Contact Info
Missouri River Institute
The University of
South Dakota
414 E. Clark Street
Science Center
Vermillion, SD 57069

Financial support for website development provided by the
Living River Group
of the
Sierra Club




Site Description:

About two miles south of the Niobrara-Missouri River confluence is the Mormon monument. It was placed here in honor of a group of Mormons who camped here among the Ponca Indians during the winter of 1846 through 1847 during their westward migration. The group was led by Newel Knight along the Mormon Trail from Nauvoo, Illinois, towards the Salt Lake region of Utah. They were not alone. Many groups of Mormons, large and small, were migrating to escape persecution. They were aware that land along the trail was mostly inhabited by Indians, but had no knowledge of their laws and traditions. The Mormons encountered Pawnee, Ponca, Sioux, and other Indian tribes on their journey. The actual routes taken by each group varied by year and season. Although all had hoped to reach their destination by the end of the year, they found it necessary to establish temporary winter camps along the Missouri River until the following spring when they could resume their journey. The largest group, led by Brigham Young would set up camp near present day Omaha and would be called "Winter Quarters". This was the largest settlement at which 4,000 Mormons spent the winter of 1846 through 1847. The group of 65 families led by Newel Knight had travelled past Brigham Young's Winter Quarters campsite hoping to get as far west as possible before winter set in. They had reached an area that is north of today's Grand Island, Nebraska. Unfortunately they found resources along the trail to be scarce and by late fall of 1846 decided to head north for the winter to set up temporary quarters on the west side of the Niobrara-Missouri River confluence. Sickness spread throughout the camp killing 11 people, including Newel Knight. The monument, in honor of those who died, that winter has been placed on the west side of the Niobrara River one mile west of the town of Niobrara.

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