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The Mormon Handcart Companies.
| I was thinking about that primary song that our kids are taught, where they sing "Pioneer children sang as they walked and walked and walked and walked...". I got to thinking about those innocent little souls - and comparing them to my own four children. They didn't have a whole lot of choices to make - they had to go with their families because they depend on their parents for their very lives.
Then I picture Brigham Young - that fool - teaching these people the big lies and filling them also with guilt and fear. I think of the pioneer people walking, pulling those carts, driving their animals, starving, blistering their feet, pulling muscles, breaking bones, freezing to death. All for this stinking cult. This stinking, stinking, rotten to the core, lying money-mongering cult.
And then I look into the eyes of my precious children - my innocent children that I love more than life itself. And I put them into the place of those poor pioneer children for a moment.... those children that trusted their mommas and daddies and hoped for happiness and peace in their lives. But instead they watch their moms and dads die, their grandparents die, their animals die, or siblings die. Or they die themselves. I can see them reaching out with split mouths from dehydration, and tears in their eyes. They only want their moms and dads to help them, but their parents are powerless. There is no magic bandaid for this kind of pain.
When I think of how much I love my children, and then pretend they are a pioneer child and I'm watching them die of starvation and hypothermia, and then having to lay them in a blanket on top of the snow - KNOWING that animals are going to rip them apart and EAT them ~~ My GOD....the horror I feel is indescribable.
And now...in this day and age, the mormons brag about their pioneer ancestors and the suffering they went through for "the truth". As if it's something to be proud of. I feel nothing but compassion and pity for them. All that suffering for this church, and now in our day the church is still overworking people, pushing them to their very limits, tearing families apart limb by limb like ravenous wolves on an empty prairie, and robbing people of their wages to build up this meaningless mass of confusion and lies and fear. Damn.
| Introduction: As Far as Pushing Its "Glorious" Handcart Myth, the Mormon Church Can Shove It |
In the four years between 1856 and 1860, Brigham Young pushed an experimental scheme using human guinea pigs in a relentless effort to funnel thousands of new Church members to Salt Lake City, designed to people Young's vision of a theocratic kingdom over which he would ruthlessly rule.
Mormonism's marionette-like "historians” in the employ of LDS Inc. have (as they so often do) gone to great lengths in their propagandistic zeal to spin the Great Handcart Debacle as a well-intended and, ultimately, glorious undertaking. It was, indeed--at least for the undertakers.
Below are some of the faith-promoting, fact-ignoring rewrites designed to deceive the mindlessly-believing Mormon flock, as well as the unsuspecting public at large.
A "Most Remarkable" Endeavor
"By the mid-1850s LDS Church leaders needed less expensive ways to move poor immigrants to Utah. The Perpetual Emigrating Fund that loaned to the needy was depleted, and costs for wagons and ox-teams were high. Therefore, Brigham Young announced on 29 October 1855 a handcart system by which the Church would provide carts to be pulled by hand across the Mormon Trail. As a result, between 1856 and 1860 nearly 3,000 Latter-day Saint emigrants joined ten handcart companies--about 650 handcarts total--and walked to Utah from Iowa City, Iowa, (a distance of 1,300 miles) or from Florence, Nebraska (1,030 miles). This was, according to historian LeRoy Hafen, ‘the most remarkable travel experiment in the history of Western America.'"
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, this murderous, on-the-cheap trek ordered by the Mormon tyrant, Brigham Young, has been divinely dubbed by some as not only a "remarkable travel experiment" but as a downright "exalting experience."
A Story of Amazing "Spiritual Stamina"
"Handcarts, assembled at outfitting points in Iowa City, and then Florence after 1857, resembled carts pulled by porters in large cities. The carts had hickory or oak wagon beds and hickory shafts, side pieces, and axles. Wheels were as far apart as normal wagon wheels. Each cart carried 400 to 500 pounds of foodstuffs, bedding, clothing, and cooking utensils, and needed two able-bodied people to pull it. Five people were assigned to each cart. Adults could take only seventeen pounds of baggage, children ten pounds. Families with small children traveled in covered or family carts which had stronger axles made of iron.
"Handcart company captains were men with leadership and trail experience. Each company included a few ox-drawn commissary and baggage wagons, at least one per twenty carts. Wagons or carts carried large public tents, one for every twenty people. A 'Captain of Hundred' had charge of five tent groups. Five companies in 1856 and two in 1857 outfitted in Iowa City and needed a month to move 275 miles on existing roads over rolling prairie to Florence, averaging eight to nine miles per day. Passing through partly settled areas, they obtained some supplies along the way. After resting at Florence, these seven companies followed the Mormon Trail to Salt Lake City; on this stretch the first three companies spent an average of 65 days, covering 15.7 miles per day. Later companies leaving Florence needed an average of 84 days. By comparison, LDS wagon trains from Florence in 1861 needed 73 days to make the journey. . . .
"Pulling carts was hard, tiring work. Handcart pioneers were exposed to rain, wind, dust, and insects. Food was tightly rationed. Most made the trek safely; but the 1856 Martin and Willie companies met disaster. They left Iowa City late, in part because more people came than expected, causing delays to assemble more handcarts and tents. The two companies crossed Iowa in normal time, but repairs at Florence slowed them. Then, on the Mormon Trail, extra flour added to the carts slowed and damaged them. Expected flour at Fort Laramie never came. Short rations and lack of warm clothes drained the travelers' energy. Severe snowstorms caught them, dropping snows up to eighteen inches deep and temperatures below freezing. Food ran out; cattle died; rescue trains from Utah had difficulty reaching the exposed and hungry sufferers. Despite heroic efforts by company members and Utah rescuers, about 200, or one-sixth of the companies, died, and dozens were maimed by frostbite and deprivation. This tragedy was the worst disaster in the history of western overland travel. Rescue wagons carried survivors to Utah over roads kept open by teamsters driving wagons back and forth to pack the snow.
"Despite the tragedy, the Mormon Church did not give up on the plan. It sent a missionary company east with handcarts early in 1857, and it had sponsored five more westbound handcart companies by 1860. Overall, the ten companies proved that handcart groups not traveling late in the season were effective, efficient means of moving large numbers of people west at low cost. Low costs enabled hundreds in Britain, mostly factory and agricultural workers who otherwise might not have come, to decide to emigrate to America.
"The handcart trek was an exalting ordeal for body and spirit and required spiritual stamina to complete. Sculptor Torlief Knaphus' statue of handcart pioneers has become one of Mormonism's best known symbols, representing the thousands of devout Saints who by cart or wagon 'gathered to Zion' in Utah."
Other LDS spinmeisters have sought to portray the use of handcarts by the Mormon pioneers as a necessity born of poverty, not a cheap conveyance encouraged by Brigham Young at the expense of his human beasts of burden.
Carts Heroically Pulled by the "Persecuted," but Patriotic, Faithful
"In the 1850s, the Mormons were being persecuted in their own country. To escape further difficulties, their leader, Brigham Young, led them on an arduous journey to Utah. Because they did not have enough money for wagons, many made their own handcarts and loaded them up with their families and belongings. These they pulled behind themselves on a thousand-mile trek on foot."
But enough of the fluff.
Now, for the real--and really repulsive--stuff.
Brigham Young’s Greedy and Horrific Handcart Disaster
In her book, Wife No. 19, former spouse of Brigham Young, Ann Eliza Webb, exposed the tragic, inept, corrupt and selfish nature of Brigham Young’s handcart scheme.
As to the person of Wife No. 19 Webb, the following biographical notes explain that:
"In 1868 Brigham Young, at age sixty-seven, married Ann Eliza Webb, an attractive twenty-four year old divorcee with two children. Young had already married dozens of other women. . . ."
Regarding Webb's tumultuous and short-lived relationship with Young, LDS scholar, Jeffery Johnson, writes:
". . . [I]n 1873, Ann Eliza Webb applied for a civil divorce [from Young]. The case came to trial in 1875, and the court ordered Brigham to pay $500 per month allowance and $3,000 court costs. When he refused, he was fined $25 and sentenced to a day in prison for contempt of court (Arrington 1985, 373). There is no record of application for a Church divorce, but she was excommunicated 10 October 1874 and devoted much of the rest of her life to publishing her somewhat sensational memoirs and giving anti-Mormon lectures."
(Of course, one would expect many, if not most, faithful LDS scholars to minimize criticism of Mormon leaders by labeling it as "sensational." Indeed, that's been par for the course for Mormon apologists ever since this fanciful frontier faith popped out of Joseph Smith's rock-laden hat).
In Chapter 11 of her book entitled, "'DIVINE EMIGRATION'--THE PROPHET AND THE HANDCART SCHEME," Webb writes in graphic detail about Brigham Young's prolonged and deliberate abuse of Mormonism's pushed-and-pulled pioneers.
Unparalleled Mismanagement Under the Guise of a "Divine Plan"
"In the history of any people there has never been recorded a case of such gross mismanagement as that of gathering the foreign Saints to Zion in the year 1856.
"Until this disastrous year the emigrants had always made the journey across the plains with ox-teams . . . The able bodied walked, and those who were too young, too old, or too feeble to perform the journey on foot, went in the wagons with the baggage. . . . Tedious and wearisome, to be sure, but in no way perilous, as plenty of provisions, bedding, and clothing could be carried, not only for the journey, but sufficient to last some time after the arrival.
"The cost of emigration in this way was from £10 to £12, English money, or nominally $50 to $60 in gold--not very expensive, surely, for a journey from Liverpool to Salt Lake City; but to Brigham, in one of his fits of economy, it seemed altogether too costly, and he set to work to devise some means for retrenchment. During the entire winter of 1855-56, he and his chief supporters were in almost constant consultation on the subject of reducing the expenses of emigration, and they finally hit upon the expedient of having them cross the plains with hand-carts, wheeling their own provisions and baggage, and so saving the expense of teams. The more Brigham thought of his plan, the more in love he grew with it, and he sent detailed instructions concerning it to the Apostle Franklin D. Richards, the Mormon agent at Liverpool, who published it in the Millennial Star, as the new 'divine plan' revealed to Brother Brigham by the Lord, whose will it was that the journey should be made in this manner."
Duping and Grouping the Faithful
"My father was in England when the ‘command of the Lord concerning them’ was given to the gathering Saints, and their enthusiastic devotion and instant acceptance of the revelation showed how entirely they entrusted themselves to the leadership of their superiors in the Church, implicitly believing them to be inspired of God. They were told by Richards, in the magazine, and by their missionaries in their addresses, that they should meet many difficulties--that trials would be strewn along their path, and occasional dangers meet them--but that the Lord's chosen people were to be a tried people, and that they should come out unscathed, and enter Zion with great triumph and rejoicing, coming out from the world as by great tribulation; that the Lord would hold them in special charge, and they need not fear terror by night nor pestilence that walketh at noonday, for they should not so much as hurt a foot against a stone.
"It was represented to them that they were specially privileged and honored in thus being called by the Lord to be the means of showing His power and revealing glory to a world lying in darkness and overwhelmed with guilt, deserted by God and given over to destruction. Considering the class of people from whom most of the converts were made, it is not at all strange that all this talk should impress their imaginations and arouse their enthusiasm. Emotion, instead of reason, guided them almost entirely, and they grew almost ecstatic over the new way in which they were called to Zion."
Brigham Young Needed Warm Bodies for His Cold-Hearted Theocratic Blueprint
"The United States government was beginning to trouble itself a little about Utah; and in order to make the Church as strong as possible, in case of an invasion, Brigham was anxious to increase the number of emigrants, and requested Apostle Richards to send as many as he possibly could. To do this, the elders counseled all the emigrants, who had more money than they needed, to deposit it with the Apostle Richards for the purpose of assisting the poor to Zion. The call was instantly and gladly obeyed, and the number of Saints bound Zion-ward was thereby nearly doubled. In the face of the disaster which attended it, it has been the boast of some of the missionaries and elders that this was the largest number that ever was sent over at one time. So much greater, then, is the weight of responsibility which rests upon the souls of those who originated and carried out this selfish design, made more selfish, more cruel, and more terribly culpable for the hypocrisy and deceit which attended it from its conception to its disastrous close. . . .
"On the 14th of March, 1856, my father, who was at Sheffield, England, engaged in missionary work, received a telegram from Richards, telling him to come at once to Liverpool for the purpose of taking passage for America in the mail-packet 'Canada' . . . He had no time to say good-bye to his friends, but made his preparations hurriedly, and left Sheffield as soon as possible. On arriving at Liverpool and consulting with Richards, he learned that he had been sent for to assist in the proposed hand-cart expedition, and that his part of the work was to he performed in the United States. He, being a practical wagon-maker, was to oversee the building of the carts. . . ."
Callous Unconcern for the Loyal Little People
"He expected, of course, to go to work at once, and was very impatient to do so, as it was very nearly the season when the emigrants should start to cross the plains, and the first vessel filled with them was already due in New York. He knew that it would be a waste both of time and money to keep them in Iowa City any longer than as absolutely necessary; besides which, after a certain date, every day would increase the perils of crossing the plains. But when he arrived, Daniel Spencer, the principal agent, was east on a visit, and did not make his appearance until an entire month had expired; and there was all that valuable time wasted in order that one man might indulge in a little pleasure. What were a thousand or more human lives in comparison to his enjoyment? Less than nothing, it would seem, in his estimation.
