Winter Quarters

“For two years during their exodus from Illinois to the Salt Lake Valley, the Mormons occupied a way-station known generally as Winter Quarters. . . .

“At the time of the Mormon exodus, the federal government was attempting to protect the tribes living in the Missouri Valley from the degrading effects of American expansion, which was just then assuming major significance on the plains. These so-called border tribes inhabited both sides of the Missouri River and were in a delicate position, being located between the expanding settlements to the east and the powerful Plains Indians to the west. On the east bank of the Missouri River near Council Bluffs in western Iowa Territory, resided such tribes as the Potawatomi, Ottawa, and Chippewa, who had been moved there from Michigan and Illinois in 1837. West of the river, in unorganized country, lived the Oto, Omaha, and Missouri. For the most part these tribes were destitute and on the verge of extinction. Few in number, they were constantly being raided by the Sioux and other hostile tribes and were defrauded by unscrupulous traders and whiskey sellers. . . .

“A number of federal laws existed for the protection of these tribes. Of major significance was the Indian Intercourse Act of June 30, 1834, which was passed in conjunction with the removal policy of the 1830’s. These laws created an Indian barrier by defining the unorganized territory west of the Mississippi as “Indian Country,” where whites were not permitted without passports establishing the length of their stay. . . .

“The Monnons, forced to leave their homes in Nauvoo, Illinois, set out in February, 1846, for a new Zion somewhere beyond the Rocky Mountains. Considering the destitute condition of many of the emigrants, a mass exodus in anyone season was manifestly impossible. By the early summer it .became increasingly clear to Brigham Young and the Mormon leadership that the Saints must stop somewhere along the way so that the large group could winter and be resupplied. . . .

“Being wary of other emigrants, many of whom were the hated Missourians who had previously evicted them, the Mormons had chosen to stay north of the established trails. This meant they penetrated previously unspoiled Indian lands where whites were forbidden.”