Camp of Israel: On the pioneer trail: Bad weather hampers trek

This is another in a weekly series of day-by-day summaries of what transpired during the Saints' 1846-47 trek from Nauvoo to the Salt Lake Valley. The compiler, Bruce A. Van Orden, is a member of the Church Pioneer Sesquicentennial Committee and a BYU associate professor of Church History and Doctrine. This installment covers two weeks since the series will not be published in next week's general conference issue.

Sunday, March 29:

The main camp remained at the Chariton River, the third major encampment and rest stop since leaving Nauvoo in early February. The day was clear and cool with occasionial wind. President Brigham Young appointed some of the Captains of Fifty to go through the camp to see how the horses, wagons, plows and wheat seed were being distributed that had recently come from Bishop David Evans in Nauvoo. Many people still had bad colds that they had contracted in all the wet weather and muddy conditions. President Young visited Eliza R. Snow, who was quite ill, in the evening. She reported that he "said in the name of the Lord I should get my health."

Monday, March 30:

The weather was clear and beautiful, yet cool. President Young and his council heard a report from Andrew A. Lathrop, who had been some 23 miles ahead. Brother Lathrop reported that the people there had good feelings toward the Latter-day Saints. Even more important, the roads on the west side of Shoal Creek were far better than on the east side. Some of the guards and pioneers had worked during the Chariton River encampment over the last week and had obtained 100 pounds of lard, 50 bushels of corn and $10 in cash. Brigham Young decided to send two companies the next morning to Locust Creek to complete a contract made by Brother Lathrop to split rails for money and also to complete a bridge across the creek. Some of the Saints enjoyed a treat of apple pies.

Tuesday, March 31:

Even though there was severe frost during the night, the day turned out pleasant. The health of the camp was much improved. All things pointed finally to a departure the next day from Chariton River where the camp had been waiting since March 22.

Over a hundred letters arrived from Nauvoo, one being from Elder Orson Hyde in an official report about the status of the poor Saints in Nauvoo. Another came from Carolyn Pratt, the wife of Addison Pratt who was serving a mission in the Society Islands in the South Pacific. Elder Pratt and his companion Benjamin Grouard had been monumentally successful and had already converted more than 800 Polynesians and had established 10 branches.

The camp history summed up the journeys of the Camp of Israel in March as follows: "The camp during the month of March have traveled about one hundred miles; the roads have been nearly impassable most of the time. The storms, cold and wind caused considerable suffering."

Wednesday, April 1:

The morning was clear. Orders came early for the camp to move. The first and fourth Fifties started out at 9 a.m.

Hosea Stout reported, "The road was very much settled but got soft in some places. Several waggons broke down but none of mine." It was six miles to the next river, the east fork of Shoal Creek.

Thursday, April 2:

Brigham Young prepared a letter to be sent to Elder Orson Hyde urging him to prepare the poor in Nauvoo to move out of town to some farms where they could care for themselves in the summer. In the evening a boisterous wind started blowing from the east signalling a new storm.

Friday, April 3:

At sunrise the first Fifty were underway. They traveled five miles to the west fork of Shoal Creek and crossed on the pioneer bridge. A letter was then received from one of the scouts at the Grand River, Henry G. Sherwood, that many brethren could get jobs there and that the roads were good and dry.

The wagons of some of the Fifties, including those of President Young proceeded anyway in the storm and in the afternoon reached Locust Creek at a place they called Hickory Grove. They had traveled 20 miles that day. Sadly others were caught in the storm farther back. In the evening the wind blew hard and the rain pounded harder still. The camp history records, "The camp very uncomfortable; yet not a murmur was heard."

Saturday, April 4:

It rained incessantly all night. For many all their clothing and beds were drenched. It continued to rain all day. Some teams were sent back to help those stranded on the prairie the previous night. William Clayton was especially ill. "I was so distressed with pain it seemed as though I could not live," he wrote. "I went to bed and put a bag of hot salt on my breast which seemed to give me some ease but I suffered much through the night, and it continued to rain until after midnight. We put an extra cover on our sleeping wagon, which kept out the rain." Hickory Grove at Locust Creek became the fourth rest stop for the Camp of Israel.

Sunday, April 5:

Even though the morning was cold, the day gratefully turned out to be pleasant after yesterday's terrible storm. Heber C. Kimball instructed his captains of Tens to hold a sacrament meeting in the afternoon. In the afternoon Brigham Young visited the land between the forks of Locust Creek and determined that the camp would move over the next day to that ground, it being higher and drier.

