Farm established to feed Saints

This is another in a weekly series of day-by-day summaries of what transpired 150 years ago during the Saints' 1846-47 trek from Nauvoo, Ill., to the Salt Lake Valley. The compiler, Alexander L. Baugh is an assistant professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University.

Sunday, March 28, 1847:

For the second consecutive week, a meeting of the entire body of Saints at Winter Quarters was held at the public square where President Brigham Young presided. Elders Heber C. Kimball, Ezra T. Benson, and Orson Pratt preached. Father John Smith, uncle to the Prophet Joseph Smith, was sustained to preside over the Saints at Winter Quarters upon the departure of the Twelve for the West and until he left on the pioneer journey. In the afternoon, a second meeting was convened. On this occasion, President Young and Elders Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, Willard Richards, and Amasa Lyman of the Twelve, and W.W. Phelps addressed the assembly. The sacrament was also blessed and passed. Wilford Woodruff wrote that this was "the first time the Sacrament had been administered to the Saints in a general assembly in Winter Quarters. We had a good time of it."

Monday, March 29:

In a morning meeting of the captains of the pioneer companies at the Council House, reports were given to President Brigham Young and the Twelve concerning their preparations for the trek west. It was reported that 25 families were outfitted and ready to leave, while another 32 could start within two days. During the meeting, other policies and plans were made. For example, in order to provide additional food for the Saints remaining at Winter Quarters, as well as those who were expected to move there during the coming season, Brigham Young appointed John D. Lee to establish and supervise a 600-acre Church farm at a location north of Winter Quarters. Arrangements were made to assist Brother Lee and several other families to relocate immediately.

Tuesday, March 30:

With their expected departure only days away, the Twelve spent most of the afternoon and evening conversing "on the subject of the pioneer journey." Willard Richards prepared the Twelve's letters and correspondence.

Following a one-day journey, John D. Lee and his family arrived at the site previously selected to be used as a Church farm. The farm's location was approximately 14 miles north from Winter Quarters, and appropriately named "Summer Quarters" by Brother Lee. Upon his arrival Lee wrote that it was a splendid location, noting that the land was rich and fertile and could be fenced in with 10 days of labor.

Wednesday, March 31:

During the day, members of the vanguard company remained busy preparing for their departure to the West and making arrangements to put in spring crops before their departure. In the evening, the pioneer company presidents and captains held a meeting in the Council House to discuss plans where they "deliberated on our contemplated movements," wrote Brigham Young. Following the meeting with the company leaders, the Twelve met. A decision was made to send William W. Phelps to the East to procure a printing press and type which they anticipated would be brought to the new settlement site in the West.

Thursday, April 1:

During the morning hours, Wilford Woodruff sat for an artist, whose name is not known, for a portraiture to be incorporated into a painting that included the other members of the Twelve. In the afternoon and evening, he attended a meeting along with the other members of the quorum.

Joseph A. Stratton, a member of the Church who had come from St. Louis, gave a report to the Twelve concerning the Saints who had temporarily taken up residence there and had formed a branch of the Church.

Friday, April 2:

The Saints in Winter Quarters began dismantling and then reconstructing a number of log cabins to form a stockade around the settlement.

Bishop George Miller, the former leader of the Ponca settlement, met with the Twelve to discuss his plans to take a group of Saints to Texas where he proposed establishing a Mormon settlement or colony between the Rio Grande and Nueces Rivers. After considerable discussion, President Young rejected Miller's proposal, stating that the location for the Saints was in the Great Basin.

After this final attempt to try to convince President Young and the Twelve to establish the main body of the Saints in Texas rather than in the Intermountain West, Miller rejected Brigham Young's leadership. Shortly after this meeting, Miller left Winter Quarters, and in December, moved to Texas where he joined a small Mormon colony near present-day Fredricksburg in south-central Texas, headed up by Elder Lyman Wight, himself a dissident member of the Twelve.

Saturday, April 3:

This was the last Saturday at Winter Quarters prior to the departure of the main pioneer company. "It was a busy day with me preparing to start on the Journey," wrote Wilford Woodruff. He also assisted Willard Richards in the preparation of his wagon. He continued, "We are now about to start on the pioneer Journey to go to the mountains of Israel to find a location as a resting place for the saints." His mood was one of reflection and concern, particularly for his family members whom he was leaving behind. "I have never felt more wait upon my mind at any time while leaving my family to go on a mission than now. My Prayer to God is that he will sustain myself & family to meet again on the earth."

Sources: Richard E. Bennett, Mormons at the Missouri, pp. 163-64; Bennett, " `A Samaritan had passed by': George Miller - Mormon Bishop, Trailblazer, and Brigham Young Antagonist," Illinois Historical Journal 82 (Spring 1989): 12; The Diary of Hosea Stout, pp. 244-46; Journal History of the Church; Journals of John D. Lee, pp. 136-43; Manuscript History of Brigham Young, pp. 543-45; Wilford Woodruff's Journal 3:143-45.

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