Day 34-Two Rivers State Park, Winter Quarters, Council Bluffs
Jul 27, 2011
|About 4:00 a.m. this morning, heard some rain drops pitter pattering on the roof. The pitter patter got stronger and then was joined by continuous lightning and surround sound thunder. Both were just continuous...and, loud. Most of the lightning was the sheet lightning and just kept the sky bright. And the thunder just rolled and rolled and rolled. This went on for 1/2 hour or more and then just went away. Nice of them to schedule it during the night, though instead of when we had to be out and about in it.
Today was our only day in the Omaha area so we kept pretty busy. We wanted to visit both the Council Bluffs area and the Winter Quarters area. Both of these areas are important in our Church history as well as important parts of the whole westward movement.
We went to Council Bluffs first. This is the area they came to after being forced out of the Independence area...and the entire state of Missouri. They settled in an area called Council Bluffs because of the Indian treaties that were negotiated there. They called the area that they settled in "Miller Flats" in honor of the man who led the efforts to build a tabernacle for them to meet in. With the combined work of around 200 men, they completed the 40'x60'log structure within three weeks.
It was in this building that the Church sustained Brigham Young as the President of the Church to replace Joseph Smith who had been murdered in Carthage 3-1/2 years earlier.
The name of the community was changed from Miller Flats to Kanesville in honor of Colonel Thomas Kane. Colonel Kane was not a member of the Church but had been a loyal and supportive friend to the Mormons and the name was in appreciation for all that he had done.
They have a really nice visitor's center there with a lot of artifacts, films to see, etc. We also went through the tabernacle as it has been reconstructed. The original had been, of necessity, built of green pine and constructed over a spring that was not known of at the time of construction. Due to the combination of the green wood shrinking and the water from the spring, the original only lasted two years.
Adjacent to the cemetery is the very beautiful Winter Quarters Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. With the belief of the Latter-day Saints in the continuation of family and life after death, it is certainly appropriate that the view from the cemetery grave sites should include views of the temple representing those beliefs and within which walls work is done for those who have passed on.
One of the interesting things which took place here at Kanesville/Council Bluffs was kind of an irony. Throughout the history of the Church, the Saints had been chased out of one area after another. They had been persecuted, killed, tarred and feathered and burned out of their homes. Due to the scale of the mob actions, they had taken their appeal for help all the way to the President of the United States. His response was that for political reasons (upcoming election, which he lost anyway) he could do nothing for them. Even their expulsion from the State of Missouri was accompanied by an "extermination order" signed by the governor of the state indicating that they were to be considered enemies and shot if they refused to leave.
So, shortly after their arrival in Kanesville, that same government sent a representative to them indicating that the President required them to put together a volunteer battalion to fight in the war between the U.S. and Mexico. They did put together such a battalion, in spite of the lack of support from "their" government and made the longest military march in modern history from Kanesville to San Diego by way of Santa Fe. After helping with some of the construction in the small pueblo of San Diego, they went on to Los Angeles where they were mustered out. Some of them went on to San Francisco before going on to Salt Lake City while others took a more direct route.
The reconstructed tabernacle didn't look too "original" when we visited today since it was setup for a commemorative musical that they put on their every year. We were not aware of it before our visit but were happy to see that it would be available to see tonight. The thing that made it look unoriginal were the spotlights for lighting in the ceiling beams, the folding chairs for the audience and the scenery for the production.
However, the construction was authentic except for using cured wood instead of green. They still have the problem of uneven settling (it was apparently built without a firm foundation because of the time constraint. The building is supported by four large, vertical tree trunks spaced around the single room building. The reconstructors cleverly placed jacks under each of the logs so that they can be adjusted up or down to keep the building level.
We determined that we would come back to see the production after visiting Winter Quarters on the other side of the River (Missouri).
As a side note... They are still very much hampered by the terrible floods that they have suffered throughout the length of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. I have mentioned the detours that we have had to take because of the flooding of some of the major roads and crossings. Even in this area, we had to take circuitous routes because portions of I-29 and I-680 were closed due to the flooding.
At Winter Quarters, they have a really nice visitor's center, the "Mormon Trail Center", again with lots of artifacts and displays. An unexpected bonus at the visitor's center was a display of bronze sculptures by artist Angela Johnson, entitled, " ", well, I can't find the exact title right now...I will correct this later but it is a series of thirteen sculptures depicting the healing acts that the Savior performed during his earthly life. The sculptures are so spectacular. They are so detailed as to be life-like if it weren't for being all in bronze. Also, they are not life-size. Most of them would be described best as table top or large table top in size. But, they are exquisite in their detail, and, so, very touching.
Across from the center is a large pioneer cemetery. They estimate that some 600 people from those days are buried there, with a large percentage of them children. We saw lots of those on the list with ages in the months and slightly over but very young ages. All but a few of the grave markers have disappeared. I don't know whether from vandalism or whether they just weren't there in the first place. They do have a list of people buried and where the original graves were but mostly they have to be found by measuring from known landmarks within the cemetery.
After Winter Quarters, we stopped at Target to replenish some supplies and then added "home" for dinner before heading back to Kanesville for the musical production.
The musical was really well done. The actors were people from throughout this area. The musical told the story of life in Kanesville, of sacrifices they endured, including the recruiting of the Mormon Battalion and finally some of the decisions that had to be made as the call came to leave Kanesville and move on to the Salt Lake Valley.
We enjoyed it very much and there was really a touching spirit from the activities portrayed.
We then headed back "home" and prepared for bed. That will come just as soon as I get this day's journal completed.
Tomorrow we will be heading west. Our next stop will be at "The Area's Finest Country View Campground". That is the name of it so we will see if it lives up to its name. It is located in Ogallala, Nebraska, about 315 miles west of here. It is just an overnight stopover as I am trying to keep the daily driving to somewhere around 250 - 350 miles; preferably closer to the 250 mile amount.
So, that should do it for now. See you tomorrow. Thanks for riding along with us.