Mormon Trail Center at Winter Quarters, Florence, NE
After the exodus from Nauvoo, Illinois, the Saints set up a temporary community called Winter Quarter to launch the trek west to the Salt Lake Valley.
Here, Brigham Young received Doctrine & Covenants Section 136 which set the pattern for the trek west organizing the companies “with captains of hundreds, captains of fifties, and captains of tens, with a president and his two counselors at their head, under the direction of the Twelve Apostles.”1
The Winter Quarters experience was difficult. Many of the men had been taken to join the Mormon Battalion and the living conditions were very poor. The remaining men had a staggering responsibility to ensure that everyone had enough food and supplies to sustain the struggling group of Saints. Over 600 people died here and are buried in the pioneer cemetery.2 In all, more than 3,400 people lived here and the Saints were able to establish a community until they left for the Salt Lake Valley.
Winter Quarters was essentially abandoned in 1848. Those who did not go west immediately, traveled back across the river to Kanesville which became the launching place for emigrants going to settle in the west.
Church members and members of others faiths gathered on September 20, 1936 to participate in the dedication of the monument at Winter Quarters. The First Presidency: Heber J. Grant; J. Reuben Clark; and David O. McKay, along with several other General Authorities, were present at the dedication. Heber J. Grant said at the dedication that “there are times and places in the life of every individual, every people, and every nation when great spiritual heights are reached, when courage becomes a living thing . . . when faith in God stands as the granite mountain wall, firm and immovable. . . Winter Quarters was such a time and place for the Mormon people.”3
The Mormon Trail Center was built here and dedicated on April 18, 1997. The dedication coincided with a sesquicentennial celebration of the first wagons that left Winter Quarters to travel west to the Salt Lake Valley. In 2001 the Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple was dedicated by President Gordon B. Hinckley. The area remains a monument to those who sacrificed so much for the Gospel’s sake.
1 Doctrine and Covenants 136:3.
2 John A. Widtsoe, “‘Winter Quarters’ is Immortalized in Stone,” Improvement Era, No. 10, (October 1936).
3 Ardeth Greene Kapp, The Joy of the Journey (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1992), 13.
Map & Directions
Address: 3215 State Street Omaha, Nebraska 68112
Hours of Operation: Daily, 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM
Phone Number: (402) 453-9372
The Mormon Trail Center at Florence, NE is owned and operated as a Church Historic Site by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Additional information, including virtual tours, can be found at: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/learn/historic-sites/nebraska/mormon-trail-center-at-historic-winter-quarters?lang=eng.
Articles & Resources
Dedicatory Prayer of the Winter Quarters Nebraska Temple
O God our Eternal Father, Thou Great Elohim, we bow before Thee in humility and with gratitude to dedicate this Thy holy house. The ground on which this sacred structure stands was…
Clyde B. Aitchison, “The Mormon Settlements in the Missouri Valley,” Nebraska State Historical Society Proceedings and Collections, 1907.
Maurine Ursenbach Beecher, “‘And Should We Die’: A Reader’s Theater on Winter Quarters, Nebraska,” Nauvoo Journal, Fall 1997, 5.
Maurine Ursenbach Beecher, “Women at Winter Quarters,” Sunstone, 1983.
Richard E. Bennett, “Mormons at the Missouri: A History of the Latter-day Saints at Winter Quarters and at Kanesville, 1846-52 – A Study in American Overland Trail Migration,” 1984.
Richard E. Bennett, We’ll Find the Place: The Mormon Exodus 1846-1848, 1997.
Richard E. Bennett, “Winter Quarters: Church Headquarters, 1846-1848,” Ensign, September 1997, 42.
Richard E. Bennett, “Some Reflections on Winter Quarters,” Nauvoo Journal, Fall 1997, 3.
Richard E. Bennett, “Finalizing Plans for the Trek West: Deliberations at Winter Quarters, 1846-1847,” BYU Studies, 1984.
Richard E. Bennett, Mormons at the Missouri, 1946-52: ‘And Should We Die’, 1987.
Richard E. Bennett, “Winter Quarters,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, ed. Daniel H. Ludlow et al., 1992.
Susan Easton Black, Inscriptions Found on Tombstones and Monuments in Early Latter-day Saint Burial Grounds: Nauvoo, Illinois (Joseph Smith Homestead, and Pioneer Saints Cemetery on Parley Street); Mt. Pisgah, Iowa: West Bank of the Niobrara River, Nebraska; Winter Quarters, Nebraska, 1979.
K. Boren, “Winter Quarters: City of Refuge,” Pioneer, 1996.
Conrey Bryson, Winter Quarters, 1986.
David R. Crockett, “Christmas at Winter Quarters,” Pioneer, 1998.
David R. Crockett, Saints in the Wilderness: A Day-by-Day Pioneer Experience. Winter Quarters and the Mormon Battalion March, 1997.
Donald F. Danker, “The Nebraska Winter Quarters and Florence,” Nebraska History, 1956.
Edwin A. Fry, “Mormons on the Niobrara,” Nebraska History, 1922.
Kenneth W. Godfrey, “Winter Quarters: Glimmering Glimpses into Mormon Religious and Social Life,” The Eight Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium: A Sesquicentennial Look at Church History, 1980.
Gail G. Holmes, Winter Quarters Revisited: Untold Stories of the Seven-Yea Stay of the Mormons in the Missouri Valley 1846-1853, 1976.
Andrew Jenson, “Journeyings in the Wilderness,” Historical Record, 1889.
Charles W. Martin and Dorothy Devereux Dustin, “The Omaha – Council Bluffs Area and the Westward Trails,” Overland Journal, 1989.
E. Cecil McGavin, The Mormon Pioneers, 1947.
Bryan L. Peterson, “A Geographic Study of the Mormon Migration from Nauvoo, Illinois, to the Great Salt Lake Valley, (1846-1847),” 1941.
Stephen F. Pratt, “Parley P. Pratt in Winter Quarters and the Trail West,” BYU Studies, 1984.
Ernest W. Shumway, “History of Winter Quarters, Nebraska, 1846-48,” 1953.
Ernest W. Shumway, “Winter Quarters, Nebraska, 1846-1848,” Nebraska History, 1954.
William W. Slaughter, “Return to Winter Quarters: The Westward Migration Takes a Brief Eastward Turn,” Pioneer, 1997.
Joseph Fielding Smith, “Latter-day Saint Settlement at Winter Quarters,” Improvement Era, April 1952.
Eliza R. Snow, “Pioneer Diary of Eliza R. Snow,” Improvement Era, August 1943.
R. A. Tennert, Jr., “The Mormons and the Office of Indian Affairs: The Conflict Over Winter Quarters, 1846-1848.” Nebraska History, 1972.
Maurine C. Ward, Winter Quarters: The 1846-48 Life Writings of Mary Haskin Parker Richards, 1996.
Maurine C. Ward, “A Journey in the Wilderness: The Life of Mary Haskin Parker Richards at the Missouri River 1846-1848,” Nauvoo Journal, Fall 1995.
J. N. Washburn, “The ‘Valley Forge’ of Mormondom,” Improvement Era, January 1947.
Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, “Scenes and Incidents at Winter Quarters,” Women’s Exponent, 1884.
John A. Widtsoe, “‘Winter Quarters’ is Immortalized in Stone,” Improvement Era, October 1936.
Lewis M. Wigand, “Mormon Camps Along the Missouri River,” Restoration Trail Forum, 1981.