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Map of Soda Springs area.
Section 4, Chapter 10 -Soda Springs Area
Chapter 10:
Oregon Trail
Settling of Soda Springs by Morrisites
Mormon Colonization
A Wild Frontier Town
The Kackley Family
Butch Cassidy's Gang
Geology of the Soda Springs Area
Phosphate Mining
Mineral Springs

Oregon Trail
Soda Springs was a well-known landmark on the Oregon Trail which passed along the Bear River and turned northwest at Soda Point (Sheep Rock). Ruts can be seen in many places along the Bear River, including on the north side of Soda Point Reservoir in the Soda Springs golf course and in the Historic Park area just west of town. The mineral springs were remarkable to the early Pioneers. Steamboat Springs emitted sounds similar to a steam-powered boat and were mentioned by most of those who kept journals. It is now covered most of the year by the waters of the reservoir.

Sheep Rock
"We traveled down the (bear) river and on the 9th (July, 1834) encamped at a place called the Sheep Rock so called from a point of the mountain terminating at the river bank in a perpendicular high rock: the river curves around the foot of this rock and forms a half circle which brings its course to the S.W. from whence it runs in the same direction to the Salt Lake about 80 miles distant. The (mountain) Sheep occupy this prominent elevation, which overlooks the surrounding country to a great extent, at all seasons of the year." Osborne Russell, Journal of a Trapper. (Haines, 1965, editor, p. 3-4).

Settling of Soda Springs by Morrisites
Soda Springs was settled in May 1863, by a group of refugees (morrisites; followers of Joseph Morris) fleeing from the Mormon-controlled Utah Territory. Morris, who was convinced that he was a prophet, had organized a communal settlement near the present site of Ogden and was preaching in open defiance of Brigham Young. Morrisites were active participants in the millennial dreams of nineteenth century America. They expected the imminent Second Advent of Christ and expected to take a leading role in the society that would be established after the second coming and that would last 1000 years.

A teenage Morrisite, Emma Thompson Just, described the trip to Soda Springs in May 1863. The letter reflects both the seductive beauty of an Idaho springtime and the naiveté of the Morrisite clan:

"The hillsides were so green and flower-covered and the river was so deep and blue. The mountains are not so steep and rugged as they were at Ogden, but it is a beautiful spot. The Creator must have designed it just for this little band: logs to build our houses; firewood to keep us warm; health giving (mineral) waters to drink, streams full of fish and mountains full of game" (in Morgan, 1987).

In June 1862, a Mormon territorial posse attacked the Morrisite settlement in Ogden. Joseph Morris was killed. The remnants of the movement, after their leaders were pardoned by the Utah territorial governor, realized they needed to flee.

In May 1863, two wagon trains, including 160 Morrisites, left Salt Lake City, led by Colonel Patrick E. Connor. In January, 1863 Connor had commanded the California militia which had perpetrated the massacre of Shoshoni Indians north of Preston at Battle Creek on Bear River. Connor was antagonistic to Indians and intended to subdue them, open the area to settlement, and to counter the expansion of the Mormons, who were viewed by him as disloyal to the Union cause during the Civil War.

U.S. Militia troops under Connor established a post at Soda Springs, on May 20, 1863. Morristown was built on the north bank of the Bear River about a mile below the present townsite of Soda Springs. It is now under Soda Point Reservoir.

But the climate at 5,800 feet, 1,600 feet above the Salt Lake Valley, was more severe than anticipated and agricultural productivity was low. Frosts during summer nights repeatedly killed crops. The settlement disbanded within 2 years. Most of the Morrisites became discouraged and left. Some of those who remained spearheaded the anti-Mormon movement in Idaho a decade later. The gravestone on p. 90 is for two who stayed in Soda Springs.