Heritage Gateways

Official Sesquicentennial K-12 Education Project
sponsored by the Utah State Board of Education, the BYU-Public School Partnership and the Utah Education Network

Pioneer 1848-1868 Companies

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1857-60, Handcarts - Part 2(b): Statistics/summaries

by LeRoy R. and Ann W. Hafen)

1 1856 English Edmund Ellsworth (37) 13/274 68
2 " English Daniel D. McArthur (36) 7/221 64
3 " Welch Edward Bunker (33) 6/320 64
4 " English James G. Willie (41) 67/500 70
5 " English Edward Martin (38) 135-150/576 95
xx 1857 Missionaries   0/70 (48)
    (SLC to Florence)      
6 1857 English Israel Evans (29) ?/149 83
7 " Danish Christian Christiansen (33) 6/330 67
8 1859 Eng/Dan George Rowley (31) 5/235 87
9 1860 English Daniel Robinson (29) 1/233 82
10 " Swiss Oscar O. Stoddard (?) 0/124 79

1857 - The MISSIONARY HANDCART COMPANY. This company of 70 missionaries, in part to mitigate the negative publicity of the Willie and Martin companies, headed east for their missions, 23 Apr 1857. They used Salt Lake built handcarts exclusively and walked to the Missouri River in 40 1/2 traveling days (48 overall).

Company #6 (second smallest handcart company) started May 22 with 149 persons, 80 females (21 under 8 and 2 over 60, the oldest, 68), 31 handcarts, and an excellent four-mule team. Storms swelled small streams.

James Reeder, his wife Honor Welch Reeder, and their 5-year old son were with one handcart. James sickened and died, and was buried on the plains. Honor plodded on with her son and cart. 6 weeks after her arrival in the Valley she gave birth to a baby girl who lived to maturity.

Company #7 consisted of 330 Scandinavians in 66 handcarts. At Florence, the sick were advised to wait a year, so as to not burden the rest of the company. The first night out the company was inspected to see if any were unfit to proceed. A Swede, Brother Hulberg, was advised to turn back because of his wife's illness. But Brother Hulberg had his heart set on going to Zion. He trailed along a little distance behind the company for about 50 miles. When he was too far from base to be sent back, he rejoined the company. Much of the way he had pulled his two children and even his wife on the cart, through his superior strength and unquenchable desire to proceed.

At Wood River (Nebraska), Anna Marie Sorenson, retired from the camp, and under some willows gave birth to a baby girl. In the morning she appeared with the baby in her apron, but the captain told her to ride in the wagon for a day or so. The baby survived, as well as the mother.

Ft. Laramie - The Caravan reached Ft. Laramie, Aug 9. Food was running low and had to be rationed. Close by was part of Johnston's Army. A wagon had run over and crushed the foot of one of their oxen. The military captain came over to the hungry emigrants and said, "You may have the ox, I guess you need it. The fresh meat was gratefully devoured.

South Pass/Ft. Bridger. The company was resupplied near South Pass and Ft. Bridger. They walked so fast, they made the trip 3 weeks faster than the handcart company ahead of them and were way ahead of Johnston's supply trains. Food for their 3 mule teams was so scarce on the trail (50,000 cattle were driven over the trail to Calif. that year) that the mules had to be helped with ropes over Big and Little Mountains by the emigrants, who arrived in the Valley better than the mules.

1858 - All emigration from Europe was suspended. That fall word was sent to resume the gathering to Zion. Effort was to make or strengthen resupply stations at Genoa and Florence, Neb. (didn't really happen) and the Black Hills and Deer Creek.

1859 - Emigrants landed in New York, went by steamer to Albany and by rail to St. Joseph, Missouri, then the approximately 140 miles north to Florence, Nebraska, by boat. There, they were organized and received their handcarts.

Company #8 had a rough journey. June 6, Mathias Nielson received his handcart, utensils, water-can, and some bedding - a blanket and a rug. A tent was provided for each 10 persons. Two young women, one English, the other, Swedish, were assigned to his cart. He later married the English girl, Caroline Chapel.

George Rowley was the captain. George was married and had 3 children when he first emigrated to Utah as Mormon in 1854. At the time he had been unable to take his family with him (his youngest son was now 6 years old). He returned to Britain in the spring of 1857 with the MISSIONARY HANDCART COMPANY that walked from Salt Lake City to Florence, Neb. to do missionary work and get his family. He was the only pioneer to make TWO handcart trips. Ten years later he would go blind and remain that way till his death, 40 years later, in 1908.

The company comprised 235 persons, 60 handcarts, and 6 ox-drawn wagons to haul provisions and the sick. Each cart had a cover of bed ticking stretched over 3 bows. Helen Roseberry wrote, "I had to walk and carry one of my babies (she had 9-month old twins and a 3-year old daughter) and help pull the cart (the load consisted of personal items and 200 pounds of flour) for many weeks, until my feet began to swell up so I had to ride some, but it was so crowded I would rather walk as long as I possibly could. I cannot tell all I suffered on that journey, but the Lord knows it."

