Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mormon Handcarts: 1856 Rescuers

Chapter Eight: Rescuers
“About this time….two men rode into our camp,...”
From “Hunger and Cold” 
Oh, whence came those shouts in the still, starry night,
That thrilled us and filled us with hope and delight?
The cheers of new comers, a jubilant sound
Of triumph and joy over precious ones found.
Life, Life was the treasure held out to our view,
By the "Boys from the Valley," so brave and so true,
The "Boys from the Valley," sent out by their chief,
Brought clothing and food and abundant relief.
O'er mountainous steeps, over drearisome plains
They sought us, and found us, thank God for their pains!
Hurrah! and hurrah! from the feeble and strong.
Hurrah! and hurrah! loud the echoes prolong.
They were saviors, these men whom we hardly had seen,
Yet it seemed that for ages, acquainted we'd been.
When Fate introduces Compassion to Need,
Friendships quickly are founded and ripen with speed.
Weatherworn were our friends, but like kings in disguise
Their souls' native grandeur shone out of their eyes.
Oh, soft were their hearts who with courage like steel,
left their homes in the Valley our sorrow to heal.
And soon as they sensed our deplorable plight,
Like children they weeped, 'twas a pitiful sight!
What e'er was combustible quickly they found
And speedily kindled, gleamed brightly around.
And nourishing food was prepared in a trice,
Oh, never were dainties more tempting and nice!
For helpful and kind, as a woman or Saint,
These men cheered the feeble, the frozen and faint.
God bless them for heroes, the tender and bold,
Who rescued our remnant from hunger and cold. (Woodmansee
Franklin D. Richards, after passing the Handcart Companies, had arrived in Salt Lake October 4, and reported to Brigham Young that same day.  This was when the Martin Company was close to Scotts Bluff, before they had reached Fort Laramie.  They had traveled 472 miles from Florence, (and 270 across Iowa) and were still 559 miles from Salt Lake.  (See Olsen p 310)
Brigham Young knew they had left too late in the season to make it without some problems.  This may have been from experience, or from inspiration.  That evening he called many of the leaders together to discuss what would be needed to mount a rescue effort.  The next day happened to be the semiannual conference of the Church.  Brigham Young introduced the theme:
   I will now give this people the subject and the text for the Elders who may speak today and during the conference.  It is this.  On the 5th day of October, 1856, many of our brethren and sisters are on the plains with handcarts, and probably many are now seven hundred miles from this place, and the must be brought here, we must send assistance to them.  The text will be, 'to get them here.'  I want the brethren who may speak to understand that their text is the people on the plains.  And the subject matter for this community is to send for them and bring them in before winter sets in.
   That is my religion; that is the dictation of the Holy Ghost that I possess.  It is to save the people.  This is the salvation I am now seeking for.  To save our brethren that would be apt to perish, or suffer extremely, if we do not send them assistance...
   I will tell you all that your faith, religion, and profession of religion, will never save one sould of you in the Celestial Kingdom of our God, unless you carry out just such principles as I am now teaching you.  Go and bring in those people now on the plains."  (See Hafen and Hafen p 120-21.)

Franklin Richards also spoke at the conference, of the storms abating:
    The Saints that are now upon the plains….feel that it is late in the season, and they expect to get cold fingers and toes.  But they have this faith and confidence towards god, that he will overrule the storms that may come in the season thereof, and turn them away, that their path may be freed from suffering more than they can bear…
   When we had a meeting at Florence, we called upon the Saints to express their faith to the people, and requested to know of them, even if they knew that they should be swallowed up in storm, whether they would stop or turn back.  They voted, with loud acclamations, that they would go on.  Such confidence and joyful performance of so arduous labors to accomplish their gathering, will bring the choice blessings of God upon them.  (Hafen and Hafen p 122)
Brigham Young spoke again, calling for volunteers as quickly as possible, and allowing for all to participate either by going, helping in preparations for those who were to go, and donating teams, food and linens.  Conference continued on Monday, and Brigham Young dismissed the blacksmiths to go and ready the horses and wagons.  On Tuesday they were ready to start with “sixteen wagonloads of food and supplies.”  (Hafen and Hafen p 124)  Initially there were 27 men, with more to follow.
