BETA

Handcart pioneers

Descendants gather at Martin's Cove

MARTIN'S COVE, WYO.

With hearts full of reverence and handcarts laden with personal belongings, some 160 descendants of the Martin Handcart Company and their rescuers remembered their ancestors' suffering here 154 years ago.

Monty and Charlotte Manughan cross Sweetwater together.
Monty and Charlotte Manughan cross Sweetwater together. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Richard Wright and family pull handcart across Sweetwater.
Richard Wright and family pull handcart across Sweetwater. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Anne-Marie Smith, left, holding daughter, Emily, and husband, Robb, make their way across the shallow Sweetwater River. Weakened and disheartened handcart pioneers were obliged to cross the river in November 1856.
Anne-Marie Smith, left, holding daughter, Emily, and husband, Robb, make their way across the shallow Sweetwater River. Weakened and disheartened handcart pioneers were obliged to cross the river in November 1856. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd

Parents, grandparents, youth, children and infants gathered to the Martin's Cove Historic Site, where youth groups and other Church members frequently engage in handcart treks this time of year. But this trek, held Sept. 2-3, was unique in that it's the first time organizer Chad Wright knows about that the invitation has gone out specifically to Martin Handcart descendants. He hopes to organize a similar event in a few years for descendants of the Willie Handcart Company, who suffered at the same time as the Martin group, but for whom the more memorable landmark is Rocky Ridge, further west along the trail. The two Mormon handcart groups, along with two accompanying wagon trains, were stranded on the high plains of Wyoming, victims of late departures and early snowstorms. All suffered, and many perished from hunger and exposure.

Trek participants walk up to Martin's Cove.
Trek participants walk up to Martin's Cove. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Holding his daughter Elizabeth, Robb Smith sings for trek participants who have paused on the way up to Martin's Cove. His son, Elijah, is at his side.
Holding his daughter Elizabeth, Robb Smith sings for trek participants who have paused on the way up to Martin's Cove. His son, Elijah, is at his side. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Trek organizer Chad Wright, right, and his nephew Brendon Postman, play "Come, Come, Ye Saints" on harmonicas as trekkers walk up hill to Martin's Cove Sept. 3.
Trek organizer Chad Wright, right, and his nephew Brendon Postman, play "Come, Come, Ye Saints" on harmonicas as trekkers walk up hill to Martin's Cove Sept. 3. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd

"Brothers and sisters, I hope that through this trek experience, along with your family, you can gain strength and direction so that you might know how you can go forward in this life," Brother Wright told participants just before their departure on the three-mile trek to Cherry Hill campground. "There're going to be some hard things — and [as trek organizers] we may create some — but you can move on." He was referring to simulated setbacks, say the loss of a prized possession, when handcart trekkers would be required to go to the end of the train.

Leta and Nathan Greene transport her mother, Charlotte Maughan, up the steep trail to Martin's Cove. She was overjoyed to participate despite frail health.
Leta and Nathan Greene transport her mother, Charlotte Maughan, up the steep trail to Martin's Cove. She was overjoyed to participate despite frail health. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Group embarks on return Sept. 3, Split Rock, a well-known trail landmark, is in the background.
Group embarks on return Sept. 3, Split Rock, a well-known trail landmark, is in the background. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Richard and Elizabeth Wright family in front of trail of trekkers. They are from West Jordan, Utah.
Richard and Elizabeth Wright family in front of trail of trekkers. They are from West Jordan, Utah. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd

He said, "I had a point in planning this experience, when I thought, 'You know, I just can't do this,' and I was researching a little bit about Edward Martin. I discovered that he was the same age that I am now when he went with about 576 saints and set out. He was guiding people senior to him and younger to him, but he took fresh courage and moved on."

Kevin Skinner, a descendent of Daniel Tyler, tells of his ancestor at morning devotional Sept. 3.
Kevin Skinner, a descendent of Daniel Tyler, tells of his ancestor at morning devotional Sept. 3. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Pulling up steep hill on Sept 2.
Pulling up steep hill on Sept 2. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Saviah and Ruthie Robertson engage in stick pull on morning of Sept. 3, prior to return.
Saviah and Ruthie Robertson engage in stick pull on morning of Sept. 3, prior to return. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd

For many at this descendants' gathering, the decision to participate came quickly. Richard and Elizabeth Wright, Cobble Creek 1st Ward in West Jordan, Utah, were in a theater several weeks ago watching the movie "17 Miracles." The movie tells of the Willie company's experience, but a picture of James Godson Bleak, a Martin company pioneer, came on the screen.

