On Thursday, April 6, Eliza R. Snow noted in her journal, "A number of the sisters celebrated the anniversary of the Church at Adaline Benson's in prayer for the Saints in Winter Quarters and elsewhere." Patty Sessions added: "The Church has been organized 18 years today. We females had a prayer meeting today at sister Adaline Benson's to pray for the Brethren that were at Winter Quarters and elsewhere." On Saturday it snowed all day in the valley.
Wilford Woodruff wrote on Sunday: "Our city was visited through the day with a strong gale of wind and sand which drove inside of all of our log cabins and covered every thing with dust. We had a hay stack burn down on the outskirts of the town situated in such a position that nothing else could burn, but had it been in any part of town where the wind could have blown the fire in any part of the city, it would soon been wrapped in flames. The whole town has been in danger of being burnt up all winter." Hosea Stout added: "In the evening the people turned out and covered up the fire after it had burnt down somewhat and a guard was put over it to keep it from kindling in which case if the wind should change, the town might be consumed. The confusion of the people on this occasion was great."
About one hundred Pawnee Indians were still in town. They asked for one hundred bushels of corn for their starving families. Their mules were loaded up with corn and the Indians went on their way.
The General Conference of the Church was held on Thursday, April 6, in the log tabernacle at Miller's Hollow. [During the conference, Miller's Hollow would be renamed "Kanesville" in honor of Thomas Kane, great friend of the church.] The conference started at 11 a.m. After song and prayer, the First Presidency was sustained. Next, the nine members of the Twelve (including Lyman Wight, gone to Texas) were sustained. The Presidents of the Seventy and the Patriarch to the Church were sustained.
Brigham Young spoke first. He made some remarks about wisdom in organizing the First Presidency. "It would have been our right to have appointed the Presidency at the first conference we held after Joseph's death, but it was not wisdom to do it." Now that they were away from their enemies, the time had been right. He testified that the Lord was leading the Church. Dishonest men would follow after wolves but true sheep would follow after the shepherds that God has sent.
On Friday the conference continued. Elder Orson Hyde gave a sermon on contention and evils. He exhorted the Saints to settle their difficulties with one another. This must be done before it was too late. If the Saints did wrong, the devil would try to control them. He condemned dishonesty. "Lie a little, steal a little, swear a little, and man may think all is well. And these things may taste sweet in the mouth but it will be bitter in the belly and will sting like an adder."
Phinehas Young reported on his recent mission to the eastern states and his interview with Oliver Cowdery. Heber C. Kimball spoke on the parable of the potter. He then addressed the need to continue to care for the wives of the Mormon Battalion soldiers who were still away. A committee of five was appointed to seek out the poor in Winter Quarters and move them to Kanesville.
On Friday evening, Philo Dibble exhibited his paintings in the log tabernacle. Wilford Woodruff used them as part of a sermon. He referred to two paintings, one of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum, the other of Joseph Smith's last address to the Nauvoo Legion. Elder Woodruff praised Brother Dibble's paintings. He encouraged Brother Dibble to continue to paint scenes from the history of the Church to create a "Gallery of Zion." He said: "It is true we are passing through these scenes personally, but our children, future generations, and those who come to visit Zion will feel deeply interested in this matter and would present to the view at one glance all the scenes that this Church has passed through."
On Saturday morning, Elder Woodruff again addressed the conference. He spoke upon the duties of the Saints and exhorted them to be faithful. Robert Petty was appointed to lead teamsters back east to help gather the Saints. He spoke to his teamsters. Orson Pratt spoke about the trials of the Saints, that all things would work out for the good. He said that as of yet they had not been tried with prosperity. He hoped that they would not have this trial until they were ready to bear it. The conference was to continue on Sunday.
During the conference, Elders Orson Hyde and George A Smith were appointed to labor among the Saints in Iowa. Elder Orson Pratt would be sent to Great Britain, to succeed Orson Spencer as the president of the European Mission and the editor of the "Millennial Star." Elder Wilford Woodruff was appointed to the eastern states. A vote of gratitude was given to the Saints in St. Louis for their relief efforts for the poor.
