After the death of Joseph Smith in June 1844, it became clear that the Latter-day Saints would leave Illinois. The majority of Nauvoo Saints went west with the apostles, and they needed assistance in dealing with the those who required food and shelter. In the lay-over region called Winter Quarters (near present day Omaha, Nebraska) the need was great enough in 1846 that small wards of roughly 500 persons were created with a bishop for each. As Utah was established a similar pattern developed but the office became richer yet. Church leaders found a need for not only a Presiding Bishop (Whitney was appointed in 1847 and served without counselors until his death in 1850) but for “traveling bishops,” stake bishops, general bishops, regional bishops and lieutenant bishops (not really) who moved among the Mormon communities, regulating the work of other bishops in those communities and collecting donations-in-kind for redistribution.
Edward Hunter succeeded Whitney: