Thursday, November 12, 2009

Church History in the Family: The Pueblo Saints

The Pueblo Saints

As we have seen, during the winter of 1846–47 about 275 Latter-day Saints formed a substantial community at Pueblo, hundreds of miles west of the main body of the Saints at the Missouri River. This group consisted of the three sick detachments from the Mormon Battalion and approximately sixty “Mississippi Saints” who had come to Pueblo in August.

These southern members of the Church were accompanied by John Brown, who had moved from Mississippi to Nauvoo in 1845. He was appointed by Brigham Young in January 1846 to return to his fellow Saints in the South and urge them to join in the westward migration. Brown and William Crosby led forty-three people 640 miles to Independence, Missouri, where they were joined by fourteen others. They continued west along the Oregon Trail expecting to find the main body of the Saints led by Brigham Young. In July, however, when they reached Chimney Rock in western Nebraska, there were still no Saints. Trappers returning from California told them there were no Mormons ahead of them. Unaware that Brigham Young had decided to establish Winter Quarters on the Missouri, they decided to move to Fort Laramie. There they met John Richard, a trapper who invited them to winter near his trading post at Pueblo. Word finally reached them in Pueblo that Brigham Young had stopped at Winter Quarters.

Life was somewhat settled in Pueblo. In addition to hunting for venison, the Mississippi Saints planted turnips, pumpkins, beans, and melons and worked for fur trappers who paid them with corn. With the incoming battalion men, they built a school which doubled as a church. The battalion kept up regular military drills, and dances were frequent. Seven babies were born during the winter, but there were also nine deaths.

In the spring, Brigham Young wrote to the Pueblo Saints and told them of the plans of the main Pioneer Company to go to the Great Basin in the vicinity of the Great Salt Lake. An advance party from Pueblo went north to Fort Laramie where they met Brigham Young and the pioneers. President Young then dispatched Elder Amasa Lyman and others to guide the rest of the Pueblo Saints to the Salt Lake Valley, where they arrived just five days after the Pioneer Company.

(Pioneers of the West, Chapter 26)

Among the Mississippi Saints was grandfather George Washington GIBSON.

Gibson, George Washington.

Wife: Mary Ann Sparks; children: Mary Denise married William New in Santa Fe and did not go west with family. Lydia A. (married Gilbert Hunt in Pueblo), Robert B., Frances Abigail, William C., Laura Altha, Moses, Manomas Lavinia, Joseph.

Among the Mormon Battalion was cousin Eunice Reasor Brown with her husband James Polly Brown.

Brown, James Polly
Wife: Eunice Reasor; children: Neuman, Robert, Sarah, Mary Ann.
The Forgotten Pioneers, Part II by Norma B. Ricketts

"No longer are these 400 men, women, and children nameless faces marching endlessly across the west. "

In Part One, the story was told of seventeen Mississippi Saints and twelve Mormon Battalion men, who spent the winter of 1846-47 in Pueblo, Colorado, joined the Pioneer Company at Fort Laramie June 1, 1847, and continued to the Salt Lake Valley with them. All 29 individuals in these two small groups were identified. But there were other Mississippi Saints and Mormon Battalion soldiers and their families still in Pueblo. This is the story of their entrance into Salt Lake Valley.

In April 1846 Brigham Young called John Brown to lead church members living in Monroe County, Mississippi, west. They were to take a diagonal southern route from northeast Mississippi to the Platte River and rendezvous there with the Nauvoo Saints. There were fourteen families and several single men in this group of 43 adults (24 men, 19 women) and an unknown number of children. Brown selected five men to go with him to assist the families. They left April 8, 1846. When this group reached Independence, Missouri, they were joined by the Crow family, consisting of 17 adults and children. With this addition the Brown company totaled 60 adults.

By mid June Brown and his company were at the Platte River where they waited two weeks for the Nauvoo Mormons. When no one arrived they continued traveling on the Oregon Trail towards Fort Laramie until they learned there were no Mormons ahead. They were advised by a trader to go to Fort Pueblo, Colorado, for the winter. Fort Pueblo was in a sheltered valley; trappers residing there had corn; other food and supplies could be obtained from nearby Bent’s Fort. John Brown and his group arrived in Pueblo August 7, 1846. They immediately began building log cabins and planting crops. Absalom P. Dowdle was appointed presiding elder of the Pueblo branch.

