Josiah Rogerson, "Martin's Handcart Company, 1856 (No. 9)," Salt Lake Herald, 1 December 1907.
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Fifty-five years ago today, Sunday, but it was then Nov. 20, 1856, the last of the decimated ranks of Captain Edward Martin's company arrived in this city, with several families from Hunt's and Hodgett's wagon companies.
We had made camp the night before at the head of Emigration canyon, near Father Killian's ranch, ten or twelve miles east of this city, and between 10 and 12 o'clock, 104 wagons with 351 horses and mules and 32 yoke of oxen, that comprised the entire rescuing and relief party, were in Main street, in the tithing yard and around Presiding Bishop Hunter's tithing office.
I merely mention this fact now—and ahead of the completion of my narrative, on account of the coincidence of the memorable Sabbath morning and the flocking around the wagons of the relatives and friends, asking, "Is my father here?" naming so-and-so, or "Is my mother here?" climbing on the wagon tongues and wheels, to catch a look at the inmates, with fear and doubt as to their being living or dead, and which will be more fully told later.
Failing to find in General Burton's and Grant's journal the names of the members of the rescuing party that left Salt Lake under their command, Oct. 7, 1856, and the same lack in other diaries and journals, without which my narrative would be incomplete, I interviewed Mr. Benjamin [Brigham?] Hampton of Salt Lake, one of the few surviving veterans of the rescuers and one of the nineteen men who were left at Devil's Gate that fearful winter. To supply this blank in the history, he referred me to Daniel W. Jones' "Forty Years Among the Indians," and herein I find these two lists, with his narration of finding our company in the snowbound camp at Red Bluff, or Red Buttes, on the date heretofore mentioned, and which I prefer to let him tell in his own words.
"I attended the October conference of 1856. When conference opened, President Young arose and said:
"There are a number of our people on the plains who have started to come with hand carts; they will need help, and I want twenty teams to go out and meet them. If the teams are not voluntarily furnished, there are plenty of good ones in the street and I shall call upon Brother J.C. Little,, the marshal, to furnish them. Now we will adjourn this conference until tomorrow."
"Brother Young was in earnest; he seemed moved by a spirit that would admit of no delay.
"A few days before this a number of elders had arrived from the old country, reporting that the hand cart people were on the road, but did not know how far back they were. In those days there was no telegraph and mails from the east only reached Utah monthly, and which were many times delayed by high water, Indians or other causes.
"President Brigham Young called upon every one present to lend a hand in fitting up these teams. As I was going out with the crowd, Brother Wells (President Daniel H. Wells) spoke to me, saying:
" 'You are a good hand for the trip; get ready.'
"Soon after Bishop Hunter said the same thing to me; also Brother Grant (Captain George D.), met me and said: 'I want you on this trip.' I began to think it time to decide, so I answered, 'All right.' I had a saddle horse.
"We were instructed to get everything we could ready and rendezvous between the Big and Little mountains, a short day's drive out from Salt Lake. Next day, teams and volunteer men were ready. A better outfit and one more adapted to the work before us I do not think could possibly have been selected, if a week had been spent in fitting up.
"As soon as we were together, we organized and moved on. George D. Grant was selected captain, with Robert T. Burton and William Kimball as assistants; Cyrus H. Wheelock, chaplain,, Charles Decker, guide.. I was given the important position of chief cook for the head mess.
"I was quite proud of my office, for it made me the most sought after and popular man in the camp. The rest of the company was made up of the following persons: Joseph A. Young, Chauncey Webb, H. H. Cluff, D. P. Kimball, George W. Grant, Ed Peck, Joel Parrish, Henry Goldsborough, Thomas Alexander, Benjamin Hampton, Thomas Ricks, Abe Garr, Charles Gray, Al Huntington__ "Handsome Cupid," Stephen Taylor, William K. Broomhead, Ira Nebeker, Reddick Allred, Amos Fairbanks and Tom Bankhead, a colored man. These are all the names that I remember. If there were more I have been unable to find them.
"The first night (after leaving Devil's Gate going east) we camped, our horses followed a band of Buffalo several miles: It was near noon the next day when we returned with them. We determined to get even with them, so rode at full gallop whenever the road would permit.
