Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
rongo

Youth Treks

Recommended Posts

Brigham Young actively lobbied for the Battallion, and the Church approached Washington about participating in the war. The pay, horses, and guns (which the men were allowed to keep) were a huge boon to the Saints, despite the sacrifice of being without hundreds of able-bodied men on the trek west.  

As i understand it, a military battalion was not quite what President Young had in mind, though he did have his emissaries approach U.S. President Polk in pursuit of a government contract of some sort that would help fund the Saints' westward trek. Polk came back with the proposal that Mormons enlist in the war with Mexico. President Young weight the potential advantages and gave it his blessing.

Share this post


Link to post

No need to be insulting.

 

No insult intended. I'm only pointing out that anyone with more than a vague awareness that the Mormon pioneers crossed the plains to the Salt Lake Valley is apt to be aware that the handcart chapter is not contemporary with the 1846-47 exodus from Nauvoo or with the concomitant call of the Mormon Battalion.

 

It's OK, Senator. Not everybody is interested in studying Church history. I get that.

 

So it appears that this Mormon battalion/women's pull theme is a fairly widespread event in handcart trek reinactments, which could only mean, according to you, that there is an unfortunate epidemic in the church of historical illiteracy caused by "never bothering to crack open a book on Church history or pay much attention in a Church seminary, institute or Sunday School class".

 

 

 

I acknowledge that the re-enactments typically have a component to them where women pull the handcarts up a hill unassisted. I don't know how "widespread" it is to associate that with the Mormon Battalion or to have re-enactors dressed as uniformed soldiers coming in. As has been noted here, that is quite inaccurate and anachronistic, and I would be among the first to raise an objection if I were involved in such a trek.

 

Or maybe, since it is basic knowledge, everyone involved is simply complicit in an ahistorically contrived reenactment. 

 

Or maybe, to our relief, there are a great many members who do crack open books, pay attention in seminary, institute and sunday school class, but when going by their mere recollections simply failed to catch the mismatch in the timeline.

 

As I acknowledged above, I get that many people are not interested enough to do much studying of Church history. I wish it were otherwise, but I can't change reality.

Edited by Scott Lloyd

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks for sharing that shory, it's incredible what the early saints went through.  The Willie and Martin handcart story is an excellent example of the sacrifices people are willing to make for their faith, but I would like to see the modern saints also use it as an example of what can happen when we blindly follow our leaders even if their directives go against common sense or ones own conscience.

 

As I understand it, it wasn't the leaders who wanted to go, but the people.  In fact, one leader, Levi Savage, specifically said that it would be a disaster to go so late in the season, but he was vetoed.

Share this post


Link to post

As I understand it, it wasn't the leaders who wanted to go, but the people.  In fact, one leader, Levi Savage, specifically said that it would be a disaster to go so late in the season, but he was vetoed.

Yes. This is very grippingly related in the movie "17 Miracles."

Share this post


Link to post

I don't believe that's true, jkwilliams. Other than the ill-fated Martin and Willie treks, I don't think the other companies had more than the average fatalities for overland travel of the time period. If you can document the contrary, I'm willing to listen.

Do you have any numbers at your disposal? I'd like to know how they compared against the wagon train. My understanding is that there was much less food for handcart companies than there was for wagon trains.

I also understand that the reason the PEF was low on funds was that money had been diverted to expensive but ultimately failing projects such as a sugar-processing plant and an iron works. These costly diversions added stress to an already depleted cash economy as a result of the drought conditions of 1856.

Also of interest to me is the apparent willingness of missionary guides to ignore basic guidelines for provisioning the companies and not rushing to leave without proper preparation or at risk of weather problems.

 

Some years ago at the Mormon History Association Conference held that year in Lander, Wyo., I heard Professor Bill Hartley, a recognized expert on the Mormon Trail, talk about the handcart experience. He related an incident of when he was at the Martin's Cove Visitors Center in Wyoming. One of the Church missionaries there said essentially what you just did here: that the handcart venture was a disastrous mistake. By his own account, Bill almost came unglued. He let the missionary know in no uncertain terms that, apart from the Willie and Martin company experiences, the handcart venture by and large was a success.

 

He felt so bad about his reaction that he came back the next day to apologize and made amends by seeing to it that the missionaries at the visitors center got some needed supplies.

Apparently no one in the church wrote about the handcart disasters at the time, but it was left to anti-Mormons to publicize what happened. I recall reading that many members felt that discussing the disasters was wrong because it would be evil speaking of church leaders. It's just interesting how it's all changed now.

