D&C/CHURCH HISTORY - LESSON 43
THE TREK WEST
- Introductory Comments.
- February 2 1846: Brigham Young and the Twelve decided it was time to
leave Nauvoo due to:
- Rising persecution.
- Indictments charging President Young and the Apostles with counterfeiting
and other crimes.
- Rumors of Federal military intervention to prevent the Saints movement
west on grounds that they were intent on setting up an independent commonwealth.
- Feb 4 1846: The first of the Saints leave Nauvoo and cross the Mississippi
- The Exodus From Nauvoo.
- The Camp of Israel.
- Feb 15 1846: Brigham Young, Willard Richards, and George A. Smith with
a large company of Saints cross the Mississippi on the ice and continued
9 miles to Sugar Creek where a camp was established for the exiles.
- The camp of Saints became known as the Camp of Israel. The Saints identified
themselves with the ancient exodus from Egypt.
- Reason for the 2 week delay - the Twelve served as officiators in the
temple due to the demand of the Saints wishing to receive the temple ordinances.
The work continued from early morning until late at night.
- The Nauvoo Covenant.
- Prior to their departure, on October 6, 1845, the assembled Saints
met and adopted the Nauvoo Covenant.
- Done in the Nauvoo Temple, the Saints agreed, "That we take
all the saints with us, to the extent of our ability, that is, our influence
- At Sugar Creek, the camp was organized for the trek west based patterned
after the organization of the Zion's Camp expedition.
- From this time (February 1846), a steady stream of Saints left Nauvoo
throughout the winter and spring. By September 1846 the city of Nauvoo
stood almost empty.
- Unprepared: Probably due to the earlier than planned for departure,
things were not as orderly and disciplined as they might have been. The
Saints had been admonished to leave with adequate supplies, but many left
before sufficient preparations were complete.
- Heber Kimball left with sufficient supplies to care for his family
for two years. The unpreparedness of others caused it to be gone within
- IS THERE A LESSON TO BE LEARNED HERE?
- That first night at Sugar Creek the weather was inclement and extremely
cold. 9 babies were born.
- Eliza R. Snow wrote of these days: "As we journeyed onward,
mothers gave birth to offspring under almost every variety of circumstances
imaginable except those to which they had been accustomed; some in tents,
others in wagons--in rainstorms and snowstorms. I heard of one birth which
occurred under the rude shelter of a hut, the sides of which were formed
of blankets fastened to poles stuck in the ground, with a bark roof through
which the rain was dripping. Kind sisters stood holding dishes to catch
the water as it fell, thus protecting the newcomer and its mother from
a showerbath as the little innocent first entered on the stage of human
life; and through faith in the Great Ruler of events, no harm resulted
- March 1, 1846: Brigham Young resumes the trek westward through Iowa.
The march across Iowa was not the best organized.
- It took the wagons longer to cross Iowa, than the wagon train that
left the following spring from Winter Quarters to Salt Lake.
- The trek across Iowa provided much of the experience needed to move
into the wilderness the following spring.
- April 14, 1846: Ellen Kimball received a letter from Nauvoo. It contained
news of the birth of a son to William Clayton. The following morning Clayton
went off by himself and in joy and gratitude wrote the words to Come, Come,
- April 1846: That same month while Heber Kimball's party was camped
on Medicine Creek, a rattlesnake bit one of Heber's horses. Without hesitation
he quieted the animal, handed its reins to someone, and laid his hands
on the animal's head, blessed it, and rebuked the poison; the horse recovered.
To those who wondered at the propriety of this Heber answered: "It
is just as proper to lay hands on a horse or an ox and administer to them
in the name of the Lord, and of such utility, as it is to a human being,
both being creatures of His creation, both consequently having a claim
to his attention."
- June 1846: 500 wagons had reached Council Bluffs, the junction of the
Missouri and Platte Rivers. In addition, as many as 2,500 wagons and 12,000
Saints were scattered across Iowa from Council Bluffs to Nauvoo.
- Winter Quarters was established across the river in what is now Omaha.
The winter of 46-47 was difficult. 200 saints died at this one camp alone.
- The Migration West.
- The Exodus From the Eastern States.
- November 8, 1845: Orson Pratt, who was presiding over the eastern and
middle states, issued a message to the Saints of that area calling upon
them to join the exodus west by the following spring.
- Said Elder Pratt: "We do not want one saint to be left in the
United States after that time. Let every branch in the east, west, north
and south be determined to flee out of `Babylon,' either by land or sea,
as soon as then." (CHC 3:71)
- Those who could get teams during the winter were advised to go by land.
- Elder Pratt also announced that Elder Samuel Brannan had been appointed
to take charge of a company that would go by sea.
- The ship Brooklyn was chartered by Brannan to carry east coast Saints
- 238 Saints took passage on the ship: 70 men, 68 women, and 100 children.
