This Week in 1856 – Martin’s Cove – Mary Taylor

From John Jacques:

The great object now was, to save as many of the people as possible, to which everything else must give way, and the lives of the people depended in great degree, on the lives of the teams so it was essential to spare the animals all unnecessary labor.

Under this arrangement, the company started from Devil’s Gate, westward, and about three miles away, crossed the Sweetwater to the north side, and camped at a place, since known as Martin’s Ravine.

It is not exactly a ravine, but a recess, or opening in the mountains, which here ran along near the river. The passage of the Sweetwater at this point, was a severe operation to many of the company. It was the worst river crossing of the expedition. It was the last ford that the emigrants waded over. The water was not less than two feet deep, perhaps a little more in the deepest parts, but it was intensely cold. The ice was three or four inches thick, and the bottom of the river, muddy or sandy. I forget exactly how wide the stream was there, but I think thirty or forty yards. It seemed a good deal wider than that to those who pulled their handcarts through it. Before the crossing was completed, the shades of evening were closing around, and, as everybody knows, that is the coldest hour of the twenty-four, or at least it seems to be so, in a frosty time, and it seemed so then, for cold enough it was.

From Samuel Openshaw:

We traveled about two miles, crossed over the Sweetwater,  some on the ice and others waded through, which was about 3 1/2 feet deep. James Lord and myself pulled the handcart across the creek. The women and children were all carried across by some of the brethren who had come from the valley.

From John Jacques:

The teams, wagons, handcarts, and some of the men forded the river. A son of Heber C. Kimball, and a son of George D. Grant, and I believe several others of the relief party, waded the river, helping the handcarts through, and carrying the women and children, and some of the weaker of the men over. If I were certain of the names of all those brave waders, I would insert them here.

The handcart company rested in Martin’s ravine two or three or more days, though under the shelter of the northern mountains, it was a cold place. One night, the gusty wind blew over a number of the tents, and it was with difficulty some of the emigrants kept from freezing.

At length, preparations having been completed for a final start from Devil’s Gate and vicinity, the handcart company left the ravine. The precise date I cannot give, but I think it must have been about the 19th of November.  I cannot remember the handcarts after leaving the ravine, and my impression is that none were taken from there, but some persons of the company think that a few carts were taken along several days longer.

Be that as it may, by this time, there was a sufficiency of wagons to take in most, if not all, of the baggage of the company, and to carry some of the people.

It was a trying time, that day in leaving the ravine. One perplexing difficulty was to determine who should ride, for many must still walk, though, so far as I recollect, and certainly for most of the company, the cart pulling occupation was gone. There was considerable crying of women and children, and perhaps a few of the men, whom the wagons could not accommodate with a ride. One of the relief party remarked that in all the mobbings and drivings of the “Mormons” he had seen nothing like it. Cyrus H. Wheelock could scarcely refrain from shedding tears, and he declared that he would willingly give his own life if that would save the lives of the emigrants.

After a time, a start was effected and the march was recommenced along the valley of the Sweetwater, toward the setting sun.

From Samuel Openshaw:

Having to leave all the flour that it was thought we could do without [to supply the 20 men staying behind with the freight etc.] until we should meet a fresh supply from the valley, we now realized that such low rations and our bodily strength having been so much reduced by our former privations, and being such cold and inclement weather, a great many died. However, we made another start, some with bundles on their backs, a number of others would join together and put them on a handcart. Some would be crying, others singing, and thus went trudging along as best we could.

According to family tradition Mary’s mother, Harriet Taylor, died and was buried in Martin’s Cove on November 10th with just brush and snow as a covering because the ground was frozen too hard to dig a decent grave. Now it was Mary was alone with Cousin Eliza having lost her first her father, than her husband and now her mother.


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