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Picturing history: Sugar Creek, first campsite west of Nauvoo

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The first wagons heading to the West left Nauvoo, Illinois, on Feb. 4, 1846. Brigham Young with his wagons and family rolled down Parley Street to the Mississippi River on Feb. 15. After crossing the river into Iowa Territory, he continued on for about 7 miles and joined those camped at Sugar Creek. The water and timber there were needed by all.

The pioneers were camped along the creek for perhaps a half mile. The idea was to assemble and organize the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there before continuing west. At that point, President Young’s hope was to find a permanent place to settle during that calendar year.

With driving snow and temperatures well below zero at times, those gathered at Sugar Creek would dance and otherwise move about because it was too cold to “keep warm without exercise.” An advance company was sent ahead to build roads and bridges and gather firewood. Some 500 wagons of Brigham Young’s Camp of Israel followed two weeks later, leaving Sugar Creek on March 1, 1846.