"After riding about twelve miles, we saw a white man's shoe track in the road. Brother Young called out, "Here they are!" We put our animals to their utmost speed and soon came in sight of the camp at Red Bluff. This was Brother Edward Martin's handcart company, and Ben Hodgett's wagon company. There was still another wagon company down near the Platte crossing.
"This company was in almost as bad a condition as the first one (Willie's company). They had nearly given up hope. Their provisions were about exhausted, and many of them worn out and sick. When we rode in, there was a general rush to shake hands. I took no part in the ceremony. Many declared we were angels from heaven. I told them 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. I thought this the best consolation under the circumstances. Brother Young told the people to gather up, and move on at once, as the only salvation was to travel a little every day. This was right, and no doubt saved many lives, for we, among so many (some twelve hundred) could do but little, and there was danger of starvation before help could arrive unless the people made some headway toward the valley.
Next morning Brother Young (Joseph A.) and others went to Platte bridge, leaving Brother Gear [Garr] and me to get the company started according to agreement made the evening before."
Referring to the two wagon companies that were camped a few miles east of Martin's company, he says:
"The clouds were gathering thickly for storm (this was on Oct. 28) and just as we were about to start it commenced snowing very hard. The heavens were obscured by clouds, excepting a small place about the shape of the gable end of a house. This opening was in the direction of the valley, and the sun seemed to shine through with great brightness. We mounted our mules, Brother Garr pointing to the bright spot in the heavens, said, 'Do you see that hole? You had better get out of here before that closes up, for it is your opening to the valley. We are going.' The people, I believe, took, this for a warning, and soon started for their cattle. Next morning they moved on. Brother Garr and I went back to where E. Martin's camp had been. They had rolled out and Captain Hodgett's wagon company was just starting.
"We continued on, overtaking the handcart company, ascending a long, muddy hill. A condition of distress here met my eyes that I never saw before or since. The company was strung out for three or four miles. There were old men pulling and tugging their carts; sometimes loaded with a sick wife or children—women pulling along sick husbands, little children six to eight years old struggling through the mud and snow.
"As night came on the mud would freeze on their clothes and feet. There were two of us, and hundreds needing help. What could we do? We gathered on to some of the most helpless with our riatas tied to the carts, and helped as many as we could into camp on Avenue hill.
"This was a bitter, cold night, and we had no fuel except very small sage brush. Several died that night. Next morning, Brother Young, having come up, we three started for our camp near Devil's Gate. All were rejoiced to get the news that we had found the emigrants. The following morning most of the (relief) company moved down east, meeting the handcart company at Greasewood creek. Such assistance as we could give was rendered to all until they finally arrived at Devil's Gate fort, about the lst of November. There were some twelve hundred in all, about one-half with handcarts and the other half with teams."
Captain Jones remained here five or six days. He then says:
"That night (about Nov. 10) we were called together and organized as a branch. Dan W. Jones, Thomas Alexander and Brig. Hampton were chosen to preside with J. W. Latey, as clerk. The rest of the company was composed of the following: John Cooper, John Hardcastle, John Shorten, John Chapel, John Galbraith, John Ellis, John Whitaker, William Handy, William Laty, Edwin Summers, Rossiter Jenkins, Elisha Manning, Henry Jakeman, George Watt, George Watts and____ ______."
The last name Captain Jones said he could not remember, and neither can Mr. Hampton remember it today.
"Captain Grant asked about our provisions. I told him they were scant, but as many were suffering, and some dying, all we asked was an equal chance with the rest. He told me there would be a lot of worn-out cattle left; to gather them up and try and save them. They consisted mostly of yearlings and two-year-old heifers someone was taking through. The storm had now ceased to rage, and great hopes were felt for a successful move. We were daily expecting more help, and often wondered why it did not come. Next day all hands (of the wagon companies, with General Burton and Grant) pulled out, most of them on foot. After getting my camp regulated a little and giving some instructions, I got on my horse and rode up to see how the train was moving along. All were out of sight when I started.
"After overtaking the train and seeing them on the move, Captain Grant asked me to go back with instructions for the brethren left with me; then to come on next day and camp with them overnight. On calling the company together at the fort that night, I told them in plain words that if there was a man in camp who could not help eat the last poor animal left with us—hides and all, suffer all manner of privations; almost starve to death, that he could go on with me the next day and overtake the trains. No one wanted to go. All voted to take their chances.
