The story of the American West is not simply a tale of pioneer courage and vision or of prairie schooners swaying westward to the strains of heroic music. Rather, it is a complex story of plots and sub plots, of romance and religion, of politics and money, and of personal and national tragedy.
Many emigrants were thrilled by both a new sense of freedom and the unknown dangers that lay ahead. Most however, lived in fear of Indian attack. Rumors of - even hoaxes about - trailside massacres drifted back to Eastern newspapers, and many travelers packed a virtual arsenal to protect themselves on the road.
Native Americans harbored hopes and fears too, as they watched the swelling tide of foreign humanity and hungry livestock surge into their country. For the most part, emigrants fears were unfounded. Historians conclude that more Indian people that emigrants were killed in clashes along the Oregon and California trails. A greater menace to travelers were so-called "white Indians," bands of vicious outlaws — sometimes disguised as native warriors who stalked and plundered emigrant parties.
Not far from here in 1861, a tragedy took the lives of an entire emigrant family. Three trappers discovered their remains. Although there were no eyewitnesses of the killings, the trappers learn that when the wagon train pulled out the
family had stayed behind to locate and retrieve their horses, which had wandered off in the night before. The bodies were placed together in their wagon box and buried on the spot. Their remains were later moved to the cemetery. As you explore the historic trains through southern Idaho, traces of emigrant stories can still be found on the landscape and in recorded journals and diaries that helped them through each trying day.