First Emigrants of the West

Entering Salt Lake Valley, Utah

Entering Salt Lake Valley, Utah

Beyond this point the weather moderated, and, when the struggling remnant arrived at Salt Lake, they had a death roll of sixty-seven out of four hundred and twenty. Martin’s party, six hundred strong, journeying a few miles behind, also suffered severely upon the North Platte, but got through with less serious loss of life.

The number passing westward in this Mormon movement has never been estimated, but certain figures can be given as evidence of its importance. The first scouting party, led in person by Brigham Young, numbered 143 men and convoyed a train of 73 wagons. Next behind these followed 1,200 men, women, and children with 397 wagons; then the Kimball company of 662 persons and 226 wagons; then those under charge of Richards, 526 people with 169 wagons.

Increased Migration to Oregon

At the same time the migration to Oregon was steadily increasing. In 1849 fourteen hundred Mormons passed Fort Bridger. A peculiar fact of these early migrations is that few, if any, paused en route. Not even rumors of gold deposits in the Black Hills, or the Big Horn Range, sufficed to halt the current flowing steadily toward Salt Lake and the Pacific. Occasionally a few adventurers were thus turned aside, yet their discoveries, if any, made no perceptible mark on history. An illustration is afforded by the story of thirty men deserting from Captain Douglas’s party in 1852. They started out to prospect in the Black Hills, but were never again heard of. Bancroft reports that in 1876 evidence of their work was discovered on Battle Creek, together with fragments of skeletons, and numerous mining tools. They were probably killed by Indians.


Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated June, 2017.

About the Author: Adventures and Tragedies on the Overland Trail was written by Randall Parrish as a chapter of his book, The Great Plains: The Romance of Western American Exploration, Warfare, and Settlement, 1527-1870; published by A.C. McClurg & Co. in Chicago, 1907. Parrish also wrote several other books including When Wilderness Was King, My Lady of the North, Historic Illinois, and others.

Also See:

Westward Expansion and Manifest Destiny

More tales by Randall Parrish:

Adventures and Tragedies on the Overland Trail

Beginning of Settlement in the American West

Border Towns of the American West

Frontier Scouts and Guides

Mushroom Towns of the American West

The Reign Of The Prairie Schooner

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