"Not only were there no materials provided to work with, but no provision had been made for sheltering the poor Saints, who had already commenced to arrive by ship-loads. Their condition was pitiable in the extreme; they had met nothing but privation from the time they left England. The trials that had been promised them they had already encountered, but so great was their faith, that they bore it all without a word of complaint, and some even rejoicing that it was their lot to suffer for the cause of their religion; they were sure they should all be brought to Zion in safety, for had not God promised that through the mouth of His holy Prophet? Their faith was sublime in its exaltation; and in contrast to it, the cold-blooded, scheming, blasphemous policy of Young and his followers shows out false, and blacker than ever. To have deceived a credulous people by wanton misrepresentation is wicked enough, but to do it 'in the name of the Lord' is a sin that can never be atoned for to God or man. It is the height of blasphemy, and I fairly shudder as I endeavor to comprehend, in some slight degree, the magnitude of such an offence.
"They had been crowded and huddled together on shipboard more like animals than like human beings; their food had been insufficient and of bad quality; the sleeping accommodations were limited, and there was not the proper amount of bedding for those who were compelled to sleep in the more exposed places. Some of the persons who saw the emigrants, say that it was like nothing so much as an African slave-ship, filled with its unlawful and ill-gotten freight. The air in the steerage, where most of the emigrants were, was noxious, and yet these people were compelled to breathe it through all the days of the voyage. Many were too ill to leave their beds, and a change of clothing was out of the question. The entire floor was covered with mattresses, and it was impossible to walk about without stepping over some one. Men, women, and children were huddled in together in the most shameless fashion.
"Affairs were not much bettered when they arrived at New York; the Apostle John Taylor, whose duty it was to provide for them there, was too deeply engaged in a quarrel with Apostle Franklin D. Richards, as to which of the two who were thrown on his protection, penniless and helpless, was higher in authority, to attend to these poor creatures, in a strange country. But everyone must understand that his personal dignity must be attended to and his position maintained, if all the poor Saints that were emigrated, or dreamed of emigrating, should die of starvation and exposure. I think the great body of Saints must have learned before this time that it is by no means safe to trust to the tender mercies of a Mormon Apostle. When, after a while, the Apostle Taylor's imperative personal business allowed him a moment in which to think of the unhappy emigrants, he started them for Iowa City, where they arrived only to experience a repetition of their New York sufferings, and see another illustration of apostolic neglect. Nothing had been prepared for them either in the way of shanties or tents, and they were compelled to camp in the open air, their only roof a sky that was not always blue. While in camp, there were several very severe rain-storms, from which, as they had no shelter, there was no escape; they got completely drenched, and this caused a great deal of severe illness among them. They were unprotected alike from burning sun and pitiless, chilling rain, and it is no wonder that fevers and dysentery prevailed, and that hundreds of longing eyes closed in death before they beheld the Zion of their hopes.
"It would have been strange if the faith of some had not wavered then; yet none dared complain. There was nothing to do but to go on to the end. They were thousands of miles from home, with no means of returning, and they were taught, too, that it would be a curse upon them to turn their backs on Zion. So there they remained through the long summer days, waiting helplessly until they should be ordered to move onward."
Gross Criminal Negligence: Turning Out Handcarts on the Cheap
"At length my father saw his way clear to commence his work, and he went to work with a will, pressing everyone who could be of actual assistance into his service. But here the trouble commenced again. He was instructed to make the wagons on as economical a plan as possible, and every step that he took he found himself hedged about by impossibilities. The agents all talked economy, and when one did not raise an objection to a proposal, another did, and difficulties were placed in his way constantly.
"They did not wish to furnish iron for the tires, as it was too expensive; raw hide, they were sure, would do just as well. My father argued this point with them until at last the agents decided to give up raw hides, and they furnished him with hoop iron. He was annoyed and angry, all the while he was making the carts, at the extreme parsimony displayed. A thorough workman himself, he wanted good materials to work with; but every time he asked for anything, no matter how absolutely necessary it was to make the work sufficiently durable to stand the strain of so long a journey. the reply invariably was, '0, Brother Webb, the carts must be made cheap. We can't afford this expenditure; you are too extravagant in your outlay;' forgetting, in their zeal to follow their Prophet's instructions, what the consequences would be to the poor Saints, if delayed on their way to the Valley, by having to stop to repair their carts."
Handcart Companies Forced Into an Ill-Timed Launch with Short Supplies
"As soon as was possible they started companies on the way. My father strongly objected to any of them starting after the last of June; but he was overruled, and the last company left Iowa City the middle of August, for a journey across arid plains and over snow-clad mountains, which it took twelve weeks of the quickest traveling at that time to accomplish; and in the manner in which these emigrants were going it would take much longer. He also opposed their being started with such a scanty allowance of provisions. He insisted they should have at least double the amount; but in this attempt, also, he was unsuccessful, and one of the survivors of the expedition afterwards said that the rations which were given out to each person for a day could easily be eaten at breakfast. They consisted of ten ounces of flour for each adult, and half that amount for each child under eight years of age. At rare intervals, a little rice, coffee, sugar, and bacon were doled out to the hungry travelers, but this was not often done. Many of the people begged of the farmers in Iowa, so famished were they, and so inadequate was their food which was supplied them by the agents. They were limited, too, in the matter of baggage, and again my father tried to use his influence, but all to no purpose; so much might go, but not a pound more.
"Almost discouraged, and altogether disgusted with the meanness and heartless carelessness which were exhibited throughout the whole affair, as far, at least, as he had experience with it, he yet made one more attempt to aid the unfortunate travelers, whose trials, great as they had been, had really not fairly begun. His last proposition was, that more teams should be provided, so that the feeble, who were not likely to endure the fatigues of the long march, should have an opportunity of riding; but he was met again with the inevitable reply, 'Can't do it, Brother Webb. We tell you we can't afford it; they must go cheap.' It was dear enough in the end, if human lives count for anything.
"My father never speaks of those days of preparation in Iowa City that he does not grow indignant. It might have been averted had not Brigham Young been so parsimonious, and his followers so eager to curry favor with him, by carrying out his instructions more implicitly than there was any need of doing. They were only quarreled and found fault with, and reprimanded publicly in the Tabernacle for their faithfulness to him, when it became necessary to shield himself from odium in the matter. Nothing more would have happened if they had obeyed the instincts of humanity, and deferred a little to their consciences, and they certainly would have been better off, as they would at least have retained their own self-respect, and the regard of their unfortunate charges, which, it is needless to say, they lost most completely.
