Day-by-day account of Saints' trek


In October 1845 a group of Illinois citizens gathered for the so-called "Quincy Convention." They insisted that the Latter-day Saints remove themselves from the state by May 1846. The leading councils of the Church, Brigham Young at the head, directed the Saints to prepare equipment and provisions for one year in the wilderness. Work sped ahead on the Nauvoo Temple. Beginning Dec. 11, the Twelve Apostles administered the holy endowment to worthy adults and young adults from the Nauvoo vicinity. Temple work in the Nauvoo Temple went clear up to 10:39 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 31. That day 233 individuals received the endowment ordinance. In December 1845 and January and February 1846 over 5,600 would receive their endowment and about 2,000 their sealing ordinances to their spouses for time and all enternity. President Brigham Young and his council determined that those Saints who had properly outfitted themselves would strt crossing the Mississippi River during the next week. They made this decision because of threats of imminent arrest of many leaders, assasination attempts, possible federal intervention and increasing numbers of people falling away from the Church. Uppermost in Brigham Young's mind at this point was a quick passage to the Rocky Mountains. The Prophet Joseph Smith had prophesied that the Saints would gather to the Rocky Mountains. The Prophet Joseph Smith had prophesied that the Saints would gather in the mountains. After Joseph's death, Brigham Young and the Twelve had labored unceasingly to make this trek of thousands of faithful Saints through the wilderness a reality.

Sunday, Feb. 1:

The Nauvoo Saints worshipped for the last time in the "City Beautiful" as a unified body. A public meeting was held in the second story of the temple. They prayed for the Lord's deliverance from their enemies and for divine protection as they readied themselves to leave for Iowa Territory. Brigham Young and Orson Pratt of the Twelve addressed the assemblage. Hundreds of Saints had prepared themselves and only awaited word from their leaders to hitch up their wagons, prepare the ferries and start crossing the Mississippi River.

Monday, Feb. 2:

Brigham Young and his council met in a private meeting 10 a.m. John S. Fullmer, Joseph L. Heywood and Almon W. Babbit were directed to remain in Nauvoo and sell off all Church and some private properties. The council discussed when the exodus should begin. President Young determined that it could be at any moment. He directed that the brethren procure boats and have them in readiness to convey the wagons and teams across the river. The families who were ready should be prepared with four hours' notice to be on their way.

"If we are here many days," President Young observed, "our way will be hedged up. Our enemies have resolved to intercept us whenever we start."

President Young desired that the Saints would be on their way before the enemies were aware of their movements. The core of the first division of refugees, it was decided, would be made up of some apostles, the high council, the bishops, a few of the trusted Nauvoo police officers, and the presidents of the seventies quorums. At 4 p.m. President Young met with the pre-selected captains of hundreds and fifties who were apprised of the day's decisions.

Tuesday, Feb. 3:

Even though Brigham Young had announced the previous week that no more endowment work would be done in the temple, hundreds thronged to the edifice to receive their ordinances. Brigham Young recorded: "Looking upon the multitude and knowing their anxiety, as they were thirsting and hungering for the word, we continued at work diligently in the house of the Lord." That day 295 people received their ordinances. Brigham Young informed his brethren that the Saints would build new temples where they were going, and thus not to worry.

Wednesday, Feb. 4:

The families of Charles Shumway, a trustworthy council member who had been notified to lead out, quietly guided their wagons over the Mississippi River. They traveled nine miles in Iowa over hills to the banks of Sugar Creek, where they camped to await the arrival of Brigham Young and others of the Twelve. The trail they blazed would be followed by thousands of others. Brigham Young spent most of the day loading up his wagons for his families.

Thursday, Feb. 5:

The 34th and 35th quorums of Seventy were organized. Ever since Joseph Smith's death, the Twelve Apostles had actively built up quorums of Seventy with the idea of preaching the gospel to all the world.

Friday, Feb. 6:

This day 512 more people thronged to the temple hoping to receive their ordinances before the temple would be shut down on Saturday. Compassionately, Brigham Young lingered in Nauvoo to accommodate these desirous and faithful Saints. Bishop George Miller and his families crossed the river in six wagons and proceeded on to Sugar Creek.

Saturday, Feb. 7:

Upwards of 600 people received their endowment on this, the last day of ordinance work in the Nauvoo Temple before the Exodus. No more ordinances, it would turn out, would ever take place there.

Sunday, Feb. 8:

President Brigham Young met with the Quorum of the Twelve in the Nauvoo Temple. He recorded: "We knelt around the altar, and dedicated the building to the Most High. We asked His blessing upon our intended move to the west; also we asked Him to enable us some day to finish the Temple, and dedicate it to Him, and we would leave it in His hands to do as He pleased; and to preserve the building as a monument to Joseph Smith. We asked the Lord to accept the labors of His servants in this land."

Later in the day President Young addressed the Sabbath meeting of the Saints in the grove near the temple. He informed them that the first companies going to the West would start the following week to cross the river. In the evening, John Smith, uncle to the Prophet Joseph Smith and president of the Nauvoo Stake, crossed the river with his family and clerk, Albert Carrington.

Monday, Feb. 9:

The first sizable group of Saints began crossing the Mississippi. Charles Shumway's group was first across, superintended by the Nauvoo Police under the direction of their leader, Hosea Stout. Brigham Young and his councils had given Hosea Stout and his 100 men the assignment to keep law and order during the trek west and serve as the Saints' first line of protection. "They gathered several flatboats, some old lighters, and a number of skiffs, forming altogether quite a fleet, and were at work night and day, crossing the saints." That morning Elder George A. Smith of the Twelve sent his families across the river.

As if this disaster were not enough, at 3:30 p.m. the roof of the temple was discovered to be on fire. Many men rushed to put it out. Elder Willard Richards of the Twelve organized a bucket brigade. The fire raged for half an hour, having been caused by an overheated stovepipe in the upper room that was being used to dry temple clothing. The damage to the roof was considerable. Brigham Young, far away from the temple when he saw the fire, hurried to help. "I said," he later wrote in his journal, "if it is the will of the Lord that the Temple be burned, instead of being defiled by the Gentiles, amen to it."

Tuesday, Feb. 10:

The stream of people crossing the icy river continued with no additional disasters. The Quorum of the Twelve sent an official letter appointing Brigham Young's brother, Joseph Young, the senior president of the First Council of the Seventy, to preside over the Church in Nauvoo until they could depart.

Wednesday, Feb. 11:

President Joseph Young met for prayer in the temple with a company of Saints preparing to leave. He organized companies to meet every night for prayer. All the companies that crossed the Mississippi traveled over the difficult, hilly, nine miles to the Sugar Creek encampment.

Thursday, Feb. 12:

The Twelve met as a quorum to plan their own river crossing. Then they labored with their families to pack and prepare to cross. In the evening the apostles met in the temple and joined in prayer with two other companies.

Friday, Feb. 13:

"Two companies met for prayer in the House of the Lord this evening, and prayed for the preservation of the Twelve, and that they might have wisdom to guide the saints in the paths of peace and safety; for the healing of the sick, etc."

Saturday, Feb. 14:

Additional companies continued across the river. The number of refugees continued to grow at Sugar Creek, a well-organized camp with plenty of water. Company leaders awaited the arrival of the Twelve Apostles to lead them further westward. The apostles met again in the temple with two companies scheduled to leave the next day. Those members of the Twelve still in Nauvoo also decided to leave the next day even though it was the Sabbath.

Sources: History of the Church 7:594-603; Church Chronology, p. 29; Ensign to the Nations, pp. 6-11.

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