A Journey Through Soda Springs

As I was putting my book trailer together, I had the delight of revisiting some of the photographs I snapped on my last trip to Soda Springs and Grays Lake.

A little background, first:

My father was raised in the Grays Lake valley of southeast Idaho, just northeast of Soda Springs. I visited there nearly every summer as a child, not quite as often as an adult. I started developing a storyline set in Grays Lake, but when I stumbled upon the fascinating settlement story of Soda Springs, my characters implored me to tell that story–hence, “Soda Springs.”

I visited Grays Lake and Soda Springs again in June of 2014, and wandered through the scenes of my characters’ creation. The following are images that particularly “spoke” to me.


If you drive into Soda Springs from the East, as Tessa and her father did, you pass a beautiful spring–with a vile stench. This is  Sulfur Springs.

Current Alexander

Current day: Standing on the spot of the former Camp Connors looking toward the site of the original Soda Springs (Morristown) settlement . . .


1865 view: This is what Tessa would have seen after racing the last several miles of the journey with her ailing father. A scattering of bedraggled cabins. (The reservoir in the background also did not exist, but I can push my PhotoShop skills just so far.)


Commemorating the fort that was abandoned in February, 1865 – five months before Tessa arrived.

Anna's Cabin

Abandoned home in Soda Springs that inspired the home where Tessa and her father lived for much of the story.


Historic Hooper Springs – where Tessa first learns of the Morrisite war and polygamy, and meets William. In 1865, the clear spring was marked only by a few rocks around its edge.


Storms sweep quickly through Soda Springs–as Tessa soon learns.

8-Soda Creek

Soda Creek meanders through the valley. Before Alexander Reservoir covered the original town site, Soda Creek was the demarkation between Morristown on the south and the Brigham Young-settled Soda Springs on the north.


This was my Aunt Jennie and Uncle Vern’s store. When I was a child, they ran a small grocery store here. This building was originally a ZCMI–the second branch of the iconic department store, built shortly after Brigham Young’s arrival in the area.


On the road leading from Soda Springs to Grays Lake, just north of Henry, is a vast lava field. There are no towering mountains nearby–just rolling hills. I find it interesting that a field this large would be found without the volcano-looking cone you’d associate it with.


Sand cranes dance on the marshes. This is the Grays Lake valley of my heart, looking southward across the valley.

Cabin w Lilacs

And the cabin and barn that forever marks our arrival in this paradise.

Neils Mary

In the book, Neils and Mary Anderson become dear friends of Tessa’s. The Anderson’s really did settle Morristown, the original Soda Springs. Mary Anderson’s jaw was torn away by a cannonball in the Morrisite battle that led the sect to Soda Springs. Neils and Mary were married shortly after arriving, and their son Abe was the first child born in the settlement.


The Anderson’s homestead–the only structures remaining from the original settlement.

Watch the book trailer for “Soda Springs,” featuring images graciously contributed by some of the residents of Grays Lake.

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11 thoughts on “A Journey Through Soda Springs

  1. Susan

    Lovely pictures, Carolyn. I wish I could have seen them while we were critiquing, though you did share some. I’m glad you have them on the website. It makes the book seem more real.
    I can’t wait until it’s finally out and I can read (devour) it cover to cover!

  2. Ken Munro

    Thanks also (to continue my over-long previous post) for your Soda Springs bibliography. I especially liked G. M. Howard’s work on the Morrisites. I never had any experience with smallpox; my father did, as a high school student, along with his brother Forriest. Dad had to walk all the way home to the ranch-some 8 miles. He reports that this walk was quite a struggle.

    1. Carolyn Steele Post author

      I loved your previous post!

      And you’re very welcome for the bibliography. I found the research fascinating; I’m glad you did as well. Who knew, right? Interesting story about your dad! I’ve heard great stories from my dad about riding to/from school on horseback, and I think he said he used to have to ski to school sometimes as well. But to think of walking eight miles home with smallpox! Wow. Hard to whine about our difficult lives now-a-days, isn’t it?

      By the way, I’ll be in Soda next Saturday, January 16, signing books at Caribou Jack’s Galleria (81 S Main) from 1-3 if you know anyone else who needs a copy! And if you’re in the area, stop by and introduce yourself!

  3. Georganne Benson

    Dear Carolyn, You spoke to me at your book signing in Soda Springs. I am the nurse friend of Dr. Weber and live in Wayan, Id. After passing your book around, I finally got to read it. I praise your story and history. Mostly, I want to praise your writing. It is country eloquent, descriptive and wants me to keep turning the pages. Thank you for the pleasure to slip back in time in this area and relive the history. I wish you continue success. Georganne Benson

    1. Carolyn Steele Post author

      Oh, Dear Georganne! Thank you for your kind words. They were a balm to me tonight! I apologize for my slow response, life has whizzed by in a flurry, and here we are in May! I’m absolutely thrilled you were finally able to read Soda Springs. I remember how thoughtful you were to deliver the book to (I think it was a patient?) first. It was my sincere pleasure to meet you at the book signing, and I look forward to seeing you again!

      Sincere regards,

  4. Nancy Dalrymple Martin

    Soda Springs is my home town. My sister read the book first, so I got the Kindle edition from Amazon. I loved it! I learned so much, especially about the early settlement. (What teenager is really interested in the history of their town?) I need to return sometime and visit the Oregon Trail and Fort Connor sites, which I didn’t see while I lived there.
    Julia Stoor Rasmussen was one of my close friends through high school and for some time after. I loved Grays Lake and Wayan. Sleepovers, Friday night dances, so much fun and fond memories.
    I want to learn about the history of Soda. Hooper Springs is very familiar to me, having spent lots of time there for picnics and Hayes family reunions .
    My ancestors helped settle Bear Lake County area, more specifically Wardboro, which is just south of Montpelier, where I was born. I lived in Soda Springs from about age 2 through 19. My father is buried in the Fairview Cemetery and I have seen the Wagon Box Grave a few times. It’s good to learn more about it.
    Do you have any plans to write any more about the southeastern Idaho area?

    Hope to hear back from you.

    1. Carolyn Steele Post author

      Hello, Nancy! Sorry for the slow response. Life got the better of me for a while there. 🙂

      There are few people in the world I love more than Julia and her family. They are The Best! Fun to learn of your connection! I’m kind of flirting with a few ideas about a sequel to Soda Springs, but they haven’t quite jelled yet. I’d love to write more about the area and the early settlers who were so important to my own family history!

      And I’m thrilled you enjoyed Soda Springs. Thank you!!

  5. Tracy Norr

    I loved your Soda Springs book. My family home is in Meadowville (north of town) and my brother is now running the ranch there. Soda Springs was my summer home growing up and I claim it as home even though I only attended one year of school there. My grandmother wrote genealogy/history books for several of the early settlers’ family and she was instrumental in getting the DUP Museum opened. I hope you do a sequel…I want to read it for sure.


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