(See previous post for the start of the Mormon Trail saga.)
Leaving Nauvoo, we drove out Parley Street to Nauvoo Landing and saw where the Mormons lined up and down the city streets to be ferried across the Mississippi River during freezing weather in February, 1846. Nauvoo, the beautiful town and homes, was simply abandoned!
Out of Nauvoo we identified the sign posts of the National Park Service for The Mormon Pioneer Trail across Iowa which we planned to follow to the Missouri River; mostly back/county roads and even some stretches of gravel roads. From this point on the history of the Mormon trail detailed the passage of the over 12,000 Saints in the first exodus from Nauvoo. Migration continued for the next 20 years, but it was these original pioneers that cut the trail to Salt Lake City.
We crossed the Mississippi river at Keokuk, Iowa, and followed trail directions to River Front Park, where the first Mormons landed across the river, and Linger Longer Park where a pavilion commemorates the refugees and from where they had a distant view of the city and temple they had left.
In Corydon we stopped at the Prairie Trails Museum; it was full of wonderful displays of westward migration and articles of period living in the area.
Garden Grove, Iowa served as a Mormon way-station until 1851. Outlines of the cabin walls are visible in the grass and several wayside exhibits interpret the site.
Detouring only 5 miles off the Mormon Trail Auto Tour, we drove through the town of Van Wert, Iowa. We had been through a lot of small destitute-looking towns, but Van Wert was one of the most impoverished. I took a picture of the downtown area!
We passed through and past many sites on the tour that were not open or on private land. One of the most fascinating was the Pote Farm Ruts where wagon ruts were deeply cut, but now eroded and faintly visible in a pasture. From a narrow gravel road, they are hard to see, and I was unable to get a good picture of the ruts!
We arrived at the Grand Encampment in Council Bluffs which sits on the location of the Iowa School for the Deaf. In the first wave of migration, this is where the Missouri River was crossed, and where a way-station was set up to supply future immigrants on the way to Zion. Brigham Young came to the realization that most of the original contingent would not be able to continue on to Salt Lake City before Winter, and after crossing the Missouri the Mormons set up "Winter Quarters" in Omaha, Nebraska.
Although my tour was scheduled to end at Council Bluffs, we did cross the river and visit the Winter Quarters Visitors Center and Historic site. The center was staffed with several Mormons completing a personal mission, and we were the only visitors that early Sunday morning. We got special attention and a personal tour (and testimony!) from young Sister Coats -- a young girl on her first mission who was enthusiastic and very sincere. We spent much time answering the questions that she showered at us and listening to her sincere witness to the trials of the early Mormons! There was no time to gracefully turn and take pictures of the exhibits, although I did snap a few outside.
We don’t go camping any more . . . we go ‘streamin’ ! The “SIlvermine and His” is our 2016 23' Airstream, and ‘streamin’ is the name we use to describe our adventures. Stream along as we document everything from weekend trips to longer summer excursions and full-blown vacations. You know what they say: if you’re not in an Airstream – you’re just camping!
Tom & Ella Brown