Source: William Woodward, History of William Woodward, 1833–1908, typescript copy, Church Archives.



Release and Preparations


On Tuesday, December 4, 1855, William received the Millennial Star, No. 49, Vol. 17. Listed in this edition were the names of the Elders who were released to emigrate to the mountains. William’s name was among those released, with the time of release set for February 1, 1856. His comments were, “This gave me satisfaction, as I was desirous to go home.”

When his twenty-third birthday anniversary arrived on January 4, 1856, William notes this in his diary:


I ascended a hill overlooking the sea in the morning, and sang a hymn, and engaged in prayer thanking the Lord for preserving my life up to the present time, and asking him to bless and preserve me through this present year.


The rest of the month, he spent in preparations for leaving England, along with the regular tasks. He didn’t have money to get the proper clothing and other things which he felt he needed for the journey. On February 5, he states his feelings, “I was rather depressed in my mind, as I was going to the Valley, and the way appeared dark.” He was able to purchase cloth for an overcoat and suit and vest. A tailor, Mr. Grove, made his suit “gratis.” Another tailor, Mr. Oliver, made the overcoat. February 19, he purchased enough shirting to make four shirts, and some of the Saints made them for him. On March 13, he received a letter from a young man he had baptized, Michael Earl. He requested William to come and be measured for a pair of boots. So the way had been provided wherein he might have the things he needed for his trip back to America.

On March 6, some of the Saints attended a meeting and received information on emigration by handcarts. On the eighth, William received a letter from Apostle Franklin D. Richards telling him not to sail on the first ship, but rather to sail on March 22.


Beginning the Trip Home


April 17th, 1856, was the day William received word to leave for Liverpool immediately, and sail on the S. Curling. Elder Wheelock gave William ten shillings, or the amount of $2.50, and he proceeded to collect his things at the tailors, and some of the Saints. He was ready, and took a cab at 4 a.m. to Euston Square. About 6 o’clock the morning of the 18th, he got on the railway car for Liverpool. When he had paid his fare and luggage fee, he was left with only one halfpenny, or one cent. That evening he saw Elder Richards, who gave him his passage ticket on the S. Curling to Boston.

On April 19 he left by tug for the “ship S. Curling . . .” a fine vessel of 1,898 tons register burthen. There were on board about 702 passengers mostly Welsh the balance English, Irish, & Scotch. The whole under the Presidency of Elders Dan Jones, John Oakley, & David Grant.” The tug towed the ship down the Mersey River, where it left them. The captain of their ship was Samuel Curling, and he had already taken a shipload of Latter-day Saints to America the previous year. Before nightfall, a council meeting was held, and the ship’s company was divided into eleven wards with a president for each. Rules and regulations were formed and work, prayer and meeting periods planned.

For two days the sea was calm and they moved little. Then a good wind came up and they began to move in the right direction. The 29th and 30th were stormy and miserable. By the end of the second day of storm, the American elders met together in prayer and asked for calm and a change of wind. They decided to fast until they were called together again. The following day, May 1, 1856, the wind had changed, and the fast was broken after prayers of thankfulness.

On the fourteenth of May, they saw birds and fish, and estimated their distance from Boston at about 900 miles. That night a great number of porpoises played about their ship. On the twentieth, William said the weather was cold and foggy and the ship lay still during the morning. The captain of the ship caught four codfish. The next day, Cape Cod was in sight, and they prepared to try to round the Cape.


Arrival at Boston


May 23rd, a steam tug towed the ship into Boston Bay. After the inspectors had checked the ship the following day, William was kept busy marking boxes as they were hauled up the hatchway. The day of the 25th, William had the job of guarding the ship from 3 to 6 a.m. and from 6 to 9 p.m. Some of the Elders preached on the deck of the ship during the day. The next day the passengers prepared to leave the ship by railway cars or wagons.

From Boston they traveled to Albany, Buffalo, Cleveland, and Toledo. On the way to Chicago, a small boy with whom William had been friendly on board ship died, and he composed a poem to the parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Parry. William said he sat down immediately and began to write the following poem:


Weep not for him that’s dead & gone

Because his spirit’s fled;

It’s gone unto a better place

His body’s with the Dead


Altho’ the plantyn barch is gone,

You’ll have him soon again;

The meeting will be great indeed;

With you he will remain.


His mortal form it will be chang’d

From sickness unto health;

You’ll have your Brigham back again

With him eternal wealth.


Sweet little boy—he’ll come again

This earth will be his home—

You’ll clasp him in your arms again.

On Zion’s shore he’ll roam.


Dear friends, I sympathize with you

The trial is reality

But Jesus will restore your child

In immortality.


The child’s name was Brigham Bernard Parry, and William tells a little about him and his mother:


Brigham was a pretty little boy I had tossed him in my arms several times on the ship S. Curling. His mother watched over him during his illness with a devotion that I admired.

We arrived at Chicago late in the evening—the child was buried at Chicago .


At The Mississippi River


It was Saturday, May 31, 1856, that they took the cars to Rock Island. Because it was afternoon before they left, they did not arrive until about 11 p.m., and it was here that they saw the Mississippi River. Sunday, many of the people bathed in the Mississippi while they waited to move on. They were not allowed to travel on Sunday, but early the next morning preparations were made to leave the cars. They boarded the ferry boat, Davenport, and crossed into the state of Iowa where they again boarded cars to take them to Iowa City. Arriving at Iowa City about 2 p.m., they discovered several brethren waiting at the railroad depot for them.


Elders W. Walker, C. G. Webb, & J. A. Hunt, brethren that crossed the plains in 1852 in the same company that I did—were at the Rail Road.

I drove a team from the depot to the Camp of the Saints about two miles west of Iowa City. Our company arrived at the camp about 6 p.m. I received a kind welcome from Bro. Daniel Spencer, President of the camp. A good feeling existed in the hearts of the Saints that were in camp previous to our arrival.

Our company swelled the number of the camp to about 1,400 souls. . .

The brethren were full of business fitting up “Hand-Carts” for the journey across the Plains.


Organization of the Handcart Companies


Some years later, William wrote a description of the organization of the handcart companies, and why they came to be in the emigration of the Saints westward. It is fitting that this be inserted here as an introduction to this era in the history of the trek westward:


Much has been written about the Pioneers, and the “Mormon Battallion” crossing the plains, but I have never seen anything like a history of the Hand Cart Emigration of the year 1856. It was a new scheme for the depositing of a numerous people to Salt Lake Valley. This plan was to bring as many people as possible, for as small an amount of money as could be possible. That the poor of Europe might find homes with their Co-Religionists in the Vallies of the west.

In 1853 a £10 company of Emigrants had been sent across the plains—ten persons to a wagon—and this was a success. The Emigrants came by New Orleans and up the Rivers to some outfitting point and then proceeded across the Plains. Coming by New Orleans, & by steamboats up the Rivers was often attended with many deaths, and to obviate this, a more northern route was selected—New York & Boston & the railroads south of the Great Lakes—via Chicago, Rock Island, & Iowa City.

It was the constant desire of the authorities of the Church to plan for the people for their temporal & spiritual welfare. And the returning missionaries were held to labor for the welfare of Mormon Emigrants till they arrived in Salt Lake City.

