Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
sponsored by the Utah State Board of Education, the BYU-Public School Partnership and the Utah Education Network

Pioneer 1848-1868 Companies

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1848-68, Points of Departure and Time Periods

The Mormons used many points of departure during their emigration period. Only the first two groups of European emigrants in 1840 sailed to New York City; thereafter for fifteen years, all emigrants sailed to New Orleans and then traveled up the Mississippi River to various other points of departure. Until 1845 they went straight to Nauvoo, Illinois, where The exodus of 1846 commenced. Afterwards many other jumping-off places to the Far West were developed:

  • Winter Quarters (Florence, now North Omaha), Nebraska, 1847-1848
  • Council Bluffs, Iowa, 1847-1852
  • St. Louis, Missouri, 1852
  • Keokuk, Iowa, 1853
  • Westport. Missouri, 1854
  • Mormon Grove, Kansas, 1855-1856
  • Iowa City, Iowa, 1856-1857
  • Florence, Nebraska, 1856-1863
  • St. Joseph, Missouri, 1859
  • Genoa, Nebraska, 1859
  • Wyoming, Nebraska, 1864-1866

The Union Pacific Railroad began moving west from Omaha on July 10, 1865. Thereafter, Mormons took trains from Omaha to three different railheads.

  • North Platte, Nebraska, 1867
  • Laramie City, Wyoming, 1868
  • Benton, Wyoming, 1868

While the trans-Missouri section of the MPNHT [Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail] was used extensively by the Mormons between 1847 through 1868, the Iowa segment of the trail was used much less. The Iowa portion was used by the pioneers in 1846, by a few companies from Keokuk in 1853, and by seven handcart companies in 1855-1857. Furthermore, the segment of the original pioneer trail of 1846 between Drakesville, Davis County, and Garden Grove, Decatur County, may have been used but once or twice, because it was too far south and too close to Missouri, where the Mormons had been persecuted in the 1830s. At Drakesville, shorter variants more to the north originated. The handcarters followed the 1846 trail in Iowa only from what is now Lewis, in Cass County.

Four time periods will be treated in this study:

  1. Between 1846-1860, the Mormons generally went west in wagon trains organized at different points of departure.
  2. Between 1855-1860, they experimented with handcarts.
  3. Thereafter, during the years 1861-1866, the Mormons switched to large ox-team church trains sent out from Salt Lake City to haul emigrants and freight west.
  4. And, finally, during 1867-1868, they came by "rail and trail."

After 1869, Mormons who came west by trail were dubbed "Pullman Pioneers.

Source: Historic Resource Study - Mormon Pioneer National By Stanley B. Kimball, Ph.D., May 1991. (The study focuses on the history of the trail from its official beginning in Nauvoo, Illinois, to its terminus in Salt Lake City, Utah, during the period 1846-1869. During that time, thousands of Mormon emigrants used many trails and trail variants to reach Utah. This study emphasizes the "Pioneer Route" or "Brigham Young Route" of 1846-1847. The sections on Mormon beliefs and motivations for going west have been omitted. Interested persons can find ample sources for that information. The footnotes, bibliography, maps, pictures, pioneer companies by name and dates for the 22-year period, and historic sites - about 2/3 of the book - have also been left out for space considerations. Thanks to Dr. Kimball and the National Park Service for the availability of this information.)