Share this post


Link to post

As I understand it, it wasn't the leaders who wanted to go, but the people.  In fact, one leader, Levi Savage, specifically said that it would be a disaster to go so late in the season, but he was vetoed.

 

This from Wikipedia.  I don't know how accurate, but I've heard this from other sources.

 

" Because the emigrants were unfamiliar with the trail and the climate, they deferred to the returning missionaries and Church agents. One of the returning missionaries, Levi Savage, urged them to spend the winter in Nebraska. He argued that such a late departure with a company consisting of the elderly, women and young children would lead to suffering, sickness and even death. All of the other Church elders argued that the trip should go forward, expressing optimism that the company would be protected by divine intervention. Some members of the company, perhaps as many as 100, decided to spend the winter in Florence or in Iowa, but the majority, about 404 in number (including Savage) continued the journey west.

Share this post


Link to post

As I understand it, it wasn't the leaders who wanted to go, but the people.  In fact, one leader, Levi Savage, specifically said that it would be a disaster to go so late in the season, but he was vetoed.

Franklin Richards encouraged the group and challenged them to demonstrate their faith by continuing:

“When we had a meeting at Florence, we called upon the saints to express their faith to the people, and requested to know of them, even if they knew that they should be swallowed up in storms, whether they would stop or turn back. They voted, with loud acclamations, that they would go on,” which Richards said would “bring the choice blessings of God upon them.” Had not the Lord’s anointed promised those who embarked on this untested scheme that “nothing shall hinder or stay them”? Speaking on October 15 with the first rescue party still a

weekaway from the Willie Company, Richards was startlingly optimistic. “About one thousand” Saints were still on the trail “with hand-carts,” he acknowledged. “[They] feel that it is late in the season, and they expect to get cold fingers and toes. But they have this faith and confidence towards God that he will overrule the storms that

may come in the season thereof and turn them away, that their path may be free from suffering more than they can bear.” Richards’s mistake must be seen as a tactical error that was part and parcel of Brigham Young’s larger strategy of getting as many people to Zion as cheaply as possible. The inexperienced European Saints’ willingness

to trust him locked in the bad decision, even though better counsel was at hand.

Mormon Battalion veteran Levi Savage Jr., returning from a mission to the Far East after circling the globe, had never crossed the northern plains before, but a decade’s experience in the Far West gave him a clear picture of the challenges that lay ahead. In Iowa City on August 12, camping with the Willie Company, he recorded in his

journal: “I myself am not in favor of, but much opposed to taking women & Children through destitute of clothing, when we all know that we are bound to be caught in the Snow, and Severe colde w[e]ather, long before we reach the valley.” Savage was exactly right: on September 5, the company journal recorded that snow stopped the first handcart company, led by Ellsworth, in its tracks not far west of today’s Casper, Wyoming. The previous night, “it got very cold & rained for several hours so that we could not Light a fire.”

On August 13, forty-two-year-old returning missionary James Willie, captain of the fourth company, exhorted the five hundred Saints under his command “to go forward regardless of Suffering even to death.” Willie had crossed the plains in 1847 with Jedediah Grant’s company and again on his way to four years of service in the British Mission. Willie then gave Savage permission to speak, even after Savage warned that he could not support Willie’s decision. The veteran frontiersman “Said that we were liable to have to wade in Snow up to our knees, and Should at night rap ourselvs in a thin blanket. and lye on the frozen ground without abed; that was not like having a wagon, that we could go into, and rap ourselves in as much as we liked and ly down. No Said I.—we are with out waggons, destitute of clothing, and could not cary it if we had it. We must go as we are.” He did not oppose

the handcart system, he added loyally. “The lateness of the Season was my only objection.” Savage “Spoke warmly upon the Subject, but Spoke truth, and the people, judging from appearance and after expressions, felt the force of it. (but yet, the most of them, determond to go forward if the Authorities Say so.)” Willie was unwavering and dis-counted Savage’s concerns. “I had Spoken nothing but the truth,” Savage wrote, underlining the word “and he and others knew it.”

John Chislett, one of the Willie Company survivors, wrote one of the first and most powerful recollections of the handcart experiment. “Levi Savage used his common sense and his knowledge of the country,” he recalled. “He declared positively that to his certain knowledge we could not cross the mountains with a mixed company

of aged people, women, and little children, so late in the season without much suffering, sickness, and death.” He ascribed to Savage a statement not in Savage’s journal but true to his character. One of the leaders, William Kimball, Heber’s oldest son, scoffed “that he would guarantee to eat all the snow that fell on us between Florence and Salt Lake City.” In Chislett’s telling, Savage said, “Brethren and sisters, what I have said I know to be true; but, seeing you are to go forward, I will go with you, will help you all I can, will work with you, will rest with you, will suffer with you, and, if necessary, I will die with you. May God in his mercy bless and preserve us. Amen.”

