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"Good Questions"

>I was wondering if you know what county Winter Quarters was in.
I understand how this can be a problem, especially for genealogical research, as most database query engines ask what county a marriage took place in. Winter Quarters was not in a county, it was in another country (at the time). Winter Quarters was not in any county because at the time, land west of the Missouri River was considered "Indian Country." In other words, it was not U.S. property at the time.

Winter Quarters was along the Missouri River on the west side. The U.S. ended at the east side of the Missouri River. During 1846, there were two other short-lived Mormon encampments on the west side of the river prior to Winter Quarters being set up. I say short lived, meaning a few weeks at the most. The people that were in those settlements moved to Winter Quarters when it was set up.

In order for Winter Quarters to happen at all, the U.S. Government had to work a deal with the natives that lived on the land to allow the Mormons to stay there for no more than two years (rent had to be paid to the natives, plus the Mormons had to supply a 500 man battalion to help in the Mexican War). The negotiations for this to happen occurred while the area known as the Grand Encampment on the Iowa side was swelling with new arrivals. The very earliest group to reach the Missouri River had already crossed the Missouri, and settled at a place they called Cold Springs Camp.

After the negotiations, the first place that the natives permitted the Mormons to camp for an extended time was referred to as Cutler's Park. This would have been the Winter Quarters area had they not have to give it up. Due to a disagreement between the natives within the first month, that encampment had to be abandoned, forcing the Mormons to move next to a location closer to the Missouri River in what became Winter Quarters. The disagreement was due to the natives not agreeing amongst themselves on how much each should be paid. The tribes that had lived there for many years (since 1700s) felt they should be paid more than the ones that had moved into the area within the last few (around fifty) years. Of the nations that had moved there within the last fifty years, the Omaha Nation chief (Big Elk) made an offer to allow the Mormons to stay on land he controlled, which was back closer to the Missouri River. That one spot became Winter Quarters, however, that was not the end of it; read on.

>Do you know of any existing marriage records for Winter Quarters?
I'm sure marriages would be recorded at Winter Quarters as they were being recorded elsewhere prior to Winter Quarters.

What is important to know is that what is often referred to as Winter Quarters was more than the location named Winter Quarters. During the time of Winter Quarters, there were other Mormon communities nearby in Iowa, all new as a result of the move west. When the Mormons arrived at the Missouri River, the only ferry was too small to reliably cross the river (at the fur trading outpost). While a suitable ferry was being built, more Mormons arrived at the "Grand Encampment" area on the Iowa side. The area could not handle the large numbers for cattle grazing and for wood supplies so other communities were set up within about 50 miles of the Grand Encampment area. In total, there were around 80 to 100 other communities in the area. When the Mormons continued the journey on westward, some of those communities left entirely but many of those communities had settlers that decided to stay. Those communities became Iowa communities, and many of those same communities continue to exist today. The location we now know as Council Bluffs already had a start before the Mormons arrived. There were a few other settlers already in the area. The Mormons called it Kanesville. Kanesville became the largest settlement around. Kanesville became a mix of Mormons and other settlers. Eventually, almost all of the Mormons in the many communities did leave. Kanesville had a large enough settlement of other citizens, it remained as its own growing community. The new settlers changed the Kanesville name after the Mormons left. In all of those early Mormon communities, the records of marriages, births, deaths, etc., remained with the community (effectively Iowa records) if the community has any type of organization. Some records were taken west when the community ended. By this time, there was a great resentment toward the Mormons by non-Mormon settlers. Most of the community records left behind on the Iowa side were destroyed after the Mormons left.

Even though many records were lost, the Mormons have collected records of births, deaths, and marriages from personal family records, and have them in their database that is available for genealogical research. If you aren't already familiar with these records, you can get started at:


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