Many of the leaders of the Hand Cart Companies are dead. . . . The rest are getting aged, and with them will die much of the history of one of the most remarkable episodes of modern times.


In order to supply more information for a better understanding of the handcart companies, we wish to quote from Great Basin Kingdom:


Handcarts would save the enormous expense of purchasing wagons and teams; they would decrease the food bill; they could make the journey more quickly. Every company would be followed by a number of freight wagons which would carry the heavy baggage and supplies. . .

Some nineteen hundred European Saints signed up to cross the Plains with handcarts in 1856. From Liverpool they sailed to New York and Boston, thence by railroad to Iowa City, Iowa, which was chosen as the frontier outfitting point. The handcarts, which were made at Iowa City, were designed to serve four or five persons each, with a burden of perhaps one hundred pounds of food, clothing, and equipment. at Iowa City the emigrants were organized into companies of about 100 wagons each (400 to 500 persons), with “twenty persons to a large round tent, and one wagon and ox team to twenty carts.” Pushing and pulling, they traveled across Iowa to Florence (old Winter Quarters), Nebraska, where they recuperated and then started out on the long journey to the Salt Lake Valley. When the first two companies reached the Salt Lake Valley in September 1856, ostensibly in good condition and spirits, church officials were jubilant.


Preparations of the Willie Handcart Company


Since the episode of the Willie Handcart Company bears such historical importance to the Saints and to the settlement of the West, and because written words are so few concerning them and their journey, it is well to let William’s own words tell the story as he experienced each day:


June, 1856. Teusday 3rd I went with Bro. Bunker to the woods to chop logs for “hand-cart” timber 6 miles distant from camp. The day was hot. When I returned to camp in the evening Bro. Tyler informed me, I was appointed Clerk to the camp.

Wednesday 4th Weather warm. I was writing the camp journal. A child died in camp named John Williams. In the evening a meeting was held in camp. Bros. Tyler & Spencer welcomed our company (That crossed the sea on the Ship S. Curling) to the camp of the Saints.

Thursday 5th. I was busy writing the camp journal. The camp were busy preparing for the plains.

Friday 6th. A child died in the camp named Joseph Evans. A meeting was held in the evening. Elders Ellsworth, Spencer, & Ferguson addressed the saints. Bro. McAllister sang “The Hand-cart” song. The band played a few lively tunes.

Saturday 7th. A child in the camp named Jane Ramsay died. The first Hand-cart company, Capt. Ellsworth moved their tents & formed a separate company.

Sunday 8th Meetings were held in the morning & afternoon. Elders D. Tyler, D. Jones, T, Thomas, & J. D. T. McAllister preached. I went to Iowa City in the evening to take letters to the post office. When I returned to camp I attended meetings in the 1st Hand cart companies corral. The band played some tunes in camp, as a kind of a farewell.

Monday 9th The camp was busy. The 1st “Hand-cart company” rolled out of camp in the afternoon, for their journey across the State of Iowa. Meeting held in the evening. David Grant was appointed captain of the Guard. Bros. Tyler, Ferguson, & Grant preached.

Teusday 10th. Catherine James died in camp aged 57 years. I informed a gentleman some particulars of our camp that he desired for the “press.” Meeting held in evening. Bros, Tyler, Grant, & myself preached.

Wednesday 11th The 2nd Hand-cart company, Capt. D. D, McArthur, rolled out of camp for their journey across the state of Iowa. The company left in fine spirits about 11 a.m.

Thursday 12th Bro. Spencer left camp for St. Louis. The day was very windy.—several tents were blown down.

Friday 13th A child died named John Lewis. Late at night P. Birmingham & T. Lucas came to camp—they left D. D. McArthur’s company with their families: They felt the journey was too much.

Saturday 14th James Ferguson left camp to learn the true position of the Hand-cart companies. P. Birmingham & T. Lucas with their families returned to D. D. McArthur’s company. These Bretheren left their company a little disaffected; after some counsel from Bros. Ferguson & McAllister they agreed to return & join McArthur’s company. They did not like to stay in camp—they therefore went to Iowa City & staid till a conveyance was engaged to take them to their company. The day was quite windy.

Sunday [June] 15th Morning fine. 10 1/2 a.m. Attended meeting. Bro. C. G. Webb & myself preached. Bro. Tyler bore testimony to what we said. Afternoon’s meeting: Elders G. W. Davis & E. Bunker preached. In the evening the saints met & received some good instructions from various brethren.

Monday 16th James Ferguson returned to camp in the afternoon—he gave good reports of the “Hand-carts” companies. Bros. Birmingham & Lucas with their families had rejoined their company.

Teusday 17th Weather fine. Bishop Tyler was around to collect $25.00, the expenses of James Ferguson & the folks that returned. I gave one dollar. George D. Grant came to camp with 16 mules. I went to Iowa City, Post Office. Br. Giles played a few tunes on his Harp in Bro. Spencer’s tent.

Wednesday 18th I went to the Post office to Iowa City. Bros. Erastus Snow & Daniel Spencer came into camp about 10 p.m. They were both from St. Louis. Bro. Snow left the Valley on the          of April. The Saints had had a severe time in the Valley the last winter.

Thursday 19th I went to Iowa City on business for the Church. A meeting was held in camp in the evening. Bro. E. Snow & Daniel Spencer addressed the Saints. Edward Bunker was appointed Captain of the 3rd “Hand’cart” company. D. Grant Capt. of the 1st hundred; G. W. Davis Capt. of the 2nd hundred; John Parry capt. of the 3rd hundred of Capt. Bunker’s company. The 3rd Hand-cart company were mostly from Wales & crossed the sea on the ship “S. Curling.” Bros. Bunker & Tyler spoke a short time after the company was organized.

Bro. David Grant came into camp during the meeting—he had been hunting for some of the mules that had strayed during the day. Bro. Grant being appointed to go with the 3rd Company, & the mules not being found Bro. Spencer desired me to go & hunt for them.

A boy named Larz Peter Adolphsen & myself started to hunt for the mules 10 in number about 11 p.m. We rode all night on mules. During the night we found two of the mules.


Bringing the Mules Back


Friday [June] 20th During the night we had ridden about 18 miles. Not seeing any mule tracks on the road I determined to turn back towards camp. The mules that we had found being obstinate, we had to keep going towards Warsonville. Arriving at some houses, where there were corrals, we got the animals in one of them & fed them. After the mules were fed & we had taken breakfast & were ready to start for camp, the other eight mules came on the road where we were. We fed the mules & breakfasted at Mr. Warson’s. I paid him one dollar ($1.00) for expenses.—We drove the mules towards camp. They went very well for about one mile, then they were obstinate. After many fruitless attempts to drive the mules to camp I concluded to get them into a corral & send to camp for help. I got the mules into Mr. Young’s corral about 3 miles from Warsonville. I then sent the boy Peter to camp. During the day two of the mules jumped over the fence, but I got them into the corral again.

In the evening Bros. Hodgetts & Davis came to my assistance. We tied several of the mules up to the fence at night.

Saturday 21st Early in the morning we arose, saddled our mules, breakfasted, & I paid Mr. Young two dollars ($2.00) for expenses then we started for camp. Arrived at camp about 10 a.m. after riding about 20 miles.—When I arrived at camp I found the 3rd “Hand-cart” company encamped by themselves.

