This drawing/painting shows a portion of the trail that early Mormon pioneers took. The Mormon Trail spans from Illinois to Utah.
Brigham Young (June 1, 1801 – August 29, 1877) was an American religious leader, politician, and colonizer. He was the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1847 until his death in 1877. He founded Salt Lake City and served as the first governor of the Utah Territory. Young also led the founding of the precursors to the University of Utah and Brigham Young University.
Young had many nicknames, among the most popular being “American Moses” (alternatively, “Modern Moses” or “Mormon Moses”), because, like the biblical figure, Young led his followers, the Mormon pioneers, in an exodus through a desert, to what they saw as a promised land. Young was dubbed by his followers the “Lion of the Lord” for his bold personality and commonly was called “Brother Brigham” by Latter-day Saints.
Young was also a polygamist and had 55 wives and 56 children. He instituted a ban prohibiting conferring the priesthood on men of African descent, and led the church in the Utah War against the United States.
Frontpiece from book entitled The Emigrants Guide to Oregon & California, 1845.
During the 1860’s. Church Historian’s Office has this picture entitled: Wagon train assembled (or camped) in the area of Coalville, UT.
A number of communities sprang up along the road: some were supply stations for the bands of travelers, and others were permanent settlements of farmers anxious to try agriculture in the Great Basin.
The location of one such settlement, Coalville, was chosen by chance. In the fall of 1858 on a freight run between Salt Lake City and Fort Bridger, William Henderson Smith stopped to camp near Chalk Creek. He noticed that wheat that had fallen to the earth from earlier travelers’ wagons had taken root and ripened without any attention. He took samples of the wheat with him into Salt Lake City and by the next spring had convinced two other men, Andrew Williams and Leonard Phillips, to join with him in the area’s settlement. By April 1859 they were joined by Henry B. Wilde, Joseph Stalling, and Thomas B. Franklin and their families.
The rugged terrain in the Rocky Mountains made it hard for the wagons to cross. Fortunately, the lighter weight of the prairie schooners made it easier to navigate the steep mountains. Life on the trail was hard, and most people traveled in groups. They would combine their wagons to form wagon trains, this way they could share their supplies and skills with each other, helping to relieve any issues that may occur. They also could defend themselves against those who wanted to raid the wagons, such as bandits or hostile Native American tribes.
The most common type of pioneer wagon was the “prairie schooner.” These were emigrant wagons. Prairie Schooners were larger and used for shorter distances, and to haul freight as they could carry heavier loads. Some of the emigrant wagons were modified farm wagons that the pioneers already had while other pioneers had to purchase new wagons. These lightweight, affordable wagons had five or six curved wooden hoops attached to them and were usually covered in a white canvas to keep contents and the occasional passenger dry. They were often pulled by several oxen or mules, with a teamster who walked alongside the oxen to direct them with verbal commands and an occasional whip.
Completing a treacherous thousand-mile exodus, an ill and exhausted Brigham Young and fellow members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints arrived in Utah’s Great Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. The Mormon pioneers viewed their arrival as the founding of a Mormon homeland, hence Pioneer Day. The Mormons, as they were commonly known, left their settlement in Nauvoo, Illinois, and journeyed West seeking refuge from religious persecution. The final impetus for their trek was the murder of founder and prophet Joseph Smith on June 27, 1844.
Mormon Island State Recreation Area is located near Grand Island, Nebraska. It commemorates the great Mormon migration to the west. Pioneers such as George Miller ventured this way as early as 1846. The Pioneer Company, led by President Brigham Young, came through Grand Island in 1847. Thousands more Saints would come over the next few decades.
James Felix Bridger (March 17, 1804 – July 17, 1881) was an American mountain man, trapper, Army scout, and wilderness guide who explored and trapped in the Western United States in the first half of the 19th century. He was known as Old Gabe in his later years. He was from the Bridger family of Virginia, English immigrants that had been in North America since the early colonial period.
Bridger was part of the second generation of American mountain men and pathfinders that followed the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804 and became well known for participating in numerous early expeditions into the western interior as well as mediating between Native American tribes and westward-migrating European-American settlers.
John Charles Fremont (1813-1890) was an explorer and surveyor of the West, including many areas of Utah.