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 1847 Companies

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Western Travelers Consulted by the Mormons

It is interesting to note the contacts the Mormons might have made while on the Missouri River, from June 1846 to April 1847, and subsequently along the trail. From the "Manuscript History of Brigham Young" and other sources, we know they consulted with frontiersmen, members of the famous Fontenelle family, Indian agents such as Robert B. Mitchell and Peter A. Sarpy, and Indian chiefs such as Big Elk and Le Clerk. We also know Young talked with the famous Jesuit missionary to the Indians, father Pierre Jean De Smet, while the latter was returning to St. Louis from Oregon. Justin Grosclaude, a fur trader of Swiss ancestry for the American Fur Company, also called on Young and sketched with pencil a map of the country west of the Missouri -- a map which, regrettably, has not survived, Not only did the Mormon leaders of the 1840s seek trail knowledge in the Council Bluffs area, but later on, rank and file Mormons in many other places along the Missouri River (such as Independence, Westport, Weston, and St. Joseph, Missouri, and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Territory) acquired useful information to help later emigrants.

On the trail, the Mormons made the best use of every opportunity to learn from others including traders, guides, and mountain men such as Moses Harris, Jim Bridger, and Miles Goodyear. Whenever possible, the Mormons updated their information with the maps, printed accounts, and personal experiences of the people they met along the way.

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.)