Beecher, The Personal Writings of Eliza Roxcy Snow, 30‑1, 223; Wilford Woodruff's Journal, 3:336‑41; History of the Church, Vol.7, Ch.41, p.624; Orson F. Whitney, History of Utah, Vol. 4, p.28; Brooks, On the Mormon Frontier, 1:308
On Tuesday three former members of the Mormon Battalion arrived at Winter Quarters from the Great Salt Lake Valley. They delivered a package of letters from the pioneers. These three men had left the valley on January 31. The letters brought news that the grass was four inches high in the valley. The cattle were doing fine and more than 1,500 acres of wheat had been planted. It appeared that the Saints were prospering well. There had been only ten deaths and many births.
On Thursday President Brigham Young pronounced a blessing on Phoebe Woodruff, Elder Woodruff's wife. The Woodruffs were preparing to leave on their mission to the eastern states. The blessing included: "The blessing of the Lord will go with thee. Thou shalt have power and wisdom to teach the truth to they friends and thy sect. Thou shalt not be at a loss for ideas and words in they teaching. Thou shalt do a great work in connection with thy husband. . . . Thou shalt be looked up to as a mother in Israel for council and for instruction."
A tragedy occurred across the river at Trader's Point. The inhabitants of the town were surveying the town for lots. One proposed fence line ran through one of John Gheen's buildings. [John Gheen had been cut off from the Church during the previous summer.] Gheen wouldn't budge and the people gathered to move the building themselves. They tore down Gheen's fence. As they were approaching, Gheen warned them that if anyone crossed his fence or touched it further, he would kill them. Brother Amos P. Condit, a shoemaker, came out of his shop, not hearing the warning, walked up to see what was going on. He crossed over the line and John Gheen shot him through the heart and Brother Condit fell dead. A Frenchman then struck Gheen over the head with a club and he was knocked out, but later recovered. Brother Condit was buried and John Gheen was bound in chains and taken to Iowa City for trial. [John Gheen died in 1859, in Salt Lake City, from what appeared to be a self‑inflicted gunshot wound.]
The General Conference of the Church continued on Sunday in the log tabernacle. The seventies quorum conducted business. Emer Harris, the brother of Martin Harris, spoke to the conference. Brother Harris claimed that he had the first copy of the Book of Mormon ever bound in America. He also spoke on charity ‑‑ taking care of the poor. Orson Hyde addressed the subject of disputes between one another. As these disputes were brought before the High Council, the brethren must abide by the decisions. Otherwise the Spirit would withdraw from them. In the afternoon, the conference was adjourned. Many of the brethren returned to Winter Quarters. The wind blew very hard, making the ferry crossing difficult.
On Tuesday, 108 Saints boarded the steamer "Mandan," bound for Council Bluffs.
Oliver Cowdery wrote a letter to his brother‑in‑law, Phinehas Young. He explained that he was unable to travel to Council Bluffs for the Church conference because of ill health. He really had hoped to see his old friends before they left for the Salt Lake Valley. He still was considering making a journey west after procuring a large quantity of seeds in Ohio that would be used for a nursery in Council Bluffs. He hoped the Phinehas might not be going to the valley this season, but would instead join him in this proposed business. Oliver wondered what took place at the General Conference.
He wrote: "Was David [Whitmer] there? Were any steps taken towards effecting the reconciliation and union of which we talked, and which is so much to be desired? Tell me plainly on all these. Had I been permitted to have been there, these matters would have engaged my earnest labors. For myself, as I told you, when here I ask nothing, but I am not mistaken as to what the spirit of wisdom would and does dictate, on the subject of harmony and oneness. Being the oldest member of the Church, and knowing as I do, what she needs, I may be allowed to suggest a word for her sake, having nothing but her interest in view. . . . From hence forward I shall double my efforts in effecting a harmonious, righteous, reconciliation ‑‑ I know what is right and I hope I may soon see the right take place."
James Stephens, John Brown, and Henry Bigler returned from a visit to Sutter's Fort. They had been attempting to get their pay from Sutter for building the mill. They reported that a group of ten former Mormon battalion soldiers started their journey to Salt Lake on Friday. Others were searching for gold at what became known as Mormon Island. [The party of ten men took with them 2,000 copies of a special edition of Samuel Brannan's "California Star" announcing the discovery of gold in California.]