I bathed in the river & washed myself, as I had sweated considerably. A meeting was held in the 3rd “Cart” company’s corral in the evening.

Sunday 22nd Bro. McAllister & I went to Iowa City Rail Road depot to administer to three sick children.

After attending to the ordinances for the sick, we went into Iowa City & attended a Presbyterian & Methodist meeting. Presbyterian & Methodist, thro’ some cause had both to meet in the State House. The Presbyterian preacher addressed the meeting in the morning. I attended meeting in camp in the afternoon; Bro. E. Snow preached.

I paid into G. D. Grant’s hands, in the presence of J. D. T. McAllister, the sum of twenty-five dollars ($25.00) to purchase me a No. 3. Charter Oak cooking stove at St. Louis & to forward it to Florence, Nebraska.

I attended to the burying of a child in the evening.

A meeting was held in the 3rd “Cart” company’s corral. Bro. Jones preached in the Welsh language.

Several mules strayed from camp.

Monday 23rd Bros. E. Snow & G. D. Grant left camp for St. Louis early in the morning.

Today I commenced to make ox bows. In the afternoon I went to Iowa City.

Teusday 24th A heavy wind came on in the afternoon. I was steaming & bending oxbows thro’ the day.

I went to Iowa City Rail Road in the evening, to see if a company of Saints had arrived: they had not.


Departure of Third Handcart Company


Wednesday [June] 25th I was busy making wagon-bows & ox-bows.

The 3rd “Hand-cart” company rolled on their way for the Valley. They left camp in fine Spirits. The company numbered about          souls 3 wagons, 6 yoke of cattle, & four mules. Bro. Bunker the capt. of the company had a wagon in this company of his own besides the wagons of the company.

Wm. Walker brought news to camp that a company of Saints were at Rock-Island, & would be in camp tomorrow.

Thursday 26th I was steaming & bending wagon-bows in the morning.

A heavy hail storm & rain storm came on in the afternoon. The tent I was in blowed down. I was drenched to the skin with rain. Many of the tents in camp were blown down—& the emigrants generally in camp got a soaking.

A company of Saints arrived at Iowa City. Elders J. G. Willie, M. Atwood, M. Clough, N. T. Porter & J. Chislett were among the number that I knew. I went from camp to the Rail Road depot to see the saints that had come by the cars. The roads were very muddy. Some fifty saints came to camp in the evening. The night was very wet.

Friday 27th I was fixing bows on “hand-carts.” The emigrants came to camp from Iowa City.

I was dispatched from camp about 5 p.m. on a mule & drove a yoke of cattle to Bro. Bunker’s company 11 miles distant from camp. Had some difficulty in driving the cattle—lost my hat in the woods in heading the cattle. Arrived at Bro. Bunker’s camp about 10 p.m. Found the company in good spirits.

Saturday 28th I rode about four miles on the road to see how the “hand-carts” went. The saints were in fine spirits. I bid the company “good by” & returned to camp, having rode about 20. miles, Elder J. Van Cott had arrived in camp with more than 400 head of cattle.

It rained considerably in the afternoon. Some tents were blown down.

Sunday 29th Attended meeting twice thro’ the day. James G. Willis & J. A. Hunt preached in the morning. Dan Jones preached in the afternoon. Weather fine. A good feeling prevailed in camp.


Hunting Cattle


Monday 30th George Brazier & myself were sent to Hunt cattle that were lost from J. Van Cott’s herd. Three Indians accompanied us. We rode mules & went about 3 miles south of Washington distance about 33 miles.

July, 1856. Teusday 1st passed thro’ Brighton, Fairfield, Libertyville, & Pleasant Plains. hunted cattle on the road, heard of three head in different persons charge. Rode to Iowaville on the Des Moines River, distance travelled to-day about 42 miles.

Wednesday 2nd The Indians left us & went on south. We returned toward camp. Found one steer about 6 miles from Iowaville at Mr. Parson’s. Drove about 16 miles. The roads were very muddy.

Thursday 3rd Morning wet. Found another steer. had much trouble in hunting it in the Bushes. Drove to Skunk River about 12 miles. Hunted for a heifer; found her at Skunk River.

Friday 4th After much difficulty I secured the heifer by a lariat, being assisted by some men. Ferried Skunk River; passed thro’ Washington, staid over night at the “Twelve Mile House.” travelled about 24 miles.

Saturday 5th Rolled into camp about 14 miles we travelled this morning. I gave in the bill of expenses to James Ferguson for board etc. on the cattle hunt twelve dollars & fifty cents (12.50).

I received word from Bro. Ferguson that I was to place myself under the charge of James G. Willie when I was ready too.

Sunday 6th I attended meeting & was edified.

From the 6th to the         I was assisting the “Thornton’s” Company of Saints to get ready for the plains.


Organization of James G. Willie Handcart Company


Saturday [July] 12th I was busy thro; the day. In the evening I attended meeting. Good instruction was given by Elders Spencer & Ferguson. The 4th “Handcart” Company was organized—James G. Willie was appointed Captain of the whole company. Millen Atwood was appointed capt. of the 1st Hundred; L. Savage capt. of the 2nd Hundred; myself, capt. of the 3rd Hundred; John Chislett, Capt. of the 4th Hundred; A. H. Ahmanson, capt. of the 5th Hundred.

Edward Martin, was appointed Capt. of the 5th “Handcart” company; Daniel Tyler was appointed to assist Bro. Martin. Jesse Haven was appointed Capt. of the 6th “Handcart” company, These Captains of companies, had captains of Hundreds appointed. Dan Jones, was appointed Capt. of the wagon company; John A. Hunt was appointed Capt. Of the 1st 50 wagons; W. B. Hodgetts capt. of the 2nd 50 wagons.


To aid in clarifying the above entry of July 12th, we quote from a letter William wrote in his later years pertaining to the handcart companies:


Two more Hand Cart companies were in process of organization 5th & 6th under Edward Martin & Daniel Tyler but were merged into one; and two wagon companies, John A. Hunt’s & B. W. Hodgett’s.


Beginning the Journey


July 1856, Sunday, 13th The day was fine. Meetings were held. I attended. A good feeling prevailed. A meeting was held in the evening in the 4th “Hand-cart” companies’ camp. Bros. Willie, Atwood, & Savage addressed the meeting.

Monday, 14th Busy preparing to start.

Teusday 15th I drove the mule team to town in the afternoon.

The 4th “Hand-cart” company pulled up stakes & encamped in a fresh place.

Wednesday 16th Our Hand-cart company made a start & rolled about 3 miles. I had much difficulty in driving the mule team, assisted by others. Bros. James Oliver, & Alexander Burt, were to take charge of the mule team under my charge.

With each Hundred persons were 5 tents, 5 covered Handcarts & 15 Hand-carts not covered.

I went back from camp & assisted in driving Bro. Chislett’s team, which moved along with great difficulty.


