Railroad ushered in new era

On Oct. 24, 1868, the Frederick C. Anderson company, made up of 61 people in six wagons, arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. It was the last wagon train company of the pioneers.

Anderson joined the company in Europe where he had served a mission. He became the leader of the company in New York City, where the company had been detained because of illness of many of the travelers. Members of his company - which were, for the most part, in good health and good spirits when they reached the valley - had an advantage early pioneer companies didn't. After crossing the Atlantic Ocean, they traveled on the railroad as far as it could take them - to Benton, Wyo. - before forming a wagon train. The railroad cut wagon travel by hundreds of miles near the end of the pioneer era. By 1867 it reached North Platte, Neb., and in 1868 it reached Laramie, Wyo. and then Benton, Wyo.Anderson company members reported "being treated with marked respect and consideration by the railway officials along the entire line."

They undoubtedly weren't aware that their epic journey into the Salt Lake Valley would be the last of its kind. The following year, on May 10, 1869, the railroad would span across the United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans, thereby ending the pioneer migration.

With the combination of steamship travel and the railroad - replacing sailing vessels and wagon trains - the journey in 1869 from Europe to the Deseret Territory was cut from three to five months, to about 24 days. By 1877, the trip was about 17 days, said Richard L. Jensen, associate professor in the BYU Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Church History.

The new mode of transportation not only made the act of getting to the valley faster, but also easier and safer.

Even before the railroad was completed it was helping members come to Zion, Brother Jensen said. Many Saints paid for railroad passage in 1868 by laying road bed.

Brigham Young encouraged members planning to immigrate in 1867 to wait one year. Then the railroad would span farther, and "they could cut the time and distance they traveled on foot in half by waiting," explained Brother Jensen.

The railroad made Saints more flexible as to when they could make the journey and establish themselves more comfortably in their new home before winter.

The coming of the railroad helped Saints in the Salt Lake Valley. "It meant that more community resources, man power, oxen and other resources, that had gone to support immigration, could now be used to help local efforts, such as temple building and harvesting," Brother Jensen said.

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