Required Readings: 

January 17, 2017. The Haitian Revolution to Lewis and Clark

January 19, 2017. The Overland Trails and Mormon Trials


Guided Reading Questions For the Week:

  • How did New France in the American West differ from New Spain? From Comancheria? Think about their differences and similarities economically, socially, militarily, and religiously.
  • What role did mixed race people and their families have in forging the West?
  • Who is the intended audience for Narcissa Whitman’s letters and journals? Why is she keeping this detailed record of her time in Oregon?
  • What are the major themes in Narcissa Whitman’s writing?
  • How does Narcissa understand ‘family’? Do these families reflect biological families or are they focused on creating a productive household through fictive kinship?
  • Are you sympathetic to Narcissa Whitman?
  • Looking at Narcissa’s writing, how does gender come into play?
  • Quotes to think about: 

“Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue.” — Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781, Query XIX

“The story of Toussaint Louverture has been told almost as often as that of Napoleon, but not in connection with the history of the United States although he exercised on their history an influence as decisive as that of any European ruler.” –Henry Adams

Do you agree with Ken Burns’ documentary on Lewis & Clark that they were the first United States citizens to experience the Great Plains or the Rocky Mountains?

For fun:

Want to learn more about Lewis & Clark? Check out these resources:

  •  Timeline for Lewis & Clark’s expedition 
  • C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution
  • Michael Lansing, “Plains Indian Women and Interracial Marriage in the Upper Missouri Trade, 1804-1868,” Western Historical Quarterly, 31 (Winter 2000), 413-433
  • Ronda, James P. Finding the West: Explorations with Lewis and Clark.Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2001.
  • Gilman, Carolyn. Lewis and Clark: Across the Divide. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books and Missouri Historical Society Press, 2003.

  • Sherman Alexie, “What Sacagawea Means to Me,” Time 

WEEKLY ASSIGNMENT: Digital Research with the Pioneer Overland Travel Database

This week, our blog post will focus on using digitized databases in primary source research. The Pioneer Overland Travel Database contains information on thousands of emigrants (or pioneers) who traveled West to settle Utah. There are dozens of ways to organize information in this database once you get deeper down into the information beyond names and companies listed on the homepage. After exploring this database, your blog post assignment is to pitch in a paragraph an original research paper you could write analyzing the data on this website (for example, you can make demographic arguments, gender arguments, write biographies, find resource issues, make spatial arguments, company arguments, go through their diaries and letters etc). In your second paragraph, suggest an argument you might make using the data you focused on and 1 primary source that you could use to further substantiate your claims. The point of this exercise, beyond learning more about the Mormon overland migration, is to practice using digitized databases and locating accurate and relevant research sources. If you need a reminder on what constitutes a primary source versus a secondary source, here is my online guide. 

A Timeline of Major Mormon History Events 

1830: Book of Mormon published

1840: Nauvoo is nearly same size as Chicago (Smith is mayor)

1843 “Revelation on Celestial Marriage” taught in secret in Nauvoo

1844: Joseph Smith assassination

1847  Mormon migration to Utah begins

1848: Mormons working for John Sutter in California help with discovery of gold/ California gold rush begins, large profits on “Mormon Island,” Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo brings Utah under United States territory

 1848   First wave of Chinese immigration begins

1849: State of Deseret proposed

1850   Utah becomes a territory

1852  LDS church authorities publicly acknowledge the doctrine of “Plural  Marriage” outside of the church

1856 Republican vow to fight “twin relics of barbarism–Polygamy and Slavery”

1857-8 President Buchanan sends Federal Troops to Utah to install a non-Mormon governor / Utah War / Mountain Meadow Massacre

1863  Congress passes the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act

1869  Congress passes Fourteenth Amendment

Transcontinental railroad completed

Susan B. Anthony drafts an amendment on woman suffrage

Mass meeting in Salt Lake City to protest the proposed Cullom Bill

1870   Territory of Utah gives women the vote

1873    Comstock Act forbids distribution by mail of “obscene, lewd, or lascivious materials”

1875   Page Act forbids importation of Asian women for “lewd or immoral purposes”

1879  Reynolds vs. United States upholds constitutionality of anti-polygamy legislation

1882 Edmunds Act allows prosecution “unlawful cohabitation”

Chinese Exclusion Act forbids immigration of Chinese laborers

1887   Edmunds-Tucker Act confiscates LDS church property, outlaws woman suffrage

1890  LDS Church President Wilford Woodruff issues manifesto ending church- sanctioned polygamy

1896   Utah becomes the 45th state.  Women suffrage reinstated

Want to learn more about the Overland Trails? Check out these sources! 

Rhae Lynn Barnes is an Assistant Professor of American Cultural History at Princeton University (2018-) and President of the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography. She is the co-founder and C.E.O. of U.S. History Scene and an Executive Advisor to the documentary series "Reconstruction: America After the Civil War" (now streaming PBS, 2019).

6 responses to “Empire of Dirt Week 2: Haitian Revolution & Louisiana Purchase Opens the West / Overland Trails

  1. The proposed research paper will focus on the people who were part of the “longest
    march,” and their experiences along the way. This group of Mormons, who left
    the Mormon Pioneer Overland Trail at Council Bluffs, Iowa to answer the call to
    arms, embarked on a 2000 mile journey to San Diego. There they were to join the
    American forces fighting in the Mexican-American War. Among the 513 men who joined
    the battalion, 33 (or 34) women and 51 children went with them. The women were
    enlisted in the army as privates. Two of the women were pregnant. All but four
    of the women were left to care for the sick in Colorado.