On September 1, 1846, after helping the families get settled, John Brown and his assistants left Colorado to return to their families in Mississippi. On September 12 these men on their eastward journey met the Mormon Battalion traveling west and told the soldiers about the branch of the Mormon Church in Pueblo. Brown’s group continued east and reached their families in Mississippi October 29, 1846.

Meanwhile, as the Mormon Battalion continued west along the Arkansas River, Lieutenant A. J. Smith, temporary battalion commander, decided to send the women, their husbands, and children back to Pueblo. The chance meeting with John Brown had provided him with an answer of what to do with the women and children. This first detachment, known as the Higgins Family Detachment (Arkansas Detachment), consisted of 11 men, 9 women and 33 children under Captain Nelson Higgins. They left the battalion on September 18 and arrived in Pueblo in early October, 1846.

When Philip St. George Cooke assumed command of the battalion in Santa Fe, he thought there were too many women, children, and sick soldiers and decided to send a second detachment to Pueblo. This group left Santa Fe October 18 under James Brown, captain. They arrived in Pueblo November 17 with 92 men, 19 women and 10 children. This was the Brown Sick Detachment (Santa Fe Detachment).

Colonel Cooke sent Lieutenant William W. Willis with the last detachment at the Rio Grande River November 10. They arrived in Pueblo December 20, 1846. There were 56 men and one woman in the Willis Sick Detachment (Rio Grande Detachment).

Altogether there were 159 men, 29 women, and 43 children in the three detachments. The names of these men are known from military rolls, journals, family histories, and from the mustering-out roll. Fifteen soldiers died en route to Pueblo or during the winter.

This Mississippi-battalion contingent (about 300 men, women and children) spent the winter in Pueblo. The soldiers built additional cabins plus a larger building for church and social purposes. A few men worked for the trappers, while others found employment at Bent’s Fort. As spring approached the Crow family grew impatient and decided to start west without waiting for the others. Because of this early start the Crows were waiting at Fort Laramie when Young and the Pioneer Company arrived June 1 and traveled with them on the last part of the journey for the historic 1847 entrance into the valley.

The Pueblo detachments and remaining Mississippi Saints, under Captain James Brown, left Pueblo May 24. They gradually gained on the vanguard company until they were only a day behind at the ferry on the Platte River. Finding a blacksmith, they decided to stop to get their animals shod. Next they followed the Platte River to the Sweetwater River on to Independence Rock. After they passed Devil’s Gate, they celebrated the anniversary of their enlistment, July 16: "At daylight there was a salute of small arms in honor of our enlistment and more especially the finishing of our one year’s service to Uncle Sam, and to let every one of Uncle Sam’s officers know we were our own men once more."—John Steele7

Although their period of service was up, there was no one to discharge them. They believed they had to go to California to be discharged and receive their mustering-out pay.

On July 28 they had their first view of Salt Lake Valley. Abner Blackburn and several others climbed a mountain crest and were impressed by "the grandest view that ever mortal beheld, the air was clear and perfect for a great view, the great Salt Lake glistening under the sun’s rays, range after range of mountains in every direction, the great desert to the west and Utah lake to the south east and the mountains beyond. A more sublime view was seldom seen from a mountain top."8

On July 29, 1847, President Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, George Albert Smith, Amasa Lyman, Wilford Woodruff, Ezra T. Benson and five other authorities rode on horseback to the mouth of Emigration Canyon, where they met the incoming Pueblo colonists. A violent thunderstorm prevented a grand welcome, but a fife and drum corps greeted the new arrivals. Thomas Bullock described the formation: "Council & Officers first, Infantry next with Martial Music, then followed the Cavalry—with baggage wagons bringing up the rear."9

Captain Brown led 29 wagons filled with soldiers, their families, and Mississippi Saints to a campsite about one half mile north of the temple lot. The next morning, July 30, Brigham Young and the Council of Twelve Apostles met with the battalion officers and told them, "Your going into the army has saved the lives of thousands of people." 10

Since their enlistment period had expired, Brigham Young and the church authorities decided to disband the three detachments and not have them continue to California for severance pay as originally planned. That evening in a general meeting for the Saints Brigham Young spoke until he was hoarse. He expressed a warm feeling toward the soldiers and requested that the men build a bowery on the temple lot so they could hold their meetings in the shade.11

On July 31 Brigham Young assumed command and assigned the soldiers to gather brush for the bowery. They built a comfortable shelter forty by twenty-eight feet in size. During that week the soldiers continued to work under church direction, cultivating the soil and making adobe bricks for both living quarters and the fort. The addition of the men from Pueblo greatly aided in the heavy work in the valley during those early months.

