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During the calm aftermath the day after a tornado, Latter-day Saints and other citizens gathered July 16 at historic Mormon pioneer sites on each side of the Missouri River to dedicate markers.

Just south of Council Bluffs, Iowa, some 200 people attended the dedication of a marker on the campus of Iowa School for the Deaf. At that spot, exactly 142 years before on July 16, 1846, the Mormon Battalion was mustered into service. The marker acclaims the beginning of the battalion's 2,000-mile trek through the then-uncharted and newly American Southwest to San Diego, Calif.A short time later, across the river and upstream near Florence, Neb., local Church and civic leaders gathered to mark the spot and pay tribute to the Mormon pioneers who established Nebraska Territory's first organized community. This was Cutler's Park, the predecessor of Winter Quarters.

"What we are experiencing here is real," said Dr. Stanley Kimball at the Cutler's Park dedication.

Kimball, a history professor at Southern Illinois University/Edwardsville, is a descendant of Alpheus Cutler, the leader of the covered wagon community and Nebraska's first mayor.

"It's not so much that they were here, but what they did here," Kimball said. He detailed the ambitious civic-mindedness of the pioneers so soon after their arduous trip across Iowa from Nauvoo. He pointed out that they were organized - they elected a mayor and a city council, appointed policemen and 24 official fire guards, and passed Nebraska's first anti-pollution ordinance, which made it illegal to have open burning in the camp.

In the dedicatory prayer at Cutler's Park, Gail Holmes, local historian and high councilor in the Omaha Nebraska Stake, asked that the marker might inspire a sense of civic responsibility in those who visit the site. He also prayed for a special blessing upon the Otoe and Omaha Indian tribes for their generosity in sharing their land for that time with the saints.

Kimball paid tribute to Holmes' historical research, saying that "what every city where Church history took place needs is a Gail Holmes." For some 30 years, Holmes' avocation has been the history of the Omaha/Council Bluffs area between 1700 and 1865. Much of his focus has been on the Mormon migrations.

"Beginnings" was also a theme at the battalion mustering grounds site.

This place marked the beginning of the saints' credibility with the U.S. government, said Mark Peterson, high councilor in the Papillion Nebraska Stake, who gave the keynote address at the marker dedication. The marathon march of the battalion members helped them establish a right to be in the West, to become the "old settlers" there, he added.

A modern Mormon Battalion member, Col. Paul Madsen of Sandy, Utah, challenged local leaders to pay the same tribute at the beginning of the trail as has been done at the end of the trail. He referred to the Mormon Battalion Visitors Center in San Diego, Calif.

"Courage, citizenship and faith" of the battalion members were mentioned in the dedicatory prayer offered by Pres. Gordon Kearl of the Papillion Nebraska Stake. He asked for the Lord's blessings upon those who visit the site that they would renew their commitment to those ideals.

At both dedications, thanks was offered during prayers for safety during the high winds and tornados that hit the area the afternoon before. The storm caused an estimated $25 million in damages to both communities.