Mormon Trail AssociationMormon Trail Association Iowa 1846, 1851, 1853

Iowa, 1846, 1853
(MPNHT, Variant A, Variant B, Dragoon Road)
Iowa City Cutoff, 1856–57 (Handcarts)
(Iowa City-Morengo-Des Moines-Dalmanutha-Lewis-Council Bluffs)

Jean Rio Baker's group outfitted on the south side of the Des Moines River (South of Keokuk) in 1851 and followed the south side of the Des Moines River to about Bonaparte and then went to Council Bluffs, probably over Variant B.

Some of the 1853 companies went from Keokuk to about present-day Harrisburg, then west, crossing the Des Moines River in the vicinity of Pittsburg, where they joined the 1846 route. Others turned west at Montrose and followed the 1846 main route.

Year Route Companies Persons Wagons Comments
1846 MPNHT
1
@2,000
??
Brigham Young's "Camp of Israel
MPNHT A or B
??
Thous.
Hund.
We know that about 7,000 persons travelled over these two routes. Companies were informal, records are not clear as to how many traversed each variant.
1851 MPNHT Var. B?
1
>20
> 5
Jean Rio Baker & others, outfitted at Alexandria, MO (across from Keokuk)
1853 MPNHT A or B
4
785
138
Ettleman Company kept no records, Clawson Company only had one source.
MPNHT Var. A
1
@ 100
@ 20
Vincent Shurtliff Company
MPNHT Var. B
4
1, 035
131
Crosby, Gates, Forsgren, Wheelock companies
Dragoon Road
1
321
42
It appears that only the Joseph Young Company followed the Dragoon Road to Des Moines, then to Council Bluffs.

Iowa City Cutoff, 1854–57, 1864
(Iowa City-Morengo-Des Moines-Dalmanutha-Lewis-Council Bluffs)

Year Companies
Persons
Wagons
Written Accounts
Comments
1854
1
@ 200
39
5
William Fields freight (stopped at Ft. Leavenworth)
1855
8
2,040
360
46
A couple of small companies formed in Missouri, one in St. Louis, and crossed that state to get to Mormon Grove. Ballantyne's company included Welsh, French, English, and the Malan family from Italy.
1856
1
97
43
3
Heavily loaded church freight train, Captain A.O. Smoot.
1857
1
1
Homer Duncan, returning from a mission in Texas, led a company of Texas saints that had more than 1,000 head of cattle. They stopped at Mormon Grove.
1864
1
@ 50
43
2
 
Total
11
@ 2,387
485
57
 

The segment of the original Pioneer Trail across Iowa in 1846 between Drakesville, Davis County, and Garden Grove via Locust Creek and close to Missouri may have been used but once or twice. At Drakesville two important, shorter variants originated: one the Mormons took to Garden Grove, the other to Mt. Pisgah. At both places the variants then followed the Pioneer Trail to the Missouri River. These variants west of Drakesville came into use soon after the Pioneers reached Garden Grove on April 24 and Mt. Pisgah on May 18, 1846.

Variant A did not cross the Fox River near Drakesville, but continued some 60 miles west following the high ridge road between the Fox River and Soap Creek via present-day Unionville and Moravia on road J-3T in Appanoose County to the Chariton River, which was forded at a place then called Dodge's Point (now inundated by Rathbun Lake) near present-day Iconium, Appanoose County. The trail continues generally west via present-day Confidence, Millerton, and Humeston in Wayne County to Garden Grove. Parts of this variant were used by the Mormons until at least 1853.

Variant B. Instead of crossing the Chariton River, as variant A does, variant B follows the high ground along the Chariton River as far north as possible, to the Chariton Point, near present-day Chariton, Lucas County.

The Dragoon Trail was used extensively throughout the main period of the great migration across Iowa from 1846 through at least 1853. This trail was purposely blazed in 1835 by the First U.S. Dragoons under Colonel Stephen W. Kearny, who had been ordered to locate a site for a new fort near the confluence of the Raccoon and Des Moines rivers, on the site of present-day Des Moines. By 1846 the colonel's trace had become an important road into the trans-Mississippi interior, a fact not unknown to the Mormons.

From Montrose, the Dragoon Trail angles northwest via Charleston, Bonaparte, and Bentonsport. The trail proceeds northwest to Libertyville, Ottumwa, Pella, and Monroe. From here the trail turns southwest across Warner, Madison, and Adair counties to Lewis, in Cass County, where it intersects the Pioneer route of 1846.

In 1853, Joseph W. Young's company of 400 passed through Oskaloosa on the Dragoon trail. A least one other company must have traveled with them as the Weekly Oskaloosa Herald reported on June 17 that 750 Mormons, principally from England and Wales had passed through the day before. The same day that Young left Keokuk, so did the companies of Cyrus Wheelock (400 persons), Cladius Spencer (250 persons), and about the same time Jacob Gates (262 persons).




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