Church History in Winter Quarters and Council Bluffs

We started out from our host’s home at around 8:30 am and headed to the Mormon Trail Center, which is right next to the Winter Quarters Temple in northeast Omaha.

The center was a great place to start. The Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) pioneers stayed here—and across the river in Iowa—for about four years. They created some of the most well-organized refugee camps ever, with tens of thousands of people living in tents, log cabins, and small farms scattered throughout the area. I never thought of the pioneers in quite that way, but the violence and death threats in Missouri had sent them seeking refuge outside their country. Nebraska was not part of the US and the Saints made a deal with Native American leaders to allow them to stay temporarily.

After our tour we walked through the cemetery and temple grounds next door. I had at least one relative buried there or somewhere near; she died when she was 6 months old.

Next we drove downtown to see a pioneer sculpture park.

Then we crossed the Missouri River to the Kanesville, Iowa where we learned more about the pioneers’ camps, about their service in the US Army as the Mormon Battalion, and how they built the Kanesville Tabernacle in 2.5 weeks—in the winter—to allow as many LDS members as possible to meet for a general conference and vote to sustain Brigham Young as the President of the Church. Over 1000 people fit in the building (this one was a replica built by Council Bluffs residents).

The flooded Missouri River had run right over the freeway, so we got to take a scenic highway tour through southwest Iowa on our way to Independence, Missouri.

This is no lake… it’s a farmer’s field!

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