On Christmas Day, 2013, my gift to myself was to sit down at my computer and at last begin in earnest to create "Frank Nielsen's MORMON TRAIL MAP", which I had been working on in my mind for nearly 36 years. Since I had prepared myself for the task more than half my life, once I really got to it in 2014, it took "only" eight months and 1,000 work hours to complete. I also drove 5,200 miles, from Corona, California to Salt Lake City, Utah, then on to Nauvoo, Illinois, and back, including a 500-mile detour to Independence, Missouri. My wife Cindy and I were so excited to make this wonderful trip, spending a few days in Nauvoo, plus a few more in Salt Lake City, and visiting every site along the way. This map could not have been completed without firsthand experience in places such as Carthage Jail, Mount Pisgah, Chimney Rock, Martin's Cove, the Sweetwater River Sixth Crossing, Fort Bridger, and Echo Canyon. This made my map authentic and accurate. Seeing these places and understanding what the early Mormons went through, supplemented and gave light to my ever-growing information base, which includes books, brochures, maps, websites, personal histories, plus a precious 1899 wall map, titled "Route of the Mormon Pioneers from Nauvoo to Great Salt Lake", which started my thinking about the Mormon Trail Map in the first place. All of the information came together I at last put it down on paper, so to speak, just as I had envisioned since 1978. As a personal bonus, in 2014 I belatedly learned that I am the great-great grandson of Mormon Pioneers - on both sides of the family! So, this may be my finest work, not just because I have many years of map making experience leading up to it, but because I was literally inspired and guided to do it, and the product itself is inspirational. The back story follows:

In 1899 my grandfather, John Franklin Nielsen (Grandpa Frank), bought a brand new copy of the above mentioned pictorial wall map titled "Route of the Mormon Pioneers from Nauvoo to Great Salt Lake". An image of it appears below. It is a 14" x 41-1/4" full color lithograph, by an unknown artist, showing the original 1846-1847 route of "Vanguard Company" of Mormon Pioneers, led by Brigham Young. On it there is a dashed line from East to West depicting the trail route, and a dot for every camp stop along the way, with the dates and distances from camp to camp. The map has a beautiful montage of the most notable sights and experiences of the Mormon Pioneers. Map making is called "Cartography", but I would call this lovely map "Artography", because it is so artistic.

Although the "Route of the Mormon Pioneers from Nauvoo to Great Salt Lake" specifically traces the route of Brigham Young's Vanguard Company, all other Mormon pioneers are honored by this map as well. I have recently learned that this includes dozens of my own ancestors. Just last week I studied the genealogy of Grandpa Frank's wife, my Grandma Ruby Hunt Nielsen. I learned that my Great-Great Grandpa Samuel Gadd and family traveled and suffered with the ill-fated Willie Handcart Company in 1856, and that Great-Great Grandpa Samuel died at 42 along the Platt River just west of Casper Wyoming on October 9th. His death came just before the company "nooned", in warm weather more than a week before the company was stranded by the infamous blizzard. Apparently he died of pneumonia and was never well from the start of the journey. Two of his seven children died in the severe blizzard. I also discovered that Great Grandpa George Josiah Marsh, who is my mother's grandfather, and his family are also among those honored by the 1899 map. George left Nauvoo in 1846, but travelled across the plains in 1852 at 22 years of age. George fondly remembered that the Prophet Joseph Smith spent the night in the Marsh home when George was 13. George worked closely with Brigham Young, was chosen as one of seven to lay the cornerstone of the Salt Lake City Temple, and was President of the 59th Quorum of the Seventy. As I finally awoke to the call of my ancestors in 2014, I found much information about my Nielsen lineage as well. My Nielsen pioneers are also honored by the 1899 map. The story of Great-Great Grandpa Peder Christian Nielsen is that he and his family became members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Denmark in 1855, and the family emigrated to Salt Lake City, Utah in 1866. After being baptized, they were persecuted in Denmark. They waited 11 years to receive funds to emigrate to Salt Lake City, but when the Church's Perpetual Emigration Fund bought them their fare, only five out of seven in the family could go. Great Grandpa Rasmus Nielsen (14) was left behind, but came to Utah three years later on the new train line. Niels (21), a sailor, was also left behind and died at sea four years later. Sadly, my two-times great grandparents never saw their first born son Niels again. To get to Zion, the five Nielsens sailed across the Atlantic by ship, then up the Hudson River and Erie Canal to Buffalo, New York, then on another boat across Lake Erie to what is now Cleveland, Ohio, then took a train to St. Joseph, Missouri, then a riverboat to Wyoming, Nebraska, and finally walked 1,100 miles on the Mormon Trail to Salt Lake City with an oxen wagon train. 54 out of 300 emigrants in their company died of cholera, a disaster which struck the day they started. Their company was later infamously called "The Cholera Train". The Nielsens were the only family in the company that did not lose someone to illness. Great-Great Grandma Magdalena Nielsen was smitten by cholera too, but she recovered and then took in and mothered two families of children, who were orphaned by the disease, for the rest of the journey. Great-Great Grandma asserted that the reason she recovered and the rest of the family was not smitten, was that she brought a bottle of brandy from Denmark, which was sipped nightly by all in the family as medicine. When they arrived in Salt Lake City on October 19, 1866, 21 weeks after they left Denmark, they had community and Church assistance, but had to start from scratch and build a new life and home in a new world. I understand that Great-Great Grandma made friends with other Danes, but never really spoke English well by the time she passed away in 1903. This lovely 1899 map truly honors my great-great grandparents and their families, and all other families of Mormon emigrants from 1846 until 1869, whatever their difficult story.

