Mormon Trail AssociationMormon Trail AssociationMormon Trail Variants, 1846 - 1868


Mormon Pioneer National TrailThe Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail

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. Click on the year links for more details.

Year Companies Persons Wagons Written Accounts Comments
1847 6 1,637 @ 454 144  
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].
Total 147 35,889 5,590 1,119  


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