Barley $5 ½ to $6  (Bushel) corn $7 pr bushel, Bacon .75 cts pr. Lb., Butter $1 pr lb., Eggs $1 pr doz., potatoes 10 cts. Pr lb, gooseberries $3 per galon, molasses $5 pr. Gal. Whiskey from $10 to $20 per galon. Sugar from 80 (cts) to $1.20 pr lb. coffee $1.25 pr. lb. Common shoes from $6 to $10 per pair. (Common) Boots   $20 (per pair) and other things in about the same proportion.

       Pasturage 50 cts per head per day for mules for longer than one day, if for one day only  one dollar per head. Money appears to be no object. You cannot buy a cigar or a drink of whiskey or wine for less than 25 cts.

       The City contains about 20,000 inhabitants and is the most quiet orderly place I ever was in for a place of the size. There is but two saloons in the City and they have to pay a city license of $1,800.00 per year each, but they don’t care for that one of the men told me that he takes in $1,500 in a week from his saloon.

       Old Brigham Young the Gov. of the territory and of the Mormon Church is a shrewd smart old fellow about 60 years of age  he has near 100 wives and I don’t know how many children. If I was with you a days I could talk considerable, but I will have to close this letter for the presents.

       Please write and direct to:

Table Rock P. O.
Howland Flats,
Sierra County,

       I will be there a few weeks, probably long enough to get an answer from the letter if you will write as soon as you receive this letter.


A. M. Richey

Transcribed 23 July 2006 by Charles C. Blankenship