- The ship cleared New York harbor on February 4, 1846, and head southward.
- This was the same day the Saints began their exodus from Nauvoo.
- Evidently the trip was mostly a pleasant one, except for two severe
storms, one in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.
- They arrived in Honolulu on June 20, where they remained 10 days.
- The ship arrived at Yerba Buena (San Francisco) on July 29, 1846. The
journey had been made in under 6 months.
- Three weeks prior to their arrival, this part of California had been
taken by the United States in the Mexican American War.
- Evidently, not all had been perfect during the voyage. Four members
were excommunicated for improper views and conduct. Three more were excommunicated
after their arrival in California.
- The passengers of the Brooklyn were quartered in tents and in the old
Spanish barracks of the fort, making San Francisco, for a short time "largely
a Mormon town."
- Later they began a colony called New Hope on the Stanislaus River,
that included a log house, a sawmill, and 80 acres of land, fenced an seeded.
- The settlement broke up due to the uncertainty of the main body of
Saints proceeding to the west coast. Evidently, Brannan finally took possession
of the land himself.
- About 140 members of the Brooklyn company found their way to the Salt
Lake valley between 1848 and 1850. The rest remained in California, most
of who eventually left the Church.
- Samuel Brannan their leader, also remained in California and left the
- Brannan became a pioneer in California. He was there to take advantage
of the discovery of gold. He was involved in speculations in San Francisco
real estate, the organizer of milling and railway companies, purchased
a great distillery. For a time he was known as the richest man in California.
- The historian Bancroft said that Brannan "probably did more
for San Francisco and for other places [in California] than was effected
by the combined efforts of scores of better men; and, indeed, in many respects,
he was not a bad man."
- Orson Pratt said that Brannan was a "corrupt and wicked man".
Brannan acquired habits of intemperance and eventually lost his vast fortune.
According to Bancroft, in the years prior to his death, he was "a
sorry wreck, physically and financially".
- Organization of the Mormon Battalion.
- One of the misconceptions that many have regarding the trek west is
that the Mormon Battalion was an initiative forced upon the Church by the
federal government. Such was not the case.
- The Church was in extreme poverty at this time and needed help. Brigham
Young commissioned Jesse C. Little, president of the Eastern States mission,
to do what he could to get assistance from the federal government to assist
the Saints in their trek westward.
- With the assistance of Thomas Kane, a man sympathetic to the Saints,
a deal was worked out with President Polk to enlist 500 soldiers to march
to California under the command of General Stephen Kearny to aid the American
effort in the Mexican-American War.
- On June 26, 1846, Captain James Allen of the U.S. army arrived a Mount
Pisgah, Iowa. Not all were aware of President Young's initiative and their
was fear that the United States had acted to stop the migration of the
Church west. Such was not case.
- Brigham Young became an army recruiter and went from camp to camp talking
to the men about joining the battalion.
- 500 hundred of the brethren volunteered to join and become a part of
Kearny's march westward.
- July 20, 1846: The Mormon Battalion left Council Bluffs to march to
Fort Leavenworth where they would be outfitted for the trip west.
- WHY DO YOU SUPPOSE BRIGHAM YOUNG SACRIFICED 500 OF THE MOST ABLE BODIED
MEN TO THE ARMY AT THIS TIME OF GREAT NEED?
- He felt that there would be sufficient men remaining behind to conduct
the journey westward.
- The battalion wages would be an indispensable source of hard cash,
which was desperately needed.
- More than $50,000 was paid to the Battalion members, most of which
was paid into the common fund of the Church.
- This cash was utilized to purchase supplies and build a gristmill on
the Missouri River.
- It would assure Mormon prominence in the new territory (for once the
Mormons would be the old settlers).
- It displayed the loyalty of the Church to the United States, which
was being questioned at that time.
- Said Brigham Young, "The Mormon Battalion was organized from
our camp to allay the prejudices of the people, prove our loyalty to the
government of the United States, and for the present and temporal salvation
of Israel." (Great Basin Kingdom, p. 21)
- The March of the Mormon Battalion.
- The battalion assembled at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where they were
outfitted for the journey.
- While drawing checks for their clothing, paid one year in advance,
the paymaster was surprised that every man was able to sign his own name.
- Their commander, Lieutenant Colonel James Allen, ordered the battalion
to start its march on August 12, 1846. He had taken ill and remained behind
a few days to recuperate, but became worse and died.
- The agreement with Brigham Young was that the only regular Army person
to command the battalion was Colonel Allen. When he died, there was a question
as to who would succeed the Colonel.
- The battalion troops elected from their own ranks, Captain Jefferson
Hunt. Lieutenant A. J. Smith of the regular army was sent to take command
of the troops. After some discussion, Smith was accepted in his position
as commander after he agreed to honor Colonel Allen's agreements with the
- After the battalion made it's last crossing of Arkansas River, Lieutenant
Smith ordered the families that had traveled with the battalion, but not
actually enrolled, to be detached and sent under guard of ten men up the
Arkansas to Pueblo.
