Preparations For The Long March

Two things may be accepted as facts with regard to the migration

of the Mormons westward from Illinois: first, that they would not

have moved had they not been compelled to; and second, that they

did not know definitely where they were going when they started.

Although Joseph Smith showed an uncertainty of his position by

his instruction that the Twelve should look for a place in

California or Oregon to which his people might move, he

considered this removal so remote a possibility that he was at

the same time beginning his campaign for the presidency of the

United States. As late as the spring of 1845, removal was

considered by the leaders as only an alternative. In April,

Brigham Young, Willard Richards, the two Pratts, and others

issued an address to President Polk, which was sent to the

governors of all the states but Illinois and Missouri, setting

forth their previous trials, and containing this declaration:--

"In the name of Israel's God, and by virtue of multiplied ties of

country and kindred, we ask your friendly interposition in our

favor. Will it be too much for us to ask you to convene a special

session of Congress and furnish us an asylum where we can enjoy

our rights of conscience and religion unmolested? Or will you, in

special message to that body when convened, recommend a

remonstrance against such unhallowed acts of oppression and

expatriation as this people have continued to receive from the

states of Missouri and Illinois? Or will you favor us by your

personal influence and by your official rank? Or will you express

your views concerning what is called the Great Western Measure of

colonizing the Latter-Day Saints in Oregon, the Northwestern

Territory, or some location remote from the states, where the

hand of oppression will not crush every noble principle and

extinguish every patriotic feeling?" After the publication of the

correspondence between the Hardin commission and the Mormon

authorities, Orson Pratt issued an appeal "to American citizens,"

in which, referring to what he called the proposed "banishment"

of the Mormons, he said: "Ye fathers of the Revolution! Ye

patriots of '76! Is it for this ye toiled and suffered and bled?

. . . Must they be driven from this renowned republic to seek an

asylum among other nations, or wander as hopeless exiles among

the red men of the western wilds? Americans, will ye suffer this?

Editors, will ye not speak? Fellow-citizens, will ye not awake?"*

* Millennial Star, Vol. VI, p. 193.

Their destination could not have been determined in advance,

because so little was known of the Far West. The territory now

embraced in the boundaries of California and Utah was then under

Mexican government, and "California" was, in common use, a name

covering the Pacific coast and a stretch of land extending

indefinitely eastward. Oregon had been heard of a good deal, and

it, as well as Vancouver Island, had been spoken of as a possible

goal if a westward migration became necessary. Lorenzo Snow, in

describing the westward start, said: "On the first of March, the

ground covered with snow, we broke encampment about noon, and

soon nearly four hundred wagons were moving to--WE KNEW NOT


* "Biography of Lorenzo Snow," p. 86.

The first step taken by the Mormon authorities to explain the

removal to their people was an explanation made at a conference

in the new Temple, three days after the correspondence with the

commission closed. P. P. Pratt stated to the conference that the

removal meant that the Lord designed to lead them to a wider

field of action, where no one could say that they crowded their

neighbors. In such a place they could, in five years, become

richer than they then were, and could build a bigger and a better

Temple. "It has cost us," said he, "more for sickness, defence

against mob exactions, persecutions, and to purchase lands in

this place, than as much improvement will cost in another." It

was then voted unanimously that the Saints would move en masse to

the West, and that every man would give all the help he could to

assist the poorer members of the community in making the


* Millennial Star, Vol. VI, p. 196. Wilford Woodruff, in an

appeal to the Saints in Great Britain, asked them to buy Mormon

books in order to assist the Presidency with funds with which to

take the poor Saints with them westward.

Brigham Young next issued an address to the church at large,

stating that even the Mormon Bible had foretold what might be the

conduct of the American nation toward "the Israel of the last

days," and urging all to prepare to make the journey. A

conference of Mormons in New York City on November 12, 1845,

attended by brethren from New York State, New Jersey, and

Connecticut, voted that "the church in this city move, one and

all, west of the Rocky Mountains between this and next season,

either by land or by water."

Active preparations for the removal began in and around Nauvoo at

once. All who had property began trading it for articles that

would be needed on the journey. Real estate was traded or sold

for what it would bring, and the Eagle was full of advertisements

of property to sell, including the Mansion House, Masonic Hall,

and the Armory. The Mormons would load in wagons what furniture

they could not take West with them, and trade it in the

neighborhood for things more useful. The church authorities

advertised for one thousand yokes of oxen and all the cattle and

mules that might be offered, oxen bringing from $40 to $50 a

yoke. The necessary outfit for a family of five was calculated to

be one wagon, three yokes of cattle, two cows, two beef cattle,

three sheep, one thousand pounds of flour, twenty pounds of

sugar, a tent and bedding, seeds, farming tools, and a rifle--all

estimated to cost about $250. Three or four hundred Mormons were

sent to more distant points in Illinois and Iowa for draft

animals, and, when the Western procession started, they boasted

that they owned the best cattle and horses in the country.