"I think I'm related to that guy," Sister Wright whispered.

Reunion oganizer Chad Wright gives instructions in chapel at visitors center prior to departure on Feb. 2.
Reunion oganizer Chad Wright gives instructions in chapel at visitors center prior to departure on Feb. 2. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Martin Handcart Company descendants gather at the amphitheater near Cherry Hill Campground for sundown devotional that capped an evening of square dancing following the day's handcart pull.
Martin Handcart Company descendants gather at the amphitheater near Cherry Hill Campground for sundown devotional that capped an evening of square dancing following the day's handcart pull. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Square dancing with missionaries at campground.
Square dancing with missionaries at campground. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd

The Wrights confirmed that fact with Internet research. Later, they would chance to read an advance article in the Aug. 13 issue of the Church News about the descendants' gathering. They had been "ma and pa" for a youth trek at Martin's Cove while living in a previous ward and had been trail captains on a recent experience with their current ward. "We said, 'We've done it before, we know what's going to happen; let's just go for it, and we'll do it,' " Brother Wright said. With only two weeks to prepare, the Wrights (who are not related to Chad) registered with their six children. Answering a call for volunteers, Brother and Sister Wright found themselves assigned as trail captains.

Square dancing at campground.
Square dancing at campground. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Tuesday, Sept.6, 2011. Square dancing at campground.
Tuesday, Sept.6, 2011. Square dancing at campground. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Trek participants engage in sundown square dancing at campground.
Trek participants engage in sundown square dancing at campground. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd

From her childhood, Leta Greene was ingrained with the understanding of how fortunate she was to have Mormon pioneer ancestry, including Martin handcart pioneers. When her mother, Charlotte Maughan, learned of the descendants' gathering at Martin's Cove she got her husband, Monty, Leta and Leta's husband, Nathan, and their family involved.

Trek participants engage in tug of war.
Trek participants engage in tug of war. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Landes Shepherd, Union Hills Ward, Denver Colorado Stake, teaches youth on trek how to play "block-in-the-middle tag: at campground.
Landes Shepherd, Union Hills Ward, Denver Colorado Stake, teaches youth on trek how to play "block-in-the-middle tag: at campground. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Trek participants engage in tug of war, a pioneer pastime, at campground.
Trek participants engage in tug of war, a pioneer pastime, at campground. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd

In frail health, Charlotte knew she would not be doing any trekking, but she wanted to come to the site and be as close as she could, probably remaining at the visitors center.

But a female missionary serving at the site told Leta on Friday, "Tomorrow, I will be a rescuer instead of trekking, and I will take her from location to location."

"When I went and told my mom," she didn't just cry; she broke down and sobbed, and said 'I never thought I'd get to see it,'" Leta recounted.

Rachel Daugs, Spring Creek Ward, Mendon Utah Stake, demonstrates the art of rag doll making in authentic pioneer camp tent at campground.
Rachel Daugs, Spring Creek Ward, Mendon Utah Stake, demonstrates the art of rag doll making in authentic pioneer camp tent at campground. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Micah Dickey and sister Ettie, Afton 3rd Ward, Afton Wyoming Stake, engage in ring toss game at campground Sept. 2.
Micah Dickey and sister Ettie, Afton 3rd Ward, Afton Wyoming Stake, engage in ring toss game at campground Sept. 2. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Sarah DeMann, Murray 16th Ward, Murray Utah Parkway Stake, helps Honour Rose Dickey, Afton 3rd Ward, Afton Wyoming Stake, learn to walk with stilts at camp in Cherry Hill Campground.
Sarah DeMann, Murray 16th Ward, Murray Utah Parkway Stake, helps Honour Rose Dickey, Afton 3rd Ward, Afton Wyoming Stake, learn to walk with stilts at camp in Cherry Hill Campground. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd

Sitting in a wheeled chair fashioned as a handcart — resembling a rickshaw — Charlotte was transported by her family members up the steep trail to the cove, which Mormons, especially Martin handcart descendants, regard as sacred ground.

