“As I Remember,” Salt Lake Telegram, 31 August 1926, 8.
View this source online
She was a pioneer of Utah. Seventy years of her life had been spent in the Salt Lake valley. When, as a girl of 19 years, she left her home in England, leaving father, mother and all, that she might come to the promised land, on that long journey she endured hardships that are almost unbelievable, for she was with the lost company of the handcart pioneers under the command of Captain Edward Martin. Monday she was laid at rest in the City cemetery. This was Mrs. Annie Hicks Free. She had aided in every way possible to make the Salt Lake valley and Utah what they are today, and she lived to see the city to which she came as a girl grow from a struggling hamlet to one of the most beautiful cities in the land of her adoption.
The story of the handcart brigade has been told and retold, and yet it can never be told as it was, of the horrors of the long trek of 1300 miles. The story is pathetic in the extreme. Take the history of Mrs. Free. It is similar to others told me by the pioneers. The company of which she was a member, when it left Florence, Neb., on August 25, 1856, consisted of 576 persons. They had 146 handcarts and seven wagons. When the company arrived in Salt Lake City, on November 30, 1856, after more than three months on the journey, it had been reduced to a handful of people, their handcarts had been left scattered along mountain and plain, and many, many graves dotted the prairie and range where a devoted people had joined the great majority in their effort to reach their mecca in the mountains.
Relief parties had been send to meet the several companies of the handcart brigade and the one under Captain Martin, which was afterwards known as the belated company, was reduced by death to a handful. Daniel W. Jones, who was a member of the relief force sent to the aid of the lost company, in his narrative of the rescue says,:
“Having seen the sufferings of Captain James G. Willie’s handcart company, we more fully realized the danger the others were in. There were several hundred people with Captain Willie and they had a few teams, but they were too weak to be of much service. When we came in sight of Edward Martin’s company and the Ben Horgett’s [Hodgett’s] wagon company, which had camped at Red Bluff, the conditions were as bad as those found in the first company we had passed.
“They had given up all hope. Their provisions were exhausted and most of them sick and worn out. As we rode into the camp we were declared to be angels from heaven, but I told them that I thought we were better than angels, for this occasion as we were good strong men, come to help them into the valley, and that our company and wagons loaded with provisions were not far away.
“When the company was started for camp, the hand cart company, ascending a long muddy hill was in a condition of distress, such as I had never seen before or since. The train was strung along for three or four miles. There were old men pulling and tugging their carts, sometimes loaded with a sick wife or children; women pulling sick husbands, little children, 6 to 8 years old, struggling through mud and snow, and as night came on the mud would freeze on their clothes and feet. That night several members of the company died.”
And this was what this aged pioneer, who has just passed on, went through in order that she might worship her God as her conscience dictated. Her memory will always be cherished.