From The Mississippi To The Missouri

The first party to leave Nauvoo began crossing the Mississippi

early in February, 1846, using flatboats propelled by oars for

the wagons and animals, and small boats for persons and the

lighter baggage. It soon became colder and snow fell, and after

the 16th those who remained were able to cross on the ice.

Brigham Young, with a few attendants, had crossed on February 10,

and selected a point on Sugar Creek as a gathering place.* He

seems to have returned secretly to the city for a few days to

arrange for the departure of his family, and Lee says that he did

not have teams enough at that time for their conveyance, adding,

"such as were in danger of being arrested were helped away

first." John Taylor says that those who crossed the river in

February included the Twelve, the High Council, and about four

hundred families.**

* "Mormonism Unveiled," p. 171.

** "February 14 I crossed the river with my family and teams, and

encamped not far from the Sugar Creek encampment, taking

possession of a vacant log house on account of the extreme

cold."--P. P. Pratt, "Autobiography," p. 378.

"Camp of Israel" was the name adopted for the camp in which

President Young and the Twelve might be, and this name moved

westward with them. The camp on Sugar Creek was the first of

these, and there, on February 17, Young addressed the company

from a wagon. He outlined the journey before them, declaring that

order would be preserved, and that all who wished to live in

peace when the actual march began "must toe the mark," ending

with a call for a show of hands by those who wanted to make the

move. The vote in favor of going West was unanimous.*

* "At a Council in Nauvoo of the men who were to act as the

captains of the people in that famous exodus, one after the other

brought up difficulties in their path, until the prospect was

without one poor speck of daylight. The good nature of George A.

Smith was provoked at last, when he sprang up and observed, with

his quaint humor, that had now a touch of the grand in it, 'If

there is no God in Israel we are a sucked-in set of fellows. But

I am going to take my family and the Lord will open the

way.'"--Tullidge, "History of Salt Lake City," p.17.

The turning out of doors in midwinter of so many persons of all

ages and both sexes, accustomed to the shelter of comfortable

homes, entailed much suffering. A covered wagon or a tent is a

poor protection from wintry blasts, and a camp fire in the open

air, even with a bright sky overhead, is a poor substitute for a

stove. Their first move, therefore, gave the emigrants a taste of

the trials they were to endure. While they were at Sugar Creek

the thermometer dropped to 20 degrees below zero, and heavy falls

of snow occurred. Several children were born at this point,

before the actual Western journey began, and the sick and the

feeble entered upon their sufferings at once. Before that camp

broke up it was found necessary, too, to buy grain for the


The camp was directly in charge of the Twelve until the Chariton

River was reached. There, on March 27, it was divided into

companies containing from 50 to 60 wagons, the companies being

put in charge of captains of fifties and captains of

tens--suggesting Smith's "Army of Zion." The captains of fifties

were responsible directly to the High Council. There were also a

commissary general, and, for each fifty, a contracting commissary

"to make righteous distribution of grains and provisions." Strict

order was maintained by day while the column was in motion, and,

whenever there was a halt, special care was taken to secure the

cattle and the horses, while at night watches were constantly

maintained. The story of the march to the Missouri does not

contain a mention of any hostile meeting with Indians.

The company remained on Sugar Creek for about a month, receiving

constant accessions from across the river, and on the first of

March the real westward movement began. The first objective point

was Council Bluffs, Iowa, on the Missouri River, about 400 miles

distant; but on the way several camps were established, at which

some of the emigrants stopped to plant seeds and make other

arrangements for the comfort of those who were to follow. The

first of these camps was located at Richardson's Point in Lee

County, Iowa, 55 miles from Nauvoo; the next on Chariton River;

the next on Locust Creek; the next, named by them Garden Grove,

on a branch of Grand River, some 150 miles from Nauvoo; and

another, which P. P. Pratt named Mt. Pisgah, on Grand River, 138

miles east of Council Bluffs. The camp on the Missouri first made

was called Winter Quarters, and was situated just north of the

present site of Omaha, where the town now called Florence is

located. It was not until July that the main body arrived at

Council Bluffs.

The story of this march is a remarkable one in many ways. Begun

in winter, with the ground soon covered with snow, the travellers

encountered arctic weather, with the inconveniences of ice, rain,

and mud, until May. After a snowfall they would have to scrape

the ground when they had selected a place for pitching the tents.

