Showing posts with label handcart pioneers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label handcart pioneers. Show all posts

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Book Review: Rescue of the 1856 Handcart Companie: As it pertains to Isaac and the Ashtons

Rescue of the 1856 Handcart Companies  Rebecca Cornwall and Leonard J. Arrington  Charles Redd Monographs in Western History No. 11  Brigham Young University Press 1981.
This is a very interesting piece of history.  For whatever reason, the last two handcart companies of 1856 were late, and without rescue all would have perished.  When Franklin Richards arrived in Salt Lake with a group of returning missionaries on October 4 he reported to Brigham Young that four companies were still on the plains, two handcart and two wagon, Brigham went into immediate action.  He convened a meeting that night to discuss what was needed, and then introduced the rescue of the handcarts as the theme of conference the next day.  Notes indicate Brigham Young was directly involved in the planning, how much provisions to send and how.  “One brother [Daniel Jones] was impressed that the president was in earnest; he seemed moved by a spirit that would admit of no delay.  Of course the rescuers met the Willie Company first; but not before they hit a significant storm themselves.  Brother Willie went forward, putting his own life in peril, and found the rescuers and encouraged them to come forward.  This lead to the scene at Rocky Ridge, where the handcart pioneers struggled up the rocky hill, and many of them perishing after giving their all.
The Martin Company was still imperiled.  The same storm had stopped them at the Platt, after the last crossing.  Our family lore says Betsy froze her feet at the last crossing of the Platte.  She would pass away we don't know where, but sometime between the last crossing and Martin's Cove.  Joseph Young, Abel Garr and Dan Jones as the lead scouts, found them in poor condition, and unable to move.  They asked Captain Martin to distribute food to the hungry Saints and informed them they must press on to Devil’s Gate where ten wagons of provisions were waiting.  They made an heroic effort to move on the next day, and after checking on the wagon companies, Dan Jones came back upon them in their struggle, “A condition of distress here met my eyes that I never saw before or since.  The train was strung out for three or four miles.  There were old men pulling and tugging their cars, sometimes loaded with a sick wife or children—women pulling along sick husbands—little children six to eight years old struggling through the mud and snow.  As night came on the mud would freeze on their clothes and feet.  There were two of us and hundreds needing help.  What could we do?  We gathered onto some of the most helpless with our riatas [lariats] tied to the carts, and helped as many as we could into camp on Avenue Hill.”  Isaac reportedly left bloody footprints in the snow.
The provisions for relief were almost exhausted before the Martin Company met the relief wagons, however provisions of clothing and shoes and socks were distributed.  This included “102 pairs of boots and shoes, 157 pairs of socks and stockings, 30 quilts and comforters, 100 frock coats and jackets of various kinds, 36 hoods, 80 petticoats and bloomers, 27 handkerchiefs, 14 neckties, and 8 pairs of mittens.”  AT some point Isaac found some shoes, it may have been here.  They were tight on his feet, but he still gave thanks for them.  The great benefit to the company was one of the young men.  Heber McBride (whose father had passed away a couple weeks earlier) would later say, “…As they were hearty and strong they took upon themselves to [do] all the work about the Camp and the Captens of companies had no more to say….  The men from Salt Lake would clean off the snow and pitch the tents and get wood for all the families that had lost their Father and then they would help the rest what the could.  Of note to Isaac’s history is the difficulty it was to pitch tents. In the letter Langley Bailey later wrote to Isaac he talked about the care and effort Isaac put into pitching the tent.  "You did stake it down well my dear brother."  Many of the tents were blown down one night, but Langley says theirs was not due to Isaac effort.   The pioneers were met with another northern storm while at Devil’s Gate.  The temperature dropped to eleven degrees and there were 18 inches of Snow on the ground.   (See p 22)  “Many of the immigrant men were so weak that it took them an hour to scrape clear a space on which to pitch their tents.  ‘The boys’ had to drive the stakes for them into the frozen ground.”  (p 22)
As Devil's Gate could not accommodate all of the pioneers, the handcart company moved to martin;s Cove.  For this they crossed the Sweetwater, cold and icy.   Valley boys helped many of the immigrants across.  Sarah and Mary Ashton would have been among those carried across.  However Isaac would have pulled the handcart across the river.  Langley had been a passenger, but most likely he rode across the river in the sick wagon.
Even though more provisions had not arrived, the weather improved slightly and on Sunday, November 9 they moved out of Martins Cove.   “Many handcarts ere indeed left behind, but only the very weak were permitted to ride in wagons.  (p 24)
November 11, as the immigrants were preparing their camp they were met by Ephraim Hanks.
Nov 2 Brigham Young expressed in early November, “We can return home and sit down and warm our feet before the fire, and can eat our bread and butter, etc., but my mind is yonder in the snow, where those immigrating saints are, and my mind has been with them ever since I had the report of their start from Winter Quarters on the 3rd of September.  I cannot talk about anything, I cannot go out or come in but what in every minute or two minutes my mind reverts to them.”  More and more rescuers would eventually meet the handcart company.  There were over 200 rescue wagons on the trail bringing supplies, or just keeping the road open.
They arrived in Salt Lake City Nov 30, 1856.  Of this Isaac wrote, "President Brigham Young along with many of the other Brethern and Women came to welcome us and took us into their homes, fed and warmed us and gave us warm clean beds to rest our weary bodies."

Thursday, February 27, 2014

More Handcart Pictures

 These two pictures are taken from the book, "Rescue of the 1856 Handcart Companies."
This picture is taken from the book "Utah"

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Handcart Park, Iowa City, Iowa

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 Handcart emigration:  In the summer of 1856 this location was the staging area for one of the most remarkable treks in the history of the American West.  Some 1900 British and Scandinavian converts to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wished to emigrate to Utah, but they were too poor to buy animals and wagons for the journey.  Brigham Young, the Mormon leader, proposed that the cross the plains on foot with their few belongings in handcarts.  The church presidency wrote: "Let them come on foot, with handcarts or wheel barrows: let them gird up their loins and walk through."
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.

Caleb is walking this ground 157 years after his Great-great-great grandparents Isaac Wardle and Mary Ashton walked on the same ground.  Some of his relatives did not survive this trip, including Mary's sisters, Betsy, Elizabeth and Sarah Anne, as well as her mother, Sarah Anne.  She and a sister, Sarah survived the trip.  Their father joined the infantry at Fort Laramie and did not complete the trip.  Several years later, other ancestors were also handcart pioneers, but staged in Florence, Nebraska. 

Friday, November 22, 2013


Curtis R. Allen1

“We continued on our journey as quick as we possibly
could. The cold increasing upon us. … Our provisions
are running out very fast, so that our rations are reduced
to 12 ounces of flour per day. … we are also being pretty
nigh wore out, with fatigue and hunger, a great many died.”
- Samuel Openshaw, Martin Handcart Company, just as
the company was leaving Fort Laramie.2
William Ashton, a 33-year-old LDS convert from Stockport, Cheshire, England was experiencing the same feelings as Openshaw but with tragedy and sorrow piled on top of them. William had lost his wife and two daughters on the easy part of the journey. Fortyfive
others of the company had also died on the way. He and his three remaining motherless girls were now faced with worsening conditions and a dismal forecast. At a camp near Fort Laramie, in Nebraska Territory (now Wyoming) in early October, 1856, William faced a decision almost beyond thinking, and with small hope of success in any of the few options.
He and his family had left Liverpool May 22, 1856 on the ship “Horizon” for the journey to America and Utah. The company was about 800 Saints; their leader was to be Captain Edward Martin. The Ashton family, like many on the ship, was traveling under the
auspices of the Perpetual Emigration Fund and would be pulling handcarts across the prairies. William’s family consisted of himself, 33; his wife Sarah Ann (nee Barlow), also 33; daughters Betsy, 11; Sarah Ellen, 7; Mary; 5, and Elizabeth, age 2.3
The ship docked in Boston the last day of June. While the company was waiting to board the train cars to Iowa City, little Elizabeth Ashton died.4 Many of the company had suffered of illness and several had died aboard ship. Perhaps Elizabeth had been sick on the sea journey. A crowded and uncomfortable train took them to Iowa City where they struggled with the delay in preparing handcarts and eventually left for the westward journey July 28th, later than hoped. Although they struggled with poorly constructed handcarts and other challenges, the company had a fairly comfortable haul to Florence
before starting across Nebraska. In Iowa, before crossing the Missouri River, Sarah Ann gave birth to another daughter. The baby, named after her mother, died fourteen days later at Florence. The difficult birth left the mother feeble and she soon passed on. A grieving and surely distraught William continued on the 1,000 mile trail toward Salt Lake
Valley with his three surviving daughters.
By October, as the Martin Company neared Fort Laramie, it became apparent the late departure, limited food supply, and lack of warm clothing would threaten the company.5  On October 9th, some of the Martin Company people gathered their valuables – watches
and the like, to trade for provisions at the fort. The commander, Major William Hoffman, 6 sympathized with the immigrants and allowed them to purchase from the commissary storehouse. The prices were reasonable: biscuits at 15 ½ cents, bacon at 15 cents a pound and rice at 17 cents a pound. Some purchased from the Sutler’s but the prices were higher.7
On this same day, October 9th, William enlisted in Company G of the 6th United States Infantry. He was surely influenced by the willingness of the army to aid the pioneers and saw in it an opportunity to help his own family to endure the remaining journey. But it was a decision that would probably trouble him for the rest of his life. Some analysis is
required to fill in around the known facts. Often, when a regiment’s ranks were depleted by desertions and other causes, the army offered cash and other inducements to enlistees.
The new men also became eligible to draw on the commissary and sutler’s stores against future pay. Three other men from the Martin Company enlisted with William, so this was probably the case then. Recruits were few in the wilderness. William was probably able
to supplement his children’s diet and possibly also help with blankets by enlisting. Also, he would not be along to receive an adult ration, also leaving that to others of the company. 
There was a Barlow family with the company that seems almost surely to have been his deceased wife’s relatives. John Barlow, an 18 year old son of that family also joined the army the same day as William. The Barlow family and William’s family lived less than fifteen miles apart in England. Although no exact genealogical link has been found, it
seems reasonable the Barlows took the girls to travel with them. Whatever the details, William must have been heartbroken and the little girls terrified at the parting. William had committed himself to five years of service in an unfamiliar situation and to repay some indebtedness to a government foreign to him.
The first several months of army life for William Ashton were uneventful. The Martin handcart company recruits in the 6th Infantry troops stationed at Fort Laramie surely Fort Laramie in the 1850’s 8
went through the adjustment necessary for any civilian introduced to military life but they were not called upon to participate in any arduous campaigns that winter. The local Indian tribes were generally not troublesome. But change was in the wind. By the spring of 1857, the Cheyenne were chafing at the encroachments on their tribal domain by settlers and the army and were raiding immigrant trains and settlements wherever they could. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis ordered Colonel Edwin (“Bull”) Sumner to mount an expedition of chastisement against the Cheyenne. Sumner’s 1st Cavalry was chosen as the spearhead with elements of the 6th Infantry, Company G included, in support.9  This included William as well as the others that had enlisted with him.10 During this expedition, the infantry suffered not only great fatigue but deprivation of food and shelter, as the expedition commander, Colonel Edwin V. “Bull” Sumner chased the
Indians with his cavalry, requiring exhausting forced marches by the foot soldiers in an attempt to keep up. The marches took them into what is now Southeastern Colorado, into central Kansas and on to Fort Leavenworth in northeastern Kansas. In Kansas, Company
G was involved in the battle of Solomon’s Fork where numerous Cheyenne were killed or wounded, but William escaped harm. Food ran short and the soldiers subsisted on scrawny beef and went days without nourishing food. At one point, the men were reduced
to eating coyotes, skunks and buzzards.11 Many soldiers deserted, perhaps justifiably, including two recruits from the Martin Company, Aaron Harrison and Samuel Blackham. 12 William stayed the course, perhaps because of commitments he had made to the sutler’s store as mentioned earlier.13 As the campaign ended, Company G was in the
vicinity of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
In May, 1858, William’s regiment was ordered from Kansas to Utah Territory to reinforce the army sent there the previous fall to put down the “Mormon Rebellion”. The regiment was to become part of General Albert Sidney Johnston’s Army of Utah. By July 31, 1858, the regiment, including William’s Company G, had arrived at Fort Bridger, Utah Territory14. William was then in the unique position of being the only Mormon to be a part of what is known as “Johnston’s Army,” which was to march into the Salt Lake Valley to ensure Brigham Young and the Mormons would comply with federal law.
William was likely to be able to make contact with his daughters, if they had survived.
However, circumstances prevented this. In July, 1858, General Johnston was ordered by Headquarters, U.S. Army, to select one of two regiments to add to the force already at Camp Floyd in Utah County, the other to be sent to the Department of the West,
headquartered at Benicia, California. Johnston selected the 7th Infantry for Camp Floyd service and ordered William’s regiment to California. For a short time, William was within 130 miles of his two surviving daughters, but he was not aware that two of his daughters had survived.15
“Johnston’s Army” marched from the Fort Bridger area on June 13, 1858, taking companies, B and C, of the 6th Infantry into the Salt Lake Valley. William Ashton’s company G and the remainder of the 6th Infantry remained at Fort Bridger until companies B and C returned from the valley and on August 31st, the entire regiment began their march to California. That march, combined with the just completed march from Fort Leavenworth totaled 2,147 miles. Adding to this the marches associated with the Cheyenne Expedition, we see Company G marching more than 2,500 miles over a few months. The route from Fort Bridger was westward to the Bear River, near present day
Evanston, Wyoming, then avoiding Echo Canyon and the Salt Lake Valley altogether, north following Bear river past Bear Lake to Soda Springs and then along the Portneuf River to Fort Hall and then following Hudspeth’s cutoff past the City of Rocks and there connecting to the California Trail to Carson’s Pass over the Sierras. In spite of strenuous effort to beat the winter snows, they slogged through two feet of snow at the summit.
By October, 1858 they were encamped in California, moving then to Benicia Barracks in the Oakland area. At this point, the regiment was fragmented and sent to wherever they were needed to suppress Indian depredations or deal with other problems. William and Company G saw most of California during the next three years.
In October, 1861, the regiment received orders to sail to Washington D.C. for Civil War service. Company G was at Benicia Barracks and William’s five year enlistment was completed. On October 9, 1861, Private William Ashton was honorably discharged and from there, his trail goes cold. We do know he received several months back pay upon
discharge, with possibly additional funds held in his account.16 This would have given him some resources to travel to his next destination, wherever that might have been. He may have even been able to travel on the ship with the regiment to Washington, D.C. down the West Coast to Panama and across the isthmus by railroad and up the East Coast to the Capital.
No record tells us of the next several years of William’s life. It appears he found his way back to England, as he, or someone with the same name and circumstances, is found in census records. At some point he learned there were survivors in the Martin Company and in 1888 placed the following ad in the Millennial Star:
“Elder William Ashton is very anxious to learn the address of any one or all of his daughters, Betsy, Sarah, and Mary, who emigrated from Stockport, England, on the 18th of May, 1856. They crossed the plains in one of the ‘Handcart Companies’.”17
Betsy had died on the plains; Mary had died in childbirth in 1869 in West Jordan; and Sarah Ellen, who had lost the sight of one eye from the cold on the handcart trail, was in Whitney, Idaho, having gone there with her husband, Thomas Wesley Beckstead, a Canadian convert and early pioneer to South Jordan. A silent witness of Sarah Ellen’s
feelings toward her father, of whose whereabouts she then knew nothing, is the fact that she named one of her sons “William Albert Beckstead”, even using William’s seldom mentioned middle name. The name “William” is still popular among his descendants. She
also named a daughter that died as an infant “Sarah Alberta”, perhaps honoring both her parents.
Someone brought a copy of the Millennial Star to Sarah. We can hardly imagine Sarah’s emotions on getting this news of her father after thirty-two years. But she must have been anxious to see him as she and her husband sent him means to come to Idaho, which he did. He spent his remaining years with Sarah Ellen and her husband in Whitney and became known as “Grandpa Ashton.” An indication of Grandpa Ashton’s acceptance by the community was his giving a speech at the 1889 Fourth of July celebration in Whitney.
William shared the rostrum with several of his grandchildren who sang, gave talks and otherwise entertained the crowd. Like so many wishes when we study individual history, we hope someone might be digging into an old trunk and find a journal that included some notes of  that speech.
William died October 21, 1891 and is buried in the Whitney cemetery. Sarah Ellen lived until 1912 and is remembered in family histories as a grand old lady. Certainly her posterity is large and has achieved much in the way of service to their communities and country. One of her descendants, presumably gathering memories from the older
generation wrote: “She probably believed that having only one eye was no handicap. She churned butter, sold eggs, served as a midwife, and helped in the community wherever and whenever she was called upon.” She is also buried in the Whitney cemetery.
When, in an incident of more than fifteen years of researching the soldiers of the Utah War I first learned of the military experience of William, I knew nothing of his family connection to the Becksteads and Whitney, Idaho but that information soon surfaced. It turns out I was in high school in Preston, Idaho with at least a dozen of William’s
descendants. In contacting some of them, I found few were aware of his exemplary military service or of the details that, to me at least, provide a different view of his decision to enlist at Fort Laramie. I have since made my concept of his motives and circumstances available to some. Unfortunately, he may still be unkindly remembered by others.

