Chapter Seven: Iowa City to Florence
“We…Started for Council Bluffs with Hand Carts”
Ye saints who dwell on Europe’s shore,
Prepare yourselves for many more
To leave behind your native land,
For sure God’s judgments are at hand.
For you must cross the raging main
Before the promised land you gain,
And with the faithful make a start
To cross the plains with your handcart.
(chorus) For some must push and some must pull
As we go marching up the hill;
So merrily on the way we go
Until we reach the Valley-o!
As on the roads the carts were pull’d,
‘Twould very much surprise the world
To see the old and feeble dame
Thus lend a hand to pull the same!
And maidens fair will dance and sing,
Young men more happy than a king,
And children too will laugh and play;
Their strength increasing day by day.
And long before the valley’s gained,
We will be met upon the plains
With music sweet and friends so dear
And fresh supplies our hearts to cheer.
And then with music and with song
How cheerfully we’ll march along
And thank the day we made a start
To the plains with our handcart.
“The Handcart Song” written by J.D.T. McAllister (Hafen and Hafen)
Isaac traveled the Mormon Trail with the Martin Handcart Company of 1856. For some reason his name is not on the official roster sent to Salt Lake City of those traveling with the handcart company. (See Deseret News, CH) However he was a part of the company. (Wardle, Isaac) He is included in the official roster for the Ship Horizon. (BYU Harold B. Lee Library)
The Mormon Trail, known to immigrants as “the road” or “the emigrant road” started north of the Platt River, and stayed north until crossing the river near Fort Laramie. For the handcart company, because of the decision to take the northern route, (instead of through New Orleans, and steam boat up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers as the previous year) the road would start at Iowa City, 300 miles before the Missouri River, with a trek across half the state of Iowa. Frederick Piercy described Iowa, “The surface of Iowa is generally composed of rolling prairies, having nothing within its limits which approaches a mountain in elevation.” (Piercy p 78) The Oregon and California Trails, which started south of the Platte, stayed south. At Fort Laramie the trails merged. They would stay together until they separated near Fort Bridger with the Mormon Trail going to Salt Lake City and the others to Fort Hall and then on to Oregon or California:
Emigrants who left from Missouri stayed south of the Platte River, on the Oregon Trail through Nebraska, while those starting from Council Bluffs, Iowa, remained north of the river. The South Platte route was the main trail for those going to Oregon and California. Brigham Young and his followers mostly used the North Platte route, so it became known as the Mormon Trail. The two trails merged near Fort Laramie… Farther west the trails separated again. The main route to Oregon veered north, while the Mormon Trail… continued southwest… (Kimball)
The Platte River is an interesting river, very shallow and wide. It was described by pioneers as “a mile wide and six inches deep, too thick to drink, too thin to plow, hard to cross because of quicksand, impossible to navigate, too yellow to wash in, and too pale to paint with." (DUP)
The river also contributed to disease. Keith Meldahl, geologist, wrote of the California trail, talking of the hardships, deaths on the trail, and the contribution of the rivers to disease:
In addition to timing, preparation, planning, and pluck, a successful overland journey took some luck, and many people did not bring enough. Roughly 20,000 (15,000-30,000 in the notes) died on the overland trails to California between 1842 and 1859—an average of 10 graves per mile. They died mostly of disease, particularly cholera from contaminated water along the Platte and North Platte rivers. Poor sanitation and the burial of infected bodies near watercourses helped spread the disease. Cholera worked quickly, killing by dehydration. Accounts tell of people waking at dawn feeling fine and lying dead by sundown. They also died of dysentery, tuberculosis, smallpox, mumps, pneumonia, and “mountain fever:” (probably a tick related disease). About twice as many emigrants fell from disease as died from all other causes of death combined. But even if you escaped disease, there were plenty of ways to die on the road west, including accidental gunshot, trampling or kicking by animals, and being crushed under wagon wheels. Many drowned on river crossings. The Platte, North Platte, and Green rivers claimed the most victims, but some even drowned on smaller rivers like the Humboldt. Some were killed by Indians. Others were shot, stabbed, or bludgeoned to death in fights with other emigrants.
…Emigrants had a saying for intense hardship. They called it “seeing the elephant.” Almost everyone saw the elephant somewhere along the overland trail—perhaps in the Black Hills (the foothills of the Laramie Range), or on the Sublette Cutoff, or the rough ridges of the Overthrust Belt. (Meldahl, pp 14-16)
Howard Driggs, pioneer historian echoed these sentiments:
Death took its heavy toll during these crowded years. Thousands of men, women and children, unable to endure the strain, or seized with some dread scourge like the cholera, went into their graves all along the painful way. Most of their resting places are unmarked, for the simple reason that there were few lasting materials on the prairie lands with which to erect enduring monuments, and precious little time while the trains were in the mountain lands to carve lasting inscriptions on any stone that might be set at a grave.
…Education of a lasting kind was gained through this frontier experience. The pioneer trail tested the mettle of every one, young or old, that dared to follow it. It brought out the best and the worst in human nature. Weaklings usually went down; wickedness was generally brought to swift and certain punishment. Only strength of body and of character stood the test and came through strengthened and trained for the conquest that lay ahead. (Driggs pp 34-35)
Besides the differences in the trail of the Mormon travelers, and those traveling to California or Oregon, there were also differences in the make-up of the companies:
Most Mormon companies were larger than those of their contemporaries on the Oregon or California Trail… More than half [of the Mormon companies] numbered from two to four hundred; only eight were smaller than one hundred; and seventeen exceeded five hundred. These companies included far more women, children and old people than did those on their way to the goldfields. Their numbers lacked the toughness of American farmer or country craftsmen; and they reached the Missouri, not direct from work in their own homes, but after a long journey by ship, steamboat and train, with little opportunity for taking hardening exercise. Coming, as most of them did, from British towns, they were far less familiar with oxen, wagons, firearms, and all the routine of open-air life… Finally, it was not enough for their leaders to ensure their physical survival: they had to bring them to Utah as effective and loyal members of what was both a pioneer community and a Church. (Taylor, P.A.M. p 219)
The handcart pioneers were typical of this description. They had been worn down by months of travel to reach Iowa. There were older members, younger members, pregnant women and babes in arms. Wallace Stegner offered this description of the handcart pioneers:
In all its history, the American West never saw a more unlikely band of pioneers than the four hundred-odd who were camped on the bank of the Iowa River at Iowa City in early June, 1856. They were not colorful—only improbable. Looking for the brown and resolute and weather-seasoned among them, you would have seen instead starved cheeks, pale skins, bad teeth, thin chests, all the stigmata of unhealthy work and inadequate diet. There were more women than men, more children under fifteen than either. One in every ten was past fifty, the oldest a woman of seventy-eight; there were widows and widowers with six or seven children. They looked more like the population of the poor farm on a picnic than like pioneers about to cross the plains.