During this same time, Young was organizing two groups to go east to help the Saints come west. These groups were known as the "Ox train of returning pioneers" and the "Horse and mule train."12

The ox company left Salt Lake Valley August 17, 1847, and consisted of sixty-nine men, forty-two of whom were ex-battalion. There were 107 men (thirty-two ex-battalion men) in the horse and mule company that left the Salt Lake Valley August 26. In addition to Brigham Young, seven of the Twelve Apostles were in this group. It had been only thirty-three days since the Pioneer Company arrived. As they traveled east, they met the westbound Big Company, which reached Salt Lake Valley in early October 1847.

A third group of over a hundred Mormon Battalion veterans entered Salt Lake Valley in late September-early October 1847. Their entrance to the valley was overshadowed by the arrival of the Big Company at the same time.

These battalion men had been discharged in Los Angeles on July 16, 1847. No longer under military order, the men formed into hundreds, fifties, and tens, under the leadership of Levi Hancock. There were 223 men in this group, and all were identified. They traveled through California’s central valleys, past Sutter’s Fort, into the Sierra Nevada. When they were near Donner Summit, they met James Brown with a letter from church authorities telling the men about the destitute situation in the valley and recommending that they return to California and work a season. Several diaries of these men contain the notation that "about half went on and half went back" to work for Captain John Sutter at Sutter’s Fort.

Since there were 223 men in this group whose names are all known, if "half went back and half went on", that would be about 112 in each group. There are no rosters telling how the men were divided. However, Sutter and his clerk kept a record of who went in and out of the fort. Also, battalion journals tell of their assignments in Sutter’s employment. There are 106 men whose names are known from Sutter’s records, battalion journals, and other sources. Subtracting 106 from the 223 known names traveling from Los Angeles with Hancock, leaves 117 names. As more research is done, it may develop that some of the 117 worked for Sutter and belong on the other list, but the Hancock list may be close to definitive. When material is first published, frequently new information comes forth. If this happens and identifies one new name, it will make this article worthwhile.

Hancock Company

The Hancock Company went directly to Salt Lake Valley in 1847. This is the "half" that continued on with Levi Hancock to Salt Lake after meeting James Brown in the Sierra.

These little-known 1847 pioneers contributed greatly to the early days in the Salt Lake Valley and in helping different companies of Saints come west in the years that followed. The ex-soldiers of the Mormon Battalion had become experienced frontiersman during their long trek. They knew how to survive under perilous conditions, and they were leaders who contributed greatly in establishing settlements wherever Brigham Young sent them throughout the west. No longer are these 400 men, women, and children nameless faces marching endlessly across the west. Each is identified and his role is defined. They can be listed with the other pioneers who arrived during the historic year of 1847.


1. There were fourteen families in the original John Brown company when it left Mississippi. Only names known are given. The names of the Crow company, who joined the Brown group, were listed in Part One. The Mississippi Saints settled primarily in Holladay and Cottonwood near Salt Lake City. Perhaps a study of the early pioneers in these two settlements will reveal the names of others who spent the winter in Pueblo. While these names have been gathered from many sources, the primary sources are original battalion rosters and three handwritten pages by Thomas Bullock titled, " Names of Pueblo soldiers and Mississippi brethren arrived in Great Salt Lake City, August, 1847." This document is in the LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City. Bullock lists one name seen for the first time: John Edmunds (black)." There is no Edmunds on the battalion roll. Bullock wrote Edmunds’ name on a page with the women and children. His age is shown as 30. There were black men who served the officers. Perhaps Edmunds was one of these servants who became ill and was sent to Pueblo. Bullock’s list does not identify the company in which Edmunds traveled to Pueblo.

[For lists of names see:]

[Part I:]

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