The tragedy of the Martin and Willey Handcart company is well known by the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Most members have heard of the companies, know the companies left late in the year, ran into early snow storms, and ran out of food. For many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints that is the extent of the knowledge about what occurred.
In 1997, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints celebrated the sesquicentennial(a century and a half) since the pioneers entered the Utah Valley. When celebrating the sesquicentennial more and more stories and information was brought out of the pioneers sacrifices. It has now been 26 years since the Sesquicentennial celebration and reviewing the information and stories of our pioneer ancestors is good for the soul.
When Brigham Young heard about the perils of the Martin and Willie handcart company, they were destitute in Wyoming. The handcart companies were running out of food and strength to keep going. Brigham Young sent out an urgent message to the Saints in the Valley to go help! Some of the most inspiring stories are the miracles of the rescuers and the blessings that were seen along the way.
This song”Bring Them Home” by Nancy Hanson is perfect for studying the Matin and Willie Handcart companies.
Sometimes when faced with learning and teaching about tragedy it is easy to simplify the suffering, citicize the leaders and the travelers pretending there were easy solutions to complicated issues. This does a disservice to the people of the past who faced these issues and to us in present day. Learning from their stories, engaging with the struggles and weeping for the losses is a better way.
More posts about the Martin and Willie Handcart Companies:
Places to Visit To Learn More:
Winter Quarters Museum
Martins Cove, Wyoming
Sweet Water Rescue Site, Wyoming