Mormon Pioneer
Historic Resource Study
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The following is a list of sixty-seven historic sites along the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Salt Lake City, Utah. Many of these sites are also referenced in the narrative part of this study (with cross-referencing to this chapter). [1] Thirteen are already on the National Register, indicated here by the letters NR, followed by the date the site was added to the National Register and its reference number. Twelve sites (indicated by the letters REC) are recommended for nomination to the National Register through this historic resource study.

These recommendations have been made in accordance with the guidelines detailed in The National Register Bulletin No. 16 National Park Service, 1986.

The general guidelines state that the sites must possess "integrity of location, setting...feeling and association, and [must be] associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of history" and that "are associated with the lives of persons significant in our past...." [2]

The sites herein nominated, furthermore, fit the proper "function and use" categories of the guidelines—namely funerary, landscape, and transportation. [3]

Such are the general requirements. The more specific qualifications met by each recommended site will be detailed below.

In Iowa, Nebraska, and Utah, MPNHT trail ruts are so rare that all vestiges of them known to the author are presented in this study. This is not the case in Wyoming, where there are miles of Mormon-Oregon-California trail ruts. For Wyoming, only selected ruts are mentioned. [4]

NOTE: In the following account of historic sites all quotations following the words "The text is..." are taken from official historic markers at those historic sites. Also in this chapter a few abbreviations are used: sec. for section, T for Township, R for Range, and N, 5, E, and W for the points of the compass. County maps issued by the respective states are necessary to locate sites according to these section, Township, and Range designations.



This site and monument is at the foot of Parley Street in Nauvoo and marks the approximate site where the Mormons crossed the river into Iowa.

The text on this Mormon Church marker is:

EXODUS TO GREATNESS. Near here, the Mormon exodus to the Rocky Mountains began on February 4, 1846.... Fleeing enemies, these refugees crossed the Mississippi River with their wagons on flatboats, except for a few days when they crossed on ice....

Seeking freedom to worship God as they believed, more than 50,000 Mormon pioneers, mostly with ox-drawn wagons or handcarts, crossed the plains to the Rocky Mountains before the completion of the transcontinental railroad May 10, 1869.



The Mormon Trail of 1846 in Iowa proper begins in what is now River Front Park in Montrose. This was the site of the first Fort Des Moines (1834-1837). The site of the old fort, now contained in this park, is located at the eastern end of Main Street and is marked by a bronze plaque set into a boulder at the south end of the little park.


The site is 7 miles west of Montrose on road J-72, in secs. 11 and 14, T66N, R6W, Lee County.

This was the staging ground, where in February 1846, the Mormons organized themselves for their trek across Iowa. There is no marker here.


On March 5, 1846, the pioneers forded the Des Moines River at Bonaparte, Iowa. This fact was recently commemorated by a sign on the Bonaparte side of the bridge over the river on Highway 79.

The text on this county sign is:

Brigham Young and band of Mormons crossed the Des Moines River here March 5, 1846 on their trek to Utah.


This is about 6 miles west on road J-40 from the western exit of Lacey-Keosauqua State Park, Van Buren County, in sec. 32, T69N, R11W. Here the Mormons lightened their loads by caching some ordnance.

There is no marker here, but in 1985 two Mormon graves were found and marked by relatives. These graves are in the NE 1/4 of sec. 32, but one must ask locally for directions and secure permission to visit them.


This site is in Wayne County, in sec. 4, T67N, R20W.

Here in April 1846, William Clayton wrote the words to the most famous of all Mormon hymns, "Come, Come, Ye Saints." A marker commemorating this event was erected here July 1990 and is located at the entrance of Tharp Cemetery.

The text on this Mormon Church and Wayne County marker is:

The Hymn That Went Around the World: "Come, Come, Ye Saints" was the great hymn of the Mormon immigration. It was composed near here April 15, 1846, by William Clayton, clerk of the first group of Latter-day Saints to leave Nauvoo, Illinois....

First known as "All Is Well," this is the best known of all Mormon hymns. It buoyed up thousands of pioneers on their way west. Through translations it has come to be recognized all over the world.

William Clayton (1814-79) was a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1837, among the earliest in England...the hymn was set to the music of a popular English folk tune, "All Is Well."

At the time the hymn was written, the pioneer camp was located along the ridge west of Tharp Cemetery. This ridge divides two branches of Locust Creek.

Erected by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Wayne County Historical Society. July 1990.

Near here in a pasture in the NE 1/4 of section 4 are faint ruts, perhaps dating from 1846. The General Land Office survey of 1852 shows that an old trail did go this way.

There is also an exhibit dedicated to this event in the Wayne County Historical Society Museum at Corydon, on Highway 2 about 15 miles northwest of Locust Creek.


This cemetery not only meets the qualifications of the general guidelines of the National Register Bulletin No. 16, but also because of its "association with historic event[s]" and because it is "primarily commemorative in intent," and because "age, tradition...has invested it with its own historical significance." [5] (See Appendix D, Illustration 10.)

In the town park of the small community of Garden Grove, Decatur County, is a small marker commemorating the fact that the pioneers founded Garden Grove in 1846 and built a permanent camp for the benefit of those who would follow.

The text on this community marker is:

Dedicated 1956 in memory of the Mormons who founded Garden Grove, Iowa in 1847 [sic 1846].

One mile straight west of this marker on a county road is a small, three-acre trailside historic park maintained by the Decatur County Conservation Board. Just to the north of an A-frame picnic shelter is a fenced plot enclosing a metal marker on a sandstone slab commemorating "The Latter-day Saints at Garden Grove" and those who are buried in that park. No graves are visible.

The text on this Mormon Church marker is:

THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS AT GARDEN GROVE. Early in 1846 thousands of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) left their homes in Nauvoo, Illinois bound for the great basin in the Rocky Mountains.

Moving westward across Iowa, their advance company made camp here April 25, 1846 calling the site Garden Grove.

Within two weeks, 359 men under the leadership of President Brigham Young cleared 300 acres of land, planted crops, built log houses, and cut 10,000 surplus rails for fencing and enough logs to build 40 additional houses.

Garden Grove thus became a stopover for many emigrants that followed later. Death overtook some, however. They were buried here. Refreshed by their stop at this place, the Mormon Pioneers went on to the Rockies where they founded cities and towns and made the desert to "Blossom as the Rose."


This site meets the same NR criteria of site 7.

This site is near Thayer, Union County, in sec. 8, T72N, R28W. (See Appendix D, Illustration 11.)

Like Garden Grove, it was a permanent camp on the trail for the benefit of the Mormons who followed the pioneers west. There is little left today of the old campsite, which today is a small, 9-acre park with informative signs and historical markers maintained by the Union County Conservation Board. In 1928 the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) also placed a marker here and in 1888, the Mormons erected a monument honoring their dead, who rest in the adjacent cemetery. This monument may have been the first marker to a historic site erected in Iowa.

The text of the state of Iowa marker is:

MT. PISGAH-MORMON PIONEER WAY-STATION. Between 300 and 800 Mormon pioneers perished here from 1846 to 1852. Having been driven from their homes by armed mobs, they stopped here on their westward trek, named it Mt. Pisgah after a Biblical mountain range, and established a way-station. Thousands of acres were cleared, buildings built, and caves dug for shelter until log cabins were constructed, but lack of food and inadequate shelter took their toll. In spite of hardships, Mt. Pisgah became a stopping place for an almost endless trail of westward-bound Mormon Pioneers until 1852, when the last of the Latter-day Saints left and the site was bought by Henry Peters and named Petersville.

The original community was located on the slope and flat lands east of this spot. The cemetery extended down the hill to the west, north, and south beyond the railroad tracks. Headstones were long ago removed or destroyed by the elements, but the large monument was erected in 1888.


Two miles east of Bridgewater, Adair County, on a county road is the 160-acre Mormon Trail Park and Morman [sic] Lake maintained by the Adair County Conservation Commission. This park commemorates the fact that the old Mormon Trail ran about 1 mile to the south.


This site meets the same NR criteria of site 7, and it also fits into the transportation and landscape categories of the NR. (See Appendix D, Illustration 12.)

Some of the very few, if not the only, extant Mormon Trail ruts in Iowa are found near this Mormon Trail Park. They are located in sec. 4 of Washington Township, Adair County north of County Road G-53, on the property of Mr. Jacob Pote. The deeply eroded ruts, on his private pasture ground, rum east and west for about one-quarter of a mile, commencing approximately one-quarter of a mile west of his home. The author's study of the original 1850 General Land Office survey of Iowa shows that the old trail did go this way.


On a gravel road 1 mile due south of Lewis, Cass County, is the Cold Spring State Park. Near the parking area in the camping part of the park, close to a set of four swings, is a National Park Service MPNHT sign. About 100 feet west of this sign is a fence separating the park from some fields. Here, extremely dim traces of the old trail can be seen crossing the fields.


About 1 mile west on Minnesota Avenue, in the present community of Lewis, Cass County, is the site of an old Indian Town, a Potawatomi settlement on the east bank of the Nishnabotna River. The Mormons noted and visited the settlement. This town was the junction of the Mormon Trail with a military trail from Raccoon Forks, site of Ft. Des Moines II (1837-1846). It was also here that the handcart companies from Des Moines intersected the Mormon Trail of 1847.


One mile west of present Macedonia, Pottawattamie County, on County Road G-66 is Old Towne Park, an undeveloped 8-acre park near where some Mormons temporarily settled in 1850. The area became known as the Mormon Trail Crossing. There are no signs or markers here.

Kanesville/Council Bluffs Area

While the Mormons were in the Kanesville/Council Bluffs area for some years, especially between 1846 and 1853, and established three ferries and several communities, almost all historic sites have given way to urban sprawl and there is very little to see today. (See Appendix D, Illustration 13.)


Near the Iowa School for the Deaf on U.S. Highway 275, close to its junction with Highway 92, is the general area of the first Mormon camp in the Council Bluffs area. (There is a marker here commemorating the Mormon Battalion that fought in the war with Mexico, 1846-1848.)


At the north end of Bayliss Park on South Main Street in downtown Council Bluffs, is a bronze marker commemorating the Mormon Trail passing through Council Bluffs.

The text on this community marker is:

This boulder commemorates the early travel upon the Mormon Trail through Kanesville, now Council Bluffs, and is dedicated to the memory of the throngs who crossed Iowa in advance of settlements....


The Mormons had three main places from which they ferried across the Missouri River into Nebraska where they finally set up their Winter Quarters of 1846-1847. Two of these places correspond quite closely with where the South Omaha and the Mormon Pioneer Memorial bridges are today. (The third site is some 20 miles to the south, near present Plattsmouth, Nebraska.) On the Iowa side there are no markers at any of these sites, but the Mormon Pioneer Memorial Bridge, the Iowa end of which is located 10 miles north of Bayliss Park on Interstate 680, can be considered a memorial. There is a historical marker for this bridge, but it is on the Nebraska side. (See Historic Site 17.)



