BY THE FIFTIES a group of isolated communities beyond the Plains were calling for goods produced in the area east of the Mississippi. New Mexico had been served in a meager way before the Mexican War by the Santa Fe trade. After 1848 a vastly larger commerce flowed over the historic trail to Santa Fe. The California population induced some freight, although most of the wants of that section were met by ocean transportation. Salt Lake City was served from the Missouri River but largely by the Mormon church organization itself. The event that was to awaken the great freighting business between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains was the Mormon War of 1857. When the United States Army was despatched to Utah, quantities of supplies had to follow the expedition. Gold discoveries in Colorado, Montana, and Idaho increased the volume of freight during the sixties.
This vast freighting business, which reached its crest about 1866, for the most part ran from the Missouri River up the Platte Valley like a silver cord. The strands of the eastern end of this cord ran westward from Independence, Leavenworth, Atchison or St. Joseph, Nebraska City, Omaha, and a number of smaller intermediary points, uniting in the vicinity of Fort Kearney. The Western end also separated into strands which led to different points in the mountains. In addition to this main artery of freight transportation, there were shorter freighting lines between railroads or rivers and other points. A large amount of freight was hauled across Iowa before that gap was bridged by the railroad. In Montana quantities of freight were carried between the highest navigable point on the Missouri River and the mining towns, and