The Oregon Trail
The information panel for the Parting of the Ways reads: "The trail to the right is the Sublette or Greenwood Cutoff and to the left is the main route of the Oregon, Mormon, and California Trails." In the summer months, this was a place where tears were shed and hugs were exchanged. It was a place where people who had traveled 1,000 miles together in a wagon train said goodbye and would never see each other again. It truly was a parting of the ways.
During the past few months, this series has been following the path taken by Butch Cassidy’s mother when she was only 9 years old. On November 22, 1856, the wagon train she was a part of passed this point along with nearly 1,000 other Mormon pioneers, but it wasn’t summer. The only ones parting ways were those who were buried in the frozen ground beside the trail.
At this point, we must insert a correction. In the past issues, we said Ann Gillies was traveling with her mother, father, one older brother, and two younger brothers. We acquired that information from immigration records found online. A review of the book written by Butch Cassidy’s sister, titled My Brother Butch Cassidy, revealed a mistake in the immigration records. They list the youngest child as a boy named Christian. In reality, the youngest sibling was a girl named Christiana. Another correction is that Ann Gillies was actually named Annie. That book was narrated to the author by Lulu Parker Bentenson. She was a baby when Butch Cassidy left home and Christiana was her aunt. The stories she tells about Butch Cassidy (Robert LeRoy Parker) in her book were passed down from generation to generation, but she was the first to put them into writing. It is a book we highly recommend.
We left the Parting of the Ways and followed the trail to the crossing of the Little Sandy River. The wagon Annie rode in (or walked beside) passed that point on November 23, 1856. For them, it was just another milepost, but that location had become a point of historical significance nine years earlier.
On a Monday evening, June 26, 1847, Brigham Young was on his way to see the Salt Lake Valley for the first time. His caravan camped on the banks of the Little Sandy and received a visitor named James Bridger. Bridger had established a trading post in 1842 on the Green River and the caravan was headed in that direction.
Young told Bridger his intention of settling a large population in the Salt Lake Valley. Bridger told him it was not possible to raise anything in that valley and that he would give them $1,000 for the first bushel of corn that was harvested. That was only the beginning of a rocky relationship between Young and Bridger. In 1853, Young sent his militia to arrest Bridger for selling alcohol and firearms to the Indians. Bridger got away but sold Fort Bridger to the Mormons two years later in 1855.
The pioneers of 1856 had no interest in history when they crossed the Little Sandy. Their only thoughts involved reaching the valley alive. Covered wagons provided very little cover and those still pulling handcarts were exposed to all the elements thrown at them by a Wyoming winter.
We stopped for gas and snacks in the little town of Farson. The town is located on the banks of the Big Sandy River, a short distance from where the pioneers camped on November 24. Although we enjoyed a warm September night on the banks of the Big Sandy, Annie Gillies had spent a freezing cold November night under a blanket of new snow.
On November 27, the three companies made up of the Hodgett Wagon Train, the Hunt Wagon Train, and the Martin Handcart Company arrived at the crossing for the Green River. They paused a couple days before crossing on November 29. There is no mention in the diaries of using a ferry, but the Lombard Ferry was the most common means to cross the river during those years. It was expensive and the pioneers were there at a time when the river would be at its lowest point. They could have forded the river. Perhaps some forded and some used the ferry.
We stopped at the roadside park. It has several panels with historical information listed and also a replica of the Lombard Ferry. The ferry was built in 1997 for the 150th anniversary celebration of the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail. It was used to transport several wagons across the river as part of the activities.
Sickness still plagued the pioneers. Members were dying, with the cause listed as diarrhea. Most of the handcarts had been abandoned. No doubt the Gillies' wagon was packed full of people who could no longer keep up on foot.
The pioneers reached Fort Bridger on December 4. They were greeted by wagons full of supplies from the valley and spent about a week resting up for the final leg of their journey to the Salt Lake Valley.
Following the original route used by the wagons is very scenic and relaxing. Although some parts are paved, most of the miles consist of two-track dirt that is kept active by ranchers and hunters who travel it every year.
Join us next month as we finish our story about the journey traveled by Butch Cassidy's mother. The last leg of her journey took her to Salt Lake City, where her parents settled in for the remainder of the winter.
We are using numerous sources for this series, but our primary source for this issue was www.lds.org and the book titled My Brother Butch Cassidy. For more information about this series, visit www.lone-writer.com or email email@example.com.
Navigation: GPS Positions
There are so many turns in this trail that we have decided to use only the major waypoints. If you have DeLorme Topo USA, you can find the trail on their map and use your GPS to follow it. Otherwise, you can use these waypoints like a treasure hunt and find your own path to each one. There are a lot of trail markers that will help you stay on the trail. If you need all the turns, email firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be emailed to you.
|Latitude North||Longitude West||Comments|
|N42 15.4625||W109 13.6137||This is the panel for the Parting of the Ways.|
|N42 11.8305||W109 21.5431||Turn left on the paved road at the T. The trail is now cutting across private lands. The roads are in squares and keep crossing it.|
|N42 7.3513||W109 27.2588||Turn left on the Lower Farson Cutoff on the north side of Farson.|
|N42 4.5920||W109 31.0601||Before reaching the highway, a faint two-track crosses the ditch to the right. Turn there and you will see a trail marker post that sits beside the original road.|
|N42 4.6384||W109 31.1034||Turn left so the marker is behind you. This is the wagon road. Continue straight across all intersections until it connects back to Highway 28.|
|N42 1.0872||W109 35.4421||This is the Simpson Hollow Marker where the Mormon Militia confronted soldiers on their way to the valley.|
|N42 0.1496||W109 36.9574||Jog left off the highway at a tall post onto a two-track. There are two forks. Make a right toward the trail marker and then follow alongside the highway to the backside of a prominent rest area with several historical information panels.|
|N42 59.8780||W109 37.3283||Park beside this trail marker to visit the panels.|
|N41 58.6505||W109 39.1554||The trail crosses a major gravel road. The other side of the crossing is on the west side of the marker post. Then take the left fork.|
|N41 57.4795||W109 41.2920||Take the right fork for the Mormon and Pony Express Trails. The Oregon Trail splits at this point.|
|N41 52.8308||W109 48.6043||Turn left into the Lombard Ferry site. Drive around the circle and back to the road with the kiosk. Turn left and reset the meter. This goes into the park and follows the original trail.|
|N41 49.2652||W109 49.3901||Watch for the concrete marker post on the left side of the highway. Turn onto that two-track.|
|N41 46.4620||W109 52.8952||Continue straight and drive under the high wires. There will be numerous intersections, but historical marker posts verify you are on the right track.|
|N41 35.4539||W109 58.1926||This is the South Bend Pony Express Station built in 1850. Follow Spruce SE across the bridge following a graded gravel road.|
|N41 30.3155||W110 8.2408||Church Rock was another milepost for pioneers.|
|N41 23.1113||W110 13.0104||Go under I-80 and turn right.|
|N41 21.1721||W110 14.3519||Turn right on the paved road. Follow the signs to Fort Bridger.|