Mojave River Valley Museum
The Swarthout Family
The Mormon Battalion
On the 11th of June, 1847, accompanied by
Captain Jefferson Hunt's
the Mormons trek for Salt Lake started. They left Council Bluffs, Iowa; and after
getting across the Elkhorn River, they started on their way westward. Prior to their
arrival at Council Bluffs, the United States Government had asked for 500 volunteers
to fight in the war with Mexico, these volunteers, which included Nathan and
Hamilton Swarthout, were recruited into the Mormon Battalion
The civilian wagons trains traveled up the North side of the Platt River in a
company of 666 wagons which included Daniel Spencerís group of 100 wagons. These
wagons were divided into groups, and addressed as such; Ira Eldredgeís 50, Jedediah
M. Grantís 50 and Erastus Binghamís 10. The entire company was so large that it was
organized with many captains to guarantee the best of order. In long columns they
traveled, at two wagons abreast, making two roads. The wagon train literally
stretched horizon to horizon.
Ira Eldredge's 50, which were a part of the Daniel Spencer Company, officially
started their pioneer trek, with 76 wagons and 177 people. The captains were Isaac
Haight, Hector Haight, Samuel Ensign, Erastus Bingham, and George Boyes.
Included in the Daniel Spencer Company was a wagon group that was led Farnum Kinyon.
The following is a list of families that were included in this wagon group: John
Adams, John Harris Henderson, Farnum Kinyon, George B. Kinyon, Hyrum Kinyon, Lucinda
Kinyon, William H. Kinyon, Ann McMinds, Emily Ann McMinds, James McMinds, William
McMinds, Elizabeth Meaks, Peggy J. Meaks, Pridy Meaks, Sarah Meaks, Louisa Norris,
Betsy Persons, Carlos Shephard, Charity Shephard, Lydia Shephard, Samuel Shepherd,
Charles Swarthout, George W. Swarthout, Horley (Harley) Swarthout, and Tramand
The wagon company divided near Laramie, Wyoming. The Battalion, under Captainís
Huntís command, headed for California. Ira Eldredge's group was one of those that
continued on to Salt Lake and then subsequently headed for California. In that group
was George W. Swarthout
After the Mormon Battalion was taken out of service in 1847, Captain Jefferson Hunt,
of the Mormon Battalion, led another group of settlers into San Bernardino 1848. The
stretched from Salt Lake across the Mojave Desert and down through
Cajon Pass. The
Mormon battalion had survived the harsh desert, only to find themselves in
a place full of boxed canyons-and face to face with a narrow draw that was
impossible to navigate their wagons through. The only way through the draw with the
Battalionís troops and remaining five wagons, was to hewn the hard rock walls with
axes to increase the opening.
To reach the promised land, they first had to move a piece of mountain-perhaps a
little faith was applied, but it was very difficult physical work that got it done.
Men hacked at the solid rock throughout the day. The back breaking work expanded the
narrow gap, but it was still too narrow for wagons to pass through. Already pushed
to the physical breaking point by the very difficult trek across the Mojave, the men
tossed their axes aside and began to take the wagons apart, piece by piece. In his
diary, Sgt. G. Cooke stated that the Battalion named this place as Box Canyon, and
not with affection. The location of the narrow gap was in the northwest area of what
is now known as Cajon Pass.The wagons were later reassembled on the valley floor,
and they made camp is a small valley just northwest of a group slanting rock
formations that are referred to today as the
According to Wrightwood History, and the History of the San Gabriel, written by John
Robinson, the Mormon Colony purchased the San Bernardino Rancho from the Lugos in
1851. Two of these Mormons, Nathan and Truman Swarthout, homesteaded in Lone Pine
Canyon. Shortly, they expand their land holdings to include the valley that now
bears their name. The Swarthouts abandoned their holdings when the Mormons returned
to Salt Lake City in 1857. Robinsonís account was verified by other sources. The
December 20, 1988 special issue of San Bernardino Sun Telegram, "Covered Wagons
Families", stated that the Swarthout Ranch holdings in Lone Pine Canyon were
abandoned was due to Indian problems and bear menace.
Despite the obvious influence and contribution of this amazing family in the San
Bernardino, Cajon Pass and Wrightwood area, there is some confusion in previously
written local history.
In reality, it was George Swarthout who settled in Lone Pine Canyon and claimed a
vast area that extended from present day lower Swarthout Valley, near the Cajon
Pass, to the
Big Rock Creek
area in what is called today
Valyermo. Valyermo is
approximately 19 miles west of the mountain community of Wrightwood, California.
This great expansion of land was what Swarthout called a "cattle claim," and he
settled in the area in 1847. It had be speculated that the cattle on this land
holding came from the vast number of cows that populated the San Bernardino Valley
and was made available when the Lugo cattle ranch was purchased by the Mormons. The
Swarthout Ranch holdings in Lone Pine Canyon were not abandoned due to Indian
problems and bear menace; Almon Clyde purchased the land from George Swarthout
around 1853. Clyde and nearby Glen Oaks Ranch communicated back and forth using
mirrors to alert each other of Indian problems.
The Swarthouts were just getting started in the San Bernardino area, and what an
interesting family it was; we start with Truman Swarthout.
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