This month, Latter-day Saints will mark the 150th anniversary of the continued trek westward in one of the most drawn-out and compelling mass migrations in human history.
As dramatized in conference addresses, music and a video segment featuring members of the First Presidency during the Sunday morning session, the story of the Mormon migration is not simply a mass of statistics but one of individual faith and hardship.Additional details about the first companies to follow the trail west - and about the modern counterparts who are retracing their steps - will continue to make news in Utah as the state celebrates the sesquicentennial of their arrival here in 1847. A few of those details are chronicled here:
Following the 17th annual conference of the church at Winter Quarters, Neb., on the morning of April 6, 1847, wagons led by Wilford Woodruff, Orson Pratt and Brigham Young joined Heber C. Kimball's lead group at the Elkhorn River, according to the Church Almanac.
On April 16, 1847, Brigham Young organized the Saints into companies, with captains of hundreds, fifties and tens. His company then left Winter Quarters with 148 people and 72 wagons, bound for the valley of the Great Salt Lake. More than 200 companies composed of hundreds of members each would follow over the next two decades. Before the railroad tying the East and West coasts was finished in 1869, approximately 62,000 Mormon immigrants pushed, pulled, walked and rode their way across the plains.
Brigham Young's group had wintered with hundreds of other Saints at the Grand Encampment on the Missouri River after their initial exodus from Nauvoo, Ill., in 1846 and a difficult trip across Iowa. There, the pioneers built shelters against the prairie cold to wait for spring and the chance to move on.
Once the first company - 143 men, three women, two children, 93 horses, 52 mules, 66 oxen and 19 cows - left Winter Quarters, five others would follow through the spring and summer of that year, according to the Almanac:
- June 17, 1847 - the Daniel Spencer Company, made up of 151 wagons, with about 360 men, women and children. Captains were Perrigrine Sessions, Ira Eldredge and Parley P. Pratt.
- June 17, 1847 - the Edward Hunter Company, with 353 people in 131 wagons. Captains were Joseph Horne and Jacob Foutz, and Apostle John Taylor was among the group.
- June 17, 1847 - the Jedediah M. Grant Company, with 331 people in 100 wagons. Joseph B. Noble and Willard Snow served as captains, and Eliza R. Snow was among the company. She kept a detailed journey of the trek west.
- June 17, 1847 - the Abraham O. Smoot Company, with 318 people, 500 animals and a hundred wagons. George B. Wallace and Samuel Russell served as captains.
According to the Almanac, a typical day for the pioneers "began at 5 a.m., when each man was expected to arise and pray, prepare breakfast and lunch, care for his team and be ready to pull out at 7 a.m. The company generally `nooned' for two hours at midday, then continued until evening. The night bugle sounded at 8:30 p.m. for prayers; fires were to be out by 9 p.m. As the company traveled, hunters most commonly bagged buffalo and antelope."
Average age - Pioneer companies
Hunter Horne 21.4
1847 companies - average age: 21.4 years