The Hafens give a summary of the help offered:
   Families of moderate means and the poorest individuals contributed from their meager stores.  One lent a horse, one a wagon, one a tent; another, two bales of hay and a sack of barley.  Some gave iron camp kettles, dutch ovens, brass buckets, tin cups and plates.  Women darned socks and shawls; patched underwear, trousers and dresses; faced quilts, sewed together pieces of blankets; and took clothes from their own backs.  Families brought out from their scant cellars sacks of flour, sides of home-cured bacon, bags of beans, dried corn, packages of sugar and rice.  (Hafen and hafen p 124-25)
Many of the rescuers came to the rescue through inspiration, whether when they heard Brigham Young’s pleas for help, or later when they prayed.  George Housley quoted President Parkinson from Hyrum, Utah:
Grandfather Allen told of one time when "Brother Brigham" had called him to accompany several other young men in going out to meet the Hand Cart Company, to take them some provisions and assist them into the Valley. As he knelt in prayer the evening before going, he said that he told the Lord that it was a foolish thing to do, going out in such weather and with no roads to follow. But while he was still in the act of prayer, it was made known to him that he should go. It was also made known that he would be able to save many of their lives. (Housley, CH)
Harvey Cluff explained his reasons for becoming one of the rescuers:
I attended the October conference of that year which opened on the 6th as usual, having walked from Provo to Salt Lake City. On that day President Brigham Young at the opening of the first Session made a call upon the people to furnish teams provisions and clothing to aid the late Handcart companies in as the winter Season was fast hastening on. Snow having already fallen upon the mountains. The response to the call of President Young was most remarkable. On the following day[,] October 7th[,] 22 teames – two span of mules or horses to each wagon and each wagon loaded to the bows. There were about fifty young men in the company. Being in Salt Lake City and of an ambitious turn of mind I volunteers to go. One thing which attracted me, in addition of the interest in the handcart people, was my brother Moses [Cluff]. He was on the plains returning from a mission to England. (Cluff, Church History)
Even though Ephraim Hanks wasn’t with the original group of rescuers, he joined the rescue by miraculous means: 
   In the fall of 1856, I spent considerable of my time fishing in Utah Lake; and in traveling backward and forward between that lake and Salt Lake City, I had occasion to stop once over night with Gurney Brown, in Draper, about nineteen miles south of Salt Lake City. Being somewhat fatigued after the day's journey, I retired to rest quite early, and while I still lay wide awake in my bed I heard a voice calling me by name, and then saying: “The handcart people are in trouble and you are wanted; will you go and help them?”  I turned instinctively in the direction from whence the voice came and beheld an ordinary sized man in the room. Without hesitation I answered “Yes, I will go if I am called.” I then turned around to go to sleep, but had laid only a few minutes when the voice called a second time, repeating almost the same words as on the first occasion. My answer was the same as before. This was repeated a third time.
   When I got up the next morning I said to Brother Brown, “The handcart people are in trouble,
and I have promised to go out and help them;”  but I did not tell him of my experiences during the night.  I now hastened to Salt Lake City, and arrived there on the Saturday, preceding the Sunday on which the call was made for volunteers to go out and help the last handcart companies in. When some of the brethren responded by explaining that they could get ready to start in a few days; I spoke out at once saying, “I am ready now!” The next day I was wending my way eastward over the mountains with alight wagon all alone.  (Hanks)
The experience of Dan Jones, in joining the rescuers was not so dramatic: 
   I ATTENDED the October conference of 1856. When conference was opened President Young arose and said: “There are a number of our people on the plains who have started to come with hand-carts; they will need help and I want twenty teams to be ready by morning with two men to each team to go out and meet them. If the teams are not voluntarily furnished, there are plenty of good ones in the street and I shall call upon Brother J. C. Little, the marshal, to furnish them. Now we will adjourn this conference until to-morrow.” Brother Young was in earnest; he seemed moved by a spirit that would admit of no delay.
   A few days before this a number of elders had arrived from the old country reporting that the hand-cart people were on the road, but they did not know how far they had advanced. In those days there was no telegraph, and mails from the east only reached Utah monthly, they being many times delayed by high water, Indians or other causes.
