The Return to Winter Quarters—The Organization of and Universal Acceptance of the First Presidency of the Church, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Willard Richards—1847-8—President Young’s Last Journey over the Plains
After having settled the Pioneer Company and the contingent Mormon Battalion, invalided sections, which had wintered at Pueblo, and who arrived in Salt Lake City five days after the Pioneer Company, President Young, a number of the Twelve Apostles, (a majority), and some of the Pioneer Company returned to Winter Quarters late in 1847 to further the migration of the saints still encamped on the Missouri frontiers.
Under date of October 30, 1847, President Young records in his Manuscript History the following:
“Saturday, October 30, 1847.—At sunset about 20 wagons arrived from Winter Quarters with Bishop N. K. Whitney, John S. Fullmer, Wm. Kay and many friends, bringing food and grain.
Sunday, 31.—When we were about one mile from Winter Quarters the wagons of the Twelve came to the front, when I remarked:
The Thanks of the Leader—His Report of the Pioneer Journey.
‘Brethren, I will say to the Pioneers, I wish you to receive my thanks for your kindness and willingness to obey orders; I am satisfied with you: you have done well. We have accomplished more than we expected. Out of one hundred forty-three men who started, some of them sick, all of them are well; not a man has died; we have not lost a horse, mule, or ox, but through carelessness; the blessings of the Lord have been with us. If the brethren are satisfied with me and the Twelve, please signify it, (which was unanimously done). I feel to bless you all in the name of the Lord God of Israel. You are dismissed to go to your own homes.’
We drove into the town in order, about an hour before sunset. The streets were crowded with people to shake hands as we passed through the lines; we were truly rejoiced to once more behold our wives, children and friends after an absence of over six months, having traveled over 2000 miles, sought out a location for the saints to dwell in [in] peace, and accomplished the most interesting mission in this last dispensation. Not a soul of our camp died, and no serious accident happened to any, for which we praise the Lord.
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Wednesday, November 3, 1847.—The Twelve met in council at my house. John S. Fullmer reported the proceedings of the trustees in Nauvoo; when it was voted that the trustees gather all the papers and books pertaining to church affairs in Nauvoo, and as many of the poor saints together with as much church property as they can, and remove hither [i. e. Winter Quarters]. It was also voted that the saints in Garden Grove be advised to remove to Winter Quarters next spring.
Friday, 5.—I met in council with the Twelve. I signed a letter addressed to Colonel J. C. Little instructing him to resume his presidency over the eastern churches, and one to Elder John Brown and the saints in the southern states; also one to the trustees at Nauvoo recommending them to leave the keys of the Temple in care of Judge Owens and the building itself in the hands of the Lord 1. The minutes of the conference of September 24, 1846, of the Chain Island group in the Pacific ocean were read, comprising thirteen branches on nine islands, containing 804 members, four elders, seven priests, thirteen teachers and twenty deacons.
Saturday, 6.—Evening, I met with the council and School of the Seventy.
Sunday, 7.—Elder Orson Pratt preached in the Council House. He gave an account of the Pioneer journey and described some of the lakes and valleys of the mountains.
Monday, 8.—I met with the Twelve, when it was voted that the saints vacate Winter Quarters in the spring and go westward. Elder Hyde informed the council that fellowship was withdrawn from George Miller, also James Emmett and his company; which was approved.
Tuesday, 9.—The Apostles, high council, Bishop Whitney, Presidents of Seventy and others, met in the Council House on business.
Wednesday, 10.—I met with the Twelve, high council and Seventies on business.
Thursday, 11.—I met with Elders Orson Pratt, Willard Richards, George A. Smith and Joseph Young to see to the distribution of the Nauvoo library which had been forwarded by the trustees.
Sunday, 14.—I met with the saints in public meeting; referred to our healthy locality in the mountains; suggested that those who could not go west next spring should vacate Winter Quarters and return to the east side of the river. The saints voted to leave Winter Quarters next spring.
