The Morman Trail is a 1,300-mile-long route from Illinois to Utah on which Mormon pioneers traveled from 1846 to 1847. The Trail is part of the U.S. Natural Trails System. Its official name is: Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail. The Trail passes through parts of Illinois, lowa, Nebraska and Utah.
The Morman Trail started at Nauvoo, Illinois and ended at Salt Lake City. People used this trail from 1839 to 1846. The leader of this movement was Brigham Young. In 1847 the Mormon Trail was also part of the same trail as the Oregon Trail. Collectively these trails were called the Emigrant Trail. Pioneers that used this trail included converts to the teachings of Brigham Young. Trail users were from many eastern states, Europe and the British Islands.
The trail was used for 20 years until the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869. Until that event, pioneers used handcarts to move their families and other items. Two of the hand cart pioneers were the James G. Willie and the Edward Martin groups. Both of these groups met disaster when caught by winter while out on the open plains.
The Mormons left Nauvoo on February 4, 1846 under the leadership of Brigham Young. The early departure exposed them to the elements of the worst of winter. After crossing the Mississippi River, the journey crossed unknown territory because they followed the primitive territorial roads and Indian Trails. The pioneers were not prepared for winter travel and suffered many ailments, sicknesses and disappointments.
Trek of 1846 Estimates of arriving at Salt Lake City in a few weeks were grossly mis figured. Instead of reaching their goal in a few weeks, they took months on sloppy, wet, muddy, snow, sleet and uneven roads. All of this, plus 60 mile an hour winds, drove the pioneers to the brink their physical and emotional limits.
Almost 3000 Mormons, 653 carts and 50 supply wagons tried to make the trip. Handcarts were modeled after street sweepers and were made almost entirely of wood. They were generally six to seven feet long. They were wide enough to span a narrow road track. They could be pushed or pulled with poles affixed to the cart. The three- to four-foot-long boxes and eight inches high could carry about 500 pounds. Most of this weight consisted of trail provisions and few personal possessions. Willie and Martin companies had serious problems when the company left lowa City in July of 1856. They were starting across the plains when they met severe weather in present-day Casper, Wyoming and continued to cope with deep snow and storms for the remainder of the journey. Food supplies were soon exhausted. Brigham Young made a rescue effort that brought companies in, but more than 200 of the 980 immigrants of the two parties died. The handcart company continued with more success until 1860. After 1860, the church began sending wagons to immigrants.
Completion of the Charleston County Railroad in 1869 ended the era of the handcarts and wagons. Now immigrants were able to travel by rail.
Today Salt Lake City is a large city with many residents. The Mormon Tabernacle choir has the national reputation of being one of the best choirs in America.
(Narrative and photo provided by Jena native Gale Trussell.)