Richardson's Point

11251 County Road J40, Milton, IA

History

Watch this video to learn more about the history of Richardson's Point from noted Mormon historian and author, Susan Easton Black. 

The Property

Watch this video to learn about the history of the property gleaned from abstracts and local lore

Visitors are welcome at the site. Park near the barn and follow the trail signs to the grove. Please respect this private property and leave it as you found it. 

Background

Buried on property owned by the Klodt family in Van Buren County, Iowa, are Edwin S. Little and James M. Tanner, both members of the vanguard company of Mormon pioneers who left Nauvoo, Illinois, in February 1846. Edwin, nephew to Church leader Brigham Young, became ill after falling into icy waters while helping wagons traverse the Mississippi River.  He died on March 18th in a wagon returning to camp; he had received treatment in a nearby town but was too ill to recover. He left behind a wife, Harriet, and 19-month-old son, George Edwin.  His younger brother wrote, "He was a strong man, physically, with a heart overflowing with kindness, he assisted all who needed help if possible." Lorenzo Snow recorded the burial in a rough board coffin: "We removed his remains to the camp and that evening interred them in the still grave; it was a melancholy day to many of us."

 

The day before Little's death, James M. Tanner (15 months old) died of "inflammation of the brain."  He was the son of Sidney and Louisa Tanner. Sidney was a descendant of Mayflower pilgrims.  Catherine Spencer, wife of Orson Spencer, also died a few miles east at Indian Creek Camp, but her body was taken back to Nauvoo for burial near other family members. Louisa Tanner continued westward with her husband and other children to camp at Winter Quarters (Council Bluffs, Iowa), where she also died and was buried.  The rest of the family eventually made it to the Salt Lake Valley (Utah), where the Mormon pioneers settled. 

 

Brigham Young presided over both funerals on 18 March 1846 with a heavy heart, but the company moved on a day later.  It would take a full 16 weeks to cross Iowa because of mud, rain, and other inclement weather.  Tanner and Little were the first two recorded deaths of many that would occur in those weeks.  

  

​Richardson's Point was home to the pioneers for nearly two unexpected weeks (March 7-19, 1846), since heavy rain kept them bogged down in mud and unable to move forward.  The camp started out relatively small but grew as more wagon trains joined.  Eliza R. Snow, noted Mormon pioneer historian and poet, wrote about the camp: "Our town of yesterday morning has grown to a City."  Well-organized, the camp boasted a working blacksmith shop, postal tent (Willard Richards was the postmaster), and more.  Brigham Young considered the camp to be "very peaceful," although he also commented on the trying conditions.  He stayed in the camp most of the time, often writing back to Nauvoo to help settle affairs or direct the pioneers to quickly leave and come West.  Several babies were born in the camp, including Isabella Benson (daughter of Pamela and Ezra T Benson).  It rained so hard, Pamela's bed had to be raised to keep her out of the rushing groundwater in the tent.  Sarah and Heber C. Kimball also welcomed a baby boy, David, into their family while camped at Richardson's Point.

 

William Pitt's Brass Band played often in the camp, delighting everyone, but they also traveled to Keosauqua several time to play and earn money for the camp.  The townspeople were very anxious to hear the band several times, paying them $25.70 at the end of their first day of concerts, March 10th. Many men traveled around the area, splitting logs for settlers in exchange for corn and other supplies while they waited for the weather to improve.  It became a common endeavor for the pioneers to seek day jobs whenever they camped.  Buildings they helped erect still stand today in various communities across southern Iowa.