William’s List of the 4th Handcart Company


In William’s diary which follows This one, he has listed the names and ages of each member of the hundred people in the company under his direction. They are listed according to the tents to which they are assigned. Since this is of some interest, and pertains to the preceding entry, it is herewith inserted:


4th “Hand-cart” Company

3rd Hundred


No. Tent No. 1 Age
1 William Woodward 23
2 Thomas Stewart 39
3 Margaret     “ 46
4 William    “   12
5 Ann P.     “  10
6 Thomas     “    jun 7
7 John S.    “ 4
8 William Ledingham 30
9 Catherine    “ 30
10 Alexander    “ 6
11 William    “ 5
12 Robert    “ 3
13 Flora Miller 61
14 Andrew Watson 21
15 James Oliver 32
16 Alexander Burt 19
17 Lucy Ward 23
18 Ellen Tolfield 44
Tent No. 2
1 James Laird 31
2 Mary    “ 29
3 Joseph    “ 6
4 Edward    “ 4
5 Elizabeth    “ 1
6 James Cunningham 56
7 Elizabeth    “ 49
8 George Cunningham 15
9 Catherine    “  17
10 Elizabeth    “ 13
11 Margaret    “ 10
12 John Stewart 32
13 Ann    “ 30
14 John   “   jun  7
15 Margaret A.    “ 4 mon.
16 James Gibb 67
17 May   “ 56
18 Isabella Wilkey 48
19 Elizabeth Forbes 8
20 Christine Brown 25
Tent No. 3
1 Andrew Smith 19
2 Margaret Kirkwood 46
3 Robert    “ 21
4 Thomas    “ 19
5 James    “ 11
6 Joseph    “ 5
7 Elizabeth Kirkpatrick 32
8 Barbara Kelley 29
9 Alexander Kirkpatrick 5
10 Margaret Douglish 28
11 Ann Tait 31
12 Margaret A. Caldwell 40
13 Robert    “ 17
14 Thomas    “ 14
15 Elizabeth    “ 12
16 Agnes    “ 9
17 Joseph McKay 57
18 John McCulley
19 Christine McNiel 24
Tent No. 4
1 James Gardener 27
2 Hannah    “ 27
3 Mary Ann    “ 7
4 Agnes E.   “ 5
5 Frederick J.    “ 4
6 John W.    “ 1
7 Richard F. Turner 67
8 John Roberts 41
9 William Jeffries 24
10 Richard Hardwick 63
11 Joseph Meadows 34
12 Amelia    “ 40
13 William Halley 66
14 Catherine    “ 66
15 Mary Darney 65
16 Hannah    “ 25
17 Edward Bowles 51
18 Ann    “ 53
19 Thomas    “ 19
20 Enoch    “ 11
Tent No. 5
1 George Humphries 47
2 Harriett    “ 49
3 Ann    “ 16
4 Edwin    “ 19
5 Mary    “ 14
6 Elizabeth    “ 12
7 Hannah    “ 9
8 Selina    “ 7
9 James    “ 2
10 John Richins 24
11 Charlotte    “ 22
12 Franklin    “ 10 mon
13 Eliza Whitehorn 42
14 Joseph    “ 10
15 Elizabeth Panting 29
16 Christopher    “ 6
17 Jane    “  1
18 William Page 21
19 Jane A. Stewart 31
20 Chesterton J. Gillman 66

Weather Warm; Travel Slow


July 1856, Thursday 17th I drove the mule team back to camp for some things that were needed by our company. Bro. Willie felt displeased because I had not brought an ox yoke fitted up, and in meeting told me to go to camp & bring one. I went with two Bretheren. When I arrived the Saints were holding meeting. I found Bro. Ferguson, he said they had done the best they could as they had no ox-yokes fitted up. John A. Hunt went to the corral & got a yoke. I slept with Bro. Hunt in the camp.

Friday, 18th I returned to our company early in the morning. Our camp travelled about 5 miles & camp.

Saturday 19th Weather warm. We travelled about 12 miles. I unloaded the mule wagon when I got to camp & went back after some sick people about 3 miles.

Sunday 20th Resting today. Several of the 3rd Handcart companie’s people that were left behind came to camp. A meeting was held in the afternoon & evening; I attended. Several of the emigrants of our company left it & went back.

Teusday 22nd The weather was warm to day. We drove about 10 miles & camped on the Banks of a small creek. Wood, water, & grass plentiful. Several strangers visited camp in the evening.

Wednesday 23rd We travelled thro’ woods, & over some fine rolling prarie. A woman was sun-struck about noon, & died towards evening. We camped on the Banks of Bear Creek. Distance travelled about 13 miles.

Thursday 24th Weather warm. We travelled about 2 miles & camped on Bear Creek. The woman that died yesterday named Mary Williams, was put in a coffin & Buried in a graveyard about a mile from camp. A meeting was held in camp in the evening, myself, Bros. Willie, & Atwood, addressed the meeting. A family named Peat, left our company to live in Iowa with Gentiles at the last camping ground.


Sickness and Trouble Seekers


Friday [July] 25th Weather warm. We travelled over Beautiful rolling prarie. I drove an ox team belonging to the 4th Hundred. A great many persons were sick—our wagons were crowded with them. We drove about 13 miles & camped on “Bare” creek: wood very scarce. At night we were disturbed by a noise which we tho’t to have come from disturbers. Some men came to search our company, as they heard we had some persons tied down in our wagons. The sheriff of Powishelk co., from Brooklin, was authorized to look into our wagons, but found that they came on a foolish errand. This took place about 3 miles from our camp.

Saturday 26th Morning wet. Roads rather muddy. We travelled about 5 miles & camped on Sugar Creek.

Sunday 27th Morning cool & pleasant. Travelled 5 miles to North Skunk Creek & camped. Held meeting in the afternoon Bro. Savage preached I spoke a short time also.

Monday 28th We ascended a steep hill & rolled on our way. Passed thro’ a town called Newton, the county seat of Jasper Co. Camped on Cherry Creek about 2 miles from Newton. Travelled about 14 miles.

Teusday 29th Crossed several creeks—travelled over a beautiful prarie & camped on South Skunk Creek. Travelled about 12 miles. We tried to drive in the team a wild mule—he cut up all kind of capers. A man left camp to live with the Gentiles named Henry Newman. A meeting was held in camp in the evening—Bro. Willie, & Atwood preached.

Wednesday 30th Morning fine. A child was buried that died yesterday. Travelled about 21 miles & camped in the woods near Fort Des Moines. Feed scarce for the animals.

Thursday 31st We rolled on our way about 6:30 a.m.—crossed the Des Moines river on a floating Bridge—passed thro’ Fort Des Moines city, & nooned on a small creek near the city. Travelled about 6 miles & camped on Walnut creek. Some noisy men from Fort Des Moines came to interrupt our camp, but were foiled by the Guard.

Friday, August 1st, 1856. Travelled about 14 miles & camped on the prarie. Several of our company went on to Adel about 6 miles past our camp: The mule team was sent to fetch them back.

Saturday 2nd Morning fine. Rolled on about 6 miles and crossed North Coon River; passed thro’ Adel & camped on Middle Coon River. distance travelled about 17 miles. Night cold.

Sunday 3rd Travelled about 10 miles & camped on South Coon River.

Monday 4th Travelled about 17 miles & camped on Bear Grove Creek. Arrived about 2 p.m.

