Friday, September 25, 2015

Isaac's History Chapter Eight: Florence to Red Buttes

Chapter Eight
Florence to Red Buttes
“I took a sick young man in my cart.”

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)

            Before reaching Florence Langley Bailey had become very ill with “hemorrhaging of the bowels:”

   By the time we reached Florence, I became very sick. An elder, a captain of a company, was called by my parents to administer to me. He came, said he did not have faith enough to raise the dead, and left the tent. Elder Franklin D. Richards and C.H. Wheelock, having arrived in camp were asked to administer to me. I was promised by them that I should live to arrive in the valleys. Apostle Richard[s] always remembered me by this incident, and spoke of it the last time we met. (Bailey, CH 1)
   After reaching Florence, a doctor was consulted, said I must not go another step or I would die and be buried on the road side. A captain named Tune [Toone] would not administer to me, said he did not have faith enough to raise the dead.  Mother on hearing that apostle F.[Franklin] D. Richards and C.[Cyrus] H. Wheelock had arrived in camp got them to administer to me. They promised me I would live to reach the valleys.  All this time I was unconscious of what was going on.  (Bailey, BYU)

            Isaac likely was witness to these events, but would not have participated in giving the blessing, being a teacher in the priesthood.  Because of Langley’s health problems, he became a passenger on Isaac’s cart:

   It is true, I was hauled all the way across the plains in the hand cart until the teams met us, by my brother, John, who was a lad of 15 years, and Isaac Wardle. I promised my [handcart] team that I would give them some of my bread if they would try and miss the rocks in the road, which pay was better than gold at that time. Our ration was a quarter of a pound of flour a day.   [Those] who pulled] the hand carts and stood guard received no more than the women and feeble ones. (Bailey, CH 1)

    Being a strong man and having no relatives in the company I took a sick young man (eighteen years old) in my cart. His name was "Langl[e]y A. Bailey", besides the sick boy I had 100 lbs. flour, a tent, and camp equipment for seven persons which I pulled for 1130 miles to Pacific Springs, Wyoming. John Bailey helped me pull some of the way. (Wardle, CH)

At Florence, The load on the handcarts was increased.  On each handcart was placed a load of 100 pounds flour.  Also it became necessary to haul the tents on the hand carts; before this time they were hauled in the wagons.  “Each cart had on 100 pounds of flour, and the tents were carried by the carts, a heavier load than ever before.”  (Jaques, Bell p 129)  Josiah Rogerson described the load in this manner: 

Our handcarts were packed and loaded to the bows, as the wagons, with 200 pounds of flour, and every cart where there were two able-bodied men, father and son, or two brothers, and 100 pounds of flour for every other cart, except where the children were numerous in the family.  Then the bedding, extra luggage—consisting of clothing, etc., cooking utensils, water casks or can, and on the cart where the two able-bodied were harnessed the tent for ten persons, with the wooden tent pins attached. (Rogerson, CH 1)

Isaac’s cart would have had close to 500 pounds.  He said, “When we left Florence there was some 740 soles in the company.  Some had stayed at different towns along the road.  When we left Florence I had on my handcart a young man 18 years by the name of Langley Ba[i]ley….and 100 lbs flour and tent and camp equipment for 7 persons, with John Ba[i]ley to help me pull it.”  (Wardle, Isaac 1)  The total weight: flour 100 pounds, Langley approximately 150 pounds, supplies for 7 men 119 pounds, the weight of the tent and camp equipment, 60 pounds and the weight of the cart itself, 60 pounds.
The weight would tell on the carts, causing break-downs which lead to delay, “we had to put on each cart 100 lbs of flour and all our luggage and our tents and the carts being without scains on the axels it was too much for them and they commenced to break down so that hindered us and caused great delay:” (Platt, CH)
The poorly made handcarts would be a bother.  Even before the extra weight they often broke down.  “On each handcart was placed flour and our clothing, as the wagons would not hold the entire load. At first we traveled fifteen miles a day, although delays were caused by the breaking of wheels and axles, the heat and dryness making many of them rickety and unable to sustain their loads without frequent repairs.  (Mattinson, CH)  “The Indians were friendly and their main trouble came from the green timber of which the carts had been hurriedly made.  When the green timber in the wheels shrank, the wheels broke, and they had to take precious time to stop and make repairs.”  (Wardle, Orrin)
We get a good count of the company and wagons from a report made by Franklin Richards and Daniel Spencer upon their arrival at Salt Lake City.  This account is from a week after they left Florence.  “On the evening of the 7th we overtook Elder Edward Martin, about 40 miles from the Loup Fork, with the rear of our P. E. F. Emigration for this season. He had with him some 576 persons, 146 hand-carts, 7 wagons, 6 mules and horses, and 50 cows and beef cattle; also one wagon mostly loaded with church goods.”  (Deseret News, CH)  Isaac had previously estimated the company at 740.  “We crossed the Missouri River at Florence. When we left Florence there were about 740 souls in our company. With Edward Martin as our Captain we did not have much difficulty on the road except a few visits from the Indians.” (Wardle, CH) This difference may represent some exaggeration, but Isaac may have also counted those who had dropped out as they travelled through Iowa, and those who chose to stay at Florence. William Binder gives the total of 700 pioneers.  “Our company now numbered nearly 700 souls, which made an immense string of handcarts when they were travelling.  (Binder, CH 1)
Pioneers gave these descriptions of traveling through Nebraska.  “On the first day of September, we started to cross the plains.  During the first part of our journey, we were as happy a set of people as ever crossed the plains.  We would sit around the camp fire and sing...”  (Fullmer, CH 1)  “The people had to wade streams, climb mountains, make and repair roads, etc.”  (Teeples, CH)  “As far as the eye could stretch its gaze there was not a hill in sight nor a tree. We crossed several streams of water and some pretty large rivers.”  (McBride, E.E., CH)
One of the young men noted that there was courting between the girls and boys.  He also mentioned “buffalo Chips—the dainty chips” as if this was a source for teasing the young women.  (Jones, Albert, CH 1)
August 26 or 27 they started from Florence.  The company passed Winter Quarters as they left Florence, August 27. “Passed through the ground which was occupied with the graves of the Saints who fell martyrs to the Truth in 1846 when they were driven from Nauvoo.”  (Binder, CH 1)
Of note to the company is the death of Sarah Ann Ashton, Isaac’s future mother-in-law.  She passed away in childbirth one day after passing Florence, close to the spot of Winter’s Quarter ten years prior.  As recorded by Patience Loader Archer, whose sister had a baby the same day, “My sister got over her trouble quite well but another poor sister Ashton died there that night as soon as her child [Sarah Ann Ashton] was born leaving the new born babe and three other children and her husband.  (Archer, CH)  As Isaac often helped to bury the dead, there is a chance that he assisted.  The baby, Sarah Anne Ashton would survive a couple of weeks.  The baby born to Patience’s sister, Zilpah Jaques, wife of John Jaques, would survive and later raise a family.
August 28 they arrived at the Elk Horn, and ferried across the following day.  (Binder, Ch 1)  Despite the hills and sand.  Isaac reported no early difficulties, except a few visits from the Indians, (Wardle, CH) Patience Archer commented on the days through Nebraska.  “We would travel all day and when we got into camp we would get some little to eat then we would sit around the camp fire and sing the Songs of Zion. Oh! Yes and our favorite hand cart song: some must push and some must pull as we go marching up the hill until we reach the valley.”  (Archer, CH)
September 1 they witnessed prairie fires. “Passed an immense prairie fire today, which was over a mile in breadth.”  (Binder, CH 1)  “We travelled 19 miles and slept without raising our Tents as it was very late when we camped. We had a fine view of the prairies on Fire in two places.”  (Bleak, CH 2)
Five days after leaving Florence, they hit the Platte River, and the much traveled “Great Platte River Road.”  “The journey across Nebraska would be more toilsome than across Iowa.  Factors contributing to the increased difficulty included heavier loads on the carts, the gain in elevation and the ubiquitous Platte River sand.  (Olsen p 88-9) The elements also contributed to the hardship.  September 3 they crossed the Loup River ferry.  (Haven, CH 1)  “Ferrying is hard work.”  (Piercy p 81)  September 5 and 6 they had plenty of sand, a hard hill, and hail.  (Haven, CH 1)
Jesse Haven documented seeing a group of over 500 Native Americans shortly after they left Florence.  (Haven, CH 1)  Other pioneers confirmed this. “Sept. 6—…We met a large party of Indians—men, women, and children with their horses and mules all loaded with skins going to Missouri to trade with the whites. They are the first party of Indians that we have seen. (Openshaw, CH)  William Binder documented a different motivation for the presence of the Indians:

We met a large body of Pawnee Indians numbering about 800 souls. Principally Chiefs and warriors. The Sioux and Pawnee tribes were at war with each other and it being customary with Indians to make secure there Squaws and papooses (wives and children) before entering upon their war campaign. The object of the present company of Pawnees was travelling east and nearer to the White’s settlements was to hide their wives and children and such of them that were unfit for war. The warriors were well armed with rifles and bows and arrows and many peculiar looking instruments, weapons of war peculiar to the Indian Nations: they manifested quite a friendly feeling to our company.  (Binder, CH 1)

The McBride boys were very impressed by the Indians:

   I will never forget one day when we met 3,000 Sioux warriers [warriors] all dressed in their war paint going east to fight the Pawnees. I remember how they laughed and jabbered to each other and how frightened we were but they gave us the road and made signs to us that they were our friends and they would not be unkind and not kill us and so we got over that scare allright.  (McBride, E.E., CH)

…Our company met three thousand Sioux Indians, all warriors all in war paint. Our people were much frightened, fear held the whole camp in its grip as they all expected to be annihilated. But their fears were groundless. They told our interpreters they were going to fight the Pawnee tribes. They wouldn't hurt us because we were mostly squaws and papooses. It would be cowardly to fight us, so they gave us the road.  (McBride, Peter, CH)

Running dry meant running without a fresh source of water.  The company ran dry for a couple of days.  The only water available was standing water, “In the afternoon the company came to a round pit or pond of water.  Parched with thirst the cattle rushed pell mell into the pond and stirred up mud until the water was thick and black, before the people had supplied themselves for their own use.  But it was all the water available so it was used to cooking purposes.”  (Jaques, Bell p 134)  “There was no water but an old mud pit,” recorded Samuel Openshaw one day.  (Openshaw, CH)
September 7 they were overtaken by Franklin Richards and his company of returning missionaries.  He addressed a Sunday meeting.  Up to this time, the company had the charge of a small herd of cattle.  Brother Southwell mentions the use of prayer, as a minor rebellion which resulted in the removal of this responsibility:

   …A party of elders from the British Mission arrived on the scene, consisting of Brother Franklin O. [D.] Richards and Brother Callister and some others in authority. They arrived in time to save us great trouble. They came up in carriages and prancing horses. They were royally welcomed into camp and took command temporarily. In the evening the camp was called to order by Brother Callister. He introduced Brother Franklin, the then president of the European Mission. Meeting was opened in the usual way by singing “Come, come ye saints, no toil or labor fear, but with joy wend your way.” Brother [John] Toone offered the opening prayer. In his prayer he used the words “May God send us a speedy deliverer from the arduous labors we are daily and nightly called to perform.” The people as if with one voice proclaimed a hearty “Amen.” Brother Franklin then made a speech which was applauded to the echo. He told us that we would soon be relieved of the responsibilities of the bank of cattle that were now forming so much extra labor, such as reducing our forces at the hand carts as well as double the number of men to guard through the night instead of giving them their much needed rest. The man who liked to talk said we were all willing to do it, Brother F. [Franklin].  The meeting was about to be broken up in the uproar which followed this remark, when Brother F. [Franklin] said you may consider yourselves dismissed. Amen was again echoed from every tongue.
   A meeting was held by the authorities with the following results. The herd was taken possession of by two horsemen who were with the party and were driven by them the remainder of the journey to Salt Lake City. Before starting, however, two small animals were killed and distributed among the people, being the first beef we had been the recipient of on the journey.

 The following day they again traveled through sand, “Traveled eighteen miles over a very heavy road.  No watering place on the road.  Considerable murmuring in the camp.”  (Haven Ch 1)  One of the difficulties in travelling “the road,” was to assure a good supply of water.  “Scarcity of water was the prevailing evil and it was then we suffered most.”  (Southwell, CH) The pioneers were now getting into the sand dunes or sand hill country.
The people had to wade streams, climb mountains, make and repair roads, etc.  …Mrs. Teeples says often the people would get so tired they would lie down under a bush or tree and then they would be very hard to get up. The leaders had to take a whip to them and lash them back to consciousness, when they would beg to be left to die. (Teeples, CH)

 Several pioneers commented on the difficulty of the sandy hills in Nebraska.  A pioneer of the first company commented, “We waded streams, crossed high mountains and pulled through heavy sand, leaving comfortable homes, father, mother, brother and sister to be where we would hear a prophet’s voice and live with the Saints of Zion.” (Heart Throbs of the West as quoted in Hafen and Hafen p 71)  A Martin Company pioneer commented, “…Traveled over the sandy bluffs…  Continued to travel over the sandy bluffs which is very hard pulling.”  And then a week later he said, “I think, the hardest day we have had on account of deep sands.”  (Openshaaw, CH)  The weight on everyone’s handcart would have been more keenly felt, and for those, like Isaac, hauling the tents and/or sick persons, the effort would have been almost super human. 
One tactic for overcoming the hills and the sand was to help each other by pulling on the carts while others pushed.  “When we came to a sandy, bad road, we helped the teams what we could by pulling.”  (Mattinson, CH)  A pioneer from an earlier company commented, “We … had to pull the carts through 6 miles of heavy sand.  Some places the wheels were up to the boxes…” (Bermingham, CH)   During this part of the journey, Francis Webster hauled James Bleak, who was ill.  It is very likely this event that prompted his famous recitation with regards to the trek:

I had pulled my hand cart when I was so weak 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.  (McKay, David O.)

