Independence Rock

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Picture of Independence Rock

Pioneers traveling to Oregon, California, Utah and Pony Express riders carrying the mail across the nation all knew Independence Rock as one of the most important landmarks on their journey west. Many of the travelers left their names on this rock, either carved or painted in axle grease. We ask you as modern day travelers to help us protect this historic landmark. Feel free to walk around the site and even on top to appreciate the view the pioneers would have seen as they passed through this area. But please do not take away the historical significance of this site by placing your signature on the rock or destroying the ones that are still visible. It's up to all of us to help save what remains here for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.

History of Independence Rock

The initial movement of the Mormons from Nauvoo, Illinois, to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake occurred in two segments - one in 1846 and one in 1847. The first leg of the journey across Iowa to the Missouri River covered around 265 miles. The second leg, from the Missouri River to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake covered about 1,032 miles. The second leg of the journey began on April 5, 1847 and ended on July 24, 1847. This part of the trip went smoother than the previous year's journey due to better organization, better provisions and beginning when the trail conditions were optimal. The lead pioneer party left with 148 people (143 men, 3 women and 2 young boys), 72 wagons, 93 horses, 66 oxen, 52 mules, 19 cows, 17 dogs, and some chickens. This hand-picked group was organized into two large divisions and further split into companies of 50 and 10. This organizational structure was based on Brigham Young's plan for migrating west and included details on camp behavior and devotional practices to be followed.

At Fort Laramie the Mormons crossed to the south side of the river and joined the Oregon Trail. At Fort Bridger State Historic Site, they struck out on their own and followed the faint year-old tracks of the ill-fated Donner-Reed party. The last 116 miles took 14 days to complete and were very demanding due to difficult terrain, weary travelers, worn wagons and weakened livestock. Upon arriving at the Valley, this first party began planting late crops, laying out streets, building shelters and preparing for winter. Mormon emigrants continued to arrive during the remaining weeks of summer and fall. Approximately 1,650 people spent their first winter in the valley. The next 20 years would see about 70,000 Mormons traveling by wagon and handcarts over the Mormon Pioneer Trail.

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