"When some of the last companies reached Council Bluffs-- better known to most Mormons as 'Winter-Quarters'--there was considerable controversy whether it was best to try and go any farther before spring. Most of the emigrants knew nothing of the climate and the perils of the undertaking, and were eager to press on to Zion. Four men only in the company had crossed the plains; those were captains of the trains--Willie, Atwood, Savage, and Woodward; but there were several elders at this place superintending emigration. Of these, Levi Savage was the only one to remonstrate against attempting to reach Salt Lake Valley so late in the season. He declared that it would be utterly--impossible to cross the mountains without great suffering, and even death.
"His remonstrances availed about as much my father's had done in regard to their starting. He was defeated and reprimanded very sharply for his want of faith. He replied that there were cases where 'common sense' was the best guide. and he considered this to be one. 'However,' said he, 'seeing you are to go forward, I will go with you, will help you all I can, will work with you, suffer with you, and, if necessary, die with you.'
"Very soon after the departure of the last company of the emigrants from Iowa City, my father, with the other elders, started for the Valley in mule teams, intending to return, if they found it necessary, to bring succor to the poor wandering people. In the company with my father were Apostle Franklin D. Richards, and Elders W. H. Kimball, G. D. Grant, Joseph A. Young, Brigham's oldest son, and several others, all of whom were returning to Utah from foreign missions, and all of whom had been engaged in the expedition.
"They overtook the emigrants at their camp on the North Fork of the Platte River, and camped with them over night. Richards was told of the opposition which Savage had made, and he openly rebuked him in the morning. He then informed the Saints that 'though it might storm on the right hand and on the left, yet the storms should not reach them. The Lord would keep the way open before them, and they should reach Zion in safety.' It may be that he believed all this nonsense himself. It is to be hoped, for charity's sake, that he did. If that were the case, however, it is a pity that he had not been endowed with a little of Levi Savage's common sense. It would have been much better for the Saints than all his vaunted 'spirit of prophecy.'
"It is a significant fact, that in the very face of his prophecy, delivered to the victims of his zeal in the cause of Brigham Young, he was anxious to hasten his arrival in Salt Lake in order to send assistance back to the patient handcart emigrants, who, he must have seen, would soon be in sore straits for food and clothing. The rations were scanty, and would soon have to be lessened; the nights were chilly, and fast growing cold; and already the seventeen pounds of bedding and clothing allowed to each one were scarcely sufficient protection; and as the season advanced, and they approached the mountains, it would be totally inadequate. It was fortunate that they did not know the climate of the country, and the terrible hardships to which they were to be exposed, else their hearts would have failed them, and they would have had no courage to have recommenced the journey. My father realized it, and so did most of the party with him; yet they had no idea how horrible it was to be, else they would have insisted upon their remaining in camp until spring. Even the usually indifferent heart of Joseph A. was touched, and he hurried on to impress upon his father the urgent need for immediate assistance for those poor, forlorn creatures whom he left preparing to cross the mountains, where they would of a surety meet the late autumn and early winter storms, and where so many of them must of a certainty perish of exposure and hunger. He had no faith in the apostolic prophecy, which seemed a mockery to all those who knew the hardships of the journey which lay before these faithful souls before they could reach the Zion of their hopes.
"My father had been four years absent from us, yet such was his concern for the poor people whom he so recently left, and who had been his care for so long, that he could only stay to give us the most hurried greetings. His gladness at his return, and our responsive joy, were marred by the thought of the sufferings and privations of those earnest, simple-hearted Saints, who had literally left all to follow the beck of one whom they supposed to be the Prophet of the Lord. After all these years of absence, he only staid two days with us--as short a time as it could possibly take to get the relief-train ready with the supplies."
Blood on His Hands for His Handcart Crimes: Brigham Young’s Ultimate Guilty Conscience
"I think Brigham Young's heart and conscience must have been touched, for he really seemed for a while to forget himself in the earnestness with which he pushed forward the preparations for relief. He fairly arose to the occasion, and held back nothing which could contribute to the comfort and welfare of his poor, forlorn followers. Yet he was only acting as both justice and decency commanded that he should act. He was the cause of all this terrible suffering, and he felt that he should be made answerable. Such a transaction as this could by no means remain unknown. It would be spread over America and Europe, and used as a strong weapon against Mormonism and its leader, already unpopular enough. He realized the mistake he had made when too late to rectify it, and, with his usual moral cowardice, he set about hunting for somebody on whose shoulders to shift the blame from his own. Richards and Spencer were the unfortunate victims, and he turned his wrath against them, in private conversation and in public assemblies, until they were nearly crushed by the weight of opprobrium which he heaped upon them. He was nearly beside himself with fear of the consequences which would follow, when this crowning act of selfish cupidity and egotistical vanity and presumption should be known. Love of approbation is a striking characteristic of this Latter-Day Prophet, and he puffs and swells with self-importance at every word he receives, even of the baldest, most insincere flattery, and he cringes and crouches in as servile a manner as a whipped cur, when any adverse criticism is passed upon either his personnel or his actions. A moral as well as a physical coward, he dares not face a just opinion of himself and his deeds, and he sneaks, and skulks, and hides behind any one he can find who is broad enough to shield him.
"My father's disgust at a religion which submitted to such chicanery, and his distrust of Brigham Young, were so great, that he was very near apostatizing; but my mother again held him to the church. She argued and explained; she wept and she entreated, until he said no more about it. But though, for her sake, he took no steps towards leaving the Church and renouncing the faith, he felt daily his disgust and distrust increasing, and he never again believed so strongly in the Mormon religion, and ever after regarded Brigham with much less awe and respect than formerly."
Conclusion: "How the West Was Spun" in the Wake of Brigham Young's Forced Handcart March
Wyoming writer Annie Proulx, in a recent article for the London Guardian entitled, "How the West Was Spun," examines the creation and maintenance of certain "heroic myths of the American frontier."
Proulx notes that Americans (and this certainly holds true for fanciful-minded Mormons) hold on to and promote cherished myths, often at great detriment to the truth:
"The heroic myth of the American West is much more powerful than its historical past. To this day, the great false beliefs . . . prevail: that [these] were . . . brave, generous, unselfish men; that the West was 'won' by noble White American pioneers . . . and that everything in the natural world from the west bank of the Missouri to the Pacific Ocean was there to be used by human beings to further their wealth.
"These absurd but solidly-rooted fantasies cannot be pulled up. People believe in and identify themselves with these myths and will scratch and kick to maintain their Western self-image. The rest of the country and the world believes in the heroic myth because the tourism bureau will never let anyone forget it."
One of those stubbronly-entrenched myths that Proulx mentions is the "Mormon Handcart Journey," which is annually and magnificently mimicked by enthusiastic LDS stand-ins:
"Much of the West's past is literally acted out each year by enthusiasts called 're-enactors,' who don appropriate costumes and take on pageant-like roles in such events of yesteryear as a . . . Mormon Handcart Journey. For a few days it is real enough. . . ."
But how real is it?
William Grigg, in his article, "Mass Murder in the Desert," cites renegade Mormon historian Will Bagley's searing description of Brigham Young's Mormon handcart debacle as what it really was--a fevered flight of religious fanaticism, undertaken on the backs of thousands of devout, brainwashed Mormons who became Young's unwitting and unfortunate victims:
" . . . [F]or nearly the entire first century of the [Mormon] religion's existence--beginning with the Missouri-era threats to redeem 'Zion' by bloodshed-- faithful Mormons were marinated in hatred toward 'Gentiles' and taught the redemptive power of sanctified violence.
"In the early 1850s, the sense of besetting persecution by unbelievers so central to the Mormons' communal identity became outright paranoia after Mormon leaders unveiled the previously disavowed practice of polygamy. The nascent Republican Party identified polygamy and slavery as 'twin relics of barbarism' and declared war on both. . . .
"Like despots both ancient and modern, Brigham Young eagerly seized on this external threat to consolidate his power. He also ramped up Mormon recruitment efforts in Great Britain and Scandinavia (where Mormon missionaries carefully concealed the doctrine of polygamy) as a way of building up his kingdom. To cut down on the time and expense involved in bringing new Mormons to 'Zion,' Young ordered the construction of handcarts--rickshaw-like vehicles used to carry the pilgrims and their possessions across the plains.
"The handcart initiative led to disaster in late 1856 as two companies of Mormon immigrants (known as the Martin and Willie companies), promised by Mormon leaders that God would hold back the winter snows, were caught in an abnormally early and severe blizzard. More than 200 men, women, and children died, making the Martin/Willie debacle 'the worst disaster in the history of America's overland trails,' recalls Bagley.
"Despite the fact that the handcart disaster was a direct outgrowth of Young's 'inspired' immigration scheme, 'Mormon leaders refused to shoulder any blame for the catastrophe,' Bagley continues. Jedediah Grant, high-ranking first counselor in the Mormon Church presidency, 'laid the blame on the victims. . . . [He] blamed the death and suffering of the handcart Saints on "the same disobedience and sinfulness that had induced spiritual sleepiness among the people already in Zion."'"
So it was with Brigham Young's ruthless "Handcarts to Hell" undertaking--and so it remains (all gussied up and sanitized, of course) in the historically-disfigured annals of Mormon folklore.
| The morg had already set up a very standardized way of getting the new converts across the plains, and these immigrants were crossing the plains as a part of that official program. They were mostly English converts and had no concept of western travel so they wouldn't have a clue to do it on their own, so TSCC was the official outfitter here. However BY, notorious cheapskate that he was, was looking for less expensive means to cross (teams and wagons were pricey). So he dreamed up the handcart scheme (oh wait, God did and revealed it to BY. Sorry).
BY also surrounded himself with "yes men" who feared the consequences of failing in their mission. So when they were running behind schedule they slapped together the handcarts with greenwood (not cured) and other poor materials and sent them out very late in the spring. Some of the more knowledgeable morg leaders knew they were exposing them to considerable risk but their voiced concerns fell on deaf ears.
They lost more time when the carts kept breaking down.
At one point Apostle Richards and his well outfitted entourage passed the Willie Company in their wagons. He stopped for a day or two for some preaching, publicly rebuked a dissenter who had encouraged them to winter before getting into the Rockys, and prophecied that they would reach the SL valley without even a hair on their head being lost. He then requested some beef and they gave him their best cow. He said they'd be resupplied at Fort Laramie.
When they got to Fort Laramie there was nothing for them and they had to cut rations more deeply. When the snowstorms hit that's when death set in in a major way. 1/4 of the Martin and 1/6 of the Willie Company perished.
Read Mary Burton's account in the book "Tell It All" by Fanny Stenhouse or Ann Eliza Young's account in "Wife No. 19". Nee Webb, her father was a wagon builder who was in Florence (the point of departure) and in the Richards party that passed them by.
Once again TSCC and its huge infallibility complex prevent the truth from being told. However, the faith the handcart companies showed is the exact kind of faith that GBH wants. It's the bury-your-head-in-the-sand variety. To which I say, No thanks.
| Every year I drive through Wyoming. The stretch between Rawlins and Casper has some beautiful natural lanmarks, including Independence Rock and the Devil's Gate.
Now?...the Mormon church has hijacked the area with signs, visitor's centers and white shirted missionaries, all exploiting the Willie and Martin tragedy.
You would think it was the only thing that ever happened in the area.
Fact is, it is at the crossroads of the Oregon Trail, California Trail, Mormon Trail and the Pony Express.
But the Mormons want you to think the their "history" is more important. I doubt that you will get the numbers that Cr@ig has listed, the proportions of handcart v. wagon train.
It's just more fodder for the Mormon Mythology Machine.
They were a drop in the bucket.
The area is too beautiful to focus on the dire results of an "inspired" prophet's decisions...unless they want to say the people died becasue Brigham was a cheap bastard...well then, I'd be less averse to the whole thing. But no...Brigham was a Godling, and these folks are all martyrs.
| Approximately 70,000 Mormons migrated to the Salt Lake Valley before the completion of the railroad in 1869. Brigham Young started use of handcarts in 1856 to cut the cost of travel for all the poor European converts. There were ten handcart companies that crossed the plains between 1856 and 1860. Even after 222 people from the Willie and Martin Companies died from exposure, they kept using the handcarts till 1860.
Of the 70,000 immigrants that migrated before 1869, only 3000, or less than 5% traveled by handcart. Few Mormons actually went west solely by wagon as well. Before 1869 approximately 34,000, or 49% traveled much of the way by train. After the completion of the railroad the remaining 30,000-40,000 traveled from the east coast all the way to Ogden, UT by train. The total number of migrants eventually exceeded 100,000 so less than 3% came by handcart.
Most of the hype and reenactments started during the church's Sesquicentennial celebrations in 1998. They wanted to do some major PR stuff and thus the Willie and Martin Handcart memorial in Wyoming and all the stake youth conferences started doing the reenactments. I went on one myself. That's a long story I should share sometime. It was discovered at this time that for these past 150 years, no one had thought to do the temple work for those that died on the trail. So, of course there was much testimony bearing about it. All of this focus on these very poor, neglected pioneers fits right in with the, we have it so hard/we are so persecuted/aren't we wonderful", complex of the church.
