Three historic markers located off exit 100 of I-15 in Southern Utah:
- John Christopher Armstrong
- The Old Spanish Trail
- Southern Utah Expedition of 1849 – Winter Trail in Fremont Canyon
Southern Utah Expedition of 1849
Realizing the limited resources for pioneer settlement in the Salt Lake Valley and surrounding settlements in 1849, and the potential of many more immigrants arriving in the next few years, Brigham Young began to search out possible new settlements. Based on reports of Jefferson Hunt, who had traveled through southern Utah in 1847 and 1848, one of the regions which seemed promising was the valleys along the Spanish Trail in southern Utah Territory. The November legislature authorized the establishment of the Southern Expedition to investigate such possibilities. The exploring party, which eventually consisted of fifty-five men, was led by Mormon Apostle Parley P. Pratt. This expedition and its subsequent report helped influence the creation of dozens of new communities in southern Utah. Among the first were the settlements of Parowan and Cedar City in 1851, in what would become Iron County. This is one of the four monuments which tell the story of this historic expedition. They are located at Iron Springs, Parowan Gap, Parowan, and Fremont Canyon.
Winter Trail in Fremont Canyon
Hazardous terrain and harsh winter conditions made early exploration of this area difficult. The Southern Utah Expedition led by Parley P. Pratt began facing ominous conditions on December 15, 1849, about ten miles south of present day Circleville, Utah. They hacked a road through snow up to two feet deep and over the mountains to the east in terrain surrounded by 9000-foot peaks and deep canyons. John Brown, a member of the expedition recorded:
“It was a great undertaking and a very hazardous one to cross so large a mountain at this season of the year. There was danger of being snowed under.”
At one of the camps in the canyon, John C. Armstrong and other members of the expedition carved their names in the cliffs where they remain to this day.
On December 23, the group found the wagon tracks of the Jefferson Hunt Party, who passed through this valley in late October on their way to California. Hunt’s party split up later and one group went on to become the infamous Death Valley Forty-niners. The Pratt expedition explored the area south of this site for two weeks and passed this spot again on their way back to Salt Lake City to report the results of their findings. The canyon east of this site was named “Summer’s Gate” by the Pratt expedition because of the mild snow conditions they encountered.
However, the canyon and the wash which heads south of this site bears the name of Fremont after the explorer, John C. Fremont. The citizens of Parowan rescued the Fremont party who came though this same canyon under similar conditions in February 1854.