Share this post


Link to post

More information about Franklin Richards:

Later on when the Willie company had reached North Bluff Fork, 320 miles from Florence, Franklin Richards and Co. showed up again in their comfortable carriages.

Again they held a public meeting, the purpose of which was to give Savage another dressing-down in from of others.

From Savage's journal.

I supposed [the meeting] was for prayers. After Singing and prayers Brother Richards commenced to Speak. And i Soon perceived that the meeting was called in consequence of the wrong impression made by my expressing myself So freely at Florance, concerning our crossing the plains so late in the Season. The impression left, was, that I condemned the hand cart Skeem an ideah, nor felt to do so, but is quite to the conturary. I am in favor of it.

After the meeting, Richards, knowing that the company was already low on supplies and food, asked the company to kill the company's fattest calf so he and his companions could have some meat.

From John Chislett's journal.

I am ashamed for humanities sake to say they took it. While we, four hundred in number, traveling so slowly and so far from home, with our mixed company of men, women, children, aged, sick, and infirm people, had no provisions to spare, had not enough for ourselves, in fact, these "elders of Israel", these "servants of God", took from us what we ourselves so greatly needed and went on in style with their splendid outfit, after preaching to us faith, patience, prayer fulness, and obedience to the priesthood.

The mind boggles.

Share this post


Link to post

This from Wikipedia.  I don't know how accurate, but I've heard this from other sources.

 

" Because the emigrants were unfamiliar with the trail and the climate, they deferred to the returning missionaries and Church agents. One of the returning missionaries, Levi Savage, urged them to spend the winter in Nebraska. He argued that such a late departure with a company consisting of the elderly, women and young children would lead to suffering, sickness and even death. All of the other Church elders argued that the trip should go forward, expressing optimism that the company would be protected by divine intervention. Some members of the company, perhaps as many as 100, decided to spend the winter in Florence or in Iowa, but the majority, about 404 in number (including Savage) continued the journey west.

 

I wonder what happened to the saints that stayed.  Did they go to the valley the next season?

Share this post


Link to post

My two older kids went on a trek re-enactment in 104-degree weather in Oklahoma. The whole thing was very poorly planned, and more than two dozen youths and adults ended up in the ER. My daughter got heat exhaustion, and both my son and daughter came home badly sunburned and covered in ticks and chiggers (I didn't even know what a chigger was until then). My daughter later was assigned to write a paper in school about "My worst experience ever," and she wrote about the trek.

By the time my youngest daughter was old enough, we had moved to Utah, and she did the trek to Martin's Cove. This time I made sure I was confident that the trip was well-planned and safe. And my wife and I had a long talk about the whole thing with my daughter to make sure she knew was she was getting into and that she would do what she needed to stay safe. This trek was much better planned and safe, and she had a good time.

Personally, I think the handcart experiment was a disastrous mistake, so it's a little weird that it's commemorated the way it is.

 

The people at Martin's Cove know how to organize these treks.  In my experience they are very good at keeping everyone safe and making sure wards are prepared.  I would be hesitant to attend trek that was put on my some random people who had never planned such a thing before.

Share this post


Link to post

My two older kids went on a trek re-enactment in 104-degree weather in Oklahoma. The whole thing was very poorly planned, and more than two dozen youths and adults ended up in the ER. My daughter got heat exhaustion, and both my son and daughter came home badly sunburned and covered in ticks and chiggers (I didn't even know what a chigger was until then). My daughter later was assigned to write a paper in school about "My worst experience ever," and she wrote about the trek.

 

I don't know how to say this so that it doesn't sound either glib or condescending but I sincerely do not intend either.  The OK trek sounds like the participants may have gotten a dose of the reality of pioneer life and handcart travel.

Share this post


Link to post

I don't know how to say this so that it doesn't sound either glib or condescending but I sincerely do not intend either.  The OK trek sounds like the participants may have gotten a dose of the reality of pioneer life and handcart travel.

As a parent, I don't think my kids need a trip to the ER to understand pioneer life.

Share this post


Link to post

Thinking about Franklin Richards reminds me that this is the kind of thing that will never be taught on a trek re-enactment, but I wish it would be. We all could use a good reminder of the human tendency for arrogance and egoism when we are placed in a position of power (think section 121).

Share this post


Link to post

I wonder what happened to the saints that stayed.  Did they go to the valley the next season?