Later, hand-in-hand with her husband, Charlotte waded across the shallow Sweetwater River, along with other trek participants, some pulling handcarts. They did this in remembrance of ancestors who were obliged to ford its icy waters in November, having spent four days and five nights sheltering in the cove for which the historic site is named, this after rescuers from Salt Lake City had reached them.

At Cherry Hill Campground, Robyn DeMann, Murray 16 Ward, Murray Utah Parkway Stake, walks on stilts, a pioneer pastime.
At Cherry Hill Campground, Robyn DeMann, Murray 16 Ward, Murray Utah Parkway Stake, walks on stilts, a pioneer pastime. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Trek participants arrive at Cherry Hill Campground.
Trek participants arrive at Cherry Hill Campground. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Brendon Postma, New Founders Park 6th Ward, South Jordan Utah Stake, walks on stilts at Cherry Hill Campground.
Brendon Postma, New Founders Park 6th Ward, South Jordan Utah Stake, walks on stilts at Cherry Hill Campground. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd

David and Janet Weight of Syracuse, Utah, had a double reason for attending the reunion trek: He is descended from a rescuer, she from one who was rescued. Brother Weight's ancestor is Clark Allen Huntington, one of the four young men later lauded by President Brigham Young in a sermon. The young men spent the day carrying on their backs across the Sweetwater the weakened and incapacitated handcart pioneers, later suffering themselves from the effects of the ordeal. Their names today are memorialized in a monument on the river's bank.

Chad Wright, event organizer, speaks to trek participants during a rest break on Sept. 2.
Chad Wright, event organizer, speaks to trek participants during a rest break on Sept. 2. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Trekkers push and pull handcart up steep hill on Sept. 2,  while bystanders, symbolizing those who have died, watch.
Trekkers push and pull handcart up steep hill on Sept. 2, while bystanders, symbolizing those who have died, watch. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Children in Ben Durham family ride in covered handcart.
Children in Ben Durham family ride in covered handcart. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd

Sister Allen's ancestor is George Frederick Housley, a 17-year-old handcart pioneer who had given up hope of survival. One morning he awoke to find the people next to him had died, Sister Weight said. But he was reached by 23-year-old Marshall Franklin Allen. Sent out by Brigham Young, Brother Allen had at first thought the effort futile, but after prayer, determined to "go to the end of the states" if necessary to find the stranded pioneers. Years later, as older men, they were invited to a Sunday dinner held by Brother Frederick's granddaughter. Her husband was descended from Brother Allen. Reminiscing about the handcart experience, the two men eventually recognized each other as rescuer and rescued.

Trekkers push and pull handcart up steep hill on Sept. 2,  while bystanders, symbolizing those who have died, watch.
Trekkers push and pull handcart up steep hill on Sept. 2, while bystanders, symbolizing those who have died, watch. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
The trek, held Sept. 2-3, was staged to help the families become familiar with their ancestors' lives and to gain appreciation for their sacrifices.
The trek, held Sept. 2-3, was staged to help the families become familiar with their ancestors' lives and to gain appreciation for their sacrifices. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Trekkers push and pull handcart up steep hill on Sept. 2,  while bystanders, symbolizing those who have died, watch.
Trekkers push and pull handcart up steep hill on Sept. 2, while bystanders, symbolizing those who have died, watch. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd

Elder John Fenn, director of the Mormon Handcart Historic Sites in Wyoming, encapsulated the meaning of this and other commemorative treks. Speaking to the assembled reunion participants who had paused for a devotional while making their way up the trail to the cove, he said the handcart people sacrificed so much so they could come receive the saving ordinances of the temple and be sealed for eternity with their families.

Robb Smith carried daughter Elizabeth in a Kid Carrier. She is named after Elizabeth Sermon, a Martin Handcart Company pioneer.
Robb Smith carried daughter Elizabeth in a Kid Carrier. She is named after Elizabeth Sermon, a Martin Handcart Company pioneer. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Trekkers push and pull handcart up steep hill on Sept. 2,  while bystanders, symbolizing those who have died, watch.
Trekkers push and pull handcart up steep hill on Sept. 2, while bystanders, symbolizing those who have died, watch. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd

"The question is, are we willing to do as much to bring our families to the temple?" he said.

