A strong sense of history is required for one to even begin to comprehend what a tremendous undertaking the Mormon Pioneer trek was, stretching from Nauvoo, Ill., to the Salt Lake Valley, a distance of approximately 1,300 miles.
The mass exodus from Nauvoo began Wednesday, Feb. 6, 1846, and did not end for those first pioneers until July 24, 1847, when they entered the Salt Lake Valley.For most Pioneers, the trek was a test of faith. For many onlookers, it was something of a curiosity. The editor of the Daily Missouri Republican went to Nauvoo to see for himself what was the actual state of affairs in Nauvoo during the exodus. In March 1846, he wrote:
"At nearly every dwelling, where the owners have not sold out and moved off, they were makingT preparations to go. Nearly every work-shop in the city has been converted into a wagon maker's shop. Even an unfinished portion of the Temple is thus used, and every mechanic appears to be employed in making, repairing or finishing wagons, or other articles necessary for the trip. . . .
"They appear to be going in neighborhoods, or companies, of four to six to ten wagons, and some of them are tolerably well provided with teams and provisions, but a very large portion present the appearance of being illy provided for so long a trip. Many of them are going with poor teams, and an amount of provisions insufficient for their subsistence for two months, if so long."
The sorrows of leaving behind the comfort of their homes in Nauvoo were eventually replaced with rejoicing at the journey's end.
Although circumstances of the exodus were difficult, the Pioneers had hope and courage. Elder John Taylor wrote:
"We outlived the trying scenes. We felt contented and happy – the songs of Zion resounded from wagon to wagon – from tent to tent; the sound reverberated through the woods, and its echo was returned from the distant hills; peace, harmony, and contentment reigned in the habitations of the Saints." (John Taylor, quoted in Nauvoo the Beautiful, pp. 294-295.)
At the end of the journey, Brigham Young wrote a journal entry under the date of July 23, 1847, describing his feelings upon seeing the Salt Lake Valley from the summit of Big Mountain: "The Spirit of Light rested upon me, and hovered over the valley, and I felt that there the saints would find protection and safety."
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"Nauvoo presented a busy scene those days. Men were hurrying to and fro collecting wagons and putting them in repair; the roar of the smith's forge was well nigh perpetual, and even the stillness of the night was broken by the steady beating of sledge and the ringing of anvils." (B.H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, 2:540.)
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Near Keosauqua, Iowa
Thursday, March 5, 1846. We traveled two miles on the bank of the [Des Moines] river and cross'd…I slung a tin cup on a string, and drew some water which was a very refreshing draught. After crossing the river, the road was thro' timber and intolerably muddy, the banks on this side rising almost perpendicularly. The teams had work to draw the loads as we ascended hill after hill." (From journal of Eliza R. Snow, quoted in Improvement Era, March 1943, p.187.)
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Mount Pisgah, Iowa
"Riding about three or four miles through beautiful prairies, I came suddenly to some round and sloping hills, grassy and crowned with beautiful groves of timber…Being pleased and excited at varied beauty before me, I cried out, 'this is Mount Pisgah.'" (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p.381.)
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Winter Quarters, Neb.
"During the fall and winter [1846-47] there was considerable sickness and many deaths in the camps [at Winter Quarters]. . . . Colonel [Thomas L.] Kane, in his lecture,The Mormons . .[told of the fever that] prevailed to such an extent that hardly any escaped it. They let their cows go unmilked, they wanted for voices to raise the psalm of Sundays. The few who were able to keep their feet, went about among the tents and wagons with food and water, like nurses through the wards of an infirmary. Here at one time the digging [of graves] got behind hand." (B.H. Roberts' Comprehensive History of the Church, 3:150-153.)
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Chimney Rock, Neb.
"I here took a luna distance for the longitude; also by an imperfect trigonometrical measurement with the sextant at the distance of three miles, Chimney Rock appeared to be about 260 feet in altitude." (Journal of Parley P. Pratt, entries for dates of May 25-26, 1847.)
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Ft. Bridger, Wyo.
"When the pioneers under Pres. Brigham Young came along in 1847, Fort Bridger consisted of a double log house, with adjoining corrals, and all during the pioneer period it was a supply center for the westbound emigration…In 1855 Pres. Young purchased Fort Bridger from its former owners, and a rock wall, similar to the one originally built around the Church buildings in Salt Lake City, was erected, enclosing the fort. On the approach of Johnston's army in 1857, Fort Bridger together with the adjacent little settlement, Fort Supply, was abandoned after being partly destroyed by fire…" (Andrew Jenson, Encyclopedic History of the Church, p. 254-5.)
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Salt Lake Valley
"When we came out of the canyon into full view of the valley, I turned the side of my carriage around, open to the west, and President Young arose from his bed and took a survey of the country. While gazing on the scene before us, he was enwrapped in vision, and upon this occasion he saw the future glory of Zion, and of Israel, as they would be, planted in the valleys of these mountains. When the vision had passed, he said: 'It is enough. This is the right place, drive on." (Wilford Woodruff, quoted in Utah Pioneers, p. 23.)