Josiah Rogerson, "Captain J. G. Willie's Or, the Fourth Handcart Company of 1856," Salt Lake Herald-Republican, 5 January 1908.
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- Source Locations
- Utah Digital Newspapers, 1908-01-05
- 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
- Charlotte Gurney
- Ellen Cantwell
- James Sherlock Cantwell
- John Chislett
- Niels Lars Christensen
- Lucinda Melissa Davenport
- William Edwick
- Joseph Benson Elder
- Mary Ann Gurney
- William Hailey
- Alfred James Peacock
- Levi Savage Jr.
- Andrew Lafayette Siler
- Andrew Young Smith
- Harriet Smith
- William Woodward
In Sunday morning's Herald of Dec. 15, we published our first chapter of the above company's journey over the plains in 1856, and a full list of the names of the members as they left Iowa hill, near Iowa City, Ia., Tuesday, July 15, 1856, to pull handcarts from there to Salt Lake City, Utah, some 1,350 miles.
During the half century of years that has passed since then, it has been generally remembered and stated that this company left the campground above mentioned not later than the 10th or 12th of July, and, was so recorded in our previous chapter, but Captain Willie's report and synopsis from his journal, as made for President Brigham Young a few weeks after his arrival in Salt Lake, and which will follow in this article, sets this date of starting at rest, for he says it was Tuesday, July 15.
As a matter of record and history, there is considerable importance in the number of days' start Captain Willie's company got ahead of that of Captain Martin's, because it proves that the loss of life was not so much from the fatigues of travel, as from the number of days the latter company were in the snow and the severity of the cold weather.
To make proper connection in the reading of our narrative, No. 1, as published in the Herald Sunday, Dec. 15, 1907, which finished with the part of a sentence beginning with:
"We slept in the cars on the evening of the 24th of July at Pond creek, a short distance then, by rail, west of Rock Island, Ia., and on the 25th the remainder of our company came up. We had much difficulty in obtaining provisions (here) which up to this period had been pretty plentiful."
The railway superintendent here was very obliging, and furnished us with a large, comfortable warehouse to sleep in. On the 26th of June we left Pond creek, and, after crossing the Mississippi in consequence of the fallen bridge, started by train for Iowa City, where we arrived on the same day, meeting with the most cordial reception from President Daniel Spencer and the brethren and sisters in camp there.
We stayed at this point till Tuesday, July 15, 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, etc., 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 flying, and had a first rate time. Many strangers were present and seemed to take considerable interest in our proceedings. On the 12th President Spencer appointed me as captain over the fourth handcart company (consisting of the passengers of the ship "Thornton), with Elders Millen Attwood, Levi Savage, William Woodward,. John Chislett and ______ Ahmanson respectively captains of hundreds.
On July 15 we started from Iowa camping ground for old "Winter Quarters" now known as "Florence," and pursued our journey until the 20th when Adelaide A. Baker, of the Portsmouth Branch of Southampton conference, with her two children, Ann and Sebina 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) at Fort Des Moines. He presented me with fifteen pairs of children's boots, which I readily accepted, as he seemed to be influenced by a sincere desire to do good.
On Monday, Aug. 11, we arrived at Florence, having previously (on the 9th) had two other deserters from our ranke, ____ Guirney [Gurney] and daughter, both of 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 bottoms of our wagons for young women, who, as was alleged, were tied down there with ropes.
On our arrival at Florence we were warmly greeted by President James C. [Mc]Gaw, and Brothers George D. Grant, William H. Kimball and John Van Cott. We stayed there till the 16th, and, during this interval, were employed in repairing handcarts 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 Pappea organized into it by President McGaw, who then appointed Andrew I. Silver as captain of such wagons under my presidency.
On the 19th we rolled out of camp about 6 a.m. and commenced our journey across the plains in real earnest, traveling about eighteen miles that day, including the crossing of the Elkhorn river. I then appointed Brother Neil[s] Lars Christianson interpreter and counsellor to the Danish saints.
