The 1848 cricket invasion that threatened the first crops planted by Utah's struggling Mormon pioneer settlers is well-known.

But the meeting of pioneer trail enthusiasts in Salt Lake City last week heard more about an invasion that both helped and beset the settlers the following year.Forty-Niners heading for California streamed into the Salt Lake Valley by the thousands - outnumbering Salt Lake Valley settlers two-to-one over the year. They were interested in the same grain crops that attracted the crickets.

Floyd O'Neil, director of the American West Center at the University of Utah, told members of the Oregon-California Trails Association meeting in Salt Lake City the "gold rusher" invasion in 1849 and 1850 both beset and benefited the Mormon settlers.

The grain crop in 1849 was meager, and the Salt Lake Valley settlers were still living under meager conditions. But they were able to get some badly needed tools and equipment in exchange for bread and grain they were willing to spare.

"Shovels were an absolute premium" to the pioneers engaged in the task of digging irrigation canals to bring water from the mountains to the valley. "The gold rushers overpacked their wagons, so they traded with the Mormons."

Forty-Niners also traded trail-weary oxen for rested teams. Some stayed in the Mormon community; others left and took settlers with them.

Presenters at the conference said the Mormons' influence played a significant role in colonizing the West, just as other travelers played a significant role in the Mormon pioneers' experience settling Utah.

Stanley B. Kimball, a history professor at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, co-founder of the trail association and descendent of early Mormon official Heber C. Kimball, said the Mormon migration is often examined aside from the overall Western expansion.

Mormon pioneers had the same hardships along the trail as other travelers, but their experience significantly differs in other respects.

Many of the Mormon pioneers were converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who arrived at Western trail heads directly from Europe. They added to the cultural diversity of the developing West, both in Utah and in communities along the way, where some stopped short of settlement in Utah.

Kimball said the Mormon pioneers were among the poorest travelers and conversely spent more with the trail-outfitting industries between Chicago and St. Louis because they embarked on their journey without being as well-equipped for the trek as other settlers.

The Mormons also had a wide-spread political impact on the developing West, establishing 358 colonies in both United States and Mexican territories under the direction of Brigham Young.

The practice of polygamy, a positive attitude toward American Indians and the church's prohibition on blacks holding priesthood offices brought new social ideas to the West.

It's little more than a parlor game at this point, Kimball said, but Utah's quest to become a state, which started in 1850 but did not end until 1896, raises questions about the effects Utahns could have had on contemporary political issues like Manifest Destiny and the Civil War, if it had voting representation in Congress during the time.

The trail association's 12th annual conference ends Sunday with the 2 p.m. dedication of a memorial at Donner Spring, the oasis at the end of the Salt Desert trek, located on the TL Bar Ranch 24 miles north of Wendover.

The ceremony will feature a bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace" by Martha Lienhard Vincent, a great-great-granddaughter of Heinrich Lienhard, whose wagon train to California immediately preceded the Donner Party.