Fort Kearny

Distance: 469 miles from Nauvoo

Established in June 1848 near Grand Island, Fort Kearny was the second fort named after Stephen Watts Kearny, the U.S. general of Mexican War fame. The first Fort Kearny, established in May 1846, was located on the Missouri River, some 50 miles south of Council Bluffs. It was abandoned in May 1848.

The second Fort Kearny, sometimes called New Fort Kearny, was built on a site purchased from the Pawnee Indians for $2,000 in goods. Sometimes the second Fort Kearny was also referred to as Fort Childs, in honor of Major Thomas Childs of the U.S. artillery. It was abandoned in May 1871.

Journal Entries

Wilford Woodruff

July 13, 1850

“It took us several hours to gather our cattle. We started about 10 o'clock and traveled 12 miles and camped with both divisions in one corral for the Sabbath, on the banks of the Platte 10 miles east of Fort Kearney.”

July 15, 1850

"I visited the fort. During the evening we were visited with a terrible thunder storm. The lightning struck all around us and while the teams were crossing a slough the lightning burst into their midst and shocked many persons and beast[s] and killed three oxen and one man dead. It was Bro. Ridge from Lane[s] End, Staffordshire, England, that was killed and his team. He was buried in the evening. He belonged to Elder Whipple’s 50" (Wilford Woodruff's Journals, 1833–1898, typescript, ed. Scott G. Kenney, 9 vols. [1993], 3:561; spelling and punctuation modernized).

Eliza R. Snow

Summer 1847

Journal Entry: Fort Kearny

"As we journeyed, mothers gave birth to offspring under almost every variety of circumstances; except those to which they had been accustomed—in tents and wagons—in rainstorms and in snow storms.

"Let it be remembered that the mothers referred to, were not savages, accustomed to roam the forest and brave the storm and tempest—those who had never known the comforts and delicacies of civilization and refinement. They were not those who, in the wilds of nature, nursed their offspring amid reeds and rushes, or in the obscure recesses of rocky caverns. Most of them were born and educated in the Eastern States—[had these] embraced the Gospel as taught by Jesus and His Apostles, and for its sake had gathered with the Saints; and under trying circumstances, assisted by their faith, energies and patience, [in making] Nauvoo what its name indicates, 'The beautiful.'

There they had lovely homes—decorated with flowers, and enriched with choice fruit trees, just beginning to yield plentifully. To these homes, without lease or sale, they had bid a final adieu, and, with what little of their substance could be packed into one, two, and perhaps in a few instances, three wagons, had started out desert-ward, for where? To this question, the only response at that time was,God knows" (The Personal Writings of Eliza Roxcy Snow, ed. Maureen Ursenbach Beecher [1995], 18, 19).