Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Box Canyon

June 22. 1993 San Diego County. Second landmark in a series of nine. A free standing landmark with a vista view of the canyon.
It could be said that the single most important event in the history of the Southern Emigrant Trail is the Mormon Battalion's widening of the gorge at Box Canyon, thus making the former trail the first road into Southern California. and allowing wagons to pass for the first time.

On their long march from Council Bluffs, Iowa over the course of almost one thousand five hundred miles and three years, the Mormon Battalion never engaged in battle and never fired a hostile shot. On January 29, 1847, ten days after they made their way through Box Canyon, they reached San Diego. Included among the men arriving in the small village of San Diego were four women, including 19 year old Melissa and child who had made the entire trip from Iowa to California.

A mountain peak near Kirkwood in the Eastern Sierras now honors the memory of Mormon pioneer Melissa Coray and the thousands of emigrant women who endured similar hardships in settling the West.

NO. 472 BOX CANYON - The old road, known as the Sonora, Colorado River, or Southern Emigrant Trail and later as the
Butterfield Overland Mail Route
, traversed Box Canyon just east of here. On January 19, 1847, the Mormon Battalion under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Philip St. G. Cooke, using hand tools, hewed a passage through the rocky walls of the narrow gorge for their wagons and opened the first road into Southern California.
Location: On
County Rd
S2 (P.M. 25.7), 8.6 mi S of
State Hwy
78, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park 33º00.909'N - 116º27.573'W

One of the things that was most striking in the research to write this song was the perseverance of Melissa and the Mormon Battalion, who, with minimal hand tools widened what was a ‘jackass trail’ enough to allow a 6’ by 9’ wagon to pass. The battalion recently losing many of their tools and supplies to the Colorado River when they crossed at Yuma further amplified the hardship. 

Here's a link to a video sample of the song 'Box Canyon'


BOX CANYON         © Radio Flier Music

The rocky walls of the narrow gorge is a place we call Box Canyon
Where only a mule or man could pass, before the Mormon Battalion
With ax and pick they hacked away 'twas too narrow for their wagons
1847 they made their way, and opened up Box Canyon

Chorus - On the wagon up so high she rode with her companion
Just like a ship through a canal, they sailed through Box Canyon

Melissa was the faithful wife of Sgt. William Coray
She wrote of her experience, this is Melissa's story

16 mules gave out today, it's our last 4 oz. of flour
8 wagons left from 37, this is our darkest hour
Even though the times are grim, our spirit is unbroken
And with the walls now chipped away, Box Canyon now is open

Chorus - On the wagon up so high she rode with her companion
Just like a ship through a canal, they sailed through Box Canyon
Get fiddle and bow and don't you know there'll be dancin' I must warn 'ya
It's a beautiful day we've paved the way, this trail to California
This trail to California

While we washed our clothes and cleaned our guns at Vallecito Creek
From a village nearby came an Indian that we were pleased to meet
He had a letter from San Diego, soon to be our destination
It was greetings to the Mormon Battalion, now it's time for celebration

Chorus - On the wagon up so high she rode with her companion
Just like a ship through a canal, they sailed through Box Canyon
Get fiddle and bow and don't you know there'll be dancin' I must warn 'ya
It's a beautiful day we've paved the way, this trail to California
This trail to California


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