Willie, James G., "Synopsis of the Fourth Hand Cart Company's Trip from England to G.S.L. City in 1856."
In Historian's Office history of the Church, 1839-circa 1882, 9 November 1856, 966-83.
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- Source Locations
- Church History Library, CR 100 102
- Related Companies
- James G. Willie Company (1856)
- Related Persons
- Johan August Ahmanson
- Millen Atwood
- Jeremiah Thomas Baker
- Adelaide Augusta Baker
- Ann Bird
- Sabina Bird
- Christina Brown
- James Sherlock Cantwell
- John Chislett
- Niels Lars Christensen
- Lucinda Melissa Davenport
- William Edwick
- Joseph Benson Elder
- [Mr.] Gould
- William Hailey
- Alfred James Peacock
- Levi Savage Jr.
- Andrew Lafayette Siler
- Andrew Young Smith
- Harriet Smith
- Jane Ann Stewart
- James Grey Willie
- William Woodward
The following is a synopsis of the fourth Hand Cart Company’s trip from England to G.S.L. City in 1856, Ja[me]s. G. Willie being Captain.
On Thursday May 1st the Ship “Thornton” (Collins Captain) received the saints, 761 in number, on board in the Bramley Moore Dock, Liverpool, and on the following Saturday Prest. F. D. Richards accompanied by the Government Inspector <& Doctor> came on board and the saints under went the usual inspection, and were all pronounced by those officers to be in good health. Prest. Richards appointed myself, J. G. Willie, captain of the Company and elders Millen Atwood, Moses Clough [Cluff], and [Johan August] Ahmanson, my counsellors; and afterwards, in a few appropriate remarks, exhorts the people to strict obedience on the passage, as otherwise they could not expect and would not have a prosperous voyage. Prest. Richards then blessed them in the name of the Lord, and by the authority of the Holy Priesthood. Captain Willie then made the usual appointments for the promotion of cleanliness and good order.
And on Sunday May 4th, at 3 p.m., the Company was tugged out of the river. Sea sickness soon commenced, but, through the blessing of the Lord, was not frequent during the voyage, which terminated on the 14th June. The Spirit of the Lord prevailed among the Saints on board. The ships Captain yielded to the influence that surrounded him, and was kind and affable to all, often voluntarily giving <victuals> from his own table for the comfort of the sick and infirm, and other wise ministering to their wants with his own hands. He seems to be a good man, and I felt all the time and still feel to say [“]God bless Captain Collins!” By his sanction, meetings for preaching and bearing testimony were held on the quarter deck, at which he was generally present. And every liberty which could in reason be expected, was granted by him. He often, in polite terms, complimented the Saints on their cleanliness, and upon their ready compliance with his requests
f from time to time, and said, he never wished for a better or more orderly lot of passengers. They certainly deserved the Captains encomia, for, with scarcely an exception, they did their utmost to carry out to the very letter, the instructions given.
Previous to landing at New York, a testimonial expressive of the Saints appreciation of the Captain’s and the Doctors kindness was presented to them by myself. And one signed by the Captain, first Mate and Doctor, on behalf of themselves and the ship’s company, was presented to me on behalf of the Saints. On our arrival at Castle Gardens we rec’d a hearty welcome, from Elders John Taylor and Elder Felt. Several gentlemen of the press also paid us a visit and were very courteous towards us, appearing desirous to obtain information concerning the Company from its officers, and subsequently several paragraphs appeared in different New York newspapers in praise of the general appearance and demeanor of the entire company.
On Tuesday, 11th June, they started, under the presidency of Elder Levi Savage, for Dunkirk, (a distance of 460 miles,) where they arrived on the 19th, leaving Bro Atwood and myself to transact sundry items of business.We, however, arrived at Dunkirk on the same day, and immediately embarked with the Saints on the “Jersey City” for Toledo, (280 miles further, where we arrived on Saturday the <21st>
19th in good health and spirits. We at once started, per rail, for Chicago, which we reached on the following day. I should mention that the Railway authorities <at Toledo,> manifested a very unkind spirit towards us, putting us to every inconvenience in their power. The Conductor compelled us to land in the streets of Chicago; but the Supt. there gave us the use of an empty warehouse for the night.
