Martin Bushman, Branch President of Highland Grove, Iowa, 31 December 1848

Council Bluffs

Council Bluffs

The Bushman family was forced to leave Nauvoo with just a few hours’ notice. They were ill-prepared for the 500 mile trek to Council Bluffs, Iowa. It was the dreary rainy season and the roads were nearly impassible. Winter came on and the family suffered from hunger and cold. During this trying time, they lost two of their little girls, Elizabeth, age nine, and beautiful dark-eyed Hetty, who was a year old. They died one week apart, from exposure. Their brother, Martin Benjamin later described placing them “in their graves without coffins as there was nothing to be had to make them with, their bodies were lightly wrapped and a few branches of trees laid over their bodies to protect them from the dirt.” [Sketch of the Life of Martin and Elizabeth Bushman, written by their son Martin Benjamin Bushman, found in the back of The Life and Labors of John Bushman by John Bushman, L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. Spelling and punctuation from the original have been retained.]

The family mourned their heartbreaking loss, and continued their journey with the Saints. They stopped in Highland Grove near Council Bluffs, where father Martin built a house of logs covering it with sticks and dirt. Then he went to Missouri to find work and food. Jacob cleared land for a farm and then he and Sarah also went into Missouri to see if they could find work to help the family. Sarah taught school through the winter.

After some time father Martin returned with some corn meal and pork and a few other provisions. The family stayed in Highland Grove four years, raised crops, and saved until they had sufficient provisions to make it the rest of the way to Utah. During these four years Jacob took charge of the farm while his father was away working. By the time he was eighteen years old he went alone to Missouri to work, returning home with his father to begin the last leg of their journey in May 1851. They had one wagon with two yoke of oxen and two yoke of cows hitched to it with enough provisions to last the next five months. They traveled with the Kelsey Company. Martin Benjamin Bushman, later wrote :

They went to council bluff in western Iowa they lived there for four years to get an outfit to come to utah. My Father and older brother went to another state to get work to get some thing for us to eat and clothes us. then I had to get the wood and chop it for to burn also had to feed the cattle. I also had to grind corn on a coffe mill for us to eat I also made traps to ceth quails for help out our meals. It was there that I was paptised also received a Patarcal blessing. at the end of four years we was ready to come to utah our outfit was one wagon four oxin and four cows and provision for four month on the way we see many buffalows and killed some for meet to eat that helped us in our living. We see thousand of indians on that journey of one thousand miles but they did not molest us wich we was thankful for.

We staid one week in Salt lake City then came thirty miles south to lehi then called dry creek. I was then ten years old for the next ten years of my life I stayed with parents helps them build houses make correls and shed and make fenses plow the ground harvest the crops. Also hearded the cows many times bare footed and done many other things in building up a new country. many time was short of clothes and food but we made the best of our lot and was not annoyed by our enemies.
[Biographical Sketch of Martin Benjamin Bushman, written by Martin Benjamin Bushman, found in the back of The Life and Labors of John Bushman by John Bushman, L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. Spelling and punctuation from the original have been retained.]

We can learn more about our ancestor, Martin Bushman and his family members in the information on this website, copied below:

Kaysville Area, Highland Grove, IA

Highland Grove


Highland Grove is located in Pottawattamie County, Iowa, 2 miles from the Keg Creek settlement (1) and eight to ten miles south of Kanesville. (2) There is another Highland Grove located in Jones County in western Iowa which should not to be confused with the Mormon Pioneer settlement in Pottawattamie. (3)


The initial settlement of Highland Grove began as early as 1846 and remained a Mormon settlement until about 1852. (4) One source reports that William Cazier was the presiding elder of the branch around 1846, and “about 10-12 families lived there and they had regular Sabbath and evening meetings.” (5) As of December 31st, 1848 Martin Bushman was the Branch President of Highland Grove. (6) In 1851 James Fisher became the bishop of Highland Grove and remained so until 1852 when he headed west to Utah. (7) There are records of Mormons leaving the area for Utah as early as 1847, and as late as 1852. (8)

Early institutions like church quickly arose for the benefit of the population and the settlers even established a school “where children were given the rudiments of an education.” (9)

Some of the families listed have written their experiences about Highland Grove and include details about living within or contributing to its settlement. One such family was the Thomas Mantle family who resided there for five years, farming and living in a log hut. (10) Another resident of the area was the Charles Sperry family who mentions that they “had hired a man to build us a house” and shares that there were dances held “in the houses nearby” which gave the settlers a positive release from their day to day struggles. (11)

Life was difficult and trying for many of the settlers in Highland Grove. Charles Sperry speaks of various illnesses in the family, and although they may not have contracted those illnesses in the settlement, they were recovering while living there and some passed away. (12) Another story of hardship comes from Sarah Ann Bushman ( Rhodes). She taught school in Highland Grove from 1850-1851, and worked in Missouri during the summer of 1850 in order to alleviate some of the financial burdens of her family. (13) Her brother, Martin, described the family’s life as one of hard ship, and that they “suffered for want of proper food and clothing”. Some family members had to go “into the neighboring state to get work so they could git [sic] food and clothing for the family.” (14) The family’s father, Martin, had to travel over 100 miles into Missouri in order to earn wages by splitting rails. (15) Martin Benjamin, the son of Martin Bushman, wrote concerning his father’s diligence in providing for his family stating,

Here again the Husband tried to make wife and children comfortable, he built them a house of logs and covered it as best he could with sticks and dirt,   He then went into the state of Missouri and labored to procure them something to eat, after working for some time he received [sic] for his pay some corn meal and pork and a few other little things, he then returned to his Family with a Joyful heart that he had procured something to eat for them.  He then took up some land and raised some crops, he stayed there four years and was prospered so he had sufficient to bring him to Utah, in May 1851 he started on that journey[.] (16)

