Red Buttes, The Rescue, Martin’s Cove,
and on to Salt Lake City
“At one time I became so weary and overcome with cold that I fell down and was forced to lay there for some time”
Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
’Tis better far for us to strive
Our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell—
All is well! All is well!
Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
’Tis not so; all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward
If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we’ll have this tale to tell—
All is well! All is well!
We’ll find the place which God for us prepared,
Far away in the West,
Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid;
There the Saints will be blessed.
We’ll make the air with music ring,
Shout praises to our God and King;
Above the rest these words we’ll tell—
All is well! All is well!
And should we die before our journey’s through,
Happy day! All is well!
We then are free from toil and sorrow, too;
With the just we shall dwell!
But if our lives are spared again
To see the Saints their rest obtain,
Oh, how we’ll make this chorus swell—
All is well! All is well!
Text: William Clayton, 1814–1879 (Hymns 30)
The handcart company, after the snow of October 19 made little or no progress for the next week as the struggled through the Red Buttes area. The first day they traveled seven miles to get closer to a source of wood for fuel. “The bugle Sounded early in the morning for us to travle seven miles as we could not get any wood to make a fire[.]” (Archer, CH) “It was a wet, heavy snow, and the striking our tents this morning was hard work…. The morning after the first snow, October 20, I remember well our traveling and that the wind blew and the snow fell and beat in our faces all the time while making only four or five miles. As we tugged and pulled our carts the snow stuck and rolled up on the tires two and three inches deep, the ground having been quite dry before the snow fell.” (Rogerson, Church History)
They did make five miles the first couple of days, and then a day with no progress. “Wednesday, October 22, I do not remember traveling, as the last two days’ pulling in the snow had wilted and downed the best and strongest of our company.” (ibid) Finally the next day another five miles brought them to Red Buttes, where they stopped to regroup. “Captain Martin must have taken an inventory of the physical condition of his company, and realizing our predicament, with the snow clouds still hanging around us, he must have decided not to place any more miles between us and the fort, near the Platte bridge, and the nearest source of supplies, if perchance we should be compelled to remain here for the winter.” (ibid) The day of the 20th, travel has hindered, but they struggled on, trying to get closer to the river for water and timber:
Near the middle of the day our camped was moved to a locality where we would be nearer the River and where also we could be the better sheltered from the peircing winds[.] we arrived at the Red Buttes at the close of days meeting the whole of our day’s march a bitterly keen wind and drifting Snow. Before we could pitch our tents we had to remove several inches of Snow which labour took a long time to perform on accound principally of the scarcty of Spades and Shovels in the Company (Binder, CH 2)
John Jaques remembered the traveling being all in one day, and then being snowed in:
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 and recruit. 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. 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 recruiting as well as could be under the circumstances, the snow remaining on the ground and the frost being very keen at nights. Here the flour ration fell to four ounces per day…. In addition to the flour 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 problem was how to cook it to advantage. Stewed meat and soups were found to be bad for diarrhaea and dysentery, provocative of and aggravating those diseases, of which there was considerable in the company, and to fry lean meat without an atom of fat in it or out of it was disgusting to every cook in the camp. (Jaques, CH)
Funerals became frequent at Red Buttes:
Edward Martin announced that six brethern and sisters had died, and desired to have their graves dug. The captains detailed men to dig the graves while others were allotted the task of sewing the departed ones up in a sheet….Later the bugle is sounded for all to gather at the graves when the brethern came walking in their turns with the departed ones and lay them in their graves, hymn 47 was sung in full.
Come, come, ye Saints no toil nor labor fear,
But with joy wend your way
Though hard your journey may appear
Grace shall be as your day.
Tis better far for us to strive,
Our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this, and joy your hearts will swell
All is well; all is well.
Brother Porter made the dedicatory prayer amidst much sorrow and shedding of tears. At conclusion, all go to their several tents and wagons, tenderly leading the bereft ones to their tents, giving them words of comfort and consolation. (Bond, CH)
Isaac was frequently called upon to help dig graves. “…Many of them died, which I helped to bury.” (Wardle, Isaac, 1) No story is as poignant as that of Elizabeth Jackson, later Kingsford:
After crossing the river, my husband was put on a hand cart and hauled into camp; and indeed after that time he was unable to walk, and consequently provision had to be made for him to ride in a wagon. As soon as we reached camp, I prepared him some refreshment and placed him to rest for the night. From this time my worst experience commenced. The company had now become greatly reduced in strength, the teams as well as the people. The teams had become so weak that the luggage was reduced to ten pounds per head for adults, and five pounds for children under 8 years. And although the weather was severe, a great deal of bedding and clothing had to be destroy-burned-as it could not be carried along. This occurrence very much increased the suffering of the company, men, women and children alike.
