One hundred and fifty-two years ago, Lt. John C. Fremont of the U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers, with four members of his survey expedition, paddled an inflatable rubber boat from the mouth of the Weber River due west to a small island in the Great Salt Lake. Hungry and short of provisions, Fremont hoped to find game while surveying the lake from the island summit. This was the second of the explorer's military expeditions—the first in 1842 had taken him to South Pass and the Wind River Mountains along the Continental Divide. He was becoming famous, and ambitious.
With Fremont on this September morning in 1843 were Christopher "Kit" Carson, an intrepid hunter and guide who already enjoyed a position of respect among men of the mountains; and Charles Preuss, a gifted, literate mapmaker who kept careful diaries written in his native German, but whose outward demeanor rarely mirrored his waspish personal thoughts. Two employees, French Canadian engages Baptiste Bernier and Basil Lajeunesse, had served with Fremont before, and constituted what the lieutenant regarded as his "small family." Before setting out for the island, eight of the party of 17 were sent north to Fort Hall, a Hudson's Bay Co. trading post in present Idaho, for supplies; and four men were assigned to remain ashore to guard the baggage and horses while the survey party did its work.