   Brother Young called upon every one present to lend a hand in fitting up these teams. As I was going out with the crowd, Brother Wells spoke to me saying: “You are a good hand for the trip; get ready.” Soon after Bishop Hunter said the same thing to me. Also Brother Grant met me and said: “I want you on this trip.” I began to think it time to decide, so I answered, “all right.” (Jones, Dan)
Shortly after leaving the Valley, the rescuers elected George Grant to be their captain.  (Jones)  One of the rescuers, William Broomhead, kept a diary.  He describes the singing and dancing around the campfire.  This was a group of men with no female partners.  Even after the snow began to fall, they still sang at every opportunity.  Singing and prayer were common entries.  “I sang some Songs for the boys.”  He also recorded, “Singing after supper…three of us set up singing and talking till half past 11.”   (Broomhead, CH)  Dan Jones described the rescuers.  “…Those going were alive to the work and were of the best material possible for the occasion.  (Jones)
Jones also provided a list of those rescuers with the original company, although many others, including Ephraim Hanks, would join the rescue later:
George D. Grant was selected captain, with Robert Burton and William Kimball as assistants; Cyrus Wheelock, chaplain; Charles Decker, guide. I was given the important position of chief cook for the head mess. I was quite proud of my office, for it made me the most sought after and popular man in the camp. The rest of the company was made up of the following persons Joseph A. Young, Chauncey Webb, H. H. Cluff, D. P. Kimball, George W. Grant, Ed. Peck, Joel Parrish, Henry Goldsbrough, Thomas Alexander, Benjamin Hampton, Tomas Ricks, Abe Garr, Charles Grey, Al Huntington, “Handsome Cupid,” Stephen Taylor, William K. Broomhead, Ira Nebeker, Redick Allred, Amos Fairbanks and Tom Bankhead, a colored man. These are all the names that I remember, if there were any more I have been unable to find them.  (Jones)
It is interesting to note that Tom Bankhead was African American.  Early on, the storms missed the rescuers.  A rescuer wrote, “Clear and fair, storm passed to the right and left us.”  (Burton, CH 1)  Later, at Devil’s Gate he wrote, After prayers, ceased snowing.”  (ibid)  “…It looked as if we were going to have a heavy storm but the clouds Devided to the right and left…  (Broomhead, CH)
The rescuers did not have an easy time of it.  Upon reaching the Sweetwater a very severe storm began.  “At the South Pass, we encountered a severe snow-storm. After crossing the divide we turned down into a sheltered place on the Sweetwater.  (Jones)  Harvey Cluff talked of the storm:
This relief party proceeded eastward as rapidly as possible and in due time passed over the “Southpass” [South Pass] the backbone of the continent, being the divide point of the waters flowing into the Atlantic ocean east and the Pacific ocean west. Nine miles brought us down to the Sweetwater river where we camped for the night. On arising in the following morning Snow was Several inches deep. During the two following days the storm raged with increasing furry until it attained the capacity of a northern blizzard. For protection to ourselves and animals, the company moved down the river to where the willows were dense enough to make a good protection against the raging storm from the north.  (Cluff, CH)
Captain Grant, in his letter to Brigham Young noted:
We had no snow to contend with, until we got to the Sweet Water. On the 19th and 20th of October we encountered a very severe snow storm. We met br. [James G.] Willie's company on the 21st; the snow was from six to ten inches deep where we met them. They were truly in a bad situation, but we rendered them all the assistance in our power. Br. Wm. H. Kimball returned with them, also several other brethren. The particulars of this company you have doubtless learned before this time. (Grant, CH)
Captain Willie found them in this spot the next day, and they were able to help in the rescue of the Willie Company.  Elder William Kimball and a few others remained with this company to help them get into Salt Lake.  “The greater portion of our company now continued on towards Devil’s Gate, traveling through snow all the way. When we arrived at Devil’s Gate we found our express there awaiting us. No tidings as yet were received of the other companies.”  (ibid)
The rescuers continued East, sending a fast search team before them.  They traveled 100 miles in five days.  (Haven and Hafen p 126)  The snow was so high the rescuers had to lay over a couple days on their way to the Martin Company.
