“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Sin City's Mormon Fort

The Mormon faith has always held some Fortean interest for me, especially the story behind how the religion was created by the enigmatic Joseph Smith (1805 – 1844). In his early life Smith supplemented his income by searching for lost items and buried treasure, using seer stones as his method of detection. In his twenties Smith claimed to have been visited by an angel who revealed to him the location of a buried book made from golden plates (amongst other artifacts). Smith was charged by the angel not to show the plates to anyone and to translate them. Smith used a seer stone to translate the golden plates and he subsequently published the Book of Mormon, which formed the basis of the Mormon faith. Unfortunately for the world, after completing his work Smith was said to have given the plates back to the angel and as such the golden plates were lost to history.

Today Las Vegas is known as a city where gambling, drinking and debauchery are the order of the day and I was surprised to find that this concrete metropolis was home to a 19th Century Mormon fort. It seems that the oasis that is the Las Vegas Valley was first discovered by modern day Americans in the early 19th Century, when traders trying to develop trade routes west across the country to Los Angeles happened upon it. As the Las Vegas Valley had a plentiful supply of water, the traders decided that it was good place to stop off and resupply on the journey west.

The discovery of this oasis brought the valley to the attention of others and in 1855 a group of 30 Mormon missionaries from Salt Lake City travelled to Las Vegas with a view to developing a permanent settlement there. This Mormon settlement primarily comprised of an adobe fort which was built next to a nearby creek. The fort was fairly substantial and was built as a square with walls of 46m in length and 4.3m in height.

This fort can still be found today, but the fort is now mostly a reconstruction. The original fort was built from bricks made of earth, most of which have long since weathered away.

The fort.

A 19th Century wagon.
The creek that made life at the fort sustainable.
Sorting soil to make bricks for the fort's walls.
Creating the bricks.

Pictures, Las Vegas (October 2013).

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