(For the location and significance of this site see Historic Site 16.) This marker used to be on the south side of the entrance ramp to what is now the eastbound lane of the bridge, which has been incorporated into Interstate 680. It has since been moved to the grounds of the historic old Florence Bank at 8502 North 30th Street. The marker was originally erected in 1953 by the Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association when the original span of this bridge was formally dedicated.

The text is:

MORMON PIONEER MEMORIAL BRIDGE, This bridge is on the Mormon Pioneer Trail from Nauvoo, Illinois, to the Rocky Mountains. Driven from their homes by mobs, many of the dispossessed Mormon people crossed the Mississippi River on the ice in February 1846.... Winter Quarters were established on the west bank of the Missouri River, and a ferry was operated at this site. Six hundred of these people-Nebraska's first white settlers-died here that winter....

Winter Quarters Area Historic Sites

Today in the area of old Winter Quarters are several historic sites and markers commemorating Cutler's Park, Winter Quarters, the Mormon Cemetery, and the old Mormon Mill. There are also streets named Young Street, Mormon Street, and Mormon Bridge Road, and a Mormon Visitors' Center, all located in the general area of 30th and State streets.


This site is located on Mormon Bridge Road just north of the entrance to the Forest Lawn Cemetery. This short-lived community, selected by Alpheus Cutler, was the Nebraska Mormon headquarters in 1846, just prior to the establishment of Winter Quarters. It is known today as "Nebraska's First City." In 1988 the Mormon Church placed a marker here. (See Appendix D, Illustration 14.)

The text on this Mormon Church marker is:

CUTLER'S PARK, NEBRASKA'S FIRST CITY. The first city in Nebraska, Cutler's Park, was founded here in August 1846 by 2500 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) who were en route to the Rocky Mountains. This settlement became the headquarters of the church and extended on both sides of the modern-day Mormon Bridge Road. Although comprised of only tents and wagons arranged in orderly squares, the short-lived community had a mayor and city council, 24 policemen and fireguards, various administrative committees, and a town square for public meetings.

In mid-August the settlers adopted the territory's first Anti-Pollution Ordinance—a regulation banning open burning. In September 1846 the camp began moving to Winter Quarters, three miles northeast. When the last residents of Cutler's Park moved in December, they left behind fenced streets, an improved communal spring, and about 800 tons of hay that would help supply the next group of pioneers on their journey west the following year.


In the southern end of the Florence Park at 30th and State streets is a Nebraska Historical Marker.

The text is:

WINTER QUARTERS. Here in 1846 an oppressed people fleeing from a vengeful mob found a haven in the wilderness. Winter Quarters, established under the direction of the Mormon leader Brigham Young, sheltered more than 3,000 people during the winter of 1846-47. Housed in log cabins, sod houses, dugouts, they lacked adequate provisions. When spring arrived more than six hundred of the faithful lay buried in the cemetery on the hill. Winter Quarters became the administration center of a great religious movement.

In the spring of 1847 a pioneer band left Winter Quarters to cross the Plains to the Great Salt Lake Valley. Thousands of others followed this trail. In 1855, Young was forced to utilize handcarts for transportation. The first company, comprising about five hundred persons, left here on July 17 and reached the Valley on September 26, 1856....


This site meets the same NR criteria as detailed in site 7. (See Appendix D, Illustration 15.)

The site can be found in old Florence, now North Omaha, at the intersection of State and 33rd streets.

It is estimated that some 600 Mormon emigrants died in the Winter Quarters area, many were buried here during 1846-1852. There are several markers in and near the cemetery.

In this cemetery are some of the finest works of sculpture produced by the Mormon Church. One should note the bronze memorial gates to the front and rear and the nine-foot-tall bronze statue of a grieving family within the cemetery, all by Avard Fairbanks.


About 4 miles west of the Mormon Pioneer Memorial bridge on Highway 36 is the first monument to the exodus across Nebraska. It is located at the intersection of Old 36 and Seventy-Second Street, at the southern boundary of the North Omaha Airport. The marker was placed by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers in April 1947.

The text is:

On April 15, 1847, in this vicinity the Mormon Pioneers en route from Nauvoo, Illinois to the Rocky Mountains made their first camp after leaving Winter Quarters on the west bank of the Missouri River 5 miles north of Omaha, Nebraska, where they spent the winter of 1846-47. Heber C. Kimball, a twelve apostle [a member of the Twelve Apostles] of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints and close friend of President Brigham Young, led the first company, thus forming the nucleus for the gathering of the groups that followed....


The pioneer crossing of this first natural obstacle in Nebraska was approximately where U.S. 6 crosses this river today, near Waterloo, Douglas County. There is no marker here.


This historic staging ground site is near Fremont, Dodge County, in sec. 21, T17N, R8E. There is nothing to be seen today.

Once across the Elkhorn, the pioneers headed for the broad and gentle valley or floodplain of the Platte River. This staging ground, later named the Liberty Pole Camp (from a large cottonwood pole erected there July 4, 1847, by the Second Company of pioneers), was located approximately one-quarter of a mile from the Platte River, southwest of Fremont and west of U.S. 77. The pole remained until at least 1857. There is no marker here.

A Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association marker in Barnard Park in Fremont (between Irving and Clarkson streets on Military Avenue), however, commemorates this staging ground.

