Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Book Review: Handcarts to Zion

This book was written in 1960 and was the first book about the handcarts.  There had been other series of stories written for the newspaper.  It was written by Leroy R. Hafen and Ann W. Hafen.  It covers the entire history of the handcarts, and all ten of the handcart companies that came to Utah between 1856 and 1860.

It uses the Millennial Star to show why the handcarts were used.  The most famous quote from the book is in the introduction.  "But at only one period, 1856-1860, was the handcart employed for mass migration--the most remarkable travel experiment in the history of Western America."

The Hafens had an ancestor who as a small girl was part of the last handcart company.  The bias of favoring the church and the handcart plan is part of the book, and is to be expected.

The appendices are great.  They include poetry and hymns important to the pioneers, diaries, story of the rescue, and rosters of each of the companies (although not complete as Isaac Wardle is missing from the Martin Handcart Company roster.)

If one is studying the handcarts, this is the place to start that study.  It includes an interesting graph of all the companies, the number of immigrants, the number of handcarts, the number of deaths.  250 or eight and a half percent of the handcart pioneers died along the trail.  The majority, 150 were part of the Martin Company.

This work is important to our genealogy as numerous ancestors were part of these companies.  This includes, as part of the Martin Company, Isaac, who says he was responsible for digging graves for those who had passed away, The Ashtons, William and Sarah Ann and their daughters, Betsy, Sarah, Mary, Elizabeth and newborn  baby Sarah Ann. Sarah Ann, Betsy, Elizabeth and the baby Sarah Ann all passed away on the journey, Elizabeth in Boston and the others along the trail.

John and Mary Wardle, and their youngest son James were part of the 9th company, The Robinson Handcart Company.

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