Monday, 15.—I met with the high priests. Evening, I met with the seventies and high priests who were addressed by Elder Kimball and myself on the necessity of a reformation. I remarked that the government officials were looking on us more eagerly than when we were in Jackson, Caldwell and Clay counties, Missouri.
Tuesday, 16.—The council convened at noon in the Council House. Bishop Whitney was directed to preside over the high priests for the time being.
Thursday, 18.—I visited the sick and attended a high priests’ meeting. The official members of the First Emigrating Division met at 7 p.m., and decided to fill up the old organization by new members.
Friday, 19.—The council wrote to Major Miller requesting his views and opinions on the saints vacating their winter quarters on the Omaha lands.
Saturday, 20.—The Council of the Twelve met in the Council House and selected twenty-seven persons to go on missions to preach.
Sunday, 21.—I was sickly. Elders Orson Pratt and Wilford Woodruff preached at the stand.
Oliver Cowdery Exhorted to be Rebaptized.
Monday, 22.—The Council of the Twelve met in Dr. Richards office and wrote a letter to Oliver Cowdery, exhorting him to be rebaptized.
Tuesday, 23.—The Twelve and Presidents of Seventy met and selected seventeen elders to go on missions.
Thursday, 25.—I met with the Twelve and officers of the Emigrating Companies and instructed them pertaining to their further organization. We wrote to Elder N. H. Felt, St. Louis, to forward the emigrating saints to Winter Quarters.
Friday, 26.—I wrote a letter to Elder Orson Spencer giving particulars of Pioneer journey, their labors in Salt Lake valley and other interesting items.
Sunday, 28.—I met with the Twelve and high council in the forenoon, Theodore Turley and Joseph Fielding were voted members of the high council. In the evening I preached to the seventies and high priests concerning gathering to the Bluffs, and from there to the mountains, and aiding each other until all are located in a healthy country.
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Friday, December 3, 1847.—The Twelve traveled to the Block House branch and met the high council and others, when I preached, followed by Elders George A. Smith, Amasa Lyman and Wilford Woodruff. Afternoon, I introduced the subject of organizing a Carrying Company hence to the Salt Lake country, for the purpose of taking as many thither as possible. I recommended the brethren to build a house 50 by 100 feet in time to accommodate the conference next spring, and called for help to assist the bishops on the west side of the river, who have to support three hundred poor persons daily. Elder Kimball preached.
Council met at Brother Daley’s. Elder Wm. I. Appleby presented the gold pens and pencils sent by Colonel T. L. Kane to the Twelve Apostles. He reported the condition of the churches east.
Saturday, 4.——I attended conference and proposed building a big log house in the hollow, for temporary use, telling the congregation not to be surprised if a city should be built there. The conference voted that Henry W. Miller be a committee of one to superintend the building, under the dictation of the Twelve. I told the conference that we must recommend ourselves as a people by our good works, to the Lord God Almighty. The conference was adjourned till December 24th to meet in the new house to be built.
The Twelve selected the site to build the house on and proceeded to Father Ezra Chase’s Settlement.
Sunday, 5.—We traveled to Elder Hyde’s house where all of the Council [i. e. of the Twelve] assembled in the evening. After remarks by myself, Heber C. Kimball, Orson Hyde, Willard Richards, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, Amasa Lyman, and Ezra T. Benson [8 of the Quorum of the Twelve], I was unanimously elected President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with authority to nominate my two counselors, which I did by appointing Heber C. Kimball my first counselor and Willard Richards my second counselor, and the appointments were unanimously sustained. 2
Monday, 6.—The council met in the afternoon in Brother Orson Hyde’s house and attended to several items of business; conversed about building a Temple in Salt Lake City and voted that Uncle John Smith be the Patriarch to the whole church; that Orson Hyde go to the east to procure means to help us and that E. T. Benson go with him; that Luke Johnson be ordained an elder, [formerly one of the original Quorum of the Twelve]; that Orson Pratt go to England and take charge of the affairs of the church there; that Amasa Lyman go to the southern states to get help.