Most of them, until they were herded from the crowded immigrant ship and loaded into the cars and rushed to the end of the Rock Island Line and dumped here at the brink of the West, had never pitched a tent, slept on the ground, cooked outdoors, built a campfire. They had not even the rudimentary skills that make frontiersmen. But as it turned out, they had some of the stuff that makes heroes.
Mainly Englishmen from the depressed collieries and mill towns… they were the casualties of the industrial revolution, life’s discards, to whom Mormonism had brought its irresistible double promise of a new start on earth and a guaranteed Hereafter. They did not differ in any essential, unless perhaps in their greater poverty, from hundreds and thousands who had started for Zion before them. But their intention was more brash—was so impudent it was almost sublime. Propertyless, ill-equipped, untried and untrained, they were not only going to Zion, they were going to walk there, nearly fourteen hundred miles, having their belongings on handcarts. (Stegner 1)
Stegner was actually describing the earlier handcart companies. If he had been describing the Martin Company his description may have been even more severe. In describing the job of Edward Martin as the captain of the company, David Roberts added this description, “…He certainly had the hardest job of all, for the Martin Company not only contained an unwieldy multitude of emigrants, pushing the most dilapidated handcarts, but fully three-quarters of their number were women, children and old people. President Richards, who would see them off from Florence, admitted that ‘They have a great proportion of crippled and old gray-headed men.’” (Roberts p 153) Another description was provided by Gustive Larson. “As they emerged from the dust clouds it was noticeable that able-bodied men were a minority among large numbers of aged and children.” (Larson p 206) Isaac, a young man of 20 was much needed and frequently served others on the trail.
President Richards later gave this description of the later handcart companies:
The aged; the infirm and bowed down, and those who have been lame from their birth, are coming along upon their crutches; and they think it is a good job if they can walk the most of the way through the day, and avoid riding all they can.
Indeed persons of nearly all ages and conditions are coming. There are also delicate ladies, those who have been brought up tenderly from their youth, and used to going to school and teaching school, playing music, &c.; but when they received the gospel they had to bid good bye to fathers, and mothers, and were turned out of doors; that taught them the first principles of gathering up to Zion. And the idea that there was a place here that could be truly called home inspired them to go along, to the astonishment of their friends, and kindred and that of the gentiles on the way.
… Many of those now back are poor, and had not enough to get away from their homes with, and now they have scarcely a change of clothing. (Richards, CH)
However there was another characteristic of those of the Martin Handcart Company. That is despite their being poor, many of them had shown themselves faithful to the Church over a long period of time. Brigham Young had asked President Richards to give preference to those “who have proven themselves by long continuance in the Church.” (MS XVII 1855 p 184)
The Saints had received some advice about traveling over the plains. Frederick Piercy had traveled the trail by wagon in 1853, with the intent of publishing his sketches and story of the trail. As to clothing he suggested any old clothes, a felt hat, top boots and a beard for the men. He also suggested goggles. For the women he suggested dresses not quite so long, rubber galoshes and a very large sun-bonnet. (Piercy p 80-81) A bandana or kerchief would have to serve as a poor man’s goggles.
The method of organizing the western migration had been given to Brigham Young in revelation. “The Word and Will of the Lord concerning the Camp of Israel in their journeyings to the West: Let all the people.…and those who journey with them, be organized into companies. …Let the companies be organized with captains of hundreds, captains of fifties and captains of tens, with a president and his two counselors at their head.” (D&C 136) The Martin Company was organized in this fashion. “The companies were divided into hundreds and tens, with their respective captains, as usual with the "Mormon" emigration of those days.” (Jacques, CH)
“Heart Throbs of the West”, citing Joseph Argyle Jr. (of the first handcart company) described the organization in this fashion.
The companies were organized with about five persons to a handcart, and approximately twenty individuals to a tent. The occupants of each tent were under the duty of the company captain who was to look after everything in general to see that the company was provided with all the provisions that they were able to carry and assist in all that would aid the betterment of the company. The tent captain was expected to give all his time and attention to his company, to make sure that all allotments of one pint of flour for each person were given every twenty-four hours and to equalize as nearly as possible all labor. (Carter, Kate B. as quoted in Hafen and Hafen p 59)
John Chislett, of the Willie Company, provided more insight to the organization, which would have been similar to the Martin Company:
To each hundred there were five round tents, with twenty persons to a tent; twenty hand-carts, or one to every five persons; and one Chicago wagon, drawn by three yoke of oxen, to haul provisions and tents. Each person was limited to seventeen pounds of clothing and bedding, making eighty-five pounds of luggage to each cart. To this were added such cooking utensils as the little mess of five required. But their cuisine being scanty, not many articles were needed, and I presume the average would not exceed fifteen to twenty pounds, making in all a little over a hundred pounds on each cart. The carts being so poorly made, could not be laden heavily, even had the people been able to haul them.
The strength of the company was equalized as much as possible by distributing the young men among the different families to help them. Several carts were drawn by young girls exclusively; and two tents were occupied by them and such females as had no male companions. The other tents were occupied by families and some young men; all ages and conditions being found in one tent. Having been thrown closely together on shipboard, all seemed to adapt themselves to this mode of tent-life without any marked repugnance. (Chislett, CH)
Isaac may not have been officially called to a position of leadership, although he was likely the leader of his handcart group, and very likely assigned by his tent captain to make sure the tent was up every evening. In a letter later written to Isaac, Langley Bailey commented, “You did stake our tent down strong and firm My dear Brother.” (Bailey)
P.A.M. Taylor described the leaders and their followers:
The leaders were men who had already held positions of authority in the Church’s main centres. They were priests as well as officers; and obedience to them had become habitual. Those they commanded were not a casual assemblage of adventurers, but a band of volunteers adhering to a new faith, men and women whose bodies might be soft and their skills few, but whose willingness to obey and endure had already been tested in Britain, on the ocean, and in the eastern United States. (Taylor, P.A.M. p 226)
In 1856 the pioneers would be tested again and again. A migrating company in 1849 drew up rules, which were typical of other migrating companies: restrictions on leaving the company without permission of the Captain, the Captains of Tens would instruct their men “to attend to their family prayers,” that there would be a duty to guard the camp, that the camp would get up with the sounding of the horn, that the camp be ready to depart at the appointed hour, that camp members be in their tents by the appointed hour, that company members be obedient to their leaders. (Taylor, P.A.M. p 232) Similar rules would have applied to the Martin Company.
The Leaders of Ten behaved in a fashion similar to home teachers today. They would have been the communication conduit to let leaders know of any problems.
Off from Iowa City
Gustive Larson described the scene as the pioneers left on their trek.
