Monument recording Mormon Battalion stay moved to new location

This city on the banks of the Arakansas River can claim its own chapter in the Mormon Pioneer saga, and that legacy was celebrated at a gathering July 23-24.

Pueblo Pioneer Days featured the rededication of a monument to the Mormon Battalion, whose sick detactments wintered here during 1846-47.Pueblo is also the location where 43 Latter-day Saints from Mississippi settled while they waited to join Brigham Young's group of Pioneers on the way to the Great Salt Lake Valley.

"The monument was originally placed by the Colorado Historical Society in 1946," explained Gail McHardy, Pueblo Colorado Stake public affairs director. "It was in a place where it was inconspicuous and poorly situated."

Two Church members, Hazel Atterbury and Mary Lindenmuth Scarcello, campaigned to have the monument moved. Their efforts resulted eventually in the placement of the monument at the entrance to a recreation area.

"It is felt, by research and inspiration, to be the actual area where the Mississippi Saints and the Mormon Battalion settled briefly during the winter of 1846-47," Sister McHardy said. "It has been landscaped, and will be cared for by Latter-day Saints and the park staff."

Elder John S. Berge, regional representative for the Arvada Colorado Region, rededicated the monument on July 24. Presentation of the colors was by Boy Scouts from the stake, along with Maj. Gen. Paul Madsen, past national commander of U.S. Mormon Battalion Inc., and his son, Col. Russell Madsen, quartermaster. The Madsens are from Sandy, Utah.

The previous evening, July 23, a program of pioneer entertainment was presented at the stake center, featuring bluegrass fiddlers, Primary children dancers, and a mountain man. Visitors viewed displays put on by wards in the stake of sourdough bread making, basket weaving, spinning, and other pioneer crafts.

A special event at the evening program was the unveiling of a painting by Bill Inman of Rye, Colo. The painting depicts the LDS settlement of Pueblo, with a view of a covered wagon train seen from across the river.

At the rededication ceremony, Arla Ascherman of the Pueblo County Historical Society traced the history of the "Mormontown" settlement in Pueblo.

She discussed the enlistment into the army for the Mexican War of 500 able-bodied men from the Mormon camp at Missouri. Called the Mormon Battalion, they marched westward to meet Col. Stephen Kearny's Army of the West in Santa Fe., N.M. From there, the plan was to move on to San Diego to capture California from Mexico.

"Word had spread about the exodus of Mormons from Illinois to the Great Salt Lake. In the spring of 1846, shortly before the Mormon Battalion was recruited, 43 Saints in 19 wagons left Mississippi and headed west to join the exodus."

They arrived at the mouth of Fountain Creek on Aug. 7, 1846. They were instructed to wait there and spend the winter on the Arkansas near the El Pueblo trading post, where the climate was relatively mild. As was the custom in other Mormon settlements established along the way, the Saints waiting in Colorado began clearing land and planting crops.

"The village grew," Mrs. Aschermann recounted. "A blacksmith shop was built, and a large corral was soon filled with horses traded from the Indians. A fair-sized herd of cattle was accumulated, probably through the custom of trading one sound work-ox to emigrants passing through for two skinny, worn-out ones, which were then rested and fattened for the next trade."

That October, the settlement's population increased as women and children traveling with the battalion, who had slowed the march, were detached and escorted to the village at Pueblo.

By the next month, she said, the battalion had arrived in Santa Fe, and 126 ill and exhausted soldiers were sent to Pueblo with their women and children. Then, another group arrived, detached from the battalion at Socorro in western N.M.

"By the middle of January, the population of Mormontown was roughly 300, more than half of them women and children. The town was one long street running through the cottonwoods, with some 50 log houses. At the end of the street was a large hall where they held prayer meetings, dances and other social events.

"The Saints heavily persecuted elsewhere, were received in friendly fashion by the American traders at El Pueblo. The Mormons traded work for supplies." Virtually the entire settlement joined the main body of pioneers in 1847 and entered the Salt Lake Valley. - R. Scott Lloyd

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