Wagon Train Route—
The Old Mormon trial, as it has come to be known stretched from the closest railhead at the time, at Iowa City, Iowa along the route depicted below. It often would take the other side of the river(s), so as to keep the Saints and those on the way to Oregon and or California separate. This was deemed wisdom due to the hard feelings between many in both of these groups. The plan seemed to work out well and helped to keep grass for the animals in better supply, than if everyone used the same side of the river. In the year the Sorensen familly traveled this route, there was also the wagon trains of the U.S. Army, moving supplies for the troops headed to the Territory of Utah. Several times they made camp on the other side of the river, what would you think…
— Route of the Old Mormon trail from Iowa City, Iowa to Great Salt Lake City —
The Sorensen family left Iowa City, Iowa on about June 15, 1857. Captain Matthias Cowley was in charge of this Scandinavian wagon company of 198 souls and their 31 wagons. They arrived in Great Salt Lake City, Territory of Utah, on September 13, 1857. From the time the family left Iowa City, Iowa, until the time they arrived at Florence, (i.e. Omaha; Council Bluffs) a distance of some 300 miles, they did not unyoke their new ox teams, as advised.
Isaac Sorensen relates part of the experience as follows below—
A greater trial than we had experienced before on our journey was now on hand. We were presented with two yoke of oxen to each wagon that never before had been yoked. They had their tails tied together and one of ours had broken his tail trying to get loose. We had a glorious time with our new team, we didn’t know woa from gee, and the oxen knew less than we did, however we arrived at camp in the evening with less damage than could have been expected. Father had one wagon small size, on which he had one yoke of broke oxen, them I drove the first day or two, so unbroke was the oxen, that our Captain dare not permit us to unyoke them at night, and we traveled 300 miles the oxen carrying the yoke night and day. Then they was released. It might be supposed by the reader that changing from a life like we had been used to before leaving our native country, changing it to that of a company on the plains, might cause serious feelings, the oxen wild, the men not used to driving them, no houses to go into after a days labor, fires to make and supper to cook, with very often poor wood and but little of it. But this was hardly even thought of, we had a mark in view and for that we sought the land of Zion, where prophets dwelt and where God would instruct his Saints and learn them of his ways. This hope inspired us and the troubles and trials of the journey seemed lighter than they might have been otherwise, and thus we reached Florence and there we stopped for a few days fitting out for the journey across the plains.
We started in July with the same teams we had before. We made good progress, crossed the plains in ten weeks after combating with obstacles of the various kinds. Our oxen getting tender-footed and having to break in cows to work in their place and many of our work cattle died through getting alkali, but not withstanding this we had a pleasant journey considering the change of life to what we had been used to in the old world. We had our meetings, did not forget our prayers and thus we was prospered and reached the valley in safety on the 13th of September , there was twelve of us in the family, father, mother, and a hire [Nils Otto Jorgensen], nine children beside a hired man that was with father in the old country when he joined the church. This hired man was a brother to my oldest sister Sophia’s man, he was killed by the Indians about eight months after we arrived in the valley. My oldest sister Sophia did not come out till 1858.(1)
- Isaac Sorensen, The History of Isaac Sorensen, Unpublished journal manuscript. Transcribed to typescript by Rodney J. Sorensen, 3-4 July 1987.