"On taking stock of provisions, we found about twenty days' rations: no salt or bread excepting a few crackers. There was at least five months of winter before us, and nothing much to eat but a few perishing cattle and what game we might chance to kill. The game was not very certain, as the storms had driven everything away.
"I followed the train this day to its second encampment, and the next day traveled with them. There was much suffering, death occurring often."
Here I leave Captain Jones' narrative as to his services and connection with our company. The history of the stopping at Devil's Gate of those nineteen brave men during that fearful winter, with over five months' snow, will be hereafter written by Brother John Cooper of Fillmore, Utah, a member of Captain John A. Hunt's wagon company, and one of the members that remained there.
I finished chapter No. 8 with two paragraphs of Nov. 12 and 13 from General Burton's journal, camping the last night "on the Sweetwater, at the lower end of the sixteen-mile drive," and again resume Brother Bleak's diary:
Friday. Nov. 15.—Traveled only about four miles from the Sweetwater today. Weather getting more pleasant; cold abating.
Saturday. Nov. 14.—Traveled eight miles today. Weather nice and warmer. Camped on the Sweetwater again tonight. Here Recorder Bleak says: "I am 27 years of age today." A slim celebration, with eight ounces of flour for three meals.
Sunday. Nov. 16.—Distance traveled today not given in either journal, but not less than twelve or fourteen miles was made, and camp made again in a little cottonwood grove. Our rations were raised here today to one pound for adults and half a pound to children.
Monday. Nov. 17.—Brother Bleak says: "From this on we shall travel by mule and horse teams, leaving the ox teams behind, and expect to make twenty to twenty-five miles per day till we reach the valley."
For Nov. 18, 19 and 20 his journal is blank as to distance made and location of camping grounds.
Friday. Nov. 20.—Reached Green river this evening.
Saturday. Nov. 21.—Blank
Sunday. Nov. 23.—Reached Fort Bridger, Wyoming.
Monday. Nov. 24.—Traveled thirteen miles; am suffering from an attack of mountain fever.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Nov. 25, 26, 27 and 28.—Blank
Saturday. Nov. 29.—Crossed the Big mountain: snow deep: traveled several miles today.
Sunday. Nov. 30.—Arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Friday. Nov. 14.—The weather now very pleasant. All the companies moving on. Camped on the sixteen-mile drive, about four miles from Sweetwater. Good feed; not much wood. No deaths in the camp tonight. Captain Hunt's (wagon) company ahead. Captain William B. Hodgett's near.
Saturday, Nov. 15.—Weather continues fine and warm. Traveled on eight miles and camped on Sweetwater. Not much wood nor very good feed.
Sunday. Nov. 16.—Met ten teams from the valley. Brother Call's company, on the Rocky ridge (west of Fort Bridger). We camped tonight in a little cottonwood grove. Good wood and feed.
Monday. Nov. 17—Fine, warm day. Camped on a branch of the Sweetwater. Distance traveled not given, but must have made fifteen to twenty miles.
Tuesday. Nov. 18.—Cloudy; snowed in the afternoon. Met several (relief) teams. William Kimball, James Ferguson, J. Simmons, H. Stout and others. Camped tonight at our station on Sweetwater. Distance again not given, but I remember that we traveled at a lively gait for several hours today, and the distance covered could not have been less than yesterday.
Wednesday. Nov. 19.—Snowing in the morning. Sent an express ahead to the city (Salt Lake). Company moved on. Now all in wagons. Three o'clock Captain George D. Grant and R. T. Burton, after seeing the ox teams, moved on after the company. Camped tonight on Dry Sandy.
The writer remembers that this evening or the next, at Big Sandy, was a bitter cold, freezing night, so much so that a horse or mule froze to death, and a mule became so chilled that it fell off the high bank on to the frozen creek below and broke his neck.
Thursday. Nov. 20.—This morning Brothers Grant and Kimball and others started to the city. R. T. Burton was left in charge of the companies. Camped tonight at the bend on the Big Sandy."
Here Sister Alice Ollorton died and was buried the next morning where our family had kept a fire burning nearly the whole night. She was about 60 years of age, and the relict of John Ollorton, who died on the 12th and was buried on a bench immediately west of the three crossings of the Sweetwater. She had been the mother of fifteen of [or] sixteen children, only four daughters succeeding in reaching Salt Lake that season—Mrs. Betsy Wilson of Levan, Juab county; Mrs. Jane Ann McPherson of Nephi; Mrs. Sarah Eatough, the relict of George Eatough, a miner, and for many years a resident of Eureka and Bingham mining camps, Utah, and a daughter named Alice, aged 17 years, whose feet and back became so badly frozen between the Red Buttes and Bridger that she was brought into Salt Lake more dead than alive, expiring the next day and buried Dec. 3. the same day President Jedediah M. Grant was buried in the cemetery in this city.