Monday, April 6:

It began raining again during the night, continued all day, and thundered and lightninged at intervals throughout the day. In spite of this, many in the camp moved out in the morning and by noon were on the west bank of the middle fork of Locust Creek, about three miles from their previous encampment. Brigham Young spent the afternoon arranging his wagons, pitching tents, and chopping wood until his group was all comfortable.

When evening arrived, the clouds began to clear with hope for an end of the storm. Instead about 8 p.m. a terrible lightning and wind storm blew through the camp and capsized a number of tents. William Clayton recorded, "It was the most severe storm we have experienced and with such wind it seems impossible to preserve our little clothing and provisions from being spoiled. But in the midst of it all, the camp seems cheerful and happy and there are but few sick."

Tuesday, April 7:

The temperature plunged below freezing during the night. In the morning there was light snow and considerable ice on the ground. The men found the creek had risen six feet during the night and threatened the bridge over which the wagons had passed and hundreds of more wagons would yet pass. The rising water had also made an island of the ground where the first Fifty's cattle were grazing. The winds were boisterous throughout the day.

Wednesday, April 8:

The cold, wet, and windy weather continued. This brought on a gloomy temperament with many campers. There was not much the camp could do but fix up and rearrange their wagons. Brigham Young and a small group of men went west to inspect the roads and found them unfavorable for traveling. Some men in the artillery reported some good news: they contracted to make 3,000 rails at 50 cents per hundred, payable in a good milch cow at $10 and the remainder in bacon at 5 cents per pound.

Back in Nauvoo Elder Orson Hyde conducted a conference for the remaining Saints there and preached two sermons. He also baptized 20 persons. Sadly, he also received a blank letter containing a bullet.

Thursday, April 9:

A cloudy day. It was also quite obvious that while the Fifties and Hundreds were staying together after their reorganization a week earlier at the Chariton River, the whole Camp of Israel was spread out over many muddy miles. Eliza R. Snow gave this unpleasant report: "The road was almost impassable, being low prairie, & to render it worse it commenc'd raining about noon & with the greatest exertion we went but 7 m.s and put up in the open prairie where we had not sufficient wood to keep warm and the teams were let loose without feed, to shirk for themselves. There we pass'd a dreary night of wind & rain."

In his memoirs, Benjamin F. Johnson wrote about trying to cross this muddy stretch of ground: "One day, in the open prairie, without a road, and ground full of water, our mules' feet, like pegs, could find no bottom and could go no farther. So in the open, treeless prairie we were compelled to stay."

In the evening Captains Ezra T. Benson and Albert P. Rockwood came to the post office tent and suggested the convenience of a blank form in which the captains could have their men record their daily employment and activities. This would "do justice" to all parties and would furnish the historian with more information.

Friday, April 10:

The creek had risen 5 feet and was still rising. It felt like all the dreams of going to the mountains that year were drowning in the mud flats of Iowa.

President Young called a council meeting to deliberate the problems at hand. The people and the animals needed food and a place to rest and repair their wagons. The poor Saints in Nauvoo also needed a way station where they could have food to survive. President Young proposed that specific men be assigned to press forward about 50 miles to the Grand River at a place previously scouted and establish a settlement. While the main camps were weather and water bound, these brethren could clear and fence 100 acres, start planting grain, and build some houses. Then when these men had put in the crops they could pass on to the Missouri River to winter their stock. President Young said they should not act on this proposal for two more days with the hope that the other companies could catch up with them.

Saturday, April 11:

The day was cloudy and frosty. Brigham Young and some other advisers walked back three miles to where Heber C. Kimball was encamped with his Hundred. President Young desired that Elder Kimball be apprised of yesterday's deliberations and tentative conclusions. When President Young returned to his camp at 5 p.m. he noted that several people had contracted measles.

Sources: Journal History; Manuscript History of Brigham Young (MHBY), pp. 114-116, 118-131; the Diary of Hosea Stout, 1:146-151; the Journals of William Clayton, pp. 167, 268-269; The Personal Writings of Eliza Roxcy Snow, pp. 124-127; the Journals of William Clayton, pp. 266-268; Seasons of Faith and Courage (by S. George Ellsworth and Kathleen C. Perrin), pp. 1-12; Mormons at the Missouri, pp. 37-38, 247-48; Ensign to the Nations, p. 15; Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life's Review, p. 111.

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