 

Yes, I beleive so, but don't know much about them.

Share this post


Link to post

Do you have any numbers at your disposal? I'd like to know how they compared against the wagon train.

I added this to my post above; perhaps you missed it:

 

According to Encyclopedia of Mormonism, of the 2,962 immigrants who walked to Utah with handcarts, about 250 died along the way, and all but about 30 of those were in the Willie and Martin companies.

 

So if we bracket the Willie and Martin company disasters, that's approximately 30 fatalities for the remaining 2,000 or so handcart emigrants, or a ratio of 1.5 deaths per 100 travelers not involved in those two ill-fated companies.

 

I don't have any figures for wagon-train travel for the time, but my guess is the ratio of fatalities would be about the same or perhaps greater. Perhaps you can find some figures for the wagon trains.

 

My understanding is that there was much less food for handcart companies than there was for wagon trains.

 

I think it varied; some handcart companies fared better than others.

 

I also understand that the reason the PEF was low on funds was that money had been diverted to expensive but ultimately failing projects such as a sugar-processing plant and an iron works. These costly diversions added stress to an already depleted cash economy as a result of the drought conditions of 1856.

 

It's easy to second-guess decisions with the benefit of a couple of centuries of hindsight.

 

The reality is that the Mormon settlements were battling for survival, and bold economic experiments were necessary to reach that goal. Some of these experiments were more successful than others. Certainly, the iron and sugar industries were not intended to fail. (Ultimately, the sugar industry did succeed, as I can attest, having grown up on a sugar beet farm in the south end of the Salt Lake Valley. To this day, students and alumni of my high school are known as the Jordan High School Beetdiggers.)

 

You seem to be suggesting that the iron and sugar experiments were spendthrift operations. I don't think that's fair.

 

Also of interest to me is the apparent willingness of missionary guides to ignore basic guidelines for provisioning the companies and not rushing to leave without proper preparation or at risk of weather problems.

 

 

I don't know if you're referring here just to the Willie and Martin companies or to the entire four-year handcart venture, but if it's the former, I readily grant that there were grievous errors in judgment on the part of some of the leaders that ultimately led to the Willie and Martin disasters.

 

Apparently no one in the church wrote about the handcart disasters at the time, but it was left to anti-Mormons to publicize what happened. I recall reading that many members felt that discussing the disasters was wrong because it would be evil speaking of church leaders. It's just interesting how it's all changed now.

 

I don't know about that. It sounds like the view of jaundiced critics, of which there are an over-abundance, but it might be accurate. I just don't have enough information to confirm or deny it at the moment.

 

Incidentally, I amended my prior post. That MHA conference was in Casper, not Lander, Wyo.

Edited by Scott Lloyd

Share this post


Link to post

Yes, I beleive so, but don't know much about them.

Probably a good many if not most left the Church.

Share this post


Link to post

As a parent, I don't think my kids need a trip to the ER to understand pioneer life.

 

I did not say they did.  The pioneers had no ER to take a trip to. However, I posted early in this thread that I do not think those treks give any kind of realistic idea of pioneer life and to present them as doing so is disrespectful to those who went through them.  I did not, nor do I condone such realism as it is dangerous as the reality of those events attests.   These treks can not give any kind of realistic understanding of pioneer life, nor should they because frankly pioneer life was dangerous and sometimes fatal. 

Share this post


Link to post

The people at Martin's Cove know how to organize these treks.  In my experience they are very good at keeping everyone safe and making sure wards are prepared.  I would be hesitant to attend trek that was put on my some random people who had never planned such a thing before.

I think this is a valid point.

 

Just like there are planners who don't know enough about Church history to grasp that the Mormon Battalion enlistment did not occur during the handcart era, there are planners who really aren't very competent about putting on such an event.

Edited by Scott Lloyd

Share this post


Link to post

It's easy to second-guess decisions with the benefit of a couple of centuries of hindsight.

John Taylor didn't need a couple of centuries. Taylor, who was in charge of the handcart companies on the eastern side, recommended a minimum of 1 wagon team for every 50 people, a ratio Brigham Young rejected because he thought “it would encourage infirmity or rather laziness which is quite as bad”. Brigham Young went on to chastise Taylor in Oct 1856, after the Willie & Martin problems were well known, for incurring additional emigration expenses. Taylor, in his defense responded with

I do not consider that a few dollars were to be put in competition with the lives of human beings.

 

I don't know about that. It sounds like the view of jaundiced critics, of which there are an over-abundance, but it might be accurate. I just don't have enough information to confirm or deny it at the moment.

