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    Mormonism.ca - Story Of

The Migration To Utah

A State Of Civil War
After Smith's Death - Rigdon's Last Days
After The War
Attitude Of The Mormons During The Southern Rebellion
Beginning Of Active Hostilities
Blood Atonement
Brigham Young
Brigham Young's Death - His Character
Brigham Young's Despotism
Colonel Kane's Mission
Early Political History
Eastern Visitors To Salt Lake City - Unpunished Murderers
Even More On The History Of Mormonism
Even More On The Religious Puzzle
Facility Of Human Belief
First Announcement Of The Golden Bible
From The Mississippi To The Missouri
From The Rockies To Salt Lake Valley
Fruitless Negotiations With The Jackson County People
Gentile Irruption And Mormon Schism
Gifts Of Tongues And Miracles
Growth Of The Church
History Of Mormonism
How Joseph Smith Became A Money-digger
In Clay Caldwell And Daviess Counties
Introductory Remarks
Last Days At Kirtland
More On Mormonism Social Puzzle
More On The History Of Mormonism
More On The Religious Puzzle
Mormon Treatment Of Federal Officers
Mormonism The Political Puzzle
Nauvoo After The Exodus
Notes On The History Of Mormonism
Organization Of The Church
Preparations For The Long March
Progress Of The Settlement
Public Announcement Of The Doctrine Of Polygamy
Radical Dissensions In The Church - Origin Of The Danites - Tithing
Renewed Trouble For The Mormons - The Burnings
Rivalries Over The Succession
Sidney Rigdon
Smith A Candidate For President Of The United States
Smith's Falling Out With Bennett And Higbee
Smith's First Visits To Missouri Founding The City And The Temple
Smith's Ohio Business Enterprises
Smith's Picture Of Himself As Autocrat
Social Aspects Of Polygamy
Social Conditions In Nauvoo
Some Church-inspired Murders
The Building Up Of The City - Foreign Proselyting
The Camps On The Missouri
The Different Accounts Of The Revelation Of The Bible
The Directions To The Saints About Their Zion
The Evacuation Of Nauvoo - The Last Mormon War
The Everlasting Gospel
The Expulsion From Jackson County The Army Of Zion
The Expulsion Of The Mormons
The Fight Against Polygamy - Statehood
The Final Expulsion From The State
The First Converts At Kirtland
The Following Companies - Last Days On The Missouri
The Foreign Immigration To Utah
The Founding Of Salt Lake City
The Hand-cart Tragedy
The Institution Of Polygamy
The Last Years Of Brigham Young
The Mormon Battalion
The Mormon Bible
The Mormon Purpose
The Mormon War
The Mormonism Of To-day
The Mormons In Politics - Missouri Requisitions For Smith
The Mormons' Beliefs And Doctrines Church Government
The Mountain Meadows Massacre
The Murder Of The Prophet - His Character
The Nauvoo City Government - Temple And Other Buildings
The Peace Commission
The Pioneer Trip Across The Plains
The Political Puzzle
The Political Puzzle Continued
The Reception Of The Mormons
The Reformation
The Religious Puzzle
The Religious Puzzle Notes
The Settlement Of Nauvoo
The Smith Family
The Social And Society Puzzle
The Social Puzzle
The Social Puzzle Notes
The Spaulding Manuscript
The Suppression Of The Expositor
The Territorial Government - Judge Brocchus's Experience
The Witnesses To The Plates
Translation And Publication Of The Bible
Uprising Of The Non-mormons Smith's Arrest
Wild Vagaries Of The Converts


