The North Bend Eagle


Joe Blythe drives his team as Woodrow Durrant rides behind
along County Road S just north of North Bend.

Wagon following path of ancestors 175 years later

by Nathan Arneal
Published 6/6/06

In 1847 Brigham Young led a group of Mormon pioneers from the Winter Quarters, located in what is now Florence in North Omaha, to the Salt Lake Valley where they would settle and establish what became Salt Lake City, Utah.

One hundred seventy-five years later, Joe Blythe is following in Young’s wagon tracks, tracks that took him and his covered wagon and team of mules through North Bend Friday afternoon.

Blythe, a Mormon who lives in Utah where he is an engineer, got into studying his family history a while back. Many of his ancestors made the journey west on the Mormon Trail while it was active between 1846 the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869.

Five years ago, he got the idea of paying tribute to his ancestors by retracing their path along the Mormon Trail, with the goal of doing it on the 175th anniversary of the original trek in a covered wagon like the pioneers did.

That gave him a few years to find a wagon and learn how to handle a team of mules pulling a wagon, something he had no experience with.
He bought a wagon running gear that was found in a barn, built a wagon on top of it, and found a friend, Woodrow Durrant, to make the trip with him,

The original Mormon pioneers broke the journey west into two sections. They left from their previous home in Nauvoo, Illinois, in February 1846. The going was slower than anticipated, so they stopped for the winter in what became known as the Winter Quarters where the Florence neighborhood of Omaha is now.

Blythe followed the trail from Nauvoo to Omaha last year, the 175th anniversary of the first part of the trek. He found relatives buried in the old Mormon cemetery near the Winter Quarters, as he did along the trail through Iowa.

He will likely pass more buried relatives on the second leg, but he won’t know about it.

Read the full story in the print or e-edition.

<<Back to the front page