Learn about the Mormon Trail at the California Trail Interpretive Center. This journey for the Mormon immigrants began in 1846 in Nauvoo, Illinois and ended in Salt Lake City, Utah. Like the other westward-bound emigrants, the Mormons settlers were hoping for a better life, and more importantly to them, religious freedom.
Driven by Persecution
The Mormon people faced severe persecution from other settlers near their communities, and it caused significant hardships for them. One Governor in Missouri even called for the extermination of all Mormon people, eventually leading to them abandoning their settlements in Nauvoo and heading West. They followed the already established Oregon and California trails for most of the journey. The Mormons were determined to make a success of this venture and ensure a home for future LDS settlers.
Life on the Trail
The first groups left on February 4th, 1846, and faced harsh winter conditions and exposure. That first team didn’t make it very far before deciding to winter near the Missouri River. They established settlements on both sides; one called Kanesville on the Iowa side and one called the Winter Quarters on the Nebraska side. Eventually, the LDS people learned the best methods for traveling along the trail and were better organized for travel. They purchased Fort Bridger, though they ultimately burned it down, and eventually made it to Salt Lake Valley.
The Handcart Debacle
Although not the first people to use handcarts to make the journey West, in 1856 Brigham Young suggested the use of them as a cheaper method of traveling West. Ten companies were formed that would use these handcarts on their emigrant journey. While most of the companies successfully made the trip with a few minor issues, the fourth and fifth companies got a late start and suffered horrific winter conditions with deep snows. A rescue was mounted to retrieve them, but 210 of 980 emigrants in those parties died.
The Emigrant Trails
The Mormon Trail ran along the Oregon and California Trails for a majority of the journey through Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah. This convergence of the three trails earned the route the name “The Emigrant Trails.” They also shared the same landmarks and resting spots on the journey, such as:
- Fort Kearney
- Scotts Bluff
- Independence Rock
- Fort Bridger
- The Needles
Learn about the Mormon Trail when you visit the California Trail Interpretive Center. Find out more about the brave Mormons who made the journey West, as well as the other emigrants, Native Americans, mountain men, forts, and historical landmarks. With interactive displays and family-friend events, there is plenty of information to discover about the history of westward expansion.