After a rain, or one of the occasional thaws, the country (there

were no regular roads) would be practically impassable for teams,

and they would have to remain in camp until the water

disappeared, and the soil would bear the weight of the wagons

after it was corduroyed with branches of trees. At one time bad

roads caused a halt of two or three weeks. Fuel was not always

abundant, and after a cold night it was no unusual thing to find

wet garments and bedding frozen stiff in the morning. Here is an

extract from Orson Pratt's diary:-- "April 9. The rain poured

down in torrents. With great exertion a part of the camp were

enabled to get about six miles, while others were stuck fast in

the deep mud. We encamped at a point of timber about sunset,

after being drenched several hours in rain. We were obliged to

cut brush and limbs of trees, and throw them upon the ground in

our tents, to keep our beds from sinking in the mud. Our animals

were turned loose to look out for themselves; the bark and limbs

of trees were their principal food." **

* Millennial Star, Vol. XI, p. 370.

Game was plenty,--deer, wild turkeys, and prairie hens,--but

while the members of this party were better supplied with

provisions than their followers, there was no surplus among them,

and by April many families were really destitute of food. Eliza

Snow mentions that her brother Lorenzo--one of the captains of

tens--had two wagons, a small tent, a cow, and a scanty supply

of provisions and clothing, and that "he was much better off than

some of our neighbors." Heber C. Kimball, one of the Twelve, says

of the situation of his family, that he had the ague, and his

wife was in bed with it, with two children, one a few days old,

lying by her, and the oldest child well enough to do any

household work was a boy who could scarcely carry a two-quart

pail of water. Mrs. F. D. Richards, whose husband was ordered on

a mission to England while the camp was at Sugar Creek, was

prematurely confined in a wagon on the way to the Missouri. The

babe died, as did an older daughter. "Our situation," she says,

"was pitiable; I had not suitable food for myself or my child;

the severe rain prevented our having any fire."

The adaptability of the American pioneer to his circumstances was

shown during this march in many ways. When a halt occurred, a

shoemaker might be seen looking for a stone to serve as a lap

stone in his repair work, or a gunsmith mending a rifle, or a

weaver at a wheel or loom. The women learned that the jolting

wagons would churn their milk, and, when a halt occurred, it took

them but a short time to heat an oven hollowed out of a hillside,

in which to bake the bread already "raised." Colonel Kane says

that he saw a piece of cloth, the wool for which was sheared,

dyed, spun, and woven during this march.

The leaders of the company understood the people they had in

charge, and they looked out for their good spirits. Captain

Pitt's brass band was included in the equipment, and the camp was

not thoroughly organized before, on a clear evening, a dance--the

Mormons have always been great dancers--was announced, and the

visiting Iowans looked on in amazement, to see these exiles from

comfortable homes thus enjoying themselves on the open prairie,

the highest dignitaries leading in Virginia reels and Copenhagen


John Taylor, whose pictures of this march, painted with a view to

attract English emigrants, were always highly colored, estimated

that, when he left Council Bluffs for England, in July, 1846,

there were in camp and on the way 15,000 Mormons, with 3000

wagons, 30,000 head of cattle, a great many horses and mules, and

a vast number of sheep. Colonel Kane says that, besides the

wagons, there was "a large number of nondescript turnouts, the

motley makeshifts of poverty; from the unsuitable heavy cart that

lumbered on mysteriously, with its sick driver hidden under its

counterpane cover, to the crazy two-wheeled trundle, such as our

own poor employ in the conveyance of their slop barrels, this

pulled along, it may be, by a little dry-dugged heifer, and

rigged up only to drag some such light weight as a baby, a sack

of meal or a pack of clothes and bedding." *

* "The Mormons," a lecture by Colonel T. L. Kane.

There was no large supply of cash to keep this army and its

animals in provisions. Every member who could contribute to the

commissary department by his labor was expected to do so. The

settlers in the territory seem to have been in need of such

assistance, and were very glad to pay for it in grain, hay, or

provisions. A letter from one of the emigrants to a friend in

England* said that, in every settlement they passed through, they

found plenty of work, digging wells and cellars, splitting rails,

threshing, ploughing, and clearing land. Some of the men in the

spring were sent south into Missouri, not more than forty miles

from Far West, in search of employment. This they readily

secured, no one raising the least objection to a Mormon who was

not to be a permanent settler. Others were sent into that state

to exchange horses, feather beds, and other personal property for

cows and provisions.

* Millennial Star, Vol. VIII, p. 59.

