The Trek


Martins Cove

Distance: 970 miles from Nauvoo

Having started late from Iowa and suffered innumerable mishaps and miscalculations along the way, two handcart companies under the leadership of Captains Edward Martin and James G. Willie were caught in early snows near the Continental Divide in 1856. In one of the greatest tragedies in overland trail history, hundreds died of exposure and starvation before rescuers from the Salt Lake Valley brought them to this location a few miles west of Devil's Gate in early November.

Journal Entries

Courtesy Church History Library and Archives

Brigham Young, Salt Lake City
October 1856
"I will now give this people the subject and the text of the Elders who may speak to-day 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 they 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 set in."
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Ephraim Hanks
November 1856
"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..."
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John Kirkman
11 November 1856
"Before we left Iowa my dear Mother had given birth to a son, Peter. She was naturally weak with the care of a nursing baby and five other children. Father was weak from want of food, having denied himself for us..."
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Elizabeth Sermon, Martin Company
November 1856
"My husband's health began to fail and his heart almost broken to see me falling in shafts. Myself and children hungry, almost naked, footsore and himself nearly done for. Many trials came after this. My oldest boy had the mountain fever, we had to haul him in the cart, there was not room in the wagon..."
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Locations Along the Trail