The journey to the Rocky Mountains was long and difficult. Due to limited storage space on wagons and ships, pioneers could bring very few belongings. The treasured possessions they brought reveal much about their values, ideas, and expectations.
An evening encampment along the trail was a time for cooking, sewing, repairing, and resting. Skilled hands fixed wagons, prepared food, and stitched clothing well worn from the rigors of the trail. Around their campfires at night, the Saints prepared for the joys and work to come in the settlement of Zion.
Settlers brought and used those tools and implements essential for establishing households, businesses, and farms. Latter-day Saint pioneers also brightened their lives with music, reading, and the company of friends. Life in an active society required not only cooperation and production in the workplace but also the pleasures of the hearth, the table, and the arts.
Between 1856 and 1860, European Saints pushed and pulled handcarts over one thousand miles to gather to Zion. Church leaders proposed handcarts as a way to overcome the usual expenses of emigrating by wagon. Without handcarts, many converts would not have been able to gather with the Saints in the West because of the high costs of emigration. Most of the handcart emigrants arrived safely in Utah after extreme trials on the trail.