Teusday 5th Travelled 8 1/2 miles to a spring, where we rested for about an hour. Crossed a stream of water, travelled thro’ the day 18 1/2 miles camped on Turkey Creek at Morrison’s. Meeting held in the evening—Elders Willie & Atwood addressed the meeting. The remarks were plain & pointed & such as the camp needed.

Wednesday 6th Travelled about 15 miles & camped on a small creek, wood scarce.


Episode at Indiantown


Thursday [August] 7th I rode on a mule to find out some particulars at Indian Town. Crossed the Nishnabotna River about 5 miles from camp, & after about 2 miles travel arrived at Indiantown. Met with a Brother named Joseph Seltcer who treated Bros. Willie, Atwood, Savage, Chislett, & myself to dinner. He & family were in the Church & felt well in the Work of God. Drove on about 6 1/2 miles & camped on Walnut Creek. Travelled about 15 miles. Isaac Smith a member of our company lost at Indian Town 6 Soverigns, 1 Mexican dollar, 1 United States 1/2 dollar, & 1 dime. I went back to Indian Town with the mule team. Bro. Oliver; Isaac Smith & two women as witnesses went to town in the wagon with me. Met Bro. Seltcer on the road—he returned to town with me—had a search warrant from Esquire Smith I. P. Mr. Brewster’s house was searched but we could get no trace of the money. Staid at Indian Town all night.

Friday 8th Returned to the camping place in the morning. Loaded up my wagon & followed after the company. Camped at night on West Nishnabotna River, distance from Indian Town about        miles.

Saturday 9th Travelled about 10 miles & nooned on Silver Creek. Travelled about 6 miles further & camped on Keg Creek. Meeting held in the evening Bros. Atwood, Savage, & Willie, preached.

Sunday, 10th About 4 p.m. we left Keg Creek. Travelled about 9 miles & camped on Mosquito Creek. Grass was tall where we camped.

Monday 11th Rode on a mule ahead of the company to Council Bluff City, formerly Kanesville. Visited some friends—saw Elder James McGaw agent for the Church. Travelled on to Missouri River—was ferried across on the steam ferry boat “Nebraska” our company arrived safe across the River. Saw Elders William. H. Kimball, Cunningham, Moses Clough, Andrew L. Siler, & others. We camped at Florence in Nebraska.

Teusday 12th Morning fine. The 3rd Hundred signed receipts for their conveyance from Iowa City to Florence. A meeting was held in the evening—Elders McGaw, Willie, & Atwood addressed the meeting. Many of our company agreed to leave the company.


Search for Hoop Iron


Wednesday [August] 13th Rode to Omaha City to purchase some hoop iron for skanes for Handcarts—could not get any in town; crossed Missouri River & went to Council Bluff City. Put my mules & wagon up at the stage office. I slept over night at sister Mace’s. I was very sick over night. Bro. Blacket & sis Davenport went with me to town.

Thursday 14th I purchased 61 lbs. of Hoop iron & some small fixies to fit up hand-carts. Drove to Missouri River & crossed it at Florence. As soon as I got to camp with the iron etc. the Bretheren went to work fixing up the carts.

Friday, 15th Splendid weather. Grasshoppers very numerous in Nebraska & have been for some time. I was taken very sick in the afternoon with fever. I had my head bathed with cold water which greatly relieved me of pain. Bros. Willie & Atwood administered to me with anointing with oil & laying on hands. I got better from that very time. I was at Mr. Davenport’s while I was sick.

Saturday, 16th In the afternoon Bros. Atwood, & Savage’s Hundreds rolled out of camp to the Pappea. My Hundred received carts that had had skanes of hoop iron put on them.

Sunday, 17th I was busy getting my hundred ready to rolling for the Pappea. I was taken down quite sick with fever. I was led to Mr. Davenport’s, where my head was bathed with cold water which made me feel some better. William H. Kimball & G. D. Grant took me in their carriage to the Little Pappea, 6 miles. I was some better when I arrived there. Mr. & Mrs. Davenport rode along, also their daughter Melissa who is going on to the Valley. My Hundred, Capt. Chislett’s & Capt. Ahmanson’s companies were in camp when I arrived there. The mule team and Captain Willie arrived in camp at dark.

Monday, 18th Some of our cows strayed off, & went to camp. Four men went back to camp after them. James McGaw & William. H. Kimball & William Latey came to our camp. In the afternoon we rolled on to the Pappea Creek about 3 miles & camped, Bros. McGaw, Kimball & two other bretheren returned to Florence when we arrived in camp. Another wagon was added to the 4th Handcart company to haul provisions along.

Teusday 19th This morning I was sick with chills & fever. I rode in a wagon. The day was very warm. Today the handcarts went ahead of the wagons. Ferried across the Elk Horn river & drove on to Raw Hide creek & camped. Distance travelled about 10 miles.

Wednesday 20th Our company was delayed in consequence of Bro. Savage having to go back to the Pappea after a cow. We drove on to the Platte River 11 miles & camped. Wood & water & grass plenty.

Thursday 21st I had a chill this morning. We drove 13 miles to the Platte River: staid there till 5 p.m. then drove 5 miles and camped; no wood nor water.

Friday 22nd Our camp rolled on 5 miles before Breakfast to Shell Creek. The folks partook Breakfast at this place. After two hours stay, we rolled on about 12 miles & camped on the Platte River. I was quite sick during the day. Sister Gearey had her left foot run over while travelling.

Saturday 23rd We rolled on about          miles to the Loup Fork River—ferried our wagons & handcarts across the stream & forded our cattle. A cow & calf was killed for the benefit of our company; camped on the banks of the river.

Sunday 24th Travelled about 14 miles & camped on the banks of the Loup Fork. Grass, wood & water plentiful.

Monday 25th Rolled out of camp about 7 a.m. Bro. Griffiths went back on a mule to hunt for 3 cows. After travelling about 8 miles we ascended some steep bluffs—teams had to double, Travelled about 12 miles farther and camped on the banks of a lake.

Teusday 26th Rolled out of camp about 7 a.m. and travelled about 15, miles camped near the Loup Fork. Wood, water, & grass plentiful. A King-bolt of one of the P. E. Fund wagons broke this morning—a wooden one was put in place of it.

Wednesday 27th Left camp about 7 a.m. Travelled over heavy sandy roads most of the day: nooned at some wells of water, camped on the open prarie near a slough. Distance travelled 15 miles.

Thursday 28th Started at 7 a.m. rolled on to prarie creek & nooned: crossed the stream after dinner & rolled on several miles; travelled about 15 miles thro’ the day & camped on the banks of a creek a dispute arose in our minds as to the name of the creek some supposed it was Wood River. Wood & water plentiful, grass scarce. An old man named Haley belonging to my Hundred was lost in the evening on the road. Diligent search was made for him but proved fruitless.


Babbitt’s Wagons Attacked by Cheyennes


Friday [August] 29th A tremendous storm of rain arose this morning & lasted for several hours. A large number of men hunted this morning for Bro. Haley, & found him about two miles from camp. He could scarcely speak when found. Left camp about 1 p.m. after travelling about 3 miles, met several Omaha Indians, who were out hunting Buffalo. One of the Indians presented us a note from Capt. Stewart U. S. Army to Mr. Babbitt, informing us that a band of Cheyennes Indians a few days since, had fallen upon Mr. Babbitt’s wagons, killed two of his teamsters, a little child, & it is supposed that the child’s mother was killed also. One teamster was wounded & 1 escaped unhurt. We passed the Omaha camp, & camped on the banks of a creek; travelled about 8 miles. Many Indians visited our camp to trade Buffalo meat.