They formed a colorful spectacle as the winding train of vehicles, drawn by men and women moved forward between occasional supply wagons and small herds of milk cows. Many of the carts were tastefully painted to suit the fancy of the owners, while here and there appeared inscriptions such as “Truth will Prevail,” “Zion’s Express,” “Blessings Follow Sacrifice,” and “Merry Mormons.” Snatches of the marching song, “Some must push and some must pull” served to lighten the monotony of the daily routine. (Larson p 207)
Joseph Beecroft offered this description of the first day:
We arose soon after five and endevoured to get my hand cart fit up and got on my coat and waited for the command to move. We were ordered in lines with our carts and when the word was given to Strike tents away we went to work and soon had our tents down and in the Mule Waggon, and soon were ordered to move on when a very exciting sceen took place. It took a little time to get into place or order, and then we moved round the hill and then struck out for the main road, went about a half a mile and then struck in the prairie brought our Carts into 2 lines, and then turned shaft to shaft of those on the opposite line and side to side of those in our line. We soon had our tents up, and fires lit for food which we felt to need very bad. It took us the day out to reload, refit up our tents and carts, and about half past 9 we framed for rest, amidst thunder, lightning and rain. (Beecroft, CH)
What would become the Martin Handcart Company, started from Iowa City as two groups. Isaac traveled with the Haven, Toone group that left Iowa City July 24, four days before the Martin group. The temperature was 108 degrees in the tents the day they marched away from the Iowa camp. (Haven, CH) I have concluded that Isaac was with the Jesse Haven group, from a couple of things in the Langley Bailey account. When he needed a blessing his mother went to John Toone, a Captain of 100 with the Haven group. Langley also talked about being rained upon and getting very wet. “We encountered thunderstorms. We were wet through many times.” (Bailey, BYU) A young man with the Hodgetts Company described the Iowa rain storms. “At times dark clouds would arrive and in a short time the thunder would roar and lightening flash, and down came the rain in torrents.” (Bond CH) There was an incident with the Haven group, when they were separated from their tents, and had to endure a thunderstorm without shelter.
Langley Bailey, who was with the same handcart as Isaac, remembers the company singing “The Handcart Song” as they left Iowa City. “Finally the noble 600 made a start with their handcarts, singing as they went along, ‘Some must push and some must pull as we go marching up the hill,’ etc. Bad roads and storms did not daunt these noble pioneers.” (Bailey, CH 1) I imagine Isaac singing this song as they left Iowa City. “Upon the company starting we were in line with our cart and ready. All went well as we joyously sang, ‘For some must push and some must pull as we go marching up the hill. As merrily on the way we go, until we reach the valley, Oh!’" (Housley, CH) The Martin group, similarly sang this song a few days later, leaving Iowa City (Harrison, BYU)
“The Mormon” published a letter talking of the departure of the Haven group from Iowa City. “It would astonish you to see them dragging the hand cart. Away they go, singing and rejoicing…. When Bro. Haven gave them the order to start, you would have been surprised to see them take down their tents and pack up in about twenty minutes, and off they went, without any ceremony.” (Reese, CH)
Music was a part of the handcart trek. They would sing around the campfire, but also there were morning songs, and singing as the pioneers journeyed during the day. “The Handcart Song” (at beginning of this chapter) written by J.D.T. McAllister was a favorite. This was not the only handcart song. One pioneer said they sang, “We’re going to Zion with our carts And the Spirit of God within our hearts.” (Cameron) Another example is presented in the Hafen book:
A Handcart Song; by Lydia D. Alder
Obedient to the Gospel call
We serve our God, the All in All,
We hie away to Zion.
We do not wait to ride all day
But pull our handcarts all the way
And Israel’s God rely on.
(chorus) To Zion pull the handcart
While singing every day
The glorious songs of Zion
That haste the time away.
Our prayers arise to greet the sun
And when his shining course is run
We gather round the camp fire,
To talk of God and all His ways,
His wondrous works of Latterdays
Until the dancing blaze expires.
We climb the hills and far away
Then down where sleeping valleys lay
While still the miles onward roll,
Till Zion rises on our sight
We pull our handcarts with our might
Triumphant reach the goal.
And those we left beside the way
To dream where summer breezes play
Saw in the camp fires’ vivid blaze
Fair Zion with her golden skies,
Grand temples there that stately rise
And satisfied, rest always. (Hafen and Hafen p 274)
The Haven group was comparable in size to the Martin group. The groups would be combined later in the trip, perhaps due to those who would drop out, or because Brother Haven was needed in the wagon companies. “There were two companies which contained about five hundred and fifty-six persons. There were one hundred and forty-six handcarts, seven wagons and six mules and horses, fifty milk cows and beef animals. There was one wagon loaded with goods for the Church. To each of these two companies were apportioned a mule team and two wagons hauled by oxen. These were to carry the commissary stores, tents, etc.” (Kingsford, BYU) John Jaques gives the number of pioneers as 600, including both groups. (Jaques, Bell p 118) Also connected with the handcart company was a herd of cattle which the members of the handcart company were herding to Salt Lake. (See Jaques, Bell p 118) “Had some trouble with the cattle most of them being cattle that had not been worked before.” (Haven, CH 1) These cattle may have been church cattle, or may have belonged to Brother Tennant with the Hunt Wagon Company. Albert Jones called them “The Tennant Cattle.” (Jones, Albert, CH 1)
Josiah Rogerson traveled with the Martin group. He described the daily life of the handcart pioneers:
From the date we left Iowa hill, Iowa, July 26, ’56, Brother John Watkins was our bugler, and his cornet was heard every morning to “wake up” between 5 and 6 o’clock. Then again we heard his cornet to “strike tents” and to meeting—not later than 6 or 7 a.m.
These meetings every morning lasted from fifteen minutes to half an hour, when prayer was offered, a verse or two sung from one of our hymns, then a few remarks from Captain Martin, Tyler and the captains of the hundreds as to the health and condition of their companies and suggestions as to facilitating our progress; then our breakfast cooked and partaken of with haste; the tent poles and (about this date) the tents were taken to the four-mule team, [after Florence the tents were on the carts] the bedding rolled up, the cart packed, and we were generally in line in single file and on our journey by 7:30 to 8 a.m. at the latest.
Father George P. Waugh, [He was a counselor aboard the Horizon] then between 65 and 70 years of age, would be seen and heard calling between the tents for his company to muster between 7 and 7:30 a.m. These consisted of all the aged that could walk at all, and not required to pull at the carts; our fathers and mothers from 45 to 86. Away they would start ahead of our seven wagons and the carts, singing and talking and cheering each other with the hallowed reminiscences of the early days of the gospel in the British isles, and the days of Orson Hyde, Parley P. Pratt and Willard Richards. Traveling three to five miles or more in this manner, the mother with the babe in arms and one by the hand, the widow and the aged widower with their walking cane and staff, would rest a few minutes for our coming in sight, then on at it again till noon, but betimes leaving the little ones and the young for their father with the cart to pick up and bring to camp. The oldest and most feeble of this advance guard would be picked up by the wagons as often as possible, and as the loads were lightened by our daily rations.