On Thursday, Aug. 28, Brother William Ha[i]ley of the Warwickshire conference, aged 66 years, was missed. 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, the 29th, we came up with a large camp of Omaha Indians, who were 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 that had been committed on the 25th, by the Cheyennes, on two of Colonel Babbit'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, the 4th of September (being 265 miles west of Florence), we found that thirty of our oxen were missing. We stayed to search for them till the 6th, and during our stay, Colonel Babbitt came up, and reported that the Cheyennes had attacked a small California train, and killed a woman, and that the United States troops had killed thirteen Cheyennes, and taken a number of horses.
Captain Smoot and Brother Porter Rockwell visited the Saints and comforted us, in our then present emergency. On Sept. 6 we started afresh with our broken teams, Brothers Joseph Elder and Andrew Smith, returning on the back track in search of the missing cattle. We traveled 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 the 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 Bauichter, came up and reported that two men, named Thomas Margetts and James Howdy, with the wife and child of the latter, had been murdered by the Cheyennes about seventy miles ahead of our camp. He said that the murders were committed during his absence from Margetts and Howdy, on a buffalo hunt. These two men, I ascertained afterward, were apostates returning from the valley to the states.
On Friday, the 12th, President Franklin D. Richards, with three carriages and some wagons, accompanied by a number of brethren, and by Brothers Elder and Smith, who had met them while searching for the lost oxen, came up 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 counselors, Daniel Spencer and C. H. Wheelock, also cheered the saints with some seasonable remarks. Several of the Songs of Zion were sung with first rate spirit and good effect by Elder W. C. Dunbar, and the meeting separated late in the evening, much edified, and with the good spirit of our God evidently 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. President Richards said others spoke as they were moved upon by the Holy Ghost, and it was indeed a time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. At the conclusion of the meeting, three cheers were given for these brethren, who immediately afterward crossed the Platte, an example which we at once followed.
On Monday, Sept. 15, we met several Indians, who stated that they belonged to the tribe of the Arrapahoes, and that the Sioux and Cheyennes had recently attacked a large emigration train and killed many. These Arrapahoes were watching us during the whole night, for what purpose is best known to themselves. On the night of Sept. 17 we had the first frost, which was a very severe one. On that day one of Brother Cantwell's daughters (Ellen)) was bitten by a rattlesnake; but the wound was dressed and no fatal effects followed. The snake, which had ten rattles, was afterward killed. On the 18th, Sister 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 for the night. She was much exhausted for want of food. On Sunday, the 28th, we met a company of nearly 100 apostates on their way from the valley to the states, and shortly afterwards a small company of United States soldiers came up.
On Sept. 30, 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 Captain Siler's four wagons stayed here to await the arrival of the next wagon company, pursuant to President Richard's counsel.
While at the fort, some soldiers visited our camp and conducted themselves with propriety. Two of the sisters thought proper to stay there. Lucinda M. Davenport, who immediately married an apostate that had just come from the valley, and Christina Brown.
On the 1st of October, we renewed our journey, and met Brother Parley 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 amount of the daily ration of flour, which was unanimously and willingly acceded to by the Saints. On Sunday, Oct. 12, Alfred Peacock and George Edwick were added to the list of "deserters" just before we arrived at the upper crossing of the Platte. On that 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 ounces for men, 9 ounces for women, 6 ounces for children and 3 ounces for infants. This turned out to be a very wise and economic arrangement, as it just enabled us to ration out our provisions until the very day when we received material aid from the valley.
