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"Cold Spring Camp"

When the first ferry was completed (July 1st, 1846), several families and wagons crossed the Missouri River, and formed a regrouping community west of the ferry near a cold water spring.  The area was near present day 60th and L Street in Omaha.  The spring has since been diverted to an underground culvert.  A marker at the northwest corner of 60th and L is all that remains to identify the first Mormon camp west of the Missouri River.

The Mormons were camped in Indian territory but the intention was to be there for a short period of time only.  The camp was to be a gathering place before traveling on to Grand island or on to the Rockies the same year.  There was great concern for the Mormons stranded in Nauvoo, and those still in other parts of Illinois, Mount Pisgah, Garden Grove, and Montrose, Iowa.  Due to heavy rains, the Mormons had arrived two months later than hoped.  Running out of time to continue the journey, these issues prompted the Mormons to consider making camp for the winter at the Missouri River.  It was also important to send a rescue mission back to help those that were in constant danger stranded at the Mississippi River.

More Mormons continued to arrive on the east side of the Missouri River during the time of Cold Spring Camp.  The decision was made to join the others when an agreement was made to camp for the winter on Indian land to the north of present day Omaha.

In 1850, Thomas L. Kane,* described Cold Spring Camp to the Pennsylvania Historical Society.  He said, "It was situated upon some finely rounded hills that encircle a favorite cool spring.  On each of these a square was marked out; and the wagons as they arrived took their positions along its four sides in double rows, so as to leave a roomy street or passageway between them.  The tents were disposed also in rows, at intervals between the wagons.  The cattle were folded in high-fenced yards outside.  The quadrangle inside was left vacant for the sake of ventilation, and the streets, covered in with leafy arbor work, and kept scrupulously clean, formed a shaded cloister walk.  This was the place of exercise for slowly recovering invalids, the day-home of the infants, and the evening promenade of all."

"From the first formation of the camp, all of its inhabitants were constantly and laboriously occupied.  Many of them were highly educated mechanics, and seemed only to need a day's anticipated rest to engage them at the forge, loom, or turning lathe, upon some needed choice of work.  A Mormon gunsmith is the inventor of the excellent repeating rifle, that loads by slides instead of cylinders; and one of the neatest finished fire-arms I have ever seen was of this kind, wrought from scraps of old iron, and inlaid with the silver of a couple of half dollars, under a hot July sun, in a spot where the grass was above the workman's shoulders..."

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