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Picturing history: Garden Grove, Decatur County, Iowa

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Of all the campsites utilized by the Mormon pioneers in Iowa, several served as temporary settlements as well. One of those sites was Garden Grove, Decatur County, Iowa.

Named by leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Garden Grove was the first permanent encampment or way station on the Iowa Mormon Trail. Established in 1846, it was utilized by the Saints until 1852. Being more than a campsite, it allowed the traveling Saints to rest, make repairs, and have shelter and minimal provisions. Fences and structures were built and crops were planted to be harvested by those who came later.

Brigham Young’s company arrived at Garden Grove on April 24, 1846. The company stayed for about three weeks with plenty of rain and rattlesnakes. A branch of the LDS Church was established here. From Nauvoo, Illinois, the distance to Garden Grove is approximately 145 miles. The site is about 4 miles north of SR 2 on county road J20, between Interstate 35 and Garden Grove.

Presently, there are several wooden Mormon Trail signs and interpretive panels. A short distance away is a bronze plaque attached to a stone marker identifying where the cemetery was located. In spite of its beautiful setting, Garden Grove was a site where suffering and death were not uncommon.