The text is:

THE MORMON PIONEER TRAIL. The Mormon Pioneer Trail from Nauvoo, Illinois to the Rocky Mountains passed here April 17, 1847. In this vicinity a military-type organization was formed with Brigham Young, lieutenant general; Stephen Markham, colonel; John Pack and Shadrack Roundy, majors; and captains of hundreds, fifties and tens. In the company were 143 men, 3 women, and 2 boys....

24. GENOA HISTORIC SITE: NR, 10/15/70, 70000373

In 1857, the Mormons founded this community, which still exists, in Nance County in 1857 as a way-station on their trail west. It was also a station for the Brigham Young Express Company of 1856-1857. (See page 69.) The Mormons were required to abandon it in 1859 when it became part of a new Pawnee Indian Reservation.

Although this site is on the National Register, it is so commemorated because it was an important Pawnee village from 1859 to 1876. No reference is made to the fact that the community of Genoa was founded by the Mormons—a fact confirmed by a Nebraska historical marker. The National Register should be amended to include this information.

The text on this Nebraska Historic marker is:

GENOA: 1857-1859. Genoa, named by the Mormon Pioneers, was among several temporary settlements established by the Church of the Latter Day Saints in 1857, along the 1000 mile trail from Florence, as way-stations for the Brigham Young Express and Carrying Company, which had the government mail contract to Salt Lake City, and as rest supply stops for Saints traveling across the plains.

Mormons from St. Louis, Florence, and Alton, Illinois were called to establish the Genoa settlement in the spring of 1857, and the Colony arrived here on May 16th. During the first year, 100 families settled at Genoa and began to fence the land and plant crops under the direction of Brother Allen, Mission President. A steam powered mill was constructed and log, frame, and sod structures were erected to house the settlers and their livestock.

In the fall of 1859, the Mormon Colony was forced to abandon Genoa when the settlement became part of the newly created Pawnee Indian Reservation. Genoa served as the Pawnee Indian Agency until 1876, when the Pawnee were removed to the Indian Territory and the reservation lands offered for sale.


This pioneer ford is near Fullerton, Nance County, off Highway 22 in sec 4, T16N, R5W. (See Appendix D, Illustration 17.)

Over the years the Mormons used many fording sites above and below this original crossing. There is no marker here.


This is located at the Grand Island exit off the westbound lane of Interstate 80. It commemorates the fact that some Mormons wintered on an island near here in the 1850s. In this wayside area is a replica of a Mormon handcart next to an informational sign.


This site meets the same NR criteria as Historic Sites 7 and 10, plus the Sand Hills can be considered a significant natural feature still reflecting "the period and associations for which the site is significant." [6] (See Appendix D, Illustration 19.)

These ruts are located 3.5 miles north of U.S. 30 at Sutherland, Lincoln County, in sec. 4, T14N, R33W, immediately to the northeast of the Sutherland Bridge over the Platte River. They are some of the few, as well as some of the best, Mormon Trail ruts in Nebraska, but the Sand Hills must be climbed in order to see them.

It was just west of here that the famous "odometer" was developed and tried out (see page 54).


This landmark can be found 2 miles west of Lisco, Morrill County, in sec. 19, T18N, R46W, to the north of U.S. 26.

Many Mormons climbed this promontory to get their bearings.


This site meets the same NR criteria as Historic Sites 7, 10, and 27. See Appendix D, Illustration 20. The site is 8 miles west of Lisco, Morrill County, in secs. 32-33, T19N, R47W north of U.S. 26.

These three erosional remnant buttes were named by English Mormon emigrants who thought they resembled castles in their homeland. On Sunday May 23, 1847, Mormon leaders climbed the highest bluff, wrote their names on a buffalo skull and placed it at the southwest corner. These bluffs remained a prominent landmark on the Mormon Trail throughout the immigration period and collectively form the most dramatic landmark on the entire Mormon Trail in Nebraska.


In connection with, but separate from, the bluffs is a very short (less than 100 feet long) set of well-defined trail ruts. They can be found three-tenths of a mile east of the ranch road leading into the bluff area, just to the north of U.S. 26.

About 1.5 miles east of this same ranch road, north of the highway is a Nebraska historical marker commemorating Narcissa Whitman, and Eliza Spaulding (the first white women on the Oregon Trail), these bluffs, and the Mormons who named them.


This site meets the same NR criteria as site 7. (See Appendix D, Illustration 21.)

Three miles east of Scottsbluff, Scotts Bluff County, along U.S. 26, is a pullout where the Belt Line Road Crosses the Burlington and Northern Railroad, in sec 30, T22N, R54W.

This famous grave, one of the few known graves of the approximately 6,000 Mormons who died crossing the plains, was discovered in 1899 by Burlington Railroad surveyors who changed the right-of-way to save and protect the grave. The grave site is about 1/4 of a mile along the railroad tracks to the west of the pullout.

In 1902, the Mormon Church placed a marker here. One should first visit the Nebraska historical marker information sign at the pullout.

The text is:

REBECCA WINTERS. Rebecca Winters... was born in New York State in 1802. She was a pioneer in the Church of the Latter Day Saints... In June 1852 the family joined others of their faith in the great journey to Utah. It was a pleasant trip across Iowa through June, but in the Platte Valley the dread cholera struck. Rebecca saw many of her friends taken by the illness, and on August 15 she was another of its victims. . . .

A close friend of the family, William Reynolds, chiseled the words "Rebecca Winters, age 50" on an iron wagon tire to mark the grave....

In 1902 a monument was erected by Rebecca's descendants. Rebecca Winters is a symbol of the pioneer mother who endured great hardships in the westward movement.


This site is near Henry, Scotts Bluff County, in sec. 3, T23N, R58W.

