In 1847, early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints took their westward trek through Wyoming from Fort Laramie, following the Oregon Trail along the Platte River, to Fort Bridger. As pioneers repaired wagons at Fort Laramie, Church President Brigham Young celebrated his 46th birthday. The pioneers used rafts and a boat to ferry themselves and their belongings across the Platte River. Nine men stayed behind to continue the profitable ferry, which found business from Oregon-bound travelers.
In Wyoming, the pioneers met Jim Bridger, who gave an optimistic opinion of the Great Basin area. Most pioneer companies traveled through Wyoming without incident; however, the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies of 1857 started later in the year and became trapped in the winter snows. Approximately 200 of the 1,075 in the companies died. Others were saved by Utah rescue parties. In 1877, Church members settled the Star Valley area, and the following year, Church President Brigham Young dedicated the spot as a gathering place for members.
In 1992, Wyoming Latter-day Saints erected three monuments in memory of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies. Later, the Church purchased land at the mouth of Sweetwater Canyon where 21 pioneers died in one night. These sites were dedicated by Church President Gordon B. Hinckley.