A most disturbing detail of the exodus from Nauvoo in late winter 1846 is that many pregnant women apparently were among the first Saints to depart. The exodus of the Saints and the drama and difficulty experienced by them at such encampments as Sugar Creek have been painted in our history books with the darkest of tones. “Sugar Creek,” writes Wallace Stegner, “is notorious in the histories as a place of intense hardship, as if it had held a huddle of refugees without rags to cover them or a bone to gnaw.”
Eliza R. Snow writes of Sugar Creek, “I was informed that on the first night of the encampment nine children were born into the world, and from that time, as we journeyed onward, mothers gave birth to offspring under almost every variety of circumstances imaginable, except those to which they had been accustomed; some in tents, others in wagons—in rainstorms and in snow-storms.”
It has long been questioned why intelligent women would choose to put their lives and their babies’ lives in jeopardy. There is a better answer: they didn’t choose to. It is certain they suffered, and it is equally certain the babies came under the worst of circumstances. Nine babies, in fact, were born in one night. But it was not at Sugar Creek.