But I desire to state that at one time while we were traveling down the Sweet Water [Sweetwater] about 300 or 400 miles east of Salt Lake City, the snow was so deep that the axle-trees of our wagons dragged and we were compelled to remain camped at the same place for one or two days in consequence of the severity of the storms, but with no idea other than resuming our journey when the weather would permit, until we found the companies we were sent to relieve.  (Burton, CH 2)
            They met the advance scout team at Devil’s gate.  They still had not come upon the handcart pioneers.  They were again sent forward to the Platte River.  They found them at Red buttes, about 18 miles to the west of the Platte.  They were able to rally them and get them moving, and returned to Devil’s Gate and encouraged the rescue teams to move forward.  They met at Greasewood Creek October 31.  The rescuers put their lives in jeopardy, but had faith Heavenly Father would see them through:
I am setting. not on the stile. mary. but on a sack of oats with the paper on my knee, by the side of a blazing Camp fire, surrounded by some eight hundred persons, one old lady lays dead within twenty feet of me, babies crying. Some singing some praying, &c &c. but among all this, I feel to rejoice. for the hand of the Lord has been continually with us. Almost every day angry Storms arise very threatening, and judging from this appearance one would think that we should be unable to with stand to tempest but the prayers of the holy men of God are heard, the clouds, divide to the right and left, letting the saints pass through in safety. The suffering of the camp from frozen feet and various other causes, I will not attempt to describe, suffice to any bad. bad. [We have] faith of our heavenly Father being continualy with us, Staying the storm as in the past for without the help of high heaven, we should have been Snow bound in the mountains long ago.  (Hunter, CH)
From Greasewood Creek, the next day’s trek brought them to Devil’s Gate.  While at Devil’s Gate and Martin’s Cove, the rescuers supported the immigrants not only physically, but also spiritually.  “During our stay here, we had meetings ever evening to counsel together and ask the Lord to turn away the cold and storm so that the people might live.”  (Burton, CH 1)  “No power could save the people from death but that of God. To our rescue O Lord God Almighty seemed the fervent prayer constantly offered to our Heavenly Father.”  (Cluff, CH)
The Hafens summarize this period as a time of frequent prayers by the Saints for the rescuers and the pioneers.  “Prayers at all public meetings and in private homes petitioned the Almighty to avert the storms, strengthen the rescuers, and spare the  trapped emigrants.”  (Hafen and Hafen p 125)  Brother Grant expressed the belief that prayers were general from the entire church:
   I never felt so much interest in any mission that I have been sent on, and all the brethren who came out with me feel the same. We have prayed without ceasing, and the blessing of God has been with us…
   I have never seen such energy and faith among the 'boys,' nor so good a spirit as is among those who came out with me. We realize that we have your prayers for us continually, also those of all the Saints in the Valley.”  (Grant, CH)
President Young’s Mind was with the stranded pioneers: 
…My mind is yonder in the snow, where those immigrating Saints are, and my mind was been with them ever since I had the report of their start from Winter Quarters (Florence) on the 3rd of September. I cannot talk about anything, I cannot go out or come in, but what in every minute or two minutes my mind reverts to them; and the questions whereabouts are my brethren and sisters who are on the plains, and what is their condition, force themselves upon me and annoy my feelings all the time. And were I to answer my own feelings, I should do so by undertaking to do what the conference voted I should not do, that is, I should be with them now in the snow, even though it should be up to the knees, up to the waist, or up to the neck. My mind is there, and my faith is there; I have a great many reflections about them.