Saturday 30th Rolled out of camp about 7 a.m. Passed a band of Californians with a large herd of horses for the States. Passed the graves of Babbitt’s teamsters—our men covered up the graves with soil as considerable stench arose from the dead. Travelled on—crossed a creek & nooned. Joseph Elder & Bro. Savage hunted for a yoke of cattle on the prarie caught them. Drove on & crossed Wood River, drove near the stream & camped on its banks. Made a good days drive. Mr. Babbitt came into camp this evening, a young man was with him, also a woman named Mrs. Stewart. Babbitt engaged for one of the independent wagons to take her thro’ to the Valley.

Robert Caldwell’s collar bone was broken by one of the cows.

Sunday 31st Started about 7 a.m. drove a few miles & watered our cattle. Left Wood River—struck across the Prarie to near where the road strikes for the Platte. Met 4 Californians who gave us favorable reports from the Valley. Babbitt passed us & drove on to Fort Kearney. Travelled about 18 miles.

September 1856 Monday 1st Started about 7:30 a.m. crossed two dry creeks, & Elm Creek; watered the cattle & nooned. Drove on to Buffalo creek & camped. A cow was killed in the evening. Bros. Jost & Elder, killed a Buffalo some distance from camp. Several bretheren with hand carts went & brought it to camp late in the evening.

Teusday 2nd The meat was divided among the camp, & we started about 9 a.m. crossed a dry creek, & rolled on to Buffalo creek; nooned—& crossed Buffalo creek. Drove several miles farther & camped on Buffalo creek.

Wednesday 3rd Elizabeth Ingra aged about 76 years died early this morning & was buried near camp. Two buffaloes were killed thro’ the day. We made a good day’s drive.


Cattle Lost In Night Stampede


Thursday [September] 4th More than one half of our cattle were gone this morning—they had stampeded thro’ the night. Men were sent in different directions to hunt for our lost cattle. A. W. Babbitt came up with our camp this morning: T. Sutherland was in company with him. Capt. Smott’s tram was opposite our camp this afternoon.

Friday 5th Bro. Savage & others went hunting the cattle again to-day. Bro. Siler & other bretheren visited brother Smott’s train. Bro. Smoot & O. P. Rockwell came to our camp in the evening.

A council was held in the evening. Bro. Smoot & O. P. Rockwell staid over night at our camp.

Saturday 6th Bro. Smoot & O. P. Rockwell this morning addressed the Saints at the request of Bro. Willie. This morning our camp removed about 5 miles distant, where water was better & wood handier. Bro. J. B. Elder & A. Smith were sent back to hunt for our cattle. Our wagons were taken to our fresh camping at twice, as we had not team enough to move them all at once. Bros. Smoot & Rockwell left us this evening for their camp.


Yoking Wild Cows

Sunday [September] 7th Council held in the morning, camp called together. Bretheren addressed the meeting. We yoked up wild cows & prepared to start to morrow. A party of returning Californians came to our camp on their way to the States.

Monday 8th A man named Henry Baaichter came into our camp this morning on horseback, said he had been without food for 50 hours, & that T. Margetts, & Mr. Cowdey were killed some 70 miles from here. We travelled about 11 miles & camped on the banks of the Platte River. This day I did not have a “chill.” I drove team.

Teusday 9th Roll out of camp, travel over some sandy Bluffs & noon, camp on Skunk creek at night near where it empties into the Platte River.

Wednesday 10th Left Camp. Crossed “skunk creek,” & camped near a cold spring of water. Road thro’ the day very bad.

Thursday 11th Roll out of camp, cross “Carrion creek,” camp at night on the banks of the Platte River. A Buffalo was killed in the evening.

Friday 12th Camp rolled on to North Bluff Fork, crossed the stream & camp on its banks. Bro. F. D. Richards & company with Bros. Elder & Smith came up with us at night. A meeting was held in camp. Bro. Richards spoke to the saints also Bros. D. Spencer & C. H. Wheelock.


Council and Reprimands


Saturday 13th A meeting was held in the morning. Bros. Richards, Spencer, & Wheelock addressed it. A severe reprimand was given to Levi Savage for speaking before the camp in an improper manner to Bro. Willie, & also in speaking as he did at Florence. Bro. Richards & company crossed the North Fork of the Platte, we crossed also. Wm. Haley, of my Hundred aged 66 years died in the afternoon. Travelled about 3 miles.

Sunday 14th Travelled about 14 miles & camped on the banks of the Platte. Joseph Elder killed two Buffaloes in the evening.

Monday 15th Richard F. Turner died this morning aged about 64 years. Ascended the Bluffs after nooning. Three Arrappahoes (Indians) came up with our camp. Camped at night on the open prarie. Cattle were chained to the wagons during the night.

Teusday 16th Camp called up about 4 a.m. in about one hour the company was in motion. Descended the Bluffs & nooned on the Platte River. Set our cattle feed, & then rolled over some very heavy sandy roads & camp for the night.

Wednesday 17th Rolled out of camp, travelled along the banks of the Platte & camped, roads sandy. The wind blew terrific thro’ the day.

Thursday 18th Roads sandy, (I injured my thumb. Bro. Cantwell’s daughter was bitten with a rattle snake yesterday.) Ascended the Bluffs & were soon into Ash hollow. Camp on the Platte. Sis. Stewart lost herself. Strolled from the camp.

Friday 19th Several bretheren went in search of Sis. Stewart, but did not find her. I found her in the afternoon in “ash hollow” as I with several bretheren went to cut an ash log for hand cart axels. Handcarts were mended thro’ the day.

Saturday 20th In the afternoon we travelled a few miles & camped.

Sunday 21st Roads sandy. Morning wet, travelled till evening & camped on the banks of the Platte. A child died in the evening named Wm. Leason.

Monday 22nd Travelled about 19 miles & camped on the banks of the Platte River. Jesse Empy aged 31 years died during the day. Night rather cold.

Teusday 23rd Some good road thro’ the day, camped on Platte River.

Wednesday 24th Travelled about 14 miles, camped near “Chimney Rock.” A cow was killed after we arrived in camp. A meeting was held in the evening.

Thursday 25th Travelled till we arrived near an old Trading Post & camped. Road good thro’ the day.

Friday 26th Rolled on & camped at Scott’s Bluffs by a small creek, cedar wood plentiful. An Bryant, aged 69 years died.

Saturday 27th Ascended a steep hill & rolled on to “Horseshoe creek.”


Meeting with Apostate Mormons


Sunday 28th Met some apostate Mormons from Salt Lake. We were informed that A. W. Babbitt & the two young men with him had been killed by the Cheyennes (Indians). Met a company of U. S. dragoons. We camped on the Platte.

Monday 29th Rolled out of camp, passed an Indian agency, also, several Indians. Joseph B. Elder & myself left for Fort Laramie to obtain letters etc for the camp. A young man, Stephen Forsdick lived at the Fort who had been to the Valley and was formerly a schoolmate of mine. He was an apostate Mormon. returned to camp with a letter from F. D. Richards to J. G. Willie & one to myself from W. H. Kimball also some other letters to bretheren in camp.