The Story Of The Mormons

A State Of Civil War
After Smith's Death - Rigdon's Last Days
After The War
Attitude Of The Mormons During The Southern Rebellion
Beginning Of Active Hostilities
Blood Atonement
Brigham Young
Brigham Young's Death - His Character
Brigham Young's Despotism
Colonel Kane's Mission
Early Political History
Eastern Visitors To Salt Lake City - Unpunished Murderers
Facility Of Human Belief
First Announcement Of The Golden Bible
Fruitless Negotiations With The Jackson County People
Gentile Irruption And Mormon Schism
Gifts Of Tongues And Miracles
Growth Of The Church
How Joseph Smith Became A Money-digger
In Clay Caldwell And Daviess Counties
Last Days At Kirtland
Mormon Treatment Of Federal Officers
Organization Of The Church
Progress Of The Settlement
Public Announcement Of The Doctrine Of Polygamy
Radical Dissensions In The Church - Origin Of The Danites - Tithing
Renewed Trouble For The Mormons - The Burnings
Rivalries Over The Succession
Sidney Rigdon
Smith A Candidate For President Of The United States
Smith's Falling Out With Bennett And Higbee
Smith's First Visits To Missouri Founding The City And The Temple
Smith's Ohio Business Enterprises
Smith's Picture Of Himself As Autocrat
Social Aspects Of Polygamy
Social Conditions In Nauvoo
Some Church-inspired Murders
The Building Up Of The City - Foreign Proselyting
The Different Accounts Of The Revelation Of The Bible
The Directions To The Saints About Their Zion
The Evacuation Of Nauvoo - The Last Mormon War
The Everlasting Gospel
The Expulsion From Jackson County The Army Of Zion
The Expulsion Of The Mormons
The Fight Against Polygamy - Statehood
The Final Expulsion From The State
The First Converts At Kirtland
The Following Companies - Last Days On The Missouri
The Foreign Immigration To Utah
The Founding Of Salt Lake City
The Hand-cart Tragedy
The Institution Of Polygamy
The Last Years Of Brigham Young
The Mormon Bible
The Mormon Purpose
The Mormon War
The Mormonism Of To-day
The Mormons In Politics - Missouri Requisitions For Smith
The Mormons' Beliefs And Doctrines Church Government
The Mountain Meadows Massacre
The Murder Of The Prophet - His Character
The Nauvoo City Government - Temple And Other Buildings
The Peace Commission
The Reception Of The Mormons
The Reformation
The Settlement Of Nauvoo
The Smith Family
The Spaulding Manuscript
The Suppression Of The Expositor
The Territorial Government - Judge Brocchus's Experience
The Witnesses To The Plates
Translation And Publication Of The Bible
Uprising Of The Non-mormons Smith's Arrest
Wild Vagaries Of The Converts



The Pioneer Trip Across The Plains








During the winter of 1846-1847 preparations were under way to
send an organization of pioneers across the plains and beyond the
Rocky Mountains, to select a new dwelling-place for the Saints.
The only "revelation" to Brigham Young found in the "Book of
Doctrine and Covenants" is a direction about the organization and
mission of this expedition. It was dated January 14, 1847, and it
directed the organization of the pioneers into companies, with
captains of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens, and a president
and two counsellors at their head, under charge of the Twelve.
Each company was to provide its own equipment, and to take seeds
and farming implements. "Let every man," it commanded, "use all
his influence and property to remove this people to the place
where the Lord shall locate a Stake of Zion." The power of the
head of the church was guarded by a threat that "if any man shall
seek to build up himself he shall have no power," and the
"revelation" ended, like a rustic's letter, with the words, "So
no more at present," "amen and amen" being added.

In accordance with this command, on April 14* a pioneer band of
volunteers set out to blaze a path, so to speak, across the
plains and mountains for the main body which was to follow.

* Date given in the General Epistle of December 23, 1847. Others
say April 7.


It is difficult to-day, when this "Far West" is in possession of
the agriculturist, the merchant, and the miner, dotted with
cities and flourishing towns, and cut in all directions by
railroads, which have made pleasure routes for tourists of the
trail over which the pioneers of half a century ago toiled with
difficulty and danger, to realize how vague were the ideas of
even the best informed in the thirties and forties about the
physical characteristics of that country and its future
possibilities. The conception of the latter may be best
illustrated by quoting Washington Irving's idea, as expressed in
his "Astoria," written in 1836:--

"Such is the nature of this immense wilderness of the far West;
which apparently defies cultivation and the habitation of
civilized life. Some portion of it, along the rivers, may
partially be subdued by agriculture, others may form vast
pastoral tracts like those of the East; but it is to be feared
that a great part of it will form a lawless interval between the
abodes of civilized man, like the wastes of the ocean or the
deserts of Arabia, and, like them, be subject to the depredations
of the marauders. There may spring up new and mongrel races, like
new formations in zoology, the amalgamation of the 'debris' and
'abrasions' of former races, civilized and savage; the remains of
broken and extinguished tribes; the descendants of wandering
hunters and trappers; of fugitives from the Spanish-American
frontiers; of adventurers and desperadoes of every class and
country, yearly ejected from the bosom of society into the
wilderness . . . . Some may gradually become pastoral hordes,
like those rude and migratory people, half shepherd, half
warrior, who, with their flocks and herds, roam the plains of
upper Asia; but others, it is to be apprehended, will become
predatory bands, mounted on the fleet steeds of the prairies,
with the open plains for their marauding grounds, and the
mountains for their retreats and lurking places. There they may
resemble those great hordes of the North, 'Gog and Magog with
their bands,' that haunted the gloomy imaginations of the
prophets--'A great company and a mighty host, all riding upon
horses, and warring upon those nations which were at rest, and
dwelt peaceably, and had gotten cattle and goods."'

