Will Bagley

Before his twentieth birthday, Will Bagley took a raft fourteen hundred miles down the Mississippi River to New Orleans. After graduating in history from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1971, he farmed in North Carolina, played country music throughout the Rocky Mountain West, and joined the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. He managed publications for Evans & Sutherland, a computer-graphics firm until 1995.

An independent historian, Bagley has written about overland emigration, railroads, mining, the invention of LexisNexis (the world’s first dynamic search engine), and violence. He began writing River Fever: Adventures on the Mississippi, 1969–1972 as it happened; Signature Books published it in May 2019. In 1997, the Arthur H. Clark Company launched a documentary history, Kingdom in the West: The Mormons and the American Frontier, with Mr. Bagley as series editor. The last of its sixteen volumes, The Whites Want Every Thing: Indian-Mormon Relations, 1847 to 1877 appeared in October 2019. He has completed two of the four volumes of “Overland West.” The first, So Rugged and Mountainous, was Editor’s Choice in the September 2011 Atlantic.

Every Sunday between July 2000 and July 2004 the Salt Lake Tribune published Bagley’s column, “History Matters.” He has made hundreds of presentations across Utah and the West He appeared in documentaries the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and PBS, notably “The Mormons” on “The American Experience.” In 2009, he was a Wallace Stegner Centennial Fellow at the University of Utah and the Archibald Hanna Jr. Fellow in American History at Yale University’s Beinecke Library. He became a Fellow of the Utah State Historical Society in 2014. Western Writers of America presented him with its highest honor, the Owen Wister Award for service to Western literature, in 2019.



Will Bagley, ed., A Road from El Dorado: The 1848 Trail Journal of Ephraim Green. Salt Lake City: The Prairie Dog Press, 1991. 275 hardcover, 800 softcover.

Will Bagley, ed., Frontiersman: Abner Blackburn's Narrative. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1992. 1450 hardcover.

Roderic Korns and Dale L. Morgan, eds., West from Fort Bridger: The Pioneering of Immigrant Trails across Utah, 1846–1850, revised and updated by Will Bagley and Harold Schindler. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1994. 1,450 hardcover copies. Also issued in a limited edition of 300 copies with Trailing the Pioneers. Two paperback printings of about 3,000 copies.

Pat Bagley and Will Bagley. This Is the Place: A Crossroads of Utah’s Past (Carson City, Nevada: Buckaroo Books, 1996). 25,000 copies.

Will Bagley. Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002. Original Writing Competition Publication Prize, Utah Arts Council; Spur Award for Best Nonfiction Historical, Western Writers of America; John Whitmer Historical Association Smith-Petit Best Book Award; Caroline Bancroft History Prize, Denver Public Library; Co-Founders Best Book Award, Westerners International; Caughey Book Prize for the Most Distinguished Book on the History of the American West, Western History Association.

Will Bagley. Always a Cowboy: Judge Wilson McCarthy and the Rescue of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad. Logan: Utah State University Press, 2008.

Will Bagley. So Rugged and Mountainous: Blazing the Trails to Oregon and California, 1812–1848. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010. National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Western Heritage Awards (The Wrangler); Francis Armstrong Madsen Best History Book Award, Utah State Historical Society; Western Writers of America Spur Finalist, Historical Nonfiction.

David L. Bigler and Will Bagley. The Mormon Rebellion: America’s First Civil War, 1857–1858. Norman: The University of Oklahoma Press, 2011. John Whitmer Historical Association Smith-Pettit Best Book in Latter Day Saint History; Western Writers of America Spur for Best Western Nonfiction Historical; Amy Allen Price Military History Award, Utah State Historical Society; Reader’s Award for Best Non-Fiction Book, Salt Lake City Weekly.

Will Bagley. With Golden Visions Bright Before Them: Trails to the Mining West, 1849 to 1852. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012. Western Writers of America Spur for Best Western Nonfiction Historical.

Will Bagley. South Pass: Gateway to a Continent. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014. Utah State Historical Society, Francis Armstrong Madsen Best Utah History Book, 2015; Westerners International, Co-Founders “Best Book” Award, 2015. Western Writers of America, Spur Finalist, Historical Nonfiction.

Will Bagley. River Fever: Adventures on the Mississippi, 1969—1972. Signature Books, 2019.

The Pioneer Camp of the Saints: The 1846 and 1847 Mormon Trail Journals of Thomas Bullock, edited by Will Bagley, 1997. Best Documentary, Mormon History Association.

Scoundrel’s Tale: The Samuel Brannan Papers, edited by Will Bagley, 1999.

Of Israel: Mormon Battalion Narratives, edited by David L. Bigler and Will Bagley, 2000. Best Documentary, Mormon History Association. Amy Allen Price Utah Military History Award, Utah State Historical Society.

Innocent Blood: Essential Narratives of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, edited by David Bigler and Will Bagley, 2008.

Playing with Shadows: Voices of Dissent in the Mormon West, edited by Polly Aird, Jeffrey Nichols, and Will Bagley, 2011. The Smith-Pettit Foundation Best Documentary Book in Utah History Award, Utah State Historical Society.

The Whites Want Every Thing: Indian-Mormon Relations, 1847–1877, introduction by Floyd A. O’Neil, edited by Will Bagley, 2019.

Managing Editor

Bagley served as managing editor for two volumes of the “Utah, the Mormons, and the West Series” for the Tanner Trust Fund and the Marriott Library in 2001 and 2015:

Jotham Goodell, A Winter with the Mormons: The 1852 Letters of Jotham Goodell. Ed. by David L. Bigler. Volume XV of the Utah, the Mormons, and the West Series. Salt Lake City, Utah: Tanner Trust Fund and the Marriott Library, 2001.

David L. Bigler. Confessions of a Revisionist Historian: David L. Bigler on the Mormons and the West. With An Appreciation by Polly Aird. Volume XVI of the Utah, the Mormons, and the West Series. Salt Lake City: Tanner Trust Fund and J. Willard Marriott Library, 2015.