Joseph Simmons, one of the rescuers, described the help of the Lord:
I feel to rejoice. for the hand of the Lord has been continually with us. Almost every day angry Storms arise very threatening, and judging from this appearance one would think that we should be unable to with stand to tempest but the prayers of the holy men of God are heard, the clouds, divide to the right and left, letting the saints pass through in safety….We intend reaching the vally next Saturday but this calculation is founded upon the faith of our heavenly Father being continualy with us, Staying the storm as in the past for without the help of high heaven, we should have been Snow bound in the mountains long ago.  (Hunter, CH)
The rescuers where empathetic to the strugglers, Harvey Cluff explained:
Every possible assistance from the boys from Utah was freely given. And these young hardy men from the Rockies were a mighty force and power in the salvation of that people. No more efficient help could have been furnished. They had crossed the dreary plains [k]new what hunger, thirst, starvation, weary travelling with sore feet ment; hence with the subsquent experience in the Vallies gave them the Vim to endure and they did endure and they worked Valiently for the poor emigrants.  (ibid)
Dan Jones, describing the effort of the rescuers said:
We did all we possibly could to help and cheer the people. Some writers have endeavored to make individual heroes of some of our company. I have no remembrance of any one shirking his duty. Each and everyone did all they possibly could and justice would give to each his due credit.  (Jones)
The members at Salt Lake had donated supplies liberally, and there was an effort to keep track of donations and disbursements:
The weather was cold, the snow deep, the people poor and nearly destitute of clothing, and some provisions. These supplies had been donated by the people in Salt Lake, and these people had been very liberal in their donations, (for they were all in straightened circumstances) but had given such articles as they could and such as would aid the suffering imigrants. Most of the supplies were given to Capt. Edward Martin’s Hand cart company, whose sufferings were intense and necessities very great. A strict account was kept of all these disbursements. The lives of the people were too precious to permit of our carrying anything in the wagons which could possibly be dispensed with. We consequently cached at Devil’s gate all freight that, in our judgment, could be left so as to relieve the company.  (Burton, CH 2)
Ephraim Hanks joined the rescue effort late, but had a big impact on the pioneers.  He actually did not meet the Martin Handcart Company until after they had left the cove: 
   The terrific storm which caused the immigrants so much suffering and loss overtook me near the South Pass, where I stopped about three days with Reddick N. Allred, who had come out with provisions for the immigrants. The storm during these three days was simply awful. In all my travels in the Rocky Mountains both before and afterwards, I have seen no worse. When at length the snow ceased falling, it lay on the ground so deep that for many days it was impossible to move wagons through it. Being deeply concerned about the possible fate of the immigrants, and feeling anxious to learn of their condition, I determined to start out on horseback to meet them; and for this purpose I secured a packsaddle and two animals (one to ride and one to pack), from Brother Allred, and began to make my way slowly through the snow alone.
   After traveling for some time I met Joseph A. Young and one of the Garr boys, two of the relief company which had been sent from Salt Lake City to help the companies. They had met the immigrants and were now returning with important dispatches from the camps to the headquarters of the Church, reporting the awful condition of the companies.  In the meantime I continued my lonely journey, and the night after meeting Elders Young and Garr, I camped in the snow in the mountains. As I was preparing to make a bed in the snow with the few articles that my pack animal carried for me, I thought how comfortable buffalo robe would be on such an occasion, and also how I could relish a little buffalo meat for supper, and before lying down for the night I was instinctively led to ask the Lord to send me a buffalo. Now, I am a firm believer in the efficacy of prayer, for I have on many different occasions asked the Lord for blessings, which He in His mercy has bestowed on me. But when I, after praying as I did on that lonely night in the South Pass, looked around me and spied a buffalo bull within fifty yards of my camp, my surprise was complete; I had certainly not expected so immediate an answer to my prayer. However, I soon collected myself and was not at a loss to know what to do. Taking deliberate aim at the animal, my first shot brought him down; he made a few jumps only, and then rolled down into the very hollow where I was encamped. I was soon busily engaged skinning my game, finishing which, I spread the hide on the snow and placed my bed upon it. I next prepared supper, eating tongue and other choice parts of the animal I had killed, to my heart's content. After this I enjoyed a refreshing night's sleep, while my horses were browsing on the sage brush.
   Early the next morning I was on my way again, and soon reached what is known as the Ice Springs Bench. There I happened upon a heard of buffalo, and killed a nice cow. I was impressed to do this, although I did not know why until a few hours later, but the thought occurred to my mind that the hand of the Lord was in it, as it was a rare thing to find buffalo herds around that place at this late part of the season. I skinned and dressed the cow; then cut up part of its meat in long strips and loaded my horses with it. Thereupon I resumed my journey, and traveled on till towards evening. I think the sun was about an hour high in the west when I spied something in the distance that looked like a black streak in the snow. As I got near to it, I perceived it moved, then I was satisfied that this was the long looked for handcart company, led by Captain Edward Martin. I reached the ill fated train just as the immigrants were camping for the night. The sight that met my gaze as I entered their camp can never be erased from my memory. The starved forms and haggard countenances of the poor suffers, as they moved about slowly, shivering with cold, to prepare their scanty evening meal was enough to touch the stoutest heart. When they saw me coming, they hailed me with joy inexpressible, and when they further beheld the supply of fresh meat I brought into camp, their gratitude knew no bounds. Flocking around me, one would say, “Oh, please, give me a small piece of meat; “another would exclaim, “My poor children are starving, do give me a little;” and children with tears in their eyes would call out, “Give me some, give me some.”  At first I tried to wait on them and handed out the meat as they called for it; but finally I told them to help themselves. Five minutes later both my horses had been released of their extra burden the meat was all gone, and the next few hours found the people in the camp busily engaged in cooking and eating it, with thankful hearts.