1 This article is an expansion of an article titled “Soldiers into Saints: Saints into Solders” published in the Utah Genealogical Association’s quarterly publication Crossroads, December 2008 issue, pages 171-178.
2 Lynne Slater Turner, Emigrating Journals of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies and the Hunt and Hodgett Wagon Trains, n. p.: 1996), 115.
3 Ibid, 81, 88, 141.
4 Ibid, 141. (Some accounts indicate Elizabeth was buried at sea.)
5 Ibid, 115.
6 Major Hoffman was a New Yorker and a West Point graduate of 1829. He had served in the Mexican War and was promoted for gallant and meritorious conduct in two battles. He would lead a large wagon train of emergency supplies to Utah Territory in 1858 to supplement the meager rations of the snowbound troops of General Johnston near Fort Bridger. He served as commissary of prisoners during the Civil War and was brevetted Major General in 1865. He retired in 1870.
7 Turner, Journals, 115.
8 Fort Laramie is not near the Wyoming city of Laramie. It is about 100 miles northeast on the Overland
9 William’s military experience from Fort Laramie until his discharge at Benicia, California in 1861 is taken from the monthly regimental returns of the 6th Infantry, NARA, Microfilm 665, Roll 68, FHL#
10 William, Samuel Blackham, 22; Aaron Harrison, 19; and John Barlow, 18, all joined the army on the same day. Barlow’s enlistment appears to have been as a contract laborer. William’s enlistment is found in Adjutant General’s Office, War Department, Register of Enlistments, U.S. Army, NARA, Microfilm M233, Roll 25, p. 2, line 83. FHL# 350331. The records of the other enlistees are found on this film.
11 Clifford L. Swanson, The Sixth United States Infantry Regiment, 1855 to Reconstruction, (Jefferson, NC, McFarland & Company, Inc., 2001),8-11.
12 It is a popular belief among many interested parties that Aaron Harrison did not desert but came into the Salt Lake Valley with “Johnston’s Army” in June 1858. The military records are clear that Harrison deserted October 27, 1857. It is also clear that only companies B and C came into the valley while the other companies, including company G stayed at Fort Bridger until they left on the long march to Benicia, California in August, 1858. Available records of the Blackham families lives have no mention of Samuel’s military service. They settled in San Pete County, Utah but Samuel, after his marriage to Mary Ann Lamb of Manchester, England, took his family to Evanston, Wyoming after the town was established as a railroad division point. He died there in 1910.
14 6th Infantry Regimental Return for July, 1858. NARA microfilm M665, Roll 68, FHL# 1579299. In 1858, Fort Bridger was within the boundaries of Utah Territory. Before Utah’s statehood, chunks of Utah
were split off until it reached its present configuration. The “notch” that allows Wyoming to be a rectangle contains Fort Bridger.
15 At this time, William must have been convinced, from what news he had heard, that the Martin Company disaster took his daughters. He did not learn the truth until much later. It is likely the army, knowing
William was a Mormon, kept a close eye on him while the regiment was at Fort Bridger.
16 During the Civil War and after, honorably discharged regular army soldiers were also provided travel money to their points of enlistment. It is not clear if this was a policy in 1861.
17 Millennial Star, 31 December, 1888.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Handcart Pictures

I think Isaac may have looked very much like this picture

Charlie found the second pictures, which shows handcart pioneers in the snow.  There was a wearing struggle before the snow, as depicted in the first picture.  This represents to me Isaac's struggle and he and John Bailey pulled Langley across the plains.  However, Isaac probably did not have a covered cart, as these were better and usually reserved for families.  The cart more likely looked like those in the second picture. 
This image also represents for me Isaac on the trail, as he was called upon to dig many graves.  One day they placed twenty people in a common grave.

This is a depiction of Sarah and Mary Ashton painted by Julie Rogers.  I think of this picture just after Betsy passed away.  Their older sister gone, their parents gone, the had to comfort each other. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Your Heart Will Burn: Act 1 overture and scene 1.

15 years ago I wrote a musical of the handcarts, which we produced in our ward, Stevens Creek Ward.  I told the stories of Isaac and the Ashtons as well as the company.  The program is in this post:

Please remember that this was a ward production, and I was directing.  We have our flaws, but overall I think it is done well.  If not for Susan McGhie, who made the video, we would not have a record of the musical.  I will be correcting some of the historical mistakes I have found.  I am putting the musical on You Tube a bit at a time and will comment here.
  Overture and Act 1 Scene 1:  This video has the overture, Joe Eliason on piano and Elaine Morris on violin.  Stan Dye introduces  the missionaries as President Richards.  This was my first artistic license as Isaac says he was taught by Frederick Smith.  I have not found any other reference to Frederick Smith.  However to avoid multiple cast members, President Richards, president of the European mission, and apostle, is here.  This scene shows Isaac and his older brother William in the mines.  Isaac began working at the age of seven.  He would come home and fall asleep as he ate his dinner.  This is presented in the scene.  Isaac is portrayed by my son Mark and sings the son "Living Between the Light and the Shadows" which I wrote in high school.  I added a verse for Isaac.  We also see James and Mary, Isaac's parents.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Handcarts: DUP Pioneer Museum

The have three handcart at the DUP museum.  I thought handcarts were sturdier and larger than those represented.  I think the ones used for treks, and museums are larger; but these are handcarts used originally.  I am not sure if any of the Martin Company survived--as all were left behind and the Saints entered the Valley in wagons.  I know they were built to have the same wheel base as wagons, but it looking at them, and comparing them to wagons, the appeared skinny to me.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Book Report: Handcarts West in "56

This was written by John Bond, a twelve year old member of the Hodgetts Wagon Company, which traveled with the Martin Company.  I am reviewing the excerpts from the Church Historical website.,18016,4976-5317,00.html

In addition to the conditions along the trail, the best contribution of John Bond is to describe the conditions at Red Buttes, as the Hodgetts company was camped next to the Martin Company, and had considerable interaction:  

Snow Bound Camp of Death
Arriving here on the willow grassy bottoms, the saints [w]ringing their hands and stamping their feet they were so cold. it was still blowing, snowing and freezing on their arrival many in tears. It looked very sad indeed to see the Saints go on to the west in the icy wet clothing pulling and tugging at their carts in eight inches of snow with children crying on their carts as they go on their journey in an exausted condition. As soon as had arrived in camp made the supper ready and ate the same. All retired to their tents and wagons in a wet condition making their beds on a snowy ground as it was still snowing as do retire to rest.
Early morn all are called and breakfast is made ready by a smoky fire as the snow was still drizzling making tears run down the haggard cheeks of the loved ones when they were eating their scanty meal. Hodgets wagon train camped near Edwin [Edward] Martins Hand-cart train when next morning the bugle is sounded by John Wadkins to go to prayers and when all had met Edward Martin called upon Moses Cluff to offer up a prayer and when it was over Edward Martin announced that six brethern and sisters had died, and desired to have their graves dug. The captains detailed men to dig the graves while others were allotted the task of sewing the departed ones up in a sheet. When Brothers Benjamin Hogets, Porter, T.J. Franklin, Moses Cluff and John Tones [Toon] were detailed to carry the departed ones to their last resting place. Later the bugle is sounded for all to gather at the graves when the brethern came walking in their turns with the departed ones and lay them in their graves, hymn 47 was sung in full.
Come, come, ye Saints no toil nor labor fear,
But with joy wend your way
Though hard your journey may appear
Grace shall be as your day.
Tis better far for us to strive,
Our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell
All is well; all is well."
Isaac very likely was dispatched to dig the grave.  He also describes the rescue:

Alas! In the after part of the day, I was playing in front of Sister Scott's wagon with her son Joseph, then seven years old and his mother was looking to the westward. All at once Sister Scott sprang to her feet in the wagon and screamed out at the top of her voice. I see them coming! I see them coming! Surely they are angels from heaven. At such being said, I looked the way she was looking, but could not see or perceive what she was looking at in the distance. When again she called out, I see them plainer! plainer! plainer! I still looked the way she was looking, but could not see what she saw, and I was so anxious to see what she was looking at. By this time, more of the Brethern and Sisters came from their tents and wagons, from over the camp anxious to observe what she saw in the distance.
All kept looking westward for the moving objects, when all commenced to see in the far distance at the curve of the hill what Sister Scott saw, and it was three men on horses driving another slowly in the deep crusted snow, and the wolves were howling in all directions. Still the saints keep waiting for the moving objects, <as> all were anxious to see the relief party coming to releive the distress all were in bringing assistance to elivate [alleviate] the loving saints in all directions. Undaunted faith as the moving objects could be seen distinctly a general cry rent the air. Hurrah! hurrah! Some of the voices choking with laughter and of tears down care worn cheeks. They were so pleased to know that they were to be saved and delivered from the fears of ignomenious death. When Sister Scott waved her shawl, "We are saved!" so loud that all in camp could hear her and still repeating, "It is! It is surely the relief party from Utah."
Joseph A. Young, Daniel W. Jones and Abraham Garr came into camp with a small dun colored mule packed with supplies when much rejoicing insued through camp with Hurrahs! Hurrahs! again and again as the broken hearted mothers ran clasping their emaciated arms around the necks of the relief party, kissing them time and time again and as do rush up in groups to welcome the brethern, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters fall on each others necks the tears falling from their eyes in profusion being so overjoyed to think that all were to soon have relief

One of the things I enjoyed was his memory of the songs sung at different meetings.  The Valley Boys had a favorite:

It's every Sunday morning
When I am by her side,
We'll jump into the wagon
And all take a ride.
We'll wait for the wagon,
We'll wait for the wagon,
We'll wait for the wagon,
And all take a ride.

I remember singing this song as a lad.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Review: ****Charlote's Rose

This book is a novel, a fictionalized version of the third handcart company.  However there are somethings in this book which are interesting, and worth of inclusion in Isaac's history, and also the story of the Ashton girls.

This book is a bout handcart members from Wales.  A woman in the company dies in childbirth, and her husband is too grief stricken to take the baby.  A young girl, age thirteen, takes the baby, and cares for her and carries her on her back across the plains.  The thought of someone taking care of someone else points me to the Ashtons.  I wonder who cared for the baby Sarah Ann, that was born near Florence, when Great Grandmother Sarah Ashton passed away.  The baby lived for almost two weeks, so someone in the company must have been a wet nurse to the baby; and somebody else probably took care of the baby.  When William Ashton left the company, the other girl, while supervised by a family, I am sure, were basically in the care and supervision of Betsy, eleven years old at the time.  When Betsy passed away, they would have been in the care of others, as orphan girls.

One of the characters in the book, John, is escaping the coal mines as part of his trek West.  The dialogue is very interesting. 

Boyfriend talking about working in the coal mines.
“I am free here,” he says.  “I can stand up straight.  Stretch out my arms and legs.  Look up whenever I choose and see the sun.  You have no idea what it is like to go for days and days without seeing the sun because you are buried in the belly of a mine.”
…”Papa took me to work with him the morning I turned thirteen,” he says.  “I felt proud of myself as I walked in the colliery with him.  I was a man.  Just like Papa.  Just like my brother,…”
“ By the time Papa and I reached the pithead, I was sick with excitement.  I couldn’t wait to enter the mines with the rest of the men.  I stepped into the crowded pit cage, waiting to be lowered to the bottom.
“The dropped us nearly a quarter of a mile.
“The ride was fast and hard and dark.  Bits of dust and coal blew into my face.  Wind whistled in my ears.  I screamed, Charlotte.  In front of all of them.…”
John shrugs, “I hated the deep darkness of the pit and the way is smothers a soul like a filthy blanket.  I hated tasting dust and slithering on my stomach through tight places.  And I hated myself for hating it all….”
The ast bit of information, useful for our study of Isaac and his part in the handcarts, is included in a letter to the Reader, after the story is complete.  It explains the reason for travel by handcart. 
“A Letter to the Reader “
Nineteenth-century Mormonism, with its emphasis on social equality and communal living, had a special appeal for Europe’s poor; who suffered under rigid class systems favoring the rich and powerful.  For this purpose, the Perpetual Emigrating Fund was established—to outfit emigrants … and assist them in reaching Zion. 
    Economic reverses in the territory of Utah during the 1850s, however, strapped the church’s resources.  Brigham Young therefore conceived of a radical plan to cut costs while providing European church members with an opportunity to emigrate to America.  Nothing like it had been tried before: Emigrants would pull their own small wagons across prairies and over mountains to reach their new home.  (243-244)
Charlotte’s Rose,  A.E. Cannon, Wendy Lamb Books, 2002, New York, N.Y.

It was fun to find some useful information, when I was mostly reading for fun.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Book Review: ***^The Gathering of Zion

The Gathering of Zion: The Story of the Mormon Trail is written by Wallace Stegner.  It was published in 1964 by University of Nebraska Press.  Wallace Stegner is a great story teller and writer, and the words he uses sometimes cannot be equalled.  I heard him quoted in 17 Miracles the movie.  He has a way of expressing himself that is very artistic.  However, I do not think he is a very good historian.  In the name of the story, he does not document his work, but just tells where what authors he referred to in each chapter.  It is very hard to track and verify, from a historical point of view.  Some of his history is wanting.  His telling the background of the church especially.  This is explained in his comments about bibliography and explanation that Fawn Brodie's work, "No Man Knows My History" is one of the works he deems "worthy of complete trust."  I tried to read that book, and could not get past the first few chapters, because Brodie was out for finding every lie about Joseph Smith and try to restate it is fact.  That is my opinion.  A book that relies on Fawn Brodie for any part of telling a story is lacking in my regard.  However, when he actually tells the story about the trail, and especially when he gets past an "attitude" that dominates the first part of the book, he does a better job of telling the story.  His chapters on the handcarts are classic.  He gives a description of the handcart pioneers which can bring you to tears.  I quote this in Isaac's history.

   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 thousand 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 gong to walk there, nearly fourteen hundred miles, having their belongings on handcarts.  (Stegner , pp 221-2)

For studying the handcart pioneers, this book is a must.  Stegner has a way of writing which is very nice and so I would recommend this book.  However I would overlook some of his work with regards to background, and take it as his listening to the wrong sources, or deciding incorrectly who is the most neutral.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Movie Review: *****17 Miracles

I finally have gotten to see this movie which I have been intending to see for some time.  In fact went to the theater to see it in Loan, but it was not showing for repairs to the theater that day, and we were headed out of town the next day.  However Sheri got it for me for Christmas, and I have finally been able to watch it. 

The movie is very good at telling its story.  I am not sure of the title, 17 miracles.  There were miracles a plenty on this trek, and to limit oneself to number is a disservice.  Of course the film maker may be thinking they are showing only 17, but a miracle to one is not to another, so the number is somewhat arbitrary.  I can think of many other miracles which were not included in the story.

I enjoyed the stories shown, some of which I was already familiar, and others I was not.  Brother Savage, as the narrator used words of many people, including Wallace Stegner, Frances Webster and Josiah Rogerson.  I am sure there were others I did not recognize.  The miracles with regards to food, the stranger giving jerky, and the pots filling with food, or finding food on the plains. 

I was confused at times with the switch from the Martin to the Willie Company.  This also threw the timeline off.  Bodil, who is shown passing away died, after the rescuers had reached the Willie Company, and after they had climbed Rocky Ridge.  However they showed the rescue of the Martin Company which was several days later, at Red Buttes.  I liked the bits about the Loader family who were with the Martin Company.  There is a story of the mother, pretending to fall one morning to get her girls up out of bed.  I would have like to have seen that story.  I also missed the Jacksons, whose husband died, but visited her in a dream telling her the rescuers were coming. 

As for my person connection, I must admit, the stork choked me up to the point I was in tears.  Not only for the people potrayed in the movie, but also for my own great-great-aunty Betsy Ashton, who froze her feet at last crossing, and passed away shortly after this.  Her two younger sisters survived the trip.  The youngest, Mary,  (still alive as two younger had earlier passed away during the trek) is my great-great grandmother.  I also watched those digging graves, as my great-great grandfather was also on the trek, and dug many graves.