These low, sandy bluffs are about 1 mile east of Henry. They can be reached by a service road, but the visit is not worth the effort, for the bluffs are visible from U.S. 26. It was here on May 30, 1847, that Brigham Young called a special prayer circle on behalf of the pioneers with him, those following, and others remaining in Winter Quarters. There is no marker here.


33. FORT LARAMIE AND RUTS: NR, 10/16/66, 66000755

Approximately 30 miles northwest of the present Wyoming state line traveling on U.S. 26 (which here follows the old trail quite closely), is the most famous historic site in all Wyoming - Fort Laramie, established in 1834. Here the Mormons crossed the North Platte River and picked up the Oregon Trail.

The present Fort Laramie, now a national historic site, dates mainly from the Civil War period and little remains of the 1847 fort. At the moment there is no Mormon marker in the area, only a brief reference to them in the fort's museum. Between 1986-1987, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management cooperated in making some nearby, but little-known trail ruts accessible to the public. They can be found by turning west on a gravel road from the fort's cemetery and driving a mile or so toward Guernsey. There are signs and a pullout to the north of the road. These ruts are known as the "Old Bedlam Ruts" today. (Old Bedlam was the nickname of a garrison at Fort Laramie.)


This site meets the same NR criteria as Historic Sites 7, 10, and 17. (See Appendix, Illustration 23.)

This site is 7 miles west of Fort Laramie, following the river road rather than the plateau, in the SE 1/4 of sec. 8, T26N, R65W, Goshen County.

This hill is a steep and dramatic cut through the river bluffs to the flood plain. Impressive trail ruts lead up to the hill from the east. The pioneers and many other Mormons came this way. The site is unmarked, difficult to find, on private ground, and permission is required to visit it. The author recommends the use of a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get to the site.

35. REGISTER CLIFF: NR, 4/3/70, 70000674

The site is in the Guernsey State Park, Guernsey, Platte County.

The famous Register Cliff site is 2 miles west of Mexican Hill and can be reached from there only by crossing private ground. Travelers are advised to approach it via Guernsey—it is 2.8 miles southeast of that community. Most Mormons seem to have ignored this cliff, but later emigrants covered it with names, carving them into the soft sandstone. There is an informational marker here.


The site is in the Guernsey State Park, Guernsey, Platte County.

One and one-half miles beyond Register Cliff are some of the most dramatic ruts of any trail in the world—cut shoulder deep through solid rock. (See Appendix D, Illustration 24.) This example of ruts is a national historic landmark, and is located a short walk from a marked parking area. The interpretive panel near them bears an almost poetic inscription.

The text is:

Wagon wheels cut solid rock, carving a memorial to Empire Builders. What manner of men and beasts impelled conveyances weighing on those grinding wheels? Look! A line of shadows crossing boundless wilderness.

Foremost, nimble mules drawing their carts, come poised Mountain Men carrying trade goods to a fur fair—the Rendezvous. So, in 1830, Bill Sublette turns the first wheels from St. Louis to the Rocky Mountains! Following his faint trail, a decade later and on through the 1860's, appear straining, twisting teams of oxen, mules and heavy draft horses drawing Conestoga wagons for Oregon pioneers. Trailing the Oregon-bound avant garde but otherwise mingling with those emigrants, inspired by religious fervor, loom footsore and trailworn companies—Mormons dragging or pushing handcarts as they follow Brigham Young to the Valley of the Salt Lake. And, after 1849, reacting to a different stimulus but sharing the same trail, urging draft animals to extremity, straining resources and often failing, hurry gold rushers California bound.

A different breed, no emigrants, but enterprisers and adventurers, capture the 1860's scene. They appear, multi-teamed units in draft—heavy wagons in tandem, jerkline operators and bullwhackers delivering freight to Indian War outposts and agencies. Now the apparition fades in a changing environment. Dimly seen, this last commerce serves a new, pastoral society: the era of the cattle baron and the advent of settlement blot the Oregon Trail.


The site is near Guernsey, Platte County, in sec. 4, T26N, R66W.

These springs were also known as the Emigrant's Washtub because the water is warmer than the river (about 70 degrees F). Many Mormons did laundry here.


About 11 miles southwest of Glendo, Platte County, in sec. 1, T28N, R70W off the Esterbrook Road.

The site is locally known as Mormon Springs although the Mormons did not discover them. Heber C. Kimball was simply the first of the 1847 Mormons to see them.


The site is 3 miles east of Casper in a small riverside park in Evansville, Natrona County.

40. MORMON FERRY SITE, 1847: NR, 8/12/71, 71000887

This site is at Fort Caspar in Casper, Natrona County. (The Fort Caspar vicinity is on the NR.) This ferry, considered to have been the first commercial ferry on the Platte River, was established by the Mormon Pioneers in June 1847.

There is an excellent Mormon exhibit in the fort museum, a full-size replica of the original Mormon Ferry, and a 1932 Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks monument on the fort grounds.

The text is:

THE MORMON FERRY. First Commercial Ferry on the Platte River was established 1/2 mile south of here [this marker has been moved from its original site across the river in Mills; there has been an interest expressed in moving the marker back to its original site] in June 1847 by Mormon Pioneers on their way to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake.

Brigham Young directed nine men to remain to operate the ferry. They were Thomas Grover, Capt. John S. Higbee, Luke S. Johnson, Appleton M. Harmon, Edmond Ellsworth, Francis M. Pomeroy, William Empey, James Davenport, [and] Benj. E. Stewart.

