When talking about the Willy and Martin Handcart companies one name appears multiple times throughout the story, and that is Levi Savage Jr. In the book ”Fire of the Covenant” he is mentioned and again in the movie ”17 Miracles.” Levi Savage was a voice of warning for this group of Saints.
Levi Savage was a 36 year old widower when he found himself with the group of Saints crossing the plains to get to Utah.
Levi had marched across the United States with the Mormon Battalion in 1847. Levi had been called on a mission to Siam also served a mission in India, and Burma. Levi was on his way home from his mission when he met up with the handcart companies making their way to Utah in 1856.
Levi Savage was familiar with crossing the country and the terrain he worried about what could be in store for the Saints of the Willy and Martin Handcart companies. He worried about the lateness of the season, and spoke passionately to try to stop the group from leaving Nebraska so late in the season.
The choice to go forward after leaving so late was not an easy choice for the group of Saints. They did not have many options of food and lodging if they were to stay in Nebraska and cross the next year. Either choice of staying in Nebraska or going to Utah could mean death and suffering.
The Saints voted to go forward to Utah, even after the warnings from Levi Savage. To the credit of Levi Savage he joined the Saints, and helped them every step of the way. He knew the hardships, he warned the Saints and then he stepped in and helped out. The members of the the company said he ”carried more than his share.” ”He was one of the first in the streams to help others across, and one of the last out of the water.”
”No man worked harder than he to alleviate the suffering which he had foreseen.”
How easy it would have been to be upset at this group of Saints for not listening. How justified he could have felt for walking away from a group that did not heed his warnings. These Saints chose to go forward and ended up in some of the hardest situations. They struggled, they were starving and many died. Levi Savage stayed with this group of saints. He did not give up on them. He was strong enough to not let pride stop him from being of service to this group of Saints that desperately needed him.
Levi made it back to Utah after helping the Saints cross the plaines. He lived for 45 years in southern Utah. He died in 1910 and is buried in Toquerville Cemetery. The link for more information on his grave site is below:
“The Willy and Martin Handcart Story” by Heidi Swinton and Lee Groberg