Devil’s Gate

Distance: 970 miles from Nauvoo

A significant landmark noted by most journal keepers, Devil’s Gate is a narrow cut made by the Sweetwater River through an immense rock with sides measuring 370 feet in height and 1,500 feet in length. It was here that rescuers brought the suffering members of the Martin handcart company before continuing west to the Salt Lake Valley during the bitter winter of 1856.

Twenty men, under the leadership of Daniel W. Jones, remained for the winter at nearby Fort Seminoe to guard freight unloaded there by the Hodgetts and Hunt wagon companies, in part to make room for exhausted members of the Martin company. Daniel W. Jones and his men suffered misery and starvation at Devil’s Gate, at one point being reduced to eating boiled rawhide until friendly Indians gave them some buffalo meat.


Elizabeth Horrocks Jackson Kingsford

October 1856

"I was six or seven thousand miles from my native land, in a wild, rocky, mountain country, in a destitute condition, the ground covered with snow, the waters covered with ice, and I with three fatherless children with scarcely nothing to protect them from the merciless storms.

I will not attempt to describe my feelings at finding myself thus left a widow with three children, under such excruciating circumstances. I cannot do it. But I believe the Recording Angel has inscribed in the archives above, and that my sufferings for the Gospel's sake will be sanctified unto me for my good" ("Leaves from the Life of Elizabeth Horrocks Jackson Kingsford,"Family and Church History Department Library, [Dec. 1908], 7–8, paragraphing altered).

Elizabeth Sermon

November 1856

"Many cruel and painful things happening, the dying and dear ones all around us, poor souls, would sit down by the roadside and would never move again until carried into camp on handcarts by someone. It is a wonder any of us lived through it. My husband's health still failing, a young woman by the name of Caroline Marchant assisted me with the cart.

. . . Not far from here [Devil's Gate] the Captain called us together to tell us we must lay our bodies down. Were we willing to do so for the Gospel's sake? Many poor half-starved men shouted with what remaining strength they had, 'Aye.' But mothers could not say that and were quiet. We went back to our tents, food would have suited us then. My faith was in my Heavenly Father. I never lost that faith in Him. It is as sweet today to trust and my prayer is, may I always trust Him. He is a friend that has never failed" (as quoted in Journal of the Trail, ed. Stwart E. Glzier and Robert S. Clark, [1997], 104).

Levi Savage

October 15, 1856

“Today we traveled fifteen and a half miles. Last night Caroline Reeder, aged seventeen years, died and was buried this morning. The people are getting weak and failing very fast. A great many are sick. Our teams are also failing fast, and it requires great exertion to make any progress.

“Our rations were reduced last night, one quarter, bringing the men to ten ounces and the women to nine ounces. Some of the children were reduced to six and others to three ounces each.”

Levi Savage, as quoted in Journal of the Trail, ed. Stewart E. Glazier and Robert S. Clark (1997), 104.

George D. Grant

October 1856

“It is not of much use for me to attempt to give a description of the situation of these people, for this you will learn from your son Joseph A. and Br. Garr, who are the bearers of this express; but you can imagine between five and six hundred men, women and children, worn down by drawing handcarts through snow and mud; fainting by the wayside.”