    The men who reached California became early settlers of the area, some who
    were among those who first discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill. The argument will
    be that the women, rather than being separated from their husbands, preferred
    to suffer the hardships of the long walk Westward, and therefore became a
    crucial part in the settlement of the West. For sources, this paper will rely
    heavily on journal entries from those present at the time of departure, like
    Colonel Thomas L. Kane and those who made the journey. The primary source
    material will be The Annals of the Mormon
    Battalion, An Eyewitness Account 1846-1848, Journals, Diaries, and
    Auto-Biographies of the Original Members of the Mormon Battalion, by Carl
    V. Larson, 1700 East Electronic Media, Spanish Fork, UT, 2000, and Journal of the March of the Mormon Battalion…,
    Executive Document No. 2, U.S. Congress,
    31st Congress, Special Sess., 1849, Philip St. George Cooke. Other sources will be sought to follow the story at trail’s end.

  2. This research paper is centered on the people of the Joseph B. Noble Company that began their trek west from Nebraska in 1847. They were a part of what was called a church train made up of 173 Mormons headed towards the Salt Lake area. Those who were involved in this particular caravan were particularly religious and felt that their journey was necessary in order to obtain religious freedom.

    The notion of leaving to settle a new territory as the only option in finding religious freedom is incredibly intriguing to me. The argument will be that the quest for the rights of their religion was so great, those involved were willing and eager to fulfill said quest despite the dangers and risks that were involved. Religious freedom took precedent and any sacrifices that had to be made along the way were seen as necessary and in favor of the cause they were attempting to achieve. One of the main sources that this paper will use to support its argument is a newspaper article written about 40 years after the trek west by someone who was a child traveling with their family with this company.
    one of the primary sources is:

    “Pioneer Mrs. Duzette,” Deseret News [Weekly], 17 Apr. 1897, 573.

  3. The proposed research topic would be more of a biography on the life of Brigham Young. Touching briefly on his early childhood and diving deeply into his adulthood as a main contributor to the Mormon Trail. Quickly, he went from a child who had only 11 days of schooling to someone who supervised the passage to Salt Lake Valley for almost 70,000 pioneers. In Salt Lake Valley, it is said, he helped plan and build towns and eventually lead them as well. Eventually, he became Utah’s governor and presided over two terms.

    One argument can delve into how Young would take leadership roles. Using the primary source of Millen Atwood’s Journal entries from April to July of 1847, one can see that Young thought of the best interests for the pioneers and gave orders that helped the pioneers during the traveling time.

  4. I will focus my paper on two factors spread across all of the companies: wagons and handcarts. Out of every single company, the Mormons either used wagons or handcarts along their journey West. This may seem like a trivial matter until one looks at the differences in death rates between the two. Based off of my initial research, I found that the average death rate was close to 15% for companies that used handcarts and around 1% for those who used wagons. These stark differences peaked my interest. One way I could shape the paper would be to research more about the significance of technological innovation in the journey West (some correlations to the transcontinental railroad). Another way I could go with this would to look further into socio-economic statuses of people who took handcarts vs. wagons. Could the rich buy their way a safer trip West?

    There is one source that provides ample amount of information to justify my claims. Rogerson, Josiah, “Tells Story of Trials of the Handcart Pioneers,” gives a narrative to backup hardship with the handcarts. It documents some of the difficulties the pioneers encountered and how the handcarts led to “appalling losses of life.” Furthermore, this source outlines how handcart companies had people who died from “over-exertion.” The evidence continues to suggest that their were some serious downsides to the handcart. Ultimately, I would continue to find sources like this one to help highlight the importance of proper technology in the journey to the West.

  5. I will focus my research paper on the amount of individuals within several different companies. When looking at the size of individuals, in particular groups that range from sixty and above and groups that range from one hundred to two hundred, it is interesting to see the average time spent on the trip. The companies I am looking at include the Isaac Allred Freight Train, Fred Anderson Company, John Brown, and the Milo Andrus Company to name a few.

    Of the eight total group sampled, four small sized companies and four large sized companies, the data shows that on average larger companies take less time to make the trip than do smaller companies. This paper would aim to argue that larger groups are able to make the trip faster than smaller groups. There are several other factors that could affect the data such distance traveled, yet, the evidence is strong. Primary Sources that could back up this claim would be two separate journals from captains in respective companies. Such as James S Brown’s ‘In Our Pioneer Heritage’ and the journals of John Brown.

  6. My proposed research topic would address the relationship between Mormon pioneers and the United States army. A blog post on the Pioneer Travel website notes that over 500 Mormon settlers joined the army to fight in the war against Mexico in 1846. Brigham Young encouraged his followers to enlist for the monetary benefits. I am interested in the details of this arrangement; not only the experiences of the men who fought in the war, but also how their absence affected the Mormon pioneers’ westward movement. I suspect that there are interesting stories to be told regarding the Mormon Battalion’s nearly 2,000 mile march to California.

    There are many primary sources concerning the Mormon Battalion. Census data might be particularly useful for identifying the soldiers and obtaining background information about their lives. The 1850 census is publicly available and I would likely consult it in my paper.

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