Wilford Woodruff's Journal, 3:341‑44; Harwell, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1847‑1850, 100; Bigler, The Gold Discovery Journal of Azariah Smith, 112; Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 5, p.441; Oliver Cowdery to Phineas Young, April 16, 1848.
On Friday Sister Patty Sessions helped her husband lay down a floor in their house. She wrote that it was "the first floor that I could set my foot upon as my own. For more than two years I have lived on the ground all the time and been moving."
On Wednesday Thomas J. Thurstin, Joseph Mount, Madison D. Hambleton, Albert Carrington, Jedediah M. Grant, and William W. Potter started on an exploring expedition of the Great Salt Lake and its islands. They traveled with a skiff on wheels. They started their journey on the Jordan River, traveling down it for fifteen miles on the first day.
On Thursday they killed a mud hen and decided to name their skill the "Mud Hen." As they reached the mouth of the Jordan River, it became very shallow. They had to drag the boat for four miles as the water was only one to four inches deep. When they reached the lake, they again got into the boat and rowed toward an large island (Antelope island.) They struck the bottom several times and had to haul the boat over sandy areas. As they approached the island, they saw three Indians and several ponies on the island. They struck the bottom of the lake again when they were about one hundred yards from the beach. They carried their provisions to the island and made their camp on the east shore.
On Friday the brethren explored Antelope island. It was covered with grass, sunflowers, and rose bushes. They found a few berrey bushes, willows and shrubs. They discovered a few antelope tracks, saw an antelope and two prairie hens. They named the island "Porpoise Island" after a large fish Brother Bainbridge said he saw on the south end of Great Salt Lake. They traveled to the north end of the island and found a spring of cold mineral water which they named "sulphur spring." Next they rowed toward a small islands later named Fremont's island. They bottomed out four hundred yards before reaching the shore. They waded to the island and named it "Castle Island." It was covered with minerals and had plenty of onions, starch root, and parsnips. The length of the island was about five miles. They found 150 blue heron and geese eggs, which they collected and put in their boat. They camped on the north end of the island.
On Saturday the explorers rowed toward a high point of land later named Promontory Point. After eight miles, they reached the shore. At that point, three of the men got out of the boat to explore the land on foot. They found a number of dwarf cedars and passed two springs of good water. They had to wade three‑quarters of a mile in mud and salty water up to their knees, to reach their boat. As they reached the outlets of the Bear and Weber rivers, the water became fresh enough to drink. As the sun was setting, they ran aground, jumped out of the boat, and hauled it a half mile to the shore.
News arrived that a steamer arrived at Fort Kearny [near present‑day Nebraska City, Nebraska]. The steamer had government provisions. Two steamers were expected to arrive at Winter Quarters within a few days. There had been some problem aboard the steamer while at Fort Kearny. Wilford Woodruff wrote: "The soldiers at the fort went on board the steamer & smashed the bar level to the floor, broke all the decanters & glasses, and spilled all the liquor, & there was not power & discipline enough in the Army to take them into custody."
On Thursday Mary Richards wrote: "The weather was changeable this morning. Sisters Benson and Leonard sent us word that they were coming in the [afternoon] to make us a visit. So we went to work and cleaned the house, etc and I made a couple of pies. They came at the appointed time and we enjoyed their company much."
On Friday Orson Hyde crossed over the river from Kanesville. He reported that the Missouri River was overflowing its banks. He rode his horse through three feet of water on a public road.
On Saturday Wilford Woodruff and his wife rode in their carriage and visited the Winter Quarters cemetery. They spent some time at the graves of their two children. They also rode to the old campground at Cutler's Park. [This was the place where the Saints camped before building Winter Quarters.]
The ship "Carnatic" sailed into port with 120 Saints from England, including missionaries Franklin D. Richards and Samuel W. Richards. The company started making arrangements to steam up the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers to Winter Quarters.
Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 12, p.443; Wilford Woodruff's Journal, 3:344‑45; Smart, Mormon Midwife, 111‑12; Harwell, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1847‑1850, 100‑02; Ward, Winter Quarters, 211
Patty Session wrote on Thursday: "I hung up our beef to smoke. It rained and I had to take down my curtains and other things. The house leaked." The rain continued on Friday.
