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pioneer parents burying a childUpper California referred to a largely undefined area administered by Mexico comprising most of the present states of Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and California.

Brigham Young noted that the Saints “were patient, and endured all their privations without murmuring.” A month later he added, “I did not think there had ever been a body of people since the days of Enoch, placed under the same unpleasant circumstances that this people have been, where there was so little grumbling, and I was satisfied that the Lord was pleased with the majority of the Camp of Israel.”

The Camp of Israel Moves West

The Saints did not begin leaving the encampment at Sugar Creek until 1 March 1846. The last week to ten days were largely dominated by discussion of travel plans and organization of the line of march. From the start the main body of Saints was known as the “Camp of Israel, ” with Brigham Young as its president. As with ancient Israel, there were companies and captains of hundreds, fifties, and tens. In the next two years more Old Testament parallels were made, as illustrated by terms such as, Zion being in the tops of the mountains, chosen people, exodus, Mount Pisgah, Jordan River, Dead Sea, making the desert blossom as a rose, and in the person of Brigham Young.

Part of the Saints’ delay in leaving resulted from concern for the best route across Iowa. Eastern Iowa had been open to settlement since the Black Hawk Indian War of 1830–32, but beyond a hundred miles west of the Mississippi River the population was sparse, the roads few and bad. Furthermore there were numerous rivers and streams to traverse. The camp also faced the decision of where to cross the Missouri River. The Saints wanted to avoid crossings in the state of Missouri where there was still anti-Mormon sentiment.

When the Saints renewed their march, they planned to reach the Missouri by mid-April, plant small acreages along the way for those following, establish a portion of the camp somewhere west of the Missouri as a farm or way station for future travelers, and dispatch a swift company to the mountains with seeds to plant a spring crop. A Pioneer Company headed by Stephen Markham was sent ahead to scout the best routes, find trading settlements, build bridges, and make other preparations.

Three fundamental problems, however, inhibited the progress of the Saints across Iowa. The first was the lack of adequate food supplies. Each company had two commissary agents assigned to contact settlers and negotiate for food and provender. Because of the lack of provisions in general, many men found work in eastern Iowa towns to pay for needed supplies. William Pitt’s brass band presented formal concerts in many Iowa communities to raise more funds. With large numbers of men on the job instead of in the wagons, progress was painfully slow. This explains why most of the camp tarried almost three weeks at Richardson’s Point, only fifty-six miles from Nauvoo. Brigham Young was only halfway across Iowa when, because of his generosity, his family’s own provisions were depleted. The other Apostles were in the same situation.On 24 March, Hosea Stout reported that half of his men were out of provisions. And the problem grew worse before they arrived at the Missouri River.

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