The Mormon Vanguard Brigade of 1847: Norton Jacob’s Record

In The Mormon Vanguard Brigade of 1847, Ronald Barney and Utah State University Press have published the valuable Norton Jacob diary account of the historic 1847 trek. Because of excellent transcriptions and extensive annotations, this might well be the best published version of any of the 1847 pioneer diaries. The manuscript diary, donated to the LDS Church Archives by family members in 1949, is part of the book The Record of Norton Jacob, privately published (and not widely circulated) in 1949.

Among key historic events of the American West, the 1847 Mormon vanguard trek is one of the best documented. At least 24 of the nearly 150 pioneers kept diaries, or almost 1 in 6. Most have been published. Arguably the best two diaries were those kept by company clerks Thomas Bullock and William Clayton. Will Bagley recently edited and published Bullock’s diary in The Pioneer Camp of the Saints: The 1846 and 1847 Mormon Trail Journals of Thomas Bullock. 2 Well transcribed and moderately annotated, it earned a best book award from the Mormon History Association. George D. Smith edited and published Clayton’s diary in An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton. Smith, not an expert in western history, provided little annotation. As a manuscript, Norton Jacob’s diary perhaps ranks behind the Bullock and Clayton diaries in importance and coverage, but I believe that Barney’s masterful annotation pushes this volume to the top of the list.

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