Ellsworth, Edmund, "Account of His Mission," Deseret News [Weekly], 8 Oct. 1856, 243.
- Related Companies
- Edmund Ellsworth Company (1856)
BY ELDER EDMUND ELLSWORTH, AND HIS EXPERIENCE IN LEADING THE FIRST HAND—CART
COMPANY FROM IOWA CITY TO GREAT SALT LAKE CITY, BOWERY, SEPT. 28, 1856.
[REPORTED BY G. D. WATT]
Brethren and Sisters: I do not feel competent, this morning, to give you as full a report, as I would wish, of the travels of my brethren and sisters in crossing the plains with me; though I may be able to present a few incidents in this great hand-cart enterprise, that may be somewhat interesting. . . .
But in the midst of all my labors God has been with me, and at no time has he suffered me to lack for the counsels of his Holy Spirit, for when it was not convenient for me to get counsel from the Presidency at Liverpool, by dreams and visions have I had communion with our President in the Valleys of the Mountains. In dreams have I conversed with him in his office in this city, and he has given me such instructions as the next morning were necessary to enable me to discharge the duties incumbent upon me.
And long before any communication came in writing from President Young to the old country, calling upon me to lead a hand-cart company across the plains, I dreamed that I was in company with him and that he expressed a wish to have Israel gathered, and looked upon them as I did, in their scattered, forlorn condition, groaning and mourning to be gathered to enjoy the blessings you enjoy, and to hear the Prophets' voices.
He expressed to me, in the dream, his full conviction that he could take a company of the Saints, men, women and children, from the old country, bring them to the frontiers on the Missouri river, there fit them out with hand-carts and lead them across the plains; and that in traveling in such a manner the principle of life would be increased among them, and health and strength would be given them on such a journey, more so than if they rode in wagons; and when they arrived in the valleys they would be better prepared to enter into the duties of Saints.
He also said to me, 'My duties call me to be in another place, I must therefore call upon others to do the work that I would gladly do; can you arise now and be a man of God, and lead the pioneer company of hand-carts across the plains?'
He further said, 'The powers of the wicked would be exerted against me, and the force of the elements would be combined to overthrow me, as was the case with the companies which first left Nauvoo;' and asked, 'Can you be faithful before God, and lead your brethren home to Zion by means of hand-carts?'
In the commencement of the conversation in the dream, I looked upon the enterprise as great and perilous, one that would, perhaps, cost the brethren their lives, but when he had finished his spirit filled my whole system; the Spirit of the Lord was upon me and I said, 'If I am called upon to do this work, in the name of Israel's God I will do it,' and that was my answer to him.
I began to preach, more and more, the gathering of the Saints; and told them that ere long the Lord would open up a way whereby thousands of the Saints would be gathered home, to enjoy the blessings of the kingdom of God with his people.
I encouraged them to believe that with hand-carts they could cross the plains; and although their means were limited, it only needed a few pounds, coupled with economy to enable them to thread their way to some point on the banks of the Missouri, where they could kill wild game and live on it, as did Lehi of old, while they were preparing their hand-carts to cross the plains.
This seemed to inspire the feelings of the people, and they said 'Let us go if we have to carry our packs on our backs. If it were not for those great waters that roll between us and the promised land, how soon would we start and be with br. Brigham and those blessed Saints in the mountains.' These are the feelings that fill the bosoms of the Saints in that country.
Being blessed from time to time with the company of Elder Wheelock, second counselor to Prest. F. D. Richards, the time had come for the appointment of brethren for the ensuing year. Br. Wheelock asked me whether I had any particular choice as to where I would labor during the coming year. I told him that I had none, only that I thought I could do more good where I was acquainted; but, said I, tell br. Franklin to put me where he thinks I can do the most good; if it is to go and lead a company of hand-carts across the plains, let him tell me, and I am on hand for that.
At a meeting for making the appointments, those words called forth some little comment, and br. Franklin remarked that when I left the country I might lead some such enterprize.
Soon after, a letter came from Prest. Brigham Young, wishing the hand-cart enterprize to commence this season. My heart was in the enterprize, and I showed the Saints that if it was a hard journey, they were called upon to pass through; and even should they lay down their bodies in the earth before they arrived in Great Salt Lake City, it was better to do so, keeping the commandment of God in gathering, than wear out their bodies in the old countries; and so the Saints in that country feel now.
Concerning the prosperity of the first hand-cart expedition, I would like to have it understood what kind of people have been called for this season to embark in this great undertaking. A single explanation will show the difference between the people that this season came forth, and those that may emigrate another season in the same way.
Br. Franklin was instructed to call upon the old soldiers, the halt, maimed, weak, and infirm, and not upon those who were particularly young and strong, but upon the old soldiers. [Voice. "those of 19 years standing in the church."]
