Utah Eggs for Montana Gold Proved Profitable Deal for Trader in 1866

Utah Eggs for Montana Gold Proved Profitable Deal for Trader in 1866

By James H. Miller

, the pioneer freighter and trader, had a rough but profitable deal going for himself in October to December in 1866. He and his five six-mule team drivers purchased eggs in Salt Lake City where almost every family had a flock of chickens. Utah eggs sold for cash or were traded for groceries and supplies.

Alex started north with his wagons buying eggs all along the road north to Brigham City, where he really loaded up with eggs. It was winter and every egg had to be stored in grain. These wagons were half full or more of grain to take to Montana miners, they had to have feed for their mules as well as eggs for themselves. Alex’s wagons turned east, going up Box Elder Canyon to Mantua, then over Dry Lake into Cache Valley — everywhere, Mantua, Wellsville and Hyrum, where he continued buying and storing his eggs in grain.

At Battle Scene

He loaded one wagon in Logan alone with eggs, then North through Hyde Park, Smithfield, Richmond and Franklin. His party camped at Battle Creek, northwest of Preston, Idaho, where General Connor fought and destroyed the Shoshone Indian tribes in 1862. This was four years before but still were seen plenty of relics of that battle.

They traveled west to Oxford, still buying eggs. All eggs were wrapped in newspapers before storing in the grain, which was in boxes, so they could be handled easily and taken out easily and carefully. The winters were very cold in those days and every precaution was taken to keep the eggs from freezing.

When they reached Pleasant Valley, north of Spencer, Idaho, the snow was one foot deep. They split logs and made runners for their wagons, took off the wheels and hauled them on top of the load.

Wagons Become Sleds

Later, when they reached the Continental Divide they found bare ground again for 20 miles, (very little snow) so, the wheels were put back on the wagons, and again hauled the runners on top. Reaching Montana the snow was deep so they went back to snow runners again.

They finally reached Helena, Montana, where Alex sold the eggs at $2.00 a dozen, receiving payment in gold. This gold would be traded in Salt Lake City for $2.25 for every $1.00 worth. Alex sold his grain at a good profit. His outfits also brought a good price. He paid his men good wages, took his fortune and rode back to Salt Lake City on a stagecoach.

A very profitable expedition.

This article originally appeared in the May/June 1970 issue of Pioneer Magazine
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