Orson Hyde was born 8 January 1805 in Connecticut. After the death of his mother, while his father was away fighting in the War of 1812, he was raised by neighbors, who took him to Ohio where he came under the influence of Sydney Rigdon. In 1831 he joined the LDS Church. After filling several Mormon missions and participating in Zions Camp, at age thirty he was ordained an apostle. He crossed the Atlantic in 1837 with Heber C. Kimball to start the LDS British Mission, which later produced many Utah immigrants. He is best remembered for his solo mission to Jerusalem in 1841, where he dedicated the land of Palestine for the return of the Jews. This was the longest and perhaps the most dangerous mission performed by an early church elder. There is a popular myth that Orson Hyde was of Jewish ancestry, but careful investigation has uncovered no evidence this is true.
Hyde's first major contribution to Utah's settlement began with his appointment to head the Mormon colony at Winter Quarters (Iowa/Nebraska) from 1847 to 1852. In this capacity he served as mayor and probate judge of this frontier town with a population at times in excess of 16,000. His chief effort was in organizing and sending immigrant trains to Utah. He also left his mark on this early settlement with his three-year editorship of his newspaper, the Frontier Guardian. He himself led two large pioneer wagon companies across the plains to Utah in 1850 and 1852. This last event was when he closed Winter Quarters and brought along all who were willing to travel, including his own families.