Fort John 1841-1849

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By the late 1830s, the mountain men had opened trails through the Rocky Mountains and shown the practicality of wagon travel over the Platte River route. Missionaries, scientists, explorers, and sportsmen began filtering west. Their letters, reports, and stories painted a glowing picture of the paradise of Oregon and California. These glorified accounts of life beyond the Rocky Mountains filled the imaginations of the American people, inspiring the greatest mass overland migration the world had ever seen.

Many emigrants gave up everything they knew and owned to make the journey west. The goodbyes said to family and friends were known to be final, for in all likelihood, the emigrants would never return to see loved ones again. The travelers then plunged into the great unknown, into a wild and forbidding country called the “great American desert.”

The travails of the journey were many. People and animals were pushed to their limits as they struggled to cross desert and mountain before thirst, snow, and starvation overtook them. Suffocating dust, quagmires of mud, violent thunderstorms, heat, and cold were everyday occurrences. In spite of severe hardship, most persevered and completed the journey. Only a few “saw the elephant” and turned back.

At Fort John, the second Fort Laramie, farmers heading for Oregon, Mormons seeking religious freedom near the Great Salt Lake, and argonauts bound for the California gold fields, mingled with mountain men from another era, and Indians, through whose land the emigrants passed. Tlhe Oregon, California, and Mormon nation moving west.

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