Mormons and the Oregon Trail

The Mormons in their migration to the Great Salt-Lake country, passed over all the branches of the Oregon Trail. Their pilgrimage continued overland from 1847 to the opening of the Union Pacific Railroad—and even yet continued.

The Mormons avoided the real trails in the early days of their settlement in Utah. They established parallel trails, desiring to keep their own company, preserve their own secrets, and avoid the quarrels and troubles often arising when traveling with gentiles. When there were enormous trains, they kept sometimes to the main trails, for they could then protect themselves. They were also avoided by other emigrants, and were rarely associated with by gentiles on the road. The Mormon Trail up the Platte lay on the north side of the river. One route in Kansas followed the Santa Fe Trail to One-Hundred-and-Ten-mile Creek, when it turned northward directly to Fort Riley, crossing the Kansas River at Whiskey Point. From Fort Riley the trail led nearly north to the Oregon Trail in the Platte Valley, passing through the present counties of Riley and Washington, in Kansas. No other emigrants are known to have used this trail. Of the eastern branches of the Oregon Trail, the Mormons used most that beginning at St. Joseph, Missouri. Many Mormon trains started from Fort Leavenworth. One large train started from Westport on the 24th of August, 1852, and reached Salt Lake City on the 26th of October.

A peculiar feature of the Mormon migration was the establishment of temporary settlements to serve as stations on the route to the New Zion. So far as is certainly known but one such settlement of consequence was set up in Kansas. It was in Atchison County, just east of the village of Shannon. It was the intention of the church to send many saints by that station to Utah. The station was enclosed by trenches and stockades, and an extensive tract of land was planted to corn, potatoes, and other crops. The products were held for the migrating saints who should be sent that way. At this point cholera broke out in 1849, and many Mormons died of it. The early settlers of that country called the place Mormon Grove, and it is still so spoken of.

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