Poncas and Mormons, 1846-47
Wagons snaked across the prairie,
struggling through mud and grime.
Religious persecution forced the Mormons
to leave Nauvoo on the Mississippi River
at a most inhospitable, wintery time.
The pioneers travelled to the Missouri River.
An advance party left Council Bluffs
and headed hopefully West.
A hundred miles later instructions were given
for them to halt for a winter’s rest.
Where to stop for the cold season
was the question of the day.
Warring tribes in the region
made it difficult to decide
where the refugees could safely stay.
Along came eight Ponca chieftains
seeking peace from neighboring tribes.
After observing the pioneer’s plight,
they invited the travelers to their homeland,
willing to help in their freedom flight.
The pioneers turned their wagons northward,
followed the Poncas home.
Eleven days later they arrived at the junction
of the Missouri and Niobrara Rivers
and found they were not alone.
Poncas of all ages and sizes
rushed out to see the wondrous sight.
Never had they seen so many white people!
Their enthusiastic greeting
caused the pioneers quite a fright.
The next day Poncas and Mormons
met and feasted together.
Poncas performed a vigorous dance
Agreements were concluded
that gave friendship a chance.
Suddenly happiness turned to mourning.
The vacated village was under attack!
Death claimed Black Warrior.
Wails pierced the autumn air again when
Chief Two Bulls died shortly after him.
Meanwhile the pioneers constructed a fort,
cut hay to feed their stock.
The Poncas left on their winter hunt
while Newel Knight chiseled a millstone
obtained from local rock.
Joseph Holbrook, William Matthews and James Emmett
left camp to find another way West.
They followed the Niobrara River
only to find that roaming bison herds
had eaten all the grass.
Days were growing colder.
Snowflakes fell from the sky.
The day after Christmas,
smoke billowed above the prairie,
a fire was burning close by.
Whilst the young folks were dancing
an alarm rent the air.
Fire! Save our homes! Save our children!
Move the ammunition!
Confusion reigned everywhere.
The fire finally moved on,
leaving the fort intact.
But it took a terrible toll
on food for the livestock,
the men and women who’d fought back.
The Poncas and William Staines
arrived in camp after hunting winter game.
New Ponca Camp leadership
was instructed to backtrack in the spring,
to return to Council Bluffs again.
The Poncas helped the Mormons,
were friendly during a difficult time.
May their names and their children’s names
be remembered, respected, honored,
now and throughout all time.
We are thankful for the many
blessings our family has received this year. We are grateful a Savior was born to show us the way to live so that we can have
the opportunity to return someday to live in a heavenly home
with our beloved family and friends. We wish you a Merry
Christmas & a Happy New Year!