The Plains Across: The Overland Emigrants and the Trans-Mississippi West, 1840-60
This volume presents a study of overland travel across the Great Plains of the United States prior to the Civil War. It covers mainly the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails. The author provides excerpts from the traveler's journals and diaries, along with references from various newspapers throughout the country. He first introduces the political and social ramifications and the pros and cons of overland travel to Oregon and California. He then unravels the "why's" as to the emigrants' desire to pursue such an endeavor, risking loss of everything, including possibly life itself. Readers get a feel for how the "overlanders" got along with each other; their relations with Indians; the battles of overcoming hunger, thirst, cold, etc. The author also mention of private entrepreneurs along the trail who were trading and selling goods at exorbitant prices; the "white Indians" who were white men masqueraded as Indians taking advantage of the emigrants; the Mormon influence throughout the Salt Lake area, along with the "Winter Mormons" who were average non-Mormon emigrants wishing to overwinter in Salt Lake but subjected to cruel and unjust treatments. The author describes the federal government's role in Westward emigration by improving roads, establishing forts along the way and implementing troops to guide and protect the overlanders to safety.
University of Illiniois Press
United States History
Unruh, John D. Jr., "The Plains Across: The Overland Emigrants and the Trans-Mississippi West, 1840-60" (1979). American History. 61.