By ANGELA DRAKE
Pioneer enthusiasts can follow the Mormon Trail after reading “The Latter-Day Saints’ Emigrants’ Guide,” compiled by William Clayton and edited by Stanley B. Kimball.
William Clayton, a Mormon pioneer, wrote his 24-page guide in 1848 after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. The 1997 edition, published for the sesquicentennial celebration, is edited by Kimball, the nation’s leading authority on the geography of the Mormon Trail.
The guide details the pioneers’ travels from Council Bluffs, Iowa to the Salt Lake Valley, noting the latitudes, longitudes and altitudes of the prominent places on the trail. Clayton points out all the physical features, from creeks to mountains. The guide contains a table with the distance of the prominent point (Council Bluffs) in English miles, the distance of the point from Winter Quarters and the distance of the point from Salt Lake City.
Clayton made such accurate judgments because of his invention of the odometer. Orson Pratt designed the odometer, made from a wood feed box and iron scraps. The book contains a picture of a replica of the odometer.
Kimball annotated the book so present-day travelers can relate Clayton’s references to modern names. Clayton’s original compilation has been expanded to 117 pages. It contains reproductions of historical maps the pioneers may have used, such as the 1823 map of the Platte River Valley. There is also a copy of the hymn Clayton wrote, “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” during the difficult winter of 1846-47 in Nauvoo.
The book also features contemporary maps, allowing the reader to follow the Mormon Trail. One can find out, for example, that the saints experienced their first buffalo hunt along Highway 30.
The route west from Omaha is known by many names: the North Bank Road, the Council Bluffs Road and the California Trail, since far more non-LDS people traversed the trail than Latter-day Saints, said Gregory Franzwa, manager of The Patrice Press, which published the book.
“Mormon Trail” is a fitting name because of the saints’ “role in the development of the American West, and especially the area between the Wasatch Front and the Sierra Nevada,” Franzwa said.