The able and hardy of this advance guard (Captain Martin would generally ride ahead of us a few miles and locate the noon camp) would be there; the matron and the sire also, with their flour and packs filled with fuel to cook the noon meal.
An hour or two for our noon rest, then were going again, the same aged advance guard ahead of us, with Father Waugh, who was returning from his mission of three years to Scotland, and one of the most devoted Scottish worthies that ever came to Utah. Stopping for noon, we all dropped our carts, single file, in line in our several hundreds.
At nights we made camp in the same manner—the tents in line, one above or below the other, and the carts unloaded at the back or rear of the tent, and a rod or more space between each line of tents, as the location and evenness of the ground would permit.
Our mules were picketed at nights, and over them a very vigilant watch was kept. The oxen and fifty head of cows and some beef cattle were guarded faithfully by Tyler’s platoons nightly. (Rogerson, CH 1)
Evening, when the marching was done for the day, brought different chores:
There was a lot to be done in setting up camp for the night, and everyone helped. Men usually unyoked the animals and pitched the tents, children gathered fuel for the fires, women made the fires and prepared the food. Most companies also dug a latrine ditch. The unwritten rule was “Ladies on the left, gents on the right.” Women and girls used their long skirts as a privacy screen. Cooking was generally done over an open fire of wood, sagebrush, or, most commonly, dried buffalo manure (which didn’t really smell that bad.) (Kimball p 33)
The evening also brought a chance for recreation. Evening camp scenes were similar from party to party. James Brown described the evening of a Mormon Company in 1854, “All is life and activity when cooking, washing, watching, singing, talking, laughing, and little girls and boys running, jumping, and skipping about camp. It is truly a great work and a wonder.” (Kimball quoting James Brown) Another brother wrote in his diary, “We kindled a great fire and set round to warm ourselves as night air is cold, and then begn to talk about our friends in the old country and compared their situation with ours.” (Openshaw, CH) A Mormon trek was more than a camping trip, but had some of these aspects:
Evening brought rest and recreation. Family fires smouldered after supper while the community blaze mounted as a signal for a general gathering. Young folks sang and made merry in impromptu programs. Untamed muscles strained for supremacy in wrestling, jumping, and camp stunts, for the entertainment for the gentler sex. With song and story the older ones, too, joined in the evening’s diversion until the hour for retirement approached.
The noise subsided as a circle closed around the smouldering embers. Then with one accord all voices would join in singing those lines which encouraged thousands to go on when enthusiasm lagged. “Come, Come Ye Saints” had been bequeathed by the pioneers of a decade earlier to the thousands who would follow them to the west. It became the common heritage of foreign, as well as native tongues. (Larson p 207) [Introduces chapter ten.]
A young man like Isaac would be called upon to do his share of the labor, gathering firewood, digging graves, keeping guard at night, setting up tents, etc. Isaac specifically helped with gathering firewood (see Martin’s Cove, docent) and helped to bury many who passed away. (Wardle, Isaac 1)
Generally the men were expected to do six hours guard duty every other night. (See Orton 2.) Guard duty would begin as soon as they arrived in camp, with those doing guard duty getting their dinner while on duty. They would go relieved at midnight when the second shift would begin their duty. The second shift would serve until morning:
Our night guarding begun as soon as the oxen were unyoked and the mules unharnessed, not later than 6 to 7 p.m. The moment we dropped our cart we had to spring to this arduous duty every other night for six hours. One week, every night as soon as we reached camp, until midnight (our mothers, fathers or sisters bringing us a bite of supper after they got it cooked, and while still on guard), and the next week every other night, roused from our quilts by midnight, and on guard till 6 a.m. when the oxen and mules were ordered to be brought for yoking and harnessing, and one of the most trying and important of our annals right here in place, that the most hardy and sound of body that ever crossed the plains of Nebraska and Wyoming could endure, was six whole nights, straight ahead, guarding one week; pulling the cart every day, twenty to twenty-four miles a day, between Kearney and Laramie, and the only “winks” the writer got in this service was from 6 to 7 a.m., while his mother was cooking him a little breakfast. (Rogerson, CH 1)
Guard duty would eventually take its toll on the men. Isaac would have taken his turn, and been deprived of needed rest. “Our Captains whare [were] hard on us. We had to herd at nights and pull hand carts all day and many times I have been kept up until midnight and then stood guard until morning and then start again and it was this everlasting guarding that killed the people.” (Plattt, CH) “After a hard day’s work, men found it an ordeal to stand guard.” ( Taylor, P.A.M. p 234) Guarding did take its toll:
Historians and even anthropologists have noted the fact that in all the handcart parties, more men than women died. A chief reason for this is that, on the whole, the men performed the most grueling labors on the trek. One of the most taxing came each night, when guards kept watch over the camp—vigilant not only against Indians, whose attack never materialized), but also against wolves. (Roberts p 195)
There were some tranquil moments guarding, especially early in the trip, but week after week, and month after month, it became drudgery. “We took turns in herding the loose cattle, and all that were able helped stand guard at night….Nights were getting colder and guarding began to be very oppressive.” (Mattinson, CH) Being under the stars put a different view on the trek. “The moonlight cast an eerie light over the prairies. As I stood my solitary watch, I remember feeling almost overwhelmed by the vast loneliness of my position… I remember feeling an intense awareness of the beauty of the moonlit landscape and the wonder of my being there. (Kimball p 35)
Brother Openshaw provided a description of Iowa in his diary. “We started about seven o’clock this morning and traveled through a beautiful country where we could stand and gaze upon the prairies as far as the eye could carry, even until the prairies themselves seemed to meet the sky on all sides, without being able to see a house.” (Openshaw, CH)
Each morning there would be singing with morning prayers. At times this singing would continue into the day as they pulled their carts. There would have been less recreation at night than a wagon company, because the pioneers were tired. However on a hot day, when they were close to a river, water recreation would have been too big a draw to pass up. The men and boys would swim, while the girls would “bathe”. (Kimball p 54) [This is the same activity but different names.]