Peter Durham relaxes in shade of a covered handcart being pulled by his family along the dusty, three-mile route from the visitors center to the campground.
Peter Durham relaxes in shade of a covered handcart being pulled by his family along the dusty, three-mile route from the visitors center to the campground. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Orange Company captain Richard Wright, West Jordan, gives instructions to the handcart trekkers in his company prior to departure.
Orange Company captain Richard Wright, West Jordan, gives instructions to the handcart trekkers in his company prior to departure. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Nathan Greene, Founders Park 1st Ward in South Jordan, shows son Nathaniel how to do a bent-nail puzzle, a pioneer type game, as they wait for trek to begin on Sept. 2.
Nathan Greene, Founders Park 1st Ward in South Jordan, shows son Nathaniel how to do a bent-nail puzzle, a pioneer type game, as they wait for trek to begin on Sept. 2. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Tuesday, Sept.6, 2011. On Sept. 2, while waiting for handcart trek to begin, Emily Slater, Clinton, Utah,  engages in pioneer-type ringtoss game with her sister Robyn (off camera).
Tuesday, Sept.6, 2011. On Sept. 2, while waiting for handcart trek to begin, Emily Slater, Clinton, Utah, engages in pioneer-type ringtoss game with her sister Robyn (off camera). Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Waiting for trek to begin, Orange Company captain Richard Wright, West Jordan, Utah,  engages in pioneer ring toss game with daughter Amy.
Waiting for trek to begin, Orange Company captain Richard Wright, West Jordan, Utah, engages in pioneer ring toss game with daughter Amy. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Trek organizer Chad Wright, Hobble Creek 1st Ward, Springville Utah Hobble Creek West Stake, with sister Trudy at left, gives instructions to participants before trek departure.
Trek organizer Chad Wright, Hobble Creek 1st Ward, Springville Utah Hobble Creek West Stake, with sister Trudy at left, gives instructions to participants before trek departure. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Ben Durham and son Peter take a breather during handcart trek.
Ben Durham and son Peter take a breather during handcart trek. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Placard in chapel at visitors center where handcart trekkers gathered for instruction.
Placard in chapel at visitors center where handcart trekkers gathered for instruction. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Glen and Elizabeth Gerner, Eaglewood Ward, North Salt Lake Stake, enjoy lunch prior to departure with children Thomas, 5, Roy, 1, and Tibby, 3.
Glen and Elizabeth Gerner, Eaglewood Ward, North Salt Lake Stake, enjoy lunch prior to departure with children Thomas, 5, Roy, 1, and Tibby, 3. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Descendants of the Martin Handcart Company pull carts laden with personal belongings over Wyoming terrain between Martin's Cove and the Cherry Hill campground.
Descendants of the Martin Handcart Company pull carts laden with personal belongings over Wyoming terrain between Martin's Cove and the Cherry Hill campground. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Sweetwater River stretches on in background as Richard and Elizabeth Wright family of West Jordan, Utah,  pass by toward Cherry Creek campground.
Sweetwater River stretches on in background as Richard and Elizabeth Wright family of West Jordan, Utah, pass by toward Cherry Creek campground. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Sweetwater River stretches on in background as handcart trekkers pass by toward Cherry Creek campground.
Sweetwater River stretches on in background as handcart trekkers pass by toward Cherry Creek campground. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Loaded handcarts wait prior to departure on Sept. 2.
Loaded handcarts wait prior to departure on Sept. 2. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Danny Woodard, West Point, Utah, and son Joe, with friends Jared and Jonathan Adamson of Shelley, Idaho, push handcarts toward campground.
Danny Woodard, West Point, Utah, and son Joe, with friends Jared and Jonathan Adamson of Shelley, Idaho, push handcarts toward campground. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Peter Durham relaxes in shade of a covered handcart being pulled by his family along the dusty, three-mile route from the visitors center to the campground.
Peter Durham relaxes in shade of a covered handcart being pulled by his family along the dusty, three-mile route from the visitors center to the campground. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Danny Woodard, West Point, Utah, and son Joe, with friends Jared and Jonathan Adamson of Shelley, Idaho, push handcarts toward campground.
Danny Woodard, West Point, Utah, and son Joe, with friends Jared and Jonathan Adamson of Shelley, Idaho, push handcarts toward campground. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd
Ben Durham and son Peter take a breather during handcart trek.
Ben Durham and son Peter take a breather during handcart trek. Photo: Photo by R. Scott Lloyd

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