My only objection to the movie is with regards the the written information at the end, which claimed that not many more on the the two treks passed away than with the regular pioneer trips.  Generally it is accepted that six percent of the pioneers passed away on the trips.  With regards to this journey, the number would be between 18 and 20 percent, or three times the normal death rate.  This rate is derived by adding the deaths for the two trips, 65 of the Willie Company and 135-150 of the Martin Company.  The total pioneers was 500 in the Wilie Company and 650 in the Martin Company.

Despite its problems with combining two stories, this movie for me receives the highest marks, and I will be viewing it over and over.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Book Review: Church History, Durham through Jones

I have been going through the Church History Trail Excerpts for the Martin Handcart Company.  These can be found at the church website,16272,4019-1-192,00.html
I am finding their is a great deal to go through, but the process is worth it.  However I have divided it into sections so I can keep track of where I have been.  In this section there is an excerpt from Dan Jones' book.  He was one of the rescuers and part of the express group that found the Martin Handcart Company.  He was also selected to spend the winter at Devil's Gate to guard the goods of the Saints that were left so they could use the wagons to cart the pioneers. 

There is a quote from one young man who noted that because some were sick, there was an added burden on others to carry them on their carts.  Of great import in this section is the journal of Jesse Haven.  He was captain of Company E from Iowa City to Florence.  This company was combined with Company F at Florence to form the Martin Handcart Company.  Jesse Haven then helped with the wagons.  I am convinced that Isaac was in this company until reaching Florence.  This is based on Langley's mother appealing to Captain Toone for a blessing for her son.  Captain Toone was with the Haven group.  He continues as a captain of 100 with Elder Martin. 

These pages also give an idea of the weather.  It went from in the 100s to below zero in a matter of a few months.  It also describes the problems with the Indians this year.  There were several attacks upon the plains, but they left the handcart pioneers alone for the most part.  There is a gruesome story of a wolf attacking and eating a man just before the last crossing of the Platte.  This seems to have made an impression on the pioneers.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Francis Webster: HandcartPioneer

I am enclosing the famous story of Francis Webster.  The interesting thing to note about his story, is the angels seem to have come even before the snow.  Not that he talks about making it to a  "patch of sand"  He was likely referring to the hills of Western Nebraska, before the snows came.  The Black Hills area was one of the most difficult of the journey.  The article linked at the end from Chad Orton talks about this.  

Some years ago president David O. McKay told from this pulpit of the experience of some of those in the Martin handcart company. Many of these early converts had emigrated from Europe and were too poor to buy oxen or horses and a wagon. They were forced by their poverty to pull handcarts containing all of their belongings across the plains by their own brute strength. President McKay relates an occurrence which took place some years after the heroic exodus: “A teacher, conducting a class, said it was unwise ever to attempt, even to permit them [the Martin handcart company] to come across the plains under such conditions.
“[According to a class member,] some sharp criticism of the Church and its leaders was being indulged in for permitting any company of converts to venture across the plains with no more supplies or protection than a handcart caravan afforded.
“An old man in the corner … sat silent and listened as long as he could stand it, then he arose and said things that no person who heard him will ever forget. His face was white with emotion, yet he spoke calmly, deliberately, but with great earnestness and sincerity.
“In substance [he] said, ‘I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes. But I was in that company and my wife was in it and Sister Nellie Unthank whom you have cited was there, too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? Not one of that company ever apostatized or left the Church, because everyone of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.
“‘I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it.’” He continues: “‘I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there.
“‘Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.’” (Relief Society Magazine, Jan. 1948, p. 8.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Book Review: Mormon Country by Wallace Stegner

Mormon Country
Wallace Stegner includes a couple chapters about the handcarts in this book.  He starts giving a description of the handcart pioneers, and includes Isaac at the beginning of his description.  “They were British converts from the black-belt collieries…  He concludes this chapter with this description of the Martin and Willie Companies’ handcart experience.  “The story of these two caravans of Saints is a story of tragedy second in western history only to the tragedy of the Donnor Party.  The only thing the Donnor Party did that the handcart companies did not was to eat their dead companions.  The Mormons, apparently, were better prepared to die.  Their hope was fixed on heaven, not on the golden shore.  He described how the rations were reduced as the trial became harder in an effort to make them last until help would arrive.  “There was a law of diminishing returns against them.  The harder the way became, the less strength they had to get over it.  The more their bodies clamored for food and warmth, the less food and warmth there were.  The greater their need for haste, the slower their pace became.”
Statements such as these, help me to understand a bit better what the handcart trek must have been like.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Isaac Wardle Chapter Eight:The Rescuers

Chapter Eight: Rescuers
“About this time….two men rode into our camp,...”

From “Hunger and Cold”  
Oh, whence came those shouts in the still, starry night,
That thrilled us and filled us with hope and delight?
The cheers of new comers, a jubilant sound
Of triumph and joy over precious ones found.
Life, Life was the treasure held out to our view,
By the "Boys from the Valley," so brave and so true,
The "Boys from the Valley," sent out by their chief,
Brought clothing and food and abundant relief.
O'er mountainous steeps, over drearisome plains
They sought us, and found us, thank God for their pains!
Hurrah! and hurrah! from the feeble and strong.
Hurrah! and hurrah! loud the echoes prolong.
They were saviors, these men whom we hardly had seen,
Yet it seemed that for ages, acquainted we'd been.
When Fate introduces Compassion to Need,
Friendships quickly are founded and ripen with speed.
Weatherworn were our friends, but like kings in disguise
Their souls' native grandeur shone out of their eyes.
Oh, soft were their hearts who with courage like steel,
left their homes in the Valley our sorrow to heal.
And soon as they sensed our deplorable plight,
Like children they weeped, 'twas a pitiful sight!
What e'er was combustible quickly they found
And speedily kindled, gleamed brightly around.
And nourishing food was prepared in a trice,
Oh, never were dainties more tempting and nice!
For helpful and kind, as a woman or Saint,
These men cheered the feeble, the frozen and faint.
God bless them for heroes, the tender and bold,
Who rescued our remnant from hunger and cold. (Woodmansee)

Franklin D. Richards, after passing the Handcart Companies, had arrived in Salt Lake October 4, and reported to Brigham Young that same day.  This was when the Martin Company was close to Scotts Bluff, before they had reached Fort Laramie.  They had traveled 472 miles from Florence, (and 270 across Iowa) and were still 559 miles from Salt Lake.  (See Olsen p 310)
Brigham Young knew they had left too late in the season to make it without problems.  This may have been from experience, or from inspiration.  A journal kept by missionaries on the plains “The Shoshone Mission” described this as inspiration.  “The Lord showed Prest. Young the situation of those handcart cos & told him to call out 500 teams to go forthwith & bring them in.”  (Shoshone, CH)  That evening he called many of the leaders together to discuss what would be needed to mount a rescue effort.  The next day happened to be the semiannual conference of the Church.  Brigham Young introduced the theme:

   I will now give this people the subject and the text for the Elders who may speak today and during the conference.  It is this.  On the 5th day of October, 1856, many of our brethren and sisters are on the plains with handcarts, and probably many are now seven hundred miles from this place, and the must be brought here, we must send assistance to them.  The text will be, 'to get them here.'  I want the brethren who may speak to understand that their text is the people on the plains.  And the subject matter for this community is to send for them and bring them in before winter sets in.
   That is my religion; that is the dictation of the Holy Ghost that I possess.  It is to save the people.  This is the salvation I am now seeking for.  To save our brethren that would be apt to perish, or suffer extremely, if we do not send them assistance...
   I will tell you all that your faith, religion, and profession of religion, will never save one soul of you in the Celestial Kingdom of our God, unless you carry out just such principles as I am now teaching you.  Go and bring in those people now on the plains."  (See Hafen and Hafen p 120-21.)

Franklin Richards also spoke at the conference, of the storms abating:

    The Saints that are now upon the plains….feel that it is late in the season, and they expect to get cold fingers and toes.  But they have this faith and confidence towards God, that he will overrule the storms that may come in the season thereof, and turn them away, that their path may be freed from suffering more than they can bear…
   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 storm, whether they would stop or turn back.  They voted, with loud acclamations, that they would go on.  Such confidence and joyful performance of so arduous labors to accomplish their gathering, will bring the choice blessings of God upon them.  (Hafen and Hafen p 122)

Brigham Young spoke again, calling for volunteers as quickly as possible, and allowing for all to participate either by going, helping in preparations for those who were to go, and donating teams, food and linens.  Conference continued on Monday, and Brigham Young dismissed the blacksmiths to go and ready the horses and wagons.  On Tuesday they were ready to start with “sixteen wagonloads of food and supplies.”  (Hafen and Hafen p 124)  Initially there were 27 men, with more to follow.
The Hafens give a summary of the help offered:

   Families of moderate means and the poorest individuals contributed from their meager stores.  One lent a horse, one a wagon, one a tent; another, two bales of hay and a sack of barley.  Some gave iron camp kettles, dutch ovens, brass buckets, tin cups and plates.  Women darned socks and shawls; patched underwear, trousers and dresses; faced quilts, sewed together pieces of blankets; and took clothes from their own backs.  Families brought out from their scant cellars sacks of flour, sides of home-cured bacon, bags of beans, dried corn, packages of sugar and rice.  (Hafen and hafen p 124-25)
Many of the rescuers came to the rescue through inspiration, whether when they heard Brigham Young’s pleas for help, or later when they prayed.  George Housley quoted President Parkinson from Hyrum, Utah:

Grandfather Allen told of one time when "Brother Brigham" had called him to accompany several other young men in going out to meet the Hand Cart Company, to take them some provisions and assist them into the Valley. As he knelt in prayer the evening before going, he said that he told the Lord that it was a foolish thing to do, going out in such weather and with no roads to follow. But while he was still in the act of prayer, it was made known to him that he should go. It was also made known that he would be able to save many of their lives. (Housley, CH)

Harvey Cluff explained his reasons for becoming one of the rescuers:

I attended the October conference of that year which opened on the 6th as usual, having walked from Provo to Salt Lake City. On that day President Brigham Young at the opening of the first Session made a call upon the people to furnish teams provisions and clothing to aid the late Handcart companies in as the winter Season was fast hastening on. Snow having already fallen upon the mountains. The response to the call of President Young was most remarkable. On the following day[,] October 7th[,] 22 teames – two span of mules or horses to each wagon and each wagon loaded to the bows. There were about fifty young men in the company. Being in Salt Lake City and of an ambitious turn of mind I volunteers to go. One thing which attracted me, in addition of the interest in the handcart people, was my brother Moses [Cluff]. He was on the plains returning from a mission to England. (Cluff, Church History)

Even though Ephraim Hanks wasn’t with the original group of rescuers, he joined the rescue by miraculous means:

   In the fall of 1856, I spent considerable of my time fishing in Utah Lake; and in traveling backward and forward between that lake and Salt Lake City, I had occasion to stop once over night with Gurney Brown, in Draper, about nineteen miles south of Salt Lake City. Being somewhat fatigued after the day's journey, I retired to rest quite early, and while I still lay wide awake in my bed I heard a voice calling me by name, and then saying: “The handcart people are in trouble and you are wanted; will you go and help them?”  I turned instinctively in the direction from whence the voice came and beheld an ordinary sized man in the room. Without hesitation I answered “Yes, I will go if I am called.” I then turned around to go to sleep, but had laid only a few minutes when the voice called a second time, repeating almost the same words as on the first occasion. My answer was the same as before. This was repeated a third time.
   When I got up the next morning I said to Brother Brown, “The handcart people are in trouble,
and I have promised to go out and help them;”  but I did not tell him of my experiences during the night.  I now hastened to Salt Lake City, and arrived there on the Saturday, preceding the Sunday on which the call was made for volunteers to go out and help the last handcart companies in. When some of the brethren responded by explaining that they could get ready to start in a few days; I spoke out at once saying, “I am ready now!” The next day I was wending my way eastward over the mountains with alight wagon all alone.  (Hanks)

The experience of Dan Jones, in joining the rescuers was not so dramatic:

   I ATTENDED the October conference of 1856. When conference was opened President Young arose and said: “There are a number of our people on the plains who have started to come with hand-carts; they will need help and I want twenty teams to be ready by morning with two men to each team to go out and meet them. If the teams are not voluntarily furnished, there are plenty of good ones in the street and I shall call upon Brother J. C. Little, the marshal, to furnish them. Now we will adjourn this conference until to-morrow.” Brother Young was in earnest; he seemed moved by a spirit that would admit of no delay.
   A few days before this a number of elders had arrived from the old country reporting that the hand-cart people were on the road, but they did not know how far they had advanced. In those days there was no telegraph, and mails from the east only reached Utah monthly, they being many times delayed by high water, Indians or other causes.
   Brother Young called upon every one present to lend a hand in fitting up these teams. As I was going out with the crowd, Brother Wells spoke to me saying: “You are a good hand for the trip; get ready.” Soon after Bishop Hunter said the same thing to me. Also Brother Grant met me and said: “I want you on this trip.” I began to think it time to decide, so I answered, “all right.” (Jones, Dan)

Shortly after leaving the Valley, the rescuers elected George Grant to be their captain.  (Jones)  One of the rescuers, William Broomhead, kept a diary.  He describes the singing and dancing around the campfire.  This was a group of men with no female partners.  Even after the snow began to fall, they still sang at every opportunity.  Singing and prayer were common entries.  “I sang some Songs for the boys.”  He also recorded, “Singing after supper…three of us set up singing and talking till half past 11.”   (Broomhead, CH)  Dan Jones described the rescuers.  “…Those going were alive to the work and were of the best material possible for the occasion.  (Jones)
Jones also provided a list of those rescuers with the original company, although many others, including Ephraim Hanks, would join the rescue later:

George D. Grant was selected captain, with Robert Burton and William Kimball as assistants; Cyrus Wheelock, chaplain; Charles Decker, guide. I was given the important position of chief cook for the head mess. I was quite proud of my office, for it made me the most sought after and popular man in the camp. The rest of the company was made up of the following persons Joseph A. Young, Chauncey Webb, H. H. Cluff, D. P. Kimball, George W. Grant, Ed. Peck, Joel Parrish, Henry Goldsbrough, Thomas Alexander, Benjamin Hampton, Tomas Ricks, Abe Garr, Charles Grey, Al Huntington, “Handsome Cupid,” Stephen Taylor, William K. Broomhead, Ira Nebeker, Redick Allred, Amos Fairbanks and Tom Bankhead, a colored man. These are all the names that I remember, if there were any more I have been unable to find them.  (Jones)

It is interesting to note that Tom Bankhead was African American.  As near as I can tell, he helped the Willie Company get into Salt Lake.  Early on, the storms missed the rescuers.  A rescuer wrote, “Clear and fair, storm passed to the right and left us.”  (Burton, CH 1)  Later, at Devil’s Gate he wrote, After prayers, ceased snowing.”  (ibid)  “…It looked as if we were going to have a heavy storm but the clouds Devided to the right and left…  (Broomhead, CH)
The rescuers did not have an easy time of it.  Upon reaching the Sweetwater a very severe storm began.  “At the South Pass, we encountered a severe snow-storm. After crossing the divide we turned down into a sheltered place on the Sweetwater.  (Jones)  Harvey Cluff talked of the storm:

This relief party proceeded eastward as rapidly as possible and in due time passed over the “Southpass” [South Pass] the backbone of the continent, being the divide point of the waters flowing into the Atlantic ocean east and the Pacific ocean west. Nine miles brought us down to the Sweetwater river where we camped for the night. On arising in the following morning Snow was Several inches deep. During the two following days the storm raged with increasing furry until it attained the capacity of a northern blizzard. For protection to ourselves and animals, the company moved down the river to where the willows were dense enough to make a good protection against the raging storm from the north.  (Cluff, CH)

Captain Grant, in his letter to Brigham Young noted:

We had no snow to contend with, until we got to the Sweet Water. On the 19th and 20th of October we encountered a very severe snow storm. We met br. [James G.] Willie's company on the 21st; the snow was from six to ten inches deep where we met them. They were truly in a bad situation, but we rendered them all the assistance in our power. Br. Wm. H. Kimball returned with them, also several other brethren. The particulars of this company you have doubtless learned before this time. (Grant, CH)

Captain Willie found them in this spot the next day, and they were able to help in the rescue of the Willie Company.  Elder William Kimball and a few others remained with this company to help them get into Salt Lake.  The rescuers continued East, sending a fast search team before them.  The main body traveled 100 miles in five days.  (Hafen and Hafen p 126)  The snow was so high the rescuers had to lay over a couple days:

