Across the street from the Mormon Pioneer Cemetery at Winter Quarters, Nebraska, stands the newly completed Mormon Trail Center. Within its walls is told the tale of the Saints’ journey from the temple city of Nauvoo, Illinois, to the temple city of Salt Lake City, Utah. Featured is the poignant story of Winter Quarters, built on the western bank of the Missouri River and west of its sister settlements in Iowa. The Saints, who began to leave Nauvoo in February 1846, made an arduous, mud-laden 330-mile trek across Iowa. They developed Winter Quarters during the fall of 1846 and throughout 1847. From there, in April 1847 President Brigham Young led an advance, exploratory party west, setting the course for the migration to the Salt Lake Valley. He later returned to Winter Quarters for the 1847–48 winter season.
The story of the Saints’ suffering and death from cold and illness during their first winter in Nebraska (1846–47) is usually all that is known about this one-time headquarters of the Church. The Mormon Trail Center uses art, artifacts, maps, and video and sound clips to tell a much more complete story of the Saints on the Missouri River between 1846 and 1852. Since little remains today of the city of Winter Quarters except the cemetery, a detailed model of the city is of special interest.