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Picturing history: Bonaparte, Van Buren County, Iowa

The first wave of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints left Nauvoo for the West in early 1846.

During the first week of March, they reached the community of Bonaparte or Bonaparte Mills, Iowa. It is there that the Des Moines River flows southeast toward the Mississippi.

On March 5, Brigham Young and the Camp of Israel forded the Des Moines River at Bonaparte as they headed west. The river is about 2 feet deep with a rocky bottom. As Eliza R. Snow rode across in a wagon, she drew some water from the river to drink and noted that it was a refreshing draught. The Saints found muddy roads on the opposite side. A number of Latter-day Saints found employment at Bonaparte.

Presently, Bonaparte has between 400 and 500 residents. The Bonaparte Historic Riverfront District was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.