Rogerson, Josiah. "Martin's Handcart Company, 1856 [No. 2]," Salt Lake Herald, 20 October 1907.
View this source online
- Related Companies
- Edward Martin Company (1856)
- Related Persons
- James Godson Bleak Sr.
- Thomas Dobson
- Willard Richards Dobson
- Thomas Dodd Sr.
- Amelia Anne Thomas Jarvis
- Edward Martin
- Ellen Smalley Parkinson
- Esther Parkinson
- John Parkinson
- Joseph Parkinson
- Sarah Wignall
- Mary Berry Scott
- John Toone
- Brigham Twelves
- Charles Twelves
- Mary Jane Twelves
- Daniel Tyler
- John Watkins
- William Wignall
In No.1, in the list of names of members of [Edward] Martin's handcart company that left Florence, Neb., Monday, Aug. 25, 1856, I find a few errors in misreading the manuscript—fifty years old and faded by age. In the ninth line of the first column, instead of John Parkins and family, read John Parkinson and family, one of the first elders ordained in Preston, Lancashire, England, by Heber C. Kimball, and who traveled and did yeoman service for several years in the preaching of Mormonism in Preston, Penwortham, the birthplace of William Clayton, one of the first historians of the church; Clithowe, Lancaster, and the towns and villages among the hills and lakes where Coleridge and Wadsworth sang. He and his wife left Liverpool in the Horizon with nine children, but the earnest John and his wife were buried on the plains, and five of their children, three children only reaching Salt Lake Nov. 30, 1856, the oldest son going back from Red Buttes, Wyo., and spending the winter at Fort Casper or Laramie. One or two of his sons have lived in Cache valley, Utah, for many years, and two daughters married years ago in this city.
In the middle of the second column, instead of Thomas Wood and family, read Thomas Dodd and family, and near the close of the same column read Amelia Jarvis and family, instead of "Sam," and in the last line read Sarah Wignall and family, instead of Sarah Mignell and family.
I remember a few names even now—not in the list—that I pulled handcarts with, and as soon as I hear from the parties their names will be added and the list made as complete and accurate as possible.
Additional to our voyage over the Atlantic, as published in No. 1, after casting anchor in sight of Boston, Mass., Saturday evening, June 28, 1856, we find:
"Sunday morning, June 29, the doctor came on board and was pleased with our sanitary and good condition. The government inspector also came on board this morning."
"Monday, June 30, we were towed in dock."
On July 2 took the cars from Boston to Albany. The scenery of the villages, towns and cities held our constant attention and admiration.
Passing through Buffalo on the glorious Fourth, we reached Cleveland, O., on the 5th, passing Kirtland, with its temple, in the night.
Sunday evening, July 6, we arrived at Chicago, Ill., where we stayed all night.
Monday, July 7, we left Chicago at 5:30 in the morning and arrived at Rock Island in the evening.
Tuesday, July 8, we crossed the Mississippi by ferry boat, and then took the cars from Davenport for Iowa City, Ia., reaching there the same afternoon.
Wednesday, July 9, was employed in unloading and handling our luggage to the camping ground on "Iowa hill," three and a half miles northwest of Iowa City, Ia., the outfitting point for that year's Mormon emigration.
Here we found hundreds in their newly-made tents; scores of young girls[,] others of more mature years, mothers and grandmothers, busy as bees sewing on other tents and wagon covers. In the carpenter shops and sheds fifteen or twenty were at work on the handcarts, and we continued from break of day till dark of night, from this on till the last cart necessary was finished for the last company.
Members of the Independent Wagon companies, Hunts and Hodgetts, were breaking steers, with a rope around their horns and a log behind, before being trusted on the lead of a wagon.
The members of the handcart companies were now advised that their 100 pounds of luggage allowed to each passenger on the sea and on the cars had to be cut down to seventeen pounds, and that this amount they would learn would be all they wanted to pull to the valley (Utah). This necessitated the selling and disposing of the men's and boys' Sunday suits, extra clothing and surplus coats, etc. and the women folks their Sunday dresses and every other article of wearing apparel that they could possibly dispense with
A market was found for all this extra luggage with the residents at Iowa City, the buyer putting his own price on the article, the seller having to take that, give it away or burn it, and many a hundred dollars' worth were thus bartered for one-third to half its value.
Iowa City, Ia., was then the capital of the state, and as I remember now didn't contain over 3,500 to 5,000 population, with probably half a dozen brick stores—of any size—a score or two of brick houses and the balance lumber and log houses, but a goodly number of corn and wheat farms surrounding.
Flour was $3.50 per hundred; cornmeal, $1.50 to $2.50, and bacon, 5 to 10 cents per pound.
Captain J.G. Willie's handcart company, consisting of 400 persons, six wagons, eighty-seven carts, twelve yoke of oxen and five mules, was nearly ready to roll out for Florence, Neb., when we made our camp here on the 9th, and though I have two good diaries before me, I am unable to find the exact date that company left this camping ground, but it was not later than the 10th or 12th of July, 1856. I am promised the diary of Captain Willie as soon as it can be found, but I have a full list of the names of that company, which I will publish hereafter.
Being detained and delayed here from at least the 12th of July, three days after we arrived, till the 26th, cost the lives of at least one-fourth to one-third of those that fell by the way after the first snow struck us—the night after we left the Platte bridge, and until we reached Salt Lake, Nov. 30. This was occasioned by the handcarts having to be made after we got there, and the difficulty of obtaining emigrant ships at Liverpool that year (more than any other), as shown by a letter from the late D.C. Dunbar, then at Liverpool, England, dated March 28, 1856, to Daniel McIntosh, Utah, and printed in the Deseret News of July 23, 1856, wherein he says: "ships are very scarce, indeed, on account of a great number being employed in the war department."
Everybody that could handle a saw, plane and drawknife was put to work, and the making of the carts was rushed early and late, so that on the morning of July 26, '56, we were packing our carts with seventeen pounds of extra luggage to each person: bedding, cooking utensils, tin plates and cups, knives, forks and spoons, iron bake kettles, frying pans, coffee pot or camp kettle and what extra provisions we had bought with our personal dimes, and rolled down the hill to the bridge over the creek about 2:30 o'clock in the afternoon.
Captains John Toone and Jesse C. Haven had started about a week or ten days before with what we called the fifth handcart company, and the names of this party were published in The Herald last Sunday, with the names of our (Martin's) handcart company. We caught them at Florence, Neb., on the 22d of August; they were blended there and became one company to Salt Lake.
Now to our journey, from Brother James G[odson]. Bleak's diary and our memory: Crossing the Iowa river between 2 and 3 p.m. on the 4th, Schuttler wagons laden with provisions to the bows, eight or ten yoke of oxen, one light spring wagon, one span of mules and two riding horses, about eighty handcarts and 400 men, women and children, we turned abruptly to the west after crossing the bridge on to the old stage road, and for a "breaking in" made four and one-half to six miles that day. Elder Edward Martin, formerly a member of the Mormon battalion, was our captain, with Elder Daniel Tyler, also a member of the Mormon battalion, as "advisory counselor," not of captain, although he was made captain of the guard from here and till the guarding and the snow had buried many of his mighty platoons between the crossing of the North Platte and the South Pass.
Sunday, July 27—Held sacrament meeting; didn't travel today.
Monday, July 28—Traveled a few miles; camped, and this evening lost some loose cattle.
Tuesday, July 29—Traveled a short distance, (apparently delaying for the return of the cattle and the hunters.)
Wednesday, July 30—Traveled about the same distance as yesterday.
Thursday, July 21—Traveled five miles. Mr. Bleak also says, "I visited today the remains of a conical stone monument on the banks of one of the forks of the Des Moines river, supposed to be the remains of an Indian council house."
Friday, Aug. 1—Traveled about six miles. Nothing particular worthy of record, only we are now on the beautiful waving meadows of Iowa.
Saturday, Aug. 2—Traveled ten miles.
Sunday, Aug. 3—Traveled seven miles.
Monday, Aug. 4—Traveled eight miles.
Tuesday, Aug. 5—Traveled twelve and a half miles.
Wednesday, Aug 6—Traveled eight miles.
Thursday, Aug. 7—Traveled thirteen miles.
Friday, Aug. 8—Traveled twenty miles, and passed through the town of Newton, which was quite a village of farmers. They came to our camp and entreated of us earnestly and sincerely not to go any farther on account of the lateness of the season, and seemed to be very anxious in wanting us to stop. That they could and would furnish us employment for a number of our able-bodied men, etc., but we were westward bound, and none stopped. Up to this date there had been no deaths, and the aged were picked up and put in the wagons as they became tired, and the children, after walking a while in the morning and afternoons, were put on the carts and rode to noon and evening camps.
We were commencing now to make good time: feed splendid, our work oxen doing well, and we had fairly plenty to eat. Farms every few miles on each side of the road, where our fathers and mothers could buy a few pounds of corn-fed smoked bacon nearly every day since we started, and in the thirteen days; travel we had made about 110 miles, with, from the babe in the arms, the middle-aged and feeble, to the veteran of Waterloo, aged 82.
The writer remembers seeing several villages and towns on each side of the road during this distance, but not the names, nor is it material, as when night came we turned out of the road and camped, water, grass and fuel being favorable, so that the stage could pass unobstructed. Tens of thousands of acres of the cream of the corn lands of Iowa we traveled over, unpre-empted and unfenced.
Again to our journey and journal.
Saturday, Aug. 9—Traveled thirteen miles. A very violent thunderstorm today.
Sunday, Aug. 10—Rested today. Elder William Wignall, the captain of our and the first hundred from Preston, Lancashire, England, blessed a daughter of Brother Charles Twelves, and the sacrament was administered, and here it is in place to say that every morning before starting, and every night before retiring to our tents, every member of the party was called together with the cornet by John Watkins for prayer and, with bowed and uncovered heads, prosperity on our journey and the blessings of God were invoked from the day we arrived on Iowa hill, Iowa, July 9, till we reached the South pass.
Monday, Aug. 11—A brother (in the church) and a child were buried today (names not in the journal). We traveled twelve miles today. First deaths on our journey.
We passed the town of Marengo, a few days before, on the north side of the road, and on our right, then the town of Newton on the 8th: and in this part of Iowa, now I remember, numerous patches and groves of hardwood timber, with wild grapes and hazelnuts, that the white man's ax had never assailed. Indeed, for miles at a stretch, it was the red man's primeval meadow, and the paradise of his hunting grounds.
Tuesday, Aug. 12—Traveled twelve miles; water very bad.
Wednesday, Aug. 13—Traveled eighteen miles today, and camped on Coon river.
Thursday, Aug. 14—Traveled sixteen miles.
Friday, Aug. 15—Traveled ten miles, and had a "general washing" day.
Saturday, Aug 16—Traveled sixteen miles, and all day without water.
Sunday. Aug. 17—Traveled seventeen miles; no water on the road. A thunderstorm this evening. As the thunderstorm abated in the afternoon, Recorder Bleak, the writer and his older brother, Thomas Dobson and his younger brother, and others in Wignall's hundred, leading the company that day, distinctly observed a meteor that appeared not more than a few hundred yards ahead of us, and right on our track, about thirty or fifty yards in the air, and going in a westerly course. It seemed to be about the size of a one-foot Chinese lantern. All of a sudden, as we stopped our carts and were watching its course, it exploded and as we passed along to the point of the explosion, as we guessed, we could see no remains of the piece of the break off from Mars.
Monday, Aug. 18—We traveled twenty miles today. A sister (in the church) named Mary Scott, died in one of the wagons, and was buried in the evening after we stopped. She was a member of the Manchester, England, conference. Wrapped and sewed up in a counterpane, as hundreds of others have been laid away since the exodus from Nauvoo in 1846, she rests just as well as in a hundred-dollar casket and a $250 livery pageant.
Tuesday, Aug. 19—We traveled twenty-two miles.
Wednesday, Aug. 20—We traveled twenty-three miles.
Thursday, Aug. 21—Traveled about twenty miles; most excellent water.
Friday, Aug. 22—Traveled about five miles to Florence.
The last four days, as above, are verbatim from Brother Bleak's journal, but we cannot let them pass for another fifty years without the adding of important details that we well remember.
On Thursday, the 21st of August, as our company was passing on the north side of the "Nichney-Botney" ["Nishnabotna"] meadows, and near to the then town of Council Bluffs, our captain, Edward Martin, came to our cart and called the writer's and his mother's attention to a kind of a sod or copse fence enclosing an acre or two of ground, and, pointing to it, said, "There's where the Mormon battalion camped, were drilled and put in shape before starting for Santa Fe."
In an hour or so afterward, we passed through Council Bluffs, then consisting of one street of lumber stores, residences, carpenters' and blacksmiths' shops, and a population of 750 to 1,000 people. The buildings, most of them, seemed to be new, and quite a number in course of erection. Filling in the brief paragraph of Brother Bleak as to Thursday, Aug. 21, after we left Council Bluffs city, we went up Pigeon creek that afternoon in the twenty miles, as he has it recorded, and camped between the bluffs that night, where the "most excellent water" came out of a spring on the right of the road, and next day,
Aug. 22, we were ferried across the Missouri and made camp close to and below the old Mormon sawmill of Winter Quarters, near Florence, Neb. Five days after this, Captain John A. Hunt's independent wagon company—
Wednesday—August 27—passed through Bluff City (Council Bluffs) and arrived close to the ferry at 6:20 p.m. about an hour after the main company. The reason for noting this fact now will be seen hereafter.
Thursday. Aug 28—Wagons ferried across the Missouri at 8 a.m., and at 7:30 p.m. the whole company of fifty-six wagons were taken across without any serious accident, and camped close to the city of Florence.
This concludes chapter No. 2, and in No. 3, next Sunday, I shall commence with Martin's hand[cart] company, now blended with Toone's and Haven's, which was the fifth company from Iowa Hill, Ia., and comprising 605 souls, the distances made daily, their hardships and fatalities.