Sanctuary on the Mississippi: St. Louis as a Way Station for Mormon Emigration


LDS, Mormons, Pre-civil war America, St. Louis


When people study Mormon interactions with the State of Missouri, they often encounter only negative information—the expulsion of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints (Mormons) from the Independence area and Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs’ 1838 “extermination” order that forced thousands of Mormons to flee from northwest Missouri to Illinois for safety. But there is another aspect of the story, one that is documented on a commemorative marker on the side of the Missouri Athletic Club in downtown St. Louis.1 It is a story that includes a welcoming attitude toward Mormon emigrants and a safe haven for the thousands who used St. Louis as a way station on the trail to Utah. A few of the Mormon emigrant families who resided in nineteenth-century St. Louis included the Udalls, Romneys, Marriotts, and others whose descendants later played significant roles in the history of the United States.

St. Louis was first introduced to Mormons in 1831 when church leaders passed through the city on their way to Jackson County in western Missouri. Upon arrival, church founder and president Joseph Smith, Jr., received a revelation that Independence, Missouri, was to be the center place of Zion, a Latter-day Saint gathering place, a “New Jerusalem.” Members of the church from the eastern states migrated west to populate the new community.

Original Publication Citation

Tom L. Farmer and Fred E. Woods, “Sanctuary on the Mississippi: St. Louis as a Way Station for Mormon Emigration,” vol. 9, no. 2 Confluence: Lindenwood University Press (Spring/Summer 2018): 42-55

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date







Religious Education


Church History and Doctrine

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor