Mark Henshaw

July 24, 2020 11:00 AM MDT
Brigham Young was lying in the bed of a wagon, having been severely ill for the last twelve days, when he saw the valley for the first time.1 He was forty-six years old, short and quite stocky, a carpenter by trade and physically robust; but “mountain fever” could put even the strongest men flat on their backs. Several diseases fell under that generic name because they all produced high fever, severe head and body aches, deep pain behind the eyes, chills, nausea, and vomiting. Colorado tick fever was one of the least severe of these illnesses, usually passing in a few days after the onset of the symptoms, but Brigham had been down for almost two weeks, suggesting that he may have contracted the more serious Rocky Mountain spotted fever. If so, it was remarkable that he was still alive. That strain persisted for weeks, and the fatality rate was high owing to the inflammation of the heart, lungs, and brain or the kidney failure it produced. The only known treatments were home-brewed remedies and rest, but sleep was hard to come by in a wagon on the plains. Summer days were bright and hot, and Brigham would have felt every bump in the road as the wooden wheels rolled over the uneven land. And he wasn’t alone in his suffering. Thirty-seven other Latter-day Saints traveling with him had also contracted the fever—a full quarter of the company. But they did not have the luxury of time to grant the sick much rest.2
7 Min Read