But I desire to state that at one time while we were traveling down the Sweet Water [Sweetwater] about 300 or 400 miles east of Salt Lake City, the snow was so deep that the axle-trees of our wagons dragged and we were compelled to remain camped at the same place for one or two days in consequence of the severity of the storms, but with no idea other than resuming our journey when the weather would permit, until we found the companies we were sent to relieve.  (Burton, CH 2)

“The greater portion of our company now continued on towards Devil’s Gate, traveling through snow all the way. When we arrived at Devil’s Gate we found our express there awaiting us. No tidings as yet were received of the other companies.”  (Grant, CH)
    They met the advance scout team at Devil’s gate.  They still had not come upon the handcart pioneers.  They were again sent forward to the Platte River.  They found them at Red Buttes, about 18 miles to the west of the Platte.  They were able to rally them and get them moving, and returned to Devil’s Gate and encouraged the rescue teams to move forward.  They rescue wagons met the handcart company at Greasewood Creek October 31.  From John Bond we learn that the “Valley Boys’ had a “theme song.”  As they approached Greasewood Creek he noted:

All were anxious to see the valley boys as their musical voices could be heard getting closer and closer as the saints sat by large sage brush fires. Finally arrived in camp sing their much loved song to cheer them on the way.
It's every Sunday morning
When I am by her side,
We'll jump into the wagon
And all take a ride.
We'll wait for the wagon,
We'll wait for the wagon,
We'll wait for the wagon,
And all take a ride.  (Bond, CH)

Heber McBride described the rescuers in this fashion, pointing out they had come so far, they did not have a great deal of provisions, “but they were workers[.] the[y] put the tents up and got wood and took care of Mother and the 3 little ones[.]”  (McBride, Heber, CH 1) The rescuers put their lives in jeopardy, but had faith Heavenly Father would see them through.  “Those who have gone back never will be sorry for or regret having done so….If they die during the trip, they will die while endeavoring to save their brethren; and who has greater love than he that lays own his life for his friends?´ (Kimball, CH)
From Greasewood Creek, the next day’s trek brought them to Devil’s Gate.  While at Devil’s Gate and Martin’s Cove, the rescuers supported the immigrants not only physically, but also spiritually.  “During our stay here, we had meetings ever evening to counsel together and ask the Lord to turn away the cold and storm so that the people might live.”  (Burton, CH 1)  “No power could save the people from death but that of God. To our rescue O Lord God Almighty seemed the fervent prayer constantly offered to our Heavenly Father.”  (Cluff, CH)
The Hafens summarized this period as a time of frequent prayers by the Saints for the rescuers and the pioneers.  “Prayers at all public meetings and in private homes petitioned the Almighty to avert the storms, strengthen the rescuers, and spare the  trapped emigrants.”  (Hafen and Hafen p 125)  Captain Grant expressed the belief that prayers were general from the entire church:

   I never felt so much interest in any mission that I have been sent on, and all the brethren who came out with me feel the same. We have prayed without ceasing, and the blessing of God has been with us…
   I have never seen such energy and faith among the 'boys,' nor so good a spirit as is among those who came out with me. We realize that we have your prayers for us continually, also those of all the Saints in the Valley.”  (Grant, CH)

Another Rescuer added this testimony:

I am setting. not on the stile. mary. but on a sack of oats with the paper on my knee, by the side of a blazing Camp fire, surrounded by some eight hundred persons, one old lady lays dead within twenty feet of me, babies crying. Some singing some praying, &c &c. but among all this, I feel to rejoice. for the hand of the Lord has been continually with us. Almost every day angry Storms arise very threatening, and judging from this appearance one would think that we should be unable to with stand to tempest but the prayers of the holy men of God are heard, the clouds, divide to the right and left, letting the saints pass through in safety. The suffering of the camp from frozen feet and various other causes, I will not attempt to describe, suffice to any bad. bad. [We have] faith of our heavenly Father being continualy with us, Staying the storm as in the past for without the help of high heaven, we should have been Snow bound in the mountains long ago.  (Hunter, CH)

President Young had started toward the East to help in the rescue.  “he said that if thay did not go that he would go himself and he Started out himself with the breathren[.] he got as far as the big Mountain[.] he took cold and the breathren prevailed on him to return back home:”  (Archer, CH)  However his mind was still with the stranded pioneers:

…My mind is yonder in the snow, where those immigrating Saints are, and my mind was been with them ever since I had the report of their start from Winter Quarters (Florence) on the 3rd of September. I cannot talk about anything, I cannot go out or come in, but what in every minute or two minutes my mind reverts to them; and the questions whereabouts are my brethren and sisters who are on the plains, and what is their condition, force themselves upon me and annoy my feelings all the time. And were I to answer my own feelings, I should do so by undertaking to do what the conference voted I should not do, that is, I should be with them now in the snow, even though it should be up to the knees, up to the waist, or up to the neck. My mind is there, and my faith is there; I have a great many reflections about them.  (Young, Brigham, CH 1)

Joseph Simmons, one of the rescuers, described the help of the Lord:

I feel to rejoice. for the hand of the Lord has been continually with us. Almost every day angry Storms arise very threatening, and judging from this appearance one would think that we should be unable to with stand to tempest but the prayers of the holy men of God are heard, the clouds, divide to the right and left, letting the saints pass through in safety….We intend reaching the vally next Saturday but this calculation is founded upon the faith of our heavenly Father being continualy with us, Staying the storm as in the past for without the help of high heaven, we should have been Snow bound in the mountains long ago.  (Hunter, CH)

The rescuers where empathetic to the strugglers Harvey Cluff explained:

Every possible assistance from the boys from Utah was freely given. And these young hardy men from the Rockies were a mighty force and power in the salvation of that people. No more efficient help could have been furnished. They had crossed the dreary plains [k]new what hunger, thirst, starvation, weary travelling with sore feet ment; hence with the subsquent experience in the Vallies gave them the Vim to endure and they did endure and they worked Valiently for the poor emigrants.  (Cluff, CH)

Dan Jones said, “We did all we possibly could to help and cheer the people. Some writers have endeavored to make individual heroes of some of our company. I have no remembrance of any one shirking his duty. Each and everyone did all they possibly could and justice would give to each his due credit.”  (Jones)
Patience Loader Archer offered this description of the rescuers, “I am told thay are all good men but I daresay that thay are all rather rought in there Manners[,] but we found that thay all had kind good hearts[.]”  (Archer, CH)  Rough in their manners, but all with good hearts.  That is a fitting description. Patience would later add, “what brave men thay must have been to start out from Salt L City in the midle of winter in search of us poor folks that was away back campt near the last crossing of the plat[te] river[.] (when thay left the city thay did not know how far thay would have to trav1e in the snow before thay would find us[).]”  (ibid)
The members at Salt Lake had donated supplies liberally, and there was an effort to keep track of donations and disbursements:

The weather was cold, the snow deep, the people poor and nearly destitute of clothing, and some provisions. These supplies had been donated by the people in Salt Lake, and these people had been very liberal in their donations, (for they were all in straightened circumstances) but had given such articles as they could and such as would aid the suffering imigrants. Most of the supplies were given to Capt. Edward Martin’s Hand cart company, whose sufferings were intense and necessities very great. A strict account was kept of all these disbursements. The lives of the people were too precious to permit of our carrying anything in the wagons which could possibly be dispensed with. We consequently cached at Devil’s gate all freight that, in our judgment, could be left so as to relieve the company.  (Burton, CH 2)

    Ephraim Hanks joined the rescue effort late, but had a big impact on the pioneers.  He actually did not meet the Martin Handcart Company until after they had left the Martin’s Cove:

