Taken from “How Shall I Gather”
by William G. Hartley
Numbers of the poor Saints, as they could, had been moving away from the river camps to nearby villages or farms. When easterner Thomas L. Kane visited the poor camps in late September, he found “not more than 640” saints there, languishing in awful conditions. “Almost all of them,” he said, were “crippled victims of disease.” They were unable to take care of their sick, and had no bread to feed their children. “Mothers and babes, daughters and grandparents, all of them alike, were bivouacked in tatters,” and even the sick lacked blankets.
Three days before Captain Allen’s company reached them, Thomas Bullock had counted 17 tents and 8 wagons and thought the people still there were “the poorest of the Saints.” He found “not a tent or Wagon but sickness in it.” Few of the desperate campers knew how they could ever catch up with the main body of the Saints. Captain Allen informed the camps that President Young “said he would [provide] horse teams and ox teams until they had got every man West of the U.S.”
The Lord sent assistance to these poor people on 9 October, when food was in short supply. Quail flocks flew near the camps and flopped onto the ground in the morning and afternoon. Like ancient Israel, modern Israel picked up quail in their hands and soon had as much cooked quail as they wanted to eat. This event is known in Church history as the “miracle of the quail.”
At 3:00 P.M. on the day of the quail miracle, Church trustees working in Nauvoo to sell Church properties brought and gave to the needy Saints shoes, clothing, molasses, salt pork, and salt. To aid the poor Saints, the trustees had solicited funds from towns along the Mississippi River and on one trip raised $100. At 4:30 P.M., Captain Allen started his return trek. He took in two crippled men, Brothers Whitehead and Campbell. He loaded into the wagons those he had been sent to assist and allowed several other families, not on the list, to go along. His return group included 157 people and 28 wagons.