Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

David Evans Leads Company Through Iowa

David Evans was a priest and missionary of the LDS church, who led people through Van Buren County, and on to Utah, but not without a lot of difficulty.

Born October 27, 1804 in Maryland, he married Mary Beck on July 25, 1826. From Pennsylvania, they moved to Ohio to begin their married life. In 1833, an evangelist named Thomas Tripp taught David and Mary about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and they were baptized. Five days later, David was ordained as a priest of the Latter Day Saints. He practiced as a missionary in several communities, then from November, 1835 until January, 1836 attended the School of the Prophets in Kirtland, Ohio, where he was taught by Joseph Smith and others.

In Haunís Mill, Missouri David became Captain of a group. In February, 1839 his family and many others moved to Quincy where he lived in a log house and slept on wagon boxes. Mary died in June, 1841 and David married Barbara Ewell in November. She and her parents had been baptized by him in Missouri.

Davidís missionary work spread and in August, 1842 he was called by the Nauvoo High Council as Bishop of the Nauvoo Eleventh Ward. In September, he moved his family to a 10-acre farm southeast of Nauvoo. From here, he launched missionary activity into Iowa Territory.

David presided over a Bishopís Court, and made a trip to Virginia to preach, where he attempted to find electors who would vote for Joseph Smith as President of the United States. After Joseph and Hyrum Smith were murdered in 1844, Brigham Young called upon Evans and 84 other high priests to serve a special mission, going abroad to preside over the branches of the LDS church. They were to take their families, and settle elsewhere. In January, 1845 they discussed settling another country. Evans presided over a conference in Michigan consisting of members from a dozen counties. All were preparing to move west.

In October, 1845 25 groups of 100 each prepared for an exodus west, and David Evans was captain of one of the groups. In January, 1846 David receives his LDS temple endowment in the Nauvoo Temple. In March, 1846 he sends horses, wagons, plows and wheat seed from Nauvoo to Brigham Youngís advance company now camped along the Chariton River in Iowa.

Increasing pressure from unruly Illinois citizens caused David to leave Nauvoo in April, 1846, with his company without sufficient oxen for all the wagons. The oxen they had were used to transport part of the company to a campground near Farmington in Van Buren County, Iowa. Then the oxen were sent back to Nauvoo for the remainder of the company. In May, many men from the company found work in and around Farmington plowing the prairie, splitting rails, etc. for which they accepted pay in the form of oxen and milk cows.

In July, some of the company proceeded on to Decatur County, with some of the available oxen. Here they met a group of volunteers who wished to join the Mormon Battalion. Those who volunteered traveled to a winterís quarters at Council Bluffs.

However, most of Davidís company remained camped at Farmington where they intended to spend the winter.

Brigham Young counseled them to attempt to reach the open farms at Mt. Pisgah and there prepare for later travel. Therefore, they pulled up stakes and late in the fall of 1846, began travel towards Council Bluffs.

Fifty miles west of Mt. Pisgah, along the Nodaway River in Adair County, they decided to spend the winter. They built log huts and put up hay for the animals. By February, they were forced to abandon the camp when provisions ran out. They decided to head south into Missouri to a place called One Hundred and Two Rivers. They camped at "Starvation Creek" after suffering cold and hunger, and becoming lost in the snow. To survive they butchered some of their prized oxen who were exhausted and probably would not have survived long anyway.

They used their best remaining oxen to send a party ahead to Maryville to obtain provisions. In March, 1847 the company arrived there where Davidís family took up residence in a log house with no windows or doors. It was late in summer, 1848, before portions of Davidís company arrived in Salt Lake City. Some were still organizing themselves for the trip from Missouri to Utah in 1850.

Usually the Mormon Crossing is dealt with from a spectatorís viewpoint. Rare is the opportunity to get a glance of the hardships, struggles and ordeals that the LDS leaders and people went through in fulfilling their goal.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick