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The Trek

West

Devil’s Gate

Distance: 970 miles from Nauvoo

A significant landmark noted by most journal keepers, Devil’s Gate is a narrow cut made by the Sweetwater River through an immense rock with sides measuring 370 feet in height and 1,500 feet in length. It was here that rescuers brought the suffering members of the Martin handcart company before continuing west to the Salt Lake Valley during the bitter winter of 1856.

Twenty men, under the leadership of Daniel W. Jones, remained for the winter at nearby Fort Seminoe to guard freight unloaded there by the Hodgetts and Hunt wagon companies, in part to make room for exhausted members of the Martin company. Daniel W. Jones and his men suffered misery and starvation at Devil’s Gate, at one point being reduced to eating boiled rawhide until friendly Indians gave them some buffalo meat.
 

Accounts

 

Elizabeth Horrocks Jackson Kingsford
October 1856

“I was six or seven thousand miles from my native land, in a wild, rocky, mountain country, in a destitute condition, the ground covered with snow, the waters covered with ice, and I with three fatherless children with scarcely nothing to protect them from the merciless storms. I will not attempt to describe my feelings at finding myself thus left a widow with three children.”

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Elizabeth Sermon
November 1856

“Many cruel and painful things happening, the dying and dear ones all around us, poor souls, would sit down by the roadside and would never move again until carried into camp on handcarts by someone. It is a wonder any of us lived through it. My husband’s health still failing, a young woman by the name of Caroline Marchant assisted me with the cart.”

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Levi Savage
October 15, 1856

“Today we traveled fifteen and a half miles. Last night Caroline Reeder, aged seventeen years, died and was buried this morning. The people are getting weak and failing very fast. A great many are sick. Our teams are also failing fast, and it requires great exertion to make any progress.

“Our rations were reduced last night, one quarter, bringing the men to ten ounces and the women to nine ounces. Some of the children were reduced to six and others to three ounces each.”

Levi Savage, as quoted in Journal of the Trail, ed. Stewart E. Glazier and Robert S. Clark (1997), 104.

George D. Grant
October 1856

“It is not of much use for me to attempt to give a description of the situation of these people, for this you will learn from your son Joseph A. and Br. Garr, who are the bearers of this express; but you can imagine between five and six hundred men, women and children, worn down by drawing handcarts through snow and mud; fainting by the wayside.”

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Locations along the Trail