All of my mormon ancestors, as well as my husband's family, came across the plains and many died. Through their biographies and journals we have come to realize that they accomplished an amazing feat. I don't know if I could, or even would, make the effort. I am saddened because of the sacrifices they made and the suffering they endured.
| I remember hearing about this so-called "anti-mormon" book when I was in seminary, so naturally never read it. An interesting thread jogged my memory, and with some quick Googling, I found some of it online. The part I am posting was always billed as "faith-promoting," when I was tbm. Now, I'm overcome by the suffering this cult has caused.
The first Hand-Cart Companies, which had left Iowa City early in the season, arrived in the Salt Lake Valley the last of September. They were very much fatigued, and were greatly rejoiced when their journey was ended.
The entire company had waded every river on the route to Salt Lake, and, as a consequence, the health of almost every man and woman was completely broken. The married women suffered the least, as they only had to assist their husbands in pulling the hand-carts. The young girls had to pull theirs unassisted, and they were literally worn out with the exertion. The children were placed on the carts when they became tired, and so added weight to already overburdened wagons. It was when the second of these companies came in that Brigham Young was heard to say, as he rubbed his hands and smiled with overflowing complacency, "This experiment is a success."
Alas for Brother Brigham, this remark was overheard by some of the emigrants, and it is needless to say that their faith in "inspiration," and "revelation," was very much weakened; and the subsequent adventures of their friends and companions, whose arrival had been delayed, by no means tended to reassure them, or restore their waning belief. It was enough to be the victims of a heartless and mercenary experiment; but to be deluded into the belief that it was by the direct revelation of the will of the Lord made it harder to bear, and there was much bitterness of spirit expressed when the people who had endured so much, and gloried in the endurance, because in so doing they were obeying the commands of God, learned that their sufferings were borne merely to help fill the purses of a false prophet and his corrupt followers.
When the relief train reached Captain Willie's company, they were camped on the Sweetwater, near the Rocky Ridges. They had eaten their last provisions, and death was staring them pitilessly in the face. The camp was filled with dead and dying. There was no help for the latter, and the poor souls had lost all desire to live. They were waiting, with almost apathetic indifference, for release, while those dearest to them were doubly agonized because they must see the loved ones perish, and they were helpless - even to bring comforts to them, or make life easier while it lasted. Those who were strong enough, dug one large grave in which all the dead were laid together. - It was the best they could do; but their hands were no less tender and loving, their hearts no less sore, than if the last rites had been as imposing as those of royalty itself. The only thing they could do to prepare their dear ones for the grave was to close the eyes, the loving eyes that, to the very last, had turned longingly Zion-ward; to fold the pulseless hands over the silent hearts that, through all the hardships and toil, had kept their trust firm and their faith bright; to straighten out the tired feet that, bleeding and sore, had yet toiled joyfully along the rugged path that led to the fair Canaan of their dreams; to smooth the tangled hair away from haggard faces, where the lines of care lay heavily, and yet through which the light of peace divine shone serene and pure; to arrange as decently as possible the tattered garments, which were their only clothing for the tomb, and to lay them, coffinless, in their cold bed in the Rocky Mountains, in their last, long sleep; then to go away and leave them there, with the relentless winter storms beating upon them, and no stone to mark their resting-place. The road from Winter-Quarters to Salt Lake was a via dolorosa indeed.
Thirteen had died in Willie's camp the day that succor reached them; two more died the next day; and all were buried in one grave. The men succumbed to death before the women. The cause, no doubt, was the greater weariness on account of their more arduous exertions, and their wonderful self-denial for the sake of their wives and children. They would work just so long as they could, then fall dead in front of their carts, their hands still holding them tight in the tenacious grasp of death. There was no time for mourning or delay. Hurried graves were dug, and the bodies placed therein, hastily covered, - then the survivors must press on again. Wives left their husbands, husbands their wives, parents their children, and children their parents, under the frozen earth of the desert and mountain ridges.
When the poor Saints knew that assistance had really reached them, that starvation was beaten away and death held at bay, their joy knew no bounds. They cried like children, men as well as women, and burst forth into prayer and songs of praise. They attacked the food like famished animals, and ate it with a wolfish greed. The scene is one that can never be adequately described. It was full of a terrible pathos. It told of a suffering that never can be comprehended except by those who endured it. The clothing and bedding were then divided between them, and they were made comfortable as they could be under the circumstances. That night, for the first time for many weeks, the sounds of rejoicing were heard through the camp. They were not forgotten of the Lord, nor deserted by his people; and again they found heart to sing their hand-cart hymns which had been written for them by some enthusiastic members of the train.
After seeing Captain Willie's company made comfortable, the relief train started east again in search of Captain Martin's company. This they found in camp at Grease Wood Creek, twenty miles from Willie's camp. The suffering in this company was quite equal to that of the company just relieved, and precisely the same scenes were enacted. They were wild with joy, and men and women fell on the necks of their deliverers with sobs and kisses, calling them their saviours, and invoking blessings of all kinds on their heads.
The camp was filled with dead and dying, and many had been left behind that day, having fallen exhausted in the way. The storm had been blinding, and their companions could not stop for them; they could only hasten on while daylight lasted, making their slow, painful progress towards the haven of their rest. My father and his comrades spent the night in searching for those that were left behind, and bringing them into camp. where they were tenderly cared for. Many of them died very soon after being brought in others lived, but they were maimed for life, feet and hands, in many cases. having been literally frozen off. This was the people, "the chosen people of God, for whose benefit the Indians, the seasons. nay, the very elements themselves, should be controlled." Their belief in "prophecy" must have been severely tried by this shock.
Everything had happened to them to make their journey hard. Their carts had broken down repeatedly, as my father had prophesied they would, and a great deal of delay had been caused by the frequent stopping for repairs; their cattle had stampeded, so that their supply of milk and fresh beef was cut off, and only oxen enough left to allow one yoke to a team; some of the men who dropped behind the others, wearied with the journey, were eaten by wolves; very many had died, and others were hopelessly crippled; the winter had set in earlier, and with severer Storms than have ever been known in all the Utah experience. It seemed as if the Lord were punishing priest and people, the one for the audacious assumption of power, the other for blind belief in, and dependence on, earthly promises, even when purporting to come from Him. Blasphemous presumption and foolish ignorance were alike hateful in His sight.
Richards had promised the people that they should find supplies at Laramie, but he was unable to reach there with them, and on their arrival the Saints found only a message telling them that the supplies would be at South Pass. It was with heavy hearts that they went on their toilsome way, more discouraged than ever they had been before. The swift-falling winter storms made matters worse, and it is only a wonder that so many survived as did, - that every one did not perish before aid could reach them.
