It is February 1846. Because of persecution, the Latter-day Saints must leave their homes in Nauvoo, Illinois. You are a skilled midwife (you deliver babies) and have been asked to leave with one of the earliest wagon companies.
It’s time to load your wagon for the journey.
Select which items you will take with you.
It’s a good idea to take a beehive along. The honey from the bees will be helpful.
"I went over to number the wagons . . . [and] found . . . 260 chickens, 33 dogs, 19 cats, 3 stand of bees, . . . and W. W. Phelps had one crow."
-Thomas Bullock, May 29, 1848
A basket might not seem like a necessity, but for you it is. You need something to hold the newborn babies!
You do love to play the piano,
and music would cheer your fellow travelers. But the piano would take up too much space in your wagon. Leaving your home is harder than you thought!
You don’t know how long it will be until you have a chance to hunt for food, so even though it will take up a lot of space in your wagon, food is a necessity.
It is February, and you are ready to leave Nauvoo.
The Mississippi River is icy, and parts are frozen.
How are you going to get across?
Try to navigate the ice on a ferryboat.
Walk across the ice.
It’s too cold! Wait until spring.
The Mississippi River is frozen! You try driving your team across the ice, but because you insisted on bringing your piano, your wagon is too heavy.
You break through the ice and drown in the river.
Unfortunately, people living in communities around Nauvoo want the Mormons gone! If you don’t leave now, things could turn violent.
It’s too cold to be outside! It would be easier to just wait until spring when the ice has melted, right?
Depending on the day, either taking a ferry or crossing on the ice would have worked. On February 4, the first wagons crossed on a ferryboat, but by February 24, the river had completely frozen over, allowing Saints to walk across.
"This day I can say I have walked over the greatest river in N. America, even the Father of Waters."
-Thomas Bullock, February 27, 1846
Stay in Iowa.
Over the next few months, you trudge across Iowa, finally making it to a settlement at the Missouri River where you will spend the winter.
Keep heading west.
What will you do in the spring?
It is now 1852. Church leaders have asked the Saints in Iowa to come to Utah, but you really like it here.
What will you do?
Leave for Utah.
"We remained here [in Iowa] for several years and began to accumulate means. There was all manner of wild fruit . . . [and] a great amount of wild game."
- James Holt
In 1861, a missionary from the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (which broke off from the main branch of the Church in Nauvoo) preaches in your area, and you decide to
join this church.
After your fellow Saints leave, you begin to forget about your faith.
You begin your journey by crossing the Missouri River on July 27, 1852.
"Iowa was a very unhealthy place, my family was sick a great part of the time. . . . In the spring of 1852 I made calculations to go to
Salt Lake Valley."
- James Holt
This experience is based on the James Holt company, which consisted of the Holt family, who had lived in Iowa for several years, along with the Levi family and one non-Mormon traveler, Dr. William Smith.
Congratulations! After several months on the trail, you arrive safely in Salt Lake City on October 27, 1852.
James Holt Company
"We are in sight of chimney rock . . . and many places that look like ancient buildings."
- Patty Sessions, July 29–30, 1847
The journey is difficult, but the scenery is beautiful.
You enjoy passing landmarks like Chimney Rock.
Congratulations! After several months on the trail, you finally make it to Salt Lake City. Over the next year, you deliver 248 babies!
1795 - 1892
This experience is based on the life of Patty Bartlett Sessions, a midwife from Maine. She arrived in Salt Lake City in September 1847 with the Daniel Spencer/Perrigrine Sessions wagon train. During her life she helped deliver nearly 4,000 babies. She purportedly used this basket to hold the new babies.
Patty Bartlett Sessions
Stay in England to earn money.
Ask other Latter-day Saints for help.
What are you going to do?
Your husband is a shoemaker.
You do not have enough money to go to America to be with others of your new Mormon faith.
You and your husband are determined to
earn enough money for your family’s journey.
Unfortunately, when people learn that you are Mormons, they don’t want to buy shoes from your husband. You realize that you need some help.
Would you like to apply for PEF funds?
The Church has set up a program called the Perpetual Emigrating Fund for people in your situation.
Money will be provided to help you travel to Utah,
but eventually you will need to pay back the loan.
Learn more about the PEF.
Latter-day Saint pioneers came from many places.
Who would you like to be?
It is 1846. You want to be with others who share your beliefs. The main group of Latter-day Saints is being forced to leave Illinois. You need a way to meet up with them when they reach their destination in the West.
I am Samuel Brannan.
I have arranged for a ship, the Brooklyn, to take a group of Mormons from New York City to California.
