Sunday, April 9, 2017

HANNAH KNIGHT LIBBY – Part 23 – Crossing Iowa to Carterville

We now enter a great black hole in Hannah’s life.  Little is known of her from the time she leaves Nauvoo and her death in Provo, Utah twenty-one years later.  Unfortunately, the family kept few records of this period so we are left to surmise what happened from the few records that exist.

The following details are drawn from several sources:
1.       The Pioneer Trek from Nauvoo to Winter Quarters by William G. Hartley (Ensign Magazine, June, 1997) See:
2.       Kanesville Area – BYU College of Life Sciences article.  See:
3.       MTA Official Guide “The Mormon Pioneer Trail” by Stanley B. Kimball.  See:

Hannah’s story is also the story of the expulsion of the Latter-day Saints from Nauvoo so a good place to start is to learn about the waves of emigrants from Nauvoo to the West in 1846.  The origins of this expulsion from Illinois were discussed previously.  Initially Brigham Young planned that the exodus would take them directly to the Rocky Mountains that year.  That was the plan but reality quickly set in and those plans had to be scrapped for 1846.

The Mormon exodus from Nauvoo consisted of three distinct phases beginning on February 4, 1846 when the first Mormon crossed the Mississippi and ending with the last groups leaving Nauvoo at gun point in mid-September of the same year.    This exodus is broken into three parts:  Winter, Spring and Fall.   Brigham Young had initially wanted to wait to leave until spring when the grasses would be growing as food for their livestock.  In October, 1845 Brigham had actually appointed captains for 25 companies of 100 wagons each and ordered the wagons to be built for a spring departure.  His reasoning was that Nauvoo had about 12,000 people at this time and another 2,000 to 3,000 Saints lived in nearby towns making approximately 15,000 people that would need to evacuate.  With 76 people per wagon it would take approximately 2,500 wagons.  By November 23, 1845 it was reported that 3,285 families were organized for the trek – some 800 more families than predicted wagons.  Our Carter families were surely a part of this planning.

Crossing the Mississippi on Barges

 By January’s end, LDS leaders heard of disturbing threats about attacks on Nauvoo, arrests of the Twelve, destruction of the Nauvoo Temple, stealing of wagons “to prevent us from moving west,” Illinois governor Thomas Ford’s sending troops into Nauvoo to enforce arrest warrants, and other designs to prosecute and persecute the Mormons. Taking all of these threats seriously, the Twelve decided to leave quickly—partly for their own well-being and partly to remove themselves as a target that might bring attacks and result in harm to other Latter-day Saints. So departures started early, in February 1846 instead of springtime.  What had been planned as a small vanguard group quickly swelled to an unwieldy size.  This winter exodus of the Camp of Israel involved about 3,000 Saints and nearly 500 wagons, although 100 wagons returned to Nauvoo during March to help move other Saints. They journeyed 300 miles across southern Iowa, a three-and-a-half month trek. 

Fanciful 1870 Drawing 

The first to cross the Mississippi River was Charles Shumway who ferried across on February 4.  For three weeks the temperatures dropped causing the Saints to dodge ice chunks as they crossed the river.  On February 25 Charles C. Rich actually crossed the river on foot and so for a time the wagons were driven directly over the frozen river.  The travelers camped along Sugar Creek some 7 miles west of the Mississippi. Here Brigham organized the people into groups and developed camp rules.  Following a path blazed by a vanguard company, the main body of the “Camp of Israel” left Sugar Creek on March 1, 1846.  For this first group the trip had to be difficult.  It was winter, and they had to travel over snow covered ground.  They took a southerly route at first – skirting the border with Missouri where there were more settlers that they could obtain need for themselves and their animals.  They stopped near Richarson’s Point for 11 days so the men could work for money and provisions.  They initially wanted to cross the Missouri River above St. Joseph, Missouri and join the Oregon Trail to the west of there.  This was a time of great suffering by all.  March snow, cold, rain, and awful mud made the trek miserable and exhausting.  When they left Chariton Camp on April 1st, they exited Iowa’s last organized county and moved into what could be called wilderness but still followed rudimentary roads. They made slow progress, being hampered by rain and mud.  It was during this time that William Clayton penned the song “All is Well” following the birth of his son.  Shortly after April 15, the leaders changed the route to the northwest and headed across this wilderness part of Iowa for Kanesville (known today as Council Bluffs.)  Along the way groups were left to form small communities with farms that would feed those that followed.  Garden Grove and Mount Pisgah are good examples of these way points along the trail. On June 14, the camp reached the Council Bluffs area on the Missouri River, and the first portion of the march was nearly over. The vanguard had taken 130 days, over 4 months, to cross some 265 miles of
southern Iowa, averaging only about 2 miles per day. Here on both sides of the Missouri River, especially in present Nebraska at Winter Quarters, the Mormons spent the winter of 1846-47.

