MILTON — The Mormon Trail was traveled by thousands of pioneers who were searching for a new religious center in the mid-1800s. Part of the trail went through southern Iowa, and the pioneers established an encampment, Richardson’s Point, close to Milton that still can be seen today thanks to preservation efforts by Brad Klodt, who owns the land, and the Iowa Mormon Trails Association.
On Saturday, Richardson’s Point was dedicated as a historic site by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Guests were treated to music, refreshments, a history lesson of the site and plenty of prayer.
“We are grateful today for all that has been done,” said Michael Gailey, who gave the welcoming at the dedication. “Thanks go to the Klodt family for keeping this beautiful land beautiful.”
At the site there are two graves where the first two pioneers who died on the trail were buried. Edwin Little, the nephew of the Mormon Church leader Brigham Young, and James Tanner, who was 15 months old at the time of his passing, were the first of approximately 6,000 Mormon pioneers to perish while traversing the trail from 1846-69.
“The reason we are here is to remember and memorialize the first two people who died on the Mormon Trail,” historian Susan Easton Black Durrant said.
Starting on Feb. 4, 1846, Mormons led by Young left their headquarter city, Nauvoo, Ill., because of rising conflicts with non-Mormons living nearby. They went west, moving through southern Iowa, and set up encampments along their path.
Richardson’s Point was settled just outside of Milton on March 7, 1846, because Young felt the weather was too bad to continue, and the pioneers needed another stopping point along the trail. According to Durrant, the pioneers only stayed at Richardson’s Point for 10 days, but in that time they established a post office and there were several babies born.