The route Brigham Young followed across Iowa in 1846 and from Winter Quarters (then Florence and now Omaha), Nebraska to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 was recognized by Congress in 1978, when it amended the National Trails System Act of 1968 (Public Law 90-543) to include historic trails. The Oregon Trail was added at the same time. Both were identified as "point-to-point" trails, meaning no alternate routes were included, except one or two variations along the Oregon Trail. Though portions of these trails were used by all emigrants heading west, tens of thousands of emigrants followed variations of these trails for short distances or, in some cases, hundreds of miles.
Alternate routes were pioneered by emigrants having
1) different starting points (outfitting stations),
2) different destinations at the end of the trail,
3) trying to find a short cut, or
4) trying to avoid problems (weather, river crossings, Indians, soldiers, railroad gangs, other emigrants, etc.).
Trails and variations had shared usage over the years. Trails became known by those who became the first heavy users of the trail for emigration or commerce, hence, the Oregon Trail (1843), Mormon Trail (1846-7), the California Trail (1849-50), and Pony Express Trail (1860-1). Variations and sharing of the original trails naturally occured, with Mormon emigrants using trails established by others. In Utah, Mormons pioneered both Golden Pass variants, were probably the only emigrants using the Lodge Pole Creek and Whiskey variants in Wyoming, the Wet Weather variant in Nebraska, and all the variants in Iowa. Mormons, though using trails established by others, created their own outfitting stations in Plattsmouth (Bethlehem) and Wyoming, Nebraska. They also used the new town of Westport and their own town of Mormon Grove in Kansas. In Iowa, they created outfitting stations at Keokuk and Iowa City.
MPNHT (Winter Quarters/Florence - SLC)
All companies went part of the way on the MPNHT. The companies listed below all followed the north side of the Platte River from Florence to at least Ft. Kearney.
|1848||3||2,408||@481||106||Crossed Platte @ 6-10 miles west of Scotts Bluff, slight variations on either side of Ft. Bridger.|
|1849||4||1,068||@ 261||45||H. Egan's freight train started at Nebraska City|
|1851||14||@2000||@ 400||54||3 trains took the Wet Weather Variant (Nebraska)|
|1852||25||>4654||> 997||140||No report or roster from Jepson or Snow companies|
|1853||14||@2948||@ 464||76||12 companies crossed Iowa first, starting at Keokuk|
|1854||1||164||@ 32||3||Perrigrine Sessions Company, 8 other companies from Westport, 1 from Ft. Leavenworth|
|1856||10||3,140||284||153||Includes 5 handcart companies (@425 carts) that started in Iowa City.|
|1857||7||1,214||154||46||Includes 2 handcart companies (@93 carts) and 5 wagon companies, all started in Iowa City.|
|1858||6||285||54||25||To avoid U.S. soldiers, two companies took the Seminoe, then the Kinney variants, then made a new trail back to the MPNHT. The Iverson Company was ordered south and made a new trail down Chalk Creek to Wanship to Heber and Provo Canyon. Eldredge Co. (& probably others) followed the military road to Genoa.|
|1859||8||1,706||302||54||Haight Co., first few weeks, followed the military road between the Elkhorn River & Ft. Kearney. Others probably did, also.|
|1860||11||2,011||66||58||Walling, Ross, Smith, and Brown companies used the Golden Pass Variant.|
|1861||10||3,891||357||49||Three Church trains (Eldredge, Andrus, and Murdock) used the Golden Pass Variant.|
|1862||15||5,108||631||98||Apparently, all took the Golden Pass Variant. Records of five companies are missing or incomplete.|
|1863||12||3,655||653||67||All companies followed the same route to Echo, then apparently all followed the Golden Pass Variant, though written records from only 4 companies mention geographic names along this route.|
|1864||1||?||?||1||William E. Pritchett [Independent].|
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