This is another in a weekly series of day-by-day summaries of what transpired 150 years ago during the Saints' 1846-47 trek from Nauvoo, Illinois, to the Salt Lake Valley. The compiler, Alexander L. Baugh is an assistant professor of Church history and doctrine at BYU.
Sunday, March 14, 1847:In a Sabbath evening meeting, President Brigham Young gave solemn and direct instructions to the Winter Quarters high council, several of the Twelve and Bishop Newel K. Whitney. The time was fast approaching for the departure of the main company to go to the West. His remarks centered on being spiritually prepared for the journey that they might be entitled to the blessings of God.
"I instructed the brethren to cease dancing and commence prayer meetings and administer the sacrament," President Young counseled. "I exhorted all who professed to have the priesthood to repent of their heart wanderings and dig about themselves and not be negligent in the duties to God." He then concluded, "
IT asked them to pray for my brethren and me that we might be able to bear off the kingdom of God triumphantly."
Monday, March 15:
During a morning meeting, the captains of the pioneer companies met with President Brigham Young in the Council House. In addressing the group, President Young stated that he wanted the captains of one hundred to report the number of men and teams who could be outfitted for the trek west by the next day. The men reassembled at 6 p.m., but, as John D. Lee recorded, "few were found ready to start on the morrow." In the evening meeting, which also included the Twelve and the high council, the question arose concerning who would oversee the day-to-day operations at Winter Quarters following the departure of the Twelve. The decision reached was that the high council would govern in the absence of the leading elders.
Tuesday, March 16:
Beginning at 4 p.m., Brigham Young and five of the Twelve held a two-hour meeting with the company captains. One of the matters that arose concerned the propriety of taking ox teams in the place of horses or mules. Although horses and mules were more disciplined, President Young believed oxen were better suited for the rigorous overland journey. After considerable deliberation, it was decided that the captains inform their company members that ox teams could be outfitted, but those who used them did so at their own risk.
Wednesday, March 17:
The day began with a call out for men from the community to labor on the mill dam. By evening, water was running though the millrace and it was anticipated that the mill would be in full operation within a short time.
Thursday, March 18:
On this date, John Smith, uncle of the martyred Prophet, wrote the following account of the conditions experienced by the Saints at Winter Quarters: "The cold weather has continued until yesterday; it has been very severe ever since it commenced in December. At this time the weather is more moderate; the ice on the river is getting very thin, but our teams crossed last evening on their way to Missouri for provisions. We have had and still have considerable sickness among the saints, who suffer with a disease called black scurvy said to come in consequence of people not having sufficient vegetables to eat; many have died among us. The Twelve with a company of Pioneers are fitting out for the mountains; we are doing all we can to assist them, and furnishing them with provisions, seeds, teams etc."
In California, Mormon Battalion members of Company B stationed at San Diego, noted that for the first time in many months, they had sufficient food. Robert Bliss wrote, "We now have all we want to Eat for the first time since we left Santa
FeT & spend our time more happy amidts the various scenes here." A small contingent of 18 company members was ordered to take charge of the fort, situated on a hill one-fourth of a mile from town.
Friday, March 19:
The other four Mormon Battalion companies - A, C, D, and E - left the San Luis Rey Mission with orders to march to reinforce the Pueblo De Los Angeles. They were joined by a group of U.S. dragoons.
Saturday, March 20:
The mill constructed by the Saints on Turkey Creek commenced full operation. Hosea Stout noted, "Today the mill started and promises well." Brigham Young was pleased with the production capabilities and wrote that 11 bushels of corn could be ground per hour. By 4 p.m. John D. Lee succeeded in bringing the two wagons of potato seed, purchased two days earlier in Iowa, across the Missouri River.
Upon arriving back at Winter Quarters, President Young instructed the young entrepreneur to keep five bushels of seed for himself, then sell the rest to the Saints at $1 per bushel.
Exposure, lack of proper food, and general sickness led to a large number of deaths in the settlement during the week.
Sources: A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War, p. 271; The Diary of Hosea Stout, pp. 241-42; "Extracts from the Journal of Henry Bigler," Utah Historical Quarterly 5:59; Journal History of the Church; Journal of John Smith, p. 35; "The Journal of Robert Bliss, With the Mormon Battalion," Utah Historical Quarterly 4:89; Journals of John D. Lee, pp. 120-27; Manuscript History of Brigham Young, pp. 537-38; "Nathaniel V. Jones Journal," in Kate B. Carter, The Mormon Battalion, p. 27; The March of the Mormon Battalion, p. 213; "Patty Bartlett Sessions Journal," Our Pioneer Heritage 2:63; Wilford Woodruff's Journal 3:141-42.