Would you like to join us?
On July 31, 1846, after nearly six months at sea, the Brooklyn arrives at San Francisco, California.
What do you want to do now?
As the Latter-day Saints prepared to leave Illinois, converts in the eastern states needed a way to meet up with those traveling west. Samuel Brannan was appointed to lead a group on a chartered ship, the Brooklyn. The journey was one of the longest religious voyages in history. The ship left New York on February 6, 1846, traveled south
across the Atlantic equator, around Cape Horn, and on to the
Sandwich Islands (Hawaii). The Brooklyn made it to
present-day San Francisco on July 31, 1846.
The Ship Brooklyn
When do you want to leave California?
It is now 1848. The Latter-day Saints have settled in
Salt Lake City, Utah Territory.
When gold is discovered, you become the first millionaire in California!
But you leave your family and
gamble all of your money away, dying penniless in San Diego.
Brrrrrr! You get stuck in the snowy Sierra Nevada where you
freeze to death.
Good choice! Your wagon company will leave on August 12.
Before you go, you need to buy supplies.
Which type of animal do you want to pull your covered wagon?
Even though horses are
more expensive than oxen
and their grain will take up
room in your wagon, they
travel much faster than oxen.
Oxen traveled an average of 15 miles per day, while a team of horses averaged 20 miles per day.
Oxen do not sweat.
They are cooled by the air.
Even though horses
are faster than oxen,
your oxen are cheaper and easier to take care of.
Which item will you leave behind to lighten your load?
Your team is getting tired because your wagonload is too heavy.
You toss your gun and bullets off to the side of the trail.
Your wagon is lighter now,
but you soon realize that you no longer have a way to hunt for food, and you starve to death.
"Brother Austin whose load was too heavy for his team . . . was compelled to throw away his tool chest."
-John Borrowman, August 12, 1848
Your tools were really heavy! Now that they are gone, your team is traveling more easily. Luckily, other travelers in your company are willing to loan tools when your wagon breaks down.
That cast-iron pot is heavy!
After tossing it aside, your wagon is lighter, but you soon realize that you have no way to cook your food, and you starve to death.
Congratulations! You arrive in Salt Lake City on October 10, 1848, and are ready to build a home
(but first you’ll need some new tools).
This experience is based on the life of Julius Austin, a carpenter from Connecticut who sailed on the Brooklyn with his family. The Austins journeyed from California to Salt Lake City with the Ebenezer Brown wagon train.
Julius Augustus Caesar Austin
This sailmaker’s palm thimble belonged to Julius’ son, Edwin Nelson Austin.
The Perpetual Emigrating Fund (PEF),
was established by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1849. Its purpose was to provide assistance to immigrants traveling to Salt Lake City.
Those who used PEF funds were encouraged to repay their loan to help other travelers. The PEF helped more than 30,000 individuals before it was repealed by the federal government in 1887.
You don’t like borrowing from others. It is easier to just stay in England.
Sadly, you die in 1856 during a Typhus epidemic in London.
New Orleans $15
New York City $20
Your application was approved! You now have enough money to book passage on a ship.
Do you want to sail to New Orleans or New York?
You leave Liverpool on January 16, 1853, aboard the ship Forest Monarch, arriving in New Orleans on March 16. You then take a steamboat up the Mississippi River to St. Louis.
On April 30, you take a steamboat to Keokuk, Iowa.
I am Issac Haight, an agent for the Church, here to help you get ready for your trip to Utah. First you need to buy supplies.
Remember, your money is on loan, so spend it wisely!
Which of these items do you not need?
Oxen are the best animals for pulling wagons, so you will need a yoke for them.
"There came a time when there seemed to be no food. . . . I found [some] biscuits and put them in a dutch oven . . . and asked for God’s blessing. . . . When I took off the lid . . . I found
the pan filled with food."
- Ann Jewell Rowley
A Dutch oven is heavy and takes up space in your wagon, but you need it for cooking food along the trail.
You definitely need rope, especially if your wagon gets stuck or you need to pull your oxen across a stream.
"A number of brethren stood on the west bank with a long rope which was hooked to the wagon tongue
and they assisted the teams up the bank"
- William Clayton, April 22, 1847
"The covers . . . were bought in Liverpool and made on the ship while crossing the ocean."
- Marla Walker Wheeler
Correct! A wagon cover is a necessity, but you already have one. While crossing the Atlantic Ocean, you and other British Saints sewed wagon covers to help pass the time.