In the city the men were organized into companies, each of which

included such workmen as wagonmakers, blacksmiths, and

carpenters, and the task of making wagons, tents, etc., was

hurried to the utmost. "Nauvoo was constituted into one great

wagon shop," wrote John Taylor. If any members of the community

were not skilled in the work now in demand, they were sent to St.

Louis, Galena, Burlington, or some other of the larger towns, to

find profitable employment during the winter, and thus add to the

moving fund.

On January 20, 1846, the High Council issued a circular

announcing that, early in March, a company of hardy young men,

with some families, would be sent into the Western country, with

farming utensils and seed, to put in a crop and erect houses for

others who would follow as soon as the grass was high enough for


This circular contained also the following declaration:--

"We venture to say that our brethren have made no counterfeit

money; and if any miller has received $1500 base coin in a week

from us, let him testify. If any land agent of the general

government has received wagon loads of base coin from us in

payment for lands, let him say so. Or if he has received any at

all, let him tell it. These witnesses against us have spun a long


This referred to the charges of counterfeiting, which had

resulted in the indictment of some of the Twelve at Springfield,

and which hastened the first departures across the river. That

counterfeiting was common in the Western country at that time is

a matter of history, and the Mormons themselves had accused such

leading members of their church as Cowdery of being engaged in

the business. The persons indicted at Springfield were never

tried, so that the question of their guilt cannot be decided.

Tullidge's pro-Mormon "Life of Brigham Young" mentions an

incident which occurred when the refugees had gone only as far as

the Chariton River in Iowa, which both admits that they had

counterfeit money among them, and shows the mild view which a

Bishop of the church took of the offence of passing it:-- "About

this time also an attempt was made to pass counterfeit money. It

was the case of a young man who bought from a Mr. Cochran a yoke

of oxen, a cow and a chain for $50. Bishop Miller wrote to

Brigham to excuse the young man, but to help Cochran to

restitution. The President was roused to great anger, the Bishop

was severely rebuked, and the anathemas of the leader from that

time were thundered against thieves and 'bogus men,' and passers

of bogus money .... The following is a minute of his diary of a

council on the next Sunday, with the twelve bishops and captains:

"I told them I was satisfied the course we were taking would

prove to be the salvation, not only of the camp but of the Saints

left behind. But there had been things done which were wrong.

Some pleaded our sufferings from persecution, and the loss of our

homes and property, as a justification for retaliating on our

enemies; but such a course tends to destroy the Kingdom of God."

As soon as the leaders decided to make a start, they sent a

petition to the governor of Iowa Territory, explaining their

intention to pass through that domain, and asking for his

protection during the temporary stay they might make there. No

opposition to them seems to have been shown by the Iowans, who on

the contrary employed them as laborers, sold them such goods as

they could pay for, and invited their musicians to give concerts

at the resting points. Lee's experience in Iowa confirmed him, he

says, in his previous opinion that much of the Mormons' trouble

was due to "wild, ignorant fanatics"; "for," he adds, "only a few

years before, these same people were our most bitter enemies,

and, when we came again and behaved ourselves, they treated us

with the utmost kindness and hospitality."*

* "Mormonism Unveiled," p. 179.

How much property the Mormons sacrificed in Illinois cannot be

ascertained with accuracy. An investigation of all the testimony

obtainable on the subject leads to the conclusion that a good

deal of their real estate was disposed of at a fair price, and

that there were many cases of severe individual loss. Major

Warren, in a communication to the Signal from Nauvoo, in May,

1846, said that few of the Mormons' farms remained unsold, and

that three-fourths of the improved property on the flat in Nauvoo

had been disposed of.

A correspondent of the Signal, answering on April 11 an assertion

that the Mormons had a good deal of real estate to dispose of

before they could leave, replied that most of their farms were

sold, and that there were more inquiries after the others than

there were farms. As to the real estate in the city, he


"It is scattered over an area of eight or ten square miles, and

contains from 1500 to 2000 houses, four-fifths of which, at

least, are wretched cabins of no permanent value whatever. There

are, however, 200 or 300 houses, large and small, built of brick

and other desirable material. Such will mostly sell, though many

of them, owing to the distance from the river and other

unfavorable circumstances, only at a very great sacrifice." *

* "A score or more of chimneys on the northern boundary of the

city marked the site of houses deliberately burned for fuel

during the winter of 1845-1846." --Hancock Eagle, May 29,1846.

A general epistle to the church from the Twelve, dated Winter

Quarters, December 23, 1847, stated that the property of the

Saints in Hancock County was "little or no better than

confiscated." *

* See John Taylor's address, p. 411 post.

Organization Of The Church Progress Of The Settlement facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail