Harvey Green’s Overland Mormon Travel Blog is dedicated to providing first-hand accounts of Latter-day Saints’ overland travel experiences in the 1800s.
Checkout this video:
The Mormon Trail
The Mormon Trail was a 1,300 mile journey undertaken by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) as they attempted to flee persecution and find a place to settle and practice their religion in peace. The Mormon Trail began in Nauvoo, Illinois in 1846 and ended in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah. Along the way, the Mormon pioneers faced many challenges, including difficult weather conditions, scarce resources, and conflict with Native Americans.
The Oregon Trail
The Oregon Trail is a 2,170-mile historic east-west, large-wheeled wagon route and emigrant trail in the United States that connected the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon. The eastern part of the Oregon Trail spanned part of the future state of Kansas, and nearly all of what are now Nebraska and Wyoming. The western half of the trail spanned most of the future states of Idaho and Oregon.
The California Trail
The California Trail was a major overland route for American emigrants traveling from the Missouri River to points west, such as California, Oregon and Utah. The main route of the trail went through present-day Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho and Nevada.
The Pony Express
The Pony Express was a mail service that operated in the United States from April 3, 1860, to October 1861. It was the first rapid transportation system in the country and provided a vital link between the eastern and western parts of the nation. The Pony Express was founded by William H. Russell, Alexander Majors, and William B. Waddell, who were all experienced in the freight business.
The Mormon handcart companies
In the mid-nineteenth century, tens of thousands of Mormons made the journey west to Utah in search of religious freedom. Many of them traveled in handcart companies, pushing and pulling their belongings in carts across the plains. The Mormon handcart companies were a remarkable feat of endurance and faith, and their story is one that continues to inspire Mormons today.
The Donner Party
The Donner Party was a group of 87 American pioneers led by George Donner and James F. Reed who set out west in search of a new life in April 1846. After becoming stranded in the Sierra Nevada Mountains during the winter of 1846-47, the group resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. Of the 87 members of the Donner Party, only 45 survived to reach California.
The Mormon Battalion
The Mormon Battalion was a unit of the United States Army, recruited from Latter-day Saint men in 1846 as part of the American army during the Mexican–American War. The battalion was a volunteer unit, numbering about 500 men, led by Colonel Philip St. George Cooke. Under the command of Brigham Young, they marched from Council Bluffs, Iowa, to present-day San Diego in present-day California, arriving in July 1847. The march was difficult, and many men died during the trek southward through the present day states of Nebraska, Wyoming and Utah.
The Utah War
In the spring of 1857, as tensions between the Mormon settlers in Utah and the U.S. government came to a head, Brigham Young, the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, called for a mass migration of his followers to the remote deserts of Utah. Young and his followers wanted to escape what they saw as religious persecution and government interference in their affairs.
The Mormon migrants traveled in large groups, known as companies, across the country by wagon train. One such company was led by Harvey Green, a Mormon convert from England. Green kept a detailed journal of his experiences during the journey, which he later published as a book entitled “A Journey to Zion.”
Green’s account provides valuable insights into the day-to-day lives of Mormon pioneers as they faced challenging conditions on their trek westward. It also sheds light on how the Utah War played out from the perspective of those who were caught in the middle of it.
The Mountain Meadows Massacre
In 1857, a party of California-bound emigrants from Arkansas — mainly families with small children — was attacked and killed by Mormons in southern Utah. The event, known as the Mountain Meadows massacre, is considered one of the darkest episodes in Latter-day Saint history. More than 120 men, women and children were killed in the attack, which occurred on September 11th.
The emigrants — who were known as the Fancher party — had set out westward earlier that spring. They were part of a much larger wagon train that made its way across the plains and through the Rocky Mountains. The Fancher party was made up of families from Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee. Many of them were related by blood or marriage.
When the group reached Mormon settlements in Utah Territory, they were met with suspicion and hostility. The Mormons had been struggling for years to establish themselves in the Utah desert, and they saw the emigrants as a threat to their way of life. Tensions between the two groups began to mount, and things came to a head when some of the emigrants’ livestock wandered onto Mormon property and damaged crops.
On September 7th, a Mormon militia confronted the emigrants and demanded that they turn over all their weapons. When the emigrants refused, Mormon leaders decided to attack. On September 11th, under cover of darkness, militiamen surrounded the emigrants’ campsite and opened fire. The massacre went on for hours; when it was over, only a handful of young children had survived.
For more than 150 years, the Mountain Meadows massacre has been shrouded in mystery. To this day, no one knows exactly what happened or why. But this much is certain: it was one of the most tragic events in American history.
The handcart pioneers
The handcart pioneers were a group of Latter-day Saints who emigrated to Utah in the mid-19th century using handcarts instead of wagons. This mode of transport was chosen because it was less expensive and more easily available than wagons.
The first group of handcart pioneers departed from Iowa City, Iowa, in July 1856. They journeyed west for about two months before arriving in the Salt Lake Valley. A second group left from Florence, Nebraska, in June 1857.
While the majority of handcart pioneers arrived in Utah without incident, the last group to leave Florence experienced difficulties. They were delayed in their journey by bad weather and did not reach the Salt Lake Valley until October or November 1857, after winter had already set in. As a result, many members of this group suffered from cold and hunger before reaching their destination.