Langley Bailey described an incident which likely was motivated by this hard pulling, and the strain upon his brother and Isaac:

One morning, believing I could walk a little ahead of the company I got this privilege from my parents.  My plan was to get away, lay down under a sage brush and die.  I saw my father and mother and my cart pass by.  I stretched out to die.  Just then a voice say, “Your mother is hunting you, jump up.”  I saw mother in haste coming towards me, wanted to know what had gone wrong with me. I told her I had planned to lay down and die.  I felt it was too much to pull me on the cart, at same time had as much luggage they could manage.  [She] scolded me a little.  She reminded what I was promised by Apostle F.D. Richard.  I rode on a cart until the teams from the Valleys met us.   (Bailey, CH 2)

A young sister also felt guilty about burdening her mother, needing to be pulled on the cart:

On August 25, 1856 we started on a thousand mile journey across the plains. I was ten years old at this time, and to my great sorrow, I had chills and fever, and had to have my mother pull me on the handcart, which was heavily loaded with our provisions. The deep sand, rocky roads, and fording streams made it almost impossible for mother to pull it, so we had to leave some of our things along the roadside.  (Zundle, CH)

Sand and stream were not the only obstacles.  “Nature… bombarded the emigrants with terrible pests, especially mosquitoes… “…There was nothing strange or new except the mosquitoes.  Their stings are most painful and irritating.”  (Piercy p 85)  “They were also plagued by chiggers, fleas, flies, gnats, ticks, lice, ants, bedbugs, grasshoppers, scorpions and spiders.  But it was mosquitoes they complained about most.” (Kimball)  Wind, and wind-blown sand were also obstacles.  On Sept 8 John Jaques recorded, “Wind right in our face.  Hard pulling over about seven miles of sand hills.”  (Jaques, Bell p 134)  The combination of sand and wind was a hardship.  “The wind brought the sand into our faces with blinding and choking effect.”  (Piercy p 88)
They witnessed a two-hour lightning storm Sept 9, followed by a “very heavy thunderstorm.”  (Binder, CH)  Graciously this storm cooled the air as they had been traveling very hot.  The heat would return.
The members of the company saw several types of animal life for the first time.  This included prairie dogs.  “Here I saw that curious little animal called a prairie dog.  It is almost as much like a squirrel as a dog.  It very much resembles a fat puppy of a light fawn colour.  It burrows in the earth like a rabbit…”  (Piercy p 86)  They also saw snakes, lizards and grasshoppers, “some seeming very large.”  (ibid p 90)   Buffalo were also seen.  “They are very singular in shape, and run in a most grotesque manner, and apparently very rapidly.”  (ibid p 88)  “We saw great herds of buffalos estimated to 50,000 in a herd.” (McBride, E.E., CH)  “Saw a large herd of Buffalo today also a good many Elk.”  (Binder, CH)  They also saw antelope and deer, with some success at hunting.  Wolves were also present, and their “hideous noises.”  (Bond, CH)  On one occasion “Elder Tyler killed a Rattlesnake and 4 young ones[.]”  (Bleak, CH 2)
Howard Driggs described some of the fauna they would have observed crossing Nebraska: 

For the younger ones, and for many of their elders, the journey across the plains was one of thrilling adventure.  The prairie lands in spring and summer were bright with blossoms. There was the fun of gathering new flowers, and sometimes wild fruits, along the way.  Prairie dogs barking from their populous villages, buffalo and antelope on nearby hills, wolves and coyotes slinking about, all added to the excitement of travel.  Besides, there were the various birds that brought life to the plains—wild geese and ducks, prairie chickens, owls and eagles, and such songsters as the meadowlark and the robin to cheer the way with their songs.  (Driggs p 67)

An issue with traveling through the plains of Nebraska was the great scarcity of fuel for the fire.  Trees were less and less frequent. The choice was to either go without a meal for the lack of a fire, or to gather buffalo chips.  There were plenty of buffalo chips there.  They are composed of grass, masticated and digested and dried in the sun…  They burn fiercely and cook quite as well as wood.”  (Piercy p 90) The young people were often put to the task of gathering buffalo chips.  (Jaques, Bell p 168)   “We had to burn buffalo chips for wood, not a tree in sight, no wood to be found anywhere. Just dry earth and rivers.”  (McBride, Peter, CH)   The constant searching for buffalo chips may have slowed the handcarts.  “Their progress was slow because they were all supposed to stay together and gather every buffalo chip they saw, for that was all the fuel they had.”  (Teeples, CH) “As the handcart pioneers trudged across the treeless plains of Nebraska the women and children gathered buffalo chips to feed the fires for cooking their meals.  Carts were formed into a circle at night, with the tents pitched in the center, and a guard put to watch.  (Hafen and Hafen p 71)  “…We wended on our way burning buffalo chips for fuel to cook our frugal meals.”  (McBride, E.E., CH)
Samuel Openshaw described camp life in Nebraska:

The weather is extremely hot which makes it hard traveling. Stopped at one o’clock, but moved no farther today. It would truly be an amusing and interesting scene if the people of the old country could have a bird’s eye view of us when in camp; to see everyone busy—some fetching water, others gathering Buffalo chips, some cooking and so forth upon these wild prairies where the air is not tainted with the smoke of cities or factories, but is quiet here. (Openshaw, CH)

The Indians were very active this season.  President Richards sent a communication to President Martin, which he read to the pioneers, which warned of the danger and advised, “to use his best exertions to prevent the company from scattering in consequence of there being several parties of hostile Indians lurking about the emigrant trail.”  (Binder, CH)  A summary of the Indian activity is provided by N.H. Felt in a letter published in “The Mormon:”

   We have passed through a dangerous country where many deeds of horror have been perpetrated this season, but we have been greatly favored, not even having, scarcely met an Indian, since leaving Fort Kearney to this place, though no doubt they watched us closely. Twelve miles west of North Bluff Fork, Bro. [Almon] Babbitt's train was attacked by the Cheyennes, two men killed, also, Mrs. Wilson's child [killed] and herself probably taken prisoner, and worse than death; this was below Kearney. While at Kearney we learned by a soldier from Laramie that Thos. Margetts and family and Jas. Cowden and family had been killed; the soldier had been in company with them a day or two, but had left them a short time in pursuit of a Buffalo, and on his return found the Indians robbing and burning the wagons, and saw the bodies of Margetts and Cowden and one of the woman,—the child still crying at the side of the wagon.
   Col. A. [Almon] W. Babbitt, after leaving his wagons, which had been recovered from the Cheyennes, by the Omaha's and placed them in charge of O. P. [Orrin Porter] Rockwell, started ahead with two men, since which no trace of him has been found, he should have been here eight or ten days ago. No. doubt, he and his companions have met with the same fate. He would listen to no counsel, but would go on with so small a party. There has been several other murders of single men, travelling the road, the particulars of which we could not gather. (Felt)

On September 11 the company passed the graves of the A.W. Babbitt teamsters who had been killed by Indians Aug 25, along with the baby of Mrs. Wilson.  Mrs. Wilson had left the handcart company to travel in the faster wagons of the teamsters.   She was assumed kidnapped.  An impressionable young woman provided this description, “We saw the place and the remains of part of their vehicles and some hair from their heads and parts of burnt clothing where they had been massacred. I think they were the Sioux or Cheyennes [who killed them.]” (Goodaker, CH) 
Sarah Anne Ashton the baby daughter of Sister Ashton who had passed away in childbirth also passed away this date.  William Ashton, the baby’s father and three other daughters continued with the trek.  The baby was “buried by the Wilson baby and two teamsters of Colonel Babbitt, 9 miles west of Prairie Creek.” (Jaques, Bell p 306)
Because of the Indian activity the handcarts traveled close to one of the wagon companies for a few days, giving the idea of strength in numbers.  For a few days as the passed opposite of the River from Fort Kearney they traveled together.  (Haven, CH 1)  The Saints passed Fort Kearney on September 12, but did not visit the fort as it was south of the River.  About this time Brother Edwards lay down and passed away.  He was hauled on a cart another five miles and buried during the lunch period.  (Rogerson, CH)  The soldiers at Fort Kearney warned the pioneers that there had been Indian activity upon the trail, with several deaths.
The worry about the Indians necessitated extra guards, especially at night.  “…The Willie and Martin Companies were constantly worried about running into hostile Indians.  Not long after setting out from Florence, the emigrants were warned by the relatively docile Omaha Tribe that Cheyenne’s further west were on the rampage.”  (Roberts p 171)  On September 20 all the men were required to guard for a time.  “All the men called out to guard for an hour or two.  Got wet through.”  (Jaques, Bell p 136) 
There were at least four Indian attacks on the plains documented this Summer, and one attack by the forces at Fort Kearney against the Indians.  The report by President Richards and Daniel Spencer to Brigham Young summarizes:

   Here, from a company of returning Californians met the previous day, we learned of the increased hostility of the Cheyennes, and that they had already made a successful attack upon A. [Almon] W. Babbitt's ox train. Of the four teamsters in that train two were killed and one wounded; and a woman named Wilson (as was presumed from the tracks) was severely wounded and taken prisoner, and her child, about two months old, was murdered.
The troops had made an attack upon a Cheyenne village and killed 10 warriors. This increased the rage of the Cheyennes, and from that time we were informed that they had divided into war parties for the purpose of attacking small parties of emigrants.
   Here we met a returning Californian who had escaped from one of their assaults, with the loss of his wife killed, and his boy, some 3 or 4 years old, taken prisoner.
   As we were leaving the fort for our camp on the north side of the Platte, a discharged soldier came to Capt. Wharton with the news of another massacre by the Cheyennes. This soldier had accompanied Thomas Margetts and James Cowdy, and their families, from Laramie and on returning from a buffalo hunt, when about 125 miles from Fort Kearney, found the wagon plundered and the murdered remains of his traveling companions.  (Deseret News, CH)

  Another attack was made against Colonel Babbitt and his companion.  The handcart company passed the remains of this attack Sept 23.  (Haven CH)
A small group of disgruntled Mormons had decided to head east, leaving Salt Lake.  The company passed the remains of this group, Thomas Maggets and James Cowden and families, on Sept 24.  That night all the men were required to guard until after midnight, and then the guard was doubled for several days:  (See Felt, CH and Jaques, Bell pp 136-7) 

Pres Martin had strong suspicions that we were surrounded by hostile Indians. For as soon as it was dusk we heard a most horrible yelling and barking like the hills were filled with the savage. Feeling that the company was in danger, and realizing, that eternal vigilence is the price of liberty Pres Martin instituted double caution and formed a large correll whith the handcarts, and having all the cattle driven therein; placing every man on guard duty all night, and by using the caution our camp was unmolested and our stock was safe. Although we were very much fatigued and hungry the next morning, having had no fires the night previous.  (Binder, CH)
Samuel Openshaw commented on this event, and the Indian activity in general:

…Saw the blood stained garments of Thomas Margaret’s [Margett’s] wife and child who had been murdered by the Indians. They are committing depredations behind and before. In fort [fact] they made an open attact in day light upon Fort Kearney. On the twenty Second of August the soldiers killed a great number of them, which has stirred them up against the white man, but they keep out of our way.  (Openshaw, CH)

A baby daughter was born to Elizabeth and Francis Webster Sept 23.  This child would grow to maturity.  (Webster, CH)  This was a hard day as there was a long pull up hill, which strained the handcart pioneers as well as the oxen.  “So many gave out and the wagons was loaded with the tents and what provisions there was.  Some of the oxen gave out.”  (Archer, CH)  This same day the pioneers had a taste of their first buffalo meat which was provided to them by the Hodgetts Wagon Company as members had shot one for themselves and one for the handcarts.  Nebraska presented the chance to hunt buffalo, as they were plentiful.  This was a problem for the hand carters, as they were not very skilled at hunting, and they did not want to upset the Indians by hunting buffalo.  They traded with the Indians for buffalo, and on this one occasion they were given a buffalo by the wagon companies.  (See Roberts p 168)  Rogerson pointed out that the buffalo were very scarce as they travelled, and although some hunted, they did not have success.  (Rogerson, CH)
September 30 they crossed the Platte for the first time, crossing to the south side.  As they passed Chimney Rock, October 3, the temperature stood at 112 degrees.  (Haven, CH)  Soldiers, returning to fort Laramie, met them close to Chimney Rock and guarded them to the fort.  A young member of the company ended up going with the soldiers and serving them as a cabin boy after having fallen asleep while sick, and was left behind by the handcart company.  (Giles, CH)  The next day they passed Scotts Bluff, (Jaques, Bell, p 141) the weather continuing hot.  (Haven, CH 1)
By the time the Martin Company reached Fort Laramie, October 8, they had experienced upwards of 20 deaths.  Deaths were now becoming a daily occurrence.  This included Sister Ashton and her baby, and a few of the older company members.  One brother’s death was blamed on hyperthermia.  “…They were told to be sure to see that their clothes were dried every night and not to go to go to bed in wet things, for the first one who fell by the way was a man who had been too tired to dry his wet clothes and the next morning, it was his turn to make a fire, and Paul Gourley called him, and he did not respond, and upon investigation it was found he was dead.  (Teeples, CH)  Jesse Haven, travelling with the Hodgetts Wagon Company, wrote a letter to Brigham Young to inform him of the death of Thomas Tennants, who had purchased Brigham Young’s properties in Salt Lake, and thus provided the cash needed to make the emigration of 1856 possible.  Jesse Haven commented on the handcart company.  “In Bro- Martin’s hand-cart Comp- that is now camped near us there has been between 20 and 30 deaths since they left Florence and are now dying daily[.] I understood 3 or 4 died yesterday. They are truly a poor and afflicted people, my heart bleeds for them.”   (Haven, CH 2)

Fort Laramie

The Saints arrived at Fort Laramie October 8.  Fort Laramie is located at the confluence of the Laramie and Platte Rivers.  It was built by the American Fur Company to protect their trade.  It was purchased by the United States in 1849 and improved by adding barracks.  It housed at least 100 soldiers.  (See Piercy p 92)  It presented the hope that provisions would be waiting for them to continue their trek.  This was included in the first letter Brigham Young had sent to Franklin Richards outlining the plan:

It will become important for you to forward us a list of their names and advise Brothers Taylor and Spencer that they may make arrangement accordingly.  If they will do this, nothing doubting, I can promise them that they will be met with provisions and friends far down on the plains, perhaps as low as Laramie if we get their names in time.  You know almost everybody has friends and relatives here now, that when they find their friends are coming will go out and meet them.  (MS XVII 1855 p 813)

The Saints had sung about meeting provisions, since starting their journey from Iowa:

And long before the valley’s gained,
We will be met upon the plains
With music sweet and friends so dear
And fresh supplies our hearts to cheer.  Handcart Song J.D.T. McCallester (Hafen and Hafen)

However there were no provisions waiting for them.  Some pioneers were able to resupply themselves minimally through trade.  “Our provisions by this time had become very scant, and many of the company went to the fort and sold their watches and other articles of jewelry. With the proceeds they purchased corn meal flour, beans, bacon, etc. With which to replenish their stores of food which had become very scant.” (Kingsford, CH 1) 
Josiah Rogerson, who was 15 at the time of the trek, felt the provisions had been adequate to this time:

Our rations was one pound of flour per day for adults, six ounces for the children under 9 years, a few ounces of bacon in proportion to the flour and the adults and children, and once a week a few ounces of tea and sugar to the family, aged and feeble, with some of Babbitts's saleratus and soda to leaven the bread therewith, but which in too many instances made the unleavened dough cake look as though it had a bad attack of jaundice.  Even with the above rations, limited in variety and quantity, the able bodied adults and middle-aged had stood the journey fairly well and were all right and good for another 500 miles. 
   During the afternoon, while resting here, numbers, if not all that had any money left, went to the fort and purchased from the sutler there, some tea, coffee, sugar, Babbitt’s saleratus and soda, black and cayenne pepper, crackers, bacon, etc., of which our supply that we had brought from Florence, Neb., had been getting short for the past week or two.  (Rogerson CH 1)

Some of the others disagreed about the adequacy of their food allowance.  “For although up to this time the daily rations of one pound of flour for each adult had not been cut down, the fresh air made them hungry and their appetites were hardly ever satisfied.  So at Fort Laramie they were glad to exchange their watches and other valuables for provisions which were sold at reasonable prices.”  (Loynd, CH)  
Giving up possessions and not getting their value was hard, but better than starving:
   Many of the brethren went to the fort to buy provisions, etc.  I went and sold my watch for thirteen dollars.  I bought from the fort commissariat 20 pounds of biscuit at 15 cents, twelve pounds of bacon at 15 cents and 3 pounds of rice at 17 cents and so on.  (Jaques, Bell p 141)
   We continued on with our journey with continued hardships, until we reached Laramie, Wyoming, about October 8, 1856.   We rested here for a short time, and it was necessary for us to dispose of our prized possessions and buy corn meal, beans, and other food as our supply was gone. We were rationed to a pound of flour per day. This ration was decreased several times until all of our flour was gone. The captain was very kind to mother and gave her some of the flour sacks to scrape off with a knife for what little flour was left along with the lint. With this, she was able to make cakes and mush to help sustain life. (Zundle, CH)
            There were a few wagons with provisions waiting upon the plains.  However the provisions did not make it to either the Willie Handcart Company or the Martin Handcart Company.  The first three handcart companies had met resupply wagons, and benefitted greatly from them. There were wagons on the plains to resupply the companies coming in late.  Franklin Richards mentioned in his report that he told the wagon drivers that the handcart companies were coming, and to move forward to meet them.  (See Deseret News, CH.)  However the flour from these wagons did not meet either company.  It could be they supplied a wagon company which was a week ahead of the Willie Company, or they just got tired of waiting and turned about before delivering their supply.  Perhaps there was confusion about whether or not the companies were crossing the plains or staying in the Midwest.  However with President Richards telling them they were behind, this should not have happened.  Still, for whatever reason, they did not meet the handcart companies, and did not resupply them.  (See Olsen pp 105-9)
            There were three companies of military at Fort Laramie, and they recruited from the handcart pioneers with some success.  This included William Ashton, who had already lost two daughters and his wife on the journey.  He left three daughters in the care of other handcart pioneers:

The three companies of United States troops at Laramie were not full in their enrollment and lacked from twenty-five to thirty-five men in each company. Inducements and persuasions were offered and made to numbers of our young men to enlist that had gone to the fort in the afternoon, and not risk their lives in the farther 500 miles’ journey from there to Salt Lake that season. The comfortable adobe quarters, and the snug and warm log rooms were quite tempting for a winter’s rest, with plenty to eat and though none stopped that day, Wednesday, Oct. 8, yet on the evening of the second day following, after we had traveled and gone seventeen miles west of Laramie, William Ashton, a married man, with a wife and five children, left them all and the company this evening, with Samuel Blackham and Aaron Harrison, the two latter single men, and another young man, a cripple aged about 22 years, walked that night back to Laramie and enlisted. The cripple was justified in so doing, as we certainly should have buried him miles east of Utah, but the married man’s wife died before reaching Utah, and three of her children got in in fairly good health.  James Thomas and Mary Jane Thomas, both members of our company, stopped and were married there, he enlisting in the infantry for three years.   (Rogerson, CH 1)

            Correcting the record, William Ashton had already lost two of his children and his wife, before reaching Fort Laramie.  He left three daughters on the plains. 
Isaac here would have been presented with a decision.  Most probably he heard of the recruiting at the fort, and could have stayed in more comfortable conditions.  However he continued on, pulling the handcart in which Langley Bailey rode, and performing other camp chores such as setting up the tent and helping with burials. 
From Fort Laramie the pioneers could see the Rocky Mountains for the first time.  Laramie Peak stood on the horizon, “grand, gloomy and mysterious.”  (Jaques, Bell p 141)  There was one blessing from the stop at Fort Laramie.  “One hundred buffalo robes had been purchased by F.D. Richards at Laramie, and these were eagerly secured by the members of the company.”  (Hafen and Hafen p 108)  These would provide some protection against the cold, which was shortly to fall upon them. 
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 presented a most difficult haul.  However, they were out of the sand, and after getting up to the top of the hill, there was downhill pulling, which was easier.  (Rogerson, CH 1) However the rougher road also meant more breakdowns with the carts, when there wasn’t time to repair them.  “In the Black Hills the roads were harder, more rocky and more hilly and this told upon the handcarts, causing them to fail more rapidly, become rickety, and need more frequent repairing.”  (Jaques, CH) The carts were lighter, without extra flour on them.  The flour was almost depleted, and what was left could have been carried on the wagons. 
October 14 they again crossed the river to travel on the North side of the Platte.  They were now starting to feel the effects of the elevation.  “Cold last night—pleasant this morning.”  (Haven, CH)  Then on the 15th they again crossed to the south side.  (See Hafen, CH.)  The weather became cold, especially at night.  “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.”  (Strong, CH)
As the food supply became short, it was decided best to reduce rations.  John Jaques described the constant hunger that haunted them, even before the reduction in rations:

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

 Another pioneer commented on the Black Hill country and reduction in rations.  “After leaving Fort Laramie it was found necessary to cut down the rations. The pound of flour per day was reduced to three-fourths of a pound. Later to half pound and still the company toiled cheerfully on through the black hell [Hill] country where the roads were rocky and hilly causing the hand carts to become rickety and to need frequent repairs.”  (Loynd, CH)  I like this man’s spelling error, because this country could have been known as Black Hell.  When nourishment was most needed, because of the hardness of the trail, they reduced rations:

Shortly after leaving Fort Laramie it became necessary to shorten our rations that they might hold out, and that the company be not reduced to starvation. The reduction was repeated several times. First, the pound of flour was reduced to 3/4ths. Of a pound, then to a half of a pound, and afterwards to still less per day. However, we still pushed ahead.  When we reached the Black Hills, we had a rough experience. The roads were broken, rocky and difficult to travel. Frequently carts were broken down and much delay was caused by the needed repairs.”  (Kingsford, CH)

These privations began to take their toll, and put an added burden on the young men like Isaac.  “When the first snow came early in October on the Platte River, and as the food supply began to run low, the strain of the trip increasingly showed on the women and the older men.  This meant that the pulling of the carts and many of the other heavier tasks and chores fell more and more on the backs of the young men such as Isaac.”  (Wardle, Orrin)  On October 16 the ration for adults went from sixteen to twelve ounces. (Bleak, CH 2)  “Soon after leaving Larimie [Laramie] the ration was decreased and when the first snow began to fall they were living on water gravy.”  (Teeples, CH) 
The people were not the only ones short of food.  “Grass for the stock also became scarcer, and the oxen began to weaken.”  (Hafen and Hafen p 108)
A description of the hardship provides some insight.  However it is not dated, so the particular time of the trek is not certain.  “…Often the people would get so tired they would lie down under a bush or tree and then they would be very hard to get up. The leaders had to take a whip to them and lash them back to consciousness, when they would beg to be left to die.”  (Teeple, CH) 
They would often help each other make it to camp:

   The usual way the hand-cart Saints lay down on the way, getting more exhausted as their allowance of food did not seem adequate for them to pull their carts and live on, and it was fast telling on them. But friends go back on the plains and help them into camp. Though fatigued in doing so yet they have faith in God to protect the famished and that they will receive the desired relief and camp shortly.
   The wind is blowing hard and the snow is seen on the Laramie Peak in the distance which gave every indication that a snow storm was near at hand, and the wolves are following the trains making their monotonous howlings in all directions a hideous sound to the ears. The snowcapped peaks bring much alarm for fear of the suffering ones in tent life as their bed clothing is worn badly from laying on the camp ground getting damp and cold to lay on, their wearing apparel is in a very bad condition with worn out shoes, their protruding and bleeding from them. It is a shocking and heart aching sight to see, and their care worn and emaciated forms with tears rolling down their sunburnt cheeks, God pity them. He knows of their wounded and aching hearts.  (Bond, CH)

Isaac told of his own feet bleeding due to inadequate or no shoes.  (See Beckstead.)  He would also have viewed the mountains with awe and fear.  The pioneers were so expended, they were no longer able to pull the carts.  In addition to reduced rations, they also decided the loads needed to be further reduced to save energy:

When we got out on the prairie our food ran short, our rations were then cut down and half and finally to four ounces of flower [flour] a day to grown people and two ounces to children, which continued day after day making the people very hungry and weak. With cold weather and winter approaching while out on the prairie, we all were frightened and a council was called at which they all decided, under the circumstances, to lighten the loads to a few pounds each, which was weighed out to them with a pair of scales, leaving out quilts and blankets, overcoats, cooking utensils and everything that could be dispensed with which were put in a heap and set fire to for fear someone would be tempted to pick out something that they needed so badly. Everything that human ingenuity could devise to try and save the lives of the people so they could get in early and the snows would not catch them in the South Pass and the Big and Little Mountains. (Watkins, CH)

   At night in our tent s [tents] 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…. During these times we had only a little thin flour gruel two or three times a day, and, this was meager nourishment…  (Walsh, CH)

   At Deer creek, on the 17th of October, owing to the growing weakness of emigrants and teams, the baggage, including bedding and cooking utensils, was reduced to ten pounds per head, children under 8 years five pounds. Good blankets and other bedding and clothing were burned, as they could not be carried further, though needed more than ever, for there was yet 400 miles of winter to go through. (Jaques, CH)

Wallace Stegner later summarized this event:

…At Deer Creek, they had had to make an impossible choice.  Faced with more than a month’s struggle through the wintry mountains, and with their strength daily growing less, they had thrown away not only all those small cherished possessions that they had carried this far, but much of their “excess” bedding and clothing as well, including most of the heavy buffalo robes that Franklin Richards had hoped would protect them against the cold.  Their baggage allowance from Deer Creek on—and few had murmured at the reduction of the loads—was ten pounds per adult, five pound per child. (Stegner 1, p 246)

When they left their bedding and extra clothing, they did not know that winter would come early, and with such force.  “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.”  (Kingsford, CH)  “Smaller grew the allowance and strong men became weak, women suffered terribly. …Bedding and clothing had to be discarded when it was most needed, for the loads were to heavy.”  (Kirkman, CH) There were daily stragglers:

Traveling began to get very tedious. Every day brought its hardships, fighting against hunger and cold weather and bed covering was not sufficient to keep us warm. It would be midnight, many nights, before all the company would be assembled. Men were detailed to help the weak ones into camp, and many were frost bitten, losing fingers, toes, and ears and dying from exposure.  (Mattinson, CH)

Finally, the Saints lacked the energy to push and pull: 
   During the afternoon Captain Edward Martin advised the whole camp to lighten up their extra luggage bags and canvas sacks as much as possible, by discarding and burning every article of wearing apparel that could be dispensed with, save and except our best and warm coats, cloaks, etc., for the coming cold weather, and the wisdom of this timely counsel was soon afterward realized. When many of the canvas bags were opened it was readily seen that the heads of many families were hauling and pulling luggage in the shape of books, trinkets and half worn-out clothing that could be dispensed with beneficially, and many piles of this unnecessary loading were burned here.
   We were also advised of a fort and a company of United States troops where a store and sutler’s supplies [at Casper] were kept, that we would pass on our journey the next day, and several members of our company were permitted and selected to take such articles of apparel (in lightening up our loads) to the fort and sell and barter the same for flour, dried buffalo meat, tea, sugar and medicines.
   In several instances this advice, carried out, was the means of saving lives during the subsequent weeks of snow and hardships.  (Rogerson, CH 1)

The pioneers were aware that “lightening” the load was a mixed blessing, and the mountains already loomed cold ahead.  This is recorded Oct 17:

At this place the authorities of the camp deeming it advisable to lighten up our luggage issued orders to emigrants to reduce the amount of their personal luggage to 10 lbs. per head; this action of the Elders in charge seemed to us a terrible hardship, as we were only very scantily provided with clothes and bedding and to stand by and see our bits of clothing and bedding burned on the spot, caused anything but a good feeling to exist in our hearts towards our leaders. Already the snow clouds were making their appearance on the Black Hills.  (Binder, CH)

Patience Loader Archer documents the first snow storm about this time, just before reaching the last crossing of the Platte.  “About the beginning of October we had the first snow storm.  We was then at the black hills.  We halted for a short time and took shelter under our hand carts.  After the storm had past we traveled on until we came to the last crossing of the Platte River.”  (Archer, CH)
Last Crossing
            The Saints crossed the Platte River for the last time October 23.  They crossed from South to North.  “For some reason, presumably to save toll charges, they had not crossed the North Platte on the bridge, but had walked up the south side to Last Crossing.  The river faced them, shallow but many rods wide, and floating mats of slush ice.”  (Stegner, 1 p 246)  This crossing was the fourth time the Mormon Trail crossed the Platte.  The pioneers had passed a fort and bridge six miles downstream but continued on to the crossing.  The two wagon companies traveling with or behind the Martin Handcart Company came up and provided assistance.  (See Hafen and Hafen p 108.)  Few pioneers kept journals during this time, but many later described the crossing.  Thomas Durham wrote, “We had a very heavy heavy hail storm that day and the river was very high and the water very cold.  It was all I could do to stand it.”  (Durham, CH)  There was ice and slush floating in the river, as a testament of the storms to come.  “We had scarcely crossed the river when we were visited with a tremendous storm of snow, hail, sand and fierce winds. It was a terrible storm from which both the people and teams suffered.” (Kingsford, CH 1) 
Because of the difficulty in crossing, the sick wagon was emptied and even the enfeebled were asked to wade across the stream.  John Bond, with the Hodgetts Wagon Company provided this description:

