I wouldn’t be surprised if Leonard C. Conger looked at the landscape around remote Resting Springs several years ago and said, “It looks like a good place for an ambush.”
No, it was too early for him to recite some future films. But one day 166 years ago, he probably should have given some thought to it, as he and three others were ambushed by a group of American Indians.
Conger was one of the first people hired to regularly carry mail and other messages from Salt Lake City through the newly established Mormon community of San Bernardino in the early 1850s. He knew what it took to fetch the mail.
The best source of water for travelers was along the Old Spanish Trail in Resting Springs, California, 50 miles north of today’s Baker and 90 miles west of Las Vegas in Inyo County. Conger and three fellow travelers stopped to rest there on August 1, 1855, five days after leaving San Bernardino on horseback with a load of mail.
The springs, now on a private farm, are at the base of a hill surrounded by a large landscape of high mesquite bushes. It was there that a band of American Indians even concluded it was perfect for an ambush.
William Hyde, one of Congar’s comrades, wrote in a letter to the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, suddenly, “10 to 15 Indians made their presence at a distance, indicated by hoops and gestures, their hostile intentions.” Is.” on 17 august
All four men faced hail of arrows, while at the same time panicked mules missed several sacks of mail. During the attack, James Powell was most seriously injured by an arrow in his left hip.
Amidst the chaos, the Congars descend several times to retrieve the mail sacks and drive away the terrorized mules, some of whom were killed by arrows.
Hyde said it was clear that his only chance of survival was to ride quickly east through a break in the mountains known as the Emigrant Pass. They soon repelled the attackers, with the only losses being a bag of mail and a badly wounded mule.
Hyde wrote, “With regard to Mr. Congar’s conduct, his coolness, judgment and great (admiration) for the management are his reasons.” “All that could be done was done to save the mail. With his effort, a part survived, as was the party. ,
Mormon records show that Conger made the dangerous 700-mile journey from Salt Lake City to San Bernardino between 1851 and 1855. During that time, he and other envoys were the only source of information and instructions for them from Mormon leaders in Salt Lake City. Newly settled outpost in San Bernardino.
Their route, then with neither town nor military forts, ran south from Salt Lake until catching the Old Spanish Trail near today’s Cedar City, Utah and heading south and west across the Mojave.
It was here that 29 families from New Mexico stayed briefly in 1842 and 1843 on their way to found the first city of the Inland Empire, Agua Mansa. Mormon parties on their way to the founding of San Bernardino gave the springs their name when they stopped there in 1851. Jedediah Smith, John S. Explorers such as Fremont and Kit Carson also camped in the springs.
And these early journeys along this path were fraught with danger.
Congar, a New York native, once stopped at another important watering hole in Meadows (today’s Las Vegas), but came under fire from American Indians. He and his animals didn’t stop for 150 miles before reaching southwest Utah.
He often used petty deception. Kangar stayed in the late afternoon so that his animals could rest, while he gave the impression that he was settling in for the night.
After sunset, he will build a huge bonfire to distract the attention of his potential attackers. He loaded his animals and retreated silently into the darkness, soon miles away between him and any danger.
The strangest incident in Congar’s journey happened when he came across the victims of an attack near Meadows. He stopped to help those who survived to bury a woman killed in the attack.
On their return journey, they found the woman’s body dug up and lying near a cotton tree. He buried her body again, but on his next visit, he again found the woman lying near the tree.
In the February 17, 1924 Nevada State Journal, Anthony W. A recollection of Conger by Ivins wrote, “Three times he buried the remains of that unfortunate woman, before she was allowed to rest in peace.”
By the mid-1850s, regular postal delivery on that route was organized by the federal government.
Census records show that in June 1870, Conger and his wife and two children briefly lived in San Bernardino. He was listed as a teamster. However, he would spend most of the rest of his life on his farm in southern Utah, not far from St. George. He died there in September 1885.
who writes on the history of the Blackstock Inland Empire. He can be contacted at [email protected] or Twitter @JoeBlackstock. Check out some of our past columns in Inland Empire Stories on Facebook at www.facebook.com/IEHistory.