My guess is that Grandpa Frank and many others of pioneer progeny bought the "Route of the Mormon Pioneers from Nauvoo to Great Salt Lake" map when it was brand new in 1899 for the reason of honoring their own Mormon Pioneer ancestors, as well as because it is a fabulous, historical picture. Fortunately, Grandpa Frank kept his wall map in good condition until 1953. On October 9, 1953, I was seven days old, and it was the 35th birthday of my Dad, Merrill Rasmus Nielsen, when Grandpa Frank passed away. Dad inherited the map, and I inherited the name, Frank. When I was 25, in 1978, my Dad gave me the map, and it enlightened me regarding Mormon Pioneer history. As of 2014, I can say it actually changed my life, because it has caused me to learn about my own personal Mormon Pioneer heritage. As a result, I now feel an urgency to inspire people to understand the importance of the Mormon Pioneer migration, and to love the warm spirit of our ancestors and their immense faith.

You may be surprised, however, to hear that even though I possessed this 1899 wall map, and was truly inspired by it, I, Frank Nielsen, did not even know about my own Mormon pioneer heritage until 2014! It is embarrassing, but I was simply ignorant of my genealogy and pioneer heritage for the first 60 years of my life! For reasons that I did not before understand, this map always seemed intensely interesting to me. Yet I never took the time to ask Dad or anyone else any questions about the history or genealogy of my family. This may just be an excuse, but to my recollection, our heritage was never talked about in my family, or if it was, I must not have paid attention to it.

Nevertheless, I became familiar with the "Route of the Mormon Pioneers from Nauvoo to Great Salt Lake" map starting in 1973, when Dad Merrill, an artist, created a similar map using pencil and water color. He was basically copying the original. Dad's artwork was only partially finished, but it still caused me to look at the 1899 map closely for the very first time when I compared his artwork to the original. Even though Dad and I were both interested in the map for artistic and historical reasons, I still had no idea that we were pioneer descendents, and I don't think Dad knew either. The only Nielsen history that Dad ever told me was that his grandfather, my Great-Grandpa Rasmus Nielsen (who is Peder's son), was from Denmark and that he died in 1892 in Vernal, Utah of a bee sting at the age of 43, when Grandpa Frank was 12 years old. That was it, the whole story. Dad also never told me that his mother's (my grandmother's) grandparents and families were all pioneers. And I was never told that anyone on Mom's father was George Josiah Marsh, Jr., the son of a pioneer. Now that I find that I had 29 or more Mormon pioneer ancestors! I am pleased, amazed and thrilled, yet I wonder why I never knew this before.

