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Picturing history: Zion’s Camp burial site at Rush Creek, Missouri

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In 1834, the Prophet Joseph Smith led a group of Latter-day Saints from Ohio to Missouri to render assistance to the Saints who had been driven from Jackson County, Missouri (see Doctrine and Covenants 103:30-35.). This group was first called the Camp of Israel but later it became better known as Zion’s Camp (see josephsmithpapers.org).

Marker listing those of Zion's Camp and two others who died near Rush Creek from the effects of cholera.

Marker listing those of Zion’s Camp and two others who died near Rush Creek from the effects of cholera.

Kenneth Mays

Approximating the route the Prophet followed reveals a distance traveled of about 880 miles. Estimates give a number of just over 200 men and about 20 women and children who participated in the march.

After reaching Clay County, Missouri, members of the camp were protected from the assault of locals at Fishing River by a powerful storm. They then moved to the farm of John Cooper, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. On June 24, 1834, the camp moved to Rush Creek and the home of A. Sydney Gilbert, several miles from Liberty, Clay County.

It was there that many in the company came down with symptoms of cholera. Thirteen of the 68 members camp who were afflicted with symptoms died from the effects of the disease. (see "Wilford Woodruff and Zion’s Camp: Baptism by Fire and the Spiritual Confirmation of a Future Prophet," by Thomas G. Alexander, BYU Studies, Vol. 39, No. 1, 2000, page 138.) At least two other Latter-day Saints who were not part of Zion’s Camp also died.

Several decades ago, the site where those who died were buried was identified, but it has not been accessible to the general public. Regrettably, the names of those who died there as a result of their faithful sacrifice have all but been forgotten.

Recently, new owners of the land would like to make the site available and more accessible to any who may have interest. Some issues related to logistics and cost need to be resolved first.