Gardner, Hamilton. History of Lehi: Including a Biographical Section (Salt Lake City: The Lehi Pioneer Committee, 1913), 110-111.
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But the hand cart immigration was not without its tragic side. In the fall of 1856, several companies started from the Platte so late that the winter snow caught them when they reached the mountains. They suffered untold hard- ships from cold, hunger and exposure, and many gave up their lives. To assist them, Brigham Young called for volunteers during the month of October. Many men with teams and provisions responded and went out to meet these ill-fated travelers. A second call brought out the following men from Lehi who, forgetting the extreme vicissitudes which they had been compelled to undergo in the recent past, left their homes to give whatever aid they could to their brothers in distress: John R. Murdock, William H. Winn, Frank Allen, John S. Lott, Jonathan Partridge, and Alonzo D. Rhodes.
Concerning this incident, John R. Murdock says :
"There were six of us called from Lehi as a second relief party to go and meet the hand cart sufferers. We proceeded as far as the Weber where we met them, and after distributing the supplies we had brought with us, undertook to help them on the road to the valley. Through the falling snow and the chilling blast our progress was necessarily very slow, but by night we had managed to reach the Cottonwood Grove where we camped. Next morning we started to cross the- Big Mountain. In going up the mountain in advance of the company, we found the snow becoming deeper and deeper, and when we reached the top, we discovered that it had drifted to a depth of ten or twelve feet. Here we met men and teams who inquired where the men and teams from Provo were. When I told them that they were a long distance back, they proposed to return to their camp. To this proposition I said 'No' most emphatically, and told them to go and help bring the immigrant train up, which they finally did.
"Frank Allen and Jonathan Partridge were now sent forward to make fires for the immigrants at their proposed stopping place, while the rest of us worked with all our might to get the train over the mountain. We hitched three yoke of big cattle to each of the two lead wagons, and with a great deal of labor succeeded in getting a trail opened for the hand carts."
John R. Murdock was a mountaineer of wide experience and unlimited energy, and there is no doubt but that his wise planning and untiring labor saved many lives on that memorable occasion.
No sooner had these men of Lehi helped bring the hand cart companies to safety than they received another call to assist an independent immigration company which was in distress near Fort Bridger. Brigham Young requested Bishop Evans to fit out a relief expedition and proceed to the assistance of the unfortunates with all possible speed. A company of twenty men with teams and ten wagons provided with provisions and feed was the response. The captain of these men was Joseph Skeens and some of his companions were Alonzo D.Rhodes, Abraham Brown, Samuel Cousins, Newal A. Brown, Riley Judd, Henry McConnell, Paulinas H. Allred, and William Dawson.
This company left Lehi on December 10. On account of the great drifts of snow which they encountered in the mountains, they could travel only with great difficulty and but very slowly. Finally, however, they reached Fort Bridger and found the immigrants on the verge of starvation. Their provisions were exhausted and their teams so poor that they could not continue their journey. The arrival of the company from Lehi saved them from a most pitiable condition and the possibility of death from starvation.
Now began the return march. More snow had fallen, so the homeward journey'was more difficult than ever. It was almost impossible to get the teams through the deep drifts. They arrived at the Big Mountain one day about sundown and found the snow near the top to be about twenty feet deep and so loose and dry that it would not pack. With great exertion, Captain Skeens crawled to the top, and to his great joy found a company of men camped on the other side. When he told them the condition of his expedition, they came at once to the rescue. Hitching together four yoke of oxen, they drove them over the top of the mountain down through the snowdrifts to the first wagon. This they pulled back to the top while its team in turn helped bring the second wagon. In this way the trail was opened, and the company passed safely over.
The expedition encountered no further trouble and reached home in safety, having traveled about three hundred and thirty miles over the mountains in fifteen days. The cold had been so severe that every member of the party had fingers or toes frost bitten.