The next day, 23rd. most of the English saints left per rail at 3 p m and the rest at 11 p. m., for Rock Island. On the first train arriving at Pond Creek the next day, it was ascertained there that the railway bridge there had fallen down while a previous train was passing over it. Several brethren, among whom was Erastus Snow,were on the train, and altho many of the other passengers were seriously injured, the brethren escaped unhurt. We slept in the cars, and on the 25th the remainder of our company came up. We had much difficulty in obtaining provisions, which, up to this period had been pretty plentiful. The railway Supt. here was very obliging, and furnished us with a
very obliging large comfortable warehouse to sleep in.
On the 26th of June we left Pond Creek, and, after crossing the Mississippi in consequence of the falling bridge, started per rail per Iowa City, where we arrived on the same day. meeting with the most cordial reception from Prest Daniel Spencer, and the brethren and sisters in camp there
We stayed at this point <till> Tuesday 15th of July, and during the interval had frequent opportunities of meeting together to hear the word of Life spoken. The brethren were engaged in making yokes, handcarts &c., and the Sisters in making tents. For the want of these latter articles immediately on our arrival, we had several soakings with rain, which the Saints bore with becoming fortitude. We celebrated the 4th of July with the American flag floating and had a firstrate time. Many strangers were present and seemed to take considerable interest in our proceedings.
On the 12th Prest Spencer appointed me as Captain over the 4th Hand cart company, consisting of the passengers of the ship “Thornton,” with Millen Atwood, Levi Savage, Wm Woodward, John Chislet, and __ [Johan] Ahmanson respectively captains of hundreds.
On the 15th of July we started from the Iowa camping ground, for old Winter Quarters, now known as Florence, and pursued our journey
as far as till the 20th. when Adelaide R. Baker, of the Portsmouth branch of the Southampton conference, with her two children, Ann and Sabina Bird of the Eaton Bray branch of the Bedfordshire conference, and Harriet Smith, of the Bristol branch of the south Conference left us for the leeks and onions. I would here mention an act of kindness performed by a gentleman Mr. Charles Good, of Fort Desmoines. He presented me with fifteen pairs of childrens boots, which I readily accepted, as he seemed to be influenced by a sincere desire to do good.
On Monday, 11 Aug., we arrived at Florence, having previously on the 9th. had 2 other deserters from our ranks – Gurney and Daughter both from the Wiltshire Conference.
On our way considerable opposition was shown towards us by the people from time to time, and threats of personal violence were sometimes made use of, though never carried into effect, and because they could not find any just cause of complaint, we were persecuted by a posse of men with a search warrant from some Justice of the Peace, authorizing them to search the bottom of our waggons for young women, who, as was alleged, were tied down there with ropes.
On our arrival at Florence we were warmly greeted by Prest. James McGaw. bros. Geo. D. Grant, and Wm H Kimball and John Vancott. We stayed there till the 16th. and during this interval, were employed in repairing hand-carts and tents. We also received much useful instruction from the Brethren. At Florence four independent wagons joined our company, and were subsequently, on the 18th. at the Great Papea [Papillion Creek] – organized into it by Prest McGaw, who then appointed Andrew L. Siler as Captain of such wagons under my Presidency.
On the 19th we rolled out of camp about six a. m. and commenced our journey across the plains in real earnest, travelling about 18 miles on that day including the crossing of Elk Horn River. I then appointed bro. Neil Lars Christianson [Christensen] interpreter and Counsellor to the Danish Saints.
On Thursday, 28th Aug., Bro W[illia]m. Ha[i]ley of the Warwickshire Conference, aged 66 years, was missed. I immediately sent out scouts in search with a lantern, but he was not found till early on the following morning. after having been exposed to a drenching rain during the night. He, however, soon recovered.
On Friday we came up with a large
party <camp> of Omaha Indians, who were very friendly, and sold us some buffalo meat. The Chief invited the officers of our camp to see him. We accordingly went, and were hospitably entertained. These Indians informed us of a murder, which had been committed on the 25th, by the Cheyennes, on two of Col. Babbitt’s men, and a Mrs. Wilson and her child. We subsequently passed by the scene of the murder and covered up the graves.
