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

Life On The Trail

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Mormons and Trail-Side Services

During that winter [1846], and throughout the next several years, until at least 1852, Mormons on both sides of the Missouri tried to make money offering what we might call trail-side services, such as blacksmithing, ferrying, cooking, baking, sewing, and selling hay, corn, and wheat. They even provided some warehousing services. In addition, they handcrafted items such as baskets, flour sacks, chairs, washboards, tables, and hats to the many hundreds of non-Mormon emigrants who also jumped-off for the Far West from that area. The area was a very popular point of departure for non-Mormons." Some did a little "doctoring" and pulled and cleaned teeth. Others made wine from elderberries and sold it. Some of the sisters also taught school, did washings, sewed, cooked, baby-sat, spun yarn, made clothing, and worked in restaurants and boarding houses. Some men went south into Missouri to seek work for short periods.

Throughout their emigrating period, to 1869, Mormons took every opportunity to make money by offering such services. West of the Missouri River they continued to offer blacksmithing services; they established ferries on the Elkhorn and Loup rivers (one was near what became Genoa) and did some contract bridging across the Green River (in what is now Wyoming) and down Echo Canyon (in what is now Utah), for example.

Over the years Mormon emigrants also used trail-side services provided by "Gentiles," or non-Mormons. West of the Missouri River, in what is now Nebraska, Mormons could have obtained supplies at settlements such as Fremont, North Bend, Columbus, Buchanan (near Shell Creek, which no longer exists), Cleveland (west of Columbus, which no longer exists), Monroe, Grand Island, Fort Kearny, Fort McPherson, (these two forts were on the Oregon Trail) and at scattered trading posts, such as Robidoux's near Scotts Bluff, and at various "road ranches."

Across what is now Wyoming, there was an ever-increasing number of trading posts and forts useful to the Mormons located at Dripps Trading Post, the Bordeaux Station, Fort Laramie, Ward and Guerrier's Trading Post, Horseshoe Station, Labonte Station, Deer Creek Station, Fort Caspar, Devil's Gate Station and fort, and St. Mary's Station, among others.

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.)