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Field Division of Education
The History of Scotts Bluff Nebraska
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As a result of manifold persecutions east of the Missouri river, most of the American Mormons began a great western trek in 1846. The Mormons encamped for the winter on the Missouri at Kanesville (Council Bluffs) and Winter Quarters (Omaha). It is believed that Brigham Young, in 1846, sent out a small party guided by Wiggins and Beckwourth, to examine the Salt Lake region. In the spring of 1847 a well-organized pioneer party of 144 people went through to the future site of Salt Lake City via the old trappers' route along the north bank of the Platte. The mileage was carefully recorded, notes were kept of the entire route, and was mile stakes were installed. Although this and the future Mormon migrations kept on the north bank, there were many comments made in journals and diaries of landmarks visible along the southern bank, especially Courthouse Rock, Chimney Rock, and Scotts Bluff,1 which was passed (472 miles from Winter Quarters) on May 27.

The Mormons quickly became established at Salt Lake City, got out a guidebook (to replace Mitchell's map of 1846, which Brigham Young had ordered in numbers), established ferries, and set up the first mail connection between the Rocky Mountains and the East. Advertisements in Europe and America produced an enormous emigration that passed over the Platte route with very little trouble or comment. The one outstanding tragedy was that of the Handcart Migration of the fall of 1856. These carts, drawn by hand, afforded cheap transportation for nearly 3,000 people (1856-60) who hauled 662 of them all the way from Missouri to Utah. However, the last company to start out for the mountains in 1856 ran short of provisions on the Upper Platte and nearly four score died of starvation and exposure.2

The vicinity of Scotts Bluff has a monument to the pioneer bravery of the Mormon migrations in the marked grave of Rebecca Winters (1-1/2 miles east of Scotts Bluff, by the Burlington & Missouri tracks), who died there in August of 1852. This event has given rise to the naming of several features in this region: Winter Creek Precinct, Winter Springs, and Winter Canal.

1W. Clayton Journal: 1921.
Major Howard Egan's Diary, 1917, pp. 50-51.
Private Journal of Orson Pratt (L.-D S Millennial Start), 1849, p. 98.

2W. A. Linn: The Story of the Mormons (1902), pp. 362-394, 410-427.

Neff: The Mormon Migration to Utah, 1830-47 (1918).

L. R. Hafen: "Handcart Migration" in Trans-Mississippi West, pp. 103-121.

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