This relief arrived (when the little ones were crying for bread) on the 20th of October, to the extent of fourteen wagons laden with flour, onions and clothing. The last bit of breadstuff (which constituted all the provisions we then had) was served out two nights previously. We all felt to rejoice 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 of October, Brother William H. Kimball, with six wagons, started on with us towards Great Salt Lake City, and Brother George D. Grant, with the remainder, started to meet the companies in our rear. Two days previous to this, on the 20th of October, 1856, we encountered the first snowstorm, and on Friday, the 24th, we met Brother Reddick N. Allred, and others, with six wagons, also on their way to help the rear companies, and on the following day (being fifteen miles west of the last crossing of the Sweetwater,[)] came up with some brethren, who were waiting there with supplies of flour and onions. On Friday, the 31st of October, we met seven wagons from Fort Supply and three from Great Salt Lake City, and on the 1st of November met further help from the valley.
On the next day Brother Ephraim Hanks passed us and reported plenty of teams ahead. On the 2d day of November we passed Fort Bridger, and on the next day met fresh supplies for the rear companies, and overtook Gilbert & Gerrish's merchant train.
On Monday, the 3d of November, 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 Brother Kimball volunteered to go, and did so, in company with Brother Thomas. Before starting President Kimball appointed Brother Gould captain of the horse teams, and Brother William Hyde of the ox teams.
On the 4th of November we met Brother Blair with three wagons, besides other brethren with teams. Today Brother Franklin R. Woolley came along with a message from President Brigham Young that some freight which had been left behind at Fort Bridger must be brought into the valley this season, so I immediately dispatched some brethren, with wagons and teams, back for the freight in question. On Saturday, the 8h of November, President Kimball returned to us with a load of provisions, which was a timely succor to us.
The next day, the 9th of November, a part of our train passed Captain Smoot's, which, however, preceded us into Great Salt Lake City, where we arrived on that day. Brothers Franklin D. Richards and L. W. Richards, besides many others, came to meet us on the bench and preceded us into the city. On our arrival there the bishops 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. Hundreds of the citizens flocked around the wagons on our way through the city, cordially welcoming their brethren and sisters to their mountain home.
I wish 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 through the cold water, and to sleep on the snow (each person having only seventeen pounds of luggage, including bedding), and through 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 diarrhoea took a fatal hold of many. Our wagons were crowded with the sick, which broke down our teams, and thus we were often obliged to refuse the admission of many who were really worthy to ride.
In crossing the Rocky ridge, eighteen miles west of Fort Bridger, Wyo., we encountered a very heavy snowstorm, accompanied by a strong north wind. It was the most disastrous and fatal day on the whole trip, fifteen dying from fatigue and exposure to the cold. We had on this day, as on previous and subsequent ones, 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 sixteen miles on that day with our handcarts.
The total number of deaths in this company from Liverpool, Eng., was seventy-seven, beside one child belonging to Captain Siler's wagon. We had also three births and three marriages on the trip.
For the present, this chapter closes our Annals and narratives of Captain Martin's and Captain Willie's companies of Mormon emigrants that pulled handcarts from 1,300 to 1,400 miles during the months of July, August, September, October and November, 1856, through the state of Iowa, the territories of Nebraska and Wyoming, to Salt Lake City, territory of Utah.
Captain Willie's company covered the same distance by sea and land that Martin's and all the other companies of emigrants did that year, and by no means were their hardships, sufferings, privations and loss of life comparatively less, except in the less number of miles they passed through the snow toward the end of their journey.
We have not had space or time, nor shall we undertake now, to compare the sufferings and fatalities of the two companies here, all of which would be interesting to the surviving members of both companies; and the distances both were kept apart from each other, and the causes, from the date of the crossing of the North Platte; for since writing and compiling all that we have, in the twelve articles, and published weekly in The Herald, we now see many striking points of comparison and detail, which will be embodied in our book, with the names and ages in full, the town, city or village from which they emigrated, of all the companies of Mormons that started for Utah that year; also the names of the members of Hunt & Hodgetts' wagon companies, will also be given, and as heretofore promised, Ephraim Hanks' narrative and journal and relief services to both of the above companies.
We expect the book will be ready (only for subscribers) by the 15th of March, revised and enlarged, a valuable record for the 1,000 surviving members of the handcart companies of 1856 and their future generations.