Friday. Nov. 21.—This morning looked like storm. In the afternoon snowed a little. Met some more teams with flour. Camped tonight on Green river.
Saturday. Nov. 22.—This morning fair, but cold. Met more teams. Sent some (teams) back to the ox trains with flour, and camped in Black Fork.
Sunday. Nov. 23.—Fine day, though somewhat cloudy. Snowed again tonight. Camped at Fort Bridger. The writer remembers the cold nights at Red Buttes, at the Devil's Gate and in Martin's ravine, but this was the "Black Friday" night of them all. The children cried the livelong night. It froze hard and the wind had a full sweep at us here, so much so that I could not get or keep warm in the tent, and hearing a violin start up, got out of our blankets, went to a fire a short distance away and there, sure enough, was Lewis Robinson and Eph Hanks, clapping their hands and keeping time to the fiddle, while one of the Valley teamsters was "cutting the pigeon wing" on the hind endgate of a wagon box. Others of our company and more boys from the valley soon gathered, and possibly a little valley tan may have been in one of two of their ankles, which would not have been out of place at all, for around the fire we were burning on one side and freezing on the other.
Monday, Nov. 24.—This morning took in supplies here for the company from Brother Lewis Robinson's. Started late. Camped on the Muddy. Good wood and feed, but very cold.
Tuesday. Nov. 25—This morning started another express to the city: C. H. Wheelock, Bullock and others. Sent two more relief teams to the ox trains. Camped on Bear river tonight. Plenty of wood.
Wednesday. Nov. 26—Cold but clear. Camped tonight in the head of Echo canyon. Met Brother Little and others from the city.
Thursday. Nov. 27—This morning snowing a little. Camped tonight on the Weber river. Had another express from President Brigham Young.
Friday. Nov. 28—Today the road was sideling; got all the wagons over the river safe. Camped in East canyon (at the quakingasp grove). Met several of the brethren here. Tonight I remember my brother and I making our bed between two large quaking asp logs here, the fire at our feet, and next morning, waking up, found two chimneys of snow over our faces, through which we had breathed during the night, with from eight to ten inches of snow on our blankets.
Saturday. Nov. 29—Crossed over the Big mountain. Snowing fast. Stopped snowing shortly after noon. Passed over the Little mountain. Camped in the head of Emigration canyon. Met more supplies, and the writer remembers walking up the Big and Little mountains today, where the snow on the east side of either was any depth you chose to call it, if you stepped one foot outside the tramped down track.
Sunday, Nov. 30.—This morning started early. Arrived in Salt Lake City a little before noon with all the handcart company and several families from the ox teams.
We had in the rescue (General Burton says), and relief train, 351 horses and mules, 104 wagons and 32 oxen.
This concludes chapter No. 9 and No. 10, which will be published in the columns of The Herald next Sunday, will be the last of my narrative, and will contain one of the most graphic and truthful stories as dictated from memory by the late Elder Ephraim Hanks to Church Historian Jensen, a few years ago, covering the history of the relief party from October 7 till November 30, 1856; also remarks by President Brigham Young at the church conference, October 7, 1856, on his learning the distance the companies were then back on the plains; a digest of the late John Jaques' five letters, which he published in The Salt Lake Herald over twenty years ago; a sketch of the life and tribute to the memory of Captain Edward Martin and the captain of the guard, Daniel Tyler, First Lieutenant Samuel S. Jones, together with sketches of the services of the six captains of the hundreds in our company.
Following this, and which will only cover one or two more chapters, will be a full list of the names of Captain William [James G.] Willie's hand cart company, who preceded Martin's company into Salt Lake three weeks, but whose sufferings and hardships compare at times with the latter, and Captain Willie's report to President Brigham Young immediately after his arrival, November 9, 1856, a carefully written digest of his journal, covering their entire travels, deaths and fatalities, and never before been put in print. This will be found equally as interesting as any of the annals heretofore published in The Herald and valuable to the survivors of that company, and to their generations.