If I'm jaundiced, it's because of stories like what I just read about Franklin Richards, which at the moment has me on the verge of tears. I cannot fathom abusing people's faith and trust in that way.

Share this post


Link to post

John Taylor didn't need a couple of centuries. Taylor, who was in charge of the handcart companies on the eastern side, recommended a minimum of 1 wagon team for every 50 people, a ratio Brigham Young rejected because he thought “it would encourage infirmity or rather laziness which is quite as bad”. Brigham Young went on to chastise Taylor in Oct 1856, after the Willie & Martin problems were well known, for incurring additional emigration expenses. Taylor, in his defense responded with

 

 

Perhaps it was inadvertent, but you took my statement out of context.

 

My "hindsight" statement was in response to your comment about the PEF running short because of the money spent on the iron and sugar industries. I don't think it's fair to blame the Church leaders of the time for trying various economic experiments to ensure the survival and further the vitality of the settlements.

 

 

If I'm jaundiced, it's because of stories like what I just read about Franklin Richards, which at the moment has me on the verge of tears. I cannot fathom abusing people's faith and trust in that way.

 

i agree with you about Richards's poor judgment and abuse of authority. As i recall, he was roundly and publicly chastised by Brigham Young later.

 

Do you have a response to my comment regarding the ratio of fatalities with the handcart travelers vs. the ratio with the wagon train travelers?

Edited by Scott Lloyd

Share this post


Link to post

I think this is a valid point.

 

Just like there are planners who don't know enough about Church history to grasp that the Mormon Battalion enlistment did not occur during the handcart era, there are planners who really aren't very competent about putting on such an event.

Amen to that. I've been involved in some fairly disastrous activities in and out of the church, and they usually are a result of poor planning and execution. But I've never seen anything on the scale of that trek, and I hope I never do.

Share this post


Link to post

Do you have a response to my comment regarding the ratio of fatalities with the handcart travelers vs. the ratio with the wagon train travelers?

You appear to be right. From what I have been reading, the big differences are that the handcart companies traveled with much less provisions and little shelter compared to the wagon trains; because of the lack of provisions, a large percentage of the travelers had to sell their belongings and clothing for food both on the way and on arrival in Salt Lake. The death rate may not have been higher, per se, but clearly the levels of misery were.

Share this post


Link to post

You appear to be right. From what I have been reading, the big differences are that the handcart companies traveled with much less provisions and little shelter compared to the wagon trains; because of the lack of provisions, a large percentage of the travelers had to sell their belongings and clothing for food both on the way and on arrival in Salt Lake. The death rate may not have been higher, per se, but clearly the levels of misery were.

Again, I think it varies.

 

The Wikipedia entry on "Mormon handcart pioneers," apart from the Willie and Martin companies, describes hunger and suffering in some, but characterizes others as "relatively uneventful."

Share this post


Link to post

Again, I think it varies.

 

The Wikipedia entry on "Mormon handcart pioneers," apart from the Willie and Martin companies, describes hunger and suffering in some, but characterizes others as "relatively uneventful."

This statement from John Jaques, secretary to Presidents John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff, sums up my feelings:

To all, the journey, with its great and incessant toils, its wearing hardships, and wasting privations, was a hard and bitter experience, wholly unanticipated. But to many, and especially to women and children who had been delicately brought up and tenderly cared for, and who had never known want nor been subject to hardships previously, as well as to the weakly and elderly of both sexes, it was cruel to a degree far beyond the power of language to express, and the more so for the reason that the worst parts of the experience were entirely unnecessary, because avoidable by timely measures and more sagacious management.

Share this post


Link to post

I did not say they did. The pioneers had no ER to take a trip to. However, I posted early in this thread that I do not think those treks give any kind of realistic idea of pioneer life and to present them as doing so is disrespectful to those who went through them. I did not, nor do I condone such realism as it is dangerous as the reality of those events attests. These treks can not give any kind of realistic understanding of pioneer life, nor should they because frankly pioneer life was dangerous and sometimes fatal.

They could make it somewhat realistic, like have them kill a turkey or chicken and cook it. Something like that. Though some of my kids Treks had some big hiccups, one had a snow storm for which they were ill prepared for and it was difficult to get warm and dry sleeping bags, clothing etc. to them, and another their leaders get them lost which meant they were walking many more miles than what they were suppose to and had medical emergencies stem from it. The Trek in our stake also provided yummy steak dinners, candy and goodies. Not even shoe leather soup, what's up with that?

Share this post


Link to post
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
Sign in to follow this  
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...