Preparing for Crossing the Plains

This letter from Willard Richards to some of his family indicates the careful planning done before crossing the plains.

Letter from winter quarters March 24, 1847
Mr. Jacob Peart,
Beloved Brother:

Yours of the 11th inst., was received yesterday and I hasten to answer your enquiries. You ask for any advice or counsel that may come in my heart. I rejoice to hear that Mary is better and that you are all dong well, and I want you should continue to do well and better too and I will proceed to tell you briefly what I have in my heart.

In a few days I start with my brethren, the twelve, and as many more as can get ready, as pioneers, to find a place where a stake of Zion shall be located over the mountains, leaving all of our families at this place with the anticipation of returning here to winter and taking our families over one year hence. A few families may follow us this spring, after grass starts, such as have teams and provisions plenty to last them 1 Ĺ years or from 300 to 500lb. of bread stuff per soul; but few can do this, and none can depend on the leaders of the pioneers. If you can thus fit yourself, you are a liberty to go on this spring, but according to your statement, I think it doubtful, and in that event, I would recommend you to come here is as early as you can and join my boys in making a large field on the riverbank, where there is no turf, and (the soil is) easily tilled, and I want every one of the boys to plant at least 25 acres of corn, and as many beans, pumpkin, squashes, onions, cabbages, turnips, parsnips, carrots, spring rye, buckwheat, barley, oats, etc., as they can, and I think they will be able to live one year without buying, and have a morsel for the old gentleman when he returns from the mountains. All this can be done, and more too, with the blessings of providence.

I think it wisdom for you to come as soon as you can, with a dozen pigs, if you can find a choice breed-- none of your long nose runts, that can cut nothing but the windóbut such as can feed on weeds and grass until the corn grows. . . .

Also bring a bushel of peas, 100 bushels of barley, two or three bushels of choice oats, and as many potatoes as you can get, of the choicest kind, for they are very scarce in this region and worth $100.00. Sage seed if you can, and turnips and millet.

These things I have mentioned and twenty bushels of potatoes-- some of the early kidney if you can find them-- would load one of your teams, and if the other could bring your family and a little bread stuff, just to last you till garden stuff comes on, it would be a rich cargo to you, when you get here. . . .

White beans would be well also, if not to plant, to eat. Should the potatoes do well, they might yield 500 bushels, which would be worth more next fall than a years labor.

When you arrive at the ferry opposite this (place) stop and inquire for my family, or William Kay, who will have charge of them, and learn where my farm is, which will probably be on the east bank; if so, timber will be handy and you can go to work and put in your crops in company with the others; and when in, you can soon put up a comfortable house on the same land, and feel yourself at home till I return, and I will call and see you. It is not probable that my farm will be more than a mile or two from my house, and can visit at your leisure.

The farming company will be organized and the record will be kept of every manís labor, and one will not live on the toils of another if lazy, but justice to all. Donít think you cannot plow, plant, and sow; you can do it as well as preach the gospel or make a wagon hub, and the earlier you get here the better for your crop; and if the lord blesses us with a good season, you shall never need to go to Missouri to work for a bushel of corn again. No. Never! And I will say to your family, as much as you want to get away from Missouri, be patient and united, in faith and works and you shall be blessed.

Come and help make a garden this spring that I may, with your help, eat the fruits thereof, and my heart will bless you. Take good care of Mary [Thompson] till I see you, and you shall be blessed, and she must be good. Yes, but I donít suppose that she is anything but good. I would write her but morn is approaching, and I am exhausted, and she must forgive me this time. God bless you all, and God bless you amen.

My family has been somewhat afflicted of late, but they are better. Our new water mill now running and grinds about twelve bushels per hour. It is a first rate article, and can do the business of two such camps. In the gospel of Jesus, I am yours forever. - - Willard Richards.

(Exodus to Greatness, p. 345-364; Journal History of the Church, 24 Mar 1847)
Also in Richards Family History, Volume 3, p. 119-21