Jones, Dan, Reminiscences, in Handcart Stories, 20-22.
- Related Companies
- Edward Martin Company (1856)
“We continued on, overtaking the handcart company, ascending a long muddy hill. A condition of distress here met my eyes that I never saw before or since. The train was strung out for three or four miles. There were old men pulling and tugging their carts, sometimes loaded with a sick wife or children, women pulling along sick husbands, little children six to eight years old struggling through the mud and snow. As night came on the mud would freeze on their clothes and feet. There were two of us and hundreds needing help. We gathered on to some of the most helpless with our reatas [riatas] and lariats tied to carts and helped as many as we could into camp on Avenue Hill. This was a bitter
night and we had no fuel except very small brush. Several died that night. We moved to Devil’s Gate about the 1st of November. The winter storms now set in, in all their severity. The provisions we had brought from Salt Lake City for their relief amounted to almost nothing distributed among so many people, many of them being on very short rations and some almost starving. The company was composed of average emigrants: old, middle aged and young; women and children. The men seemed to be failing and dying faster than the women and children. The handcart company was moved over to a cove in the mountains for shelter and fuel, a distance of two or three miles to Martin’s Cove from the fort. The wagons were banked near the fort. It became impossible to travel farther without reconstruction or help. We did all we possibly could to help and cheer the people. All the people
who could, crouded into the houses of the fort out of the cold and storm. One crowd cut away the walls of the house they were in for fuel until half of the roof fell in. No one was hurt. Some efforts were made to cache the imperishable goods and go on with the rest. Accordingly pits were dug, boxes opened and the hardware, etc. put in one, while clothing etc. were put in another. This caching soon proved to be a failure for the pits would fill up with drifting snow as fast as the dirt was thrown out, so no caches were made. The goods were never replaced. I remember Charles Decker’s remarks that he had crossed the plains over fifty times (carrying the mail) but this was the darkest hour he had ever seen. Cattle and horses were dying every day. Five or six days passed. Steve Taylor, Al Huntingdon and I were together when the question “Why doesn’t Captain [George D.] Grant leave all the goods here with someone to watch them and move on?” was asked. We agreed to make this proposal to him. As soon as we were together Captain Grant replied “I have thought of this but there are no provisions to leave and it would be asking too much of anyone to stay here and starve for the sake of these goods; besides, where is the man who would stay if called upon. I answered “Any of us would.” I had no idea I would be selected as it was acknowledged I was the best cook in camp and Captain Grant had often spoken as though he could not spare me. These goods were the luggage of the season’s emigration and these two wagon trains had contracted to freight and it was being taken through as well as the luggage of the emigrants present. Leaving these goods meant to abandon all that many poor families had upon earth.
There was not enough money on earth to have hired me to stay. I had left home for a few days and was not prepared to remain so long away but I remembered my assertion that any of us would stay if called upon and could not back out.