Chislett, John, [Reminiscences], in Handcart Stories, 7-10.
“We traveled on in misery and sorrow day after day. Sometimes we made a pretty good distance but at other times we were only able to make a few miles progress. Finally we were overtaken by a snow storm which the shrill wind blew furiously about us. The snow fell several inches deep as we traveled along, but we dared not stop for we had a sixteen mile journey to make and short of it we could not get wood and water.
“As we were resting for a short time at noon, a light wagon was driven into our camp from the west. Its occupants were Joseph A. Young and Stephen Taylor. They informed us that a train of supplies was on the way and we might expect to meet it in a day or two. More welcome messengers never came from the courts of glory than these two young men were to us. They lost no time after encouraging us all they could to press forward, but sped on further east to convey these glad tidings to Edward Martin and the fifth handcart company who left Florence about two weeks after us and who it was feared were even worse off than we were. As they went from our view, many a hearty “God bless you” followed them.
“The storm which we encountered, our brethern from the Valley also met and not knowing that we were so utterly destitute they encamped to await fine weather but when Captain [James G.] Willie found them and explained our real condition, they at once hitched up their teams and made all speed to come to our rescue. On the evening of the third day after Captain Willie’s departure, just as the sun was sinking beautifully behind the distant hills, on an eminence immediately west of our camp, several covered wagons, each drawn by four horses, were seen coming towards us. The news ran through the camp like wildfire and all who were able to leave their beds turned out en masse to see them. A few minutes brought them sufficiently near to reveal our faithful captain slightly in advance of the train. Shouts of joy rent the air; strong men wept till tears ran freely down their furrowed and sun burnt cheeks and little children partook of the joy which some of them hardly understood, and fairly danced around with gladness. Restraint was set aside in the general rejoicing and as the brethern entered our camp the sisters fell upon them and deluged them with kisses. The brethern were so overcome that they could not for some time utter a word, but in choking silence repressed all demonstrations of those emotions that evidently mastered them. Soon, however, feeling was somewhat abated and such a shaking of hands, such words of welcome and such invocation of God’s blessings have seldom been witnessed.
“I was installed as regular commissary to the camp. The brethern turned over to me flour, potatoes, onions and a limited supply of warm clothing for both sexes, besides quilts, blankets, buffalo robes, woolen socks, etc. I first distributed the necessary provisions and after supper divided the clothing, bedding, etc. where it was most needed. That evening, for the first time in quite a period the songs of Zion were to be heard in the camp and peals of laughter issued from the little knots of people as they chatted around the fires. The change seemed almost miraculous, so sudden was it from grave to gay, from sorrow to gladness, from mourning to rejoicing. With the cravings of hunger satisfied, and with hearts filled with gratitude to God and our good brethern, we all united in prayer and then retired to rest.
“Among the brethern who came to our succor were Elders W. H. Kimball and G. D. Grant. They had remained but a few days in the Valley before starting back to meet us. May God ever bless them for their generous, unselfish kindness and their manly fortitude. They felt that they had, in great measure, contributed to our sad position; but how nobly, how faithfully, how bravely they worked to bring us safely to the Valley, to the Zion of our hopes!
“After getting over the pass, we soon experienced the influence of a warmer climate and for a few days we made good progress. We constantly met teams from the Valley, with all the necessary provisions. Most of these went on to Martin’s company but enough remained with us for our actual wants. At Fort Bridger we found a great many teams that had come to our help. The noble fellows who came to our assistance invariable received us joyfully and did all in their power to alleviate our sufferings. May they never need similar relief.
“After arriving in the Valley, I found that President Young, on learning from the brethern who passed us on the road, of the lateness of our leaving the frontier, set to work at once to send us relief. It was the October Conference when they arrived with the news. Brigham at once suspended all conference business and declared that nothing further should be done until every available team was started out to meet us. He set the example by sending several of his best mule teams, laden with provisions. Heber Kimball did the same and hundreds of others followed their noble example. People who had come from distant parts of the territory to attend conference, volunteered to go out to meet us and went at once. The people who had no teams gave freely of provisions, bedding, etc., all doing their best to help us.
“We arrived in Salt Lake City on the 9th of November but Martin’s company did not arrive until about the 1st of December. They numbered near 600 on starting and lost over one fourth of their number by death. The storm which overtook us while making the 16 mile drive on the Sweetwater, reached them at North Platte. There they settled down to await help or die, being unable to go any farther. Their camp ground became indeed a veritable grave yard before they left it and their dead lie even now scattered along from that point to Salt Lake.”