This experience is based on the John E. Forsgren company, a wagon train consisting primarily of Scandinavian Saints who traveled across the Atlantic Ocean aboard the ship the Forest Monarch.
Congratulations! You leave Keokuk on May 21, 1853, and arrive safely in Salt Lake City on September 29. Now you just need to figure out how to pay back your PEF loan!
John E. Forsgren Company
Good choice! There is too much sickness in New Orleans.
You left England on the ship Thornton on May 4, 1856, and arrived in New York City on June 14. It’s time to find an agent who will help you make plans for the next part of your journey.
I am Elder John Taylor.
I suggest getting to Iowa City by boat and train. Then you can join a handcart company.
Is that what you want to do?
First, you take a boat up the Hudson River to Piermont, where you catch a train to Dunkirk.
In Dunkirk, you take a steamship along Lake Erie to Toledo, where you catch a train to Chicago. From Chicago you take a train to Iowa City, arriving on June 26, 1856.
Of the approximately 67,000 Latter-daySaints who crossed the plains, only 3,000
came by handcart.
Handcarts are less expensive than covered wagons.
There is a handcart company leaving for Utah on July 15. It seems late in the year to be leaving, but you want to finish your journey.
Do you want to join them?
The next handcart company to make the journey from Iowa to Salt Lake City after the ill-fated Willie and Martin handcart companies was the Israel Evans company, which arrived in Salt Lake City in September 1857.
Israel Evans Company
Congratulations! That was a good decision! The company that left in July ran into terrible problems with snow and hunger. By waiting until spring, you arrive safely in Salt Lake City in September 1857.
By leaving so late, your company runs into snow. Your husband dies on October 19, 1856.
"Father died . . . down by the Sweetwater river at 5 o’clock in the morning. . . . The journey was too much for him."
- John Linford’s son, October 1856
Congratulations! You finally make it to Salt Lake City on
November 9, 1856. Sixty-nine members of your company,
including your husband, died along the trail to Utah.
Maria Bentley Christian Linford
This experience is based on the life of Maria Linford, wife of English shoemaker John Linford.
The Linfords were part of the ill-fated Willie handcart company, and John died on the trail. Maria brought her wedding dress all the way from England.
It is now 1846, and you are 16 years old. Your family is being forced to leave your home in Nauvoo, Illinois.
You were born in Kentucky. Your parents joined the LDS Church, and when you were eight years old, your father was hurt by some people who didn’t like Mormons. Now he can’t walk.
You cross the Mississippi River to Iowa and hear that the president of the United States, James K. Polk, has asked for volunteers to fight in the war with Mexico. If you join the army, you will earn money that could help your family. But it would be hard for your family to continue the journey without you.
Do you want to enlist?
"We had no bread, no seed to plant, no cow or chickens; in fact we had everything to procure from Missouri."
- Benjamin F. Johnson, May 1846
Your family has run out of money and food. You go to Missouri looking for work, but there is a cholera epidemic, and many people are dying.
You have been assigned to Company D of the Mormon Battalion. You leave Council Bluffs, Iowa, on July 16, 1846. At Fort Leavenworth, you receive your army-issue rifle
along with $42 to buy other supplies.
"I left my poor mother and family and began the terrible 2,000 mile march."
- William D. Hendricks
What do you want to buy?
You don’t have enough money left to buy that!
Choose a different item.
Cartridge case $5
Send all of the money to your family.
Powder flask $4
You have a $42 clothing allowance.
That is something you will need.
How much money do you have left?
That is very nice of you!
Your family needed the money.
The army has agreed to let you wear civilian clothing, so you are all set.
Some of the other soldiers are sick. Ten volunteers are needed to take the sick soldiers to Fort Pueblo.
You learn that a group of Saints from Mississippi is spending the winter in Fort Pueblo, Colorado.
Do you want to volunteer?
Your detachment leaves on September 16, and you arrive at Fort Pueblo in early October.
You will spend the winter here.
Hello, I am Captain James Brown. Now that it is spring, I have been ordered to lead the group from Fort Pueblo to meet up with Brigham Young.
Will you join us?
Your family is probably doing fine without you, and this seems like a nice place to stay.
In 1854, Fort Pueblo is attacked and 15 men were killed. Maybe this place is too dangerous!
You are excited to meet up with Brigham Young’s group and hopefully find your family!
You leave Fort Pueblo on May 24 and travel 300 miles to Fort Laramie, Wyoming. You learn that Brigham Young’s group is just a few days ahead of you.