   The terrific storm which caused the immigrants so much suffering and loss overtook me near the South Pass, where I stopped about three days with Reddick N. Allred, who had come out with provisions for the immigrants. The storm during these three days was simply awful. In all my travels in the Rocky Mountains both before and afterwards, I have seen no worse. When at length the snow ceased falling, it lay on the ground so deep that for many days it was impossible to move wagons through it. Being deeply concerned about the possible fate of the immigrants, and feeling anxious to learn of their condition, I determined to start out on horseback to meet them; and for this purpose I secured a packsaddle and two animals (one to ride and one to pack), from Brother Allred, and began to make my way slowly through the snow alone.
   After traveling for some time I met Joseph A. Young and one of the Garr boys, two of the relief company which had been sent from Salt Lake City to help the companies. They had met the immigrants and were now returning with important dispatches from the camps to the headquarters of the Church, reporting the awful condition of the companies.  In the meantime I continued my lonely journey, and the night after meeting Elders Young and Garr, I camped in the snow in the mountains. As I was preparing to make a bed in the snow with the few articles that my pack animal carried for me, I thought how comfortable buffalo robe would be on such an occasion, and also how I could relish a little buffalo meat for supper, and before lying down for the night I was instinctively led to ask the Lord to send me a buffalo. Now, I am a firm believer in the efficacy of prayer, for I have on many different occasions asked the Lord for blessings, which He in His mercy has bestowed on me. But when I, after praying as I did on that lonely night in the South Pass, looked around me and spied a buffalo bull within fifty yards of my camp, my surprise was complete; I had certainly not expected so immediate an answer to my prayer. However, I soon collected myself and was not at a loss to know what to do. Taking deliberate aim at the animal, my first shot brought him down; he made a few jumps only, and then rolled down into the very hollow where I was encamped. I was soon busily engaged skinning my game, finishing which, I spread the hide on the snow and placed my bed upon it. I next prepared supper, eating tongue and other choice parts of the animal I had killed, to my heart's content. After this I enjoyed a refreshing night's sleep, while my horses were browsing on the sage brush.
   Early the next morning I was on my way again, and soon reached what is known as the Ice Springs Bench. There I happened upon a heard of buffalo, and killed a nice cow. I was impressed to do this, although I did not know why until a few hours later, but the thought occurred to my mind that the hand of the Lord was in it, as it was a rare thing to find buffalo herds around that place at this late part of the season. I skinned and dressed the cow; then cut up part of its meat in long strips and loaded my horses with it. Thereupon I resumed my journey, and traveled on till towards evening. I think the sun was about an hour high in the west when I spied something in the distance that looked like a black streak in the snow. As I got near to it, I perceived it moved, then I was satisfied that this was the long looked for handcart company, led by Captain Edward Martin. I reached the ill fated train just as the immigrants were camping for the night. The sight that met my gaze as I entered their camp can never be erased from my memory. The starved forms and haggard countenances of the poor suffers, as they moved about slowly, shivering with cold, to prepare their scanty evening meal was enough to touch the stoutest heart. When they saw me coming, they hailed me with joy inexpressible, and when they further beheld the supply of fresh meat I brought into camp, their gratitude knew no bounds. Flocking around me, one would say, “Oh, please, give me a small piece of meat; “another would exclaim, “My poor children are starving, do give me a little;” and children with tears in their eyes would call out, “Give me some, give me some.”  At first I tried to wait on them and handed out the meat as they called for it; but finally I told them to help themselves. Five minutes later both my horses had been released of their extra burden the meat was all gone, and the next few hours found the people in the camp busily engaged in cooking and eating it, with thankful hearts.
   A prophecy had been made by one of the brethren that the company should feast on buffalo meat when their provisions might run short; my arrival in their camp, loaded with meat, was the beginning of the fulfillment of that prediction; but only the beginning, as I afterwards shot and killed a number of buffalo for them as we journeyed along. When I saw the terrible condition of the immigrants on first entering their camp, my heart almost melted within me. I rose up in my saddle and tried to speak cheering and comforting words to them. I told them also that they should all have the privilege to ride into Salt Lake City, as more teams were coming.  (Hanks and Hanks p 48-49)

The next chapter we will talk more about Ephraim Hanks in the next chapter.  He is one of the two rescuers Isaac mentioned in his history, he and Joseph Young.  (Wardle, Isaac, 1)
Brother Redick Allred, already mentioned by Ephraim Hanks, became known as the “bulldog” for his efforts with the handcart companies.  He had been left in charge of seven men at a forward resupply point along the trail.  Most of those with him became discouraged and headed back to Salt Lake.  “Those men Said the reason they turnd <back> was because they could hear nothing from the last hand cart co – & supposed Supposed they had gone back to the States or made their winter quarters in the Buffalo country.”  (Shoshone, CH)  They were turned around again, with much exhaustion to their teams.
Brother Allred mentioned when he met Captain Grant on 17 Nov, 30 days after being left, Captain Grant said, "Hurah for the Bull Dog—good for a hang on." (Allred, CH)  Allred, a former member of the  Mormon Battalion made this comment about his efforts.  “Thus ended one of the hardest & most succesful Missions I had ever performed, for although the Mission with the Mormon Battalion was long hard & teadious, & therefore very severe, yet this was Short & Sharp in the extream.” (ibid)
As they approached the valley, more and more young man came to their aid.  These were known as the “Valley Boys.”  “As we neared the vallies—younger men—boys in their red shirts, their trousers thrust well down into their boot tops made their appearence felling the dry timber for our fires—& even trying to make merriment to cheer up our gloomy & sorely tried people.”  (Jones, Albert, CH 3)   They would often have fires and meals waiting for them when they arrived in camp.  This would sometimes include a drink made with burnt wheat, which would warm the pioneers:

   When dinner was ready, the valley boys place the tin plates, cups, knives, forks & spoons on the canvas cover and then brought the brown wheat the mothers had made ready to make coffee to warm the saints who had sunken eyes and emaciated cheeks to help their pale and frail systems. The coffee smelled delicious when cooking as had not had such a thing for a long time, but thanked God for the donners [donors] of such. As soon as the food was cooked ready the Valley Boys took the same to the weak ones, those who were unable to be out of their beds were supplied, and comforted them the best they could and many of those noble hearted boys deprived themselves of many necessaries their loved wives and sisters had made ready for them while gone on an errand of mercy, but gave to the needy saints with loving and contrait [contrite] hearts.
   Many times their eyes were full of tears as they returned from taking food to the sick ones. As they handed them the food or medicine it would invariably be, brother, sister or child "I have brought you something strengthening and the best we have brought from the valley what our dear mothers, wives, sisters, and friends sent to help strengthen you, as they have had severe trials to contend with while journeying in the valleys of the mts." Now bretheren and sisters cheer up as will soon be in good houses in the beautiful valleys you all wish to be in and see.   (Bond, CH)

Jedediah M. Grant, of the first presidency, in a discourse the first part of November, explained that the rescue effort to that time had included 200 wagons.  More wagons were needed to help with the rescue of the wagon companies, and to supply forage for the wagons already out.  (See Grant, Jedediah, CH)  Taylor indicated that eventually there were over 250 teams playing a part in the rescue.  (Taylor, P.A.M. p 240)
The Deseret News complemented the rescuers for their response.  “For never have we witnessed a greater general alacrity in answering to the calls of the First Presidency, and in turning out at such a time of the year with animals, provisions and clothing in abundance, to rescue brethren and sisters that the most who went forth had never seen.” (Deseret News, CH)
The rescue of these handcart pioneers did not end with their arrival in Salt Lake City.  Many were still invalid, and in need of succor.  Brigham Young happened to be giving a discourse for Sunday services on the morning of November 30:

   When those persons arrive I do not want to see them put into houses by themselves; I want to have them distributed in this city among the families that have good and comfortable houses; and I wish the sisters now before me, and all who know how and can, to nurse and wait upon the new comers and prudently administer medicine and food to them. To speak upon these things is a part of my religion, for it pertains to taking care of the Saints…
   The afternoon meeting will be omitted, for I wish the sisters to go home and prepare to give those who have just arrived a mouthful of something to eat, and to wash them and nurse them up. You know that I would give more for a dish of pudding and milk, or a baked potato and salt, were I in the situation of those persons who have just come in, than I would for all your prayers, though you were to stay here all the afternoon and pray. Prayer is good, but when baked potatoes and pudding and milk are needed, prayer will not supply their place on this occasion; give every duty its proper time and place…
   Works have been most noble when they were needed; we put works to our faith, and in this case we realize that our faith alone would have been perfectly dead and useless, would have been of no avail, in saving our brethren that were in the snow, but by putting works with faith we have been already blest in rescuing many and bringing them to where we can now do them more good.
   We are their temporal saviors, for we have saved them from death…. Now that most of them are here we will continue our labors of love, until they are able to take care of themselves, and we will receive the blessing.  (Young, Brigham, CH 1)
    Brigham Young’s requests were again exceeded.  Isaac made this comment, “President Brigham Young with many other brethren and sisters bid us welcome and took us to their homes.  By night we all had places to lay our heads down, rest in comfort, to rest our weary body.”  (Wardle, Isaac 1)