On the morning of Thursday 4th Sept. (being 265 miles west of Florence, we found that 30 of our oxen were missing. We stayed to search for them till the 6th, and, during our stay, Col. Babbitt came up, and reported that the Cheyennes had attacked a small Californian train, and killed a woman, and that the U.S. troops had killed 13 Cheyennes, and had taken a number of horses. Capt. Smoot and Bro Porter Rockwell visited
the us and comforted us in our then present emergency.
On the 6th of Sept we started afresh with our broken teams, bros. Joseph Elder and Andrew Smith returning on the back track in search of the missing cattle. We travelled a short distance when I found it necessary to yoke up some cows which we had with us, and to make a transfer of luggage and oxen from one wagon to another, in order to equalize the burden of our present position. The brethren cheerfully responded to this call, and matters were soon arranged, so that we were on our journey again.
While in camp on the morning of the 8th, a man who gave the name of Henry Bouchter came up and reported that 2 men named Thomas Margetts and James Cowdy, with the wife and child of the latter had <been> murdered by the Cheyennes about 70 miles ahead of our camp. He said that the murders were committed during his absence from Margetts and Cowdy [Cowley] on a buffalo hunt. These two men I ascertained afterwards were
on a buffalo <Apostates> returning from the Valley to the States.
On Friday the 12th, Prest. F. D. Richards with 3 carriages and some wagons, accompanied by a number of brethren including brothers Elder and Smith who had met them while searching for the lost
xen <oxen> came up from <with> our camp on the North Bluff fork of the Platte river, amidst the hearty cheers of the whole company. In the evening he gave us a stirring address with a view to build up and encourage the people, and his sentiments were seconded by a hearty “amen” from time to time. His councellors, D. Spencer and C H Wheelock, also cheered the Saints with some seasonable remarks. Several of the songs of zion were sung with firstrate spirit and good effect by Elder Dunbar, and the meeting separated late in the evening.
The Saints were much edified, and retired with the good Spirit of our God burning in their bosoms. The next morning we had a similar meeting, when the Saints had portrayed before them, in vivid colors, the realities of their present position. Prest. Richards and others spake as they were moved upon by the Holy Spirit, and it was indeed a time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. At the conclusion of the meeting 3 cheers were given for these brethren, who immediately afterwards crossed the Platte, an example which we at once followed.
On Monday, 15th Sept., we met several Indians, who stated that they belonged to the tribe of the Arrappahoes [Arapahoes], and that the Sioux and Cheyennes had recently attacked a large emigration train and killed many. These Arrappahoes were watching us during the whole night. For what purpose is best known to themselves.
On the night of the 17th we had the first frost, which was a very severe one. On that day, one of Bro Cantwell’s daughters was bitten by a rattle-snake, but the wound was dressed and no fatal effects followed. The snake, which had ten rattles, was afterwards killed.
On the 18th Sister [Jane Ann] Stewart, from Scotland, was missed. A number of brethren accompanied me in search of her, and, during our absence, she returned to the Camp, after sleeping in the company of wolves all night. She was much exhausted for want of food.
On Sunday, the 28th, we
m met a company of nearly one hundred apostates on their way from the Valley to the States, and shortly afterwards a small company of U.S. soldiers came up.
On the 30th of Sept., we arrived at Fort Laramie, having necessarily expended considerable time in the repair of handcarts up to that point. Here we obtained a small ration for the company, and Capt. Siler’s four wagons stayed here to await the arrival of the next wagon Company, pursuant to Prest. Richards counsel. While at the Fort some soldiers visited our camp, and conducted themselves with propriety. Two of the sisters thot proper to stay there; one was Lucinda M. Davenport, who immediately married an apostate just arrived from the Valley, and the other, Christina Brown.
On Oct 1st we renewed our journey and met Bro P.P. Pratt, with a number of missionaries under his Presidency. In consequence of our limited supply of provisions, I considered it necessary to slightly reduce the supply of the daily ration of flour, which was unanimously and willingly acceded to by the Saints.
