Building Faith Through Church History

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Season 2 Episode 34 Drought and Famine 1855-56


The story of the hardships that befell the saints in Utah in 1855


The winter of 1854-55 was mild with little snowfall. The spring of ’55 was also dry. Locusts decimated what crops did come up in the summer of 1855. Forest fires swept the Great Basin in the fall of 1855. Many cattle were lost in the winter of 1855-56 because of the lack of feed and the harshness of the winter. By the spring of 1856 the Saints were in a famine. They survived by rationing, grubbing for roots, and fishing in Utah Lake. Fast days became a serious matter to get enough food for the poor. While survival off the land was so critical, government land surveys and ownership became an issue in the Great Basin that would spread to Washington D.C. and help bring on the Utah War. The harvest of 1856 eased the pressure for food. These harsh events led to such things as the handcart emigration system, the Mormon Reformation of 1856, and the Utah War.


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