Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick
A few descriptions exist of the difficult travel through Van Buren County by the Mormons who crossed between 1846 and 1853. Among the first to traverse through the county was Brigham Young himself, and it is from the journal kept by a member of his party that we find several interesting excerpts.
Also traveling with them was a band. When things got rough and spirits were down, the brass band would begin playing and the sojourners broke into song. This was often necessary, as the shadow of death was their constant companion. So good was their music and rich their harmonies, that they were asked to entertain at many communities while they were passing through. The modest collections received helped fund their excursion.
Young’s group of wagons traveled to Reed’s Creek southeast of Bonaparte, where they made camp. They crossed the Des Moines River at Bonaparte, crossed through the Vernon Prairie, camped at Indian Creek south of Keosauqua, then made their way through Lebanon to Richardson’s Point, about a mile from the Davis County line.
Going in advance of the party were special laborers who cleared roads and established camp grounds. These people were called "Pioneers."
The following are excerpts from the journals of several members of Brigham Young's Party:
"Tuesday, March 3, 1846: Passed through Farmington and camped three to four miles up river on ten acres that had been cleared and fenced by the pioneers. Several wagons damaged by bad roads and heavy loading. Weather warm and pleasant."
"Wednesday, March 4: Forty three degrees this morning. Most of the party laid over for rest and repairs. William Pitt's brass band was invited to play in Farmington this evening."
"Thursday, March 5: Crossed the river at Bonaparte late this morning. Ground thawing and bad roads. Made twelve miles. Camped seven miles West on Indian creek."
"Thursday, March 5: Sister Markham and I are nicely seated in an ox wagon on a chest with a brass kettle and the soap box for our footstools, thankful that we are so well off. The day is fine. We traveled two miles on the bank of the river and crossed at a little place called Bonaparte. I slung a tin cup on a string, and drew some water which was a very refreshing draught. After crossing the river the road was thro' timber and intolerably muddy, the banks on this side rising almost perpendicularly. The teams had hard work to draw the loads as we ascended hill after hill." (Eliza R. Snow's journal)
"Friday, March 6: Rested and regrouped."
"Saturday, March 7: President Young's company made sixteen miles to Richardson's Point (Located three miles West of Lebanon, near county road J40). Fifty five miles from Nauvoo. The lead wagons have averaged nearly eight miles per day."
"Tuesday, March 10: Intentions were to travel on today, but too wet and muddy. The band played in Keosauqua this evening."
"Tuesday, March 10: Spent the morning preparing for the Concert and about 1 o'clock p.m. Started in company with the Brass Band for Keosauqua and arrived at 3 o'clock and being requested we went through town and played some.....we went to the court house to prepare for the Concert. At 7 o'clock the house was crowded and we commenced playing and singing till about 9 1/2. The audience seemed highly pleased, and gave loud applause. About the close one of the citizens got up and said it was the wish of many that we should repeat the concert the following evening, and he took a vote of all who wished us to go again. The vote was unanimous." (taken from the journals of William Clayton, edited by George D. Smith)
"Wednesday, March 11: The band returned to Keosauqua this evening by invitation."
"Tuesday, March 17: James Monroe Tanner died at five A.M. This morning."
"Wednesday, March 18: Edwin Little died this morning."
"Thursday, March 19: The company traveled on west."
Much more about the Mormon adventures can be found on websites provided by Rich Lowe.
Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick