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Edward Martin

Grandfather of Mae Martin Felt

A view of the relationship helps understanding

Edward Martin

A Younger Edward Martin

Martin Handcart Company

The Martin Handcart Company was a handcart company that crossed the plains to Salt Lake City in 1856. … The company consisted of 575 people, 145 handcarts, and 8 wagons, which were lead by Edward Martin. Due to the late start in the season, the company was caught in snow storms in Wyoming gs.

Edward Martin

Edward Martin initially travelled to the Salt Lake Valley with the Levi W. Hancock/Jefferson Hunt/James Pace/Andrew Lytle Company in 1847.  He was the 3rd Corporal.

In 1848, he travelled with the Heber C. Kimball Company.

In 1856, he was Captain of the Edward Martin Company.

In 1863 he married Eliza Salmon in Salt Lake City. She had travelled on the ship “Horizon” in 1856 with Martin as the leader onboard. It is often mistakenly thought that she continued with Martin in the handcart company all the way to Salt Lake City in 1856. She did not. Her Mexican War widow’s petition claim affidavits explain that Eliza emigrated from England to St. Louis and married Thomas McCaughie (McCoy). Sometime after his death in 1859, between 1861 and 1863, she travelled on to Salt Lake with his daughter, Emma.

 Music:  King & Country – O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Now that we know the relationship


Paul Ernest Felt to Edward Martin, the 

narrative by Edward Martin should be interesting


Born: 1818 England Age 38 Captain of Martin Handcart Company

Father of:  Mae Martin Felt  who is the mother of Paul Ernest Felt (Sr.)

Edward was born in Preston, Lancashire, England, November 18, 1818. He joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England and emigrated to the United States. He was one of the Saints called upon to defend his country as a member of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War. Later he was sent on a mission back to England and returning from there, he became Captain of the ill-fated Fifth Handcart Company of 1856.

The Fifth Handcart Company actually left Iowa City as two companies. Edward Martin was the Captain of one and Jesse Haven was the Captain of the other. They travelled separately until they reached Florence, Nebraska, where Elder Haven joined the Hodgett Wagon Company, and the two handcart companies combined under Elder Martin.

Captain Martin also brought a wife back with him from England, Eliza Salmon. Their first baby, George, was born August 12, 1856, in Iowa City, Iowa, while waiting for the handcart journey to begin. Edward and Eliza eventually had ten children. Two of Edward’s other wives died and Eliza also raised their children.

As the handcart company sought the shelter of the northern mountains in a ravine later to be named Martin’s Cove, they had many difficulties. It was a struggle for all of them to keep from freezing to death. Icy winds blew over a number of tents and many of the immigrants died.

One afternoon, Captain Martin, together with two or three other men, set out from the camp at Devil’s Gate, when they were surprised by a snowstorm and they lost their way. After wandering about for several hours, the men came near perishing and endeavored to make a fire to warm themselves. They gathered some cedar twigs and struck match after match to light them, but in vain. At length, with their last match and the aid of portions of their clothing, they succeeded in starting a fire. This was seen from the handcart camp, from which, after all their anxious and weary wanderings, they were only about a half-mile distant. Help soon came to the wanderers and the rescuers carried Captain Martin, who was nearly exhausted, back to camp.

There were many deaths in the camp. John Bond, a 12-year-old boy in Martin’s company recorded some experiences that give us a small idea of what leadership meant for Edward Martin: “. . . [Some died] lying side by side with hands entwined. In other cases, they were found as if they had just offered a fervent prayer and their spirit had taken flight while in the act . . . Some died sitting by the fire; some were singing hymns or eating crusts of bread . . . Captain Martin stood over the grave of the departed ones with shotgun in hand, firing at intervals to keep the crows and buzzards away from hovering around in mid air.”

Peter McBride, a young boy in the Martin Company, later paid tribute to Captain Martin in the narrative he wrote of their trek: “We had to burn buffalo chips for wood, not a tree in sight, no wood to be found anywhere. Just dry earth and rivers. We children and old folks would start early so we wouldn’t be too far behind at night. A great many handcarts broke down, oxen strayed away, which made traveling rather slow. Quite an undertaking to get nearly one thousand persons who had never had any camping experience to travel, eat, and cook over campfires. It took much patience for the captain to get them used to settling down at night and to get started in the morning.”

John Bond also recorded a time when a sister whose husband was near death and whose two sons were suffering with frozen feet, appealed to Captain Martin, ‘Do you think that the relief party will come soon with food, clothing and shoes?” Bond recalls that Captain Martin gave this suffering pioneer woman encouragement by answering, ‘Y almost wish God would close my eyes to the enormity of the sickness, hunger and death among the Saints. Yes, Sister Sermon, I am as confident as I live that the President (Brigham Young) will and has dispatched the relief valley boys to us and I believe that they are making all the haste they can, that they are bringing flour, clothing, shoes, etc.”

A day or two later, this sister, with faith in Captain Martin’s words, was looking into the west. All at once she sprang to her feet and screamed at the top of her voice, “I see them coming! I see them coming! Surely they are angels from heaven.”

Edward Martin lived in Salt Lake City and died there at the age of 64, on August 8, 1882. His youngest child was just eight years old. Eliza lived as a widow for 30 more years.

Our Honoured Pioneer Heritage

A Nine-Year-Old Girl Triumphed over the Handcart Tragedy

W. Paul Reeve
History Blazer, August 1995

The heavy morning frost on the Wyoming Plains west of Fort Laramie made walking unpleasant for those who were barefoot or in tattered shoes among the ill-fated 1856 Mormon handcart companies destined for Salt Lake City. Both the Willie and Martin companies replete with Mormon faithful eager to join fellow Saints in the Great Basin, had been plagued with difficulties along their overland journeys. Carts broke down, provisions ran out, cattle stampeded, and worst of all, a month before usual snowfall, the most violent winter to hit the region in many years pinned the two companies, cold and near starvation, several miles apart and hundreds of miles from their destination. Even before the onset of severe weather the Martin company, traveling eight days behind the Willie group, had been put on rations of two cups of flour per adult per day. To compensate, many stopped at Fort Laramie where they traded jewelry, utensils, and heirlooms for cornmeal, beans, and bacon; but even these staples proved insufficient once winter weather hit.

Samuel and Margaret Pucell were among the 135 to 150 members of the Martin company that died along the trail. They were converted to the Mormon faith in England and with their two daughters, Maggie, age 14, and Nellie, 9, sailed from Liverpool on May 2, 1856. They joined a handcart company in Iowa City led by Edward Martin and after some delays left late in the season for Salt Lake City. Along the difficult trek Margaret became sick; Samuel compassionately placed his feeble wife in the family cart and continued the journey. At one of several river crossings, however, Samuel stumbled and fell, immersing himself in the cold water. His clothing froze, and within a few days he died from starvation and exposure. Tragically, Margaret died five days later, leaving Nellie and Maggie orphans on the trail.

Fortunately, missionaries returning from England brought news of the destitute companies to Salt Lake City, and on October 5, 1856, Brigham Young dispatched a rescue team. Those immigrants who were still alive when help arrived were desperately cold or numb from the early winter freeze. Ephraim Hanks, one of the rescue party, recalled reaching several travelers “whose extremities were frozen.” “Many such I washed with water and castile soap, until the frozen parts would fall off,” he wrote, “after which I would sever the shreds of flesh from the remaining portions of the limbs with my scissors.” Both Pucell girls were found in similar circumstances with badly frozen feet and legs. Upon removal of the girls’ shoes and socks, frozen flesh came off; Nellie’s legs were particularly bad and had to be amputated. Rescuers performed the operation without anesthetic, using the only available instruments, a butcher knife and carpenter’s saw. Due to the primitive surgical conditions the wound healed poorly, and bones protruded from the end of Nellie’s stumps. She spent the rest of her life waddling on her knees in constant pain.

At age 24 Nellie moved to Cedar City and not long thereafter became the plural wife of William Unthank. She bore six children and lived in poverty. She was, however, accustomed to facing challenges and did all in her power to make the most of her situation. Even while living in a log cabin she kept her home immaculately clean. She regularly dampened and scraped the dirt floor, making it smooth as pavement. To help meet her family’s needs she took in laundry, knitted stockings to sell, carded wool, and crocheted table pieces. At times, however, she could not provide all the essentials for her children and received assistance from her Mormon bishop. As repayment for this aid and out of deeply felt gratitude, she and her children yearly scrubbed and washed the church where they worshiped each Sunday. Nellie spent most of her life in similar quiet acts of service, not only for her church but also for her family and neighbors. According to one friend, “her wrinkled forehead” and “her soft dark eyes” bore witness to the “pain and suffering” she had endured in her life, yet her face bore “no trace of bitterness” at her fate. In “patience and serenity” Nellie touched the lives of all with whom she associated. She died at age 69 in Cedar City.

As a fitting tribute to Nellie’s memory a life-size bronze likeness by noted Utah sculptor Jerry Anderson was dedicated August 13, 1991, on the campus of Southern Utah University. The Utah Legislature officially set the day aside as a “day of praise” for Nellie Unthank, and a host of dignitaries paid tribute to her tenacity, sacrifice, and noble pioneering spirit. Perhaps Norman Bangerter, then governor of Utah, said it best when he praised Nellie as “one of the true heroines of Utah history.”

See: Deseret News, August 4, 10, October 12, 1991; Rebecca Cornwall and Leonard J. Arrington, Rescue of the 1856 Handcart Companies (Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1981); Leroy R. Hafen and Ann W. Hafen, Handcarts to Zion (Glendale, Calif.: Arthur H. Clark, 1960); Kate B. Carter, comp., Treasures of Pioneer History, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, 1952-57), 5:266-67.

Why our ancestors settled in Utah

Not just Utah for settlement expanded beyond Utah at the direction of President Brigham Young.

he Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormon or LDS church) was started by Joseph Smith in 1830 in New York. Later, members of this church gathered in Nauvoo, Illinois.

Some people disliked Mormon beliefs and practices and persecuted members of this church. After a mob murdered Joseph Smith in 1844, his followers started to think about moving somewhere where they could live peacefully. Enemies were still attacking Mormons in different ways. Because of this persecution, in the cold of February 1846 the Mormons began to leave Nauvoo. They journeyed to Winter Quarters, Nebraska, and set up a temporary community.

The Mormon Battalion

Joseph Smith

James K. Polk

Because they had left behind their lands, buildings, and many possessions, the Mormons asked the federal government for financial help. The U.S. had declared war on Mexico in May 1846, so President James K. Polk agreed to enlist a battalion of Mormon men, who would receive pay for their service.

painting of Mormon Battalion

The Mormon Battalion at the Gila River in Arizona, a painting by George Ottinger (1833-1917).

Around 500 volunteers enlisted and began a grueling march to San Diego (33 women and 51 children started out with them).  During 1846-47, these men blazed a wagon route across the Southwest, but they never fought in the war.

Their pay and their later explorations helped the Mormons become established in Utah.

Where to go next?

Meanwhile, the people gathered in Winter Quarters got ready to move again. Where to? It seemed that the Great Basin would be a perfect place to go.

map showing the great basinWhy?

The Great Basin lay far away from any government—in fact, this land belonged to Mexico at the time. (When Mexico lost the war, the United States took possession of the Great Basin.) Here, the Mormons hoped, they could live their faith in peace.

painting of Mormon Battalion

Mormon pioneers, sketched by Ortho Fairbanks.

In April 1847 the first group of Mormon settlers left and headed west along the California Trail. Brigham Young led a group of two children, three women, and 143 men. They traveled on horseback or in oxen-pulled wagons for three months; then, on July 22, the first men entered the Salt Lake Valley.  Brigham Young himself arrived on July 24, 1847. 

What other religious groups in U.S. or world history have moved all together to start a new colony?  How are these different or the same as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

The Mormon migration

Between 1847 and 1869, when the Transcontinental Railroad was built, about 70,000 Mormons migrated to Utah along the Mormon Trail.

Many of them got help from their church. If they could not pay their way across the ocean, or across the plains, the Church’s Perpetual Emigration Fund might loan them the money they needed. When they arrived, they could pay off the loan so the money could help another immigrant. People traveled in companies of wagons. Some traveled by handcart.

painting of valley

Salt Lake Valley in 1847, painted by H. Culmer.

Getting started in a new place.

Once the settlers arrived in the valley, the real work began. 

Today, when most people travel to a place, they stay in a hotel or with friends, and they go out to eat at restaurants or buy food from a grocery store.  But when the first pioneers arrived in Utah, the only people in the region were American Indians and a few explorers, traders, and mountain men scattered around.  Basically, these new immigrants had to make or grow everything they would need in their new lives.    

What would be the most important things to do first?

Right away, that first group of pioneers began get the land ready for farming.  The first big challenges were digging irrigation ditches to bring water from City Creek into the fields, and getting crops planted right away. 

They also built a fort where Pioneer Park now is. This fort had little cabins with sod roofs built along the wall.

Making a city.

Brigham Young directed that Salt Lake City (and other towns) be set up on a grid system. The streets were to run north-south and east-west. Young wanted the streets to be wide enough for two wagons to easily pass each other. We should be grateful for this, because of all the cars, bicycles, busses, and TRAX trains that share the streets today! 

Spreading out.

As the “Mormon Village” of Salt Lake City began to thrive and later groups of pioneers arrived, Brigham Young sent settlers to other areas of the state. He sent a variety of skilled people to each community, so that each town would have people who could farm, work with iron, wood or leather, weave cloth, and more.

By 1850, Mormons had started the communities of Bountiful, Farmington, Ogden, Tooele, Provo, and Manti.  Each had a leader who had authority over both community and church affairs.

Sometimes, groups of people decided on their own to move somewhere and set up a community, without direction from the church.

By 1857, the Mormons had started more than 90 settlements.

Life in a new place.

Most communities also established an irrigation system.  Why was irrigation so important?

At first, the new settlers built log cabins—or they lived in dugouts or even in their wagons for a while. When the communities got more settled, they could build houses and buildings out of stone, adobe brick, or brick

Many of these communities also built forts around their cabins for protection when Native Americans and the settlers were fighting.

The Mormon village in Utah was a planned community of farmers and trades people. The village would include a main living area and farms and farm buildings on the land beyond. Life in these villages centered on the day’s work and church activities. The early pioneers worked hard, but they also loved to relax with music, dance, and drama.


While Paul and Afton Felt resided in several locations, Provo was home

Situated in the heart of Utah Valley between the east shore of Utah Lake and the towering Wasatch Mountains is the city of Provo. Mount Timpanogos (elevation 11,957 feet) dominates the northern view from the city.

Other rugged mountains east of the city provide one of the most picturesque backdrops for a Utah city.

Utah Valley was the traditional home of Ute Indians, who settled in villages close to the lake both for protection from bellicose tribes to the northeast and to be close to their primary source of food–fish from the lake. The first white visitors to the Provo area were Fray Francisco Atanasio Dominguez and Fray Silvestre Velez de Escalante, who visited Utah Valley in 1776. Only a retrenchment in Spanish New World colonization and missionary efforts prevented establishment of settlements promised by these Franciscan missionaries.

Fur trappers and traders frequented the area in the early decades of the nineteenth century, and it is from one of these trappers, Etienne Provost, that Provo takes its name.

Provo was settled by our ancestors and others in 1849, and was the first LDS colony in Utah outside of Salt Lake Valley. Troubles with Indians gave rise to a popular saying in early Utah: “Provo or hell!” When President James Buchanan sent United States troops to Salt Lake City to put down the “Mormon insurrection” in 1858, thousands of Saints, including leader Brigham Young, moved to Provo. “The Move South” came to a quick end as the Mormons were “pardoned” and new governor Alfred Cumming made peace with the Saints.

Provo remained the second largest city in Utah until Ogden became Utah’s primary railroad terminus in 1869. Provo lost in its bid as a transcontinental railroad stopping place, but thereby retained its distinctly LDS flavor. It soon came to be known as the “Garden City” because of its extensive fruit orchards, trees, and gardens.

In 1875 Brigham Young Academy was founded. From humble beginnings, this institution has grown into Brigham Young University, the largest church-affiliated university in the United States today. The city and the university have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship and have grown together. Today, the university has helped generate a high-technology industry in the Provo area and sometimes attracts national attention through its academic and sports programs.

Historically, Provo has served as the focal point of Utah Valley industry, commerce, and government. Agriculture and the Provo Mills (which had its origin in the LDS cooperative movement of the late 1860s) served as Provo’s commercial staples in the late nineteenth century.

Mining magnates such as Jesse Knight, made rich by nearby precious-metal mines, made their homes in Provo and helped create a thriving financial industry in the city. The coincidence of a major water source and the intersection of two railroad lines led to the completion in the Provo area of the Ironton steel mill in the early 1920s and later the much larger Geneva steel plant. The railroads brought in needed raw materials and transported finished steel products from Provo. Area residents currently argue about whether the Geneva plant, which many assert is a major cause of Provo’s serious air pollution problems, should continue to be operated or whether Provo should rely on new high technology as its industrial base.

As the county seat of Utah County, Provo is the home of county offices and courts. Since the mid-1880s Provo has been the home of the State Hospital, originally the Territorial Insane Asylum.

Because of its close proximity to the mountains, Utah Lake, and rivers, Provo residents have many recreational outlets. In winter, alpine and cross-country skiing, ice skating, and other winter sports are available within minutes. In summer, hiking, camping, fishing, and boating are equally accessible.

Provo residents have long been proud of their city. Supreme Court Justice George Sutherland, United States senators Reed Smoot (who also served as an apostle in the LDS Church) and William King; LDS Church apostle Dallin Oaks (who also served as president of Brigham Young University and as a justice of the Utah Supreme Court); Jack Dempsey, former heavyweight champion of the world, and numerous less well-known political, church, sports, and business figures have lived in Provo.

Today, Provo is a thriving community of 86,835 (1990 census). The city’s downtown heart is no larger the center of Utah Valley commerce, having lost that honor to large suburban shopping malls. Provo’s once proud train depot was recently demolished, a symbol of the declining importance of passenger rail transportation in the West. Provo’s downtown area remains, however, the focal point of Utah Valley political life, and nearby Brigham Young University remains the education center of the area. Provo has grown from a quiet, small Mormon city to a substantial modern metropolitan area. Some of its traditional quaintness is gone, but its heart and soul continue to thrive.

See: Kenneth L. Cannon II, A Very Eligible Place: Provo and Orem, An Illustrated History (1987); J. Marinus Jensen, History of Provo, Utah (1924); John Clifton Moffitt, The Story of Provo, Utah (1975); John Clifton Moffitt and Marilyn McMeen, Provo: A Story of People in Motion (1974); WPA Writers’ Project, Provo;Pioneer Mormon City (1942).

Edward Martin's Timline

Edward Martin’s Timeline

November 18, 1818
Preston, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom
December 2, 1818
Wigan, Greater Manchester, England, United Kingdom
March 12, 1844
Age 25
Springfield, Sangamon, Illinois, United States
April 11, 1847
Age 28
November 28, 1847
Age 29
Nauvoo, Hancock County, Illinois, United States
June 2, 1851
Age 32
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, United States
August 4, 1858
Age 39
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, UT, United States
August 6, 1858
Age 39
Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, UT, United States
Martin Handcart Company

The Martin Handcart Company was a handcart company that crossed the plains to Salt Lake City in 1856. The company faced extreme conditions in the fall of that year and were subsequently rescued by parties sent by Brigham Young at the October General Conference. 

The company departed Iowa City on July 28, 1856. The company consisted of 575 people, 145 handcarts, and 8 wagons, which were lead by Edward Martin. Due to the late start in the season, the company was caught in snow storms in Wyoming in October. The group was rescued after taking shelter in a small cove, which was later called Martin’s Cove. The company arrived in Salt Lake City on November 30, 1856.


Journey to Martin's Cove: Handcart Tragedy of 1856

In August 1856, in Florence, Nebraska Territory, two emigrant companies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—the Mormons—nearly 1,100 people led by Capt. James Willie and Capt. Edward Martin, left the Missouri River to start a late-season crossing of the plains. The Willie Company left Florence on August 17, the Martin Company on August 27.

Mormon missionaries in Liverpool, England, 1855. LDS Church Archives. Edward Martin is on the extreme right of the middle row.Mormon missionaries in Liverpool, England, 1855. LDS Church Archives. Edward Martin is on the extreme right of the middle row.Families pushed and pulled two-wheeled, shallow-boxed handcarts, built out of green lumber a short time before. The hot sun and wind were hard on the emigrants and the handcarts. After a few weeks, the green wood began to shrink and crack. Poorly greased wooden wheels shrieked on their wooden axles.

Four months later, the survivors reached Utah Territory. On the way, more than 200 of the emigrants died, crossing what’s now Wyoming as winter set in.

The emigrants

The 1856 emigrants were British and Scandinavian converts en route to the new Mormon homeland in Utah. The first Mormons had arrived there and founded Salt Lake City in 1847, after a decade and a half of increasingly violent persecution in New York, Ohio, Missouri and Illinois.

By the early 1850s, most American Mormons had already arrived in Utah, and the church began actively seeking converts in Europe. Church leaders organized a smooth transit system involving chartered steamships, riverboats up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and, later, railroad passage from the East Coast to central Iowa. Many emigrants’ passage was supported by the church.

In the mid-1850s, however, drought and famine struck Utah, and suddenly there was not nearly as much wealth in church coffers to support the incoming travelers. To save money and time, church leaders in 1856 urged emigrants use handcarts. The carts were far cheaper than wagons and ox teams, and people pulling handcarts could move more quickly when they didn’t have to wait daily for their livestock to graze.

The handcarts consisted almost entirely of green lumber and had been built in Iowa by the emigrants themselves. They were shallow, three feet wide and five feet long, and held skimpy supplies of food, plus 17 pounds of luggage—clothes, blankets, and personal possessions—for each person. A few ox-drawn wagons accompanied the party to carry tents, more food, and sick people. Rations were one pound of flour per person daily, plus any meat shot on the way. The carts were pulled by one or two people while other family members pushed behind or walked alongside.

Three smaller handcart companies had already crossed the plains to Utah quickly and successfully that year, with the help of supply wagons coming out from Salt Lake City. The crucial difference between these crossings and those of the Willie and Martin companies was timing.

Problems of late crossing

Levi Savage, a sub-captain in the Willie Company wrote in his journal that he warned the party before they left Florence of “the hard Ships that we Should have to endure. I Said that we were liable to have to wade in Snow up to our knees, and Should at night rap ourselvs in a thin blanket. and lye on the frozen ground without abed…the lateness of the Season was my only objection, of leaving this point for the mountains at this time.”

However, Savage’s advice was ignored. He explained, “Brother Willey Exorted the Saints to go forward regardless of Suffering even to death,” and Savage was later reprimanded for “the wrong impression made by my expressing myself So freely.”

Brigham Young about the time of the handcart tragedy. Special Collections, Marriott Library, University of Utah.Brigham Young about the time of the handcart tragedy. Special Collections, Marriott Library, University of Utah.The weather stayed warm. The two companies were traveling about two weeks apart. As the Martin Company reached what’s now Wyoming, food supplies were running low. To help speed the party, the captain ordered his company to reduce personal baggage from 17 to 10 pounds per person. Many people left heavy clothes and bedding, which were then burned so nobody could smuggle unauthorized items back into their carts.

Problems build and help prepares

Sometime in late summer, supply convoys from Salt Lake City were sent east, but failed to meet the emigrants. Records are sketchy and the reason is still unclear; it appears that these supply trains, after waiting some time for the expected handcarters, turned back when the emigrants did not show up.

But in early October, a party of fast-traveling missionaries returning to Utah from Europe, who had passed the Willie and Martin companies on the trails, arrived in Salt Lake City and reported that the two large handcart parties were still on the way. Church President Brigham Young and his counselors in Utah immediately sent relief parties in wagons well stocked with extra food, to find the latecomers and bring them in.

On October 19, the Martin Company crossed the North Platte River near present Casper, Wyo., where the trail left the river headed across country toward Independence Rock and Devil‘s Gate on the Sweetwater River. That day, a winter storm struck.

The water was shallow, but the river was wide and freezing cold. “[W]e had to travel in our wett cloths untill we got to camp,” emigrant Patience Loader wrote later, “and our clothing was frozen on us and when we got to camp. . .it was to late to go for wood and water the wood was to far away that night the ground was frozen to hard we was unable to drive any tent pins in. . .we stretched it open the best we could and got under it untill morning.”


Meanwhile, the rescuers were traveling east. On October 19, they found the stalled and starving Willie group camped in the snow on the Sweetwater River near South Pass. Half the rescue party stayed with the Willie Company. The other half pushed on, and on October 28, three scouts for the rescue party found the Martin company about 100 miles further east, at Red Buttes on the North Platte. In the nine days since the freezing river crossing, the Martin Company, exhausted and nearly out of food in the bitter cold, had moved only a few miles. One of the scouts later noted that fifty-six people in the Martin Company died during that desperate time.

A statue at Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City commemorates the handcart emigrants. Wikipedia photo.A statue at Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City commemorates the handcart emigrants. Wikipedia photo.Rescuer Ephraim Hanks later wrote, “the starved forms and haggard countenances of the poor sufferers, as they moved about slowly, shivering with cold, to prepare their scanty evening meal, was enough to touch the stoutest heart. . .they hailed me with joy inexpressible. . .there was only one day’s quarter rations left in camp.”

Hanks and the other two scouts got the Martin Company moving again 60 more miles to Devil’s Gate. There, the rest of the rescuers waited for them at some abandoned traders’ cabins called the Seminoe Fort.

Exhaustion, exposure and lack of food had weakened the emigrants of both the Willie and Martin companies, and many died even after rescue efforts had begun.

The Martin Company camped for several days in a small cove in the rocks that must have given some shelter from the wind, a mile or two east up the Sweetwater from Devil’s Gate. They still had very little food. Two small Mormon wagon trains that had been traveling close behind the large handcart company, meanwhile, arrived at Devil’s Gate about the same time. The people with these trains were also in bad shape and nearly out of food, though better off than the handcarters.

Besides personal belongings, the smaller trains were also carrying commercial freight bound for Utah. A solution became obvious: empty these trains of most of their goods, leave the goods behind at the traders’ cabins, abandon the handcarts, and give the weakest members of the Martin Company a ride the rest of the way. Twenty men stayed at Devil’s Gate to guard the wagon-train goods for the rest of the winter.

With the help of more rescue parties sent east, the Willie Company finally reached Salt Lake City on November 9 and the Martin Company on November 30. A modern historian counted 67 deaths in the Willie Company, a rate of around 14 percent, and 135 to 150 in the Martin Company, a rate of around 25 percent of the company’s members.

It was by far the worst non-military disaster on the emigrant trails. Of the 60,000 or so emigrants who traveled to Utah across what’s now Wyoming before the completion of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1869, about 3,000 used handcarts. Still, the image of a pioneer family pulling a handcart has become a symbol central to the LDS Church’s sense of the power of its faith.


Mormon Handcart Pioneers

The Handcart Pioneer Monument, by Torleif S. Knaphus, located on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah

The Mormon handcart pioneers were participants in the migration of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the LDS Church) to Salt Lake City, Utah, who used handcarts to transport their belongings.[1] The Mormon handcart movement began in 1856 and continued until 1860.

Motivated to join their fellow Church members in Utah but lacking funds for full ox or horse teams, nearly 3,000 Mormon pioneers from England, Wales, Scotland and Scandinavia made the journey from Iowa or Nebraska to Utah in ten handcart companies. The trek was disastrous for two of the companies, which started their journey dangerously late and were caught by heavy snow and severe temperatures in central Wyoming. Despite a dramatic rescue effort, more than 210 of the 980 pioneers in these two companies died along the way. John Chislett, a survivor, wrote, “Many a father pulled his cart, with his little children on it, until the day preceding his death.”[2]

Although fewer than 10 percent of the 1846–68 Latter-day Saint emigrants made the journey west using handcarts, the handcart pioneers have become an important symbol in LDS culture, representing the faithfulness and sacrifice of the pioneer generation. They continue to be recognized and honored in events such as Pioneer Day, Church pageants, and similar commemorations.


Pioneer Story-Captain Edward Martin

Pioneer Story – Alice Walsh Strong (Martin Company)

We left on the 26th of July and traveled on the stage road through the State of Iowa, to Council-Bluffs, Iowa; on to 24th of August, a distance of over 300 miles. Next day we ferried the Missouri and made camp at Florence. We left here on the 27th of Aug. for 1,031 miles journey to Salt Lake. My eldest son Robert [Walsh] was never well after we started, and one night after we had camped my husband took one of our quilts and went quite a distance to sell it for something more desirable to eat. He did not recover his health on the journey and died on the way between Laramie and the Devils Gate. My grief at his interment is beyond expression, on account of the location and the certainty that his remains would be molested by wolves.

At night in our tent there would be three couples and six to eight children under eight years of age. The weather after leaving Laramie became very cold at nights, and the hardship on the men having to stand guard six hours every other night was beyond human endurance.

Our rations had to be cut down both for adults and children and the clothing of both sexes becoming in-sufficient for the healthful warmth of our bodies.

Arriving at Devils-Gate about the first of November on account of the nightly fatalities of the male members of our company, for two or three weeks previously, there were many widows in our company and the women and children had to pitch and put up the tents, shoveling the snow away with tin plates etc, making our beds on the ground and getting up in the morning wet with melted snow and lie on our clothing. This hard service continued with all that were able to endure it till we nearly reached the South Pass, and one night I dropped to the ground in a dead faint with my baby in my arms. I had some pepper pods with me and recovering from my stupor I took some of them to warm all and to recover my strength. During these times we had only a little thin flour gruel two or three times a day, and, this was meager nourishment for a mother with a nursing baby.

My husband [William Walsh] died and was buried at or near Devil’s Gate and the ground was frozen so hard that the men had a difficult task in digging the grave deep enough in which to inter him, and nine others that morning, and it is more than probable that several were only covered over with snow. Here I was left a widow with two young children. The boy [John Walsh] became so weak, he could not stand alone and I had to sit and hold both of them in the relief wagons from this on. At times the most of us had to walk after being met by the teams from Salt Lake and late in the day, and toward evening my shoes would nearly freeze to my feet and at one time in taking them off some of the skin and flesh came off with them. Some of the bones of my feet were left bare and my hands were severly frozen.

When the relief help reached us and nearly all of us had been assigned to some wagon I was sitting in the snow with my children on my lap, and it seemed that ther was no chance for me to ride, but before the last teams had left the camp I was assigned to ride in the commissary wagon, and did so until our arrival in Salt Lake City.

The young man in charge of the commissary wagon, was, Joseph B. Alvoard; seemed to be well acquainted with frontier and mountain life and realizing my condition of a widow with two children, he helped me early and late to the best of his ability.

Arriving in Salt Lake Nov. 30th 1856, with two children and the clothes I stood up in, were all of my earthly possessions in a strange land, without kin or relatives; the extra clothing we had started with and pulled on our carts to the Devils Gate, was left there and I never saw it afterwards.

Samuel Washington Orme story of Martin Company

Samuel’s parents, Samuel and Amy Kirby Orme, first emigrated from England around 1831 to live near Amy’s parents in Ohio. It was at this time that the first gathering of the Saints was occurring in nearby Kirtland. Samuel Orme, Sr. heard some men preaching the gospel in a town near Mentor and was impressed with the truth of their message, though he did not learn the names of the men or the religious sect to which they belonged.

The only son born to Samuel and Amy was born in Ohio on Independence Day. His parents felt that in addition to carrying his father’s name, he should have an additional name suggestive of this great event in American history. Accordingly, he was named Samuel Washington Orme.

Shortly after Samuel’s birth, the family returned to England to assist Grandfather John Orme, who was in his declining years and wished his son to return. The family moved to Coalville where young Samuel remembered his father taking him and his younger sister by the hand and going a short distance to see the first train go through Coalville. Samuel, Sr. was a bookkeeper for the Midland Railway Company.

When Samuel W. was 9 years old his father died. Samuel W. became an apprentice to a blacksmith for the next 7 years and also worked in the nearby coal mine. He was an excellent penman and learned somewhat of his father’s trade, but did not become a bookkeeper. He finally earned enough money at his blacksmith’s trade that he supported his mother and sisters comfortably.

Before Samuel Orme, Sr. died, he reminded his wife about his strong impressions of the preachers back in Ohio. He had studied the Bible, pondered about it, and knew it was true. He told his wife that she must join this church whenever she heard about it. He said, “When you hear the first sermon, you will feel as I feel, that it is true. A strange spirit will come over you, and you shall feel as if the truth of it is burning into your very soul.” Only a few months after Samuel’s death, Amy heard of two brothers, John and James Burrow, who were preaching a “strange” doctrine in nearby Whitwick. She took her children to go and hear them and at the close of the meeting she was ready for baptism. She said, “Why, I feel as if my very soul is on fire. I know it is true, although I don’t know where these men got their truths. Yet I know it is the same as my husband heard in America years ago.” Amy and her children who were over 8 years of age were baptized at this time. Samuel was active in church work, becoming a local Elder as well as a clerk of that branch. They began to save money to emigrate to be with the other Saints in Utah.

They boarded the ship Horizon in Liverpool with a large company of other Saints bound for Zion under the direction of Edward Martin, a returning missionary. Martin’s handcart company was organized in Iowa City, Iowa. It was the 5th and last handcart company of the year. The Hodgett and Hunt Wagon Companies were following closely along, and assisting as much as possible. However, because of their delayed start and early winter storms in Wyoming, they all suffered together from hunger and cold.

As flour rations were cut, and then cut again before the rescuers came from Salt Lake City, the Orme family was down to four ounces per day per person. Samuel’s courageous mother saw her son quickly weakening. She proposed to her girls that they each cut their own rations even further in order to feed Samuel more. They all agreed to make this sacrifice and it saved Samuel’s life. His sisters and mother also survived, although Rebecca had to have several toes amputated.

Samuel had left his sweetheart, Sarah Cross, in England. She emigrated the next year and she and Samuel were married. They soon moved to Tooele where Samuel became prominent in the community, serving in many positions in the church and community, including mayor of Tooele two terms without pay. He was an earnest advocate for better schools and did much work as a trustee. Samuel died in 1889 at the age of 57.

Patience Loader recall her experience

James and Amy Loader came to America in 1855. James had worked in England as foreman and head gardener for a wealthy gentleman by the name of Sir Henry Lambert. Patience and her eight sisters and four brothers were all born here on this estate where James had worked for 35 years. Somewhere around 185O, the Loaders were baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. James was fired from his job as a consequence. In November 1855, they left for America on the “John J. Boyd” with at least six of their unmarried children, including Patience. Their oldest daughter, Ann (Dalling), had already emigrated with her husband and was awaiting their arrival in Utah.

Patience recorded a rather precarious and interesting experience she had upon her departure from England: “After my parents and my sister and I got all our baggage on board the ship, we found that it would not sail until the next day, so I decided to go back to stay at my married sister’s house that night. The next afternoon I went back to the ship and found it ready to depart. The men were just taking away the last plank. There were all my folks standing on deck watching anxiously for me and shouting at the top of their voices, ‘For Lord’s sake bring our girl on the ship and don’t leave her behind.’ There was just one plank to walk on from the dock to the ship and father and mother were afraid I should fall off into the water.

“The sailors said, ‘Miss, do you think you can walk the plank?’ I told them I thought I could, but they thought I might get dizzy and fall off so they were very kind. One man went on the plank before me and took my hand, the second man came behind me on the plank and took my left hand. They said if I slipped they would save me from going into the water . . . There was great anxiety among them when they saw me walking the plank with the sailors, and there was great rejoicing when I was safe on the vessel with them.”

The Loader family first went to Williamsburg, New York, where they all worked for a time. Even their daughter, Sarah, who was not yet twelve, worked as a nursemaid in the home of a wealthy family by the name of Sawyer. They left in June of 1856 and traveled to Iowa where they joined with their daughter, Zilpah, her husband, John Jacques, and their one-year-old daughter, Flora. Zilpah was expecting another baby, which was born on the plains in August. This new baby, Alpha, survived as (eventually) the longest-lived member of the Martin Company, but little Flora did not survive the trek. She died about a week before reaching the Valley.

One family record indicates two sons coming to America, but only ten-year-old Robert is listed with the Company. Robert died on the plains. James also died, fairly early in the trek, leaving his wife and daughters to finish the trek alone. The rest of them survived the trek, experiencing many miracles amid their tribulation. James had been faithful and courageous in defending his new faith. One of his greatest wishes was to see his daughter, Ann, in Zion. Surely the Lord granted James this blessing of witnessing his entire family in Zion.

Patience was blessed with a mother who was a very strong woman. She protected, sustained and cheered her children as well as others without complaining, and manifested great faith in God. She put on all the extra clothing she could carry under her own, so when the children needed dry clothing, she always had it, including dry stockings for them after fording streams. As the weather became colder and provisions shorter, they were given four ounces of flour a day for each person. Instead of the usual gruel, Mother Loader made hers into little biscuits and would have them through the day, thus having a bite or two for the children when they were tired and faint.

One day, a man lying by the roadside, when asked to get up, said he could not, but if he had a mouth full of bread he could, so Amy gave him some food and he got up and went on. In Salt Lake some time later, this man stopped Amy and thanked her for saving his life.

After one exceptionally cold night, Amy (whose health was also very fragile), could not get her daughters to arise. She finally said, “Come girls, this will not do. I believe I will have to dance to you and try to make you feel better.” Amy struggled to her feet, hair falling about her face as she filled the air with song. Louder and louder she sang, her wasted frame swaying as finally she danced, waving her skirts back and forth. The girls laughed, momentarily forgot their frozen toes and snow-covered blankets, as their mother danced and sang and twirled until she stepped on an ic,v patch and fell in a heap to the ground. Then, Patience wrote, “. . . in a moment we was all up to help our dear Mother up for we was afraid she was hurt. She laughed and said, ‘I thought I could soon make you all jump up if I danced to you’. Then we found that she fell down purposely for she knew we would all get up to see if she was hurt. She said that she was afraid her girls was going to give out and get discouraged and she said that would never do to give up.”

Patience had a sister, Tamar (22), who was very much grieved when she left England because she had been unable to convert her sweetheart and he remained. One night, while on the plains, after much grieving, she had a dream. The next morning she told her mother that she had dreamed that her sweetheart came and stood beside her and he seemed so real. But he was not alone. Another man was with him . . . In the dream the sweetheart finally faded away but the other man remained. When Tamar first saw Thomas E. Ricks in the rescue party, she took her mother by the arm and said, ‘Mother, that’s the man.” She did marry Thomas Ricks (after whom Ricks college was named).

Patience also had spiritual experiences on her trek. She relates that one day as she was pulling the handcart through the deep snow, a strange man appeared to her: “He came and looked in my face. He said, ‘Are you Patience?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘I thought it was you. Travel on, there is help for you. You will come to a good place. There is plenty.’ With this he was gone. He disappeared. I looked but never saw where he went. This seemed very strange to me. I took this as someone sent to encourage us and give us strength.” (The Loader family was met by rescuers at camp that night.)

Patience also wrote: ‘We did not get but very little meat as the bone had been picked the night before and we did not have only the half of a small biscuit as we only was having four oz. of flour a day. This we divided into portions so we could have a small piece three times a day. This we eat with thankful hearts and we always as[k] God to bless to our use and that it would strengthen our bodies day by day so that we could perform our duties. And I can testify that our heavenly Father heard and answered our prayers and we was blessed with health and strength day by day to endure the severe trials we had to pass through on that terrible journey before we got to Salt Lake City. We know that if God had not been with us that our strength would have failed us . . . I can say we put our trust in God and he heard and answered our prayers and brought us through to the valleys.”

