In May 1853, William W. Belknap, who would later serve as a major general in the Civil War and as secretary of war to President Grant, wrote to his sister, Clara, about the Mormon emigrants who were outfitting in Keokuk, Iowa, that spring and summer: "Yesterday was Sunday and I wish you had been here to go up to the Mormon Camp with me. They had preaching at three stands in three languages--English, German, and Danish. They sing --especially the Danes--very sincerely and are perfectly enthusiastic. It is a strange, strange mystery and if you were here you'd be astonished. There are nearly 3500 here now and "still they come" by every boat and some of them are genteel and many of the girls very pretty... The Mormons are mainly honest, earnest and sincere." Keokuk residents such as Bleknap may have considered the Mormon emigrants who made Keokuk their outfitting post in 1853 as curiosities, but the young town garnered lasting benefits from the emigrants' temporary presence. The Mormons, for their part, found the Keokuk offered an adequate temporary solution to their search for an outfitting point for the faithful saints, especially those from abroad, who were being called to gather in the Salt Lake Valley.

Original Publication Citation

Fred E. Woods and Doug Atterberg, "The 1853 Mormon Migration Through Keokuk," Mormon Historical Studies 4, no. 2 (Fall 2003): 25-42, reprinted from the Annals of Iowa, 61, no. 1, (Winter 2002): 1-23.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL



Mormon Historical Studies




Religious Education


Church History and Doctrine