Violence and Disruptive Behavior on the Difficult Trail to Utah, 1847–1868
One aspect of the Mormon pioneer experience has not been studied: violence. Did the pioneers have problems with fighting and other aggressive behavior? How did company leaders prevent problems and handle disputes when they inevitably arose? This article reports pioneer records mentioning arguments, punishments, and other violent actions. The stories range from a threatened whipping for children who dallied behind their group to the heartbreaking tale of handcart pioneers being whipped to keep them moving along a frozen trail. While sickness, hunger, accidents, and weather took their toll on the Mormon pioneers, violence was not a major issue. Although records of pioneers crossing the American West are very incomplete, this study shows that Mormon pioneer companies likely had a much lower rate of violence than companies headed to Oregon or California.