Lucas County Mormon Trail Markers - Chariton, Iowa
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member iconions
N 41° 00.880 W 093° 18.479
15T E 474103 N 4540430
This combination of interpretive sign and plaque mounted on a boulder is located on the southwestern corner of the Lucas County Courthouse - 916 Braden Avenue in Chariton, Iowa.
Waymark Code: WM12FH0
Location: Iowa, United States
Date Posted: 05/16/2020
Published By:Groundspeak Regular Member coisos
Views: 2

History of the Mormon Pioneer Trail:
The story of the Mormon Trail is rooted in the beginnings of a unique American religion. In 1827, 21-year-old Joseph Smith announced that he had unearthed a set of golden plates, inscribed with the tenants of God’s true church. Smith said that he had been directed to the plates by an angel named Moroni, who also had given him divine tools for translating the ancient inscriptions into English. Smith used these to produce new Scripture called the Book of Mormon. In 1830, in western New York, he organized a legal entity that would become The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His followers, who regarded Smith as a prophet, became known as Mormons.

Important differences between mainstream Christianity and Mormon doctrine quickly emerged, but it was primarily hostilities over land, business, and politics that caused Smith repeatedly to move church headquarters. Driven out of Missouri in 1838, the Mormons finally settled along a bend of the Mississippi River in Illinois. There they established a community they called Nauvoo, a Hebrew word meaning “beautiful place.” It was at Nauvoo that Smith cautiously began introducing the Old Testament practice of “plural marriage,” or polygamy, among select church leaders.

Thousands of converts flocked to Nauvoo, soon making it the largest town in Illinois. Neighbors initially welcomed the orderly, industrious settlers despite their religious differences. But relations gradually soured, with complaints centering on Mormons’ clannish business practices, accusations of theft, their electoral sway, and Smith’s political aspirations. Meanwhile, dissent emerged within the church as rumors leaked of secret plural marriages. After an opposition newspaper publicly accused the prophet and other leaders of polygamy, Nauvoo’s city council and Smith declared the paper a public nuisance and Smith ordered destruction of its press. For that he and others were arrested and jailed at Carthage, Illinois. On June 27, 1844, a mob broke into the jail and murdered Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. Other vigilantes attacked Mormon farms around Nauvoo in an attempt to expel them.

Brigham Young stepped up as Smith’s successor and began planning an orderly, spring 1846 evacuation of some 15,000 faithful to the Great Basin, Mexican-held territory beyond the Rocky Mountains. However, as anti-Mormon violence heated, Young decided to organize a vanguard of church leaders to depart in late winter, hoping that would pacify the vigilantes until the main body of Mormons could start west in April. On February 4, 1846, the first wagons ferried across the Mississippi to Iowa. This group halted after five miles and set up camp at Sugar Creek for a lengthy wait as Young and his associates concluded business at Nauvoo. Meanwhile others, anxious not to be left behind, drifted over to join the Sugar Creek camp. Young’s vanguard company unexpectedly swelled from his intended 1,800 emigrants to around 3,000—many without their own wagons and provisions.

On March 1, 1846, some 500 Mormon wagons lurched northwesterly across the winter-bare Iowa prairie toward the Missouri River. Their route is the Mormon Trail.

- National Park Service Mormon Pioneer History Page

My Commentary:

This site commemorates the hardships faced by emigrates following the trail from Nauvoo to their destination in the Salt Lake Valley and beyond. The site is located at the southwestern portion of the Lucas County Courthouse and has a large granite boulder with a bronze plaque along with a double interpretive sign.


(Map of Iowa with the trail segments outlined)

Determined and authenticated
by the Historical Department
of Iowa, 1911.

This monument was erected in 1917
by the Iowa Daughters of the
American Revolution in memory of
the pioneers who followed this
trail and its tributaries.

We cross the prairie as of old
the pilgrims crossed the sea,
to make west as they the east
the homestead of the free.

Here upon the trail
September 11, 1849 was located
the townsite of Chariton.

(Seal of the Daughters of the American Revolution)
(Seal of Historical Department of Iowa

- Boulder Plaque Text

Interpretive Signage:

Text of the left side:
The Mormon Pioneer Trail

Beginning in February of 1846, the vanguard of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) struggled across southern Iowa on the way to their "New Zion" in the Rocky Mountains.

The trek from Nauvoo, Illinois, to Kanesville (Council Bluffs), Iowa, tested the endurance of humans, animals, and equipment. The frozen landscape of an Iowa February soon turned into a thawing mixture of nearly impassible mud and muck. Their unshakable faith and determination sustained them, however, and thousands of men, women, and children arrived at the Missouri River having completed this first portion of the journey west under extremely difficult conditions.

After wintering in the present day Omaha/Council Bluffs district, the Saints continued across Nebraska and Wyoming to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. Today, a marked 1,624 mile auto tour route closely parallels this historic route.

(map of the trek)
(map of the US with the states that the Saints trekked through highlighted.)

The Mormon Pioneers struggled across Iowa prairies, traversed the Great Plains of Nebraska, climbed the backbone of the continent at South Pass, Wyoming, and descended the Pacific slope of the Rocky Mountains to the Great Slat Lake Valley of Utah.

Text of the right side:
Tragedy along the Trail

West of the city of Chariton, one of the scenic roads of Lucas County passes down through an area known as Grave Hollow, a declivity between the wooded hills, gradually sloping down to the Whitebreast River. Grave Hollow came by its name by an unfortunate accident.

A family named Gabbut was making the long trek along the Northern Trace of the Mormon Trail in October, 1846. After crossing the Chariton River, Sarah Gabbut tried to get back into her wagon but slipped and fell. Startled, the oxen bolted and the heavy wagon ran over her abdomen. She lingered for an hour and then died. The company carted her body until the end of the days' travel and buried her at their camp in Grave Hollow.

Accidents with wagons and stock were common along the trail. Such events were usually not fatal for pioneer families, but they did cause many unfortunate injuries during the trek west.

(map of the Counties of Iowa with the Mormon trail and with Points of Interest highlighted)
(Map of Iowa with the Counties that had the Mormon Trail go trough highlighted)

The arrow indicates your present location and the dots mark the sites of other interpretive panels across the State. For a brochure with more detailed route information, contact the nearest tourist information office.

(picture of accident along the Trail)

Although oxen moved very slowly, there was no quick way of stopping them. Many women were injured because their long skirts got caught, dragging them under animals or wagon wheels.

(Journal pages on far right side of marker)
Thomas Bullock October 30, 1848

"... his wife Sarah Gabbut attempting to get back into the Wagon, laid hold of a churn dasher which being cracked, gave way, and she fell against the Oxen, which so startled them, that they started off at a full run. She fell to the ground and the Wheels of the Wagon passed over her loins or kidneys. She exclaimed "Oh dear, I am dying." She lingered until 5 min. to q and breathed her last. We continued over hill and dale until we came to one of the tributaries of the "White Breast"... Laid Sister Gabbut out in her robes, and part prepared her grave."

Harriet Kellog, Recollections
"... passing through a fearful gorge named Grave Hollow deriving its name from a circumstance which illustrates the hazards through which the pioneer was obliged to pass, it being the last resting place of a Mormon woman who was killed in making a descent (incorrect) of a hill."

This project was co-founded and produced by the Iowa Mormon Trails Association.

- Interpretive Signage Text

Who placed it?: Daughters of the American Revolution

When was it placed?: 1911

Who is honored?: Mormon Pioneers fleeing Nauvoo, Illinois

Website about the Monument: [Web Link]

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