Tuesday, 7.—Returned to Winter Quarters having accomplished much important business during this visit.
Thursday, 9—During my absence the past summer the Omahas [Indians] have killed more than twenty of my cows and calves.
Colonel Thomas L. Kane wrote me and enclosed a printed circular of a ‘Meeting for the Relief of the Mormons in Philadelphia’, copies of which had been sent to the president and vice-president of the United States, and to the members of congress; showing the colonel’s great anxiety in behalf of a persecuted and suffering people.
Friday, 10.—Accompanied by Dr. Richards I visited Elder Kimball. I met Dr. J. M. Bernhisel and heard his report concerning the Nauvoo House affairs; also visited General Johnson, and attended meeting of First Division of Emigration.
Saturday, 11.—Philemon C. Merrill with fifteen others of the Mormon Battalion arrived in Winter Quarters; they left Great Salt Lake City, October 8th.
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Thursday, 23.—I started for Council Point and attended a meeting there at the schoolhouse when Elders Wilford Woodruff and Joseph Young preached.
Friday, 24.—Proceeded to Miller’s Hollow, [later called Kanesville], where the brethren had built a log house forty by sixty feet, capable of seating about one thousand persons. The house was dedicated by Elder Orson Pratt as a house of prayer and thanksgiving. The congregation was addressed by Elders Wilford Woodruff and Orson Pratt and in the afternoon by Elders Amasa Lyman, George A. Smith and myself. Elder Wm. I. Appleby preached during the evening service.
Saturday, 25.—The council went to the Log Tabernacle and attended meeting. The congregation voted that the high council on the east side of the river have all municipal power given to them by this people, and that the bishops’ courts have authority as civil magistrates among the people, until the laws of Iowa are extended over us.
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Monday, 27.—Conference convened again when Elder Kimball spoke, followed by Elder Joseph Young, myself, Elders George A. Smith, Orson Pratt and Amasa Lyman, when I was unanimously elected [sustained] President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 3 Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards were in like manner elected [sustained] respectively my first and second counselors. Uncle John Smith was unanimously elected [sustained] Patriarch to the whole church.
I spoke again referring to what had been accomplished by the saints and other topics; bore testimony that the communion of the Holy Spirit was enjoyed by those present, when the conference was adjourned till the 6th of April at the Log Tabernacle.
After benediction by Elder George A. Smith the congregation shouted three times ‘Hosannah, Hosannah, Hosannah to God and the Lamb, Amen, Amen and Amen!’ 4
Tuesday, 28.—Wrote a letter to Elder Orson Spencer, Liverpool, England, with instructions to send the British saints via New Orleans and St. Louis to Council Bluffs.
Wednesday, 29.—The First Presidency, the Twelve, high council, and several others met in the Council House in Winter Quarters and attended to business.
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General Annual Conference of the Church, 1848
Appointments to Missions.
“Thursday, April 6, 1848.—I attended a conference at the Log Tabernacle, Miller’s Hollow (named at this conference Kanesville), held on the 6th, 7th and 8th. I nominated, and Elder Orson Hyde was chosen, president [i. e. of the conference meetings]. The constituted authorities of the church were sustained, also the high council and other authorities in Pottawattomie. Elders Orson Hyde, George A. Smith, Orson Pratt, Wilford Woodruff, Joseph Young, Heber C. Kimball, myself and others preached. William Draper, Sen., was called to the office of patriarch. The appointments of Elders Orson Hyde and George A. Smith to labor in Pottawattomie, Elder Orson Pratt in Great Britain and Elder Wilford Woodruff to the eastern states, Novia Scotia and Canada were sustained. A vote of gratitude was accorded to the saints at St. Louis for their liberality to the presidency and the saints at Winter Quarters during the past year. Committees were appointed to select locations and settle the poor of Winter Quarters on the Pottawattomie lands: Luke Johnson was recommended as a physician.