Sister Camm provided a pleasant description of the early trek. “Each day we increased in miles, and as I thought, journeyed like the Children of Israel, full of good feelings and song.” (Camm, CH 1) As did Sister Clegg. “We were as happy a set of people as ever crossed the plains, till the snow caught us. We would sit around the camp fire and sing and were as happy as larks.” (Clegg, CH)
The Haven group were separated from their tents and endured a hail and thunderstorm without shelter about a week after they started on the plains. “Brother Haven recorded in his journal July 26, “Left one wagon, the tents were in it, sent after it but it came on raining and it was very dark so we could not get it up which left the Saints without tents exposed to the rain.” (Haven, CH) Brother Southwell provided this description:
…One of the most horrible electric storms I ever saw fell upon us accompanied with hail and rain. It proved a perfect deluge. In this flat clay soil in the space of ten minutes the roads became almost impassable and oh what a scene to behold. Four hundred men, women and children struggling to keep their feet. Here was no sign of a shelter. Our tents were rolled up in the wagons. After everyone was drenched and many were unable to move out of their tracks the captain gave orders to pitch camp and set up the tents the best they could in the mud and quick as possible this was done. It proved a temporary shelter for the old people and children. They were protected from the rain but they were still ankle keep [deep] in the mud. At this stage of the game the younger men displayed their heroism. Near our intended camp ground was a large patch of young willows and they attacked the willow patch with ax and pocket knives and in as short a time as possible they had enough ground covered on which we raised our tents, spread down the bedding, and then a good old farmer living in the distance gave us wood from a pile of dry willows which was soon piled up and a fire built. (Southwell, CH)
Isaac certainly pitched in gathering willows for ground cover, using either an ax or knife as he had means. The next day being Sunday, Brother Haven and Brother Toone both talked to the Saints about grumbling. “I told them if they did not cease their grumbling that sickness would get into their midst and they would die off like rotten sheep, but if they would be humble and keep united, the blessings of the Lord should attend them.” (Have, CH1)
If the rain didn’t discourage the pioneers, the heat and dust should have. “While traveling through the state of Iowa with six hundred immigrants with hand-carts and dust of harvest weather four or five inches deep, the sun pouring down on our heads and the perspiration and wet dust streaming down our faces and in our throats, choking us so we could hardly breath…” (Watkins, CH)
There was a meeting every morning. The bugler blew a half hour before morning meeting and prayers, and then at the appointed time. And then at night the same process would take place, the bugler would sound for prayers again. The company Bugler, describing his duties, gives some idea of the daily routine for the handcart company. “I was bugler for the company. My duty was to call then [them] up in the morning, to come to prayers, when to march, pitch tents and go to bed.” (ibid)
Other pioneers described the bugler function in positive light and others negative:
Cornet-a-piation was blown about 5 o'clock a m for the emigrants to arouse, make their fires, cook and eat their breakfast. About 6 o'clock, cornet blown for public prayers, which everybody in camp was expected to attend. About 7 o'clock, cornet blew to strike tents, break up camp, and start. Sometime in the middle of the day, cornet blew for halt to bait. In an hour or two, cornet blew to resume march. Usually sometime before dark, occasionally after, cornet blew to halt, pitch tents, get wood or buffalo chips and water, make fires, cook and eat supper, and do anything else deemed necessary. About 8 o'clock, cornet blew for public prayers. About 10 o'clock, cornet blew for fires and light to be put out and everybody but the guards to go to bed. The undeviating regularity of all this for so long a time grew to be wearyingly and worryingly monotonous. How some of the emigrants did long for the time to come when they could be freed from the odious and relentless tyranny of those unfailing cornet calls, and be left to enjoy a little rest and quiet! Some found that rest long before the journey was over, found rest and quiet in the silent grave. Each cornet call was some well known air or tune. How hateful those tunes did become! I verily believe it grew that eventually they were abhorrent to every ear in camp. It was a shame to use good and innocent tunes in that way and render them forever after repulsive through the association of painful or disagreeable ideas. There are different ways of murdering music. Those unfortunate tunes are hateful to this day. (Jaques, CH)
Jaques goes on to explain that he understood the need of the call for most things, but regretted the call for prayers and meetings which he found excessive, when people needed rest:
Public prayer is good in its time and its place, and public preaching is good in its time and its place. But, as with other good things, the time and place for public prayer and public preaching are not every time and place. Far more than either of these, the weary emigrants needed rest and refreshment, night and morning, to recruit their exhausted energies after tugging at those handcarts all day long, and some of the men having to stand guard half the night in addition to their regular day's work. (Ibid)
John Jaques was joined in this opinion by John Southwell:
…A bugler had to be appointed to call the saints in the morning and to other duties such as, time to start on the day’s journey, time to attend services at night before retiring, etc. But oh! That bugle, that awful bugle. How disgusting it was to the poor, weary souls who needed rest rather then to hear . . . . that man who liked to talk… Tired and weary as they were, some of the older people would lie down on their hard beds and almost instantly be in the land of dreams. Than [Then] that accursed bugle would blow the call for prayers. Which, I ask, did the poor souls need the most[?] (Southwell, CH)
Sundays were generally reserved for rest and church services. However, they did at times travel on Sunday.
They were provided wagons for some of their heavier supplies, but still the loads on the handcarts were significant. “We started on our journey one fine day and raised our tents. We had a few yoke of oxen and wagons to carry the provisions and tents, while we had to haul on our hand-carts, our bedding, clothing, cooking utensils and children.” (Watkins, CH)
The limited space available for provisions meant there was a limited allowance for meals. The standard allotment was one pound of flour per adult, and half that for children. However Brother Haven started with an allotment of ten ounces for adults, as he was worried about running out before reaching Florence. “…Dealt out provisions gave 12 oz of flour to each person daily. Before we had given only 10 oz. So many leaving….I came to the conclusion that the provision, the largesse that was promised would hold out.” (Haven, CH 1) Because of the shortage of space, the variety of food provided to the handcart pioneers was limited:
The handcarts were limited in terms of how much could be taken. The pioneers could not take a great deal of provisions with them, although eight wagons would carry the bulk of their provisions. Their diet would be based on flour, supplemented with bacon and the beef cattle they would take on the trip with them. They would not have beans, or maple sugar, or corn meal or apples which were common on other pioneer treks. There just wasn’t room on the carts. (Kimball)
As a result of the low rations, the unexpected difficulty with pulling a cart, and occasionally illness, a significant number dropped out of the Company crossing Iowa. Brother Haven had a general rule that if the pioneers talked to him, they would be released, however if they just left the company, they were disfellowshipped. Brother Haven documents quite a number who left the company. In looking at his journal, there were at least 27, not including “many leaving” one day. (Haven, CH 1) This could explain much of the confusion of the number of handcart pioneers. Isaac set the number at 740 (Wardle, CH) when they would leave Florence, but it was 800 when they left Iowa (between the two companies.) The official count, leaving Florence is more like 650. (Jaques, CH) Along with those who decided to stay in Florence, a drop-out of 100-150 is very likely.
