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Another Exodus Austin Hammatt The Mormon Pioneer Trail was quite the trail. It was approximately three-fifths the length of the famous Oregon Trail, used for more than twenty years, and travelled by approximately 60,000 people. According to re- tired historian Mel Bashore, it was an amazing success, at least regarding the relatively low death rate (Naumu). Most of those to use the trail at that time were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, com- monly known as Mormons. This mass exodus of Mormon pioneers was an incredible event that took place be- tween the years of 1846 and 1868. In addition to this movement of pioneers, these years included movement on the Oregon Trail, the Mexican-American War, the Battle of the Alamo, and the American Civil War. The Mor- mon pioneers were compelled westward out of their lands in the Eastern United States by persecution. Their movement westward was largely a great success with the exception of a few terrible occurrences, and the years following their arrival in the Salt Lake Valley were marked with great growth and success. Why would so many people leave their home and travel 1,300 miles over rough country? There have been many similar journeys in history, for various reasons. Some such journeys have been for gold, as in the Cal- ifornia Gold Rush. Others have been due to war, as in the Trail of Tears. Still others have been due to the desire for land or things similar, as in the Oregon Trail or the many trails forged by early settlers of the United States of America. Some have even been for religious reasons, such as the exodus of Israel from Egypt. With the Mormon pioneers, it was largely a combination of the reasons of persecution and religion. The members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints went through very challenging persecu- tion in the years previous to their movement along the Mormon Pioneer Trail. One of the first gatherings of the Mormons was in Kirtland, Ohio, in the late 1830s. They obtained a degree of success here, including the building of a temple. However, this was not to last, for persecution caused many to leave. As the book Our Heritage: A Brief History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints expresses, even the Prophet Joseph Smith’s life was greatly threatened (Our Heritage 36). Much of this persecution came from previous members of the Church or from the local people. As the violence increased, the members left the area. At this time, the Saints in Jackson County, Missouri, were also having difficulties with those around them. Eventually, they were forced to leave due to much injustice and violence, including the destruction of their homes. These Saints later established themselves at Far West, Missouri (Our Heritage 36-47). The Saints were soon on the move again, after events such as the horrific Haun’s Mill Massacre in Fair- view Township and the imprisonment of the Prophet Joseph Smith and other Church leaders. One of their next destinations was Nauvoo, Illinois. Things went well for them in Nauvoo for a time, but as was common for the Saints, that time would come to an end (Our Heritage). Events such as the burning of homes, the violence of the mobs, and the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum would add to the ending of these good times. As Stan E. Sorenson points it in his World History, the Saints decided that they would leave Nauvoo and asked the mobs if they could have a little time to prepare to leave the area. The mobs agreed to this and the Saints started vigorous preparations to leave. Nauvoo was a decent-sized town of approximately 20,000 people, and moving that many people would require some time. The mobs soon started their attacks yet again, and the Saints were forced to move from the area sooner than they had hoped. In addition to this unexpected turn of events, they would end up leaving in February, a horrible time to start traveling with an inexperienced group of travelers. These Saints would cross the Missouri River and congregate on the other side (Sorenson 984-986). The time on the other side of the river would allow the Saints to prepare for the rest of their journey. Sorenson con- tinues to share that the first group of evacuees included over 12,000 people, 3,000 wagons, and 30,000-head of various animals. 31
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