On the church history trail

Published: Monday, July 15 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

Martin’s Cove, Wyo.: Having started late from Iowa and suffering numerous hardships along the way, two handcart companies under the leadership of Captains Edward Martin and James G. Willie were caught in early winter snows near the Continental Divide in the winter of 1856. About 200 died of exposure and starvation before rescuers from the Salt Lake Valley found them near Martin’s Cove in early November.

Visit the Mormon Handcart Visitors' Center at Martin's Cove, pull a handcart and view exhibits recording the tragic circumstances of two handcart companies.

Rocky Ridge and Rock Creek Hollow, Wyo.: At 7,300 feet, Rocky Ridge is the highest point on the Oregon-Mormon Trail. The rocks are large and slippery. Because of extreme weather conditions, this site was perhaps the most challenging on the trail for the Willie Handcart Company of 1856.

Several miles west of Rocky Ridge was a campsite known as Rock Creek Hollow. This site is best known as the place where on Oct. 23-24, 1856, 13 members of the Willie Handcart Company died on the same night and were buried in a common grave. Several more died the next morning. There is a monument at Rock Creek Hollow dedicated to those who died after crossing Rocky Ridge.

Fort Bridger, Wyo.: Established in 1842 by famous mountain man Jim Bridger, the fort marked where the Oregon, California and Mormon trails separated.

It was obtained by the Mormons in the early 1850s, and then became a military outpost in 1858.

Sante Fe, N.M., and Pueblo, Colo.: While passing through Santa Fe, Philip Cooke assumed command of the Mormon Battalion in October 1846. From Santa Fe, three sick detachments of the battalion were ordered to Pueblo, Colo., to recuperate, where they spent the winter of 1846-47 with Saints from Mississippi. These parties entered the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847. The rest of the battalion marched on to California.

As they marched the streets of Santa Fe, the battalion would have passed the Chapel of San Miguel, originally built in 1626. The chapel's sculpture of San Miguel, the church's patron, was carved in Mexico in 1709. In 1710, the chapel was completely rebuilt. Later, in 1859, it became a part of Saint Michael's College.

San Diego, Los Angeles and Sacramento, Calif.: The Mormon Battalion completed its 2,000-mile march in San Diego on Jan. 29, 1847. Today, visitors can tour an LDS visitors center in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

The battalion was discharged from the military in Los Angeles on July 16. Today a pioneer monument can be found at Fort Moore.

Some discharged battalion members worked at Sutter’s Mill, near Sacramento, when gold was discovered in January 1848. Today, the site of the mill is located on the South Fork of the American River, where Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park is registered as a California historical landmark.

Salt Lake Valley: President Brigham Young entered the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. Salt Lake City has served as church headquarters since that time.

A granite structure near the mouth of Emigration Canyon was unveiled in 1947 to commemorate the centennial of the arrival of the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley. Today, "This is the Place" monument also pays tribute to the trappers, Native Americans and others who played a pivotal role in the history and settlement of the stark desert valley that would become the headquarters of the church.

The towering structure is located on the south end of This Is the Place Heritage Park and is just a short walk east from the more recently dedicated Mormon Battalion Monument Plaza.

Email: ttoone@desnews.com Twitter: tbtoone

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