…It commenced to rain and then the rain turned to sleet while the air commenced to get colder just as the courageous Hand-cart Saints arrived at the opposite side of the river. Here Daniel Tyler sat on his mule giving orders to the saints to go on to the west side of the river as soon as they could as a violent storm had approached them and all looked gloomy to us especially the aged and small children in the wagons, and weaker ones. Here the weaker ones pleaded to the captain to unload one of the wagons and haul them over the river as they could not stand the cold water in their condition, the water running so rapid... The weak ones still begging and wringing their hands in tears and shivering with cold. "Do, captain do unload a wagon for us do! And let all ride over the rough and stony crossing." Alas their pleading was in vain, "You must have faith in God and you will not take cold wading the stony crossing." The Saints pleaded so earnestly, we could hear their appeals on the opposite side of the river. In tears and bitter anguish they cried, "Captain do have mercy on us." The captain still gave them a deaf ear to their pleadings.
   The captain repeated, "Have faith in God and you will not take cold", while he sat on his mule and saw those innocent ones, who had pleaded so, fall in the river as the current was carrying the weak ones off of their feet, but with the stronger and manly aid and courage of John Laty, T.J. Franklin, John Toon, Geo. Hains, Geo. Dove Sr, and others the helpless and weakened ones were taken to the opposite bank of the river and were given all the care they could when brought from the icy cold water. Those noble heroes went backward and forward several times carrying them on their backs, the weaker ones, which is worthy of commendation for their kindheartedness and worthy to be handed down to future generations.
   Before fires could be made for those who fell in the river, they cried most piteously. When all had arrived, on the opposite side of the river camped a short time to eat their scanty meal in ice cold clothing, a sorrowful spectacle, disheartening to see indeed. In the afternoon captain Hodgets and Edward Martin hand-cart train start on again, still snowing the first of the season and drive on to Red Buttes, Wyoming.

  There are several other descriptions of the hardships this day:

   On the 20th of October the company crossed the Platte, for the last time, at Red Buttes, about five miles above the bridge. It may have been the 19th, but I am inclined to think it was the 20th. That was a bitter cold day. Winter came on all at once, and that was the first day of it. The river was wide, the current strong, the water exceedingly cold and up to the wagon beds in the deepest parts, and the bed of the river was covered with cobble stones. Some of the men carried some of the women over on their backs or in their arms, but others of the women tied up their skirts and waded through, like heroines as they were, and as they had done through many other rivers and creeks. The company was barely over when snow, hail, and sleet began to fall, accompanied by a piercing north wind.  (Jaques, CH)

   The water was cold, indeed, and to numbers of our young women and middle-aged mothers and matrons, it proved a fatal crossing in the death of many and the ruining of the health of as many more, from which they never afterward recovered. …At least 200 to 300 of our company waded and forded the river, pulling the hand carts through behind them. There were wet feet and soaked shoes and socks with the men, but many times worse the soaked skirts, dresses and underclothing of our sisters and mothers. We gave little care for the crossing of the main Platte River several times previous, and other streams during the warm weather, but this crossing has been remembered vividly by all from that day to the present.  (Rogerson, CH)

On October 19, 1856, the Martin Handcart Company made their final crossing of the N. Platte River as the first winter storm descended on them. Charlotte Elizabeth Mellor (14) told about it in these words: "On entering the water, our first impulse was to turn back and not wade across. The water was so cold that it sent pains right to the bone and the muscles cramped. We steadied ourselves as we held on to the cart and pushed. Father pulled. By the time we got across, our limbs were so numb that we could hardly keep from falling as we trudged along. The north wind cut like a sharp knife."  (Tell)

On entering the water, our first impulse was to turn back and not wade across.  The water was so cold that it sent pains right to the bone and the muscles cramped.  We steadied ourselves as we held on to the cart and pushed.  Father pulled.  By the time we got across, our limbs were so numb that we could hardly keep from falling as we trudged along.  The north wind cut like a sharp knife.  (Olsen, quoting Charlotte Mello, p 325)

President Hinckley, in a talk given years later, provided a quote from the ancestors of his wife, who were in one of the wagon companies:

We have traveled from fifteen to twenty miles a day till we got to the Patte River.  We caught up with the Handcart companies that day.  We watched them cross the river.  There were great lumps of ice floating down the river.  It was bitter cold.  The next morning there were 14 dead.  We went back to camp and had our prayers and sang come, Come Ye Saints no toil nor labor fear.  (Riverton Hinckley Fireside)

The women held hands in groups to help stabilize themselves while crossing.  “It was quite a sight to see the poor women take hold of hands in wading thru the cold rivers with their cloth[e]s froze when they came to the other side.”  (Bailey, CH 2)  “My woman [Mary Durham] and her sister Eliza [Morton] crossed it sticking hands or they could not have stood up in it at all.”  (Durham CH) 
The death of Brother Stone, which occurred the day of the last crossing, had a lasting impression on the Saints.  He had delayed in crossing the Platte, staying by the fire at the trading post at the bridge.  Some stories indicate he had a young girl with him age nine to twelve:

  A man from London by the name of Stone, while trying to get to an Indian camp was devoured by wolves; when found by some of our camp, nothing was left of him but his legs inside his boots. (Housley, Church History)

   As I was leaving the soldiers’ quarters with the load of provisions on my back, I espied Father Jonathan Stone (I think from the London conference), a man of about 55 to 60 years of age, in one of the log cabins. He was sitting by the side of a fire on the floor—the cook handing him bread and meat, which he was devouring with relish. I went and called to him and begged and entreated of him to come on, telling him the time, and that it was getting late in the day; that I could see our company a mile or two off preparing to cross the river, and that the storm clouds were getting quite low. Sister Wilson…, was with me, and added her entreaties for him to come up with us to camp, but all the response we were able to obtain was his promise that he would be along soon. It was now between 3 and 4 p.m., and we made all haste to catch our company before they commenced to cross the river…
   After all had crossed the river…we traveled on up the river a mile or two that same evening and made camp. Father Stone did not show up or reach our camp that night, and apparently went back to the bridge on the road he had come; crossed the river there again that night and, turning west up the river toward the crossing, found his way into Hunt’s wagon company’s camp, with a young girl by his hand 9 to 12 years of age, making inquiries there as to the location of our camp, to which he belonged. He left this camp immediately after dark, without being further noticed by any of its members, the girl with him. This was the last seen of Father Stone alive, for when Captain Edward Martin, after missing him next morning, returned in quest to the crossing, re-crossed the river to Hunt’s camp and hearing the last they knew of him, he turned east on our back track and in a few miles found some of the remains of both the bodies and clothing, upon which the Platte wolves had feasted the night before. The name of the young girl I have not as yet been able to learn. (Rogerson, CH)

