Two things may be accepted as facts with regard to the migration of the Mormons westward from Illinois: First, that they would not have moved had they not been compelled to; and second, that they did not know definitely where they were going when they started. Altho Joseph Smith showed an uncertainty of his position by his instruction that the Twelve should look for a place in California or Oregon to which his people might move, he considered this removal so remote a possibility that he was at the same time beginning his campaign for the Presidency of the United States. As late as the spring of 1845, removal was considered by the leaders as only an alternative. . . .
Their destination could not have been determined in advance, because so little was known of the Far West. The territory now embraced in the boundaries of California and Utah was then under Mexican government, and "California" was, in common use, a name covering the Pacific coast and a stretch of land extending indefinitely eastward. Oregon had been heard of a good deal, and it, as well as Vancouver Island, had been spoken of as a possible goal if a westward migration became necessary. Lorenzo Snow, in describing the westward start, said: "On the first of March, the ground covered with snow, we broke encampment about noon, and soon nearly four hundred wagons were moving towe knew not where.". . .
The story of this march is a remarkable one in many ways. Begun in winter, with the ground soon covered with snow, the travelers encountered Arctic weather, with the inconveniences of ice, rain, and mud, until May. After a snowfall they would have to scrape the ground when they had selected a place for pitching the tents. After a rain, or one of the occasional thaws, the country (there were no regular roads) would be practically impassable for teams, and they would have to remain in camp until the water disappeared, and the soil would bear the weight of the wagons after it was corduroyed with branches of trees. At one time bad roads caused a halt of two or three weeks. Fuel was not always abundant, and after a cold night it was no unusual thing to find wet garments and bedding frozen stiff in the morning.
Game was plentydeer, wild turkeys, and prairie-hensbut while the members of this party were better supplied with provisions than their followers, there was no surplus among them, and by April many families were really destitute of food. Eliza Snow mentions that her brother, Lorenzoone of the captains of tentshad two wagons, a small tent, a cow, and a scanty supply of provisions and clothing, and that "he was much better off than some of our neighbors." . . .
The adaptability of the American pioneer to his circumstances was shown during this march in many ways. When a halt occurred, a shoemaker might be seen looking for a stone to serve as a lap-stone in his repair work, of a gunsmith mending a rifle, or a weaver at a wheel or loom. The women learned that the jolting wagons would churn their milk, and, when a halt occurred, it took them but a short time to heat an oven hollowed out of a hillside in which to bake the bread already "raised." Colonel Kane says that he saw a piece of cloth the wool for which was sheared, dyed, spun, and woven during this march. . . .
John Taylor, whose pictures of this march, painted with a view to attract English emigrants, were always highly colored, estimated that, when he left Council Bluffs for England, in July, 1846, there were in camp and on the way 15,000 Mormons, with 3,000 wagons, 30,000 head of cattle, a great many horses and mules, and a vast number of sheep. Colonel Kane says that, besides the wagons, there was "a large number of nondescript turnouts, the motley makeshifts of poverty; from the unsuitable heavy cart that lumbered on mysteriously, with its sick driver hidden under its counterpane cover, to the crazy two-wheeled trundle, such as our own poor employ in the conveyance of their slop-barrels, this pulled along, it may be, by a little dry-dugged heifer, and rigged up only to drag some such light weight as a baby, a sack of meal or a pack of clothes and bedding.
Young and most of the first party continued their westward march through an uninhabited country, where they had to make their own roads. But they met with no opposition from the Indians, and the head of the procession reached the banks of the Missouri near Council Bluffs in June, other companies following, in quite rapid succession.
On October 9 wagons sent back by the earlier emigrants for their unfortunate brethren had arrived, and the start for the Missouri began. Bullock relates that, just as they were ready to set out, a great flight of quails settled in the camp, running around the wagons, so near that they could be knocked over with sticks, and the children caught them alive. One bird alighted upon their tea-board, in the midst of the cups, while they were at breakfast. It was estimated that five hundred of the birds were flying about the camp that day, but when one hundred had been killed or caught, the captain forbade the killing of any more, "as it was a direct manifestation and visitation by the Lord." Young closes his account of this incident with the words, "Tell this to the nations of the earth! Tell it to the kings and nobles and great ones." Wells, in his manuscript, "Utah Notes" (quoted by H. H. Bancroft), says: "This phenomenon extended some thirty or forty miles along the river, and was generally observed. The quail in immense quantities had attempted to cross the river, but this being beyond their strength, had dropt into the river boats or on the banks. . . .
The principal camp on the Missouri, known as Winter Quarters, was on the west bank, on what is now the site of Florence, Nebraska. A council was held with the Omaha chiefs in the latter part of August, and Big Elk, in reply to an address by Brigham Young, recited their sufferings at the hands of the Sioux, and told the whites that they could stay there for two years and have the use of firewood and timber, and that the young men of the Indians would watch their cattle and warn them of any danger. In return, the Indians asked for the use of teams to draw in their harvest, for assistance in house-building, plowing, and blacksmithing, and that a traffic in goods be established. An agreement to this effect was put in writing. . . .
During the winter of 1846-1847 preparations were under way to send an organization of pioneers across the plains and beyond the Rocky Mountains, to select a new dwelling-place for the Saints. The only "revelation" to Brigham Young found in the "Book of Doctrine and Covenants" is a direction about the organization and mission of this expedition. It was dated January 14, 1847, and it directed the organization of the pioneers into companies, with captains, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens, and a president and two counselors at their head, under charge of the Twelve. Each company was to provide its own equipment, and to take seeds and farming implements. . . .
