Mormon-Carson Pass Emigrant Trail, the heavily-travelled gateway to California gold fields, was blazed in 1848 by discharged members of the Mormon battalion traveling east to join their families.
Five hundred Mormon volunteers, recruited in Iowa, served one year in the Army of the West under command of Col. P. St. George Cooke during the war with Mexico. After their discharge in Los Angeles in July 1847, about 100 men worked in the Sacramento area for John Sutter over the winter to obtain needed supplies. When work was completed, 45 men and one woman (wife of Sgt. William Coray) turned their backs on newly-discovered gold fields and headed east for Great Salt Lake Valley. With 17 wagons, 2 cannons, 150 horses and mules, and 150 cattle, this organized party left Pleasant Valley July 3, 1848, following the drainage divide between the American River and streams to the south.
On July 19 they found the common grave of three murdered comrades at a place they named Tragedy Spring (half-mile west of here). Following the ridge south of Silver Lake (viewed on your right) and obscured Squaw Ridge to the east, they crossed lofty West Pass at the foot of Melissa Coray Peak (9763 feet) on July 24. This pass and peak are seen ahead on the distant skyline. From West Pass (9550 feet), the 1848 route drops abruptly northward to Caples Lake, then eastward to Carson Pass (8550 feet).
In 40 days, this party blazed 170 miles of wagon road across trackless terrain, before joining the established California emigrant trail and heading east along the Humboldt River. Beginning in August of 1848, thousands of west-bound followed these Battalion track on their westward crossing of the Sierra Nevada. The location of today's Hwy. 88 north of Silver Lake and north of Carson Spur was opened with explosives.
Melissa Coray, then a bride of 18, walked beside her husband to California. The naming of Melissa Coray Peak honors not only the heroic pioneering efforts of Melissa and her party, but thousands of emigrant women who endured similar hardships in settling the West.
Site No. 52 Oregon-California Trail Association Dedicated July 30, 1994