The Mormon Trail and My Tour of Cove Fort

Peter Paccone
Jun 2 · 6 min read

By Nathan Deng (SMHS ‘20)

In my Honors US History class, I learned about something called the Mormon Trail. In this regard, I specifically learned that:

  • The term Mormon Trail refers to the 1,300-mile route that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints traveled from 1846 to 1868.
  • The trail extended from Nauvoo, Illinois which was “the principal settlement of the Latter Day Saint from 1839 to 1846, to Salt Lake City, Utah, which was settled by Brigham Young and his followers beginning in 1847.”
  • Beginning in 1847, the Mormons created an addition to their trail . . . something called the Mormon Road . . . with this road being “a seasonal wagon road that followed the route of Spanish explorers across southwestern Utah, northwestern Arizona southern Nevada and the Mojave Desert, ending up in Los Angeles.”
Cove Fort is 75 miles north of Cedar City, Utah and 130 miles south of Provo, Utah
  • Along both the Mormon Trail and the Mormon Road, some Mormons were assigned to establish settlements and way stations and to plant and harvest crops for later emigrants.

After having learned the above, my teacher encouraged me to find some place more than fifty miles from the school that could teach me even more about the the Mormon Trail . . . then go to that place, tour it, and write a 750–1000 History Travel Blog describing that tour.

In the Travel Blog Post that appears below, I describe my tour of Cove Fort, a way station for people traveling the Mormon Road.

Cove Fort is located in Millard County, Utah, 597 miles from my school. ___________

My name is Nathan Deng, and in my Honors U.S. History class this past year, I learned about the Mormon migration to Utah and, more specifically, about the Mormon Trail and the Mormon Road.

To learn more about the Mormons and especially about the Mormons after their migration to Utah, I toured a place called Cove Fort during my 2019 Winter Break.

Cove Fort is a historic site located near the western terminus of Interstate 70 in Millard County, Utah. Millard County lies on the west side of Utah. Its west border abuts the east border of the state of Nevada.

As requested by Brigham Young (the second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the founder of Salt Lake City, Utah) Ira Hinckley (an early Mormon leader) established the fort in 1867 as a way station for people travelling along the Mormon Road, which the Mormons had established to search for resources after their settlement along the shores of the Great Salt Lake.

Cove Fort is the only fort built by the Mormons that remains standing.

Lead by a tour guide, I entered the fort through two large wooden doors located on the eastern wall of the fort.

In total, the square-shaped fort consisted of four walls made of volcanic rock and limestone that surrounded the square-shaped courtyard in the center. The fort consisted of a total of twelve rooms, each used for different purposes.

The first two rooms that I visited were the post office and the telegraph office. The post office was used to send and receive mail. In the telegraph office, the operators of the telegraph station would use Morse code to send and receive messages to and from communities as far south as Saint George at the edge of the Mojave Desert and as far north as Salt Lake City. The telegraph office was also used as an overflow dining room on days when there were a greater number of guests to accommodate.

Another room that I visited was the kitchen and dining room, the largest room in the fort. In this room, the Hinckley family prepared food for hungry guests who sat at two dining tables next to a fireplace. Although each meal typically cost fifty cents, travelers did not have to pay if they helped with some of the chores after they finished their meals. During mealtimes, the Hinckleys would often preach the Mormon faith and gather everyone to pray.

A few rooms in the fort were used to house guests for the night. Each person could only rent half a bed in which to sleep for twenty five cents so that each bed could accommodate two people. Men and women slept in different rooms, and the room in which men slept was called the boys room. The boys room contained several rope beds, and underneath the room was a cellar that was used for storing fruits and vegetables. Something that caught my eye in this room was a large gun situated above the fireplace mantel on the back wall. This gun was a very accurate repeating rifle that was used to deter Native American attackers.

There was one room in the fort that was used for washing and weaving. In this room, people would wash their clothes and bathe themselves in a metal bathtub, and others would weave with fabric to make clothes and reuse rags. In the center of the room was a table with several containers of soap and lye that were used for bathing and cleaning.

The Hinckleys, who maintained and managed the fort, had separate rooms for themselves to rest after long hours of accommodating guests. Adjacent to the fort were gardens and several other structures, including an ice house, a blacksmith shop, and a haylift.

Something interesting that I learned was that because there were no restrooms in the main fort structure, each room that was used for sleeping contained a chamber pot, which people would use as a toilet during the night when it was too dark to go the outhouse.

The boys were responsible for cleaning the chamber pot every day.

Overall, the tour guide was very informative and helped make my visit to Cove Fort enjoyable and entertaining.

I highly recommend Cove Fort as a place to explore Mormon history and learn more about Mormon life in the 19th Century.

Peter Paccone

Written by

HS Social Studies Teacher, KQED In the Classroom Coordinating Editor, Teacher-Advisor to the CA Better Together Teacher Summit. Blogger, speaker, ambassador.