Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

December 28, 2022
Desert Odyssey: Horace & Libby Rockwell at Point Lookout

“Some say that if you stop here at twilight and sit in the quiet of gloaming, you can hear the barking of dogs and the voice of a woman” 

from “The Woman of Point Lookout”

by Elaine L. Ipson

As you descend Lookout Pass heading west, negotiating a few steep gravelly turns, you will undoubtedly notice the rock obelisk that marks the location where the “Lookout” Pony Express station was located. This stone monument was built by men working in the Civilian Conservation Corps, Company DG 2517, out of Clover Creek and Simpson Springs back in 1939. Some of the old timers said back in the day that the Indians took a shot at one of the riders or a stagecoach driver near this place so that whenever a new rider or driver was put to work here, he was told to look out! 

Many an outfit of emigrants, military expeditions, sheep herders, mustang men, cowboys etc camped in the meadow across the road from the station. Great herds of sheep were moved out of the desert winter range over the pass and down to the railhead at Tintic and Wild Mustangs and cattle were gathered and moved over the pass by local cowboys for decades.

During the Indian Uprising, or Paiute War of 1860 as it was sometimes called, this station along with many others out along the desert was burned and was not rebuilt until sometime in the late fall of that year or early 1861. Upon its completion, it is believed that a man named Horace Rockwell arrived with his wife Libby and took over the duties of station master. In Ouida Blanthorne’s “History of Tooele County,” she claims that the main reason Horace came to Utah from California was because he wanted to collect a debt of $500 that his brother Orrin Porter Rockwell owed him. For whatever reason, Porter did not deem it a priority to pay off what Horace believed he owed and it was said that Libby often told her friends that someday she would cut off Porter’s hair if he didn’t pay the debt. 

The Rockwells settled into their sometimes very busy and sometimes very droll life in the beautiful little desert mountain hollow at Point Lookout. After the exciting pony express and overland stage days, Horace operated a sort of trading post where he pumped water down from a spring to his cabin. This was the last water travelers would encounter before entering the desert proper so the Rockwell homestead was a very important place.  Rockwell sold this water to all travelers except those who passed in the night and stole what they needed, which no doubt frustrated Horace greatly. 

Local historian James P. Sharp of Vernon visited the place many times as a young man and knew the Rockwells well. He stated there was a small log house and a stable made of cedar posts and he believed they had been built by the pony express or stage people. There was a corral and a sectioned off “north pasture” as well. 

Sharp recalled that “A mere trickle of water came from somewhere in a small pipe which ended in a large barrel set in the ground and from this barrel a pipe went to a large watering trough and another pipe to another trough so that no water was lost. Large planks covered these troughs and there was a plank sign that read ‘Water 5 cents a gallon / 15 cents per span.’ Horace would always come out, throw the planks off, and let the horses fill up. They had an old tomato can to drink from and my earliest recollections of good water came not from the old oaken bucket but from that tomato can. It was cold, good and hit the spot.”

It was very important to capture all of the runoff from the spring because when a large group of cowboys, emigrants or stock arrived at these small desert springs, they could drink ‘em dry in short order and it would take quite a while for them to recharge. Sharp also claimed that this area was the scene of more than one holdup in the early-stage days when the mail went through these valleys to California.

Quite possibly the most well-known tale of Lookout Pass is that of Aunt Libby Rockwell and her dogs. It has been told before in the papers but I am certain that there are folks who are not acquainted with the story so I’ll revisit the tale again. As previously stated, Aunt Libby was married to the station master, Horace, who was the brother of the Danite Chief – Orrin Porter Rockwell. “Old Port” as he was sometimes called, was quite a character in his own right and as he ranched and lived for many years just a bit farther west down the trail, we will discuss him in detail in the coming weeks. 

Porter used to raise horses on his ranch which was located along Government Creek in between the Simpson and Sheeprock ranges. In 1870 the horse ranch headquarters was moved from that place to the old “Lookout Station” which is sometimes referred to as “Jackson’s Station” in the old records, along the Pony Express Trail. Horace and Libby lived in their desert abode at the old station house for many years and were known by all who traveled the desert.

Dr. William Stookey of Clover described the Rockwell’s as Mormons but he also stated that they were rough frontier folk. To get an idea of what he means, consider the fact that Aunt Libby smoked a pipe regularly, cussed on occasion and probably chewed tobacco as well. 

The Rockwell’s didn’t have any children, least ways not human children anyhow,  but dogs. 

The story of Aunt Libby and her dogs will be continued in next week’s story.

Jaromy Jessop has been a frequent contributing writer to the Transcript Bulletin. He enjoys sharing his enthusiasm for the West Desert with our readers. Jessop grew up exploring the mountains and deserts of Utah and has traveled to all 50 states, U.S. Territories and a dozen foreign countries. He can be followed on Facebook at “JD Jessop” and on his Facebook group “American Tales & Trails.” Jessop retains the rights to his writing and photographs. His permission is required for any republication.

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