Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
sponsored by the Utah State Board of Education, the BYU-Public School Partnership and the Utah Education Network

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Mount Pisgah Established

When the camp moved out of Garden Grove on May 12th, enough families were left behind to maintain the community and to help later Nauvoo exiles, of which there would be thousands. Six days and about 35 miles later, they established another permanent camp and resting place. Ibis site, on the middle fork (Twelve-Mile Creek) of the Grand River and on Potawatomi Indian land, was selected and named Mount Pisgah by Parley P. Pratt, who, when he first saw it rising above the Iowa prairie. was reminded of the biblical Pisgah (Deuteronomy 3:27), where Moses viewed the Promised Land. There they built cabins and planted several thousand acres of rich bottomland lying to the west of the rise with peas, cucumbers, beans, corn, buckwheat, potatoes, pumpkins, and squash. Mount Pisgah was maintained as a camp until at least 1852. At its height it had over 2,000 inhabitants, most staying until their future homes in what is now Utah were more certain.

At Mount Pisgah, after over two and a half months of Iowa mud and other assorted troubles, Mormon leaders felt the need for divine guidance, so they withdrew to the isolation of the limitless prairie, clothed themselves in temple robes, formed a prayer circle, and invoked God for the good of the people and the success of the venture. All along the trek such special group prayers were held.

About 35 miles farther west they deepened some trail ruts still visible today--the only good ruts this author has found in Iowa. Mormon Trail ruts are very rare in Iowa for several reasons: the Iowa portion of the trail was much less used than the Nebraska and Wyoming portions, the soft soil did not hold and preserve the ruts well, and most of the ruts that did remain after the Mormons passed have since been destroyed by the plow.

Source: Historic Resource Study - Mormon Pioneer National By Stanley B. Kimball, Ph.D., May 1991. (The study focuses on the history of the trail from its official beginning in Nauvoo, Illinois, to its terminus in Salt Lake City, Utah, during the period 1846-1869. During that time, thousands of Mormon emigrants used many trails and trail variants to reach Utah. This study emphasizes the 'Pioneer Route' or 'Brigham Young Route' of 1846-1847. The sections on Mormon beliefs and motivations for going west have been omitted. Interested persons can find ample sources for that information. The footnotes, bibliography, maps, pictures, pioneer companies by name and dates for the 22-year period, and historic sites - about 2/3 of the book - have also been left out for space considerations. Thanks to Dr. Kimball and the National Park Service for the availability of this information.)