A part of the plan of operations provided for sending out

pioneers to select the route and camping sites, to make bridges

where they were necessary, and to open roads. The party carried

light boats, but a good many bridges seem to have been required

because of the spring freshets. It was while resting after a

march through prolonged rain and mud, late in April, that it was

decided to establish the permanent camp called Garden Grove.

Hundreds of men were at once set to work, making log houses and

fences, digging wells, and ploughing, and soon hundreds of acres

were enclosed and planted.

The progress made during April was exasperatingly slow. There was

soft mud during the day, and rough ruts in the early morning.

Sometimes camp would be pitched after making only a mile;

sometimes they would think they had done well if they had made

six. The animals, in fact, were so thin from lack of food that

they could not do a day's work even under favorable

circumstances. The route, after the middle of April, was turned

to the north, and they then travelled over a broken prairie

country, where the game had been mostly killed off by the

Pottawottomi Indians, whose trails and abandoned camps were

encountered constantly.

On May 16, as the two Pratts and others were in advance, locating

the route, P. P. Pratt discovered the site of what was called Mt.

Pisgah (the post-office of Mt. Pisgah of to-day) which he thus

describes: "Riding about three or four miles over beautiful

prairies, I came suddenly to some round sloping hills, grassy,

and crowned with beautiful groves of timber, while alternate open

groves and forests seemed blended into all the beauty and harmony

of an English park. Beneath and beyond, on the west, rolled a

main branch of Grand River, with its rich bottoms of alternate

forest and prairie."* As soon as Young and the other high

dignitaries arrived, it was decided to form a settlement there,

and several thousand acres were enclosed for cultivation, and

many houses were built.

* Pratt's "Autobiography," p. 381.

Young and most of the first party continued their westward march

through an uninhabited country, where they had to make their own

roads. But they met with no opposition from Indians, and the head

of the procession reached the banks of the Missouri near Council

Bluffs in June, other companies following in quite rapid


The company which was the last to leave Nauvoo (on September 17),

driven out by the Hancock County forces, endured sufferings much

greater than did the early companies who were conducted by

Brigham Young. The latter comprised the well-to-do of the city

and all the high officers of the church, while the remnant left

behind was made up of the sick and those who had not succeeded in

securing the necessary equipment for the journey. Brayman, in his

second report to Governor Ford, said:--

"Those of the Mormons who were wealthy or possessed desirable

real estate in the city had sold and departed last spring. I am

inclined to the opinion that the leaders of the church took with

them all the movable wealth of their people that they could

control, without making proper provision for those who remained.

Consequently there was much destitution among them; much sickness

and distress. I traversed the city, and visited in company with a

practising physician the sick, and almost invariably found them

destitute, to a painful extent, of the comforts of life."*

* Warsaw Signal, October 20, 1846.

It was on the 18th of September that the last of these

unfortunates crossed the river, making 640 who were then

collected on the west bank. Illness had not been accepted by the

"posse" as an excuse for delay. Thomas Bullock says that his

family, consisting of a husband, wife, blind mother-in-law, four

children, and an aunt, "all shaking with the ague," were given

twenty minutes in which to get their goods into two wagons and

start.* The west bank in Iowa, where the people landed, was

marshy and unhealthy, and the suffering at what was called "Poor

Camp," a short distance above Montrose, was intense. Severe

storms were frequent, and the best cover that some of the people

could obtain was a tent made of a blanket or a quilt, or even of

brush, or the shelter to be had under the wagons of those who

were fortunate enough to be thus equipped. Bullock thus describes

one night's experience: "On Monday, September 23, while in my

wagon on the slough opposite Nauvoo, a most tremendous

thunderstorm passed over, which drenched everything we had. Not a

dry thing left us--the bed a pool of water, my wife and

mother-in-law lading it out by basinfuls, and I in a burning

fever and insensible, with all my hair shorn off to cure me of my

disease. A poor woman stood among the bushes, wrapping her cloak

around her three little orphan children, to shield them from the

storm as well as she could." The, supply of food, too, was

limited, their flour being wheat ground in hand mills, and even

this at times failing; then roasted corn was substituted, the

grain being mixed by some with slippery elm bark to eke it out.**

The people of Hancock County contributed something in the way of

clothing and provisions and a little money in aid of these

sufferers, and the trustees of the church who were left in Nauvoo

to sell property gave what help they could.

*Millennial Star, Vol. X, p. 28.

