City of Rocks
Historic Resources Study
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Historical Research

HRA relied exclusively upon secondary sources for information on American Indian use and habitation and on the fur-trade era. Compilations of emigrant diaries, assembled during previous City of Rocks cultural resource investigations (Haines 1972; Wells 1992), provided the bulk of information on the emigrant experience and on the character and location of alternate routes. The remaining information was derived from a variety of sources, including published and unpublished manuscripts, aerial photographs, cultural resource reports, census documents, historic maps, patent files, United States Geological Service and General Land Office publications and archival records, oral histories, autobiographies, local histories, historic photographs, and newspaper clipping files. These documents are described in the Annotated Bibliography (Section 6.0).

HRA also relied upon a collection of oral history interviews conducted with residents of the Grouse Creek Valley of northern Utah, 20 miles south of the project area. We deemed this use appropriate for a variety of reasons. The topography, elevation, climate, soil types, and agricultural orientation are remarkably similar. As importantly, Grouse Creek was the southern component of the Raft River and Cassia stakes of the Mormon Church. Grouse Creek residents remembered that "headquarters for all our religious layout come in from that way . . . [We] had a lot of communication with Raft River but not so much from the South." [3] Thus cultural and geographic boundaries of the City of Rocks region embrace Grouse Creek; only political boundaries exclude it.

Although the boundaries of the national reserve define the limits to the field survey and to the federal government's cultural resource management responsibilities, it was impractical to confine the historic context study to this land unit. The City of Rock's most long-standing usage has been as livestock summer range, the high-elevation component of a larger land-use system that included the irrigable lower elevation valleys east and west of the reserve, as well as the commercial and social hubs of Albion, Almo, Elba, Junction Valley, and Oakley. This larger community forms the geographical parameters of the following historic context.

Field Survey

Information derived from a review of aerial photographs, patent records, and site forms prepared by David & Jennifer Chance and Associates (1989) guided the HRA field survey, completed in April and May of 1995. Field personnel attempted to locate and document "potential" resources identified during this document review. Field personnel also assessed the larger cultural patterns manifest in the landscape. HRA's investigation of setting and landscape included documentation of natural features, vegetation, circulation systems, views and vistas, landscape dividers, and site furnishings.

Gaps in Current Research

Some details of the historical development of the City of Rocks National Reserve and the surrounding area have yet to be clarified. Some questions will be difficult to answer, thus care should be taken to present an unbiased accounting during interpretive efforts. Others simply represent gaps in current research, which can be addressed through either additional documentary or field efforts.

  • Long-time residents are as firmly committed to the veracity of Almo Massacre accounts as historians are to its unlikelihood. Dialogue with the Shoshone/Bannock regarding the incident should be continued and all interpretive use and discussion of the incident should carefully acknowledge the conflicting accounts. The incident also provides an opportunity to discuss the extent to which the "Indian Menace" came to symbolize emigrants' fear of the West. Accounts of Indian depredations greatly exceed those of death by disease or drowning, despite the fact that these latter fates were much more common.

  • There is conflicting information regarding the actual route of the California Trail from the Raft River Valley into the Circle Creek basin. It may be sufficient to say that travelers on the various overland trails did not proceed single file along one alignment. Like water flowing in a braided stream channel, emigrants followed a variety of roughly parallel paths.

  • Patent files and oral histories clearly establish that City of Rocks residents left their claims during the winter months (homestead legislation allowed a five-month absence per year). However, it is unclear to what degree this absence was compelled by snow and the need to secure schooling and wage labor, to what extent absence from the homestead continued during the summer months, and to what extent this absence was due to Mormon settlement patterns.

  • When writing their memoirs, the first Mormon settlers suggest that they settled in southern Idaho at the behest of the Mormon church: "many of the families here have been requested [by the church] to move to Oakley, Idaho and build up the Goose Creek Country"; [4] "the Mormon church sent colonies of people into Idaho to establish church communities"; [5] "my duties seemed to call me to assist in opening up some new localities." [6] This pattern of carefully controlled expansion of the Mormon domain is well documented in northern Arizona, in Utah, and in extreme southeastern Idaho. However, there is little evidence in the secondary sources that Brigham Young encouraged settlement of the Snake River region, and much evidence that these settlers came of their own volition, at the behest of friends and family. This inconsistency in the primary sources has not been resolved. However, there is no question but that, once established, the church actively supported these communities.

  • The reserve once contained at least 15 residential improvements associated with farming and ranching endeavors. Today, only two of these complexes (the James Moon and William Tracy homesteads) contain above-ground building remains — and these remains are in ruin. In all other instances, evidence of improvements and habitation are limited to artifact scatters — sometimes in association with foundation remains. Artifacts observed during the 1995 field survey include domestic and architectural items that appear to be typical of the first two decades of the 1900s. These historic sites possess some interpretive value as place-markers of human habitation. However, their information potential, and thus their eligibility under National Register criterion D, has not been assessed. Data retrieval (controlled surface collection and/or sub-surface testing) could determine the potential of these sites to yield information that is not available from documentary sources.

Project Personnel

HRA Associate Archaeologist Janene M. Caywood served as the primary point of contact with the National Park Service, directed the field survey, prepared the management summary, and edited the final report. Caywood was joined in the field by landscape architect Cheryl Miller of Amphion. Project Historian Ann Hubber of HRA conducted the historical research and prepared the historic context. Carol Conrad of HRA produced the final report.

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Last Updated: 12-Jul-2004