The Saints were not entirely dependent upon the allotment of rations. There were at times wild fruit; including gooseberries, cherries, plums and grapes and nuts. (Bleak, CH 1) (Beecroft, CH) Also at times they were able to add meat through hunting. On one occasion a large fowl and a turtle. (Beecroft, CH) P.A.M. Taylor described travel by handcart in this fashion:
Very different was the experience of the Mormons who crossed the plains and mountains with handcarts. In such companies, only tents, and main stock of provisions, and occasionally sick people, were carried in wagons. Everything else was placed on the carts, crudely made wooden vehicles weighing about 60 lb. Clothes, bedding, cooking utensils, and several days’ rations for an average family of five added at least a hundredweight; and, although the load was closely regulated, it was sometimes found necessary to pile a sack of flour upon each cart. What could be carried was never enough for the emigrants’ comfort. But it made too heavy a load to be pulled, without great strain, by women and older children, who had to help the men… They halted on one weekday to wash their clothes and repair their carts, and they stayed in camp each Sunday… At the beginning of the journey, the ration consisted of no more than 1 lb. flour a day, with small quantities of coffee, sugar, and rice, to which could be added milk from a few cows, and buffalo meat when men found time and energy to go hunting… Extreme fatigue, pain from blisters, and, above all hunger were seldom avoided. (Taylor, P.A.M. p 239)
The trail in Iowa was more amenable than what would come later. It was a place to become accustomed to the journey. However it wasn’t without its difficulties. The heat was a problem to people not use to the heat, and not use to pulling handcarts. “Many were prostrated in the Iowa camp because unclimated and unaccustomed to the great heat. In starting from Iowa with the handcarts and dragging them over the sandy roads, it seemed like pulling the very pluck out of one, the pluck physical and corporeal.” (Jaques Bell, p 119) “Thus while passing through a sparsely populated country the emigrants learned many lessons regarding this mode of travel which were of great value to them later when they were hundreds of miles from civilization. as the hand cart emigrants passed through the settlements of Iowa, many of the pioneer residents jeered at them and some mob violence was threatened, But they arrived safely at Florence.” (Loynd, CH)
“Once on the trail, the emigrant’s life was dominated by the daily need of grass and water.” (Jaques, Bell p 119) Crossing streams was another issue. “Some streams could be forded: but there were always some that needed a ferry.” (Taylor, P.A.M. p 222) Brother Haven documents numerous crossings, leaving out many. In Iowa this included a ferry on Skunk River, toll bridge in Des Moines, and steam ferry over the Missouri. A handcart pioneer described some of the issues of traveling through Iowa:
While traveling through the state of Iowa with six hundred immigrants with hand-carts and dust of harvest weather four or five inches deep, the sun pouring down on our heads and the perspiration and wet dust streaming down our faces and in our throats, choking us so we could hardly breath and tantalized by the people coming out of their houses and telling us that was a (dam) hard way to serve the Lord, and how the young hoodlems would go ahead of the company to the next river or creek to ridicule our wives and daughters who had to raise their dresses out of the water to wade the streams as there was not many bridges in those days…
Our rations was one pound of flour for grown people and half rations for children and the work being so laborious that the young people got very hungry, myself included. The roads were very heavy, being sometimes sand, sometimes mud and sometimes dust, which made progress slow, much slower than had been calculated on. (Watkins, CH)
The Martin group, while traveling on a Sunday, witnessed a meteor as recorded in the journal of 22 year-old Samuel Openshaw. “Aug. 3—Sunday. On account of the unhealthiness of the place, we made a start today and traveled about seven miles. When we had traveled about a quarter of a mile we beheld a ball of fire brighter than the sun before us in the air and came within about three yards of the ground and then drew out in the form of a spear and vanished out of our sight. (Openshaw, CH) Josiah Rogerson, referring to the journal of Joseph Bleak puts this event on August 17:
Recorder Bleak, the writer and his older brother, Thomas Dobson and his younger brother, and others in Wignall’s hundred, leading the company that day, distinctly observed a meteor that appeared not more than a few hundred yards ahead of us, and right on our track, about thirty or fifty yards in the air, and going in a westerly course. It seemed to be about the size of a one-foot Chinese lantern. All of a sudden, as we stopped our carts and were watching its course, it exploded and as we passed along to the point of the explosion, as we guessed, we could see no remains of the piece of the break off from Mars. (Rogerson, CH 1)
John Jaques has the date August 3. “After traveling half a mile saw a ball of fire before us shooting down from the sky; when near the ground, it changed into the likeness of a spear and then vanished.” (Jaques, Bell p 120) There is no mention of this meteor in the Haven journal. It is possible by note not probable that Isaac observed the meteor.
Taunting from the locals was a persistent. “It was a sight to see 600 people pulling their carts through the cities and villages of Iowa. People came out of their houses and jeered us. On we went, all happy and cheerful.” (Bailey, BYU) Jesse Haven in the company journal collaborates this, indicating that some disturbed camp late at night, “In the evening some of the inhabitants came into camp and disturbed us. I invited them to leave. I treated them kindly which rather cooled them down—They left about 11 o’clock.” (Haven, CH 1) On another incident, they wanted the company to hold a meeting, apparently so they could mock them, “…But we did not gratify them.” (ibid) Another Sunday, August 10, three days past Fort Des Moines, Near Coon River, they were again bothered by residents, “Last night some came round the camp—made some noise. this morning we were disturbed some by people coming round us—we were insulted by some—were insulted more than we had been since we lef[t] Iowa City.” (ibid.) The Martin Company was also confronted in Des Moines a few days later, August 12. “Passed through Fort Des Moine today about 10 a.m. This is a small town on the Des Moines River, while crossing the river the inhabitants ridicule our mode of travel and made some very unkind remarks about us, but we gave them to understand that we were fulfilling the commandments of God and while they scoffed the Saints rejoiced.” (Binder, CH 1)
Brother John Southwell, told a story about the response of their leader, Jesse Haven:
The usual mobocratic spirit we had witnessed all along the route filled the souls of the people and they felt to vie with each other in uttering oaths and curses upon us as we passed along thru their settlements. God forgive them. We passed along pleasantly for two days. The third day we came to a halt by a nice stream and in the foothills was grass for the oxen. The teams were out to feed and instantly two men started for them, cursing the G.D. Mormons, declaring they would kill every S. of a B. of them. Captain Haven met them and in his gentlemanly way apologized and offered them pay in order to secure a night’s feed for the poor, hungry brutes. This kind act on his part took them by surprise and they consented to leave them there without further trouble. The singing of the young ladies at evening service drew the attention of the kinder disposed people and in the morning they brought butter and milk into camp and expressed themselves as being pleased with the way we conducted ourselves traveling thru the country. At their request on breaking up camp we sang the hand cart song which pleased them. They bid us success on our journey. This circumstance is one that a kind word turneth away wrath and as Jesus said to his disciples, do good to them that hate you, is truly exemplified in this case (Southwell, CH)
On one occasion some local young men became attached to a young woman. “During the afternoon we were annoyed by strangers who hung after Sister Elizabeth Walker. Some were rather intoxicated and came out in a threatening attitude and with threatening language.” (Beecroft, CH) George Cunningham, with the Willie Company also described problems with the local population:
While traveling along, people would mock, sneer, and deride us on every occasion for being such fools as they termed us, and would often throw out inducements to get us to stop. But we told them that we were going to Zion, and would not stop on any account. When we went through a town or settlement, pulling our handcarts as we always had to do, people would turn out in crowds to laugh at us, crying gee and haw as if we were oxen. But this did not discourage us in the least, for we knew that we were on the right track. (Cunningham, CH)
However, not all the locals were of such a mind. Sister Camm described a different experience with the local Iowa population. “…Some farmers who lived between Iowa and Florence, Nebraska, would take up the children that had to walk and bring them along for a few miles, and some of them kindly gave them food to eat which I have no doubt was well received by the way in which it soon disappeared.” (Camm, CH 1) John Jacques heard a different type of comment from an Iowa resident. “…A resident looked on the handcart procession, was so seriously impressed that he sententiously gave vent to the opinion that making a journey in that fashion ‘was a hard way to serve the Lord.’” (Jaques, CH)
The heat in Iowa continued unabated. Jesse Haven indicated several days they travelled little, or did not travel because of the heat. It was above 100 degrees on more than one occasion. (Haven, CH 1)
The Haven group ferried over the Missouri River August 19. They arrived in Florence, and camped near the old Winter Quarters that same day. “Built in 1846 as Winter Quarters by Brigham’s pioneer party, the place had been abandoned in 1848. Then in 1854, when the former Omaha Indian territory was opened for settlement by U.S. Citizens, Mormon entrepreneurs reestablished the outpost as Florence. By 1856, it was a thriving little tent city, with stores, warehouses, corrals, and a bowery or town hall for meetings, all laid out in the orderly rectangular grid that would characterize all Mormon settlements, including Salt Lake City.” (Roberts, pp 24-25)
They had some handcart breakdowns, and stayed in Florence for some time refitting their carts. Almost every cart needed some work. Brother Haven had purchased tallow for the axles. “Nearly all our handcarts wanted repairing.” (Haven, CH 1) Isaac’s cart would have wanted repair and he would have been working at getting the cart in top shape for the continued journey with over 300 miles traveled and 1000 miles still to go.