   Another man known as father [Jonathan] Stone, who traveled in company with a little grandchild, about 10 years of age, lagged behind one day and was taken up by the Hunt wagon company traveling in the rear. He was invited to stop with them over night, but being anxious to rejoin his own company, he and his little companion went forward. On the morrow their mangled remains were discovered upon the plains surrounded by a pack of wolves. (Loynd, CH)

The common practice was to not change clothes at the crossings as there was no time.  This practice this day would have negative effects  “I will here state there was no time crossing the rivers to stop and take off clothing, but had to wade through and draw our carts at the same time with our clothes dripping wet, had to dry in the sun and dust.”  (Camm, CH)  “We had to wade through more streams, and sometimes up to our waists, and when we got through our clothes would freeze on us until we reached camp and made a fire to thaw out.”  (Clark) 
At this crossing they did take some time to recuperate, but many were left in wet clothes, which contributed to the hardships, and hypothermia resulted.   “That night we had no dry cloth to put on after we got out of the water we had to travel in our wet clothes until we got to camp and our clothing was frozen on us and when we got to camp we had but very little dry clothing to put on.  We had to make the best of our poor circumstances and put our trust in God our father that we may take no harm from our wet clothes.” (Archer, CH)  “After all had crossed the river we camped an hour or so close by the river, and after a tin cup or two of hot tea and a bite or two for supper ….we traveled on up the river a mile or two that same evening and made camp.”  (Rogerson, CH) 
Isaac indicated that the serious problems for the company started after the last crossing of the Platte River:

…We encountered a severe snow storm at Platte Bridge this was early in October. Then our old men and women and some of the younger children began to give out and to get sick and many of them died which I helped bury, but we kept moving on a little every day in spite of the cold and hardships. At one time I became so weary and overcome with cold that I fell down and was forced to lay there for some time. (Wardle, CH)

After the last crossing of the Platte River the storms came on:

The night after we crossed the last crossing of the Platte River the snow started to fall and winter set in, finding us with scarcely any clothing and very little food. The cold and hunger was so intense that we stopped a day or two in camp and before we moved camp, buried fourteen people in one grave who died from cold and hunger; Up to this time a great number of our company had died through hunger and cold. The people who were to meet us from Salt Lake did not arrive as expected. (Watkins, CH)

A young pioneer observed the difference in the attitude of the members of the company, after the snow arrived.  “But with the first snow storm came a contraction of the muscles of the face, which gave an expression to the features of the men denoting that they were now about to enter a struggle with snow and frost which would take all their energy to conquer. As the days grew shorter and colder and the snows were more frequent, it became a struggle of human endurance to keep body and soul together.”  (Jones, Albert, CH 2)
The cold and snow had finally came on during the night.  When young Josiah Rogerson was woken for guard duty, he noticed Brother Jackson had passed away, and that the snow had come on.  “I did not wake his wife, but whispered the fact to my mother, and also the sad news, after reaching our hand to the side of the tent and feeling it heavy and weighted with snow, that, ‘Mother, the snow has come.’  What a thrill seemed to fill the whole tent, as I whispered those five words to mother.”  (Rogerson, CH)  Brother Binder documented the next morning, “To our great surprise when camp was aroused some 3 or 4 inches of Snow had fallen on the ground, which, add to the intense cold morning had a very discouraging effect upon us.”  (Binder, Ch 2)  A young girl would later comment. “I remember distinctly when that terrible snow storm came how dismayed the people were.” (Fullmer, CH, 2) 
Deaths became common in camp after the last crossing.  The women bore the burden better than the men, or perhaps it was that the nights of guarding were catching up with the men.  “The women of the company bore the strain well; free from night guard and other cares which were on the men, they endured the privations of the journey with less loss to their ranks.´ (ibid)

Red Buttes

The handcart company, after the snow of October 19 made little or no progress for the next week as they 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, CH) 
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 camp was moved to a locality where we would be nearer the River and where also we could be better sheltered from the piercing 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 account principally of the scarcity of spades and shovels in the company (Binder, CH 2)

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) 
They traveled to where the Platt River left the trail, as they would head overland to meet the Sweetwater.  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 diarrhea 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.  John Bond, who traveled with the Hodgetts Wagon Company but spent time with the handcart companies noted: 

   Edward Martin announced that six brethren 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 brethren 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)

 (Rupp)  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 entirely 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.  On a cold night he was asked to sing by the campfire. (See McBride, Peter, CH.) This was the night before he passed away.  This song is sung to the tune of “A Poor Wayfaring man of Grief:”

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 for some time.  The next morning he could not walk.  His oldest son arranged for him to ride in the sick wagon the next day.  He described finding him the next 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 couldn’t find him so you will have to imagine how we felt…   My Father….died in one night.  I went in the morning and found my father dead and frozen stiff covered in snow.  Whether he was dead and was put there or how he got there will never be known.  Tongue nor pen can never tell the sorrow and suffering.  My sister, I and Mrs. Barton got father to the tent.  There was 2 families there in the snow and hardly anything to eat but there 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] 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 assure 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.  Heber McBride talked about the young men doing grave duty, Isaac included.  They did not want to expend more energy than necessary.  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.”  (Housley, CH)
There is no record of the death of Betsy Ashton, (who would later become Isaac’s sister-in-law) however she likely passed away at Red Buttes.   Family lore as told by my father says that she froze her feet at the last crossing of the Platte, and died shortly after.  (Wardle, Billy)
Death became a daily occurrence, “With six to eight and more deaths every twenty-four hours.” (Rogerson, CH)  Isaac was frequently called upon to help dig graves.  “…Many of them died, which I helped to bury.” (Wardle, Isaac, 1)  “Nearly every day they left new graves by the roadside.  One day Grandfather and the rest of the able-bodied men buried twenty bodies in one grave.  Death was due to cold and under-nourishment.”  John Bailey, who would have been partnered with Isaac digging graves, had this experience, as noted by Langley.  “On leaving this morning my brother John saw the wolves devouring the bodies he had helped to bury the day before.  He tried to drive them away.  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 on 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 canvass that could be procured”  (Goodaker, CH)  A young man noted. “The saints commence to 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.)

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)  “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)  “We were reduced to a quarter pound of flour per day and if the rescue party had not come out to help us, we should all have perished a miserable death by starvation and cold.”  (Jones, Albert, CH 3)  With that little amount of flour “[They] were living on water gravy.”  (Teeples, CH) 
Heber McBride describes a source of nourishment from so many cattle dying. “…We were in a starving condition and the oxen that pulled the wagons began dying 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 off that way and then crisp it again and repeat the operation till we would get tired.  (McBride, Heber, CH 2)
Isaac pulling Langley Bailey now became an advantage to him as Langley shared his rations in turn with Isaac.  “I promised my team that I would give them some of my bread if they would try and miss the rocks in the road, which pay was better than gold at that time. Our ration was a quarter of a pound of flour a day.”  (Bailey, CH)  That little extra gave Isaac just enough energy to make it through this part of the journey.  Even so Isaac passed through terrible hunger.  “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)  Peter McBride and others even ate bark. (Schetselaar)
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)
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 brethren to cut trees and brush down so as the teams may 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) 

The Lord’s help was petitioned in prayer:

   Many prayers were offered by the saints to God to relieve 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)

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