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California wildfire threatening Mormon Battalion historic site

The gravesite of the three Mormon Battalion members killed at Tragedy Spring. [Photo Credit: Dan Bammes, KSL NewsRadio]

EL DORADO, California– The huge Caldor wildfire in California is threatening a site where three members of the Mormon Battalion are buried. Ezra Allen, Daniel Browett and Henderson Cox were scouting a route through the Sierras in June of 1848 when they were murdered. Other members of the Battalion found their bodies a few days later and buried them, and gave the site its name — Tragedy Spring. Today, it’s a stop along Highway 88, the Carson Pass Highway.

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[Photo Credit: Dan Bammes, KSL NewsRadio]

Information from CalFire, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, says flames have come near Tragedy Spring, but they had not overrun it yet as of Wednesday afternoon. The fire has already caused massive damage and evacuations in the area south of Lake Tahoe.

The site was originally marked by a memorial carved in a tree. Today, it has a bronze plaque put up by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers in 1967. DUP historian Constance Huntsman says the plaque will be replaced if the original is damaged.

“We are organized like the wagon trains were, into camps and companies and we have women who are responsible for the markers that we have throughout the United States and other parts of the world,” Huntsman told KSL Newsradio. “We still feel a responsibility and we have markers and also museums, all over, many of them, and we take care of them.”

Another piece of history created by the Mormon Battalion in the California Gold Rush period, the Mormon Emigrant Highway, passes through the area burned by the Caldor Fire.

The Mormon Battalion was a U.S. Army unit recruited from among the settlers headed to Utah when war broke out with Mexico in 1846. Its members marched from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas across what is now New Mexico and Arizona to San Diego. Some of its members were present when gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill near present-day Sacramento.

The family of Jehu Cox (an ancestor of Utah governor Spencer Cox) suffered a double tragedy as they made their way to Utah in 1848. Not only was his son Henderson killed in California as he traveled to meet them. His six-year-old daughter Lucretia was run over and killed by a wagon just a few days after they began the trek.