August 2, 2022

The Signboard that “had done the work of salvation”— Willies Rescue Site

This map below was created to help find other Church Sites and Articles. Each point will have articles in the description about that point

(below the map is the rest of the article)
Pic Credit: Julie Rodgers, Tell My Story Publishing 2018

The Willie Handcart Company left late in the season and were caught in early snowfall. When the Willie company was going through Wyoming, they faced some of the most difficult obstacles imaginable. They were caught in a terrible blizzard, with very little food, and provisions. This group of handcart pioneers were starving and tired, but continued to push on. Towards the end of the journey the Willie Handcart company was simply not going to make it to Utah, if they did not get help fast.

Brigham Young had sent a rescue party out to look for this handcart company, but they were running out of time. There were more and more people were dying every day, there would be no one left to help if the rescue party didn’t find these Saints quickly.

Captain James Willie decided he could no longer wait for the rescuers to find them, and decided to leave the group and look for the rescuers himself. Captain James Willie and Joseph Elder rode out together to find the rescue party and(hopefully) hurry them along. The two men made it to Rocky Ridge, hoping that the rescue party was there waiting, but there was not rescue party waiting at Rocky Ridge. James Willie had to climb Rocky Ridge in a blizzard and pray that the rescue party was on the other side of the ridge.

At the end of the evening after looking all the day for the rescuers, there was a signboard placed on the trail and pointed to the rescuers camp. The rescuers had camped off the trail and Captain Willie would have missed them entirely during the blizzard that was hitting them. The rescuers had no idea how destitute the Willie handcart company was, and they had stopped to wait out the storm.

Rescuer Harvey Cluff had placed the sign board only a short time earlier! Harvey had no idea how close or how far the Willie company was, and making that signboard ended up being providential in its timing!

”The signboard had done the work of salvation.” Harvey Cluff when on to say ”Had Captain Willie and his fellow traveler. . . continued on the road, they certainly would have perished.”

How “lucky” they all were that the signboard was placed at the perfect moment and the perfect location to catch the eye of James Willie. Truly there was no ”luck” about this. The Lord knew exactly what needs to be done to save His people. This group of pioneers were going through some of the most difficult situations that people can endure, and the Lord was with them. Their problems were not taken away, but the Lord did not leave them alone through these terrible circumstances, the same way He will not leave us alone through our terrible circumstances.

The signpost can look like a coincidence to many, but I choose to see it as the hand of God helping His people.

The Rescue

Pic Credit: Julie Rodgers, Tell My Story Publishing

The members of the Willie handcart company were looking to the West for their captain to return with the rescuers.

The prayers of the people were answered. The rescuers had found this group of Saints. The people greeted the rescuers with “shouts and cheers.” The women embraced the rescuers and the men wept. John Oborn said ”Like a thunderbolt out of the clear sky, God answered our prayer.”

Gods Timing

The signboard is a miracle, if Harvey Cluff would not have put out the sign when he did James Willie would have gone on the trail and missed the rescue party. His company of Saints were dying, and did not have enough food for even one more day.

The Lord helped the rescuers find the company in time to help them.

Harvey Cluff said ”this was certainly the most timely arrival of a relief party recorded in the history for the salvation of a people.”

James Willie said ”We all felt rejoiced at our timely deliverance, and attribute it entirely to the hand of God, which had been over us during the whole of our journey.”

Willie Rescue Site:

If you are in Wyoming there is a marker for where the Willie Handcart company was rescued:

42° 28.256′ N, 108° 24.576′ W. Marker is near Lander, Wyoming, in Fremont County. Marker is on Oregon Trail, on the right when traveling west.

You can also click on this link and it will give you more information about the monument:


”Follow Me To Zion” By Andrew D. Olsen, Jolene S. Allphin and Julie Rodgers(Illustrated)

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