This Leg Walked to Zion

    Museum Treasures

    Imagine the faith and perseverance needed to pull a handcart more than 1,000 miles across the plains. Now imagine the faith and determination you’d need to pull a handcart while walking on a peg leg. Thomas David Evans had that kind of faith, wearing this leg as he crossed the plains from June 23 to October 2, 1856. 

    Thomas lost his leg at age nine, when a tram crushed his leg while he was playing in the rail yard of a steel mill in his native Wales. He joined the Church in 1849 and was married in April 1856. Two weeks after their wedding, Thomas and his bride, Priscilla, sailed for Zion with 705 Saints aboard the Samuel Curling. Thomas and Priscilla joined the Edward Bunker handcart company, the third handcart company to cross the plains that year.

    Despite his disability, Thomas pulled a handcart much of the way. Priscilla, who was expecting their first child at the time of their journey, later described their experience in this way: 

    “My husband had lost a leg in his early childhood and walked on a wooden stump, which caused him a great deal of pain and discomfort. When his knee, which rested on a pad, became very sore, my husband was not able to walk any farther and I could not pull him in the little cart, being so sick myself, so one late afternoon he felt he could not go on so he stopped to rest beside some tall sagebrush. I pleaded with him to try to walk farther, that if he stayed there he would die, and I could not go on without him. The company did not miss us until they rested for the night and when the names were checked we were not among the company and a rider on a horse came back looking for us. When they saw the pitiful condition of my husband’s knee he was assigned to the commissary wagon and helped dispense the food for the rest of the journey” (LeRoy R. Hafen and Ann W. Hafen, Handcarts to Zion: The Story of a Unique Western Migration [1960], 85).     

    Thomas wore this leg the rest of his life, though the peg portion was replaced many times. Refusing to be hampered by his disability, Thomas later returned to Wales on two Church missions.