This counsel called forth all the old men and women, the cripples and infirm, those that had borne the burden of sustaining the church from the first, in the old country.
With this kind of a company we came from England to Iowa city, probably a distance from this place of 1300 miles, or upwards. There was our first place of out-fit for the plains; and there I again received my appointment to lead the first company of hand-carts across the plains.
Again, had the making of our hand-carts been directed by the wisdom of our President here, or could the work there have been superintended by men of more experience, with time to have attended strictly to seeing that the carts were made in the best proportions and of good, substantial timber, much labor on the plains might have been avoided; in fact I presume that one third the labor we have had could have been thus saved. Our hand-carts were of a poor description, but they had to be experimented upon, and the experiment made this season has been at our expense.
At Iowa city, before the hand-carts were ready, some of the brethren and sisters began to despair of ever accomplishing so long a journey; and the inhabitants of the surrounding country offered them great wages; telling them that if they remained there and served them one year, that without doubt they could earn a good team and wagon, and a cow or two, and then they could cross the plains with comparative ease. This had its effect upon some few at Iowa city, and there were a few who had to be considerably persuaded to start from that place.
Br. Spencer felt that he especially wanted those to go who had this season started from the old country to cross the plains, and encouraged us to go on; but I have found, since that time, that those who were dissatisfied and wished to remain back were continually faltering, and that it was of little use to say any thing to them to encourage them; for when greater inducements, as they thought, were offered to them along the road in Iowa; a distance of 300 miles through sand hills and heavy roads, several families left the company in order to get rich and come on another year.
But the Saints who started from the old country with the kingdom of God at heart wanted to come here and assist in building up that kingdom, and see the glory of God and the prophets of the Lord, and receive instructions from their lips.
It was hard to induce them to step off the track; and although the weather was boisterous and uncomfortable, and the roads heavy, they felt willing to continue; and when sickly and fatigued, and ready to faint by the way, if asked whether they wanted to go back would say, "No, let us go to the valley, or go on as far as we can muster strength."
And, as it had been represented to me in the dream, as it had been predicted to me by the Spirit of Brigham, the powers of the destroyer were strongly exercised against the faithful little band that was with me gathering to these valleys.
I found that the adversay of souls was using his influence and doing his best, with sickness, weakness, and fatigue, breaking down the carts, etc., to discourage the faithful and sink their spirits.
I found that unless I had power with God and with Brigham, and could claim their faith and call to my aid their energies to enable me to encourage the spirits of that people, they would sink and the expedition would fail.
But I thank God that we had the blessing of the Lord upon us, and the spirits of the people were buoyed up to go along just about enough every day, and to commence the journey on the morrow.
Nobody had any faith to give away to their neighbor, there was no energy to spare, but there was just sufficient to keep along in the journey.
The Lord has been with us; and from time to time, when I found sickness rather gaining upon the people, I called upon them to exercise faith in God, and to claim the blessings promised to them by Brigham and the servants of the Lord in the mountains, and by br. Spencer at the place of outfit, who promised them that if they were sick and would look to the Lord and have faith in him, and call upon the servants of the Lord to administer to them, although dying they should live, although sick they should be healed.
I regret that there was a wagon in our company, for I realized that wagons had a tendency to destroy the faith of our brethren and sisters; for if they were sick a little they felt that they could get into the wagons.
I am persuaded that if there had been no wagons for such people, there would have been none sick, or weak, but that their faith would have been strong in the name of the Lord.—[Voice, that is true.] Consequently I have had to labor with the people incessantly to keep faith in them, to keep them away from the wagons, by showing them that there was honor attached to pulling hand-carts into the valley; by saying, I have walked 1300 miles, old and decrepid as I am, with these crooked legs of mine, and there is honor in that, brethren and sisters, far more than in having to be carried in a wagon to the valleys of the mountain, and thus I believe that I have stimulated those that otherwise would have gone into the wagons.
I can say, in praise of this company, that they have been faithful before God, have done what I have required of them, better than any company I have ever traveled with. I have been in a company directed by Prest. Brigham Young, but I never saw a company that were more willing to go along peaceably, without quarreling and contention, and more ready in doing what they were called upon to do.
When we came to the large streams that had to be crossed, such as the Platte, it seemed almost too much for human nature, for men, women, and children to wade through a broad stream nearly two feet deep, and some would tremble at it; but the most, as they were requested, boldly entered and went through freely, not caring for the poor gentile sneaks who were watching them on the banks.
The brethren and sisters felt wonderfully tender of the children, on the commencement of the journey, asking, "what shall we do with them?" and saying that they must get into the wagons. I said let them stick by the hand-carts, and pull off their heavy shoes so that they can go along light footed, and the journey will be accomplished easily by them; their feet will become tough, and the mothers who will take this course will see the utility of it before the journey is accomplished; but some were so tender of their children that they nearly killed them by keeping on their heavy stockings and shoes.