"What about the country between the Missouri River and the
Pacific," asked a father living near the Missouri, of his son on
his return from California across the plains in 1851--"Oh, it's
of no account," was the reply; "the soil is poor, sandy, and too
dry to produce anything but this little short grass afterward
learned to be so rich in nutriment, and, when it does rain, in
three hours afterward you could not tell that it had rained at
all."*

* Nebraska Historical Society papers.


But while this distant West was still so unknown to the settled
parts of the country, these Mormon pioneers were by no means the
first to traverse it, as the records of the journeyings of Lewis
and Clark, Ezekiel Williams, General W. H. Ashley, Wilson Price
Hunt, Major S. H. Long, Captain W. Sublette, Bonneville, Fremont,
and others show.

The pioneer band of the Mormons consisted of 143 men, three women
(wives of Brigham and Lorenzo Young and H. C. Kimball), and two
children. They took with them seventy-three wagons. Their chief
officers were Brigham Young, Lieutenant General; Stephen Markham,
Colonel; John Pack, First Major; Shadrack Roundy, Second Major,
two captains of hundreds, and fourteen captains of companies. The
order of march was intelligently arranged, with a view to the
probability of meeting Indians who, if not dangerous to life, had
little regard for personal property. The Indians of the Platte
region were notorious thieves, but had not the reputation as
warriors of their more northern neighbors. The regulations
required that each private should walk constantly beside his
wagon, leaving it only by his officer's command. In order to make
as compact a force as possible, two wagons were to move abreast
whenever this could be done. Every man was to keep his weapons
loaded, and special care was insisted upon that the caps, flints,
and locks should be in good condition. They had with them one
small cannon mounted on wheels.

The bugle for rising sounded at 5 A.M., and two hours were
allowed for breakfast and prayers. At night each man was to
retire into his wagon for prayer at 8.30 o'clock, and for the
night's rest at 9. The night camp was formed by drawing up the
wagons in a semicircle, with the river in the rear, if they
camped near its bank, or otherwise with the wagons in a circle, a
forewheel of one touching the hind wheel of the next. In this way
an effective corral for the animals was provided within.

At the head of Grand Island, on April 30, they had their first
sight of buffaloes. A hunting party was organized at once, and a
herd of sixty-five of the animals was pursued for several miles
in full view of the camp (when game and hunters were not hidden
by the dust), and so successfully that eleven buffaloes were
killed.

The first alarm of Indians occurred on May 4, when scouts
reported a band of about four hundred a few miles ahead. The
wagons were at once formed five abreast, the cannon was fired as
a means of alarm, and the company advanced in close formation.
The Indians did not attack them, but they set fire to the
prairie, and this caused a halt. A change of wind the next
morning and an early shower checked the flames, and the column
moved on again at daybreak. During the next few days the
buffaloes were seen in herds of hundreds of thousands on both
sides of the Platte. So numerous were they that the company had
to stop at times and let gangs of the animals pass on either
side, and several calves were captured alive.* With or near the
buffaloes were seen antelopes and wolves.

* "The vast herds of buffalo were often in our way, and we were
under the necessity of sending out advance guards to clear the
track so that our teams might pass." Erastus SNOW, " Address to
the Pioneers," in Mo.


At Grand Island the question of their further route was carefully
debated. There was a well-known trail to Fort Laramie on the
south side of the river, used by those who set out from
Independence, Missouri, for Oregon. Good pasture was assured on
that side, but it was argued that, if this party made a new trail
along the north side of the river, the Mormons would have what
might be considered a route of their own, separated from other
westward emigrants. This view prevailed, and the course then
selected became known in after years as the Mormon Trail
(sometimes called the "Old Mormon Road"); the line of the Union
Pacific Railroad follows it for many miles.

Their decision caused them a good deal of anxiety about forage
for their animals before they reached Fort Laramie. It had not
rained at the latter point for two years, and the drought,
together with the vast herds of buffaloes and the Indian fires,
made it for days impossible to find any pasture except in small
patches. When the fort was reached, they had fed their animals
not only a large part of their grain, but some of their crackers
and other breadstuff, and the beasts were so weak that they could
scarcely drag the wagons.

During the previous winter the church officers had procured for
their use from England two sextants and other instruments needed
for taking solar observations, two barometers, thermometers,
etc., and these were used by Orson Pratt daily to note their
progress.* Two of the party also constructed a sort of pedometer,
and, after leaving Fort Laramie, a mile-post was set up every ten
miles, for the guidance of those who were to follow.

