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Mormon Historical

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"Grand Encampment"

The first wagons arriving at the Missouri River (June 14) camped at the area near present day School of the Deaf just southeast of Council Bluffs.  While a new ferry was being constructed, the Mormons remained on the Iowa side..  The area was known as the Grand Encampment.  The camp area was used on into August before all camped there could be moved across the Missouri.

As more wagons arrived, they camped in the first area available to the east.  By the first of July, the ferry was ready for crossing, however, there was a backlog of wagons waiting.  By late July, the camped wagons stretched nine miles to the east and as much as three miles wide along the way.

Soon it was apparent that the Grand Encampment area could not support the need for grazing cattle and timber for fire and other wood needs.  The Mormons started to spread out in search of areas with ample supplies.  More than 80 and as many as 100 communities were settled within a 30 mile radius.  Most small communities around Council Bluffs have their roots in these early settlements.

The first arrivals had already crossed the new ferry, and initially planned on continuing the journey.  As the shift from the Grand Encampment to the camp across the river was occurring, concerns were growing about a late start plus the stragglers and stranded members to the east (near Monroe, Iowa, originally from Nauvoo, Illinois).

The church members needed to prepare for the oncoming winter and raise funds.  Brigham Young propositioned the U.S. government to award contracts to the saints to build roads and bridges, haul supplies, build army posts, deliver mail, and render other services.  The reply from the government was hard to swallow.  It resulted in an agreement that allowed the Mormons to stay on Indian lands north of the area and on the west side of the Missouri for two years but another part of the deal was that the government needed 500 volunteers to help fight a war.

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