Transcript

Transcript for Rogerson, Josiah, "Martin's Handcart Company, 1856 [No. 10]," Salt Lake Herald, 8 Dec. 1907

I finished our chapter, No. 9, Sunday, Dec. 1 with the arrival of the majority of the members of our handcart company, in Main street, and around and in the tithing yard. That scores of friends and relatives, and I know of fathers of families, had been waiting for weeks with the most intense solicitude and anxiety for the arrival of our train, is a matter of history, past half the decade, and the expressions of fear and doubt as to the existence of the sought for were written on many countenances.

Dead in the Wagons.

The wagon I rode in this morning from the head of Emigration canyon was driven by Elder Joel Parrish, of Sessions, or Centerville, settlement in Davis county, and as we stopped for a few minutes near the block since then of the Walker brothers' residences, a lady asked. "Please where is Father Waugh?" and my mother, knowing of his death the day before, pointed to the next wagon north, where she could find the veteran. She was there instantly, and found her father, wrapped in a sheet, and dead. I shall not tell of her grief and the scene that followed. The aged Scotch worthy had braved and weathered the storms of the Rocky mountains from the Platte bridge, and when within eighteen to twenty miles from the valley, and the Zion he worshiped, and to which he was returning after a three or four years' mission to Scotland (his native land), succumbed to the hardships of the journey, between the Big and Little mountains, and was brought into the city for interment.

One more instance of this kind will suffice—but I could record a dozen, and then I shall hasten to the conclusion of my narrative, for it has been anything but a pleasant task for several weeks past.

An old English farm hand, coming to Utah in the early 50's went down to Iron county, Utah, and as he worded it, "wrought" for two or three years in the building of the works of and the experimenting in treating iron ores in that county. The wife of his youth, four daughters and two sons, still back in Lancashire, England, in the fall of '55 or spring of '56, the father walked, with sis [his] sack of provisions on his back, nearly every mile of the 275 miles to Salt Lake City, and striding into President Brigham Young's office and showing his iron work scrip for his labor performed, entreated that he would receive that as pay and send for his family to come out that season. They were sent for, sailed, and the six came through safe and sound, the stalwart sire meeting them the Sunday morning of our arrival. His sons and daughters are located near Parowan, and in the settlements of Arizona, and his name was James Williamson. The majority of our company were taken in and cared for in Salt Lake, Davis, Weber and Utah counties that winter, and when I think of all this and the mountain of service rendered by the rescuing and relief party without one dime of remuneration, in what class of humanity do you place the Mormon people?

But little has been written in these annals as to the sayings and doings of President Brigham Young, when he learned, about the 4th of October, 1856, from President Franklin D. Richards and others of the returning missionaries, how far back the handcart and wagon companies were at that date on the plains, and I will not close without a few more paragraphs on this important point in this history.

Church Historian Jensen, having thumbed the pages of the Deseret News for that year, and nearly every document in his archives bearing on that subject, will be good authority and interesting.

In the "Contributor" of March, 1893, as to the church emigrations of 1856, Historian Jensen says: "Relief trains—On Saturday, Oct. 4, 1856, Apostle Franklin D. Richards and his company of missionaries arrived in Salt Lake City. They reported to President Young the progress of the different companies towards reaching the valley, and that they were more or less in danger of snowstorms in the mountains before they could reach the city, as it was getting so late in the season.

"The mere thought that the handcart companies might be exposed to the cold blasts of a mountain storm was enough to arouse the brethren in the valley to immediate action.

"In the general assembly of the Saints in Salt Lake City, the next day, which was Sunday, Oct. 5, President Brigham Young called upon the bishops and people generally to raise immediately sixty mule and horse teams, twelve tons of flour and forty extra teamsters, to help in the immigrating trains, some of which were being handled by inexperienced men, and even some by women and children. Also a quantity of vegetables was called for, together with bedding, clothing and wearing apparel of all descriptions to clothe and keep warm the emigrants.

The general conference convened in Salt Lake City on Monday, the 6th. After the opening exercises, President Young stated that the first business that must be attended to was to send assistance forthwith to the emigrants back on the road. He then called those who were willing to go, or send teams, to come to the stand and report, saying that if a sufficient number of teams, teamsters, etc., did not volunteer, he would close the conference and, together with Brother Kimball, start back to help the companies, and President Kimball then requested the blacksmiths in the congregation to retire, as they were wanted to shoe the horses and repair the wagons of the brethren who were preparing to start out to help the emigration.

"The hearty response to this call for teams, men and provisions, clothing, etc., is characteristic of that brotherly love and warmth of feeling which distinguishes those who love their fellow men.

"It must be born in mind that at this time it was not known in the valley that the companies on the road were in any immediate danger, but this timely call for teams to send back was a precautionary measure to guard against possible calamities.

"Most of the teams called for got ready and started on the 7th of October in charge of George D. Grant, one of the brethren who, three days previously, had returned from a foreign mission.

"The (relief) company had no snow to contend with till they got to the Sweetwater. There, on the 19th and 20th of October, they encountered a severe snowstorm.

"When they met Captain Willie's handcart company on the 21st, the snow was from six to eight inches deep, and the emigrants were truly in a bad condition, but the relief brethren rendered them all the assistance in their power.

"Brother William H. Kimball and other brethren from the valley were selected to return with them, and assist them with counsel and work; and previous to this Captain Grant had sent an express (east) to ascertain, if possible, the situation and whereabouts of the emigrant companies farther back and report to him, but thinking it unsafe for them to go farther than Independence rock, he advised them to wait there for the main company. When the main company overtook the express at Independent rock, the brethren composing it had heard nothing from the rear companies, but had themselves traveled through snow from eight to twelve inches deep all the way from Willow creek to Devil's Gate.

As the brethren had only a little feed for the animals, the horses were now ‘running down' very fast, and not hearing anything from the companies, Captain Grant and the brethren with him began to think that perhaps they had taken up quarters for the winter: consequently, he dispatched Joseph A. Young, Daniel W. Jones and Abe Garr as an express farther east in search of them.

"These brethren traveled on till the 28th of October, when they met Captain Martin's handcart company sixteen miles above the Platte bridge; Captain Hunt's company was encamped ten miles below Martin's handcart company. Captain Martin informed the brethren that fifty-six had died on the journey up to that date. The express then pushed on to meet the wagon companies."

Passing Stenhouse's brief narrative as to our company in his "Rocky Mountain Saints," and which was not furnished him by one of our members, but by one of the members of the two wagon companies, we find a paragraph even there that has the ring of sterling truth in defense and praise of President Young as to his unceasing energy and anxiety for our rescue. He says: "When the news reached Brigham Young, as already stated, he did all that man could do to save the remnants and relieve the sufferers. Never in his whole career did he shine so glorious in the eyes of the people. There was nothing spared that he could contribute or command. In the tabernacle he was "the lion of the Lord," and his fierce language was kindled against those whom he supposed were the cause of the calamity."

And the Deseret News says, in its pages of Dec. 3, 1856:

"Never have we witnessed such alacrity in answering to the calls of the first presidency in turning out at such a time of the year, with animals, provisions and clothing in abundance to rescue brethren and sisters whom the most of those who went forth to save had never seen."

On Dec. 2, '56, after Martin's company had come in, sixty relief horse and mule teams left Salt Lake City with two span to a wagon with supplies and provisions to help bring in the remainder of Hodgett's and Hunt's companies, and by Dec. 16 all the members of the two wagon companies and relief party were in Salt Lake City, and that year's emigration finished.

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