   A prophecy had been made by one of the brethren that the company should feast on buffalo meat when their provisions might run short; my arrive in their camp, loaded with meat, was the beginning of the fulfillment of that prediction; but only the beginning, as I afterwards shot and killed a number of buffalo for them as we journeyed along. "When I saw the terrible condition of the immigrants on first entering their camp, my heart almost melted within me. I rose up in my saddle and tried to speak cheering and comforting words to them. I told them also that they should all have the privilege to ride into Salt Lake City, as more teams were coming.  (Hanks and Hanks p 48-49)
Ephraim goes on to talk about his anointings and healings, which commenced that first night.  He and Daniel Tyler visited the tent of a man on his death bed at the request of his wife.  Brother Tyler said, ‘I cannot administer to a dead man.”    Brother Tyler went back to bed, leaving Ephraim Hanks to lay out the body.  Instead Ephraim recruited several men to help him warm the body with heated water.  He then anointed him with oil.  The then laid their hands on his head and “commanded him in the name of Jesus Christ to breathe and live.”  This man began to breath, stood up and sang a hymn.  His wife went about camp saying, “My husband was dead, but is now alive. Praised be the name of God. The man who brought the buffalo meat has healed him.” (Ibid p 50)
            You can imagine the general excitement caused by this healing.  Ephraim was then in demand throughout the camp to bless this person or that.  “’Come to me,’ or ‘my dying child’ were some of the requests that were made of me.” (Ibid)  He spent days going from tent to tent administering to the sick.  “The result of this our labor of love certainly redounded to the honor and glory of a kind and merciful God.  In score of instances when we administered to the sick, and rebuked the diseases in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the sufferers would rally at once; they were healed almost instantly.  I believe I administered to several hundred in a single day…”  He goes on to tell another story where a young man he blessed was healed immediately, dressed himself and danced a hornpipe on the end board of a wagon.
            Isaac makes no mention of having been blessed personally by Ephraim Hanks, but there is no doubt he would have been the witness to not only the suffering of the Saints, but also the miracles performed in their behalf.  Ephraim Hanks is one of the rescuers he mentions my name, along with Joseph Young.  (Wardle, Isaac, 1)  However not even Ephraim could heal everyone, or cure all the infirmities:
But notwithstanding these manifestations of the Lord's goodness, [m]any of the immigrants whose extremities were frozen, lost their limbs, either whole or in part.  Many such I washed with water and castile soap, until the frozen parts would fall off, after which I would sever the shreds of flesh from the remaining portions of the limbs with my scissors. Some of the emigrants lost toes, others fingers, and again others whole hands and feet;…  But so far as I remember there were no fresh cases of frozen limbs after my arrival in camp.   (Ibid p 48)
Taylor indicates that eventually there were over 250 teams playing a part in the rescue.  (Taylor, P.A.M. p 240)  Jedediah M. Grant, of the first presidency, in a discourse the first part of November explained that the rescue effort to that time had included 200 wagons.  More wagons were needed to help with the rescue of the wagon companies, and to supply forage for the wagons already out.  (See Grant, Jedediah, CH)
            As they approached the valley, more and more young man came to their aid.  These were known as the “Valley Boys.”  “As we neared the vallies—younger men—boys in their red shirts, their trousers thrust well down into their boot tops made their appearence felling the dry timber for our fires—& even trying to make merriment to cheer up our gloomy & sorely tried people.”  (Jones, Albert, CH 3)

No comments:

Post a Comment