Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Family History - Handcart Companies

This story is told in as part of the history of Reuben James who was the son of William James and Jane Haynes.  Reuban was the brother of one of our great grandmothers.  

As I have been doing some family  history and reading some of these stories again, I so appreciate what they went through, so that we might have what we have today.  They sacrificed, struggled, and had enormous trials, just as we have trials today.  Our trials are different, but not any less significant.  We all fight for what we believe in, fight for our families, and fight the world against all that we don't agree with.  No less than what these people did, just in a different way.  I hope you enjoy this story of my ancestors.  Perhaps it might help put into perspective some of our own challenges.  I am so grateful that they kept records of these stories.

In the Church History Sunday School lesson for November 8th 1931, we read, “When they arrived at Rocky Ridge, another terrible wind and snow storm come upon them. As they went up over this ridge, they had to wrap themselves in blankets and quilts to keep from freezing.

On this day, Jon Chislett was appointed to help the rear of the company along. After the company had left the campground, he buried one of the brethren that had died during the night
and then set out on foot alone. He had not gone far up the ridge when he overtook a family who were unable to pull their handcart through the snow, which was here knee deep. He helped them pull their cart on up the ridge, and soon overtook another family, likewise unable to pull their cart. Now all pulled one cart a short distance, then returned and brought up the other. He and these families struggled up the ridge and overtook other families who were too tired to pull their handcarts. But by each family helping the other all managed to continue on.

He and these families now over took a wagon drawn by an ox team. In this he placed many who were utterly exhausted. All continue on and soon came upon an old gentleman and his family sitting by the roadside. The old gentleman, whose name was James, was unable to pull his handcart any farther. Jon Chislett could not place him in the wagon because it was already too crowded.

This elderly gentleman had a shotgun with which he had provided food for his family on many occasions. Jon Chislett took the gun from the handcart, tied a small bundle of necessities on the end of it, gave it to the old gentleman, and started him on his way, accompanied by his twelve year old boy. The old gentleman's wife and two daughters who were older than the boy took hold of the handcart and pulled it along. Soon all reached the summit of the hill.

They now journeyed on more easily and after several hours overtook two more wagons loaded with sick and several handcarts being pulled by tired out immigrants. There were now in the rear three wagons, eight handcarts and forty five people.

By dark they came to a stream of water which was frozen over. They could not see where the main body of the company had crossed. They started an ox team over, but one of the oxen broke through the ice and refused to go any farther. They thought it inadvisable to go on and leave this team of oxen and the wagon, yet they knew they could not camp there because there was no wood. John Chislett was therefore sent on foot to find the main company and secure aid.

Soon he came upon the old gentleman William James, and his little boy sitting by the roadside. The old man was worn out. John Chislett goe him to his feet and helped him along a short distance. Realizing that he had to hurry on to get help for his struggling party, he took the quilt which he had wrapped around him, and rolling the old gentleman up in it, left him by the roadside. He told the little boy to walk up and down by his father and be sure not to sit down or he would freeze to death. He also told him to watch for teams which would soon be coming back. John Chislett then went on in search of the company, which by this time had encamped. After walking several hours he saw the campfires and at 11 pm aroused Captains Willie and Kimball, who immediately got their horses and wagons and went back and brought in the straggling families and ox teams. It was five o'clock in the morning before the last of them got in camp.

The brethren found the old gentleman James as he lay sleeping wrapped in the quilt, and his little boy walking up and down, faithfully keeping watch over him. Father James and his son were placed in the wagon and taken to camp However the old gentleman died before morning. His wife and two daughters faithfully pulled the handcart with its load into the camp.

On this morning Captains Kimball and Willie, because so many were dead and dying, decided not to travel on this day. During the night thirteen had died. The brethren dug one large square hole in which they buried these faithful saints. They covered the bodies with willows and then with dirt. Two more died during the day and were buried in one grave. This encampment was on Willow Creek, a branch of the Sweetwater River.

The next day the company journeyed on through the snow; crossed the Sweetwater on the ice and at night camped a little northeast of South pass. Here two more of the faithful immigrants died and were buried. The following day the saints continued their journey, and near the South pass they met more relief wagons from Salt Lake Valley. These were filled with clothing and food.

After crossing the South Pass, the weather was warmer and nearly all were permitted to do away with their handcarts and ride in wagons. By this time about sixty seven of the number had died.

The Willie Handcart Company finally arrived at Salt Lake City on Sunday, November 9th 1856.
They were received with every possible kindness. The saints in the valley took them into their homes and made them comfortable.

They whipped Reuben to get him to move around to get the circulation in his body. He lived but never grew any after this experience.

He married Sarah Briggs Allen who had been married twice before. Alice Foutz is one of his step-children. She told me Uncle Reuben used to tell her mother about this experience He said it was more painful to get well from this than it would have been to die.

He was a good reader and would bring books to their home and read to them and their mother married him. They were married in the St. George Temple, 20 Feb 1878. They had no children. He was always stiff from this experience and it was hard for him to get in or out of buggies.

He died in Provo, Utah, and is buried there.


Post a Comment