Even in my ignorance about pioneer and family history, the 1899 map and Dad's painting inspired me. It gave me an idea to make a map where I would show the old "Route of the Mormon Pioneers from Nauvoo to Great Salt Lake" as is, and make a modern map parallel to the old one, showing the country from Illinois to Utah. In 1978 I figured I would like to make a map showing where the Mormon pioneer trail actually went on a modern map, including what you can still see along the way. I had a burning desire and became intensely interested in my idea to make a modern guide map, even though I had zero map making training, and I had no particular art skills. It was because of my interest in 1978 that Dad gave me the 1899 map for keeps. However, it was in poor condition, with gaps where the flaky paper had disappeared. I wanted to find a good condition copy to use for my own map making idea, but with no internet and with information being hard to come by in those days, details or a replacement map were a challenge to find.
Then came the book miracle: On lunch break in 1983 I went to a bookstore in Orange County, California, looking at books about the American westward migration and thinking about the map I would like to make one day. I had the 1899 map on my mind. In the bookstore I looked high up on a shelf eight-and-a-half feet high and spied a large book, entitled The Way West. "Wow! This is going to be good!", I said to myself as I tiptoed and stretched as high as a 6'-4" man can reach, and just got my middle fingernail under the edge of the book. I scooted it forward until it fell. I caught it with both hands and it opened right to page 100. What do you think was on page 100? Yes, my astonished eyes beheld a photo of the 1899 wall map, "Route of the Mormon Pioneers from Nauvoo to Great Salt Lake"! Yes, I was right, "This was going to be good." My unbelievable find led me to call the museum in Ft. Worth Texas where the map in the book was on display, and they sent me a high quality photo of their map for five dollars! In my view, this miracle affirmed the feeling that I was supposed to make my map, as if I had just been called to do so. Remember, I knew nothing about my pioneer ancestry at the time, yet I was already destined to honor them and inspired others to honor the pioneers as well.

I was off to a start on my mapping project, and I knew I had to do it, but I still didn't get to it for three more decades. I have excuses, such as, I was young, starting a family, working full-time, and so on. Plus, with zero map making skills or artistic training, and non-existence of computer graphics, the old days were good times for me to find information and have ideas, but it would be next to impossible for me to create the map, yet. That was still over 30 years off.

Ten years later, in 1993, I actually became a map maker and published my first of over 150 beautiful, interesting maps. I had actually become an "Artographer", as originally inspired by the 1899 map! That first map was called "Franko's Map of the Santa Ana Mountains". It was hand drawn, still predating my computer graphics skills by six years. The Santa Ana Mountains map satisfied my want for a trail map for my local mountain biking, and it sold well, along with other maps I made. Once I began making maps using computer graphics in 1999, my maps became very colorful, and my thoughts repeatedly turned to the Mormon Trek map idea. Computer graphics enabled me to employ similar colors on my maps that the 1899 map has, which I call "shades of chartreuse". However, with work and a family, a then a growing, but very difficult maps business, I put off working on my Mormon Trek map indefinitely.

In 2010 I had a unique opportunity to revisit my map idea with my Church Stake President during an interview. It was President Paul Burch's last week of living in Corona, California, before moving to Arizona, when I was interviewed. After the formal interview, he asked me, "So Frank, how are things going with your maps?" I told him that I didn't really want to talk about the mess that was my business, because it was not really going well, but asked him if he would instead like to hear my "Mormon Pioneer Trek" map idea. I hadn't told anybody about it for years. I admitted that I had a map idea that I had been working on in my head "for over 30 years!" I told him about the inspiring 1899 wall map, how I had gotten it from my father, and that I wanted to make an interesting historical map with what to see along the pioneer trail today. I even animated the story about reaching for the book The Way West, and how it fell off the high shelf and opened right to page 100. I found myself very excited to talk about the idea. President Burch was interested and touched by my idea. He listened as I intensely expressed my idea, and then we discussed how much good it could do to inspire people about the Mormon Pioneer story. He clearly got the picture of what I intended to create and said, "Frank, as my last act as your Stake President, I commission you to get this map done. This is important. You do it!"

