19 Mission to St. Louis and

Fort Kearney 1848

                                                           William Warner Major


Jill C. Major, Author

Second Mission

     In November Brigham Young called for missionaries. The first mission calls were extended to Winslow Farr, W. W. Major, and George W. Harris to go to Terra Haute, Indiana.1 In the Spring of 1848 Major went at least as far as St. Louis where he collected funds to aid the 1848 pioneer companies. Elder Nathaniel Felt, President of the St. Louis conference, wrote Willard Richards:

In behalf of the St. Louis Branch, I hereby acknoledge ther receipt of yours [letter] in relation to Bro Major’s mission to this City. We feel grateful for he expressions of kindness from our brethren at Winter Quarters and happy that we have the privilege (in a small degree) of expressing our sense of the responsibility, toil and danger resting upon those of our brethren who went forth upon the ardous duties of traveling the vast unsheltered prairie and mountain fastnesses of a new country to find a place of shelter and peace for a people who desire it is to serve God and keep his commandments...Bro. M’s success was remarkably good at his business at this as well as other places."2


008 St. Louis 

St. Louis, 1855, Frederick Hawkins Piercy, Route from Liverpool to Salt Lake Valley

 Brigham Young University, Special Collections 


Fort Kearney, Nebraska, Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo

On William Warner Major's return from St. Louis, he acquired vital information to the Mormon emigration. During the time the Mormon exiles lived at Winter Quarters they anxiously sought news about the war with Mexico. Five hundred of their young, able-bodied husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers had enlisted to fight. This famous armed force was dubbed the "Mormon Battalion." They marched out in August of 1846. Most of these stalwart men were released from duty by January 1847, even though the war continued on. The problem confronting the pioneers in 1848 was that Mexico claimed the area of the Rocky Mountains where the first Mormon companies had already settled and where thousands more were preparing to enter. Early in 1848 the Chief Clerk of the United States, Nicholas P. Trist, negotiated a treaty at a small village near Mexico City. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which was signed February 2, 1848, ended the almost 2-year clash with Mexico. The pioneers eagerly waited for news of the treaty’s ratification by the United States government. William Warner Major’s assignment was to bring back the facts.

In exchange for $15 million, Mexico ceded what is now California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Arizona to the United States. The Senate added two amendments to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, but finally advised ratification on March 10, 1848.3 As soon as he heard, Major rushed back with the news.   He arrived in Fort Kearney.  (The first Fort Kearney was located on the Missouri River, some fifty miles south of Council Bluffs.  It was abandoned in May 1848.  This is not to be confused with the second Fort Kearney which was in Nebraska, about a 180 west of Council Bluffs on the Mormon Trail.)  Fort Kearney   Major penned a quick letter:

Fort Kearney, March 21, 1848 

To President Brigham Young,

Dear Brother,

I hastily Scratch a few lines to you as I am just arrived on my return to winter Quarters at Fort Kearney and Br. McRae has his horse saddled and waiting. I expect to stay a few days here and to be up by Conference. McRae returns directly and if you have any directions or Commands to send me he can be the Bearer.

The Bill for Peace is before the house or senate and I understand has Passed the upper one and I suppose you know the rest.

Yours Affectionately

W.W. Major5



Return to Winter Quarters

Major joined his family 12 days later, arriving with Orson Hyde in a prairie squall:

Sunday, April 2, 1848 - This day Winter Quarters was visited by a violent wind storm, the severest gale known in camp up to that time. Hyrum Gates shed yard and hay stack took fire. The wind however blowed in a favorable direction or the whole city would have been on fire, as it was, several houses took fire, but it was put out before damage of any consequence had been done. About forty-five Pawnee Indians were encamped begging corn; they were starving. In the evening Elder Orson Hyde and Wm W. Major arrived at Winter Quarters.

Monday, April 3 (1848) - This was a pleasant day at Winter Quarters with a northerly wind blowing. Brigham Young, Orson Hyde, Wilford Woodruff and Willard Richards met in the Historian's office at Winter Quarters with a number of Pawnee Indians, including three chiefs and talked about the conditions of Indians who wanted corn. President Young ordered 50 bushels to be given them which was all they could pack. Elder Wm W Major gave in his report to Dr. Willard Richards.