"Florence," The Mormon, 13 Sep. 1856, 2.
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THE above name has, of late, become as familiar as household words to the ears of the Saints, and it is known through the medium of our columns, and through the correspondence of the brethren, to thousands in Utah; in many parts of the United States and in Europe, as the great starting place or city of debarkation of the Mormons and others to Salt Lake City, California, Oregon, and Washington.
As Florence is intimately associated with our emigration operations, a short account of its location may not be uninteresting to our readers.
Florence is situated on the west bank of the Missouri River, precisely at the point where the Utah and California road, that goes on the north side of the Platte River, intersects the Missouri River. It was known formerly as the "Winter Quarters" of the Mormons at the time of their departure from Nauvoo, and while en route for Deseret; and was chosen by us at that time as the most eligible place for building a city, which we did lay out that winter, erecting some thousand houses, barns, mills, blacksmith shops, stores, and other buildings, which were subsequently burnt by the Indians.
When, this last year, it was deemed prudent to alter the course of our emigration, President Young called upon us to examine carefully this northern route, with a view to our emigration passing by the way of New York, Chicago, and the northern side of the Platte, and to adopt that which we considered the best; we forthwith appointed Elder McGaw and Bishop A. Cunningham, both gentlemen of experience and fully competent to proceed forthwith to the route in question, and to examine up and down the river, as well as the various routes between there and Iowa City. The result of their examination, and their report to us, was, as we anticipated, "that the city of Florence was the best and most eligibly situated of any other place that they knew of on the Missouri River: that it was the most direct route, had the best steamboat ferry landing and accommodations; that it was on the old beaten path; that there was every accommodation of ferries on the Horn and Loup Fork Rivers; that its proprietors were gentlemanly, courteous, and accommodating; and that upon the whole it formed the best place as a starting point for our emigration." The route was also examined between there and Iowa City by Bro. Cunningham, who reported that he had selected a place for a camp ground near Iowa City.
On the reception of this report we immediately entered into communication with the proprietors of the city in relation to ferry, camp ground, and lots for church, emigration, and other purposes and were met by the proprietors in a spirit of liberality and courtesy, which we always know how to appreciate, and which, added to the natural advantages of the place, decided us in making this the place of outfit for our emigration.
Florence is situated on a gently undulating plateau, as before stated, on the western side of the Missouri River, sufficiently elevated to be entirely free from any inundations. The Steamboat Landing is also excellent, and as the river, in this place, runs over a solid strata of rock which underlays the city, it secures the landing from those terrible river encroachments, which are so prevalent on the Missouri; frequently removing acres on its banks, destroying forests, cities, and villages in the wayward and turbulent course; and which has destroyed so much valuable property, in the city of St. Joseph, St. Francois, or Point au Poole, and others places that we have noticed. This rock stratum is rather a singular feature in that district of country, and as we passed through, on our way East, the proprietors drew our attention to it, well knowing the alluvial, rich, friable nature of the soil in all that district of country, we could scarce believe their statement. In order, however, to convince us, they took us to the place, and there with an iron rod a few feet below the surface on the river edge and at the bottom of the water, on the river, we heard distinctly the ring of the iron on the rock bottom. In conversing with several railroad directors on this subject, who have been desirous to obtain our views about those parts, we have mentioned this circumstance, which seemed to be a matter of no small importance with them.
We are glad to be informed that the survey of the Pacific Railroad goes directly to this point. This we felt satisfied would be the case, from a personal knowledge of the country, and therefore predicted some time ago, in an article on the Pacific Road, that they would have to follow the Mormon Trail. Thus being situated at the junction of the great Missouri River and the great Pacific Railroad, Florence from its natural position is destined to be one of the greatest cities of the west, and we have often been surprised that our keen enterprising Eastern and Western men, in search of locations for store keeping, mills and other facilities, have not been more attracted with its position and advantages. The city, however, we are informed has made great progress in the last year, and lots and property doubled in value. We are intended also that from one hundred to one hundred and fifty houses are going up this fall together with mills, stores and other improvements.
For a place to obtain labor we think it would be as good for our brethren, who moving west, as any that we know of, where cities are building and improvements going on there is always a good field for labor, and a fair remuneration.
We have spun out this article longer than we anticipated; but we could not do justice either to the natural advantages of the place, the go-a-head-a-ctiveness of the people or the gentlemanly and courteous manner in which we have been treated by the proprietors, and any less. It is our candid opinion, that as a depot for the fitting out of the Saints, or as the site of a great commercial city, it cannot be excelled on the Upper Missouri.