In late 2012 I stopped making "Franko's Maps". Then, after 16 months of playing with business ideas and looking for work, on Christmas Day, 2013 I got started on my commissioned map work.

One of the most fun parts of making this map happened in May, 2014 as I was nearing completion of my map prototype, when I found out about my own Mormon Pioneer ancestors. I was studying the map on my computer when I asked my wife, Cindy, "Why am I so-o-o driven to make this map? Do you think I have pioneer ancestors?" This was me in my full ignorance of my own history and genealogy, speaking to my wife, the genealogy expert! She said, "Of course! Your great-great grandparents came across the plains on a wagon train. Let me go get a paper about it out of my genealogy file." She returned with a write-up by my cousin, May Anderson, who is Great-Great Grandpa Peder Nielsen's granddaughter. I suddenly learned that I am a great-great grandson of a Mormon Pioneer! This led to more family stories, such as about Great Aunt Tora, who was four years of age at the time they came from Denmark and went across the plains in an oxen wagon train in 1866. Tora lived until 1961, passing away at 99 in Vernal, Utah, as one of the last two or three remaining, pre-1869 original pioneers. My Grandpa Frank was Tora's nephew and May's first cousin. I suddenly came to realize that I was not just making a map for the general Church population to enjoy, but I was doing justice to the Nielsen legacy, by creating the best map I could! At last I came to know why this project had been on my mind since 1978. I also see why "coincidences", like the The Way West book falling off the shelf into my hands and opening right to page 100, had occurred. "I am supposed to make this map, because I was chosen!" I also see why NOW is the right time. Yes, I am the great-great grandson of Mormon pioneer emigrants, and that is how I came to be born in Salt Lake City, Utah! I have a Mormon pioneer heritage on both sides of my family, and I intend to honor my loving ancestors with my talents. It was about time I found out about what was behind my powerful desire to make this map! And at last I truly understand why Cindy is urgently driven to work on her genealogy. This is the "Spirit of Elijah", which is the spirit of kinship and unity of family. It comes from the fulfillment of the prophecy of Malachi in the Old Testament, that in the last days Elijah "will turn the heart (in Hebrew, the innermost part, as the soul, the affections) of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers" (Makichi 4:5-6). It is that very same “heart”that drives me to seek and talk about my Mormon pioneer heritage and to make this map.

Side 1 Shows the 1899 "Route of the Mormon Pioneers from Nauvoo to Great Salt Lake" map, with a parallel map from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake City, Utah. It is 37.5" wide by 25" high and folds to 4" x 8.5", and is printed on the highest quality, waterproof, durable synthetic paper. There are 5,367 inspired words in 38 captions, and 20 photos taken me, and the title block - Chimney Rock at sunset - by Cindy on her IPhone! Although this is a folded map, it is basically a guide book.

Side 2 details of the Route of the Mormon Pioneers, including Nauvoo (our favorite place to visit), Salt Lake City and Temple Square (our other favorite place to visit), Echo Canyon to Salt Lake City, including Emigration Canyon (my new favorite mountain bike ride), ten zoom-in detail maps, 45 photos, and dozens of captions, by your truly, including 6,645 words. Side 2 supplements Side 1 with details that the scale of Side 1 would not allow. Side 2 reminds me of all of the enjoyable stops Cindy and I made along the way, as I imagined my own ancestors walking along the Mormon Trail to Zion.

I, like you, want to learn all about Mormon Pioneer history. After 36 years in the making, my map, which I call "Frank Nielsen's Mormon Trail Map" is complete. My colorful "Artography" is full of photos and words that will tell you the amazing story of one of the great chapters of American and history. Whether or you desire to trace the Mormon Trail by car, or by bike, if you want to pull a handcart across a piece of Wyoming or Utah, or if you just want to learn about the history, this map will inspire you and help you to understand how amazing the Mormon Pioneers really were. Please study your own copy of Mormon Trail Map, which was patiently compiled and depicted 100% by yours truly. By now you can purchase your map at fine LDS retailers, or get it on my website, www.pioneermaps.com.

I am Frank Nielsen, the great-great grandson of a Mormon Pioneer, and professional "Artographer", at your service . Thank-you!