The day after reaching Martin's camp. the party from Salt Lake pushed on about thirty miles farther east, walking most of the way, through a blinding snow, to meet Captain Hunt's wagon train. They found the people connected with this but very little better off than the Hand-Cart companies; they were suffering severely from the intense cold, and many had their limbs frozen. Captain Hunt might have hastened and reached Salt Lake City earlier, but he had been expressly forbidden to pass the hand-carts, which shows conclusively enough that those very persons who sent the emigrants off at that unfavorable season feared for the results. This was the last company that was to be relieved, and so my father and his companions remained with the train until it overtook the hand-carts at Devil's Gate.
At this point the train was unloaded, and all the goods which were going to Salt Lake City, that could actually be spared, were left there for the winter, and the wagons were filled with the sick and feeble emigrants, who could never have reached the Valley but for this aid. The progress was necessarily slow, but the people were so much more comfortable that the time did not drag so heavily. There were very few deaths after the mountains were well crossed, and a milder climate reached, and those who were ill grew better, although the majority of them have never been well since.
At Fort Bridger, one hundred and thirty miles from Salt Lake City, the emigrants were met by an order from Brigham Young to winter there and at Fort Supply. A general feeling of dismay spread over the camp, in spite of the joy with which the Saints received the added supplies of food and clothing. To be so near their destination, and yet to be kept from it, seemed doubly hard, after all the sorrow and hardships they had met and endured on their way. It did indeed seem as though the way to the land of promise was closed, instead of being opened to them. Were they, like Moses of old, to die in sight of their Canaan? Had they been brought all this way only to perish just outside the walls of their Zion?
The places designated by Brigham were totally unfit to winter in. Should the poor Saints, in their feeble and emaciated condition, attempt it, it was more than likely that they would perish before spring. Seeing the utter impracticability of the plan, and touched by the distress of the poor people, who were again to be made the victims of a prophetic blunder, two or three of the relieving party, among them my father, came at once to the city, travelling day and night, to have arrangements made to bring them to the Valley.
They were successful in their mission, and an express was at once despatched to bring the waiting Saints home. When at length they arrived, they were met with gladness, and given the warmest welcome. The people in Salt Lake City opened their houses to them, and took them gladly in, giving them the best and the kindest care. Those of the Hand-Cart companies, who had come in first, crowded round them, and met them with tears of rejoicing, in which sorrow mingled. It was then that they began to realize their loss. As one after another of their old companions came up. and missing some familiar face, inquired for the friend so dearly beloved, always the same sad answer came - "Died on the Plains." Sixty-seven were left on the way from the Missouri River to the Valley, which was about one sixth of the number which started.
I remember distinctly when these companies came in; their wretched condition impressed me at the time, and I have seen many of them since, poor crippled creatures, stumping about the city, trying to do enough work to keep soul and body together; more than that, they were not able to do I have heard, too, from some of them, the most harrowing stories of their journey, that terrible, fatal journey; which was one of the very worst blunders that the Prince of Blunderers, Brigham Young, ever made.
This book is online at: http://www.antimormon.8m.com/youngindex.html
| The local stake is putting on a summer handcart trek for the youth. I never quite understood these activities for several reasons, but I'll leave them out for now. What peaked my interest was the secrecy of the itinerary for the multiple day outing. The few leaders who have been given a schedule outline have their paperwork watermarked with large type "CONFIDENTIAL" across the documents. I was told that the details were tightly under wraps, because if the youth found out what was in store, they would not attend.
All youth belongings will be searched. No cell phones, mp3 players, etc. The girls will not be allowed to carry or wear makeup(ok, whatever). The bags are also being searched for food...the leaders may asked to search other leaders bags for snacks as well. The first day will comprise an 8 hour trek. The youth can eat the lunch they packed, but at the completion of the days journey they will fed a bowl of broth, nothing else. This is the reason for the food confiscation that will take place at the start of the day.
Understand too, that the parents of the youth are uninformed on the trips specifics. Not only does this trip pose a good chance of incurring liability issues, but may very well backfire the inspirational intent of those who masterminded the excursion. Todays youth are a bit like domesticated pets, not all of them are on the track team and prepared for this type of exposure and calorie restriction on an arduous march. All it takes is a bit of sunstroke out there, or a young person who has blood sugar level issues, and an elephant could fit through the legal door that has been kicked wide open.
Despite the fact that the planning has been well under way for many months, I told my wife that someone with sense will pull the plug before the scheduled event.
I'm wondering too, if there is any effort to put the handcart excursions in an accurate light? From a PBS documentary, it seems like over 20% of the participants suffered incredibly only to be met with death. It goes without saying that most had to endure the elements as well as watch their husbands and children die.
The reenactment idea seems a bit fanciful without the sobriety of the actual facts being presented to the youth, so that they can judge for themselves the gravity of the circumstances at hand, as well as the merits of the decision of pioneers/leadership to embark on such an ill fated journey. I heard somewhere that a group called "The Daughters of Zion" did a pretty good job of sanitizing pioneer journals so that a faithful remembrance of these events would emerge. Anybody have further light and knowledge here? The PBS special was only able to acquire "faithful" journal quotes from church public relations. It was odd to hear these optimistic journal entries during the television presentation, as the death toll was mounting! Not a harsh word to be retold! It just seems wrong to spin the mistakes of men into a testimony experience for the youth
| It has become fashionable for LDS stakes to participate in reenactments of the migration of its handcart pioneers, who in the mid 19th Century trudged from Iowa to Salt Lake City, pulling behind them two-wheeled wooden carts piled high with their belongings and supplies. Two such companies departed Florence, Nebraska after August 17, which was dangerously late, for it placed them in awful snowstorms in the mountains of Wyoming. Many died. Those who lived suffered horribly. When they arrived in the Salt Lake valley, their emaciated, tortured bodies presented a harrowing sight to the crowds who had assembled to cheer them.
The alleged purpose of the reenactments is to give participants an admittedly tiny shred of appreciation for what the pioneers suffered. It troubles me for three reasons:
1. The so-called “reenactment” is nothing of the sort. What modern trekkers endure is a few days of hot sun and achy limbs. Their experience does not bear the least resemblance to what their heroes of yore went through. Modern pioneer trekkers wear expensive athletic shoes, special no-blister socks and lightweight fashions. There is no starving; plenty of food and water is provided. Medical assistance is ever near. They don’t walk from Iowa; they are bused in air-conditioned vehicles to Wyoming, where they arrive fresh. They spend a few days only. Their handcarts are well-made, not flimsy, constantly breaking-down carts made hurriedly from green wood. And trekkers are not stuck in the middle of nowhere in high winds and deep snow with no communication from the outside world.
2. Totally absent is the psychological torture the real pioneers endured. Modern trekkers endure no uncertainty as to who will live and who will die. There is no fear of being called a heretic, a doubter or faithless for speaking up and saying, “Prophet shmophet, this is insanity. Let’s wait and cross in springtime, and with better-made carts.” And they don’t have to worry about arriving in Utah emaciated, with chronic health problems resulting from the trek, penniless, in need of a job, without a warm home to recuperate in.
