Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ride 27: Davidson Family Graves

It's not that pretty – at least not by Gold Butte standards – but there isn't anywhere more historic or poignant in the whole area than a trip up toward Davidson Peak.   [For a free Google Earth file of this route see: Ride 27 - Davidson Family Graves. This map also contains the old wagon trails previously posted.]

On a short day where we just didn't want to haul the trailer very far, Gordon and I took the ride and were still back in time for the block party!

We staged at the Toquop wash trailhead just around the corner from the south exit to Mesquite. The first draw was toward the river which looked high from the recent rains.

Then north all the while looking for a passage up to the mesa on the west so we could avoid that "hateful"… washboard area. When we found it we were a bit surprised that it then took us all the way south back to the truck before it turned west again.

The trail west was fairly good until we came to a bluff where it became a narrow shelf road, occasionally washed out pretty good, which rose slowly to the top. After that it was smooth sailing up to Sink Reservoir.

We followed several very obvious old wagon trails and eventually connected with the Toquop Access Road. It led us down into a very scenic ravine with varied cacti and succulent species.

The ravine also had an older couple facing the other direction, contemplating whether or not their SUV would be able to make it through. We chatted for a spell and they were suprised to learn… well… just about everything.

It seems that most people who ride in the area have little knowledge of what they could see or anything about the history of the area. I gave them the blog and web addresses so that should help in the future.

When we eventually met with South Fork Road it was simple to follow our GPS coordinates just around the corner to the side trail and the Davidson Family Graves.

I appreciate Nevada's history, and I realize it is up to me and me alone to document its historic sites, before they are ground into dust by the callous boot heel of time.”
Bob Frenchu, Forgotten Nevada

The Davidson family (James, Maria and Joseph), recent immigrants from Scotland, joined a group of people in St. Thomas who were headed for St. George. The same day that Charles Elmer Hires was selling his first root beer in Philadelphia (June 9th,1869), the group headed their wagons toward St. Joseph (Logandale), their first stop.

On the way there however the Davidson's wagon lost a wheel. Even though James was an expert machinist (and installed the machinery in the St. George Cotton Factory) it took the tools brought to them by Benjamin Paddock to replace the wheel and wedge it up for them.

They missed their companies' leaving from St. Joseph the next morning (Thursday, June 10th). Having been warned about the dangers of traveling the Wagon Road alone, they waited a full day but could find no one else to travel with. So they did set out alone.

They needed to travel north then east about 45 miles to Mormon Well, the only water on the desert. They had gone just 30 miles when their wagon threw another wheel!

With no other choice, and a very inadequate supply of water for the 120 degree June heat, they put their faith in their 12 year old son (and their horses nose for water) and sent him on ahead. I am convinced that his parents fully realized that the now-empty one gallon water barrel had been woefully inadequate for the journey and the near-empty canteen would only provide for one to survive the 15-mile treck for water.

A week prior (June 3rd, 1869) three men (George Jarvis, William Webb and John Lloyd) had been sent to the Beaver Dam Wash to clean out and deepen the well. On Saturday, June 12th, two days after the Davidson's had left St. Joseph, their horse came into the well – riderless!

Sunday, after reviving the animal and finding that no one had come to claim it, the men backtracked the horse and easily found little Joseph's unrecognizable body just a half-mile from water lying on the trail next to the empty canteen and water barrel.

Fearing the story unrolling before them, the men continued back along the trail and found his parents lying side by side under a blanket propped against a cactus for shade.

All three were buried together along the isolated desert trail beneath the mountain peak which now bears their name.

Their graves have been marked on three different occassions, and finally with headstones and a large, metal pole cross on the Mesa.


March 22, 1805-February 20, 1808-December 15, 1856-
June 12, 1869June 12, 1869June 12, 1869

            —Offroading Home


Bob Palin said...

Why was Joseph's body unrecognizable?

D J said...

Bob... Thanks for asking. Several reasons I wrote it that way. 1- it's unlikely that three men living in St Josephs would know a 12-year-old from St. George; 2- His body had been lying in the desert heat with varmints, flies, blistering sun and critters; 3- They were more likely to recognize the horse than the boy and they didn't know the horse.

But, the most significant reason was: that was the word that the first-hand account used and I thought it best to follow their lead.

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