This experience is based on three detachments of sick or
injured Mormon Battalion members who spent the
winter of 1846–47 in Fort Pueblo, Colorado. This
neckerchief belonged to one of the detachment
members, Jesse Walker Johnstun.
Congratulations! On July 29, 1847, you enter the
Salt Lake Valley, just five days behind Brigham Young. Your detachment is honorably discharged from the military, and your
family soon arrives.
Mormon Battalion Sick Detachments
You leave Fort Leavenworth in mid-August and arrive in
History may be searched in vain
for an equal march of infantry.
- Lieutenant Colonel Phillip St. George Cooke
You have marched more than 2,000 miles!
Santa Fe in October. On January 29, 1847, you reach San Diego.
Reenlist for eight months.
Go to Salt Lake City.
Look for work in California.
The Mormon Battalion is officially discharged on July 16, 1847.
What do you want to do now?
I am Lot Smith. I’ve also decided to reenlist. Our captain is Daniel Davis, and I hear that we’ll be on guard duty in San Diego.
Find some gold!
Go to Salt Lake City.
You hear that former members of the Mormon Battalion found gold up at Sutter’s Mill. You head north to see
their successful mining operation.
What do you want to do when you get there?
On March 14, 1848, your company is mustered out of service.
What do you want to do now?
Stay in California.
You hope your family has
made it to Utah, but you can’t
worry about them now.
You’ve got gold fever,
but so do a lot of other people.
Many die of sickness or in mining accidents. No amount of gold is
worth all of this trouble!
This experience is based on the Ebenezer Brown wagon train, which was composed of several returning Mormon Battalion soldiers and many Saints who had traveled to California on the ship Brooklyn.
Congratulations! You work at Sutter’s Mill until August, when you decide to leave California to find your family in Utah. You bring the gold that you have found and arrive in Salt Lake City on October 10, 1848.
Ebenezer Brown Company
Henry G. Boyle Company
This experience is based on the Henry G. Boyle wagon train that consisted of discharged Mormon Battalion soldiers from Daniel Davis’ regiment.
Congratulations! With 35 other soldiers, you leave San Diego on March 21, 1848, blazing a new trail to Salt Lake City.
You arrive on June 5 and are reunited with your family.
Find more gold!
"This day some kind of metal was found . . . that looks like gold."
- Henry Bigler, January 24, 1848
You find work in Sacramento, where you are recruited by a man named Sutter to help build a sawmill. One of the men you work with found gold at the site of the mill!
You’ve got gold fever! You buy a gold mine near Kelsey, California, but there ends up not being any
gold there. At least you will be remembered as one of the
first discoverers of gold!
This experience is based on the Jonathan Holmes–Samuel Thompson wagon train that consisted mostly of Mormon Battalion veterans. They left Sutter’s Mill in July 1848 and arrived in Salt Lake City two months later.
Congratulations! You decide to take what gold you find and head to Utah. Upon your arrival in Salt Lake City on September 6, 1848,
you are reunited with your family.
Jonathan Holmes–Samuel Thompson Company
Salt Lake City.
Stay here and
look for gold!
You are anxious to get to Utah and find your family!
On your way, you stop at Sutter’s Mill.
You hear a rumor that there might be gold in this area.
You hope your family has made it to Utah, but you can’t worry about them now. You’ve got gold fever!
The discovery of gold in 1848 brings a rush of people--and problems. Many people have died of sickness or in mining accidents.
This day some kind of metal was found . . . that looks like gold.
- Henry Bigler, January 24, 1848
Learn more about the
"We passed a place where . . . those who were stopped in by the snow last winter . . . starved to death."
- John King, September 5, 1847
You leave Sutter’s Mill on August 27, 1847. On
September 5, you pass the location where members of the
ill-fated Donner Party are buried.
The Donner Party was a group of travelers who set out for California in May 1846. Their wagon train left Independence, Missouri, on May 12. They were delayed by rain and rising streams and took an ill-advised route called the Hastings Cutoff. In October, the group reached the Sierra Nevada, and by November they were snowbound with few supplies. Despite several rescue attempts, 39 of the 87 people who entered the mountains perished. In June 1847, members of the Mormon Battalion came upon the site of the unfortunate camp and buried the remains.
William Dorris Hendricks
1829 - 1909
This experience is based on the life of William D. Hendricks. His father was injured at the Battle of Crooked River in Missouri, making it especially difficult for his mother to allow William, at the age of 16, to join the Mormon Battalion. This platter belonged to his parents, James and Drusilla.
Congratulations! You finally made it to Salt Lake City on October 14, 1847, and learn that your family
arrived just 10 days ago!