Zion’s Camp – Water Miraculously Provided
Oliver B. Huntington and Zera Cole
[In the winter of 1890 Huntington “sat with paper and pencil” and took notes as he listened to Zera Cole give the following account from the march of Zion’s Camp:] One hot day in June , after an unusually long, hard day’s travel, over a rolling prairies, without sufficient water laid in for the men and no water encountered for the teams, they made camp on a prairie, the end of which it was impossible to reach or even see.
After tents were pitched and the teams turned out a strong guard had to be placed to keep the animals. Men were very quietly complaining of the location, the lack of wood, and no water to cook with, even if they had plenty of wood. Some teams were about “give-out” and a thousand other little troubles acted out if not spoken of.
The Prophet sat in his tent door watching and listening to all that could be seen or heard. At last he quietly asked for a spade. There was no noise, no bustle, no show of greatness or power about this man who had seen the Creator of heaven and earth and had received from Him at different times unmeasured power only in keeping with circumstances, and as the spade was handed him he measured the extent of the camp with his eye and in the most convenient place for all he commenced to dig in the earth. There was no rock to split open, as with Moses of old, or he could have done that more easily or quickly. But he quietly dug a well only a few feet deep and then left it.
Presently the water began to come in, and it kept rising in the well until the mules and horses came and drank therefrom, as the water was no near the surface. The Prophet went and sat in the door of his tent and witnessed the joy of all, even of the animals, as they quenched their thirst in this God-given supply. There was no wonder or proclamation over the matter, as Brother Cole stated it, and perhaps not a dozen in the camp witnessed it as he, Brother Cole, witnessed it, and he looked upon it as one of the greatest miracles ever performed by man as an instrument in the hands of the Great Creator. 1
William F. Cahoon (a Recollection)
This [Zion’s] camp marched through a population of tens of thousands of people like lambs among wolves, but no man among them opened his mouth to say, “Why do you do so?” On we marched singing our favorite song, “Hark listen to the Trumpeters.”
[As told by William F. and Father Cole]. While traveling across the vast prairie, treeless and waterless, they camped at night after a long and wearisome day’s march. They had been without water since early morning, and men and animals suffered greatly from thirst, for it had been one of the hottest days of June. Joseph sat at his tent looking out upon the scene. All at once he called for a spade. When it was brought, he looked about him and selected a spot, the most convenient in the camp for men and teams to get water. Then he dug a shallow well, and immediately the water came bubbling up into it and filled it, so that the horses and mules could stand and drink from it. While the camp stayed there, the well remained full, despite the fact that about two hundred men and scores of horses and mules were supplied from it.
[This incident was related to Elder O. B. Huntington by William F. Cahoon. It was also told to Elder Huntington by Father Zera Cole while Elder Huntington and Father Cole were working for the dead in the Logan Temple. Zera Cole was with the camp of Zion and when it went to Missouri in 1834, William F.’s brother-in-law, Harvey Stanley, also went with them. The autobiography continues:]
We journeyed, pitching our tents by the way, and arrived in Missouri in the latter part of June. We then numbered two hundred and five. A council was held to determine what steps to take when the word of the Lord came to the Prophet Joseph saying the time had not come to “take the sword in hand to redeem Zion.” 2
- Oliver B. Huntington, “An Incident in Zion’s Camp,” Juvenile Instructor 37, no. 1 (1 January 1902): 20-21. See also Oliver B. Huntington, “History of the Life of Oliver B. Huntington, Written by Himself 1878-1990,” typescript copy, BYU Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Provo, Utah, 23, 34; “William Cahoon, Autobiography,” in Stella Shurtleff and Brent Farrington Cahoon, eds. Reynolds Cahoon and His Stalwart Sons (Salt Lake City, Utah: Paragon Press, 1960), 81-82.
- “William Cahoon Autobiography,” in Stella Shurtleff and Brent Farrington Cahoon, eds., Reynolds Cahoon and His Stalwart Sons (Salt Lake City, Utah: Paragon Press, 1960), 81- 82; see also: Mark McConkie, Remembering Joseph, Deseret Book, 2003, p. 128.