My son, who is serving a mission in the Des Moines, Iowa Mission visited the Handcart Park in Iowa City and took these pictures.
The emigrating Mormons sailed from England to New York and Boston, then traveled by train to Iowa City, the railway terminus at that time. Here they were organized into five handcart companies for the last 1300 miles of the trip. A few wagons were provided to carry the heavier provisions for each company.
The new emigrants were an unlikely group of pioneers. Few of them had ever pitched a tent or built a campfire. There were more women than men and many children and older people. Despite their inexperience and the hardship of the trail, three companies arrived in Salt Lake Valley without misfortune. The last two companies of the year were caught by early winter storms before reaching their destination and had particularly difficult journeys.
Two additional handcart companies departed from this site in 1857. The last three handcart companies started from Florence, Nebraska in 1859 and 1860. In all, more than three thousand Latter-day Saints walked across the plains and over mountain passes to their new home in the Rocky Mountains.
My writings about the Martin Handcart Company in Iowa.