This Week in 1856 – Arrival in Salt Lake Valley – Mary Taylor

From John Jacques:

The next camp, on the 26th, was in a small canyon running out of the north side of Echo Canyon, a few miles above the mouth of the latter. Here a birth took place, and one of the relief party generously contributed part of his under linen to clothe the little stranger. The mother did quite as well as could have been expected, considering the unpropitious circumstances. So did the father who subsequently became a prosperous merchant of this city. The little new comer also did well, and was named Echo, (this is little Echo Squires).

On the 27th, the company camped on East Canyon creek, on the 28th, the Big Mountain was crossed, and the company camped at its west base. On the 29th, the company crossed over the Little Mountain, or part of it, and camped in Killian’s Canyon, near the head of emigration canyon, and on Sunday, the 30th of November, passed down the latter canyon and arrived in this city about noon, driving into East Temple Street as the congregation was leaving the old adobe tabernacle in the southwest corner of the Temple block.

The meeting of the emigrants with relatives, acquaintances and friends, was not very joyous. Indeed, it was very solemnly impressive. Some were so affected, that they could scarcely speak, but would look at each other until the sympathetic tears would force their way. In a short time, however, the emigrants were taken into the homes of their friends and made as comfortable as circumstances would permit them to be, while they thawed the frost out of their limbs and regained their health and strength.

From Some Must Push and Some Must Pull by Kenneth L. Rasmussen

So it was that the half-frozen Mary Taylor came to the North Kanyon [Bountiful] home of William Bert and Amanda Simmons. It is thought by some that Simmons took his wagon and his charge directly home, perhaps bypassing the stop in Salt Lake to receive the greeting of Brigham Young.

Mary hovered between life and death for more than a week before making substantial progress. Mary was suffering from malnutrition and severe frostbite. Among other things, Amanda applied warm tar packs to the afflicted parts of Mary’s body. It was a common remedy of the day and seemed to have some therapeutic effects, including having the ability to help remove dead or decaying flesh from the body. Amanda nursed her so carefully the “she lost neither finger nor toe”, though it was said her legs had been frozen black to above her knees. Others from the handcart companies lost fingers and toes, arms or legs from the effects of freezing them.

This is my last post about my great-great-grandmother’s journey with the Martin Handcart company in 1856. I’ve learned so much over the last few months in following day by day as much as I could what happened to Mary on her way to Utah. “The Price We Paid: the extraordinary story of the Willie and Martin Handcart pioneers” by Andrew D. Olsen was recommended by couple of the missionaries at Martin’s Cove. Reading it gave me a much clearer understanding of everything that happened than anything else I’ve read. I would also recommend it to anyone with interest in these two handcart companies.

 

This Week in 1856 – Rocky Ridge to Bear River – Mary Taylor

From John Jacques:

By this time, the shoes of many of the emigrants had “given out,” and that was no journey for shoeless men, women and children to make at such a season of the year, and trudge it on foot. As the emigrants proceeded on their terrible journey, there was no appreciable mitigation of the piercing wintry cold, but its intensity rather increased. The Rocky Ridge and the South Pass were crossed on the 18th of November, a bitterly cold day.

Mary received a pair of shoes from one of the rescuers. Her shoes had long since worn out and she wrapped her feet in canvas from discarded tents.

From John Jacques:

The snow fell fast and the wind blew piercingly from the north. For several days, the company had been meeting more relief teams, which had been urged on by the Joseph A. Young express, and as the company was crossing the South Pass, there was a sufficiency of wagons, for the first time, to carry all the people, and thenceforth, the traveling was more rapid. But it was much colder to ride in a wagon than to follow afoot, and a few of the sturdier of the emigrants preferred to hold on to the wagons and walk behind them. One stubborn pedestrian held out as long as he was allowed to do so. The driver repeatedly urged on him to get up and ride. “Oh, I shall freeze, if I do,” he replied. “Well, we are going to drive faster, and you’ll be left behind,” said the driver. Finally, with such argument, the emigrant was persuaded to get into the wagon. When he was seated, the driver said, “There now, you don’t get out to walk anymore.”

William Bert Simmons, one of the rescuers, put Mary in his wagon. She was semiconscious at times and half frozen.

From John Jacques:

That night, the company camped in the willows at Pacific Springs, about four miles west of the South Pass. The snow was still falling furiously, with one or two feet of it on the ground. Here, Robert T. Burton took charge of the relief companies.

On the 19th, the company camped at Little Sandy, having sage brush for fuel, and on the 20th, on the Big Sandy.

While camping on the Big Sandy, it seemed impossible to get warm, sleeping in a wagon. It was warmer sleeping with beds on the ground, where if the biting, frosty air got the upper hand of you, it could not get the underside of you as well, but it could do both in a wagon.

The handcart company all riding, was now traveling at the rate of twenty-five to thirty miles a day, and my narrative will naturally proceed more rapidly. On the 21st, the company camped at Green River, on the 22nd, near the junction of Ham’s and Black’s forks; on the 23rd, at Bridger; on the 24th, in the cedars on the Muddy, were good fires were had; and on the 25th at Bear River.

At this camp there was an abundance of dry and fallen timber, and great camp fires were made of a cor or more of logs and branches. Here Joseph Young and his brother Brigham were in camp.

This Week in 1856 – Ephraim Hanks – Mary Taylor

From John Jacques:

While on the Sweetwater Ephraim Hanks was met one day. He had left his wagon behind him and came on alone, on horseback, and he managed to kill a buffalo. Some of the others of the relief parties, further this way, had come to the conclusion that the rear companies of the emigration had perished in the snow, but Ephraim was determined to go along, even though alone, and see for himself.

From Ephraim K. Hanks:

Ephraim Hanks, a prominent member of the 19th-...

Ephraim Hanks, a prominent member of the 19th-Century Latter Day Saint movement, a Mormon pioneer and a well known leader in the early settlement of Utah. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being deeply concerned about the possible fate of the emigrants, and feeling anxious to learn of their condition, I determined to start out on horseback to meet them, for this purpose, I secured a pack-saddle, and two animals from Brother Allred, and began to make my way slowly through the snow, alone.

After traveling for some time, I met Joseph A. Young, and one of the Garr boys, two of the relief company which had been out from Salt Lake City, to help the companies. They had met the emigrants, and were now returning with important dispatches from the camps, to the headquarters of the church, reporting the awful condition of the companies.

In the meantime, I continued on m lonely journey, and the night after meeting Elders Young and Garr, I camped in the snow in the mountains. As I was preparing to make a bed in the snow, with the fe articles that my pack animal carried, I though how comfortable a buffalo robe would be on such an occasion, and also how I would relish a little buffalo meat for supper. Before lying down for the night, I asked the Lord to send me a buffalo. Now, I am a firm believer in the efficiency of prayer, and after praying as I did on that lonely night, on the South Pass, I looked around me and spied a buffalo bull, within fifty yards of my camp. I had certainly not expected so immediate an answer to my prayer. . . taking deliberate aim at the animal, my first shot brought him down. . . I was soon busily engaged skinning my game.

Early the next morning, I was on my way again, and soon reached what is known as the Ice Springs bench. There, I happened upon a herd of buffalo, and killed a nice cow. . . I was impressed to do this, although I did not know why until a few hours later, but the thought occurred to my mind, that the hand of the Lord was in it, as it was a rare thing to find buffalo herds around that place, at this late part of the season. I skinned and dressed the cow, then cut up port of it’s meat, in long strips, and loaded both my horses with it. Thereupon, I resumed my journey and traveled on till towards evening.

I think the sun was about an hour high in the west,w hen I spied something in the distance, that looked like a black streak in the snow. As I go near to it, I perceived it moved; then, I was satisfied that this was the long looked for handcart company, led by Captain Edward Martin. I reached the ill-fated train just as the emigrants were camping for the night.

The sight that met my gaze as I entered their camp, can never be erased from my memory. The starved forms and haggard countenances of the poor suffers, as they moved about slowly, shivering with cold, to prepare their scanty evening meal, was enough to touch the stoutest heart. When they saw me coming, they hailed me With joy inexpressible, and when they further beheld the supply of fresh meat I brought into their camp, their gratitude knew no bounds. Flocking around me, one would say, “Oh, please, give me a small piece of meat,” another would exclaim, “My poor children are starving, do give me a little,” and children with tears in their eyes would call out, “Give me some, give me some.” At first, I tried to wait on them, and handed out the meat as they called for it, but finally, I told them to help themselves. Five minutes later, both my horses had been release of their extra burden, the meat was all gone, and the next few hours found the people in camp busily engaged cooking and eating it with thankful hearts.

A prophecy had been made by one of the brethren, that the company should feast on buffalo meat, when their provisions might run short. My arrival in their camp, loaded with meat, was the beginning of the fulfillment of that prediction, but only the beginning, as I afterwards shot and killed a number of buffalo for them as we journeyed along.

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.

This Week in 1856 – News of Rescue – Mary Taylor

From Samuel Openshaw:

In the midst of all this uncertainty and doubt, our hopes were realized for lo and behold, Joseph A. Young and two others with him, came riding into camp. Voices from all parts of the camp rang out, “help for the camp.” We all rushed together to hear the news. He told us that there were about 10 Wagons loaded with flour, sent out from the valley for our relief, and was about 50 miles ahead of us at a place called Devil’s Gate.

From John Jacques:

The 28th of October was the red letter day to this handcart expedition. On that memorable day, Joseph A. Young, Daniel W. Jones and Abel Garr, galloped unexpectedly into the camp amid the cheers and tears and smiles of the emigrants. These three men, being an express from the most advanced relief company from Salt Lake, brought the glad word that assistance, provisions and clothing were near, that ten wagons were waiting at Devil’s Gate for the emigrants which intelligence had been previously communicated to Captain Hodgett’s wagon company, in camp hard by, and first reached by the express, who after a very brief stay in the handcart camp, pushed on to Captain Hunt’s wagon company, encamped on the Platte, about ten miles below and beyond the handcart company. The express stayed with Hunt’s company for the night.

All was now animation and bustle in the handcart camp, and everybody was busy at once, in making preparations for a renewed start in the morning. The revived spirits of the company were still further exhilarated by an increased ration of flour that day, three quarters of a pound, I believe. With cheered hearts and renewed hopes, the emigrants retired to their beds that night, and no doubt many of the sleepers made pleasant excursions into the mystic regions of dreamland.

From Samuel Openshaw:

In the morning, we summoned all our efforts and strength, impulsed with the prospect of deliverance, and we again started on our journey.

From John Jacques:

Early on the morning of the 29th, the handcart company left the Platte and struck across the country for the Sweetwater. Joseph A. Young and his companions, returned from Hunt’s company, over took Martin’s company before night and camped with it at Rocky Avenue, about 36 miles east of Devil’s Gate.

In the afternoon of the last day of October, the company met Cyrus H. Wheelock, Daniel W. Jones, and David Garr, who were going to meet the various companies. About dark, the company arrived at Greasewood Creek, between thirty and forty miles from from the last crossing of the Platte. At Greasewood Creek, were found George D. Grant, Robert T. Burton, Charles Decker, D. G. Webb and others, with six wagons, laden with flour and other things from Salt Lake, who had come to the assistance of the belated emigrants. This was another time of rejoicing. Some of this relief party had met the emigrants a mile or two away from camp and had helped to pull some of the carts along. Here, some stockings boots and other clothing were distributed among the emigrants, also a few onions, which were highly prized, and pound of flour rations was served out, which was the daily ration, with the exception of about two days, if I recollect rightly, thenceforth to the end of the journey.

From Samuel Openshaw:

We now had one pound of flour per day, which in a measure began to recruit our strength so that we were enabled to perform the journey before us. The brethren which came out to meet us, did administer every comfort and help that was within their power, to the sick and the infirm. We continued our journey until we arrived at Devil’s Gate.

From John Jacques:

This was the beginning of better days, as to food and assistance, but the cold grew more severe, and was intense much of the way. On the evening of November 1st, the handcart company camped at the Sweetwater bridge, on this side of the river, about five miles on the other side of Devil’s Gate, arriving three about dark. There was a foot or eighteen inches of snow on the ground, which, as there were but one or two spades in the camp, the emigrants had to shovel away with their frying pans, or tin plates, or anything they could use for that purpose before they could pitch their tens, and then the ground was frozen so hard, that it was almost impossible to drive the tent pegs into it. Some of the men were so weak, that it took them an hour or two to clear the places for their tents and set them up. They would shovel and scrape away at the hard snow for a few minutes, and then rest, then shovel and scrape and rest again and so on.

The next day, the company moved to Devil’s Gate, where there were more of the relief party with wagons and provisions. The wagon companies arrived within two or three days after.

Devil’s Gate, at that time, was a sort of fort or trading post, consisting of several log houses or huts, but vacated when the emigrants were there, as it was not a pleasant place for wintering. But those log huts, with generous wood fires on the hearths, seems very comfortable to the emigrants, thought not large enough to accommodate more than a few of them.

An earnest counsel was held to determine whether to endeavor to winter the emigrants at that point, or push them on to the Great Salt Lake, as fast as possible, It was decided to continue the march to Salt Lake the same season. Two or three days after arriving at Devil’s Gate, the handcart company was part reorganized, and most of the carts were left there. Two, I believe, of the best remaining, were retained for each Hundred, and those were loaded chiefly with cooking utensils, such as frying pans bake kettles, sauce pans ,and camp kettles, so that the loads in these few carts were of a weighty nature. The remainder of the baggage of the company, was put on the wagons.

When the wagon companies came up to Devil’s Gate, it was decided to store most of their freight in the log houses or huts, for the winter, which was done, and twenty men were left, under the direction of Daniel Jones, to take care of the goods. Those twenty men had a hard time of it before they were relieved the following summer, and the goods brought along to the valley. The freight was left behind because the teams were unable to haul it further.

On the 3rd of November, Joseph Young and Abel Garr were sent as an express to Salt Lake to convey information as to the situation of the emigrants. In preparing for this express journey home, Joseph Young put on three or four pairs of woolen socks, a pair of mocassin’s, and a pair of buffalo hide overshoes, with the wool on, and then remarked, “There, if my feet freeze with those on, they must stay frozen till I get to Salt Lake.” This express arrived at it’s destination at 4 o’clock on the morning of the 13th of November.

This Week in 1856 – Her Husband Dies – Mary Taylor

From John Jacques:

The next day after crossing the Platte, the company moved on slowly, about ten miles, through the snow, and camped again near the Platte, and at the point where the road left it for the Sweetwater. It snowed three days, and the teams and many of the people were so far given out, that it was deemed advisable not to proceed further for a few days, but rather to stay in camp. It was hoped that the snow and cold would prove only a foretaste of winter and would soon pass away and the weather would moderate, but that hope proved delusive.

From Hodgett Wagon Company, Jesse Haven, clerk:

Wednesday, October 22, 1856:

Went back today to Brother Hunt’s camp. It is about 10 miles back. Took Brother Upton to see doctor. He had a bad arm. He is some out of his head.

Thursday, October 23, 1856:

Cold last night. Brother Upton died this morning about 10 o’clock. Came back to my own camp in afternoon. Snow melting some. The Handcart Company came up to us tonight and camped [100 yards from] us. Many dying in that company.

From Hunt Wagon Company Journal:

Thursday, October 23, 1856:

The weather was very cold and frosty. William Upton who arrived from Capt. Hodgett’s company the previous evening by Jesse Have to consult Dr. Wiseman, died of mortification of the hear age 34 years. The camp was still detained because of snow. By this time several of the cattle had died.

There is some confusion about this entry and some believe that this is a different William Upton than Mary’s husband. But no other William Upton can be found in searching the records. So the conclusion is despite the different age recorded by the Hunt Wagon Company, this is our William Upton. We also don’t understand how he came to be part of the Hodgett Company. Some have thought that he was enlisted to drive for the Hodgett Company when several of their drives left the company earlier in the journey. William’s symptoms may have indicated a heart attack or maybe hypothermia from assisting in carrying people across the river. Mary, her mother and her aunt are left to carry on alone.