…About the 25th of October, I think it was-I cannot remember the exact date-we reached camp about sundown. My husband had for several days previous been much worse. He was still sinking and his condition now became more serious. As soon as possible after reaching camp I prepared a little of such scant articles of food as we then had. He tried to eat but failed. He had not the strength to swallow. I put him to bed as quickly as I could. He seemed to rest easy and fell asleep. About nine o'clock I retired. Bedding had become very scarce so I did not disrobe. I slept until, as it appeared to me, about midnight. I was extremely cold. The weather was bitter. I listened to hear if my husband breathed—he lay so still. I could not hear him. I became alarmed. I put my hand on his body, when to my horror I discovered that my worst fears were confirmed. My husband was dead.
…When daylight came, some of the male part of the company prepared the body for burial. And oh, such a burial and funeral service. They did not remove his clothing-he had but little. They wrapped him in a blanket and placed him in a pile with thirteen others who had died, and then covered him up in the snow. The ground was frozen so hard that they could not dig a grave. He was left there to sleep in peace until the trump of the Lord shall sound, and the dead in Christ shall awake and come forth in the morning of the first resurrection. We shall then again unite our hearts and lives, and eternity will furnish us with life forever more. (Kingsford, CH)
Another story, just as heart rending is that of Robert McBride. Both he and his wife had been sick, and the children had to pull them on the cart:
it seemed as though death would be a blessing. for we used to pray that we might die to get out of our misery for by this time it was getting very cold weather and our clothing almost worn out and not enough of bedclothes to keep us warm[.] we would lay and suffer from night till morning with the cold[.] by this time the team was give out intirely and we had to take more load on our carts and had to haul Father and Mother[.] sometimes we would find Mother laying by the side of the road[.] first then we would get her on the cart and haul her along till we would find Father lying as if he was dead then Mother would be rested a little and she would try and walk and Father would get on and ride and then we used to cry and feel so bad[.] (McBride, Heber, CH 2)
Robert McBride of Scottish decent had been the song leader for the company. He sang by the campfire (See McBride, Peter, CH.) the night before he passed away:
1. O Zion, when I think on thee,
I long for pinions like the dove,
And mourn to think that I should be
So distant from the land I love.
2. A captive exile, far from home,
For Zion's sacred walls I sigh,
With ransomed kindred there to come,
And see Messiah eye to eye.
3. While here, I walk on hostile ground,
The few that I can call my friends,
Are like myself, in fetters bound,
And weariness our steps attends.
4. But yet we hope to see the day
When Zion's children shall return;
When all our griefs shall flee away,
And we no more again shall mourn.
5. The thought that such a day will come,
Makes e'en the exile's portion sweet,
Though now we wander far from home,
In Zion soon we all shall meet. (Lyrics)
He had been ill. His oldest son described finding him after he had been in the sick wagon all day:
I got father in a wagon and that was the last time we saw him alive[.] I went after we got the tent up but it was snowing very hard and I couldent find him so you will have to immagin how we felt[.] their were 3 other men in our tent[.] Wm Barton and wife and 2 children[,] 1 girl like my sister 15 or 16 years old[,] and 2 old men and my F[a]ther all died in one night[.] I think the 2 old men died like Father did[.] I went in the morning and found my father ded and frozzen stif covered in snow[.] whether he was dead and was put there or how he got there will never be known[.] tounge nor pen can never tell the sorrow and suffering[.] my sister[,] I and Mrs Barton got father to the tent[.] their was 2 families their in the snow and hardley anything to eat but their were men enough to bury the dead[.] …13 men died that one night and all piled into one pit[.] all died by hardship and starvation (McBride, Heber Ch 1)
the men that was able to do anything cleaned of[f] the snow and made a fire and thawed out the ground and dug a big hole and buried them all in one grave[,] some side by side and on top of one another any way to get them covered for I can as[s]ure you that the men had no heart to do any more than they had to[.] (McBride, Heber, CH 2)
Brother Jackson and Brother McBride were buried in the same communal grave. They started a fire to soften the soil, and they were buried on top of each other. The young men doing grave duty did not want to expend more energy than necessary. Isaac, no doubt was one of those young men. Another young man later commented, “Many dying by the wayside where they were buried each night where we camped and their graves were left unmarked except by our tears. At this season and at this part of the plains it commenced getting cold, and were again placed on shorter rations of 4 ounces of flour to each person per day.” (Housley, CH)
There is no record of the death of Betsy Ashton, however she likely passed away at Red Buttes. Family lore says that she froze her feet at the last crossing of the Platte, and died shortly after. (Wardle, Billy)
Travel at this time, because of the snow, was slow. “At last the snow got to be four and five feet deep and often we had to shovel a road before we could move. Thus our traveling was very slow.” (Clark, CH 2) Eventually all progress towards Salt Lake was brought to a standstill. “…After the usual tiring march, early snow on the eastern slopes of the Rockies made them helpless. Soon there were not enough able-bodied men to pitch tents or bury the dead, still less, to work the carts.” (Taylor, P.A.M. p 240) Rations were further reduced to 8 ounces of flour at Red Buttes; and then to four ounces. “There were 4 ounces daily and 2 for a child and sometimes a little piece of meat. O I’ll never forget it, never!” (Fullmer, CH 2) We wer[e] reduced to a quarter pound of flour per day and if the rescue party had not come out to help us, we should all hav[e] perished a miserable death by starvation and cold. (Jones, Albert, CH 3) With that little amount of flour “[we] were living on water gravy.” (Teeples, CH) “…We were in a starving condition and the oxen that pulled the wagons began dieing but everyone that died was devoured very quickly and us little boys would get strips of rawhide and try and eat it[.] all the way could do anything with it was to crisp it in the fire and then draw a string of it through our teeth and get some of the burnt scales of[f] that way and then crisp it again and repeat the operation till we would get tired[.] (McBride, Heber, CH 2)
Langley did not get much benefit from his food as it mostly would run through him. (Bailey) As a result he sometimes shared his food with Isaac. Even so Isaac passed through terrible hunger and suffered greatly. “They almost starved to death and more than once they singed the hair off the hides and chewed that. The longer they chewed, the larger it got. They would take it out of their mouths and cutoff another piece and chew again.” (Beckstead)
A couple sisters also described the use of the rawhide. “We went to bed without supper so that we could have more for breakfast. I found it some help to toast the rawhide on the coals and chew it; it kind of kept the terrible hunger away, for I assure you, I was feeling it rather keenly now.” (Camm, CH 2) “If any cattle died they were eaten to the hides and heads.” (Clark, CH 2) “We were so fatigued and hungry that we would stop and get raw hide and chew on, as our food was diminished.” Clark, CH 1)
Rawhide was not the only survival food. “…They were thankful to always find some berries or roots or willow roots or anything to save their lives.” (Teeples, CH) Bark was also eaten. (****)
Not only did the people suffer, but also the animals as the grass was under snow. “It is snowing heavy and the feed is being covered with snow, so the captains of both trains [Hodgetts and Martin] detailed brethern to cut trees and brush down so as the teams may brouse [browse] on them for feed until the storm abated” (Bond, CH) However, even so, eventually the oxen would succumb. “As the journey proceeded the oxen died one by one, the people ate them hide and all. Every ox died before the journey was ended.” (Teeples, CH) The pioneers were snow bound in the mountains for six days, still 500 miles from Salt Lake:
We were in a pitiable condition before, but the snow made it look hopeless….How we did flounder through that snow, tumbling over sage brush and crying with the cold and hunger. Then, when we camped, they had to scrape a place to camp in and there was not much to make fires with. (Fullmer, CH 2)
Several pioneers mentioned difficulty with the tents. “The wading of streams, and an occasional wind storm that leveled all our tents made it somewhat uncomfortable.” (Jones, Sam, CH) Isaac would have been busy keeping the tent up during this time. Langley Bailey would write in a letter to Issac, 60 years later, “I can remember one morning. every tent was blowed down. but ours. You did stake our tent down strong and firm My dear Brother.” (Bailey)
Isaac would also have been kept busy with burials, as death continued to be a daily occurrence, “With six to eight and more deaths every twenty-four hours.” (Rogerson, CH) “…Many of them died which I helped bury.” (Wardle, CH) John Bailey, who would have been partnered with Isaac digging graves, had this experience, as noted by Langley. “On leaving this morning my bro. John saw the wolves devouring the bodies he had helped to burry the day before[.] he tried to drive them a way[.] he had to run for his life.” (Bailey, CH 2) A fellow pioneer, who also helped with the burials said, “By October we had reached the last crossing of the Platte river and the snow storms started and cold weather set-in and our rations being limited starvation and cold began to tell onn us and many began to die and I have helped to burry as many as nine in a morning.” (Platt, CH) Another young man described burial duty in this manner. “It was a terrible job, as they are buried just as they were dressed.” (Mattinson, CH) Those who buried the dead, would eventually become immune to the scene. Speaking of the burials, Brother Southwell said, “…As time passed we became hardened, as one case after another is made part of our duties in this world of trouble. (Southwell, CH)
Daily the leadership would see how many had passed away. “In the morning an investigation was carried on to see who had died in the night and while the ablest prepared them for burial the others would actually hover over and lie by them and on them to absorb what warmth was in their dead bodies. One night sixteen were found to have died and they were all buried in one grave.” (Teeples, CH)
In terms of the burials another sister noted, “We witnessed some heart-rending scenes on our journey to Utah. Sometimes I saw as many as thirteen bodies being buried in the morning before we started on our way.” (Clark, CH 1) There were so many deaths, that a group of brethren were appointed to dig graves. This would have included Isaac. “Death multiplied until a burying squad was appointed to prepare graves at night for those who died during the day.” (Hafen and Hafen p 112)
This description was given of one of the graves. “Not far from there I saw 9 bodies interred in one deep large gravel pit just wrapped in any piece of cloth or convas [canvass] that could be procured” (Goodaker, CH) A young man noted. “The saints commence to dye [die] off daily when were sewed up in a sheet and laid in their grave with a little brush and earth put over them when a short prayer was said over them and the friends regrets were in leaving their friends on the plains not instead in consecrated ground in Zion.” (Bond, CH) The burial scenes were heartrending. There was a father buried with his baby in his hands. Both had died the same day. (See Kirkman, CH.)
The Lord’s help was petitioned in prayer:
Many prayers were offered by the saints to God to releive the hunger and distress the saints were in, to send help as soon as possible to avert suffering, sickness and death when many amens were heard in camp… …Again all were called by the captains of both trains to appeal to the giver of all good, and many fervent prayers were offered in behalf of the famishing ones, who were so patient in the dark hour that assistance may come to the needy and stay the storms which were causing so many deaths in camp. One after another over camp made short and impressive prayers amidst much anguish and falling of tears down their sunken cheeks. Captain Martin looked sorrowful and care worn, but was as firm as the hills that assistance would soon arrive to help all famishing ones. (Bond, CH)
The conditions at Red Buttes were a daily struggle:
After the snow caught us, we suffered terrible and many died. Provisions were limited; we were rationed on four ounces of flour per day for adults and two ounces a day for children. Our meat consisted mainly of buffalo.
One morning when I awoke, my brother John, age 15 years, lay dead by my side. He died of starvation and cold. During that night 19 people died. They dug a trench and laid them in it. We had to leave them there and resume our journey. (Fullmer, CH 1)
Even though rations were again reduced Oct 25 to eight ounces for adults, four for children (See Bleak Ch 2) Sam Openshaw indicated that some also kept their hopes up. “Yet, we did not despair. We look forward for support with gleaming hope upon on [our] countenances.” (Openshaw, CH) During this time the Saints held on, some giving themselves up for dead, and others holding onto their faith.
There are several stories of members of the company having visions of rescue during this time. One is told by Brother John Rodwell, who had a dream on Sunday October 26. He said on Tuesday or Wednesday of the next week he saw a mule coming into camp. He then saw three “Californians wearing blue soldier overcoats.” (See Rogerson, CH) Langley tells this story in a different manner. “While at pray meeting a bitter cold night[,] Bro. [John] Rodwell spoke in toungues[.] interpertation was the rescures wou[l]d be with us within three days, on the third day Jos. A. Young on a while [-] with another <man> wrode into cam[p.] O what a shout went up.” (Bailey, CH 2)
Others also had premonitions:
It will be readily perceived that under such adverse circumstances I had become despondent. I was six or seven thousand miles from my native land, in a wild, rocky, mountain country, in a destitute condition, the ground covered with snow, the waters covered with ice, and I with three fatherless children with scarcely anything to protect from the merciless storms. When I retired to bed that night, being the 27th of October, I had a stunning revelation. In my dream, my husband stood by me and said—"Cheer up Elizabeth, deliverance is at hand." The dream was fulfilled. (Kigsford, CH 1)
“As of October 26, the Martin Company had been stalled for six days in their squalid camp beneath Red Buttes, a full sixty-five miles east of Devil’s Gate… At last on October 27, Grant [Captain George D.] decided to send ahead yet another express scouting team, with fast horses and a pack mule, but carrying no flour, to search for the missing parties… the express would make the difference between life and death for hundreds of immigrants.” (Roberts p 228)
At morning meeting on the 28th Elder Martin made this announcement. “and while there he made know to the Saints the startling fact that our provisions had nearly exhausted. he informed us that if we were willing to reduce our amount of flour to one half of what it then was there would be enough to last us two days which he proposed we do[.] we accepted the proposition not knowing where or when we should have another supply.” (Binder, CH 2)
Several other Saints described this meeting:
Our food was giving out, cold weather chilled the body, the result death. One fourth pound of flour for adults, two ounces for a child, starvation for us. We had to make porridge with our flour as the allotment was too small to bake bread…
We stayed several days. Not far from here the captain called us together to tell us we must lay our bodies down. Were we willing to do so for the Gospel’s sake? Many poor half-starved men shouted with what remaining strength they had, ‘Aye”. But mothers could not say that and were quiet. We went back to our tents, food would have suited us then. My faith was in my Heavenly Father; I never lost that faith in Him. (Camm, CH 1)
The outlook was very discouraging. The Captain called a meeting and told us there was only enough food for one more day and asked us if we would rather have it all or divide it into three days. We all agreed to divide it. And despite our desperate situation we sang the handcart songs. One was, "If we should die before our journey's through, Happy day! All is well!" The camp gave up to die, if need be, and scarcely a dry eye was left to see the dying.
…At last the Company gave up and decided they could go no further. We all gathered around and held a meeting, praying God to help us, as we knew it was Him alone who could deliver us from death. We were happy and willing to die for a just cause. The Lord knew our desperate condition, and sent us deliverance. A hurrah! burst from the camp as three messengers came riding in (Clark, CH 1)
The snow got so deep and so heavy that it was very difficult to travel. We finally decided we could not get any farther and so we concluded we just as well die there as anywhere else so we gave up trust in God to deliver us. That night three teams from the valley arrived and reported that more would be there soon and no one that has never been in such a fix could imagine how we felt or how men and women knelt down and thanked the almighty God for our delivery from certain death. It put new life into the people. (McBride, E.E., CH)
Fortunately, this was the day relief found them. George D. Grant, who was Captain of the rescue effort, had decided to send a forward scout team from Devil’s Gate:
Not having much feed for our horses they were running down very fast, and not hearing anything from the companies, I did not know but what they had taken up quarters for the winter, consequently we sent on another express to the Platte bridge. When that express returned, to my surprise I learned that the companies were all on the Platte river, near the upper crossing, and had been encamped there nine days, waiting for the snow to go away, or, as they said, to recruit their cattle. (Grant, CH)
John Bond described the rescue, which he saw through the eyes of Sister Scott:
Alas! In the after part of the day, I was playing in front of Sister Scott's wagon with her son Joseph, then seven years old and his mother was looking to the westward. All at once Sister Scott sprang to her feet in the wagon and screamed out at the top of her voice. I see them coming! I see them coming! Surely they are angels from heaven. At such being said, I looked the way she was looking, but could not see or perceive what she was looking at in the distance. When again she called out, I see them plainer! plainer! plainer! I still looked the way she was looking, but could not see what she saw, and I was so anxious to see what she was looking at. By this time, more of the Brethern and Sisters came from their tents and wagons, from over the camp anxious to observe what she saw in the distance.
All kept looking westward for the moving objects, when all commenced to see in the far distance at the curve of the hill what Sister Scott saw, and it was three men on horses driving another slowly in the deep crusted snow, and the wolves were howling in all directions. Still the saints keep waiting for the moving objects, <as> all were anxious to see the relief party coming to releive the distress all were in bringing assistance to elivate [alleviate] the loving saints in all directions. Undaunted faith as the moving objects could be seen distinctly a general cry rent the air. Hurrah! hurrah! Some of the voices choking with laughter and of tears down care worn cheeks. They were so pleased to know that they were to be saved and delivered from the fears of ignomenious death. When Sister Scott waved her shawl, "We are saved!" so loud that all in camp could hear her and still repeating, "It is! It is surely the relief party from Utah."
Joseph A. Young, Daniel W. Jones and Abraham Garr came into camp with a small dun colored mule packed with supplies when much rejoicing insued through camp with Hurrahs! Hurrahs! again and again as the broken hearted mothers ran clasping their emaciated arms around the necks of the relief party, kissing them time and time again and as do rush up in groups to welcome the brethern, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters fall on each others necks the tears falling from their eyes in profusion being so overjoyed to think that all were to soon have relief and care… (Bond, CH)
The rescuers were Dan Jones, Cecil Gurr and Joseph Young, “Joseph A. Young, Abe Garr and I were selected. (Some histories give other names, but I was there myself and am not mistaken). With picked saddle horses and a pack mule we started out.” (Jones) The rescuers wore blue coats, that had the appearance of being military coats, but weren’t. They had been sent as an advance team to locate the Martin Company and the two wagon companies. The rescuers noted:
We traveled until the 28th, when we met Capt. Edward Martin's company of hand carts and Capt. Hodgett's wagon company, at a place called Red Buttes, 16 miles below the Platte bridge. We met Capt. J. A. Hunt's wagon company 26 miles below the bridge. The brethren and sisters appeared to be in good health and spirits. Capt. Martin informed us that about 56 out of 600 had died upon the plains, up to that date. Those who had died were mostly old people. (Young, Joseph, CH)
…We saw a white man’s shoe track in the road. Bro. Young called out, “Here they are.” We put our animals to their utmost speed and soon came in sight of the camp at Red Bluff. This was Brother Edward Martin’s hand-cart company and Ben Horgett’s [Hodgetts] wagon company…
This company was in almost as bad a condition as the first one. They had nearly given up hope. Their provisions were about exhausted and many of them worn out and sick. When we rode in, there was a general rush to shake hands. I took no part in the ceremony. Many declared we were angels from heaven. I told them I thought we were better than angels for this occasion, as we were good strong men come to help them into the valley, and that our company, and wagons loaded with provisions, were not far away. I thought this the best consolation under the circumstances. Brother Young told the people to gather “up” and move on at once as the only salvation was to travel a little every day. This was right and no doubt saved many lives. (Jones)
The rescuers arrived on Tuesday while the camp was in prayer meeting. Members of the company provided these views of the arrival of the three “angels”:
Hand shaking, thanks and praises followed for some time, and if there was a dry cheek in that company it wasn’t in the three of the relief express. Immediately a meeting was called, the news and particulars of the whereabouts of the relief teams from the valley made known; a pound of flour per head ordered to be issued to every adult, and a proportionate amount for the children, and the balance of the day was spent in cooking, baking and getting ready for another start in the morning to reach some eight or ten of the mule and horse relief teams, forty-five miles west of us, near the first crossing of the Sweetwater and a few miles east of Devil’s Gate. (Rogerson, CH 1)
On the next morning I was sitting front of the ambulance and looking up the road that we would have to travel I saw two or three men with packed horses or burros coming toward us. I called Captain Martin to bring his glasses to see who they were. They seemed to me to be white men. They proved to be a party looking for us. They had left their wagon and had started to find us. They had principally clothing for us but there was wagons loaded with pr[o]visions and everything needed for to help the poor emigrants. When the Captain told the People that help was coming to relieve us and to help us through the Mountains and we would travel on as soon as possible and meet the parties and would reach our journey's end, it was a sight to behold to see the old and young go right to those men and almost try to pull them off their horses and caress them for their goodness in trying to help them to the land of promise. (Goodaker, CH)
It was at this place that Joseph A. Young arrived as the leader of the relief party sent from the valleys by President Brigham Young—he rode a white mule down a snow covered hill or dug way. The white mule was lost sight of on the white background of snow, and Joseph A. with his big blue soldiers' overcoat, its large cape and capacious skirts rising and falling with the motion of the mule, gave the appearance of a big blue winged angel flying to our rescue.
The scene that presented itself on his arrival I shall never forget; women and men surrounded him, weeping, and crying aloud; on their knees, holding to the skirts of his coat, as though afraid he would escape from their grasp and fly away. Joseph stood in their midst drawn up to his full height and gazed upon their upturned faces, his eyes full of tears. I, boy as I was, prayed "God bless him." (Jones, Albert, Church History)
That night three teams came and reported more on the road and no one but one person having gone through that experience can imagine what a happy moment it was for this belated handcart company. Men, women, and children knelt down and thanked the Almighty God for our delivery from certain [p.362] death. It put new life into all the people. (McBride, Peter, BYU)
Speaking of Joseph Young, some of the pioneers said:
he call for the bugler To call everybody out of ther[e] tents[.] he then told the captain Edward Martin if he had flour enough to give us all one pound of flour each and said if there was any cattle to Kill and give us one pound of beef each Saying there was plenty provisions and clothing coming for us on the road[,] but to Morrow Morning we must Make a Moove from there[.] (Archer, CH)
About noon a horseman was seen coming into our camp, and he looked like an angel to us poor starving emigrants who had eaten nothing but flour for three days. With words of encouragement he entreated us to make another start. But, many, while their will was good, their strength failed them and they dropped and froze to death by the way. (Housley, CH)
The rescuers provided this description of the handcart pioneers, after their enduring stay at Red Buttes:
We found the Martin Company in a deplorable condition, they having lost fifty-six of their numbers since crossing the North Platte, nine days before. Their provisions were nearly gone, and their clothing almost worn out. Most of their bedding had been left behind, as they were unable to haul it, on account of their weakened condition. We advised them to move on, every day just as far as they could, as that was the only possible show they had to escape death. (Hafen and Hafen, pp 117-15, citing Improvement Era xvii p 204)
Edward Martin reported 56 members of the company had passed away since leaving Florence, Nebraska. (Bleak, CH 2) Certainly, without this timely rescue, even more would have passed away.
Recalling this time at Red Buttes, John Bond who was with the Hodgett Company later penned:
Snow Bound Camp of Death In Memory
In Red Butes camp we met,
Around the camp fire sat,
Watching the needy day by day;
When the scanty meals ale [ate]
Their tearful eyes do not forget,
With angels spirits have flown away.
Sewed up in sheets there
When kind brothers then bear,
Where the snow covered willows wave;
Lowering them down with care
Then offer o'er them a short prayer,
And lower them into their grave.
Day afler [after] day loved hymns sing
While lifeless remainders do bring
When all is done for the best,
On each others necks did cling
When pale hands did then [w]ring
Weeping when loved ones are lowered to rest.
Alas! such untimely death gains
Bringing lifeless body remains,
Such did seem a great pity;
See scattered oer the Platte plains
Those bleaching bone remains,
O'er the Rocky's to Salt Lake City.
In conclusion do now say
To all friends while I may,
Hope to meet the loved by and by;
With respects to them pay
And forever with them stay
In the mansions of glory upon high.
Joseph A. Young, D.W. Jones, and Abraham Garr. (Bond, CH)
John Jaques later reported there was new energy and activity in camp. “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.” (Jaques, CH) They were provided additional ration out of what was left, with the knowledge more provisions were close at hand. “…It seemed to give the people strength and were allowed a little more flour out of the two remaining sacks.” (Mattinson, CH) John Jaques’ mother-in-law, Sister Loader talked of their timely rescue:
we got our flour and beef before night came on and we was all busy cooking and we fealt to thank God and our Kind brothers that had come to help us in our great disstress and miserey for we was suffering greatly with cold and hunger[.] when night came we went to bed[.] we slept pretty comfortable more So than we had done for some time[.]…
we was all glad to Make moove from this place[.] it Seemed that if God our Father had not sent help to us that we must all have persihed and died in a short time for at that time we had only very little proveseans left and at the request of Br Martin we had come on four ounces of flour a day for each one to make the flour last us as long he could [.] (Archer, CH)
However, after being found, the company was still far from rescued:
When at last the company arrived from Salt Lake with supplies it did not encrease our rations any. The only difference it made, our rations continued as they had been and if the relief had not come, in a few days we would have had no food at all. The company, when they started to our relief, had plenty of provisions but had met two or three companies on the road who were out of provisions and they had divided up with them so when they reached us, comparatively speaking, there was only a little left. We had been traveling many days in the snow and the cattle having nothing to eat, became so poor and emaciated that they would lie down and no persuasion or beating could induce them to go further. They being worn out with hunger and cold, were nothing but a stack of bones and were not worth the time it would take and the delay it would make to the company to kill them so they were left for the wolves to devour. (CH, Watkins)
The night after the first rescuers met them was the night with the most deaths, with the total between 16 and 19 buried the next morning:
One morning when I awoke, my brother John, age 15 years, lay dead by my side. He died of starvation and cold. During that night 19 people died. They dug a trench and laid them in it. We had to leave them there and resume our journey. (Fullmer, Church History 1) In the morning we would find their starved and frozen bodies right by the side of us; not knowing they died until day light revealed the ghastly sight to us. (Fullmer, Church History 2)
The next day the handcart company moved on. “In the morning, we summoned all our efforts and strength, impulsed with the prospect of deliverance, we again started on our journey.” (Openshaw, CH) “Elders order the trains to Start West so as to get there relief as soon as possible. All finally start on again to get relief as there were many deaths occuring for want of medicine to check the disentary which was so prevalent for the want of salt in eating poor meat.” (Bond, CH) They had a goal of making fifty miles, to get where there were wagons waiting for them. The forward rescuers had gone on to check on the wagon company farther back. When they returned they passed the handcarts, who were having one of their most difficult times pulling as the sun actually was melting the snow, and turning the Wyoming trail to mud. Josiah Rogerson, referring to Oct. 29 and 30, “The roads yesterday and today were very muddy and slushy, and the carts pulled hard.” I like to think of one of these days as the day Isaac collapsed. “I myself fell to the ground and lay for some time.” (Wardle, Isaac) Speaking of this day John Bond would later comment, “It was a pitiable sight to see the saints lay on the ground to rest, while their friends would plead with them to try and make camp that their burdens would be over as the valley boys teams and wagons were near at hand to drive them to the valley. They still try and go on a short distance when they lay down by the roadside powerless to proceed.” (Bond, CH) Dan Jones commented on their plight on his return trip, as they were returning to the relief wagons to ask them to move forward:
We continued on, overtaking the handcart company, ascending a long muddy hill. A condition of distress here met my eyes that I never saw before or since. The train was strung out for three or four miles. There were old men pulling and tugging their carts, sometimes loaded with a sick wife or children, women pulling along sick husbands, little children six to eight years old struggling through the mud and snow. As night came on the mud would freeze on their clothes and feet. There were two of us and hundreds needing help. We gathered on to some of the most helpless with our reatas [riatas] and lariats tied to carts and helped as many as we could into camp on Avenue Hill. (Jones, Dan, CH 1)
The night turned cold, without much fuel. Dan Jones continues, “This was a bitter, cold night and we had no fuel except very small sage brush. Several died that night….The Company was composed of average emigrants; old, middle-aged and young; women and children. The men seemed to be failing and dying faster than the women and children.” (Jones) Sister Kingsford was likely describing this night when she said:
…the male members of the company had been reduced in number by death; and those who remained were so weak and emaciated by sickness, that on reaching the camping place at night, there were not sufficient men with strength enough to raise the poles and pitch the tents. The result was that we camped out with nothing but the vault of Heaven for a roof, and the stars for companions. The snow lay several inches deep upon the ground. The nights were bitterly cold. I sat down on a rock with one child in my lap and one on each side of me. In that condition I remained until morning. (Kingsford, CH)
Young Heber McBride explained that they marched for three days until they finally made it to the wagons. “We tryed along through snow and mud till at last we saw 10 wagons and it was a welcome sight.” (McBride, Heber, CH 2)
The wagons had moved forward, and met the pioneers at Greasewood Creek on Oct. 31. (Rogerson, CH) A rescuer, who came forward with his wagon from Devil’s gate, provided this insight. “Started this morning to meet the company of hand cars; met them on Greasewood Creek; camped with them tonight, dealt out to them flour, clothing etc.” (Burton, CH) The wagons contained “vegetables, meat, flour, clothing for both sexes, bedding and footwear.” (See Cluff, CH.) At the same time, the wagons were not completely full, as the trip had taken the rescuers longer than they had expected. (McBride, Heber, CH 2)
John Bond noticed the poor condition of the handcart pioneers, and their shoes:
