Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


Some of the 15,000 Mormon pilgrims who crossed through southern Iowa on their way to Utah spent weeks and months in isolated localities until they could put together enough supplies to continue their trip westward. However, thousands of them were well-prepared for the long journey, as their leaders prescribed. According to the Illinois Neighbor, Mormon prophets issued a long list of items required for the journey that would have cost each family a considerable amount of money.

Necessities for the Mormon trek to the Great Salt Lake was published on November 14, 1845, in the Nauvoo newspaper, the Illinois Neighbor. The Mormon list of goods was for a much longer trip than most pioneers made to Iowa. Mormon leaders insisted that the list be followed for a group of five. Families were quite large in those days, thus a family of 10 would require twice the recommended amount of rations.

According to Ralph Arnold, a family of five was to take the following: One good strong wagon, provided with a light box; two or three good yoke of oxen between the ages of 4 and 10 years (mules or horses could be substituted); three or more good milk cows; and one or more beef animals; three sheep, if they could be obtained; 1000 pounds of flour or other bread stuffs in good sacks; a working rifle or musket for each male over 12 years old; one pound of gunpowder; 4 pounds of lead; 1 pound of tea; 5 pounds of coffee; 100 pounds of sugar; 1/2 pound of cayenne pepper; 2 pounds of black pepper; 2 pounds of mustard; 10 pounds of rice; 1 pound of cinnamon; 3/4 pound of cloves; 1 dozen nutmegs; 25 pounds of salt; 5 pounds of salutary (a medicinal curative remedy per Webster’s Dictionary); 10 pounds of dried apples; 1 peck dried beans; a few pounds of bacon or dried beef; 5 pounds dried peaches; 25 pounds of seed grain; 1/2 gallon alcohol; 20 lbs of soap; 4-5 fish hooks; 15 lb.. Of iron and steel; a few pounds of wrought nails; one or more saws and grist mill cranks; 2 sets of pulley blocks per wagon; a coil of rope to fit blocks; a fish seine and hook; 25 to 100 pounds of farming tools or mechanical tools; cooking utensils were to be: a bake kettle, frying pan, coffee pot, teakettle and cups, plates, knives, forks, spoons and other pans, the fewer the better; a good tent to be used by 2 families; clothing and bedding for each family not to exceed 500 pounds.

The approximate weight of a wagon load was a little over one ton. It is no wonder that the teams made slow progress, the wagons sank into the mud and mire as they crossed the county, and they had many broken axles slowing down their trek.

The sojourners must have spent every dime they possessed and could obtain for their westward movement. This is why they hired out to work for pennies at anything they could find available en route. With broken axles and sickness, they no doubt ran into many expenses along the way for which they were not prepared.

Even if the Mormons were as well prepared as their leaders encouraged, we can only imagine the hardships they faced. Hundreds fell far short of their destination and were buried in simple graves along the trail.

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