Bluff Road’s Colorful Past

More than a century ago, gold-seekers and emigrants followed an old trail that started at Salt Lake City and ended at the City of Rocks in Idaho. The discovery of this new short-cut to the California and Oregon Trails was made by Samuel J. Hensley. In August of 1848 he decided not to take the disastrous route the Donner-Reed Party had taken in 1846 across the Salt Flats; instead he searched for a better route. This new route would become known as The Hensley/Salt Lake Cutoff, Old Travel Road and Bluff Road as we know it today. The new trail saved travelers 8 to 10 days of travel.

This new route would play a part in many historical events. In 1848, Hensley met up with some Mormon Battalion veterans who had been discharged and were heading to the Salt Lake Valley to join their families. Hensley recommended that they take this new route because it would save them several days of travel time. Since the group had wagons, they would be the first to cross the trail and change it from a pack trail to a wagon trail.

In 1849 the famous California Gold Rush hit. Many emigrants came across the plains and used this new route instead of the California and Oregon Trails. This new shortcut detoured thousands of people through the Salt Lake Valley for decades.

Larry Montgomery grew up in West Point. He recalled as a boy during WWII, he went out to check on the crops and saw a man digging into the berm alongside Bluff Road. “He tunneled into it all day, and then put a board over the entrance creating a door. He then moved his family into the dugout where this became their home.” He couldn’t recall how long the family lived in the dugout, but remembered seeing others do the same. “It was a tough time for all Americans,” he stated.

One of the first residents of Syracuse, Joseph Bodily and his family built their home on now historical road. Today the home still stands and can be seen at 1343 S. Bluff Road. Although with time, it has been remodeled and doesn’t resemble the original house.

Bluff Road was not only an important path for pioneers and other travelers it played a significant part in the settlement and growth of Syracuse City. Historical markers and monuments for the historically important Bluff Road can be found at 2500 S. Bluff Road and on the southwest corner of the West Point Cemetery.

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