Transcript

Transcript for Bennett, Margaret, [Interview] in "Utah Pioneer Biographies," 44 vols., 5:7-10

They left New York on the 17th of June and traveled to Council Bluffs, Iowa, arriving there on June 26. There they waited for handcarts to be made up. This delayed the company considerably, in fact, fall was upon them before they were ready. Almost the entire company felt they should winter here and start early in the spring but a brother Richard who was in charge of organizing the companies and starting them out, insisted they could make it to Utah before the cold weather set in.

Grandmother said the two men in charge surely felt bad to have to start such a long hard journey with winter so near. But with all the courage they could muster up they left. The one captain was James G. Willie and the other Millen Atwood and the company has ever since been referred to as the ‘Atwood and Willie’ handcart company. This company consisted of 500 souls, 5 mules, 5 wagons, 12 yokes of cattle and 120 handcarts. They arrived at Florence, Nebraska on August 16th. Provisions were planned to last 60 days and each day their rations were reduced and it seemed that starvation was almost sure. A man by the name of Woodard was placed in charge of the 100 group that Grandmother was in. Although she was a widow she seemed to have divine guidance in her acts. She fared as well as the majority. With great foresight she packed only those things which were absolutely necesssary. She seemed to know just what dangers there were to encounter and packed things necessary for such emergencies. Things of great bulk she left behind.

At the army trading post she had quite an experience along with Christina. The army officer in charge tried to persuade them to stay. He told grandmother in all sincerity of the cold weather they would run into. He predicted that not any of them would reach Utah Valley alive, but Grandmotehr told him that she would take a chance with the rest of them. He suggested that Christina stay there with him, that he would take care of her and send her on in the spring. This Grandmother would not think of doing and while she was finishing her trading, he did his best in his clever sly way to get Christina to stay, he even tried to buy her. But Christina’s faith was strong enough to take a chance with the other saints.

Grandmother was always on the alert in trading with the Indians for dried buffalo meat. She found friends where she least expected. The handcarts were rather frail and kept breaking so that only a few miles a day could be made. After becoming accustomed to walking it wasn’t so bad and about 23 miles a day was average.

When the handcart company arrived at Florence, some old Texas cows were bought for the people to milk. Thomas roped one, holding it while a young girl milked it but unexpectedly the cow broke and ran, catching Thomas’ foot in the rope and throwing him down and it dragged him quite a distance. When he released the rope the cow turned and stepped on him, breaking his collar bone. This left Grandmother with the bulk of the handcart pulling to do herself. Thomas’s collar bone did not mend like it should and gangrene set in and Grandmother had quite a time clearing that up but in spite of all she had lots of faith.

The Atwood and Willie handcart company were caught in their first snow storm about 300 miles from Salt Lake City. For three days they were snowed in and without food. Grandmother boiled the dried buffalo meat and put a few salty crackers in for seasoning and a little flour and then she divided it with quite a number who were desperately in need of food. She seemed to have an abundance of endurance. Elizabeth, age 14, had her toes frozen and because of having to keep up with that continuous walk, her toes had to be amputated upon their arrival in Salt Lake City and still Grandmother felt they had much to be thankful for. There were so many lives lost on that perilous journey.

On October 14, wagons and provisions met this belated company. The most disastrous day was encountered in crossing the rock ridge [Rocky Ridge]. Here there were 15 died from exposure and they were placed in one grave. The company arrived in Salt Lake Valley on November 9, 1856.

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