The first passengers were Missourians bound for Oregon. The ferry was made of two large cottonwood canoes fastened with crosspieces and covered with slabs. It was operated by oars.


This gap is along Poison Spider Road, 10 miles west of Casper, in sec. 10, T33N, R81W.

Most travelers of the Oregon-California-Mormon Trail passed through this shallow gap in the Emigrant Gap Ridge. There is a BLM interpretive site here.


This site is 6 miles west of Emigrant Gap, Natrona County, on County Road 319, in sec. 16, T32N, R82W.Most of the Avenue was destroyed by road builders. Some emigrant signatures can still be found in the area.


This site is 9 miles west of Avenue of Rocks, Natrona County, on County Road 317 sec. 9, T31N, R83W.

These springs provided the only good water and campground for emigrants between the Platte and Sweetwater rivers. They are north of the road by some unused ranch buildings.


The landmark can be found 1 mile beyond Willow Springs, in sec. 8, T31N, R83W.

This 400-foot-high hill was originally called Prospect Hill, because from its summit, emigrants could see the gentle valley of the Sweetwater River, giving them hope, or good prospects, for better water and an easier road. Excellent trail ruts can be seen about 1/4 mile northwest of the present road. There is a BLM interpretive site here.

45. INDEPENDENCE ROCK: NR, 10/15/66, 66000753

This site is 22 miles past Prospect Hill, Natrona County, in sec. 9, T29N, R86W off Highway 220.

Near this rock, one of the most famous landmarks on the Oregon-California-Mormon Trail, emigrants picked up the beneficent Sweetwater River, and followed it west about 93 miles to the continental divide at South Pass. The rock was named because some early trappers are said to have once celebrated July 4th here. There are information signs, names carved and painted on the rock, and bronze plaques, one commemorating the Mormons.

The text is:

In honor of the Mormon pioneers who passed Independence Rock, June 21, 1847, under the leadership of Brigham Young, on their way to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. And of the more than 80,000 [70,000 is closer to the truth] "Mormon" emigrants who followed by ox teams, handcarts, and other means of travel seeking religious liberty and economic independence...


This site meets the same NR criteria as sites 7, 27, and 29. (Appendix D, Illustration 25.)

The landmark is 6 miles west of Independence Rock on Highway 220, Natrona County, in sec. 35, T29N, R877W. It is a 370-foot-high and 1,500-foot-long cleft, or water gap, through the Sweetwater Rocks. Emigrant signatures can be found in the gap. There is a BLM interpretive site near here on new Highway 220. A station on the Brigham Young Express Company route was near here in 1856-1857.

47. MARTIN'S COVE: NR, 3/8/77, 77001383

Martin's Cove is 2 miles west of Devil's Gate on old Highway 220, Natrona County, in sec. 28, T29N, R87W. (See Appendix D, Illustration 26.)

The actual cove where many Mormons froze to death in 1856 is north of the road, across the Sweetwater River adjacent to the Sun Ranch. It is difficult to access (four-wheel-drive is recommended), and permission must be secured to visit it. In 1986 some Boy Scouts from Layton, Utah, erected a rock cairn on a rise in this cove honoring those who perished here.

The 1933 marker put up by the Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association is to the north of old Highway 220, 2 miles west of the Sun Ranch and nearly 2 miles from the cove. Permission to drive this private road is required. The general area of the cove is in the Rattlesnake Mountains, more than a mile north of the road.

The text is:

MARTIN'S COVE. Survivors of Captain Edward Martin's handcart company of Mormon emigrants from England to Utah were rescued here in perishing condition about Nov. 12, 1856. Delayed in starting and hampered by inferior [hand]carts, it was overtaken by an early winter. Among the company of 576, including aged people and children, the fatalities numbered 145. Insufficient food and clothing and severe weather caused many deaths. Towards the end every campground became a graveyard. Some of the survivors found shelter in a stockade and mail station near Devil's Gate where their property was stored for the winter. Earlier companies reached Utah in safety.


This site meets the same NR criteria as sites 7, 10, 27 and 36, which is already on the National Register. (See Appendix D, Illustration 27.)

The ruts are east of Jeffrey City, Fremont County, off U.S 287, in sec. 16, T29N, R9OW, on private land. These are trail ruts cut into solid rock, similar to, but not as dramatic as, the trail ruts at Guernsey.

Split Rock Mountain itself is already on the National Register, 12/22/76, 76001959. It can be seen north of the road, a cleft in the Rattlesnake Range.


Along the Sweetwater River 2 miles north of Jeffrey City, Fremont County, is the famous area where the river was crossed three times within a short distance.


This historic area is 9 miles west of Jeffrey City off U.S. 287/789, Fremont County, in sec. 32, T30N, R93W.

Under these famous springs, emigrants could find ice in the summer. A Wyoming informational sign is here.


This site meets the same NR criteria as sites 7 and 47, which are already on the National Register. See Appendix D, Illustration 28.

This site is 7 miles south of Atlantic City, Fremont County, in sec. 35, T29N, R99W.

This handcart company was a companion of the Martin company (see site 15). In October 1856, this company was caught in an early blizzard. At least fifteen Mormons froze to death and are buried here. In 1932 the Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association marked the site.

The text is:

WILLIE'S HANDCART COMPANY. Captain James G. Willie's handcart company of Mormon emigrants on the way to Utah, greatly exhausted by the deep snows of an early winter and suffering from lack of food and clothing, had assembled here for reorganization by relief parties from Utah, about the end of October, 1856. Thirteen persons were frozen to death during a single night and were buried here in one grave. Two others died the next day and were buried near by. Of the company of 404 persons 77 perished before help arrived. The survivors reached Salt Lake City November 9, 1856.

