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The "Echo Fortifications" of the "Mormon Wall"

The "Echo Fortifications" or the "Mormon Wall" was built in 1857 as a line of defense against the U.S. Army led by General Albert S. Johnston, known as Johnston's Army. Originally the command was given to General William Harney, and the outcome would no doubt have been quite different if he had led the forces to Utah. General Johnston was a dedicated officer and of a stable temperament where General Harney stated he would capture Brigham Young and the twelve apostles and execute them. Harney had the habit of disregarding orders for what he deemed more important goals.

President Buchanan had heard rumors to the effect that the Mormon were in rebellion, and so ordered the army to march west and quell the rebellion and bring order to the territory. Brigham Young, in the meantime, did not hear of the army coming until July 23 1857 when A. O. Smoot and Judson Stoddard arrived from St. Louis to report to Brigham Young that the army was already started for Utah and that the Mormon mail contract had been cancelled by the government. They brought with them papers from New York and St. Louis with details of the expedition.

Brigham Young sent men into Echo Canyon to build a line of defense and the Nauvoo Legion was sent into Wyoming to ' harass and delay" the army. During their harassment tactics, they set fire to and burned Fort Supply. They drove off several of the horses and mules with the army. Many more of the animals died during the severe winter. However, General Johnston lost only one man, and that was from tetanus.

The fortifications were built along the cliffs of Echo Canyon. Rock fortifications were built among the crevices and dips of the cliffs. Then cedar trees were cut, the ends painted black to look like the bore of a cannon, and placed over the top of the fortifications. At night the men would march around large camp fires to make it seem that there were more men present than there actually were. The extra guns and ammunition were buried to prevent them from being exploded by accident or by enemy fire. The cliffs gave the defenders the advantage of height and better protection.

There are several sections of the mile-and-a-quarter wall that still remain. They are located between mile markers 170 and 172 along Interstate 80 and several can be seen from the interstate. The largest section remaining is where they crossed from the cliffs to the hills across Echo Creek. The reasoning was that the creek could be dammed off and the canyon flooded, if it proved necessary, to further delay and slow the army's advance. This section is also the easiest to locate and view up close. It is listed as a state historical site so that knocking rocks down from the wall or removal of any rock is against the law. To view this section, take the Echo exit, number 169, off Interstate 80. Go west under the railroad tracks and turn north for one and a quarter (1 and 114) miles. The wall lays on the east side of the railroad tracks.

Note: Many of our ancestors from the Fife and Bingham line played a part in the "Mormon Wall."

Source: Utah Travel Council


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