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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Mormon Camps and Communities

In southern Iowa and eastern Nebraska between 1846 and 1853 the Mormons built at least fifty-five temporary and widely separated communities, farmed as much as 15,000 acres of land, and established three ferries. They eventually occupied five successive headquarters sites named Grand Encampment, Cold Spring Camp, Cutler's Park, Winter Quarters, and Kanesville (Council Bluffs). These numerous communities were established primarily to accommodate the thousands of Mormon emigrants, while they were either waiting to cross the Missouri River, or resting and preparing financially and physically to continue westward to Utah. Most of these communities, some named Barney's Grove, Davis Camp, or Little Pigeon, were close to the Missouri River and disappeared after the Mormons went west.

Initially the pioneers settled temporarily in camps along the bluffs near Mosquito Creek (near what is now the Iowa School for the Deaf), on the flats near the Missouri River, and near Trading Point (or Indian Town) located today just east of Bellevue, Nebraska--almost on the present Pottawattamie-Mills County, Iowa line. In July the Mormons established a third, more permanent camp on the Iowa shore, a camp that became known as Kanesville, the origin of modern Council Bluffs.

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.)