Daniel Potts Letter 4

[Addressed to Dr. Lukens]

Sweet Water Lake, July 8th 1827

Shortly after our arrival last fall in winter quarters, we made preparations to explore the country lying south west of the Great Salt Lake. Having but little or no winter weather, six of us took our departure about the middle of February, and proceeded by forced marches into the country by way of the Utaw Lake - which lies about 80 miles south of the Sweet Water Lake, is thirty miles long and ten broad. It is plentifully supplied with fish, which form the principal subsistence of the Utaw tribe of Indians. We passed through a large swamp of bullrushes, when suddenly the lake presented itself to our view. On its banks were a number of buildings constructed of bullrushes, and resembling muskrat houses. These we soon discovered to be wigwams, in which the Indians remained during the stay of the ice. As there is not a tree within three miles, their principal fuel is bullrushes.

This is a most beautiful country. It is intersected by a number of transparent streams. The grass is at this time from six to twelve inches in height, and in full bloom. The snow that falls, seldom remains more than a week. It assists the grass in its growth, and appears adapted to the climate.

The Utaw lake lies on the west side of a large snowy mountain, which divides it from the Leichadu. From thence we proceeded due south about thirty miles to a small river heading in said mountain, and running from S. E. to S. W. To this I have given the name of Rabbit river, on account of the great number of large black tail rabbits or hares found in its vicinity. We descended this river about fifty miles to where it discharges into a salt lake, the size of which I was not able to ascertain, owing to the marshes which surround it, and which are impassable for man and beast. This lake is bounded on the south and west by low Cedar Mountains, which separate it from the plains of the Great Salt lake. On the south and east also, it is bounded by great plains.
The Indians informed us that the country lying southwest, was impassable for the horses owing to the earth being full of holes.

As well as we could understand from their description, it is an ancient volcanic region. This river is inhabited by a numerous tribe of miserable Indians. Their clothing consists of a breech-cloth of goat or deer skin, and a robe of rabbit skins, cut in strips, sewed together after the manner of rag carpets, with the bark of milk weed twisted into twine for the chain. These wretched creatures go out barefoot in the coldest days of winter. Their diet consists of roots, grass seeds, and grass, so you may judge they are not gross in their habit. They call themselves Pie-Utaws, and I suppose are derived from the same stock.

From this place we took an east course, struck the river near its head, and ascended it to its source. From thence we went east across the snowy mountain above mentioned, to a small river which discharges into the Leichadu. Here the natives paid us a visit and stole one of our horses. Two nights afterwards they stole another, and shot their arrows into four horses two of which belonged to myself. We then started on our return, the Indians followed us, and were in the act of approaching our horses in open daylight, whilst feeding, when the horses took fright and ran to the camp. It was this that first alarmed us. We sallied forth and fired on the Indians, but they made their escape across the river.

We then paid a visit to the Utaws, who are almost as numerous as the Buffaloe on the prarie, and an exception to all human kind, for their honesty...

There is a poor prospect of making much here, owing to the evil disposition of the Indians and the exorbitant price of goods. For example,

     Powder                        $2 50 per lb.
     Lead                          1 50
     Coffee                        2 00
     Sugar                         2  00
     Tobacco                       2  00
     Vermilion                     6  00
     Beads                         5  00
     Pepper                        6  00
     Blankets (three point)        15 00
     cotton stripe, per yard       2  50
     Calico                        do.
     scarlet Cloth (coarse) do     10 00
     Blue Cloth (coarse) do        8 00
     Ribband, per Yd               0 75
     Brass nails, per dozen        0 50 
Horses cost from 150 dollars to 300, and some as high as 500.

To-morrow I start for the west, and shall not return under a year, when expect to start for St. Louis.