San Luis Valley, Colorado map
4th Street, Manassa, Colorado, looking to the South.
The trees on the left border John Morgan's lot.
A Trip to Manassa, Colorado has been on my “To Do List” for the last three or four years. This spring my husband made it a reality by driving us there. We got a taste of the route a train trip from Salt Lake to Manassa, Colorado might take, and what Manassa, Colorado is like today.
We definitely got a taste of Springtime weather in the San Juan Mountains and the San Luis Valley in Colorado. Historian Andrew Jenson wrote that the “San Luis Valley extends north and south about 150 miles, with an average width of about 50 miles. The elevation of the valley is from 7000 to 8000 ft. above the level of the sea. Winds are very prevalent in the valley, but usually only a little snow falls in the winter.” This was the valley John Hamilton Morgan guided emigrating converts from the Southern States Mission to in 1878.
Each of the five days we traveled it snowed, and each day the sun broke through revealing blue skies. As we descended below the 10,700 ft. high Wolf Creek pass in the San Juan Mountains, and dropped into the San Luis Valley, we met a wind so fierce that the skies had turned gray and were filled with dust. Gray blotted out everything, making it difficult to identify road signs. The skies cleared as we reached Manassa, but the winds never did die down.
True to John Morgan’s journal entries the railroad tracks traced the length of the valley from Alamosa, Colorado south to Antonito. We did not drive further south than Manassa. A highway followed the course of the train tracks through the valley. As we turned off the highway and left the railroad tracks behind to drive to Manassa, I was reminded that it was always a three-mile-walk for Great Grandfather John Morgan, if he hadn’t arranged for someone to meet him with a wagon.
When we arrived in Manassa we followed the Platt Map that John Morgan’s son, Nicholas Groesbeck Morgan, included in a pocket of his 1965 book, The Life and Ministry of John Morgan by Arthur Richardson.
We saw most of the Manassa sites that are posted on the Internet here. And we found John Morgan’s lot on 4th and Smith Streets where he built a home for Annie and their family, and where he planted countless trees. The home no longer stands.
This is the west side of John Morgan's corner lot.
John Morgan planted many trees on his Manassa property as recorded in his Spring 1888 journal entries.
March 20- Went across the river with Henry Huffaker to look at some government land and found a very nice tract. Had some holes dug to plant trees in.
March 21 – Accompanied by brother Samuel Jackson, went across the river and looked over the country again. Planted a dozen apple trees and six Lombardy Poplars.
March 22 – Hung my meat up to smoke and moved the coal. Fixed down the floor over the well and went across the river with several of the brethren to look at the land.
March 24 – Busy this a.m. setting out shade trees along the west side of the lot and other work about the place.
The sign is across the street on the corner.
The site where the first church and school house was built in Manassa
is marked by this cairn and plaque.
October 10-11, 1885 while John Morgan was in Kansas City he purchased some fruit trees and arranged for their shipment to Manassa. On November 25, 1885, John Morgan, Annie, and their baby daughter, Annie Ray, moved into the home he built on 4th and Smith Streets in Manassa.
To be continued.
To be continued.
John Hamilton Morgan Journal, Special Collections, Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.