The Mormon Trail

The Mormon Trail: Yesterday and Today

William E. Hill
Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    The Mormon Trail
    Book Description:

    Back in print, this essential reference for readers interested in the Mormon Trail is part history, part resource book, part guide and photographic essay. It includes an historical introduction, a chronology, excerpts from trail diaries, along with maps, over 200 then-and-now photos, and descriptions of major museums and displays along the trail. By the author of previous volumes on the Oregon, California, and Santa Fe trails.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-373-7
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. vii-xi)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. xii-xiv)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xv-xxii)
  6. INTRODUCTION The Nature of the Mormon Trail
    (pp. 1-14)

    The Mormon Trail experience is unique when compared with the experiences of the other major trails of westward migration. Some of the characteristics associated with the Mormon Trail are similar to those of the other trails. When those characteristics are compared or discussed individually, it would seem to lead one to the conclusion that the trail experiences are the same, but it is the combination of those individual characteristics, along with other factors, that lead one to conclude that the nature of the Mormon Trail experience is unique. By examining the motivations, demographic characteristics, practices of the Mormons, planning and...

  7. Early History
    • The Mormon Church, the Development of the Mormon Trail, and Mormon Migrations: 1803–1869
      (pp. 17-32)

      Unlike the history of the Oregon, California, and Santa Fe Trails, the history and development of the Mormon Trail is a story of both the usage and improvement of previously identified routes and of the religious events that influenced the migration of Mormons west to Utah and the Great Basin.

      President Thomas Jefferson purchased a vast tract of land west of the Mississippi River from the French government. This was the single largest peaceful expansion of the United States in its history. The lands included in the Louisiana Purchase contained most of the area through which the Mormons would later...

  8. Maps, Guidebooks, and Diaries
    • Maps
      (pp. 35-48)

      By 1845 it had been determined that the Mormons could no longer safely remain in the Illinois area. However, their leadership, under Brigham Young, had yet to determine where they would establish their new Zion. The decision had been made to move west, but not to a specific location. Earlier some had talked of Texas, Oregon, California, or the isolated area of the Great Basin. It seems that, before his death, Prophet Joseph Smith had even prophesied that their Zion would be found in the Rocky Mountains. Two major problems faced by Brigham Young and the other leaders involved the...

    • Guidebooks
      (pp. 49-56)

      By 1847, when the Mormons were ready to embark on their journey west from Winter Quarters to establish their promised land, over 8,000 other emigrants had already moved west. Established trails already existed in many areas that would be followed by the emigrating Mormons. In addition to the earlier emigrants, numerous military exploratory expeditions had gone west and hundreds of trappers had been traveling back and forth along the Platte River from the mountains to the Missouri since the early 1800s. Routes had already been established to Oregon and to California with their jumping-off places located along the Missouri River...

    • Diaries
      (pp. 57-74)

      While many emigrants recorded the events of their journeys in their diaries, most did not. It is estimated that perhaps only one in 200 to 250 emigrants recorded the events of the trip. Our knowledge about what it was like traveling in a wagon company is based on those diarists, and most of them have not been published, nor are they available for the general population. Also, most of those diaries are rather short summaries from a few sentences to a paragraph, noting the mileage and perhaps a couple of events of daily travel. Only a few are truly detailed...

  9. Pictorial Journey
    • Artists
      (pp. 77-80)

      There are only a very few artists or photographers specifically associated solely with the Mormon Trail. There are, however, a number of other emigrant artists who sketched and painted scenes along the Oregon-California trails which include the major portions of the Mormon Trail. There are probably only two artists primarily associated with the Mormon Trail and familiar to Mormon Trail buffs. The first is Frederick Hawkins Piercy, a painter, who traveled from England to accompany a Mormon wagon company to Salt Lake City in 1853. The other is Carl C. A. Christensen who traveled over the Mormon Trail as a...

    • Pictorial Journey
      (pp. 81-86)

      Come now and follow along on a pictorial journey west on the Mormon Trail to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. View the journey through the art of early emigrants that captured their journey. See not only the major landmarks, but many minor sites and historic places. Then compare the sites they recorded with those of today as photographed by the author. Relive the experience and journey with them.

      Most Mormon emigrants used one of two major methods of transportation on the journey to Salt Lake City. Wagons pulled by oxen were used by the first wave of Mormons...

