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Mormon Historical

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"Advance Company"

Time to move on

Brigham Young learned about the Great Salt Lake Valley from the reports published by John C. Frémont of his earlier explorations.  He decided the area to be the ideal location to form the church's new homeland.  After spending the first winter at Winter Quarters, Brigham Young and other church members started for Salt Lake Valley on April 5, 1847.  Six wagons departed Winter Quarters to form the Advance Company or Discovery Company, also known as the Pioneer Band.  The group camped for two nights near present day Highway 36 and 69th Street waiting for others to join in.

The party moved on to near Fremont where others assigned to the advanced Company joined them.  The initial group consisted of skilled craftsmen and workers, road builders, carpenters, blacksmiths, hunters, brick masons, teamsters, stone cutters, farmers, a count of 148, including three women, and two children.  In total, 72 wagons and a large herd of cattle formed the initial advance party.*

The party followed the north side of the Platte and North Platte River into Wyoming, a trail that later became known as the Mormon Trail.  Near Casper, Wyoming, they crossed the North Platte River in a boat they had taken with them called the Revenue Cutter.  Knowing others would be coming along later, a small group was left at this location to run the ferry.  Non-Mormon pioneers were charged to cross the North Platte, and the ferry proved to be a viable enterprise that lasted for the next 20 years.

In June 1847, the party reached Fort Laramie.  The Oregon Trail passed Fort Laramie, and continued on to Fort Bridger, so it was the obvious choice to take for the next leg of the journey.  James Bridger warned Brigham that the trail he planned to take covered desert and rough mountain terrain, and would be difficult if not impossible to complete with the wagons.  Having little choice, Brigham headed southwest into the Uinta and Wasatch Mountains, and finally over 120 miles of desert before reaching the Great Salt Lake Valley.

Along the way, the road was widened in places where the wagons had difficulty in passing.  An early odometer (called a Roadometer) was built to accurately count the miles traveled.  The device was installed near present day North Platte.

The 1,032 mile journey took 111 days to cross Nebraska, Wyoming, and part of Utah.  The first members of the Advance Company arrived southeast of Salt Lake in early July.  Brigham was sick and did not arrive until  July 24, 1847.  Reaching the valley crest, Brigham raised up from his sick bed in a carriage and seeing the valley below said, "This is the right place, drive on."  This was to be the final home.

On the first day, the Advance Company planted fields and diverted water for irrigation in preparation for those that would follow.

Approximately 180 of the Mormon Battalion men and their families had joined up with 50 saints in Pueblo, Colorado.  Together they joined the Mormon Trail at Fort Laramie, arriving just five days after the Advance Company on July 29th, 1847.

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