On Feb. 4, Church members, missionaries and friends paused to remember the exodus of the early Saints from Nauvoo, Illinois. They marched in a procession down the Parley Street “Trail of Hope” — some walking, some in wagons, some in military formation to represent the Nauvoo Legion, and many in pioneer dress.
In a short ceremony on the banks of the Mississippi, they paid honor to the pioneers who braved unthinkable conditions, crossed an icy river and made the long trek west. They paid special tribute to the many who died along the Mormon Trail.
Each participant in the commemoration wore a name tag that represented one pioneer who was part of that 1846 exodus. Elder Ralph Rawlinson, of Cedar City, Utah, wore the name of Hosea Stout, the police chief in old Nauvoo who crossed the river with his family on Feb. 9, 1846. The water was full of large chunks of ice, and a strong wind was blowing. Hosea watched two boats become swamped. When he tried to turn his boat to help one of those that had sunk, his own craft began to take on water. He was barely able to make it to an island off the Iowa shore.
Elder Rawlinson and his wife, Sister Linda Rawlinson, were bundled up in warm clothes during their mile-long hike to the river. The temperature was only a few degrees above zero. As they walked, they thought of the Stout family. On that evening of Feb. 9, 1846, Hosea’s family had survived, and Hosea had taken solace in his son’s seeming recovery from a fever. As it turned out, however, the boy died while crossing Iowa, and so did his brother. And things got worse. At Winter Quarters, Hosea’s wife died in childbirth; the baby died, too.
Hosea had lost almost everything. But he pressed forward with the trek and with his life. He raised another family, served missions, his community and the Church, and he passed a heritage of strength and tenacity to his posterity.
Elder Rawlinson had looked forward to the day when he could serve a mission with his wife, but his first wife died in 2003, and like Hosea, he had to make a choice to go on with his “trek.” He married his present wife, who had been a widow for 15 years, and they committed to serve a mission together. Often now, they pass the site on Main Street where Hosea Stout— Elder Rawlinson’s third great uncle — once lived. Elder Rawlinson recognizes that his heritage from the Stout family is one of character and strength, and he’s happy to be serving a mission in Nauvoo, where he can show his gratitude for that heritage and at the same time bring his family history full circle.