“Handcart Pioneers Are Now Organized,” The Journal, 20 September 1910, 3.
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[The following was written by Mary Ann Jones Ellsworth, who became the wife of Edmund Ellsworth after arriving in Salt Lake City.]
In March, 1856, a company of Latter-day Saints, 534 in number left England on the ship Enoch Train. Arrived at Boston in May and went to Iowa to wait for handcarts for the trip across the plains. Traveled some distance with them, then stopped to have them repaired as they were so flimsy they were continually breaking down. Started again on the 20th of July and began our long march. We had, on leaving, 74 persons in our company—and only 7 deaths on the way—remarkable because we had so many aged and children. We were allotted one ten to 20 persons and four handcarts to each tent. We sometime traveled 28 miles a day and always got to camp a long way ahead of the wagons. We were allowed 17 pounds of baggage that meant clothes, bedding and utensils. When the brethren came to weigh our things, some wanted to take more than the allotted portion and put on extra clothes—so many who were real thin became suddenly stout, and as soon as the weighing was over, put their extra clothes on the handcarts. But that did not last long. In a few days we had to have all weighed again and many were found with much more weight on the carts than allowed. One old sister carried a tea-pot and colander on her apron string all the way to Salt Lake. Another one carried a hatbox full of things—but she died on the way. We all walked the distance to Salt Lake and pulled our carts, but though tired and footsore we could still sing the songs of Zion, as we went along. Some may recoil at thought of a supper cooked in water dug from a buffalo wallow and with buffalo chips, but it tasted good to us. We once came across an immense herd of buffalo—it looked as if the whole prairie was moving. We waited more than an hour for them to cross the road before we could go on. We were stopped on the Platte river by a large band of Indians who demanded food. They were in war paint and were very hostile. Captain Ellsworth talked to them and told the brethren to pray while he talked. He gave them some beads and they let us go. A remarkable thing happened on the Platte river. One of the oxen died, and Captain Ellsworth was asking the brethren what could done to make up the team. They put in a cow to fill up the place, so we could go on when one of the brethren pointed to a hill, and there stood a fat, red steer. Capt Ellsworth said—“the Lord has sent him to help us to the valley—” and so it seemed, for the steer worked as well as the ox. When we got within two days travel of Salt Lake, we met wagons sent out from there to help us in. The next morning when the boys went out to round up the cattle the red steer was missing. They hunted for him for hours, but we never saw him again. He went as mysteriously as he came. We were met at Emigration canyon by the First presidency, the brass band, and hundreds of people in carriages, on horseback and afoot. It was a day never to be forgotten. We had walked on foot all the way across the desert. I never left my handcart for a day and only rode over two rivers. We waded streams, crossed high mountains, and pulled through heavy sand, leaving comfortable home, father, mother, brother and sister to be where we could hear a prophet’s voice and live with the Saints of Zion.