Thomas E. Ricks (Mormon) - Pioneer Years

Pioneer Years

At age twenty, Ricks crossed the plains to the Salt Lake Valley. He initially crossed the Mississippi River heading west with the Charles C. Rich family. Ricks left the Rich family at Garden Grove, Iowa to meet up with the rest of his family in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Ricks stayed with his family for two years in Council Bluffs while Brigham Young took the first group of Mormon Pioneers to the Salt Lake Valley. One of the teams used by this first pioneer group was donated by the Ricks family. On May 29, 1848 Ricks left Winter Quarters, Nebraska headed for the Salt Lake Valley in Heber C. Kimball's company.

On June 6, 1848, a group of Native Americans raided Ricks' pioneer company, stealing some of their cattle. Ricks and some other youth in the camp went to pursue them. The youth were ambushed and Ricks was shot three times, twice in the kidneys and once in his backbone. His companions, sure he was dead, returned to the company. Learning of his son's demise, Joel Ricks set out to retrieve the body. Finding him clinging to life, Joel brought his son safely back to the wagon train. At one point he floated his son across a river on a buffalo hide. As a result of the injury, Thomas traveled most of the way to the Salt Lake Valley in his family's wagon.

Ricks would later assist five additional groups of pioneers to make the same trek. In 1856, returning from a colonizing mission in Las Vegas, Nevada, he immediately left to be part of the rescue party sent from Salt Lake to assist the stranded Martin Handcart Company near the Sweetwater River.

A colonel in the Utah Militia, Ricks was commissioned to locate a better route from the Cache Valley to the Bear Lake Valley, in Northern Utah. While thus engaged, he discovered a natural spring flowing from the cavity of a large rock. To this day, Ricks' Spring bears his name. It can be found on U.S.-89, between Logan Utah, and Bear Lake, on the Utah-Idaho boarder.

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