The saints begin to show weariness of the journey by the sunken eyes and emaciated forms from constant travel leaving the dear ones on the plains in an exausted condition on arriving in camp miss the loved ones, though fatigued themselves they return back on the plains to find them on the road powerless to go on farther, put them on their carts, pull and tug with them until they arrive in camp near midnight their shoes were worn out, their toes protruding from the shoes in a bleeding condition. In the same way some were compelled to stay on the way and pull sand burrs from their feet shedding many tears. (Bond, CH)
A sister wrote of this push, talking of her mother, “…she went on her way rejoicing while walking the blood-stained path of snow.” (Clark, CH 1) Isaac was without shoes for part of the journey and left blood stains in the snow. One account written by a granddaughter of Isaac, Ollie Palmer Parkinson, states: “I remember grandfather telling us how he left bloody tracks in the snow as they came across the plains, and how he prayed for a pair of shoes and he came on to a pair by the side of the road. They were small for him and hurt his feet, but how good they felt to him, and he knelt and thanked his Heavenly father for them.” (Beckstead, Iva) This story doesn’t tell us what part of the trek he was barefoot, whether or not his shows had worn out, or if he started the trek barefoot or how early in the trip he found this pair of shoes. However this story does let us know of Isaac’s faith and humility. It is possible he got a pair this day as the cargo included shoes that had been donated by the Saints in Salt Lake. When the wagons met the pioneers, there were shoes included in the contribution. (Burton, CH 4) I don’t know if Isaac got one of these pair, or a pair discarded by someone. At any rate, his feet were shod the rest of the journey. “When we reached Devil's Gate, we met wagons from Salt Lake City with provisions and clothing waiting for us. From this time on, the journey was better and much easier.” (Zundle, CH)
Another pioneer found a pair of boots in the wagons. “…we traviled one day and found eleven wagons loaded with flour and clothing and I fit[t]ed me out with a large pair of shoes lined with stockingleg, that came up above my knees and they kept my feet from freezing.” (Platt, CH) Sister Loader Archer commented on meeting the first wagons. “we began to get more to eat and some shoes and warm under clothing which we all needed verry much[,] some worse than others[.] I was thankfull to get a nice warm quilted hood which was very warm and comfortable[.] I also got apa[i]r of Slippers as I was nearly bear foot[.] (Archer, CH)
The rescuers met the handcart pioneers at Greasewood Creek with big fires burning. Isaac described the scene in this manner, although he misnamed the location. “We met the first team at Pacific Springs, Wyoming [Greasewood Creek] who had provisions for us with them. By this time our company was much smaller than when we left Council Bluffs, as so many had died some had stopped at different places along the way. (Wardle, CH)
The Saints traveled from Greasewood Creek towards Devil’s Gate the next day in a snow storm. They camped a few miles short of Devil’s Gate. Sister Jackson Kingsford related:
…On the 1st. of November we arrived at the Sweetwater bridle [bridge], some five miles from Devil's Gate. We arrived there about dusk in the evening. We camped in about a foot and a half of snow. It was a busy evening before bed time in clearing away the snow. For this purpose many used cooking utensils, plates and other things. The ground was hard and almost impenetrable; and it was with the greatest difficulty that the tents could be erected. (Kingsford, CH)
John Jaques also described the difficulties with the tents this day, after everyone had given al. their energy during the day:
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 there about dark. There was a foot or eighteen inches of snow on the ground which, as there were but one or two spades in camp, the emigrants had to shovel with their frying pans, or tin plates, or anything they could use for that purpose, before they could pitch their tents, 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 a few minutes and then rest, then shovel and scrape and rest again, and so on. (Jaques, CH)
As previously mentioned, Isaac was very conscientious with regards to their tent, and made sure it was up, and staked well. “You did stake our tent well my dear brother.” (Bailey)
One of the Saints gave a classic description of the last day’s trip before reaching Devil’s Gate:
I well remember the afternoon march before we reached the place above mentioned [Devil’s Gate.] We had rested for noon along the roadside, and partaken of our scanty meal, when soon after we started on again, the wind blew up from the east, and the clouds came scurrying along the sides of the mountains. I remember those clouds; they looked like they meant mischief, and they got their work in all right; pretty soon it began to snow a little, light at first, but it was not long before it got down to business, and it snowed in earnest. The line of carts was generally a little broken and scattering, but on this occasion they all closed up, following right behind each other. It seemed to strike each heart that we had met the enemy and he had got us. Not a word was spoken. I never shall forget that silence as we trudged along, each footstep deadened by the fallen snow, which was getting a little deeper at every step.
There was no sound, save the faint creak of the little hand carts as they were tugged along. Where were we going! What should we do! God only knew; we didn't. It commenced to get dusk but on we pulled, it seemed as though this terror gave us fresh energy for the snow was by this time from eight to ten inches deep. At last when we were pretty nearly exhausted a log house and the stockade hove in view. We had not seen such a thing for many a day. It was so unexpected that it revived our spirits. We all gathered around the log house. It was soon filled with women and children; one long room and several hundred of us; our hope of shelter was soon dissipated; several of the women folks had fainted from the steam from their wet clothing, and the heat, and had to be carried out.
We soon saw we had to clear off the snow and take to our cold tents. At it we went, with tin pans and plates; there were no shovels or spades in our equipment. The ground here was frozen hard; we could not drive the tent pins, so we raised the tents on the poles, stretched out the flaps, and banked them down with the snow. and huddled in under the best shelter we could get. I do not call to mind any music or singing that night, but no doubt there were many a silent prayer. (Jones, Samuel, CH)
I think the journey these few days would be comparable to the Willie Company, and Rocky Ridge. There was no hill to climb, but first there was travel in the mud, and then travel in the cold and snow, as the weather let loose with all her fury. They traveled in the snow from Greasewood Creek to Devil’s Gate. Fortunately, the Valley Boys had fires prepared for them upon arrival. They even took wood from one of the stockades to make more fires.