On Saturday the high council addressed a problem regarding animals. They passed a law forbidding animals to allowed to run stray in the big field after May 1. Yards would be provided in the various neighborhoods where strays would be driven to. A fine would be imposed to retrieve a stray.
Thomas J. Thurston, Joseph Mount, Madison D. Hambleton, Albert Carrington, Jedediah M. Grant, and William W. Potter continued their exploring expedition of the Great Salt Lake and its islands, using their boat on wheels, the "mud hen." On Sunday morning, they climbed to the top of a hill near their camp and determined that they were north of the outlet of Weber River, [near present‑day Ogden.] They named the bay, Mud Bay [later named Bear River Bay.] They hauled their boat for three miles, found deeper water, and headed south. They passed the south‑east point of Fremont's Island and headed toward the high point of the west side of Antelope Island. The wind increased to almost a gale, causing waves to rise four feet high. They finally landed on the west side of Antelope Island in a harbor they named Rock Harbor. They believed that Antelope Island would make a nice place for herding animals.
On Monday, the company headed toward the salt works but did not see anyone there, so they headed back toward the city. They reached the Jordon River at dark, "wet with perspiration from rapid walking." Albert Carrington wrote: "We were highly fortunate in our expedition, with constant good feelings, which we attributed to our custom of attending to our prayers daily, night and morning, having no disposition to shove prayer off the great checker board of duties in this probation."
On Monday Willard Richards wrote a letter to his extended family in the east. "I expect to start this week with my family for the interior of the continent." He had not received replies from his previous letters and wondered if they still wanted to have contact with him. He said that he was writing this letter on behalf of his children who kept wondering how their grandparents, aunts, and uncles were doing. "At a venture I once more say to you that the children are in good health. They had the Measles last Winter in the worst form and were very sick, but now have as good prospect of living as any other, and I expect speedily to remove them to a more healthy climate."
A wedding was held in the evening. Chester Snyder married Malinda Wilcox Wood. Joseph Young performed the ceremony. The family and friends feasted on cake and offered toasts to the newly married couple. Mary Richards wrote: "Joy seemed to beam upon every countenance. Brother Jacobs now arrived with his violin, and I with some others joined the bride and groom in the dance."
The Omaha Indians started to stir up trouble again. On Tuesday Willard Richards' ox was shot by Omahas. That night, Joseph Holbrook had seven head of cattle stolen. A guard was raised to search for them. George D. Grant found one of the Omahas sleeping beside some meat from one Brother Holbrook's cattle. Hosea Stout recorded that a miracle took place. "When he [George D. Grant] came to the Indian, the Spirit rested upon Brother Grant and he spoke to the Omaha in his native tongue to the astonishment of all present for they all knew a few words in the Omaha tongue and knew he spoke by the Spirit to the understanding of the Omaha. After he was done speaking, Grant took his horse and meat and his arms and brought them in." Brigham Young became very concerned about these hostile actions by the Omahas and sent word to Winter Quarters that the Saints there should return to Winter Quarters.
On Friday Elder Ezra T. Benson returned from his mission to the eastern states. He reported that while there, he had encouraged the brethren, preached the gospel, and solicited help for the needy Saints. He reported that he found many nonmembers who readily acknowledged that the Saints had been driver from their homes.
On Saturday Brigham Young held a feast for a few of his friends. It was in a sense a "going away party" because some would be leaving for missions soon and others would be heading toward the Salt Lake Valley. During the party, Elder Benson shared an account of his mission to the east. During the evening some old friends arrived in the city and were ushered to President Young's feast. First, two men arrived from the Salt Lake Valley. Later, Erastus Snow returned from his mission to the east. He brought back newspapers and letters.
On Tuesday a band of Indians arrived at Summer Quarters [several miles up the Missouri River.] The Indians made threats and demanded that the Saints leave Summer Quarters. John D. Lee tried to pacify the Omahas by giving them meat and vegetables and also loaned them some kettles to cook their stew. He even let them sleep in two empty cabins. In the morning, the Indians started to leave. They were going to take the kettle as payment for letting the Saints live on their land. Brother Lee protested. The Omahas left the kettle and went away angry.
