Lander trail

Cut-off saved seven days of travel along Mormon-Oregon pioneer trail


A monument memorializing the contribution of Latter-day Saint laborers to the construction of the Lander Trail in 1858 was dedicated July 5.

Wyoming Gov. David Freudenthal, with Afton Mayor Alan Stauffer, unveiled the monument at a program which also included dedication of the new Afton-Lincoln County Civic Center.

After the unveiling, Gov. Freudenthal read the words on the bronze monument:

"Dedicated to the forty-seven men hired in Salt Lake City, Utah, to work on the Lander Road in 1858. They were recent immigrants and converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Many were Welsh miners from Cornwall. Without their labor and industry, the Lander Road could not have been completed."

The names of the 47 laborers are then listed.

The Lander Road, formally called the Central Division of the Pacific Wagon Road, was constructed between South Pass, Wyo., and Fort Hall, Idaho, in the summer of that year.

"The Lander Road saved maybe seven days of travel" along the Mormon and Oregon pioneer trail, said Kenneth Mays, a director of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation, in a Church News interview. He explained that the trail previously went from South Pass to Fort Bridger. Mormon travelers would then continue on to Utah and those on the Oregon Trail would proceed to Fort Hall, Idaho.

Jermy Wright, a director of the Lander Trail Foundation, recounted that Frederick W. Lander was superintendent of construction under the auspices of the U.S. Department of the Interior. He arrived at South Pass on June 14, 1858, with his support staff of engineers, surveyors, supply personnel, lumbermen, wagon masters, mountain guides, clerks and cooks.

"As an economic measure," he said, "Lander decided not to hire laborers in the East and bear the cost of wages and transportation to bring them west. Lander gambled he could hire the needed men from the Salt Lake City labor pool."

The quota was quickly filled. Lander wrote to the Secretary of the Interior: "The Mormons who worked upon the wagon road were very much pleased with their engagement, and returned to the city comfortably clad from the stock of clothing which had been taken to the mountains by the expedition."

He continued: "They are excellent laborers, many of them Cornish miners, who understood all sorts of ledge work, masonry, etc. The majority of the lower classes are trained in the use of implements of excavation from the amount of picking and digging which is required in the building of the great irrigating ditches and the erection of earth and rock fences by which the farms of the country are separated."

Lander wrote that he paid them a dollar a day for the work, but by the next season would probably have to pay them at a higher rate.

He concluded his remarks to the secretary with this comment: "I also take this opportunity of stating my appreciation of the excellent employees, all of whom sustained me in carrying out your instructions."

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