Their feet became blistered, and they were soon so crippled as not to be able to walk, only with great pain, and when they could not use their shoes any longer, they had to take them off, and then their little feet were tender and sore, and altogether unfit to tread on the pebbles and prickly pears scattered on the roads in the latter portion of the journey. If they had been permitted to go barefooted at first, their feet would have been hardened and inured to the journey, and been better prepared for the rough roads in the mountains.
The remarks of Prest. Young, concerning our teams having been a hinderment to us, are verily true; and I believe his suggestions were, at first, to provide a few mule teams to travel in company with the hand-carts for hospital purposes, and also to carry some of the baggage. Had the brethren in the States been able to have accomplished this, I believe that the companies of hand-carts already arrived would have been in some ten or twelve days sooner.
Some of the brethren wrote letters to their wives, immediately after starting in the hand-cart train, but I believe they have all had to bring their letters in their pockets; we have passed the ox teams, and everything that started with us. An ox train started ten days before us and anticipated making as speedy a passage as any such company could do, but we passed it, and it is still back.
Our ox teams started with us in the morning, but they would be from one to three hours behind us in getting into camp at night, besides what we waited for them through the day; and we have generally waited from one to three hours in the middle of the day.
A few deaths happened in our company, but this was doubtless due mainly to the fact, as I before remarked, that it was in a great degree composed of infirm people, and many of them had been accustomed to different kinds of labor to what they have experienced this year.
Some had been raised at work under ground all their lives, and been subject only to that kind of exercise, and through this they had accumulated diseases and their lungs had been affected; and some were nearly dead when they left the old country; and in crossing the sea, where they had hardly exercise enough for their good, some sickened almost enough to bring them down to the graves; and all such persons, when they come to where they began to breathe pure air, to breath in a rarified atmosphere such as they had not been accustomed to, were sure to be healed and made strong, or carried out of this world.
God has been with us; and when the people have been sick they have been administered to in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith has raised up the sick, many of them instantaneously. And when accumulated labors and cares came upon me, through administering of and praying for the people so much, I counseled them, when their strength began to fail, instead of laying down and sending for me, to ask the Lord in the name of Jesus to pour on them his Holy Spirit, and he would heal them and give them new life, energy, and strength and so increase it upon them that they would be able to perform the journey of the day.
And night after night, day after day, week after week, men, women, and children have come into camp and said that they called upon the Lord, when they felt that they would be obliged to leave their hand-carts behind, and strength seemed to come upon them immediately and they were enabled to pull their carts up to the camp ground. The Lord has been with us and preserved and blessed us and our teams, and joyful does this company come into these valleys of the mountains; and I felt that no company can come into these valleys that can more deeply appreciate the blessings the people enjoy here. A few days rest will make them ready for labor, and perhaps by to-morrow morning they will be better ready to begin labor than any company that can come here in wagons. And I honestly believe that could they commence labor immediately, it would be better for them than to let any great relaxation take place.
As to the company that came with me, since I can see many of them here to-day, I wished with all my heart a day or two before we reached here, I had time and oportunity offered, to express to them the gratefulness of my heart for their kindness to me is the old countries, and for the way they have sustained me and accomplished the journey over the plains, and the honor they have done to themselves and me by upholding and sustaining me. I feel that I have enjoyed a signal privilege and honor in being permitted to some with this present company to this place, and should I hereafter sink down in sin and folly and go down to hell, (I should feel even there, and it never could be erased from my mind, that God once raised me up to an honorable position in this life, in permitting me to lead a company of Saints with hand-carts to the valleys of the mountains. And I feel that my brethren and sisters who have come with me are honored, and they feel the honor conferred upon them by this people, who turned out in mass and welcomed us with cheers and tears of joy. We have been honored so greatly that I feel that words are inadequate to express the deep sense of gratitude that such kindness and attention have caused to flow in our bosoms. I can recommend the most of this company as being Saints of God, though some of them are not, and I fear never will be, but better saints never lived than are the majority of them, and I can recommend them to our President as being willing to take hold in any form he may suggest.
They will build up the kingdom of God, and they will prove faithful to the trust confered upon them; and I ask the brethren that may hire them to treat them as Saints and pay them for their services, that they may not lose their confidence in you. I can recommend the young women, that have come in this company, as good wives; they are as good a number of sisters as ever come to these valleys, and in performing so hard a journey they have done nobly. Many of them have pulled the hand-carts the whole of the way, and a great portion of the joy of the company was caused by seeing the sisters so joyful, singing songs and hymns while they journeyed through the day.