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"Continued Passing"

When the Mormons abandoned Winter Quarters, approximately 2,000 moved on the Great Salt Lake Valley, and the remainder moved back across the Missouri to the Iowa side.  The maximum population at Kanesville was approximately 14,000 around July 3rd, 1848 when 3,000 from Winter Quarters had moved back to Kanesville.  During the summer of 1848, most of the church's activities were centered in Kanesville and the surrounding Mormon communities.

More on the way.

In early 1848, the "Perpetual Emigrating Fund" was initiated and administered from church headquarters in Utah.  During its existence, it financially assisted tens of thousands of saints migrating from other parts of the world.

In 1851, not all of the Mormons had left Illinois and areas to the east of Council Bluffs.  Brigham Young called for all remaining members to continue the journey to the Salt Lake Valley.  This caused a great number of saints to move to Salt Lake from all over the world.  Council Bluffs and Winter Quarters had been major outfitting places for settlers traveling further west both Mormon and otherwise.  Iowa City became the next major outfitting place for saints traveling from the British Isles, and Scandinavian countries.  Many Mormons were still not prepared to make the journey to the Salt Lake Valley economically.  The cost of building a wagon or purchasing one was prohibitive for many.  The Perpetual Emigrating Fund helped solve some of this problem.


It is important to note that in 1854, the Nebraska Territory was opened for settlement. No longer Indian Country, there was not as much of a rush for Mormons living in the area to continue their journey to Salt Lake Valley. This did prompt some Mormons to postpone their departure, especially those that the trip would be a financial burden if they were to leave now. The new territory opening affected not only Mormons living at Winter Quarters but also those that had paused for a period of time on westward. For example where ferries were built, some Mormons remained behind to operate the ferry. Now, a territory, it was often a place that more Mormons decided to stay, at least for a while. Likewise, many communities on the Iowa side of the Missouri River felt more comfortable remaining for the time being since the lands across the river were now part of the United States (but not a state). There was however, an urging from the Mormon Church to continue west to Salt Lake City.


Starting in 1856, a faster and more economical means of transport was developed by using hand-carts, which helped families that could not afford to build a covered wagon.  Handcarts were a more economical way to travel, and cut the travel time by three weeks.  Between 1856 and 1860, approximately ten companies of 3,000 immigrants from the British Isles, Scandinavia, and Europe starting in Iowa City, Iowa crossed the plains and Rocky Mountains to Salt Lake in small two-wheeled handcarts.

The handcarts were constructed of wood with either metal or rawhide rims on the spoke wheels.  Some were made before allowing green wood to cure causing needed repairs along the way.  The handcarts were designed in three sizes with the average weight around 60 pounds.  As a rule, each person assigned to a handcart company was restricted to taking 17 pounds of personal goods such as clothing and bedding.

More Resentment.

The arrival at the Missouri River was the first place that the Mormons were not totally persecuted.  As more and more Mormons arrived, the "downtown" area of present day Council Bluffs (Kanesville) became predominantly Mormon.  When the Mormons started leaving the area, the other settlers started recovering the town as their own to the point that there was the same resentment towards the Mormons as the people in Missouri had developed.  There was always some mixed feelings.  The Mormons had done much to contribute to the area, it all came down to basic beliefs, and the Mormons were in the minority.

The first five handcart companies were outfitted in Iowa City, and the people of Council Bluffs were aware of their impending arrival.  As the Mormons began their way west to the Salt Lake Valley, they traveled the same roads that lead them directly to Council Bluffs but now they were no longer welcome.  The townspeople attempted to discourage the Mormons from entering the rebuilding community even to the point that signs were placed on the outskirts of town warning of a plague epidemic in town, even though none existed.  The Mormons traveled around to the north, and crossed the Missouri River at Ferryville before continuing the journey.


During 1859 and 1860, the last three wheel-cart companies were outfitted in Florence, Nebraska rather than Iowa City, Iowa due to the railroad having reached the Missouri River by then.  The handcarts built in Florence were improved over earlier versions.  The wood was adequately seasoned meaning fewer repairs.  The improved handcarts had bows, were canvas covered, and many were beautifully painted.


After 1860, the handcart program was eliminated when it was determined that they did not allow for enough provisions, and protection from the elements.  There was a surplus of wagons in Salt Lake Valley, and Brigham Young assigned each "Ward" to contribute at least one wagon and driver to help in bringing others to the valley.  In 1861, the "Down-and-back" wagon program was instigated.  From 1861 to 1864, the program shuttled immigrants from Florence to Salt Lake Valley  In the first year, 637 wagons were used to move 3,900 passengers west.


From 1864 to 1866, the Down-and-back program operated through Wyoming City, Nebraska, a small town about 40 miles south of Omaha.  At the time, the town had a population of around 6,400  Access to the Missouri River was apparently better than at Florence.  Between the years 1864 to 1868, 3,000 wagons were used.

In 1866, the railroad had made its way further west making for easier travel.  The "Down-and-back" program began to pick up passengers at Fort Laramie, Wyoming.  In 1869, the program was discontinued entirely since the railroad had made it to Utah.

Summary of 1861-1868

From 1861 to 1868, "The Utah Boys" shuttled over 20,000 saints using an average 330 wagons a year at a substantial reduction in cost.  Initially, the cost was $50 per person.  The "Down-and-back" program reduced the cost to $14-15 per person and children went for half price.


Later Camps

As the Mormons continued their trek west following closure of Winter Quarters, other locations were used to camp for the winter.  During the winter of 1884/85, the Mormons camped out near Grand Island.  Mormon Island State Recreational Area in Grand Island is a tribute to the Mormons that camped nearby.  The actual campsite is about 4 miles from the recreational area.

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