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Sunday, May 21.—During this month I attended meetings each Sunday which were held at the stand. On the 14th, I preached at length and blessed the land at Winter Quarters and on the Pottawattomie purchase, for the benefit of the saints who should occupy it.
President Young’s Departure for the West.
Friday, 26.—On the 26th I started from Winter Quarters on my journey to the mountains, leaving my houses, mills and the temporary furniture I had acquired during our sojourn there. This was the fifth time I had left my home and property since I embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ. All of my company had left Winter Quarters and were mostly, on the last day of this month, on the west side of the Elkhorn river, the place of rendezvous for organization.
Organization of President Young’s Company.
Wednesday, 31.—On the 31st the organization was commenced by appointing Zera Pulsipher captain of a hundred with John Benbow and Daniel Wood captains of fifties; also, Lorenzo Snow captain of a hundred, with Heman Hyde and John Stoker captains of fifties. I gave some general instructions as to the necessity of observing order in camp—taking care of the cattle and not allowing them to be abused; not to have yelling nor bawling in camp; but to attend prayers—put out the fires and go to bed by 9 p.m.
Elder James H. Flanigan received a license to preach the gospel in Great Britain, under the direction of the presidency there. I gave my brother, Phineas H. Young a recommend to travel and preach in the states, and gather means to help himself and the saints westward. I also signed a letter of recommendation in behalf of Brother Willard Richards authorizing him to travel and preach in the United States and Europe and gather means to fit him out for his journey to the mountains. At the same time, I counseled him to gather up what teams and wagons he could and come on after us, as soon as he was able, even if he had to leave a portion of his family another year.
Heber C. Kimball’s Company.
Thursday, June 1.—On the 1st Brother Heber C. Kimball with a company of fifty-five wagons arrived on the east bank of the Elkhorn river.
I proceeded to a further organization of my company. William G. Perkins was chosen captain of a hundred with John D. Lee and Eleazer Miller captains of fifties; also Allen Taylor captain of a hundred with John Harvey and Daniel Garn captains of fifties. The company voted that I should act as General Superintendent of the Emigrating Companies and Daniel H. Wells was sustained as my aid-de-camp. Isaac Morley was sustained as president of the company, with Reynolds Cahoon and William W. Major as his counselors. Horace S. Eldredge was chosen marshal, and Hosea Stout captain of the night guard. Captain Lorenzo Snow’s Company moved out to the Platte river, and Captain Pulsipher’s Company started out a few miles.
Elders Orson Hyde, Wilford Woodruff and Ezra T. Benson visited the organized camps at the Horn [Elkhorn] and returned to Winter Quarters on the third. The remainder of my company started from the Horn on the fifth.
Brother H. C. Kimball’s Company started from the Horn on the 7th, and on the 9th they elected the following officers, viz. Henry Harriman, captain of the first hundred, Titus Billings and John Pack, captains of fifties; subsequently, Isaac Higbee was appointed a captain of fifty.
Indian Difficulties—Wounding of Thomas E. Ricks.
Wednesday, 14.—On the 14th my company reached the Loupe Fork whence I sent Brothers Daniel H. Wells and Daniel Wood back to Brother Heber C. Kimball’s camp, by whom Brother Kimball sent me a letter detailing the particulars of an unfortunate occurrence between William H. Kimball, Howard Egan, Thomas E. Ricks and Noah W. Bartholomew and the Indians; in which Brother Ricks was shot with three buckshot and Brother Egan was shot in the wrist. Dr. Bernhisel had dressed their wounds and both were doing well.
Thursday, 15.—I crossed the Loupe Fork on the 15th. Brother Kimball’s Company came up on the 16th, and next day with the assistance of some of the best teams in my company, his company crossed.
Statistics of President Young’s and Kimball’s Companies.
Thomas Bullock, clerk, reported the statistics of my company to be 1,229 souls, 397 wagons, 74 horses, 19 mules, 1,275 oxen, 699 cows, 184 loose cattle, 411 sheep, 141 pigs, 605 chickens [and a variety of small animals].