Somewhere before reaching Florence, Langley Bailey took ill. “This mode of travel proved too much for me. I was taken down with hemorrhage of the bowels. I was unable to walk, had to be hauled on Brother Isaac J. Wardle and my brother's John's cart.” (Bailey, BYU) As a result, the trek, until the rescue, would be much different for Isaac and Langley than what they had expected.
Langley was not the only one to become ill with some type of stomach illness. Joseph Beecroft, the violin player, had to drop out with his family in Des Moines. (Beecroft, CH) Francis Webster also recorded the same type of illness. “I started from Iowa for Salt Lake City with hand carts on the 27 of July. I had the diarrhea all the way from Iowa City to Florence so bad that I have sat down on the road and been administered to by the Elders and got up and pulled my hand cart with renewed vigor. (Webster, CH)
A young man noted those needing to be carried on the handcarts. “As days wore on, our spirits lagged as we became weary. Some of our people became sick and were compelled to ride, thus compelling others to be more heavily loaded.” (Housley, CH) A young woman, fourteen at the time of the trip, blamed the many illnesses for the wait of two weeks at Florence. “At that time so many of our company took sick that we had to camp at Florence for two weeks. …The people began to get sick and died from drinking muddy water.” (Allen, CH) The actual wait by the Haven group was about two weeks, and the Martin group only four days. (Haven, CH 1)
The Haven group waited almost two weeks in Florence. They used this time for hunting, fishing, repairing carts etc. (Southwell, CH) The Haven group was ready to leave by August 22, but that same day, after four weeks on the trail, the Martin group had reached Florence. The Haven group was asked to delay their departure. “In the evening bro. Martin’s and my company were called together and both companies were put into one und[er] the presidency of bro—Martin by F[ranklin]. D. Richards.” (Haven, CH 1) A reason given for this was to provide greater safety with a larger number of Saints. “At Florence the two sections of the company were consolidated into one as protection against Indians in crossing the mounters [mountains] and plains.” (Loynd, CH) “We here joined the two companies together on ac[c]ount of hostile Indians on the plains which retarded our progress and caused us to be late in the season.” (Platt, CH) For this reason also the two wagon companies stayed close to the Martin Company.
The newspaper “The Mormon,” published out of New York provided some news of the emigrants by printing a letter of President Richards dated August 23, Florence, N.T.:
I found Company E. of the P. E. F. Emigrants under Elder Haven's charge, and a number of emigrants going by ox-teams. Yesterday I had the unspeakable pleasure of seeing the last, of F. Company of P. E. F. Emigrants, under Elder [Edward] Martin's charge, come into camp, all cheerful, and mostly in good health. The hand-carts are at a premium in the estimation of nearly all who use them, and it made one's heart rejoice yesterday, to see the vivacity of the brethren and sisters as they pulled the carts along through clouds of dust, and under a comparatively hot sun, and also to hear the shouts of welcome with which they were received by the Saints already on the ground. The two companies, E. and F., are now organized into one, and expect to move off west to- morrow, under charge of Elder Martin. (The Mormon 1, CH)
Florence presented the last opportunity to winter and continue the trek the following spring. On Sunday, August 24, there were a couple of meetings held. The first was of a spiritual nature, however all (every member then in the camps) was asked to return for an evening meeting. “There, owing to the lateness of the season, the important question was debated, whether the emigrants should winter in the vicinity or continue the long and wearisome journey to Salt Lake. Unfortunately, warm enthusiasm prevailed over sound judgment and cool common sense, and it was determined to finish the journey the same season.” (Jaques, Bell, pp 122-3) There was only one voice recommending the layover, that of Chauncey Webb, the handcart maker. (Rogerson, CH 1) Franklin Richards, spoke at this meeting. He had left England on a steam ship, after the Horizon had sailed, which took him to New Orleans. He had come up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers from there to meet the handcart company. Josiah Rogerson described the meeting in this fashion:
I can hear, even now, the voice of President Richards, as he stood there and reasoned with us in his fatherly and gentlemanly manner, as to the lateness of the season, as to the possibility of the storms coming on earlier than usual, that no doubt many of the infants and aged might fall by the way, and some others through disease and from the impurities of the water in the streams, fatigue and exhaustion; and that it was left for us now to decide, whether we would go on and take the risks and chances of these possible and probable fatalities; or remain there and around Florence, Council Bluffs and other villages in the vicinity till an earlier date for starting the next year; that if we chose and decided to stay, we could have what provisions and supplies were in the store or warehouse there and ready for loading into our wagons for the journey; that he would purchase for us what more he could with means still in his hands, and assist us in every other way for our remaining there till next spring, and about the only encouraging words we remember as to our not staying and going ahead were when he said that as it had been one of the largest season's emigrations that had ever been shipped from the British Isles, since he had presided at Liverpool, that it contained hundreds of the first converts to Mormonism from 1837 to 1850, and that the majority of the latter had never been able to emigrate themselves, after their eighteen years in the faith, and doubtless never would have been able, that they were thus far on their way to Zion, he would be gratified by the help and favor of god to see all reach there in safety that season…
Elder John T. D. McAllister, the author of the handcart song, spoke afterward at that meeting for going on, and Cyrus H. Wheelock, General George D. Grant and others; but Brother Webb urged that we should not start, but stay there for the winter. His remarks were Webb's alone. Some others spoke and then President Franklin D. Richards, arising at last, advised all to vote with their free agency and responsibility. The vote was called, and with uncovered heads and uplifted hands to heaven and an almost unanimous vote, it was decided to go on. If Webb or any others voted to the contrary I do not remember it, nor the number. (Rogerson, CH 1)
Others provided different descriptions, “Our thoughts were all centered on getting to Zion. Some of the leaders advised against our going, but their advice was not followed. Everybody wanted to get to the Valley and go they would at all costs; so off we started with our handcart train… (Harrison, BYU) Langley Bailey summarized, “The emigrants were called together to know their minds in regards to stop until the next year or go on. Voted to go on. On August 25th, 1856 the company made a start.” (Bailey, BYU) A report of the meeting by 23 Year-old Benjamin Platt suggested Franklin Richards discouraged going on. “Apostle Franklin D. Richards called a meeting and advised us to stop at Florence until the next season; but there were some apostates there or Josephites and we did not want to stay, and we declared we would go through or die trying and we prevailed and he seeing we were determined he consented but he said he did not want anyone to try that could not walk every foot of the way.” (Platt, CH)
President Richards confirmed the concern about the population in the Florence area in a discourse he gave after arriving in Salt Lake:
We started off the rear company from Florence about the first of September, and the gentiles came around with their sympathy, and their nonsense, trying to decoy away the sisters, telling them that it was too late in the season, that the journey would be too much for their consititutions, and if they would wait until next year, themselves would be going to California, and would take them along more comfortably.
