First Mormon Mail Contract

The first government mail service between Independence, Missouri, and Salt Lake City was supplied by Samuel Woodson, who 1850 took the contract for four years. But well before that there had been a private Mormon service whose carriers were Porter Rockwell, Almon Babbitt, and others, and when Woodson after a little more than a year had to have help, Feramorz Little took over the route from Salt Lake City to Fort Laramie for the last two years and eleven months of Woodson’s contract. From August 1, 1851 to April, 1853, Little and his helpers Eph Hanks and C. F. Decker rode that lonely and dangerous five hundred miles of mountains with no station and no change of animals except at Fort Bridger and, toward the end of their contract, at Devil’s Gate.

The plan was to meet the carrier from Independence at Fort Laramie, as near as possible to the fifteenth of each month, to exchange mail sacks, and to ride back at once. It was a route, like any mail route, but it meant a thousand-mile round-trip every thirty days. Often they picked up travelers who for safety’s sake wanted to ride with them, sometimes they were held up as much as three weeks by snow, once or twice they barely got through alive, several times they had encounters with the Crows, who were accustomed to “pick” small parties anywhere between Fort Laramie and Devil’s Gate.