Milo Andrus and the Founding of Mormon Grove
In 1852, Brigham Young, the current prophet of the Mormon Church, instructed new converts to “gather, without delay, to Zion.” 1 They came in waves of hundreds. As they immigrated, various outfitting posts were selected each year where the incoming immigrants could assemble.
In late August 1854 Brigham Young directed Milo Andrus, the stake president in St. Louis, to find a place on the western frontier where the European immigrants could safely and temporarily settle before continuing on to Utah. He wanted a place that was beyond St. Louis, closer to the frontier. He specifically named Kansas as a possible settlement and outfitting location. In his opinion, the immigrants would have a better opportunity “to labor for cattle, provisions, etc. in these healthier localities.” In previous years many shiploads of immigrants had been “unhealthily crowded into rooms at St. Louis,” 2 where they found it difficult to obtain short-term work.
On February 17, 1855, Milo Andrus and others left St. Louis bound for the western Missouri River frontier. They were to find an outfitting location that could be used for the spring emigration. On March 20th, Milo reported that he had secured land in a hickory grove approximately four miles west of Atchison, Kansas, that could be used for a staging ground. 3 It was on a bend of the Missouri River 12-miles farther west than any other outfitting point, and had good grazing land and water. He named it Mormon Grove. Atchison is 50 miles north of present-day Kansas City.
In May 1855 Milo returned to Mormon Grove with 550 head of oxen and cows that the Mormons would use in crossing the plains. When emigrants started arriving they divided according to nationality and then by overland company. The camps were organized with rows of tents framing streets and alleys between them. These camps were also organized into branches that were presided over by church leaders.
As companies with several hundred people in each were readied, they moved out onto the prairies to begin their march westward. Milo himself led a wagon company of 461 people across the plains to Salt Lake City. In total, 2,030 emigrants, 337 wagons, 2,433 oxen, 319 cows, 86 horses, and 8 mules had journeyed from Mormon Grove . 4 Mormon Grove was used as a staging ground until July 1855.
The next year, in 1856, the outfitting post moved from Mormon Grove to Iowa City, Iowa. It was selected because Saints could travel there by rail, making the journey faster and more economical.
In 1986 a historic marker was erected at Mormon Grove. The interpretive sign is headlined: “Mormon Grove: The City That Disappeared.”
1 "Seventh General Epistle of the Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star 14 (July 17, 1852): 325.
2 Brigham Young to Milo Andrus, August 31,1854, Brigham Young Office Files (LDS Church Archives, transcript).
3 "The Point of Outfit for Our Spring Emigration," St. Louis Luminary, March 31,1855, 74.
4 "Report," St. Louis Luminary, August 18, 1855, 155.
"On the Outskirts of Atchison: The Imprint of Latter-day Saint Transmigration at Mormon Grove." An article by BYU professors Fred E. Woods and Melvin L. Bashore.
Barrett, Ivan J. (1992) Trumpeter of God: Fascinating True Stories of the Great Missionary and Colonizer, Milo Andrus. American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, Inc.