164 years ago this week, thirty-two of the Mormon Battalion boys were anxious to meet their families at Winter Quarters. They left Great Salt Lake City for Winter Quarters, Nebraska, our site for this week, where they arrived Dec. 18th, after a hard journey.
Winter Quarters (Florence) is on the eastern end of Nebraska, near the Missouri River and just a couple of miles from Omaha. It is where the first Nauvoo exodus company under Brigham Young spent the hardship winter of 1846-1847. The poor quality of the shelters and lack of nourishing food resulted in much sickness and many deaths that first winter. The Winter Quarters cemetery has more than 600 unmarked graves as a result. The unhealthy climate caused most of this settlement to move back across the Missouri to Kanesville.
The Winter Quarters experience shows the great leadership of Brigham Young. There were 4000 living in hovels there, 5000 camping a hundred miles up and down the Missouri River on the Iowa side in what was called The Grand Encampment, 2000 more in various camps all across Iowa, and at least another 1000 destitute people in poor camps on the west side of the Mississippi who had not the means to travel. By spring, one in every nine would have died as a result of these circumstances. And in the middle of all of this wrenching hardship, dozens of fathers were called to leave their families and go to England on missions. Franklin D. Richards, for example. This is also the place were 500 men were recruited by the US Army to leave their families (32 of them our boys mentioned above) and assist in the campaign against Mexico.
It was from Winter Quarters that the first Mormon pioneer wagon train under Brigham Young departed for Salt Lake City April 15, 1847, arriving 111 days later on July 22. Winter Quarters is a tremendously compelling site protraying the dedication of the early Saints regardless of the cost.