Subsequently the statistics of Brother Kimball’s Company were obtained and showed 662 souls, 226 wagons, 57 horses, 25 mules, 737 oxen, 284 cows, 150 loose cattle, 243 sheep, 96 pigs, 299 chickens [and a number of smaller domestic animals].
Sunday, 18.—Brother Kimball and I gathered the companies together on the 18th, and preached to them.
Pottawattomie Indian Depredations.
In consequence of depredations committed by the Indians the saints on the Pottawattomie side of the Missouri prepared to organize themselves as militia by electing Charles M. Johnson, colonel, Abraham C. Hodge, lieutenant-colonel, and Philemon C. Merrill, major.
Winter Quarters, after its vacation by Elder Kimball’s Company and mine, presented a desolate aspect.
Desolation of Winter Quarters.
A terrific thunder storm passed over, accompanied by a hurricane which tore wagon covers to shreds and whistled fearfully through the empty dwellings. A few straggling Indians camped in the vacated premises and subsisted upon the cattle which had died by poverty and what [else] they [could] pick up.
Some Indians stole three oxen from John Scott, who, assisted by others, pursued them and recovered the beeves.
Wednesday, September 20.—My company arrived in Great Salt Lake valley on and after the 20th and Elder Kimball’s a few days after.
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Friday, October 6.—The Semi-Annual Conference [in Salt Lake valley] was opened on the 6th, but postponed till Sunday the 8th, in consequence of the Battalion brethren having set apart the 5th to celebrate their return home, which day was so unfavorable that the celebration was deferred and came off on the 6th, by partaking of a dinner, firing of cannon at intervals, and meeting, which dismissed at sundown.
The First Presidency Sustained
Sunday, 8.—On the 8th, the [regular church] conference met, when I was sustained by unanimous vote as President of the Church, with Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards as my counselors.
The following officers were also sustained by unanimous vote:
The Twelve Apostles
Orson Hyde, Parley P. Pratt, Orson Pratt, Lyman Wight, Wilford Woodruff, John Taylor, George A. Smith, Amasa Lyman, and Ezra T. Benson, members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
The Patriarch to the Church
John Smith, Patriarch to the church. [This was “Uncle John” Smith, brother of the Prophet’s father, who was the first Patriarch to the church].
First Seven Presidents of the Seventy
Joseph Young, Levi W. Hancock, Zera Pulsipher, Albert P. Rockwood, Henry Harriman, Jedediah M. Grant, and Benjamin L. Clapp, First Presidents of the Seventies.
Newel K. Whitney, presiding bishop [i e. of the whole church].
Presidency of the Salt Lake Stake
Charles C. Rich, president of the stake, with John Young and Erastus Snow, counselors.
High Council of Salt Lake Stake
Henry G. Sherwood, Levi Jackman, Daniel Spencer, Ira Eldredge, Shadrach Roundy, Willard Snow, John Murdock, Lewis Abbott, Edson Whipple, John Vance and Abraham O. Smoot, members of the high council.
Arrangements were entered into for the building of a Council House.
I preached on the holy priesthood, showing the necessity of a First Presidency over the Church; for God had told me we would fall, if we did not organize a First Presidency.” 5
This acceptance by sustaining the action of a majority of the Quorum of the Twelve at Winter Quarters on the 5th of December, 1847, sustained also by the Annual Conference of the Church at Miller’s Hollow (Council Point, at that particular conference named Kanesville, and subsequently Council Bluffs); and by all the branches in that region; by the church in Salt Lake valley, with more than 5000 members; and by the saints in conference assembled in Great Britain (then numbering, as stated in the text, 17,902 members); and by the churches in the Pacific Islands; completed the installation of Brigham Young and his counselors as the second First Presidency of the Church, of three Presiding High Priests, and bridges over the period of time and historic ground between the passing of the First Presidency in the administration of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and the establishment again of the First Presidency by the selection and inauguration of Brigham Young, official Prophet in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And with this, Period 2 of the Documentary History of the Church may be considered closed.
End of Volume 7.