52. SOUTH PASS HISTORIC SITE: NR, 10/15/66, 66000754

The site is west of Atlantic City, Fremont County, sec. 4,. T27N, R101W.

This gentle pass through the Rocky Mountains is considered the "Cumberland Gap of the Far West," beyond which in 1847, commenced the fabled land of Oregon. Four miles beyond the last bridge over the Sweetwater River is a South Pass Exhibit site just south of Highway 28. The site provides an excellent view of the pass and Pacific Springs.


This site is 4 miles west of South Pass, off Highway 28, in sec. 1, T72N, R102W.

This was a famous campsite named Pacific Springs because it was the first water that flowed to the Pacific Ocean that was seen by westering Americans.

54. PARTING OF THE WAYS HISTORIC SITE: NR, 1/11/76, 76001962

This site is 4 miles north of Highway 28, 15 miles northeast of Farson, in sec 4, T26N, R104W.

Here the Oregon Trail continued to the southwest and the Sublette Cutoff turned to the right across the Little Colorado Desert on a shortcut to the Bear River. The Bureau of Land Management recently installed a historic marker here.

The text is:

This part of the trail is called the Parting of the Ways. The trail to the right is the Sublette or Greenwood Cutoff and to the left is the main route of the Oregon, Mormon, and California Trails. The Sublette Cutoff opened in 1844 because it saved 46 miles over the main route. It did require a 50 mile waterless crossing of the desert and therefore was not popular until the gold rush period.

The name tells the story, people who had traveled 1,000 miles together separated at this point. They did not know if they ever would see each other again. It was a place of great sorrow. It was also a place of great decision—to cross the desert and save miles or to favor their livestock. About two-thirds of the emigrants chose the main route through Fort Bridger instead of the Sublette Cutoff.


The site is 12 miles west of Farson, Sweetwater County, in sec. 36, T24N, R108W on Highway 28.

Here, on October 6, 1857, some Mormon guerrillas burned some U.S. army supply wagons during the "Utah War" of 1857-1858. There is a marker here.

The text of this Mormon Church marker is:

SIMPSON'S HOLLOW. Here on Oct. 6, 1857, U.S. army supply wagons lead [sic] by a Capt. Simpson were burned by Major Lot Smith and 43 Utah Militiamen. They were under orders from Brigham Young, Utah Territorial Governor, to delay the army's advance on Utah. This delay of the army helped effect a peaceful settlement of difficulties.

The day earlier a similar burning of 52 army supply wagons took place near here at Smith's Bluff.


This 1847 ferry site is located 28 miles southwest of Farson, Sweetwater County on Highway 28 on the Green River, in sec. 18, T22N, R109W.

The Mormons established this ferry in 1847 to help subsequent Mormons and also as a commercial venture. Located near the landmark known as Lombard Buttes, it was often referred to as the Lombard Ferry.

The present Highway 28 bridge crosses the river adjacent to the old ferry site.


This landmark is 10 miles southwest of Granger, Uinta County, in sec. 25, T18N, R113W on old U.S. 30. (See Appendix D, Illustration 29.)

This magnificently eroded butte acquired its name because some Mormons were supposed to have held church services here at one time.

58. FORT BRIDGER: NR, 4/16/69, 69000197

The site is in Fort Bridger State Park, Uinta County.

Six miles beyond Lyman is the second most important fort on the old Mormon Pioneer Trail, the first one being Fort Laramie (see Historic Site 33). Here the main Oregon Trail (which the pioneers of 1847 picked up nearly 400 miles back, at Fort Laramie) turns north and the Mormons continued west about 100 miles on the year-old track of the Reed-Donner party into what is now Salt Lake City. (See Appendix D, Illustration 30.)

There is nothing left here of the original fort of 1843-1844, but there is an excellent fort museum with some references to the Mormon presence here.

In 1855 the Mormons bought Fort Bridger, enlarged it, and built a cobblestone wall around it. One small section of the wall is all that is left of the Mormon occupation. Rebuilt by the WPA during the Depression, it is located under a shelter at the far end of the fort and is marked with a plaque placed there by the Utah Pioneer Trails and Landmarks Association. During the summer of 1990, sections of the foundation of this wall were excavated by the Western Wyoming College.

The text is:

THE MORMON WALL. On August 3, 1855 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints concluded arrangements for the purchase of Fort Bridger from Louis Vasquez, partner of James Bridger, for $18,000.... A cobblestone wall was erected...replacing Bridger's stockade...The place was evacuated and burned on the approach of Johnston's Army September 27, 1857.... (See Historic Site 62.)


The site is 12 miles south of Evanston, Uinta County, in sec. 4, T13N, R119W.

This oil spring, well known to many westering Americans as a source of lubrication for their wagons, still flows. It is on private property and permission must be secured to visit it. The entrance to the ranch is 3 miles south of the bridge over the Bear River on Highway 150 south of Evanston.


This landmark is near the Wyoming-Utah state line, in Uinta County in sec. 26, T14N, R121W.

The landmark is a 7,600-foot-high formation of conglomerate rock. It was near here in July 1847 that Brigham Young was taken sick with tick fever and, as a result, entered the Valley of the Great Salt Lake two days after the vanguard did.



This site meets the NR criteria of sites 7 and 10 and is similar to site 45, which is already on the NR. (See Appendix D, Illustration 31.)