On Sunday, 12 Oct., Alfred Peacock and Geo [William] Edwick were added to the list of “deserters,” just before we arrived at the upper crossing of the Platte. On the same day it was considered necessary to make a still further reduction in the <daily> ration of flour, and accordingly, it was fixed at 10½ oz. for men, 9 oz for women, 6 oz for children, and 3 oz for infants.
This turned out to be a very salutary arrangement, as it just enabled us to eke out our provisions until the very day that we received material aid from the Valley, which arrived, (when the little ones were crying for bread,) on the 20th of Oct., in the shape of 14 wagons laden with flour, onions and clothing. The last bit of breadstuffs, (which constituted all the provisions we then had,) was served out two nights previously. We all felt rejoiced at our timely deliverance, and attributed it entirely to the hand of God which had been over us during the whole of our journey.
On Wednesday the 22d bro Wm. H. Kimball, with six wagons, went on with us towards G[reat]. S[alt]. L[ake]. City, and Bro Grant, with the remainder, started to meet the companies in our rear. Two days previous to this we encountered the first snow storm, and, on Friday the 24th, met Bro Reddick N. Allred and others, with six wagons, also on their way to help the rear companies; and on the following day, (being 15 miles west of the last crossing <place> of the Sweetwater,) we came up with some brethren who were waiting there with supplies of flour and onions.
On Friday the 31st, we met 7 wagons from Fort Supply and 3 from G.S.L. City.
And on Nov. 1st met further help from the valley.
On the next day Bro Ephraim Hanks passed us and reported plenty of teams ahead. On this day, we passed Fort Bridger, and on the next, met fresh supplies for the rear companies, and overtook Gilbert & Gerrishis [Gerrish’s] Merchant train.
On Monday <the 3d> it was deemed prudent to send an express to the First Presidency, representing the state of things generally on the plains. And, for this purpose, Bro Kimball volunteered to go and went, in company with Bro Thomas.
Before starting Prest Kimball appointed Bro Gould captain of the horse teams, and Bro Wm Hyde of the ox teams.
On the 4th we met Bro Blair with 3 wagons, besides other brethren with teams. Today Bro Franklin B Woolley came along with a message from Prest B. Young, that some freight which had been left behind at Fort Bridger must be taken in this season. So I immediately despatched some brethren with wagons and teams back after the freight in question.
On Saturday the 8th Prest Kimball returned to us with a load of provisions, which was a timely succor to us.
The next day a part of our train passed Capt. Smoot’s, which, however, preceeded us into Salt Lake City. where we arrived on that day. Bro’s. F D. & S. W. Richards, besides many others, came to meet us on the bench, and preceded us into the City. On our arrival there, the Bp’s. of the different wards took every person who was not provided with a home, to comfortable quarters. Some had their hands and feet badly frozen but everything which could be done to alleviate their sufferings, was done, and no want was left unadministered to.
Hundereds of the citizens flocked around the wagons on our way through the city, cordially welcoming their brethren and sisters to their mountain home.
I feel to conclude by saying, that on the whole, the Saints bore the heavy trials of the journey with a becoming and praiseworthy fortitude. I may add too, that in consequence of their having to cross the North Fork of the Platte, and the Sweetwater several times, thru the cold water, and to sleep on the snow, each person having only seventeen pounds of luggage including bedding, and thru other privations necessarily incident to the journey at so late a period of the season, many of the aged and infirm failed in strength and died. The diah<o>rea [diarrhea] took a firm hold. – our wagons were crowded with the sick, which broke down our teams; and thus we often were obliged to refuse the admission of many who were really worthy to ride. In crossing the rocky
r Ridge, we had to encounter a heavy snow storm, accompanied by a strong north wind. It was the most disastrous day on the whole trip, 15 dying from fatigue and exposure to the cold. We had on this day as on subsequent days, to clear away the snow, in order to make places for pitching our tents. Notwithstanding the disadvantages of our position in crossing the Rocky Ridge, we traveled 16 miles on that day with our hand–carts.
The total number of deaths in this company, from Liverpool, was 77. besides one child belonging to Capt. Silers wagon.
We had also 3 births and 3 marriages on the trip.