* His diary of the trip will be found in the Millennial Star for
1849-1850, full of interesting details, but evidently edited for
English readers.


In the camp made on May 10 the first of the Mormon post-offices
on the plains was established. Into a board six inches wide and
eighteen long, a cut was made with a saw, and in this cut a
letter was placed. After nailing on cleats to retain the letter,
and addressing the board to the officers of the next company, the
board was nailed to a fifteen-foot pole, which was set firmly in
the ground near the trail, and left to its fate. How successful
this attempt at communication proved is not stated, but similar
means of communication were in use during the whole period of
Mormon migration. Sometimes a copy of the camp journal was left
conspicuously in the crotch of a tree, for the edification of the
next camp, and scores of the buffaloes' skulls that dotted the
plains were marked with messages and set up along the trail.

The weakness of the draught animals made progress slow at this
time, and marches of from 4 to 7 miles a day were recorded. The
men fared better, game being abundant. Signs of Indians were seen
from time to time, and precautions were constantly taken to
prevent a stampede of the animals; but no open attack was made. A
few Indians visited the camp on May 21, and gave assurances of
their friendliness; and on the 24th they had a visit from a party
of thirty-five Dakotas (or Sioux who tendered a written letter of
recommendation in French from one of the agents of the American
Fur Company. The Mormons had to grant their request for
permission to camp with them over night, which meant also giving
them supper and breakfast--no small demand on their hospitality
when the capacity of the Indian stomach is understood).

Little occurred during May to vary the monotony of the journey.
On the afternoon of June 1 they arrived nearly opposite Fort
Laramie and the ruins of old Fort Platte, a point 522 miles from
Winter Quarters, and 509 from Great Salt Lake. The so-called
forts were in fact trading posts, established by the fur
companies, both as points of supply for their trappers and
trading places with the Indians for peltries. On the evening of
their arrival at this point they had a visit from members of a
party of Mormons gathered principally from Mississippi and
southern Illinois, who had passed the winter in Pueblo, and were
waiting to join the emigrants from Winter Quarters.

The Platte, usually a shallow stream, was at that place 108 yards
wide, and too deep for wading. Brigham Young and some others
crossed over the next morning in a sole-leather skiff which
formed a part of their equipment, and were kindly welcomed by the
commandant. There they learned that it would be impracticable--or
at least very difficult--to continue along the north bank of the
Platte, and they accordingly hired a flatboat to ferry the
company and their wagons across. The crossing began on June 3,
and on an average four wagons were ferried over in an hour.

Advantage was taken of this delay to set up, a bellows and forge,
and make needed repairs to the wagons. At the Fort the Mormons
learned that their old object of hatred in Missouri, ex-Governor
Boggs, had recently passed by with a company of emigrants bound
for the Pacific coast. Young's company came across other
Missourians on the plains; but no hostilities ensued, the
Missourians having no object now to interfere with the Saints,
and the latter contenting themselves by noting in their diaries
the profanity and quarrelsomeness of their old neighbors.

The journey was resumed at noon on June 4, along the Oregon
trail. A small party of the Mormons was sent on in advance to the
spot where the Oregon trail crossed the Platte, 124 miles west of
Fort Laramie. This crossing was generally made by fording, but
the river was too high for this, and the soleleather boat, which
would carry from 1500 to 1800 pounds, was accordingly employed.
The men with this boat reached the crossing in advance of the
first party of Oregon emigrants whom they had encountered, and
were employed by the latter to ferry their goods across while the
empty wagons were floated. This proved a happy enterprise for the
Mormons. The drain on their stock of grain and provisions had by
this time so reduced their supply that they looked forward with
no little anxiety to the long march. The Oregon party offered
liberal pay in flour, sugar, bacon, and coffee for the use of the
boat, and the terms were gladly accepted, although most of the
persons served were Missourians. When the main body of pioneers
started on from that point, they left ten men with the boat to
maintain the ferry until the next company from Winter Quarters
should come up.*

* "The Missourians paid them $1.50 for each wagon and load, and
paid it in flour at $2.50; yet flour was worth $10 per
hundredweight, at least at that point. They divided their
earnings among the camp equally."--Tullidge, "Life of Brigham
Young," p. 165.


The Mormons themselves were delayed at this crossing until June
19, making a boat on which a wagon could cross without unloading.
During the first few days after leaving the North Platte grass
and water were scarce. On June 21 they reached the Sweet Water,
and, fording it, encamped within sight of Independence Rock, near
the upper end of Devil's Gate.





Next: From The Rockies To Salt Lake Valley

Previous: The Camps On The Missouri



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