Keokuk in Lee County, Iowa — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
Latter-day Saint Immigrants' Camp, 1853
Keokuk, Iowa, is named in honor of Chief Keokuk, a Sac and Fox chief who is buried there. The city is located on the west side of the Mississippi River, about 12 miles southwest of Nauvoo. On August 12, 1841, Chief Keokuk, and about one hundred other chiefs, braves, and their families visited Joseph Smith, the founder and first president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They conducted a meeting in the groves of Nauvoo, where Joseph addressed the Native American visitors at some length.
On 1 April 1853, a steamboat docked at Keokuk and discharge some 200 passengers, the first of 2,500 Mormon immigrants who were to camp at Keokuk that spring, to earn money and to learn survival skills before taking the trail to Utah.
Keokuk was just beginning a boom. In the 1840s, Keokuk was an unimpressive village of fewer than 500 people. However, the, one-square-mile town plat was filling rapidly. The platted streets were a grid, all running straight despite the roughness of the terrain. Much work was available to open and grade the streets, and the Mormon men were eager for the employment
The camp nearly doubled the
Eight shiploads of Mormon immigrants sailed from Liverpool to New Orleans between January and May 1853. Steamboats transported them to St Louis, where most paused before taking another boat to Keokuk. Three steamboats of the St. Louis and Keokuk Packet Company made twice-weekly scheduled runs. The first ship leaving Liverpool carried mostly Danes but their ocean crossing took so long, a Mormon company of English folk were the first to arrive at Keokuk.
Some Keokuk housewives hired Mormon women to help with spring cleaning. The Danes busied themselves "turning trees into useful articles," and a host of Mormon men graded the streets, "a most appreciated improvement."
Among the immigrants was artist Frederick Piercy, who sketched scenes along the immigrants' route, including "Camp at Keokuk," which he described as picturesque with a commanding view, in excellent order, with everyone busy. Some tradesmen, he said, found skilled work; others did the grading. The extra money enabled many "little comforts" (though on the trail many luxury items would be jettisoned). Another immigrant said the camp was like a long street lined by wagons instead of houses, with plenty. of wood and grass handy.
Keokukians provided such goods as leather used in harnesses and whips. Yet Haight had purchased wagons, canvas, and other needed items in St. Louis. The ideal grouping was ten people to a wagon, ten wagons to a company. In all, some 360 wagons went on the trail, each needing-a team of oxen.
A herd of 800 oxen was to be found near Boonville, Missouri, 400 miles away by river, but only 200 miles overland.
A crew of 13 men was organized for a cattle drive. One of the crew was Appleton Milo Harmon, who had been part of the original 1846 exodus from Nauvoo. Harmon had been a mission to England and was now returning.
The drive took three weeks but successfully brought the herd to Jackoak Grove near Montrose and near the 1846 Sugar Creek campground.
On June 20,1853, the final wagons left. A few immigrants chose to remain in Keokuk. William Folsom, for five years a building contractor in Keokuk, joined the immigrants, taking his family to Utah. He later became the general superintendent of the Manti Temple and his daughter, Amelia, became a wife of Brigham Young.
The 1853 campground evolved into a prestigious neighborhood. By 1860, the town had swelled to 8,136 residents with a mile-long level Main Street busy with commerce.
Erected by Mormon Historic Sites Foundation.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Churches & Religion.
Location. 40° 24.035′ N, 91° 22.571′ W. Marker is in Keokuk, Iowa, in Lee County. Marker is at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Orleans Avenue on Grand Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Keokuk IA 52632, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Samuel Freeman Miller (approx. ¼ mile away); First Permanent Jewish House of Worship in Iowa (approx. 0.4 miles away); National Association for Music Education (approx. 0.4 miles away); The Estes House (approx. half a mile away); Keokuk (approx. half a mile away); Welcome to Keokuk (approx. 0.6 miles away); Mark Twain (approx. 0.6 miles away); Water When Needed (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Keokuk.
More about this marker. Located in the Triangle Park.
Credits. This page was last revised on August 13, 2021. It was originally submitted on August 13, 2021, by Cajun Scrambler of Assumption, Louisiana. This page has been viewed 57 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on August 13, 2021, by Cajun Scrambler of Assumption, Louisiana.