From Samuel Openshaw:

We are now seeing the storms increasing upon us in the midst of an inclement and howling desert, far away from human succor and having only a few days rations in the camp, we summoned all our strength  and efforts to make another move, but our oxen, having died off, and our strength being over much reduced, the snow, cold and the blasting winds, it seemed impossible for us to travel. In fact, we were traveling all day cold, hungry, and fatigued, and only traveled 5 miles. We put up our tents, and then shoveled out the now and put it around the bottom of the ten, in order to keep out the winds and to make ourselves somewhat comfortable.

From John Jacques:

It was expected that help from Salt Lake would soon reach the company, which cheering expectation was shortly realized. In this camp, the company stayed, resting and recuperating as well as could be under the circumstances, the snow remaining on the ground the the frost being very keen at night. Her, the flour ration fell to four ounces per day.

This was the extremity of their privations as to food, but not the end of their sufferings, for the injurious effects of their privations told upon them during the remainder of their journey, and for some time after. Indeed, with some of the company, relics of these effects remain, of one sort or another, to this day. In addition to the four ration, considerable beef was killed and served to the company as had been the case most of the journey. But the cattle had now grown so poor, that there was little flesh left on them, and that little was as lean as lean could be.

The outlook was certainly not encouraging, but it need not be supposed that the company was in despair, not withstanding that the situation was rather desperate. Oh, No! A hopeful and cheerful spirit pervaded the camp and the “songs of Zion” were frequently heard at this time, though the company was int the very depths of its privations. Thought the bodies of the people were worn down, their spirits were buoyant, while at the same time, they had become so accustomed to looking death in the face, that they seemed to have no fear of it, nor of the corpses either, the bodies of the dead having become such familiar sights as to lose their ordinary influence on beholders.

This Week in 1856 – Fort Laramie – Mary Taylor

8 October 1856: (near Salt Lake City)

Rescuers moved out from their meeting spot at Big Mountain.

8 October 1856:

Mary Taylor’s father, Joseph Taylor (age 44) died, probably from the combination of not enough food and dehydration or heat prostration. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the campground.

From John Jacques:

The company arrived at Fort Laramie October 8th, and camped east of Laramie For, about a mile from the fort. Before reaching Laramie, the company met a fine looking and finely dressed friendly Indian chief on a fine American horse, and soon after, two dragoons on horseback, gave some sweetmeats to the children of the company and appeared immensely pleased to see the people.

On the 9th many of the company went to the fort to sell watches or other things they could spare and buy provisions. The commandant kindly allowed them to buy from the military stores at reasonable prices, biscuits at 15 1/2 cents; bacon at 15 cents, rice at 17 cents per pound, and so on. Some bought a few things at the sutler’s, but much higher prices rule at his store.

I believe the company left Fort Laramie the next day. Thenceforth, until the close of the journey, although noteworthy events were on the increase and some of them were indelibly impressed on the minds of the emigrants, yet they were so fully occupied in taking care of themselves that they had little time to spare to note details with exactness, and many notes that we made at the time, were lost and cannot now be found.

Up to this time, the daily pound of flour ration had been regularly served, but it was never enough to stay the stomachs of the emigrants and the longer they were on the plains, and in the mountains, the hungrier they grew. Most persons who traveled the plains with ox teams or handcarts, know well enough the enormous appetite which that kind of life gives. It is an appetite that cannot be satisfied. At least, such was the experience of the handcart people. You feel as if you could almost eat a rusty nail or gnaw a file. You are ten times as hungry as a hunter, yea, as ten hunters, all the day long and every time you wake in the night. And so you continue to your journey’s end, and for some time after. Eating is the grand passion of a pedestrian on the plains, an insatiable passion, for her never get enough to eat. . .

Well, at the time when this great appetite was fully roused up and had put on its strength, it was further sharpened by the increasing coldness of the weather.

Soon after Fort Laramie was passed, it was deemed advisable to curtail the rations in order to make the hold out as long as possible. The pound of flour fell to 3/4 a pound, then to half a pound, and subsequently yet lower. Still the company toiled on through the Black Hills, where the feed grew scarcer for the cattle. As the necessities of man and beast increased, their daily flour diminished. In the Black Hills, the roads were harder, more rocky and more hilly, and this told upon the handcars, causing them to become rickety and need more frequent repairing.