Archive for May, 2012

May Announcement for the Utah Westerners

EMIGRANTS ON THE CENTRAL OVERLAND TRAIL

JESS PETERSEN

Western writers and historians have paid a lot of attention to emigrant wagon roads like the Mormon Trail, the Salt Lake Cutoff, and the California Trail. There would be few who are not at least somewhat familiar with the story of the Pony Express, that short-lived, but romantic experiment in transporting the mail across the western states. But how many know that the route the Pony Express followed through Utah and Nevada was also used by a significant number of California-bound covered wagon emigrants? Until recently little was known about this aspect of western history.

Several years ago, Utah Westerner James Hall began to look into the possibilities that emigrants had indeed used this route. He found more than twenty diaries written by individuals who had traveled west on the Central Overland Trail between 1859 and 1868. James turned over the material he uncovered to fellow Westerner Jess Petersen who has since found several more diaries and other sources of related information. Jess compiled and edited all this material which was recently published by The Arthur H. Clark Company as West From Salt Lake: Diaries from the Central Overland Trail. Jess will tell us how the book came about, the history of how the Central Overland Trail was opened, where the trail and some of its variations went, and some of the experiences of the emigrants who kept the diaries.

Jesse G. Petersen is a Utah native who was educated in the state and has spent most of his adult life in law enforcement, having served 24 years as Chief of the Tooele City Police Department. He has had a life-long interest in history, but it wasn’t until 1992 when the Lincoln Highway Association was organized that he actively participated in historical research. He went on to help Gregory Franzwa research and write two books on the Lincoln Highway and has served for many years as president and also treasurer of the Lincoln Highway Association. In 2008, his book, A Route for the Overland Stage: James H. Simpson’s 1859 Trail Across the Great Basin, was published by Utah State University Press. Jess is a member of OCTA and is currently working on a project to install Rail Post markers at various sites on the Central Overland Trail.

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May 7, 2012 at 8:30 am Leave a comment


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