Ft. Laramie. This was the year of the big "Pikes Peak or Bust" gold rush. The Platte Valley was thronged with argonauts (adventurers engaged in a quest). At Ft. Laramie, an inventory of supplies revealed that the 70 pounds of flour per person to last 70 days had been eaten up much faster than expected and a grave shortage existed. Rations were reduced to one pint per two per day then to 1 per 4.

Devil's Gate. At Devil's Gate, the last flour was rationed, 8 pounds per person. Two oxen died from drinking bad water. The meat was spread around. Two tribes of Indians in the area had just concluded a battle and the victors were parading around with scalps suspended on sticks which they held high in the air.

Big Sandy mail station. At the Big Sandy mail station hunger persuaded two young girls of the company to accept marriage (and food, I suppose. See previous reference in this handout at Big Sandy) proposals from the 6-8 rough men there at the time.

Green River Crossing (Aug 22). The company was disappointed at finding no relief supplies, had a hard time crossing the river (it took 4 men to bring one cart across). Twenty-four handcarts were sent on ahead to meet relief teams from Salt Lake. William Atkin (who had been keeping a journal), his wife, and their two little children remained 10 weeks at Green River, where he found employment. In early November they came on to the Valley.

Aug. 24, an aged English lady, Sister Jarvis, could walk no farther. She sat down beside the trail, "gave two or three heavy sighs," and died. Sister Shanks voiced her opinion that, "The martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum was nothing to compare to this." That day she fell behind the train. The next day her body was found, mostly devoured by wolves. Five days later (Aug. 30) her husband died, also, the bite of a poisonous insect having contributed to his death.

Ham's Fork. Five provision wagons (each drawn by 4 mules) from the Valley rescued the rest of the company, having travelled night and day since hearing of the distress the previous day. Most reached Ft. Bridger, Aug. 28. There, Anna Hansen died, leaving a husband and 5 children.

Cost: Pike's Peak gold miners had driven up the cost for food and supplies at Florence, Nebraska. The net cost of bringing the emigrants from New York to Florence was $14.50 per person. The cost of getting that same person from Florence to Salt Lake City was $22.30.

1860: 9th Company. Captain Daniel Robinson joined the Church in Pennsylvania in 1854. Before he left for Florence in 1860, one of his children died. On the train, another daughter, age 8, died. The train they were riding was a contract train and not allowed to stop. The daughter was carried away by a porter and buried in an unknown spot. During the two-week wait for the handcarts to be made, a son, Johnny, age 3, died.

Handcart construction: Henry Harrison said his cart was 4 feet long, 3 feet wide, 9 inches deep, and four foot wheels. The boxes and carts were painted beautifully, and had bows (3) over the top. These bows were covered with heavy canvas. The tongues of the carts had a crosspiece 2 1/2 feet long fastened to the end (forming a T). Against this crosspiece two persons would lean their weight, this they called pushing instead of pulling. It was very common to see young girls between the ages of 16 and 20 with a harness on their shoulders in the shape of a halter, a small chain fastened to that, and then fastened to the cart. There were some 4 or 5 to a cart, some pushing, some pulling all day long through the hot, dry sand, with hardly enough to eat to keep life in their bodies. Most of the mothers were seen trudging along on the scorching ground barefooted, leading their barefooted little tots by the hand, pausing now and then, trying to do something to relieve the pain in their blistered feet.

Wheels were to be greased every 3 weeks, a big improvement over the previous 8 companies. Personal luggage (including bedding and cooking utensils) was increased from 15 to 20 pounds per person.

When camping at night, the carts were placed in a circle leaving an open space of about 10 feet. The circle was used as a corral for the oxen. The oxen were driven up to a half mile away for food and guarded until morning in two shifts, changing at midnight. Prayer and a song were offered each night. Capt. Robinson said the people put their trust in God, seemed happy, and did not feel deceived.

Sweetwater River. They found the bottom of the river covered with fish and had all they could eat.

Green River. Down to 1/2 pint of flour per person. Relief from the Valley (2,500 pounds of flour and 500 pounds of bacon) saved the day.

Henefer. Brother Henefer offered free potatoes, if they would dig them, which they eagerly did.

The company had favorable weather, took a slower pace (77 days), and had timely assistance from the Valley. Result: Only one child and one ox had died en route.

Last (10th) company. This company was also the smallest of the handcart companies (124 persons, 21 carts, but 7 wagons with 6 oxen per wagon). George Q. Cannon promised them at the start, "If they would be humble and faithful, not one of them should die on the road to the Valley." This was literally fulfilled.

Three Crossings of the Sweetwater. Here 1,400 pounds of flour awaited them, and rations were increased to 1 1/2 pounds of flour per person per day the rest of the trip. The company left Florence, July 6, and never camped twice in the same spot until they reached the Valley. Mary Ann Stucki Hafen, age 6, remembered, "At times we met or were passed by the overland stage coach with its passengers and mail bags and drawn by four fine horses. When the Pony Express dashed past it seemed almost like the wind racing over the prairie."