The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 73, July 1969 - April, 1970 Page: 1
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The Trek South: How the Mormons
Went to Mexico
B. CARMON HARDY*
IT IS COMMON KNOWLEDGE AMONG HISTORIANS OF WESTERN AMERICA,
and students of Mormon history in particular, that a number of
Mormon colonies were established in northern Mexico during the
last quarter of the nineteenth century.' Conversely, almost nothing
has been written concerning the difficult journey which carried so
many Mormon families south into Mexico. This is unfortunate con-
sidering the number of Mormons who eventually settled there. The
omission is especially unwarranted in view of the unusual circum-
stances of the trek. Distances were great and the physical obstacles
imposed by the terrain were immense. Contact with non-Mormons
along the way was strained and threatening. In addition, the event
constituted the last great effort of Mormonism to retain its peculiar
nineteenth-century integrity by physical flight from an unfriendly
environment. It is the intent here to describe the undertaking as an
important and memorable annal in Mormon history.
Mormon settlement in Mexico came about, largely, as a direct
response to the crusade against polygamy. The employment of various
coercive devices by the "gentile" community led to a near collapse
of Mormonism's material and institutional structure." Countless Mor-
mon heads of house were compelled to leave their homes and pos-
*B. Carmon Hardy is assistant professor of history at California State College at
'The three most accessible accounts are the appropriate sections in volume VI of
Brigham H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-
day Saints (6 vols.; Salt Lake City, 1930); Thomas Cottam Romney, The Mormon
Colonies in Mexico (Salt Lake City, 1938); and Nelle Spillsbury Hatch, Colonia Juarez:
An Intimate Account of a Mormon Village (Salt Lake City, 1954). Professor Karl Young,
of Brigham Young University, has also published accounts of the Mormons' Mexican
venture. See his "Early Mormon Troubles in Mexico," Brigham Young University Studies,
V (Spring-Summer, 1964), 155-167; "Brief Sanctuary," The American West, IV (May,
1967), 4-11, 66-67; and The Long Hot Summer of 1912, No. 1 in Charles E. Merrill
Monograph Series (Provo, Utah, 1967) .
2There are a number of very good treatments of this difficult period in Mormon his-
tory. Three of the best are Leonard J. Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic
History of the Latter-day Saints, 183o-19oo (Cambridge, Mass., 1958), 235-256, 353-379;
Richard D. Poll, "The Political Reconstruction of Utah Territory, 1866-1890," Pacific His-
torical Review, XXVII (May, 1958), 111-127; and the recent work of Klaus Hansen,
Quest for Empire (East Lansing, Mich., 1967), 147-179.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 73, July 1969 - April, 1970, periodical, 1970; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117147/m1/17/: accessed April 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.