Teusday 30th A cow & calf was killed this morning. Dustin Amy & others from Salt Lake passed our camp this morning, reporting news from the Valley, good. The company crossed Laramie Fork & camped about 2 miles west of Fort Laramie travelled about 6 miles. I & several others went & traded at the fort for flour, bacon, rice, crackers, sugar, etc. Several soldiers visited camp. L. M. Davenport eloped to the Fort with S. Forsdick.


Missionaries and P. P. Pratt


Wednesday [October] 1st Bro. Siler with 4 wagons under his charge returned towards the fort to wait for the wagon companies behind. Bros. Willie, Atwood, Savage, Christiansen, Ahmansen & others returned to Fort Laramie to trade. They took the mule team with them. I had charge of the company during the day. Went about 8 miles & camped. David Reeder, and William Read, both died thro’ the day. Some missionaries from G. S. L. City passed our camp & informed us that Bro. P. P. Pratt & others were encamped about 4 miles west. Bro. Willie & others returned to camp in the evening.

Thursday 2nd Morning fine. Several missionaries came to our camp this morning. Bro. P. P. Pratt, came to camp & addressed the Saints, said that the two great parts of the Gospel preached in the Valley was “Agriculture & Home Manufacture”


Letter Describing Trials


From this last entry until November 9, 1856, William has left blank pages in his journal. Whether he meant to go back and fill them in, we do not know. In 1907, however, he did write a letter to President Joseph F. Smith in which he tells the formation of the handcart companies, the particulars of the trip, and many of the Trials and hardships which they had to endure. He also gives credit to those who were influential in the rescue. Following is the letter in its entirety as it has been preserved:


Franklin, Idaho

Prest Jos. F. Smith


Dear Bro. After meeting with the Hand Cart veterans on the 3rd inst. various reflections passed through my mind. and I thought I would pen some of them down for your inspection, The Hand Cart camp was formed in May (I think) in 1856 and the site was selected by Daniel Spencer. I arrived in camp on June 2nd with Dan Jones, Company (mostly Welsh). This company crossed the sea on the ship “S. Curling,” some 703 passengers. Some passengers staid in the States, but the main part came on to Camp near Iowa City. Two ship loads of Saints left Liverpool before our company; the “Caravan,” and “Enoch Train.” When we arrived in camp it was fine weather. Daniel Spencer was President of the camp, and all affairs pertaining to the emigration appeared to be under his direction. James Ferguson was his assistant; J. D. T. McAllister was commissary, Danie1 Tyler, Bishop; Chancey G. Webb superintended the making of Hand Carts, assisted by several of the bretheren, returning missionaries and others. Bro. Webb was very industrious, he was a mechanic. I remember the following missionaries, besides those named above: E. Ellsworth, D. D. McArthur, Spicer, L. W. Crandall, Truman Lenard, Edward Bunker, John A. Hunt, and B. W. Hodgetts, and of our company Dan Jones, David Grant, John Oakley, Wm. Butler, Jno. McDonald & Wm. Woodward.

The next day after our arrival in camp W. Woodward was made historian of the camp sexton, & postmaster.

Soon after our arrival E. Ellsworth’s company was organized with John Oakley & Wm. Butler his assistants & some of our emigrants went to his company. D, D. McArthur’s company was organized with S. W. Crandall & Truman Lenard assistants, with some of our ship’s company to swell his numbers. These two companies left in the early part of June, E. Ellsworth’s company 2 or 3 days ahead of McArthur’s. McArthur drove up to Ellsworth’s company the first night out.

Quite awhile after these two companies were gone, the 3rd Company was organized, Edward Bunker Captain, with David Grant & Jno. McDonald his assistants. This company was nearly all Welsh.

These companies left in good time, and reached the valley before October Conference. I consider the people were weakened in the start: rations 10 oz. of flour a day, 4 oz. of bacon a week with a few other things, but the substantials were deficient. Instead of 10 oz. of flour a day 20 oz. would have been little enough, The stragglers were begging at the farm houses through Iowa for milk, buttermilk, & anything they could get.

Sometime in July Jas. G. Willie’s ships company came to camp.

After a time this company was organized: Jas. G. Willie, President; Millen Atwood Capt of 1st Hundred Levi Savage capt of 2nd Hundred, W. Woodward, capt. of 3rd Hundred; John Chislett capt of 4th Hundred; A. H. Ahmanson capt. of 5th hundred; this 5th Hundred were Scandinavians.


Leaving Camp


We left camp the latter part of July, when we ought to have been at Missouri River. Two more Hand Cart companies were in process of organization, 5th & 6th under Edward Martin & Daniel Tyler but were merged into one; and two wagon companies John A. Hunt’s & B. W. Hodgett’s.

The companies had to wait for carts & cattle. Although John Taylor was in the States he did not seem to have anything to do with our companies. Geo. A. Smith was also in Washington & Erastus Snow came to our camp before the 3rd company left.

In the companies were cripples, and people who had to be hauled all the way. It was intended for every hundred people to have one wagon with 3 yoke of oxen or 4 mules—these were for hauling provisions, tents etc., and they hauled several of the people. Little children had either to be hauled in carts or wagons of our company. In our company one man had a crazy wife & he hauled her as long as she lived, another man hauled his sick brother near all the way to the valley. One old man blind & ruptured unable to walk a 1/2 mile a day, some 66 years old, with no relatives along, was a hand cart passenger, rode as long as he lived, a good old man too, for he was in my hundred; some 5 men over 60 years of age died in my hd. on the way.

We never ought to have left Mo. River. It was about August 17th when we left the River: we had 6 wagons when we left Florence and was allowed a pound of flour a day. While at Florence a meeting of our Company was held—I had been sent to Omaha & Council Bluffs, when Levi Savage told of the cold & suffering might be expected on the trip. Bro. Willie assumed all responsibility & Bro. Savage was condemned for his recital of what might be expected on our journey. Bro. Willie gave me the information when I returned from Council Bluffs. Every word spoken by Bro. Savage came true.

Several families with teams joined our company at Florence and travelled with us. After passing Fort Kearney on opposite side of Platte river we Lost many of our cattle one dark night. It stormed during this night, & ravines twenty feet deep were full of water in the morning. Some young men went to hunt for these cattle & had to go miles in the hills before they could cross these streams. Our cattle were not found.

While camped at North Bluff Fork of Platte, F. D. Richards & company overtook us. This company besides Bro. Richards were the following Daniel Spencer, C. H, Wheelock, Jas. Ferguson, Geo. D. Grant, W. H. Kimball, W. C. Dunbar, C. W. Webb, Dan Jones, J. D. T. McAllister, Jas. A. Young, N. H. Felt, Jas. McGaw, & Jno. Van Cott. These names I remember although it is more than 51 years ago.

Next day a meeting was held at our camp. F. D. Richards had heard of the remarks made by Bro. Levi Savage at Florence, and severely condemned them. He said he had heard remarks made by Bro. John Taylor at New York who spoke of the lateness of the season, and Bro. F. D. Richards said he told Bro. John Taylor he could wash his hands from it & he would take the whole responsibility of the emigration on himself. James Ferguson prophesied that the storms would divide and pass us by; in fact we would be free from them.


