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"Winter Quarters II"

A town rises.

By December 1846, an entire town and community had sprung up.  The town had three blacksmith shops, two commercial stores, a welfare store, basket making shops, educational schools, and even a dancing school with 400 pupils enlisted.  The town had a city council and police force.

The center row of the three rows of buildings in the downtown area usually had two entrances, one to each street.  Buildings on the outside rows also had entrances on both sides, but only the one facing the street was for business.  The rear entrance was often for living quarters that occupied the back portion of the business.  Some stores were two-story, with living quarters on the second floor.

The entire town, complete with houses all built so suddenly must have been an amazing sight to the Great Plains natives living nearby.  Some natives built a shanty home with thick insulation, however, Omaha natives were often known to use the four pole tipi covered with buffalo skins throughout the winter.

Native Relationships.

Collectively, the church had around 10,000 cattle, 2,000 sheep, horses, and mules.  Many were corralled south of town along with other livestock.  Hay was collected and stacked in the same location.  Buffalo had largely been over-hunted in this area, and against the advice of the older and wiser chiefs, younger Indians soon learned that stealing supplies and sneaking cattle away from the Mormons was easier than hunting.  Buffalo had to be killed where found, dressed, and the meat carried back to camp.  This in itself was a hassle.  In other words, you could lead buffalo anywhere it wanted to go, cattle went willing.  Missing cattle initially went undiscovered until the craft came to light and the culprits tracked.  In spite of these encounters, the natives were often helped.  The community became the medical facility for dressing wounds inflicted during conflicts with the Dakota/Sioux.  Starving native children were given food.  In general, a trust and respect developed between the native population and the Mormons.  The Potawatomi were especially sympathetic having suffered from being driven from their lands by warring Dakota-Sioux Indians.

Other issues.

In spite of all the preparations, the trip to and the stay at Winter Quarters was a difficult period for the church.

The summer months were accompanied with "river habitation disease" from mosquito infested pools caused by heavy rainfall.  Malaria was a common sickness endured by many.  The harsh winter months were no easier of a battle.  Disease was prevalent, and the proper nutrients necessary for good health weren't known about or weren't available.  Scurvy was a major problem causing swelling and hemorrhage of gums and mucous membranes, also causing discolored or bluish spots on the skin formed by a congestion of blood vessels.  These sores were often referred to as "Kanker,"* "Black Kanker," or "Black leg," more commonly known as the bovine disease caused by soil bacterium.

Malnutrition, exhaustion, chills and fever called the "shaking ague" tested the limits of medical practitioners in the community.  As if these illnesses weren't enough to suffer through, the community had to deal with measles, mumps, whooping cough, small pox, tuberculosis, and pneumonia.  Due to the extreme weather conditions, diseases, or complications as a result, many lives were lost.  Hardly a day passed without one or two deaths in the community or the communities on the Iowa side.  Between spring of 1846 and June 1847, 723 died from the diseases or lack of adequate care.  By the end of 1848, the total deaths  had rose to about 1,000.  For a surviving community of 4,000 to 5,000, the deaths affected everyone.  The times were hardest on the children along the way and during the stay at Winter Quarters.  Of the 365 burials in the Mormon Pioneer Cemetery from August, 1846 through the summer of 1848, approximately 53% were for children under three years of age.  Only a strong faith of a gathering later on allowed the survivors to leave the graves of loved ones and continue the journey the following spring.

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