- There were protests from the battalion because this was in violation
of Colonel Allen's promise that these families could travel with the troops
- This detachment, and about 15 families, marched up the Arkansas to
Pueblo where they camped for the winter.
- The battalion arrived in Santa Fe by October 12. Upon their arrival
they received a 100 gun salute ordered by Colonel Alexander Doniphan, who
was in command in New Mexico at the time. WHO WAS COLONEL DONIPHAN?
- General Kearny designated Colonel P. St. George Cooke to take command
of the battalion on their march from Santa Fe. This disappointed the Mormon
volunteers who had hoped to march from Santa Fe under command of one of
their own, which would have been in harmony with Colonel Allen's promises.
- Before leaving Santa Fe, a contingent of the sick, along with the remaining
women and children, were escorted to Pueblo to spend the winter, and then
join up with the Saints heading west the following year. 86 men were detached
at this time. An additional 55 men were detached and sent to Pueblo after
leaving Santa Fe.
- The Battle of the Bulls.
- The only armed engagement of the battalion was on December 11, 1846
when a number of wild cattle stamped into the rear companies, upsetting
wagons and scaring the pack animals.
- Several of the battalion opened fire on the wild cattle killing 10
to 15 bulls.
- Three men were wounded in the skirmish.
- The battalion arrived in San Diego on January 29, 1847, having completed
the 6 month desert march to California.
- 340 men, 4 wives of officers, and a few children completed the march.
- Accomplishments of the Mormon Battalion.
- The longest march of infantry in U.S. history.
- Said Colonel Philip St. George Cooke, "History may be searched
in vain for an equal march of infantry. Half of it has been through a wilderness,
where nothing but savages and wild beasts are found, or deserts where,
for want of water, there is no living creature. There, with almost hopeless
labor, we have dug deep wells, which the future traveler will enjoy. Without
a guide who had traversed them we have ventured into trackless tablelands
where water was not found for several marches. With crowbar and pick and
axe in hand, we have worked our way over mountains, which seemed to defy
aught save the wild goat, and hewed a pass through a chasm of living rock
more narrow than our wagons. Thus, marching half naked and half fed, and
living upon wild animals, we have discovered and made a road of great value
to our country." (CHC 3:119)
- Cleared the first wagon road across the southern desert to California.
- Established a U.S. presence in Tucson which paved the way for the Gadsden
Purchase from Mexico.
- Some battalion members were present when gold was discovered at Sutter's
- Blazed a wagon pass over Cajon Pass and the route east from California
to Salt Lake City.
- Section 136.
- Historical Background.
- This revelation was given by the Lord through his prophet, Brigham
Young, on January 14, 1847, at Winter Quarters.
- It is the Lord's directions for the Saints as they migrate into the
- This is the only revelation received by Brigham Young that is recorded
in the Doctrine & Covenants.
- Discussion of Section 136.
- READ 136:1-4. Let the Saints be organized and keep the commandments.
- The Lord's house is a house of order. These were instructions were
to assist the Saints in traveling through the wilderness most efficiently.
- READ 136:8. Each company to bear an equal portion of the burden.
- It wasn't just elite that were moving west, but all faithful Saints
no matter what their position.
- HOW MANY OTHER IMMIGRANT COMPANIES TO THE WEST, OREGON AND CALIFORNIA,
WENT WITH THIS ATTITUDE?
- READ 136:17-18. The promise that Zion will be redeemed.
- If the Saints heed the counsel of the Lord, then need not fear their
enemies. This is the work of the Lord and it cannot be stopped.
- Bruce R. McConkie: "Because the saints were 'hindered by the
hands of their enemies, and by oppression,' the Lord withdrew the time
limitation (D&C 124:49-54), and the command now in force is : 'Zion
shall be redeemed in mine own due time.' (D&C 136:18.) When that is
to be remains to be seen, but that it will surely come to pass, as part
of the preparation of the Lord's people for his glorious return, is as
certain as that the sun shines or that the Great God is Lord of all. When
the appointed time comes, the Lord will reveal it to his servants who preside
over his kingdom from Salt Lake City, and then the great work will go forward."
(Millennial Messiah, p281)
- READ 136:19-25. Important counsel from the Lord for those heading
- These are principles and practices that the participants should abide
by if they are to be successful on the trek and once they begin to establish
their homes in the Great Basin.
- V31: "My people must be tried in all things, that they may
be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of
Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom."
- Hadn't the Saints been tried sufficiently? Yet the Lord issues this
warning again. It is up to each individual to be prepared for the testing
that will come.
- DOES THIS WARNING APPLY TO US, THE MODERN SAINTS?