    • Illinois
      (pp. 87-96)

      Both the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have visitor centers in Nauvoo. Both have been active in restoring new life to old Nauvoo. Each center has fine displays and programs and should be visited. Many of the restored pioneer shops and homes are located near them.

      The Mormon exodus from Nauvoo began in 1846. Piercy did not visit Nauvoo until 1853. By then Nauvoo had been sold to the Icarians, a French utopian society. The town and the Temple had deteriorated. This is how Piercy saw Nauvoo,...

    • Iowa
      (pp. 97-105)

      The Mormons with whom Piercy was traveling started their overland journey from Keokuk, Iowa, about twelve miles south-southwest of Nauvoo. Describing the Mormon camp he wrote, “I sallied out in search of the camp, which, after climbing a steep bluff on the edge of the River, I found most picturesquely situated on the top of a hill,…commanding a view of the country for miles around….The emigrants from each nation had wisely been placed together, and those who crossed the sea together were still associated as neighbours in Camp….Before leaving I made the accompanying sketch of the Camp.

      Today Keokuk has...

    • Nebraska
      (pp. 105-109)

      This plate shows the view from what was left of Winter Quarters looking northeast towards the Mormon Ferry. In his narrative Piercy wrote that a cabin, the last remnant of Winter Quarters, was being burned when he arrived. Note a cabin burning to the right in this plate. The wagons shown climbing the hill on the trail coincide with the view from the Iowa side view.

      This is another of Peter Hansen’s 1846 drawings. The bottom half of the sketch is actually the right half of a panorama of the area. Cutler’s Park was actually established before Winter Quarters. However,...

    • Kansas
      (pp. 110-110)

      While Fort Leavenworth was not on the Mormon Trail, it did play a role in Mormon history. The Mormon Battalion came here for outfitting after leaving the Kanesville area. This fort was the location from which Kearny’s army departed for Mexico and California in 1846. Note the blockhouse and trail going up the bluff to the left of center.

      Below is a similar view today. You can walk up the hill in the same trail that the Mormon Battalion volunteers might have walked. Once at the top, only the base of the old blockhouse can be seen. The main parade...

    • Nebraska
      (pp. 111-125)

      The first major crossing for the Mormons and other emigrants after leaving the Omaha area was over the Elk Horn River. There were a couple of main crossing areas. Simons made these drawings of one site in 1854. The first one shows the view from the east side looking southwest at Mormon wagon companies camped and waiting for the ferry across the river.

      Here is a similar view of the area today. The river has changed its course since Simons painted the site, but by examining the treeline and fields, the old riverbanks and course can be seen. Horses now...

    • Wyoming
      (pp. 126-161)

      This C. C. A. Christensen painting depicts the Mormon vanguard pioneer party breaking camp and then crossing the Platte River.

      Charles Savage took this photo of a Mormon wagon company crossing the Platte River in August 1866. There were no trees in sight where this company crossed the river. Another part of the wagon company is barely visible in the distant background.

      Piercy visited and sketched the fort twice, first on his way out and then again on his return. This view was made during his return trip. It shows both the old adobe Fort John (also known as Fort...

    • Utah
      (pp. 162-182)

      Another major landmark is Cache Cave. Orson Pratt with the Mormon pioneers noted, “Here is the mouth of a curious cave in the centre of a coarse sandstone fronting to the south…. being about 8 feet high and 12 or 14 feet wide. We called it Reddin’s Cave, a man by that name being one of the first in our company who visited it.” Before the emigrants, it had been used by Indians and trappers. They cached goods in the cave, hence its name. Clayton recorded it as Cache Cave. Today the area is closed to visitors. For years people...

  10. Historic Sites
    • Museums and Displays
      (pp. 185-198)

      For those who wish to further increase their understanding and appreciation of the Mormon Trail experience, there are numerous historic sites that can be visited. Many of these are conveniently located along major highways; others are on smaller local roads. Most have museums or displays that help tell the story of the trail. Some sites are associated specifically with Mormon history, while others deal with the experiences of all emigrants. Many will require hours to view and appreciate, while others have only small interpretive signs to read. All, however, represent historic events, places, or scenes experienced or viewed by Mormons...

  11. Readings and Sources
  12. Index
    (pp. 211-216)