Another, temporary, resident of the settlement was William Whitehead Taylor. Originally from England, Taylor eventually settled in Highland Grove with the Stott family. In this excerpt he shares his struggles revealing that,

We worked hard, but the man for whom we did most of the work was very unfortunate. We lived a long distance from Kanesville, and at one time got out of stuffs. I went and tried to borrow a little flour or cornmeal; I did not get it, but found a man sitting astride a bench, grating corn on a home-made grater; he let me have the grater and some ears of corn, saying I could take them and do as he was doing. I never ate better mush than was made from that corn. I had no bed to lie on, and did not have my clothing off for twelve weeks. (17)

The occasional visitor to the town was announced in the newspaper, The Frontier Guardian, and was generally some church official. A scheduled visit to Highland Grove from the Traveling Elders was set for the 6 th of August 1849 and afterwards they would continue on to visit other settlements near Council Bluffs.(18) Also, Elder Benson scheduled a visit to the community at six o’clock in the evening on Monday, December 8, 1851. The announcement in The Frontier Guardian did not state the purpose of his visit (19).


Several families had children within their short stay at Highland Grove and the names, birth dates, and parents of these children are as follows: Sarah Jane Mantle, 7 March 1848, to Llewellyn and Catherine Watkins Mantle (20); Mary Matilda Watkins, 8 July 1849 to Robert James and Mary Smallman Watkins (21); Elias Albert Bushman, 6 December 1849, to Martin and Elizabeth Degen Bushman (22).


While there is no record of a Highland Grove cemetery, the deaths near or within the settlement included:

Aaron Sperry, 15 December 1846 (23)

Joy Sperry, 1 January 1847 (24)

Frontier Guardian Representative

The Frontier Guardian and Iowa Sentinel representative for the area was Hiram Hoyt. (25)

Iowa-Nebraska 1846 Map


      1. Emigrants Guide and Directory as found in Kanesville Conditions, Myrtle Stevens Hyde compiler (Ogden, UT: 1997), 113.
      2. Edwin Stott, “A Sketch of my Life”, Utah Historical Quarterly, July/October 1941, vol. 9, no. 3-4, 184-185.
      4. Martin Benjamin Bushman, Thomas Mantle, Charles Sperry.
      5. Derryfield N. Smith ed. John Bushman: Utah-Arizona Pioneer 1843-1926. (Provo, UT: John Bushman Family Association, 1975), 7.
      6. Richard E. Bennett. Mormons at the Missouri, 1846-1852: “And Should we Die…” (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987), 218.
      7. Orson F. Whitney, History of Utah, vol. 4, (Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon and Sons, Co, 1904), 438.
      8. Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, 1847-1868
      9. Derryfield N. Smith ed. John Bushman: Utah-Arizona Pioneer 1843-1926. (Provo, UT: John Bushman Family Association, 1975), 8.
      10. “From Wales to Presting, England; Nauvoo, Illinois; Highland Grove, Iowa to Slat Lake City and Taylorsville, Utah, as Mormon Pioneers: The story of the Mantle and Watkins family”,
      11. Kate B. Carter, ed. Our PioneerHeritage, “Charles Sperry”, Salt Lake City: International Society, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958-1977.
      12. Ibid.
      13. Newbern I. Butt, “Bushman Family History”, compiled for the Bushman Family History Committee, The Bushman Family, Originally of Pennsylvania and the Rocky Mountain States, Provo, UT 1956, p.54,
      14. Martin Benjamin Bushman, “A Short Biographical Sketch of Sarah Ann Bushman (Mrs. Alonzo D. Rhodes) (1833-1917)”, originally located in the Temple Record Book of his father, Jacob Bushman, 1916, pp. 6-10, electronic transcript by Ann Laemmlen Lewis, May 2007
      15. Derryfield N. Smith ed. John Bushman: Utah-Arizona Pioneer 1843-1926. (Provo, UT: John Bushman Family Association, 1975), 8.
      16. Esshom, Frank (Frank Ellwood), “Sketch of the Life of Martin and Elizabeth Bushman”, Pioneers and Prominent Men of Utah ( Salt Lake City : Western Epics Inc.), 1966.
      17. Orson F. Whitney, History of Utah, vol. 4 (Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon and Sons, 1904), 424.
      18. Frontier Guardian, 8 August 1849 as found in Kanesville Conditions, 25.
      19. Frontier Guardian, 28 November 1851 as found in Kanesville Conditions, 90.
      20., search “Sarah Jane Mantle”.
      21., search “Mary Matilda Watkins”.
      22., search “Elias Albert Bushman”. Or of Martin Bushman and Elizabeth Degen(Based upon Bushman Family History,** compiled 1956 by Newbern I. Butt for the Bushman Family History Committee, pp. 12-15). Additions by second great grandson Elden L. Stewart. (Written by Elden L. Stewart; retyped and submitted by Ella Mae [Turley] Judd.) **The full name and particulars of the book: The Bushman Family: Originally of Pennsylvania and the Rocky Mountain States by Newbern Butt, main author. Its Family History Library call number is 929.273 B964bn. It is located in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building Family History Book Section. It is also on microfilm, FHL 896926, item 5. (In the main library located in the FHL US/CAN Film section.)
      23. Kate B. Carter, ed. Our Pioneer Heritage, “Charles Sperry”, Salt Lake City: International Society, Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958-1977.
      24. Ibid.
      25. Frontier Guardian, 2 October 1850, 27 June 1851, 9 January 1852, and 18 June 1852 as found in Kanesville Conditions, 58.                                                                                                                                         Council Bluffs timeline

About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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