Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Black Hills; The Martin Handcart Company

After leaving Fort Laramie, the Handcart Company had to travel through the Black Hills.  For this part of the trek, they left the Platte River, which passed through several narrow canyons, not passable by wagon.  This would have presented a most difficult haul.  The only good thing about this part of the journey, would have been that the Handcarters would not have had extra flour on their carts, as the flour was almost depleted, and what was left could have been carried on the wagons.  However they had reduced their rations by half since leaving Fort Laramie, so when nourishment was most needed, they did just the opposite and reduced rations in an effort to preserve themselves. I think very likely, it was this part of the journey Francis Webster was referring to when he made this famous statement:
     I have pulled my hand cart when I was so weak and weary from
     illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the
     other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I
     have said I can go only that far and there I must give up for I cannot pull
     the load through it. I have gone on to that sand and when I reached it the
     cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was
     pushing my cart but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the Angels of
     God were there.
It was after this experience that the pioneers decided to further lighten their loads.  They went from 17 pounds per person to 10, and left on the Wyoming plains many items which would shortly be needed, blankets and warm clothing.  However when the left them, they did not know that winter would come early, and with such force.
Isaac pulled Langley Bailey through the Black Hills.  Langley shared his rations in turn with Isaac.  The food was going right through Langley and did not do him much good.  That little extra gave Isaac just enough energy to make it through this part of the journey.

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