Jones, Albert, [Reminiscences], Deseret Evening News, 1 September 1906, 20.
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It is all right, now it's over, past and gone. President Young was desirous for the good of the Saints and anxious that these goodly vales should be filled with the people of his faith, hence the coming to Zion with handcarts was projected and with all the trials of the route, we sang in good faith the hymn.
How well the Saints rejoice to tell
And count their sufferings o'er.
When they upon Mount Zion dwell
And view the landscape o'er.
But the Donner lake disaster and the Martin and Tyler handcart company, bring remembrances that are not of a very pleasant order. As a boy of 15 and the youngest of a family of five, my experience cannot be compared with fathers of families, whose heart strings were freated and jarred, when perchance a boy of six years with his big blue eyes filled with tears asked for bread.
The sturdy men and women of English pluck and courage, left the Iowa camp ground in good spirits. Their handcarts were a light burden, nerved as they were with the "spirit of the gathering." But with the first snow storm came a contraction of the muscles of the face, which gave an expression to the features of the men denoting that they were now about to enter a struggle with snow and frost which would take all their energy to conquer.
As the days grew shorter and colder and the snow's were more frequent, it became a struggle of human endurance to keep body and soul together.
Old men succumbed in the severity of the weather and died. A Brother Blair , one of the Royal Life Guards Blue of her majesty, the British queen, was with us, whose grand physique and gigantic frame was the admiration of us boys of the London branch, whenever he attended meeting in his regimentals. With the lack of proper nourishment, he dwindled down to a wreck, both mind and body; his wife, to keep him from giving up, willow in hand, drove him about camp to fetch wood or water, as she required it for camp use. He died and was buried under a big tree on Quakenasp hill.
The women of the company bore the strain well; free from night guard and other cares which were on the men, they endured the privations of the journey with less loss to their ranks.
I well remember waking up very early one morning, after I had been on guard in the fore part of the night, with my feet nearly touching the corpse of a brother Jackson—they told me he was dead—and I laid back for another sleep, so little terror had I for death in his frequent visits to our camp.
So apparent was the sentence of death written on the lantern-jawed expression of some of the half starved men and boys who died, that I could tell how long they would stand the ordeal.
One boy about my own age was walking up and down by a large grave, I was helping to dig. I read in his face, that he would be interred there unless we moved on before two days had passed—we stayed there four—he was buried in that grave.
It was at this place that Joseph A. Young arrived as the leader of the relief party sent from the valleys by President Brigham Young—he rode a white mule down a snow covered hill or dug way. The white mule was lost sight of on the white background of snow, and Joseph A. with his big blue soldiers' overcoat, its large cape and capacious skirts rising and falling with the motion of the mule, gave the appearance of a big blue winged angel flying to our rescue.
The scene that presented itself on his arrival I shall never forget; women and men surrounded him, weeping, and crying aloud; on their knees, holding to the skirts of his coat, as though afraid he would escape from their grasp and fly away. Joseph stood in their midst drawn up to his full height and gazed upon their upturned faces, his eyes full of tears. I, boy as I was, prayed "God bless him."
His coming gave us a pound of flour that night instead of the four ounces we had issued to us for several days past. The next morning we left this camp where we had been about four days and had buried about 14 of our number.
I have heard that a lady well known among the saints, once said, while the surest way of getting to Heaven was under discussion. "When I approach the Golden Gate, Peter will at once grant me admission when I cry, "Handcarts!"
I have crossed the plains once with a hand cart, twice with ox teams, once in a palace car. I prefer the latter, but if pulling a hand cart a thousand miles shall help in opening the Golden Gate, I shall urge my claim.