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10 Little-Known Facts About the Pioneer Trek West

Today, we as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints celebrate our pioneer heritage. Stories will be told and heroes will be remembered--the bravery of the Saints at Winter Quarters, the sacrifice of the selfless young men on the banks of the Sweetwater, and the deep relief of Brother Brigham's famous declaration, "This is the right place. Drive on."

But not every detail of the pioneers' trek west is widely known. So with some help from The Mormon Book of Lists, we're providing you with this collection of little-known facts about the early Saints in hopes that you'll take some time to remember, celebrate, and thank God for the courageous men and women who came before us.

1. During John Taylor's mission to England, generous Saints in the area contributed over $2,000 in gold to help the pioneers in their journey. Brother Taylor brought that money to the Saints when he joined them in Winter Quarters.

2. The pioneers would measure the miles of their journey by tying a rag to a wagon wheel and assigning somebody to count the revolutions. But on April 19, 1847, William Clayton suggested a form of odometer that the Saints would use for the duration of their travels.

3. Pioneer companies communicated with those following by writing on posts and placing them prominently in the trail. Other methods included placing letters in improvised boxes or writing on sun-bleached buffalo skulls.

4. At Fort Laramie the Saints learned that an old nemesis was only slightly ahead of them on the trail: Lilburn W. Boggs, the governor of Missouri who had issued the infamous Extermination Order. Some 150 miles later the Saints caught up with Boggs and his fellow Missourians. In exchange for much-needed flour, meal, and bacon, the Saints ferried the Missourians across the Platte River.

5. The first two Latter-day Saints to enter the Salt Lake Valley were Orson Pratt and Erastus Snow. Using one horse between them, they rode down into the valley on July 21, 1847.