This cave is just off Echo Canyon, Summit County, in sec. 23, T5N,R7E off Interstate 80.

This famous rendezvous place is covered inside with names of emigrants. It is on private land.


These are 21 miles west of Wahsatch, Summit County in Echo Canyon, off Interstate 80 in sec. 10, T3N, R5E. See Appendix D, Illustrations 32 and 33.

They are listed in the National Register as Echo Canyon Breastworks. Near here is what is left of an old wooden marker erected by the Utah State Road Commission.

The text is:

PIONEER DEFENSE FORTIFICATIONS. In 1857, due to false official reports and other misrepresentations, troops under General Albert Sidney Johnston were sent to suppress a mythical rebellion among the Mormons. Brigham Young, then governor...forbade the army to enter Utah on the grounds that there was no rebellion and that he had not been officially informed of the government's action in sending the troops.

Strategic places between Fort Bridger and Salt Lake City were fortified. Remnants of these fortifications can be seen on the sides of the cliffs in this section of Echo Canyon.... Fort Bridger and Fort Supply, then in Utah and owned by the Church, were burned.

Following negotiations between Governor Young and Captain Stewart Van Vliet and mediation of Col. Thomas L. Kane, the army was held east of Fort Bridger during the winter of 1857-58 and entered Utah without opposition the following spring. It was recalled at the outbreak of the Civil War.


(MPNHT ruts are very rare in Utah—and there are no good ones. These, regrettably, are too poor to nominate for the National Register.)

This is 6 miles west of Henefer, Summit County, in sec. 25, T3N, R3E on Highway 65.

Here Mormons got their first disheartening sight of the mountains they still had to pass through to reach their new Zion. About 100 yards back towards Henefer, just to the north of the road, about 1/4-mile of rather poor trail ruts can be seen. These are some of the very few ruts left of the MPNHT in Utah.

64. MORMON FLAT HISTORIC SITE: NR, 10/27/88, 88001943

This site is 17 miles southwest of Henefer, in sec. 14, T1N, R3E.

Approximately 8 miles southwest of the Hogsback marker on Highway 65, a dirt road goes left (south) for 3 miles to Mormon Flat and the presently unmarked mouth of Little Emigration Canyon. On elevated ground at the canyon mouth, across unbridged Canyon Creek, can be seen some stone breastworks from the Mormon War of 1857-1858.

The old trail goes 4 miles up this gentle canyon, and is a pleasant hike, to the crest of Big Mountain.


This is 19 miles southwest of Henefer, Summit County, on Highway 65, and is the place were the pioneers of 1847 and thousands of subsequent emigrants caught their first view of their new home—the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. It was also here that Young uttered his famous words, "This is the place, drive on." There is a marker here erected by the Sons of Utah Pioneers.

The text is:

BIG MOUNTAIN. On 19 July 1847, Scouts Orson Pratt and John Brown climbed the mountain and became the first Latter-day Saints to see the Salt Lake Valley. Due to illness, the pioneer camp had divided into three small companies. On 23 July, the last party, led by Brigham Young, reached the Big Mountain. By this time, most of the first companies were already in the valley planting crops. Mormons were not the first immigrant group to use this route into the Salt Lake Valley. The ill-fated Donner Party blazed the original Mormon trail one year earlier. They spent thirteen days cutting the trail from present-day Henefer into the valley.

That delay proved disastrous later on when the party was caught in a severe winter storm in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Mormoms traveled the same distance in only six days. Until 1861, this trail was also the route of California gold seekers, Overland Stage, Pony Express, original telegraph line, and other Mormon immigrant companies, after which Parley's Canyon was used.

This monument, erected and dedicated 25 August 1984, by South Davis Chapter, Sons of Utah Pioneers.


(These rare ruts are, sadly, no better than those at Historic Site 63.)

About 7 miles southwest of Big Mountain on Highway 65, in sec. 35, T1N, R2E, is where the trail went up over Little Mountain and entered Emigration Canyon, the canyon that led directly, and finally, into the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. There appear to be some trail ruts north of the road. (See Appendix D, Illustrations 32 and 33.)

67. THIS IS THE PLACE MONUMENT: NR, 10/15/66, 66000737

This monument is on Highway 65 in Pioneer Monument State Park, Salt Lake City. The monument and the park are part of the whole Emigration Canyon site on the National Register.

In 1922, during the Pioneer Diamond Jubilee, a small monument was placed here reading, "THIS IS THE PLACE/BRIGHAM YOUNG/JULY 24, 1847." At that time sixty-six original pioneers were present. In 1947, to better commemorate the centennial of the arrival of the pioneers into the Valley of the Great Salt Lake, a more suitable monument was built here in the Pioneer Monument State Park. This massive memorial, sixty feet high and eighty-four feet wide, designed by Mahroni M. Young, features fifteen plaques and many statues and bas-reliefs honoring not only the Mormon Pioneers, but also others who had explored the Great Basin including the American Indians, Fathers Dominguez and Escalanate, General W. H. Ashley, Peter Skene Ogden, Etienne Provost, Captain B.L.E. Bonneville, Father Jean Pierre De Smet, Thomas Fitzpatrick, Milton W. Sublette, Kit Carson, Captain John C. Fremont, and the Reed-Donner party. There is also a visitors' center and an outdoor museum in this 500-acre park, which constitutes the end of the famous Mormon Pioneer Trail from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Salt Lake City, Utah.

Also related to the MPNHT in Salt Lake City is the museum of the Daughters of Utah Pioneers and the Museum of Church History and Art.

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Last Updated: 08-Oct-2003