Rescue of the 1856 Handcart Companies / Edition 1by Rebecca Bartholomew
Pub. Date: 01/28/1993
Publisher: Charles Redd Center for Western Studies
Thirteen years before the railroad was completed, some 2,000 Utah-bound immigrants discovered at Iowa City that they could not afford the rigs and teams necessary for the remaining overland trek. So these resourceful Europeans decided to construct their own makeshift, hand-drawn wagons and walk to Utah. Of five companies, three negotiated the 1,000-mile ordeal relatively without incident, while two companies lagged behind and became bogged down in Wyoming snow storms.
When Brigham Young heard of their plight, he criticized these poorer immigrants for lack of judgment and preparation but nevertheless dispatched search parties to rescue them. However, by the time they were found, many were already dead and others starving. The survivors were resuscitated enough to enable their trek through the snow drifts the rest of the distance to Salt Lake City.
A noteworthy aspect of the handcart pioneers' diaries is that none expressed regret for this alleged foolhardiness. They wrote about their hardships matter-of-factly, expressing admiration for their intrepid rescuers and thanks to God.
That they risked so much to make this pilgrimage is a testament to their faith. Later generations have come to recognize this heroism and identify the handcart as a symbol of the Mormon pioneering miracle. This book tells the factual story behind the true legend.
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