Soon word was received that Brigham Young had ordered the Saints to abandon Summer Quarters. He was sending teams to help them haul their goods to Winter Quarters. Three men on horseback worked to gather up the stock to be driven to the south. John D. Lee wrote: "The camp was in an uproar, or rather a bluster to gather in so short a notice." Twenty‑two wagons were on their way by 4 p.m.
Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 3, p.142; Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 17, p.108; Smart, Mormon Midwife, 112; Harwell, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1847‑1850, 102‑03; Wilford Woodruff's Journal, 3:345‑46; Ward, Winter Quarters, 213; Brooks, John Doyle Lee, 127‑28; Brooks, On the Mormon Frontier, 1:310
The rain continued to fall each day on the valley. Many of the newly constructed shelters leaked terribly. Patty Sessions helped deliver a baby on Monday in a home dripping with rain. She wrote: "It rained hard [on Wednesday], we go some more dirt on the house so that it does not leak to day but it has soaked through and it leaks now bad. I was up nearly all night to keep Mary and the babe and things dry. It rains and snows nearly all day." On Thursday Eliza R. Snow added: "Has rained successively for 12 days which terminated this morning in a hard freeze unfavorable to vegetation which has been growing finely."
On Saturday the High Council decided that they would not grant permission to anyone wishing to travel back to the North Platte River to work the ferry. It was more important for them to remain in the valley to help build it up.
On Sunday a meeting was held at the stand in Winter Quarters. The Saints were addressed by Erastus Snow and Ezra T. Benson, who reported on their missions to the east. Mary Richards recorded: "Brother Bullock then read an Epistle from the Saints in the Valley to the Saints in this place which brought some good news from the Saints in that quarters. Said health prevailed, and they were putting in large crops." President Brigham Young called for volunteers to guard the settlement night and day because of recent Indian hostilities. One hundred fifty men signed up for this duty. They were to be led by Hosea Stout.
As many of the families prepared to leave the settlement, their thoughts turned to their loved‑ones, whose bodies would be left behind in the cemeteries. Wilford Woodruff penned this touching journal entry: "In company with Orson Pratt, George A. Smith, W Porter, and Phoebe W. Woodruff, I repaired to the burying ground with a load of stones. I went to the upper buring grounds [near Cutlers Park] and took up our little boy named Joseph and brought him to the burying ground near Winter Quarters and put him into the grave with [my son] Ezra Woodruff. I also put a stone at the head of Sister Benbow's grave with J.B. on the head of [her] grave. George A. Smith put stones at the head and foot of all his relatives, and Orson Pratt done the same."
On Wednesday a company of former Mormon Battalion soldiers and returning pioneers arrived in Winter Quarters. This group had departed from the Salt Lake Valley during mid‑March. Those who arrived included: William Gardner, Samuel Lewis, Alva C. Calkins, Ammi Jackman (pioneer), David Stewart (pioneer), Robert S. Bliss, and Abner Blackburn. As the group was approaching the settlement, they were stopped by Pawnee Indians, who stole from the men many of their possessions. The weary men were very happy to finally reach their destination. They had been away from their families for almost twenty‑two months. Abner Blackburn wrote: "Arrived at Winter Quarters on the Missouri River and went in to comfortable quarters. Lay on a feather bed, but could not sleep. It was something we were not accustomed to for years."
The company of men delivered many letters from loved‑ones in the valley. They learned that the pioneers had sowed 800 acres of wheat and fenced in 5,000 acres of land with poles.
A group of fifty Otoe Indians visited the leaders at Winter Quarters. They had learned that the Saints were preparing to leave Winter Quarters for the mountains, and wanted compensations for allowing the Saints stay on their land for many months. The Indians were given some presents. On Saturday a group of Omahas disguised as "Americans" stole an ox from Anson Call's herd.
Our Pioneer Heritage, Vol. 17, p.108; Beecher, The Personal Writings of Eliza Roxcy Snow, 30‑1, 223; Smart, Mormon Midwife, 112; Bagley, Frontiersman: Abner Blackburn's Narrative, 131; Wilford Woodruff's Journal, 3:346; Brooks, On the Mormon Frontier, 1:310‑11; Ward, Winter Quarters, 214