Martin Handcart Company: Sarah Ellen Ashton

Day Saints and they made plans to sail for American. Sarah’s parents, William (33 or 34) and Betsy Barlow Ashton (33), their children Betsy (11), Sarah Ellen (10), Mary (4), and Elizabeth Ann (1 or 2), left Liverpool, England in may 1856 on the ship “Horizon”.

While at sea (or in Boston), Sarah’s sister, Elizabeth, died. The family arrived in America and traveled to Iowa City, Iowa. They had to wait there nearly a month for their handcarts to be finished. they then joined with the Martin Company.

They traveled several weeks and on August 4, 1856, a baby girl, Sarah Ann, was born on the plains in Nebraska. A short time later on August 26, 1856, Sarah Ellen’s mother, Betsy, died. Two weeks later on September 11, 1856, the new baby, Sarah Ann, also died.

After this sad tragedy, Sarah’s father became discouraged, left his three little girls with the company, returned to New York, and later went back to England. The Saints cared for the little girls as well as they could. They all suffered greatly from food shortages and the lack of warm clothing. Sarah Ellen’s oldest sister, Betsy, froze to death. This left Sarah and her sister, Mary, to continue walking on to the Salt Lake Valley. They arrived on November 30, 1856.

They were met by a group of Saints who took them in and cared for them. Later, they found a home with the Hatfield family in Farmington, Utah. They remained there until Sarah married Thomas W. Beckstead when she was 15. Sarah and Thomas had 10 children, four of whom died as infants.

Sarah devoted her life to her children, her husband, and her church. In 1887, the Beckstead family moved to Idaho. Sarah read in the paper where her father was advertising for his family. Sarah Ellen sent to England for him to come and join her family. Sarah’s father accepted her invitation and Sarah cared for her father until his death.

Sarah Ellen lived a good life helping the sick and needy. Surely, she learned to trust in God and be forgiving. She lived to be 92.

Martin Company: Pioneer Story-Mary Barton

I was born in Southport, Lancashire, England, January 13, 1842. My mother died when I was a year old. At the age of six, I went to school, but had to stop when I reached my tenth birthday. At twelve I went out to work for my living.

When 14 years old I left England to come to Utah for the Gospel’s sake. That was on May 22, 1856.

One day while on the ship, I was in the cooking room getting our dinner. It was so crowded there was hardly standing room. All were cooking their meal. One man was boiling soup in a milk pan. When he took the soup from the stove, he lifted it over my head in order to carry it through the crowd. While doing so, someone knocked against him, and it fell out of his hand on my back. My father stood outside waiting for me to come with the dinner. I ran out to him and said, “I am burned.” He said, “Come downstairs and lets get some oil”. So we ran down and got one of the Mormon elders to administer to me. My pain had gone, and I never felt any more of it. Some of the soup went on the hands of the man who spilled it on me. He put his hands in a bucket of cold water and wasn’t administered to. He not being a convert, he wouldn’t hear of having the elders pray for him. His hands were blistered and didn’t get well for two weeks.

We had been five weeks on the sea when we landed in Boston. We were very glad to walk on land agin. We left Boston for Iowa and were eight days on the train. When we arrived in Iowa, we had three miles to walk to the camp grounds. It rained all the way, and we were soaking wet when we reached camp that night at twelve o’clock.

We had to stay on the camp grounds five weeks waiting for the handcarts to be made. When everything was ready we started. Traveling through Ohio and Council Bluffs (Nebraska), we had to cross the Missouri River which was about a mile from Florence. At that time so many of our company took sick that we had to camp at Florence for two weeks. Then we started on a journey of thirteen hundred miles across the plains. The people began to get sick and died from drinking muddy water. We had to drink pools of rain water most of the time. While traveling, one of the wagons split and let flour out. The Indians who were nearly starved to death came along behind picking it up and eating it, dirt and all.

One day while we were camped an Indian came to me and asked me to give him my shawl which I had on my shoulders. I told him it was all I had to keep me from freezing to death. He turned and walked away.

The soldiers came and guarded us past Chimney Rock. They stayed with us until we reached Fort Bridger. There they stopped and we had to go on alone. When we got on one side of Devils Gate, we had to rest about a week, and our cattle died. We roasted the feet and the hides. Then we ate them.

Joseph Young came on a donkey to meet us. He told us to come on about three miles further. Then we would meet the Mormons who were coming to meet us with wagons of provisions. They could only carry a small amount because the snow was so deep, and they had to carry grain for their horses.

We started that morning and traveled all day. We got to the Mormon camp about five o’clock. The next morning we started with the Mormons and camped at South Pass that night. After pitching our tents we lay down on the ground to get some sleep and rest. In the night the tents all blew over. It was all ice and snow where I was laying, and when the tents blew off I didn’t wake up I was so tired. One man came and looked at me. He called some more men over saying, “I wonder if she is dead?” He patted me on the head and just then I opened my eyes. He jumped back. I tried to raise my head but found that my hair was frozen to the ground. They chopped the ice all around my hair, and I got up and went over to the fire and melted the large pieces of ice that were clinging to my hair. The men laughed to think that I could lie there all night with my hair frozen in the ice, but were very glad that I wasn’t dead. This same night the handcarts all blew away, and some of us had to walk until we met some other wagons.

Mrs. Unthanks got her feet frozen and had to have them taken off, but when we met more wagons we could all ride. There were four men in our tent, and all of them died, father dying first. …

We reached Salt Lake City the last of November, 1856. We were waiting on the streets for people to ask us home with them.


Understanding may lead to new insights


Understanding Past Lessons from others can given us new lessons

My Ancestor’s HistoryEdward Martin Story