The order of march was intelligently arranged, with a view to the probability of meeting Indians who, if not dangerous to life, had little regard for personal property. The Indians of the Platte region were notorious thieves, but had not the reputation as warriors of their northern neighbors. The regulations required that each private should walk constantly beside his wagon, leaving it only by his officer's command. In order to make as compact a force as possible, two wagons were to move abreast whenever this could be done. Every man was to keep his weapons loaded, and special care was insisted upon that the caps, flints, and locks should be in good condition. They had with them one small cannon mounted on wheels. . . .
More than one day's march was now made without finding water or grass. Banks of snow were observed on the near-by elevations, and overcoats were very comfortable at night. On June 26 they reached the South Pass, where the waters running to the Atlantic and to the Pacific separate. They found, however, no well-marked dividing ridgeonly, as Pratt described it, "a quietly undulating plain or prairie, some fifteen or twenty miles in length and breadth, thickly covered with wild sage." There were good pasture and plenty of water, and they met there a small party who were making the journey from Oregon to the States on horseback.
All this time the leaders of the expedition had no definite view of their final stopping-place. Whenever Young was asked by any of his party, as they trudged along, what locality they were aiming for, his only reply was that he would recognize the site of their new home when he saw it, and that they would surely go on as the Lord would direct them. . . .
The pioneers resumed their march on June 29, over a desolate country, traveling seventeen miles without finding grass or water, until they made their night camp on the Big Sandy. There they encountered clouds of mosquitoes, which made more than one subsequent camping-place very uncomfortable. A march of eight miles the next morning brought them to Green River. Finding this stream 180 yards wide, and deep and swift, they stopt long enough to make two rafts on which they successfully ferried over all their wagons without reloading them. . . .
On Monday, the 18th, Pratt again acted as advance explorer, and went ahead with one companion. Following a ravine on horseback for four miles, they then dismounted and climbed to an elevation from which, in the distance, they saw a level prairie which they thought could not be far from Great Salt Lake. The whole party advanced only six and a quarter miles that day, and six the next.
One day later Erastus Snow came up with them, and Pratt took him along as a companion in his advance explorations. They discovered a point where the travelers of the year before had ascended a hill to avoid a cañon through which a creek dashed rapidly. Following in their predecessors' footsteps, when they arrived at the top of this hill there lay stretched out before them "a broad, open valley about twenty miles wide and thirty long, at the north end of which the waters of the Great Salt Lake glistened in the sunbeams." . . .
Having made an inspection of the valley, the two explorers rejoined their party about ten o'clock that evening. The next day, with great labor, a road was cut through the cañon down to the valley, and on July 22 Pratt's entire company camped on City Creek, below the present Emigration Street in Salt Lake City. The next morning, after sending word of their discovery to Brigham Young, the whole party moved some two miles farther north, and there, after prayer, the work of putting in a crop was begun. . . .
While Apostles like Snow might have been as transported with delight over the aspect of the valley as he profest to be, others of the Party could see only a desolate, treeless plain, with sage-brush supplying the vegetation. To the women especially the outlook was most depressing.
The day after the first arrival of Brigham Young in Salt Lake Valley (Sunday, July 25) church services were held and the sacrament was administered. Young addrest his followers, indicating at the start his idea of his leadership and of the ownership of the land, which was then Mexican territory. . . .
The next day a party, including all the Twelve who were in the valley, set out to explore the neighborhood. They visited and bathed in Great Salt Lake, climbed and named Ensign Peak, and met a party of Utah Indians, who made signs that they wanted to trade. On their return Young explained to the people his idea of an exploration of the country to the west and north.
Meanwhile, those left in the valley had been busy staking off fields, irrigating them, and planting vegetables and grain. Some buildings, among them a blacksmith shop, were begun. The members of the battalion, about four hundred of whom had now arrived, constructed a "bowery." Camps of Utah Indians were visited, and the white men witnessed their method of securing for food the abundant black crickets, by driving them into an enclosure fenced with brush, which they set on fire.
On July 28, after a council of the Quorum had been held, the site of the Temple was selected by Brigham Young, who waved his hand and said, "Here is the forty acres for the Temple. The city can be laid out perfectly square, east and west." The forty acres were a few days later reduced to ten, but the site then chosen is that on which the big Temple now stands. It was also decided that the city should be laid out in lots measuring ten by twenty rods, each, eight lots to a block, with streets eight rods wide, and sidewalks twenty feet wide; each house to be erected in the center of a lot, and twenty feet from the front line. Land was also reserved for four parks of ten acres each.
Men were at once sent into the mountains to secure logs for cabins, and work on adobe huts was also begun. On August 7 those of the Twelve present selected their "inheritances," each taking a block near the Temple. A week later the Twelve, in council, selected the blocks which companies under each should settle. The city as then laid out covered a space nearly four miles long and three broad.
1 From Linn's "Story of the Mormons." By arrangement with the publishers, The Macmillan Co. Copyright 1900. Joseph Smith founded the Mormon Church in 1880. Its adherents first settled at Kirtland, Ohio, but were soon expelled. They removed then to Missouri, where again they were expelled, and then made a third settlement at Nauvoo, in Illinois, whence they removed in 1847 to Utah. Mr. Linn for many years was managing editor of the New York Evening Post.