Wednesday, July 21, 2010
The history lesson for this week is the Mormon Pioneers. The Mormon pioneers were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who migrated across the United States from the Midwest to the Great Salt Lake Valley in the Utah Territory in search of freedom to practice their religion as they chose. The journey from Illinois to the Great Salt Lake was taken by approximately 70,000-100,000 people and started in April 1847 and ended when the First Transcontinental Railroad was finished in 1869. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded in April 1830. Members of the church were often harshly treated by non-members, partially because of their religious beliefs and partly as a reaction to prejudices and misunderstandings. The body of the church moved from Palmyra, New York, to Kirtland, Ohio, and then onto Independence, Missouri, under the direction of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Mormons were forced to leave Missouri in 1838 by the state militia who were under orders from Governor Lilburn Boggs to either expel them from Missouri or exterminate them. The Mormons then moved to Illinois where they built a new city on the banks of the Mississippi River and named it Nauvoo. In 1844 Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were brutally murdered by a savage mob while they were in the custody of the governor of Illinois. A mob broke into the Carthage Jail and shot Joseph and Hyrum on June 27, 1844. Tensions between Mormons and non-Mormons continued to grow with mobs burning Mormon homes and destroying property in outlying areas. Mormon leaders finally decided they would have no peace until they left the civilized areas and moved to the Rocky Mountains. They left Nauvoo on February 4, 1846, crossing the frozen Mississippi River and slogging through snow to the Omaha, Nebraska, area where they spent the rest of the winter. Mobs burned the Latter-day Saint temple in Nauvoo in 1848. A vanguard company organized and led by Brigham Young left Winter Quarters, Nebraska, on April 5, 1847, and headed to the Great Basin. They were looking for a place that no one else wanted. The camp was awakened each morning at 5:00 by a bugle and was expected to be ready to move out by 7:00 a.m. Travel ended each day about 8:30 p.m. with the travelers in bed by 9:00 p.m. The company traveled six days each week but rested on Sunday to observe the Sabbath. On July 24th, Brigham Young first saw the Great Salt Lake Valley from the back of a wagon where he lay sick. He expressed his satisfaction with the area and declared, "This is the right place, drive on." A monument now marks the spot where Brigham made his declaration. Brigham later said that he had seen the valley, including Ensign Peak, in a vision and recognized the spot when he saw it in person. The Mormon pioneers traveled to the Salt Lake Valley in the Great Basin in covered wagons, handcarts, and walking. Their trail is now known as the Mormon Trail and leads along the Platte River and over the Sweetwater River. The wagons were usually pulled by oxen. Provisions included two to three yoke of oxen, two milk cows, other livestock, arms and ammunition, fifteen pounds of iron, pulleys, and ropes, fishing gear, mechanical equipment, cooking equipment and at least one thousand pounds of flour plus other assorted foodstuffs. Some of the wagons had to be lightened by discarding book collections, furniture, china, etc. Pioneers with handcarts could take considerably less than those with wagons. Even though most of the Mormon pioneers moved westward to the Great Salt Lake Valley, a group Saints living in the eastern United States boarded the ship Brooklyn on February 4, 1846 - the same day that Mormons left Nauvoo - to sail to California. The ship sailed south from New York, around Cape Horn, stopped in the Juan Fernandez Islands and the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) and finally docked in Yerba Buena (San Francisco) on July 29, 1846. Many of these travelers stayed in California, but some traveled east to the Salt Lake Valley. I am grateful for my great-grandparents who followed Brigham Young to Utah. Some of them went westward in covered wagons, and some traveled eastward from California. Some were among the first to travel to Utah on the newly build railroad.