** Bancrofts "History of Utah," p. 233,

On October 9 wagons sent back by the earlier emigrants for their

unfortunate brethren had arrived, and the start for the Missouri

began. Bullock relates that, just as they were ready to set out,

a great flight of quails settled in the camp, running around the

wagons so near that they could be knocked over with sticks, and

the children caught some alive. One bird lighted upon their tea

board, in the midst of the cups, while they were at breakfast. It

was estimated that five hundred of the birds were flying about

the camp that day, but when one hundred had been killed or

caught, the captain forbade the killing of any more, "as it was a

direct manifestation and visitation by the Lord." Young closes

his account of this incident with the words, "Tell this to the

nations of the earth! Tell it to the kings and nobles and great


Wells, in his manuscript, "Utah Notes" (quoted by H. H.

Bancroft), says: "This phenomenon extended some thirty or forty

miles along the river, and was generally observed. The quail in

immense quantities had attempted to cross the river, but this

being beyond their strength, had dropped into the river boats or

on the banks."*

* Bancroft's "History of Utah," p. 234, note.

The westward march of these refugees was marked by more hardships

than that of the earlier bodies, because they were in bad

physical condition and were in no sense properly equipped.

Council Bluffs was not reached till November 27.

The division of the emigrants and their progress was thus noted

in an interview, printed in the Nauvoo Eagle of July 10, with a

person who had left Council Bluffs on June 26, coming East. The

advance company, including the Twelve, with a train of 1000

wagons, was then encamped on the east bank of the Missouri, the

men being busy building boats. The second company, 3000 strong,

were at Mt. Pisgah, recruiting their cattle for a new start. The

third company had halted at Garden Grove. Between Garden Grove

and the Mississippi River the Eagle's informant counted more than

1000 wagons on their way west. He estimated the total number of

teams engaged in this movement at about 3700, and the number of

persons on the road at 12,000. The Eagle added:--

"From 2000 to 3000 have disappeared from Nauvoo in various

directions, and about 800 or less still remain in Illinois. This

comprises the entire Mormon population that once flourished in

Hancock County. In their palmy days they probably numbered 15,000

or 16,000."

The camp that had been formed at Mt. Pisgah suffered severely

from the start. Provisions were scarce, and a number of families

were dependent for food on neighbors who had little enough for

themselves. Fodder for the cattle gave out, too, and in the early

spring the only substitute was buds and twigs of trees. Snow

notes as a calamity the death of his milch cow, which had been

driven all the way from Ohio. Along with their destitution came

sickness, and at times during the following winter it seemed as

if there were not enough of the well to supply the needed nurses.

So many deaths occurred during that autumn and winter that a

funeral came to be conducted with little ceremony, and even the

customary burial clothes could not be provided.* Elder W.

Huntington, the presiding officer of the settlement, was among

the early victims, and Lorenzo Snow, the recent head of the

Mormon church, succeeded him. During Snow's stay there three of

his four wives gave birth to children.

* "Biography of Lorenzo Snow," p. 90.

Notwithstanding these depressing circumstances, the camp was by

no means inactive during the winter. Those who were well were

kept busy repairing wagons, and making, in a rude way, such

household articles as were most needed--chairs, tubs, and

baskets. Parties were sent out to the settlements within reach to

work, accepting food and clothing as pay, and two elders were

selected to visit the states in search of contributions. These

efforts were so successful that about $600 was raised, and the

camp sent to Brigham Young at Council Bluffs a load of provisions

as a New Year's gift.

The usual religious meetings were kept up during the winter, and

the utility of amusements in such a settlement was not forgotten.

Ingenuity was taxed to give variety to the social entertainments.

Snow describes a "party" that he gave in his family mansion--"a

one-story edifice about fifteen by thirty feet, constructed of

logs, with a dirt roof, a ground floor, and a chimney made of

sod." Many a man compelled to house four wives (one of them with

three sons by a former husband) in such a mansion would have felt

excused from entertaining company. But the Snows did not. For a

carpet the floor was strewn with straw. The logs of the sides of

the room were concealed with sheets. Hollowed turnips provided

candelabras, which were stuck around the walls and suspended from

the roof. The company were entertained with songs, recitations,

conundrums, etc., and all voted that they had a very jolly time.

In the larger camps the travellers were accustomed to make what

they called "boweries"--large arbors covered with a framework of

poles, and thatched with brush or branches. The making of such

"boweries" was continued by the Saints in Utah.

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