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History Mormon Trail

Mormon Trail

The Mormon Trail is the trail that was traveled by nearly 70,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or Mormon Church) between the years of 1846 and 1869. The trail covers 1,300 miles from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Salt Lake City, Utah. It is considered a National Historic Trail by the United States Government and is maintained as an important part of U.S. history.Religious persecution in Nauvoo, Illinois, was increasing, and the leaders of the Mormon Church decided in 1846 that it was time to leave and search for a place where they could practice their religious beliefs freely. The plan was to leave in the Spring, but increased hatred toward the Mormons made them leave earlier. On February 4, 1846, 3,000 Mormon pioneers left Nauvoo in what is referred to as the Great Exodus. The first part of the journey, which covered only about 256 miles, was difficult because of heavy rains and mud. The group had planned on making it all the way to Utah before winter, but the difficulty of the journey from Nauvoo to Nebraska made it take so long that this was not possible.

Exodus Pioneers MormonThe first group of Mormon pioneers to leave were mindful of those who had been delayed because of sickness or lack of funds. They improved the Mormon trail as they went, and established small settlements with a few buildings and planted crops.

These first pioneers ended up establishing a settlement for the winter and called it Winter Quarters. The winter was harsh, and the pioneers only had makeshift homes. More than 400 people lost their lives in the horrible conditions of Winter Quarters. Spring was a welcome event that year. On April 5, 1847, Brigham Young led the first wagon train out of Winter Quarters. The train was made up of 148 people, 72 wagons, and livestock. For the first part of the journey the Mormon pioneers followed the Oregon trail which followed the Platte River to Fort Bridger.

At Fort Bridger the pioneers left the Oregon Trail.  Instead, they followed a trail that led to California and went through Utah. This section of the journey was 116 miles and was probably the hardest part of the trail, because they had to get over the Wasatch Range, which was filled with canyons and steep passes. Making it even more difficult was the fact that they were already tired from traveling the 1,000 miles to get to this point.

On July 24, 1847, the first pioneer wagon train entered the Salt Lake Valley. The work was not over though. They immediately began planting crops and building up a city. They also had to provide for those that would be following. In 1869 after encouragement from Church leaders, the transcontinental railroad was completed. This made travel to the Salt Lake Valley much easier, and the Mormon Trail was no longer used.  About 70,000 Mormon pioneers used the Mormon Trail before the completion of the railroad.

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