1846 Tails in Red

During April, May, and June 1846, three times as many Saints left Nauvoo as went with President Brigham Young’s advance group. Among the 10,000 spring evacuees were Apostles Wilford Woodruff and Orson Hyde, many of the 300 men who had been guards and pioneers in the Camp of Israel who now had returned to Nauvoo for their families, workmen who had finished the Nauvoo Temple, and new LDS arrivals from out of state. Because of grass and springtime weather, their treks across Iowa took only 4 to 5 weeks, compared to the Camp of Israel’s 14 weeks. Economic, health, and family difficulties prevented these people from leaving sooner. Thousands had trouble obtaining adequate outfits and provisions. They counted on selling, bartering, buying, and luck. When they tried to market their farms, houses, livestock, furniture, utensils, dishes, clocks, books, and other nonessentials, they found many sellers but few buyers. Most Saints sold or traded for pittances, suffering major financial losses.  During this time three major waves of departures occurred.  There was no major organization – when people could leave they did – few companies had more than 30 wagons.  Typical outfits consisted of a wagon and two yoke of oxen.  Most of the people walked and many were engaged in driving the loose stock.  Because of the abundant spring grasses these Saints took a more westerly route rather than going south to skirt Missouri.  Because of their quick passage of Iowa some of these Spring immigrants caught up with the Winter group by May 15th near Garden Grove.  Early in July President Young counted 1,805 wagons between his Missouri River camp and Mount Pisgah—1,300 more wagons than his Camp of Israel started with—and hundreds more were still east of Mount Pisgah. By the end of July most of the spring exodus groups had caught up with President Young’s company and merged with it beside the Missouri River.

The final group to leave was called the Fall Exodus.  On 13 September armed anti-Mormons attacked these Nauvoo defenders and won what is called the Battle of Nauvoo. The Saints signed a formal surrender of the city three days later, whereupon victors drove them out at gunpoint. LDS refugees swarmed across the river to Montrose, and many camped a mile north at Potter’s Slough, on the river’s shore. Most were destitute and sickly. Scores found temporary work and lodging in eastern Iowa while others took to the trail to Kanesville.  One mid-September count found between 600 and 700 Saints camped by Potter’s Slough. Many of these had moved out by the time Thomas Bullock counted only 17 tents and 8 wagons in camp on 4 October. “Most of those are the poorest of the Saints,” he said. “Not a tent or wagon but sickness in it.”  Two different relief parties were sent from Kanesville in September and many arrived in Potter’s Sough by October 6.  On 9 October 1846, Saints camped by Potter’s Slough participated in the “Miracle of the Quail,” when large flocks of exhausted quail flopped into the camp, landing on and under wagons and in tents. “Every man, woman and child had quails to eat for their dinner,” Thomas Bullock wrote.

The fall exodus essentially emptied Nauvoo of Latter-day Saints who desired to go west. As noted earlier, Nauvoo and nearby areas held perhaps 15,000 Saints who could have joined the exodus, augmented by hundreds of newcomers. Where were they at year’s end? Based on incomplete data, the estimate is that by the winter of 1846–47 perhaps 5,000 exiled Saints were at Winter Quarters, Nebraska; 7,500 were in LDS camps across the river from Nebraska and elsewhere in Iowa and at Ponca Camp north of Winter Quarters; 69 and 1,500 were in St. Louis or other Mississippi River towns. At least 1,000 and possibly 2,000 or even more defected from the Twelve’s leadership and scattered from the Nauvoo area. A few members, including Emma, the Prophet Joseph Smith’s widow, and Lucy Mack Smith, his mother, later returned to and stayed in Nauvoo.

Modern Replica Cabin at Mount Pisgah, Iowa

And what of Hannah Knight Libby Carter?  We will never know for sure which group she left with.  It appears that she traveled with Dominicus and once her son Richard was endowed on February 7th they could have left.  If they did they experienced a long, bitter and trying passage across Iowa.  I doubt that the rest of the family waited for William’s wife, Sarah, to give birth in April.  One would imagine that William’s family didn’t leave until about May.  In any case these early months were a trial for all involved.   The family would never be together again – not just because of those left behind – but for those who left Nauvoo too as they would be scattered as well.  Hannah Carter York and her family stopped at Mount Pisgah and didn’t move to the west until 1850.  As we shall see shortly Richard left Iowa never to return not long after the family reached the Kanesville area.

Next:  The Grand Encampment and Mormon Battalion 

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