Scribo [pseud.], "An Item of Hand Cart Experience," Juvenile Instructor, 15 June 1902, 365-67.
- Related Companies
- Edward Martin Company (1856)
He forwarded to the office of the British Mission in Liverpool, funds, with instruction to purchase an ox-team outfit to convey himself and wife and their four children from the outfitting point, Iowa City, to Great Salt Lake City.
About this time the subject of making the journey across the plains by handcarts was submitted to the Saints in the European missions; accompanied by the suggestion that those able to emigrate that season by ox or horse teams would be blest if they had faith to go by hand-carts, costing so much less than teams and wagons and would use the means thus saved to emigrate other faithful Saints who did not have means to gather to Utah that year.
The writer confesses, that, in view of his wife being unused to travel, and that the four children were of tender years, ranging from six years, the oldest, to eleven months, the youngest, he hesitated, indeed made up his mind not to adopt the suggestion requiring a journey of thirteen hundred miles on foot, from Iowa City to Salt Lake, by hand-cart.
As the time for beginning the season's emigration approached, others were preparing to emigrate who had been co-laborers with, and under the presidency of this branch-president. They declared they were going in the same company, and in the same way that he was going.
Finding this condition of affairs, and realizing that he had always striven to set a becoming example in temporal and spiritual matters to the brethren and sisters entrusted to his care, he hesitated no longer, but at once wrote to President Franklin D. Richards, asking to be numbered on the hand-cart list; and to hold the balance of funds subject to order, "to be used for emigration purposes only."
After receiving the approval of President Richards, this change was announced in public meeting; and, to the credit of those who emigrated from that branch that season, all adopted the same method of gathering.
At the Sunday sacrament and testimony meeting after the announcement of the change, the gift of tongues was exercised by one of the sisters present. The interpretation was clearly given to the president, but for obvious reasons he refrained from speaking it. After a pause, a sister, other than the one who had spoken in tongues, arose and gave the interpretation as follows: "I, the Lord, am well pleased with the offering made by my servant Elder [James G.] B[leak]; and notwithstanding he shall see the angel of death laying waste on his right hand and on his left, on his front and on his rearward, yet he and his family shall gather to Zion in safety, and not one of them shall fall by the way."
It is a matter of history indelibly impressed upon the survivors of the Edward Martin Handcart Company of six hundred and four souls who started from Winter Quarters on the 25th of August, the remnant of which company entered Salt Lake City on Sunday the 30th of November, 1856, as to "the angel of death laying waste," during that journey. The promise given in that exercise of the gift of tongues and interpretation was literally fulfilled. Every one of that family of six arrived in Salt Lake City. Not one of them fell by the way! Each of the children, by the divine blessing, attained maturity and honorably married under Gospel ordinances. One [Mary Bleak], the youngest, died in 1886, mother of seven children, born in the covenant, an honored officer in the Relief Society and Primary Association. The eldest [Richard Bleak] was called in 1879 to settle in Arizona; and with his family still resides there. The two other sons with their families are residing in Salt Lake City.
An event, however, took place in that perilous journey which, for the time being, seemed to indicate that the Lord's promise in that gift of tongues would not be fully realized.
Two good sisters, one, an aged widow, the other unmarried, in the kindness of their womanly hearts, had volunteered to assist the mother by taking charge of one of the children, at the close of each day's travel till the following morning. The offer was gratefully accepted and the four and a half year old, blue eyed, fair haired boy [Thomas Nelson Bleak], became the chosen one to share the added protection of their tender care.
One morning, after a very cold night, when winter had overtaken the company, these sisters were horrified to find their little pet lying between them dead, as they decided, and in this condition they brought him to his parents. His father, who had already made a fire, took the child and began by anointing him with consecrated oil, and praying over him, calling upon the Lord to keep His promise that not one of the family should fall by the way in gathering to Zion. Tests were applied, but not a heart beat or other sign of life was in the child. The father continued to administer, to chafe the limbs and body, and to call upon the Lord to fulfill His promise. After what appeared to the sympathetic fellowtravelers and suffers as a very long time, the father thought he saw a slight flutter in the child's throat; this encouraged further rubbing, chafing and administration until, finally, by God's power and blessing, the dear child unclosed his eyes and is now a resident of Salt Lake City, father of nine children and likewise a grandfather.
That word of the Lord, given by the gift of tongues, inspired a faith, an assurance, which prompted administrations and prayers in behalf of a child who was looked upon as dead by the scores present in that camp; and it is the father's conviction that, if that promise had not been made the boy would have been given up as dead; and would have been laid with the hundreds of that company who were buried by the wayside in that trying journey.