Filed Under Settlers

Honeymoon Trail

The Honeymoon Trail connected Latter-day Saint communities in Arizona to St. George and was originally known as the Mormon Wagon Road. Will C. Barnes, an American historian, coined the term Honeymoon Trail as he studied the hundreds of couples who trekked along the trail to the St. George Temple to get married. Couples continued to make the hazardous journey until 1927, when the Mesa, Arizona temple opened.

In 1871, leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints announced that a temple would be built in St. George in 1871. While this was exciting for members in southern Utah, it was also exciting to the members scattered throughout Arizona who wanted to be married for eternity in a ceremony that could only take place in a temple. After the temple in St. George was completed in 1877, couples in Arizona traveled to St. George to participate in the marriage ceremony. Depending on their starting point in northern or southern Arizona, some couples traveled over 400 miles to be married.

The Honeymoon Trail was difficult to traverse under the best conditions and was sometimes made worse by the weather. Couples had no choice but to cross deep muddy washes and traverse canyons and hills. They could choose between a shorter route across mountains or avoid them by extending their journey by many miles. Although the trail did have a hazardous river crossing, most of the trail lacked adequate drinking water. It was common for oxen to die from dehydration. Some couples made the most of this loss by trading dying or dead oxen to people along the trail for other needed goods. Some couples endured snowstorms while others endured sandstorms. For instance, Joseph Fish, who undertook the trail to marry Julia Reidheid, suffered vision loss due to the sandstorms encountered on the journey. Despite their father’s challenging experience, some of Fish’s children still chose to traverse the same trail to reach the temple, fully aware of the risks they would face.

The physical trail was not the only danger faced by couples. Tensions stemming from the Black Hawk War, a violent confrontation between Latter-Day Saint settlers and the Ute, Paiute, and Navajo nations from 1865 until 1872, led to ongoing confrontations. Some travelers lost horses to Indigenous raiders. However, many of the interactions between travelers and the Natives were friendly. Still, stories of past violence exaggerated the expectations of hostile interactions and caused the travelers to fear. Not only were Natives a concern, but running into strangers and outlaws also brought fear to the lawless wilderness. Danger surrounded the couples and groups who journeyed to the temple in St. George. 

The efforts and dedication of the Saints of Arizona were observed by Church leaders. In 1918 they announced that a temple would be built in Mesa Arizona. At the time there were only six operating temples, marking a tremendous victory for the members scattered throughout Arizona. The completion of the Mesa Temple in 1927 brought to an end the colorful history of the Honeymoon Trail.

Images

Honeymoon Trail
Honeymoon Trail Source:

Mays, Kenneth R. Honeymoon Trail, Arizona. 2003. Photograph. Brigham Young University, Utah, https://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/digital/collection/RelEd/id/5153 

Creator: Kenneth R. Mays
Kenneth R. Lee’s Ferry Crossing
Kenneth R. Lee’s Ferry Crossing Source: Mays, Kenneth R. Lee’s Ferry crossing, Arizona. 2003. Photograph. Brigham Young University, Utah, https://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/digital/collection/RelEd/id/5160.
Arizona Strip
Arizona Strip Source: Mays, Kenneth R. Arizona Strip. 2003. Brigham Young University, Utah, https://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/digital/collection/RelEd/id/5143. Creator: Kenneth R. Mays
Canaan Gap
Canaan Gap Source: Mays, Kenneth R. Canaan Gap. 2003. Photograph. Brigham Young University, Utah, https://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/digital/collection/RelEd/id/5150. Creator: Kenneth R. Mays

Location

Metadata

Margie Brown, Brigham Young University, “Honeymoon Trail,” Intermountain Histories, accessed July 24, 2024, https://www.intermountainhistories.org/items/show/777.