Arrival at Fort Laramie


When we arrived at Fort Laramie there was a letter from Bro. Richards directing the families travelling with us in private wagons to remain at Laramie till the wagon companies east of us arrived, & then travel with them. It must have been two weeks or more before the wagon companies arrived. These people could have out travelled us, and were no detriment to us in the least. I have since thought Bro. Richards had lost his head, in so advising people to wait as if summer would be perpetual. I had read of Geo. A. Smith’s company in 1849 being caught in the snow east of the South Pass & having cattle, pigs, & chickens frozen to death. And it had been counsel not to cross the plains.

An Express from the relief train met us about Ice Springs in the Sweetwater Valley, C. H. Wheelock, Jos. A. Young, Steve Taylor and a Bro. Garr, Some of these bretheren advised us to give out all the flour we had at night to our famished people. We did so. A snow fell on us that night about a foot deep. It was a sorry sight, over 400 people with hand carts, short of bedding, & to sleep on the cold ground. One thought is enough for a lifetime.

James G. Willie and Joseph B. Elder started out to find the relief camp, & found it on the Sweetwater. They came to us next night. Had it not have been for the timely aid sent us, it seems we must have all perished. A few might have got to Fort Bridger; but the women & children the sick & feeble would have succumbed to the cold & hunger. Teams & help with food & clothing sent by the good people of Utah to our rescue, God bless them. Levi Savage who was censured for his truthful statement at Florence, was I think the best help we had—resolute & determined his whole soul was for the salvation of our company.


Finishing the Journey


In crossing the Rocky Ridge two of our teamsters abandoned their teams. Millen Atwood & myself took the teamsters’ places—Bro. Savage was with us—we picked up all the stragglers & our wagons were filled. We had about 3 steers & 3 Arkansas cows to our wagons & toiled along as best we could. We arrived at a small stream with a steep hill to pull up after we got over the creek. It was dark at night, all other teams gone, Levi Savage went to camp. Teams were gathered to help us & relieve our loads, & teamsters sent to relieve us, & best of all bread sent to feed our hungry loads of people. What kind boys they were who were sent to our help. Prest. Brigham Young seemed to be inspired and seemed alive to the occasion. God bless his memory.

We arrived in the City on Sunday Nov. 9, 1856. We buried 68 of our people. We were dirty & lousy, body lice by the hundreds were on our people. But few of those who were in charge of Hand companies are alive to day. I was the youngest returning missionary & I was 74 Jan. 4 this year. (1907) I think only D. D. McArthur of St. George & maybe Levi Savage in southern Utah (remain).


Excerpts from the Great Basin Kingdom elaborate a little further to explain — some of the reasons for the delays of the company:


. . . the last two of the five companies which left Florence in 1865 were delayed until late in the season. Due to a misunderstanding between the Liverpool and American agents, the handcarts for these companies had not been built, and they had to wait until this could be done. . . Further delays were experienced at the Winter Quarters staging area.


Preparations In the Valley


In Brigham Young we read a detailed description of the events which were taking place in the Great Salt Lake Valley while the handcart companies were in dire circumstances, and the preparations for the rescue:


At the opening of the fall conference on October 5th, 1856, President Young took up with great vigor the subject of “bringing in our brethren and sisters from the plains.”

“I will now give this people the subject and the text for the elders who may speak today and during the Conference. . . . many of our brethren and sisters are on the plains with hand-carts, and probably many are now seven hundred miles from this place, and they must be brought here; we must send assistance to them. The text will be—to get them here! . . . . and the subject matter for this community is to send for them and bring them in before the winter sets in.

“. . . . and when we get them here, we will try to keep the same spirit that we have had, and teach them the way of life and salvation; . . . . This is the salvation that I am seeking for, to save our brethren that would be apt to perish, or suffer extremely, if we do not send them assistance.

“I shall call upon the bishops this day—I shall not wait until tomorrow, nor until next day—for sixty good mule teams, and twelve or fifteen wagons. I do not want to send oxen. I want good horses and mules. They are in this territory, and we must have them; also twelve tons of flour and forty good teamsters, besides those that drive the teams. This is dividing my text into heads; first, forty good young men who know how to drive teams, to take charge of the teams that are now managed by men, women and children, who know nothing about driving them; second, sixty, or sixty-five good span of mules, or horses, with harness, whipple-trees, neckyokes, stretchers, load chains, etc., and thirdly, twenty-four thousand pounds of flour which we have on hand.”

In response to President Young’s appeal, before two days had elapsed, fifty-one teamsters had volunteered, fifty-four teams were made ready, and the following goods were brought forward to aid the needy emigrants as listed in President Young’s history: “twenty-six thousand six hundred sixty-eight pounds of flour, thirty-one and a quarter bushels of onions, twelve pounds of dried meat, five bushels of oats, one hundred six quilts and blankets, fifty-three coats, eight cloaks, fifty-one pairs of pants, fifty vests, one hundred thirty-four pairs of boots and shoes, sixty-seven hoods, one hundred seventy-four pairs of stockings, seventy-two pairs of socks, nine pairs of mittens, fourteen sacks, one buffalo robe, two overshirts, two chimises, four neckties, thirteen hats and caps, three boys suits, eight pairs drawers, fifteen jackets, twelve bonnets, seven shirts, four handkerchiefs, one rug, three yards lindsey, two aprons, one pair gloves.” Thus did the Saints in the valleys give of their own meagre stores to aid the suffering emigrants.


Retold Hardships of the Trail


Probably many personal experiences could be related also, if they were readily available. Cecil Woodward, one of William’s sons told three of these experiences which he remembered his father telling:


When little hope was left, and the rations that remained were meager, a man in William’s company came to him and asked how much flour remained in his share. William told him how many ounces were his, and the man immediately asked for the entire amount. William went to Captain Willie and related the situation. Captain Willie directed William to “give the man his full share,” as none would live anyway. But as William returned, he told the man that he couldn’t have his flour, for “You shall share with the rest.”

The rescue party had killed a deer and tied it to one of the horses. As they came through the snow with the deer, the camp of starving people could not believe that they were seeing real men and horses. William said they looked like angels when they saw them coming toward them through the snow.

A number of years after the trek, William was at a general conference in Salt Lake. He met a woman who had been one of his Hundred. She reminded him of some good rawhide shoes which were owned by one of the men in the party. William did remember them, and she then asked if he ever wondered what had happened to them, after which she told him that she had taken them one night and made soup with them.

From these three experiences we can see the extremity of their situation, and feel that they probably realized the impossibility of any of them ever reaching the Valley unless help should come.


Arrival in the Valley


Following is the first entry in William’s journal after the blank pages:


November 1856

Sunday 9th Crossed the little mountain, passed Captain Smoot’s train, and got into the Valley where the sun was shining brightly. F. D. & S. W. Richards came to meet us on the Bench near the mouth of the kanyon. We formed according to our hundreds, & rolled into the city, when we arrived at the Council House. The Bishops of the several wards took the people to their wards & they were comfortably provided for. I staid at W. H. Kimball’s.