When we had a meeting at Florence, we called upon the saints to express their faith to the people, and requested to know of them, even if they knew that they should be swallowed up in storms, whether they would stop or turn back. They voted, with loud acclamations, that they would go on. (Richards, CH)
Another account, written by then twelve-year-old John Bond of the Hodgetts wagon company contends Franklin Richards encouraged going on, while Joseph Young was against it. This version also provides information on the hymns and attitude. I am including his description in full, because if gives a very good picture of a meeting where Isaac was attending:
Here a public meeting is called by the captains of the wagon and hand cart trains to receive council from the agents who had traveled over the same. Franklin D. Richards being one of the twelve apostles called the saints to order nearly one thousand by a nice blazing fires over the camp as the stars twinkled and the moon shone brightly in the azure sky. Hymn No. 182 was then given out,
"Now Let us Rejoice in the Day of Salvation,
No longer as strangers on earth need we roam;
Good tidings are sounding to us and each nation,
And shortly the hour of redemption will come.
When all that was promised the Saints will be given,
And earth will appear as the garden of Eden,
And Jesus will say to all Israel come home.”
The hymn was sung in full. When a most fervent prayer was offered by George D. Grant.
When F.D. Richards rose to speak to the saints as they venerated his council and advice in all ways as a man of God. He spoke to the saints as follows
"My brethern and sisters we are now in the last outfitting place to get necessary supplies to supply the saints needs until we reach the land of Zion where we long to hear the councils of "Brigham Young" and be in safety with friends. I hear that there are saints here who fear on account of the lateness of the season and may suffer in the crossing of the Rocky Mountains in snow storms. This I will say as the saints have braved it this far and has anything come to hurt or mar the peace and safety of anyone, therefore, I prophesy in the name of ‘Israel’s God’ though the storms we may come from the east, the west, the north, or the south God will keep the way open to the faithful at heart and we'll arrive in the valleys in safety and hoped that the saints would be blessed with health and strength to pursue unto the journey's end and there to meet with the Lords anointed and be saved with the just in the Eternal world" and then subsided. He also called upon Joseph A Young to give his views as to the lateness of the season for the saints to go farther west this season and he spoke as follows
"My beloved saints I must differ with brother Richards with regards to the saints going farther west this season for fear of the snow storms to come in the "Rocky Mountains" before the saints could cross in safety being in a weakened state from constant traveling would not be able to stand the freezing cold weather in sleet snow in the higher altitudes, shortness of food. Such would cause untold agonies, sickness and much loss of life, therefore I do not wish such upon my conscience, but wish all to stay here for the winter and then go on in the spring as my father's agents have lost too much time in starting the saints to arrive in the valley safely."
At this stage of the meeting the prevailing opinion was to travel on amidst the flowing of many tears from those who had such confidence in Joseph A. Young's manly and steadfast councils and missionary efforts while he was with them in England. The meeting was closed by singing hymn no 316 in full.
O' ye mountains high, where the clear blue sky
Arches over the vales of the free,
Where the pure breezes blow
And the clear streamlets flow
How I've longed to thy bosom to flee.
(Chorus) O, Zion! Dear Zion home of the free
My own mountain home now to thee I've come;
All my fond hopes are centered in thee.
The hymn was sung by W.C. Dunbar and Sarah H. Wheelock, the audience join<in>g the chorus and was sung with spiritual vigor. When benediction was pronounced by John Van Cott the saints retired to their wagons and tents. (Bond, CH)
While at Florence, Colonel Babbit offered to take two pioneers through to Salt Lake in his light wagon free of charge. A Sister Williams, with her baby, took him up on the offer. Her husband was waiting for her in Salt Lake. (Jaques, Bell, p 129)
From arriving in Iowa City, until leaving Florence, the Martin Company had taken 50 days. Even though they were behind the other companies, they were traveling faster; perhaps due to greater worry about the coming winter. Late August was not a good time to leave Florence. (See Olsen p 79)
Elder Richards and the elders returning with him made good reports with regard to the company, but also mentioned the lateness of the season. Brother Cyrus Wheelock talked of the union and spirit. “All were in good spirits, and generally in good health and full of confidence that they should reach the mountains in season to escape severe storms… I have never seen more union among Saints anywhere than is manifested in the handcart companies.” (MS XVIII 1856 p 681) President Richards echoed, “But for the lateness of the rear companies everything seems equally propitious for a safe and profitable wind up at the far end. From the beginning we have done all in our power to hasten matters pertaining to emigration, therefore we confidently look for the blessing of God to crown our humble efforts with success and for the safe arrival of our brethren, the poor Saints, in Utah, though they may experience some cold.” (MS XVIII 1856 p 682)
The reporter from a local newspaper, “Council Bluffs Bugle,” who visited the pioneers at Florence with Colonel Babbitt, also conveyed this same message. “This is enthusiasm—this is heroism indeed. Though we cannot coincide with them in their belief, it is impossible to restrain our admiration of their self-sacrificing devotion to the principles of their faith.” (MS XVIII 1856 p 667)