Villages on Wheels

A Social History of the Gathering to Zion

Book Notice

Villages on Wheels: A Social History of the Gathering to Zion, by Stanley B. Kimball and Violet T. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2011).

With all that has been said and written of the pioneer heroes of early Mormondom, Villages on Wheels beats down the partition of dates and facts to channel the voices of those who were “called to pass through it.” Uniquely organized to attract both the scholar and lay reader, Villages on Wheels presents the unadulterated history of the pioneers through hundreds of diaries, journal entries, and poems written by those who blazed the trail. Unlike other works on the exodus, Villages is a social history—a history of the common man told by the common man—independent of the political and economic approach that is more commonly discussed in academia. This characteristic makes the book accessible, educating and entertaining readers of all interest levels and disciplines.

Villages is clearly not a devotional work; the Kimballs include the good, the bad, and the ugly to honor the reality of the journey and give human dimension to the experience. The authors realize such human dimension in the book’s focal point: the daily life of those on the trail. The title itself encapsulates the development of community identity that grew among the Saints during the period of the migration. No longer were these early members of the Church defined by their individual heritage or nationality, but rather as a traveling faith-culture united in purpose and eternal inheritance—a concept that is key to the book’s thesis.

A distinguishing feature of Villages on Wheels is its chapter entirely dedicated to the lives of the unsung heroes of the trek—the draft animals that paved the trail with their hooves. Explicating journal entries of those who owned and cared for the animals, the Kimballs pay homage to the grit and resilience of these animals.

Featuring thousands of firsthand records never before compiled, Villages reaches beyond the Sunday School stories, strips away the romanticism, and sinks the reader deep into the day-to-day experiences of the Saints. With copious references to these personal accounts, the Kimballs step back and allow the Saints to tell their own tales of suffering, love, humor, tragedy, and joy. Villages on Wheels is a riveting compilation for any reader looking to discover this monumental and defining experience in Mormon history through the accounts of the common people who lived it.


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Print ISSN: 2837-0031
Online ISSN: 2837-004X