3. The reenactments promote an Orwellian rewrite of Mormon history. Today’s Mormons celebrate the handcart pioneers as heroes. Perhaps they were. But certainly they were victims of abuse, too. Sometimes there is a fuzzy line between the two.
The glamorized, Orwellian version of the story portrays the handcart pioneers as humble, faithful followers who trusted in their God. And it portrays their leaders as prophets who obtained and passed along direction from God himself. If the direction seemed not to make sense, well, they didn’t question God. They trusted him. That meant that when hardship and death happened, it was part of the plan. When it didn’t, it was a miracle. How convenient when no matter what the outcome, the conclusion remains unchanged.
But that’s the glamorized, Orwellian version. In truth, Brigham Young and his lieutenants were despots. They bullied followers into doing as they were told. When they ordered a hasty departure on a journey too late in the year for any sane person to undertake, they brooked no dissent. Those who suggested waiting for better weather were shamed as apostates, which was about the worst thing you could call them. Today if you saw children on a playground behaving like these so-called “leaders,” you would call them bullies, brutes or brats in need of a spanking. But this was no playground. “Unconscionable, criminal con men who should have been thrown in jail” is more apt.
In my book, the handcart pioneer experience is not something to celebrate. It was a needless, perfectly avoidable tragedy – to be remembered and mourned.
I’ll allow that the modern trek reenactments may make for a great camping trip. I bet that bonding and a spirit of cooperation result. Indeed, these benefits are often presented in the form of testimonials when returning trekkers are asked to speak about their experience in church and, sometimes, on video. I have no quarrel with that.
I’ll even allow that more than a few trekkers may pause, mid-experience, and try to fathom what their forbears endured, and marvel, and even utter a word of gratitude. All good.
But when returning trekkers claim some form of first-hand experience akin to what the original handcart companies endured, it is an insult to the memory of those pioneers. For those of us who have to listen to them express it, it is an insult to our intelligence. And, to celebrate as prophets, rather than hold accountable, the despots who drove the pioneers to the act of insanity that the handcart migration was is an insult to human decency.
| Okay. Let's Put Some Heavy Sprinklings Of Historical Reality... Handcart Reminiscence |
Tuesday, Nov 15, 2011, at 09:33 AM
Original Author(s): Sl Cabbie
Topic: MORMON HANDCARTS -Link To MC Article-
| ↑ |
| On that Sunday School sundae the faithful have tried to serve up...
In Steve's RFM thread linked above, I noted I didn't have access to the history textbook an entire generation of Utah youths were assigned to read in the required seventh grade history curriculum. This volume, "The Utah Story," was written by Milton R. Hunter, an LDS General Authority and historian who taught at Utah State University.
Since making that post, I picked up a copy from a used bookstore, and the faith-promoting nonsense in it would've done Soviet-era Russian propaganda authors proud. I note there is zero mention of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and the only reference to John D. Lee describes his settling of Harmony (p. 138). There's also a picture of Parley P. Pratt, but no mention of the circumstances of his death.
Okay, for the newer sorts, the usual bullchip advisory/protocol warnings are operative. I've long advocated purchasing the apparatus and filters, etc. in bulk from Costco and staying away from cheap Asian knock-offs. Buy American if you want to avoid brain strain...
The chapter on the Handcart disaster begins on p.149 and is titled "Story of Handcart Migration to Utah" (The Utah Story; Hunter, Milton R. (1960) Wheelwright Lithographing; SLC, Ut). Here are a few extractions along with some "rest of the story" introjects involving some suspiciously overlooked factual material.
"A combination of several causes was responsible for the pioneer leaders devising that method of travel [the teacher said], and so I shall explain some of them.
Oh, man, I'm sorry I need a break...Going to have to take a bath after typing that one... Wiki reports 13 deaths in the first company, seven in the second, and "less than seven" in the third...
"Hundreds of people were migrating to America from Europe, especially from England, in 1855 and 1856. One of the main causes of this migration was the high cost of food brought about by the Crimean War. Amont the emigrants were many who had joined the Mormon Church and desired to come to Utah. Also, the cost of transporting each person from Europe to the Salt Lake Valley rose so rapidly during the early fifties [1850's] that the handcart experiment was tried to cut down the cost.
"The decision to use handcarts was reached by the pioneer leaders only after the most careful studay and experience in directing the immigration of the converts to the Great Basin during the preceeding nine years. They believed that travel by handcart could be made equal, if not superior, to that of ox teams, if everything was supervised carefully.
"They crossed the plains with less difficulty and more speed than the ox-team immigrants."
As Will Bagley detailed (and I concluded independently a few years later before reading his work on the subject), the Perpetual Emigration Fund "went broke" because wealthy English donors ceased giving funds after the practice of polygamy was "exposed" in 1852. The church announcement on this one at the 1852 Conference followed on the heels of Captain Gunnison's best-seller about the year he spent among the Mormons in the Salt Lake Valley.
And that's not even really good history; many Scottish converts were motivated by the "Clearances" where people were evicted from farms they'd worked for generations in order for land owners to raise sheep for wool during the early part of the Industrial Revolution. And Denmark and other parts of Scandinavia had no part in the Crimean War; they had their own troubles with the German Prussians. It was a field day for Mormon missionaries, selling a dream of opportunities on the American frontier to these impoverished and disaffected sorts...
Well, here's something approaching the truth...
"Unfortunately...the journey of the Willie and Martin handcart companies resulted in disaster, making it one of the saddest pages of Utah history.
How about the largest human disaster in the entire Overland Migration, circa 1842-1869?
Aaarggh!! Grab your flak helmets... Incoming highspeed you-know-whats...
Many members of the group... were in a hurry to come to Utah, and so unfortunately, they overruled those who suggested Governor Young's instructions be followed."
Remember boys and girls, follow the prophet...
"Brigham Young immediately called for volunteers to take food, clothing, and bedding to the emigrants and to bring them back to Salt Lake. Before October had passed, about 250 teams and wagons had been sent to assist the sufferers.
No mention of the ones diverted to bring the cache of liquor back to Salt Lake... Okay, that wasn't something to teach in junior high... Particularly in Utah...
| Trek just boils my blood.
The fact TSCC holds up the handcart as an iconic symbol of commitment and faith to innocent youth makes me want to burn something.
The death and suffering of naive immigrant converts was completely avoidable and a result of church leaders wanting to save money by making human beings pull a cart that up till that time, would have only been pulled by a draft animal. Ann Eliza Young, daughter of one of the men in charge of building the carts and a former plural wife of Brigham Young, described her ex-husband's plan as a "cold-blooded, scheming, blasphemous policy."
If you want to read about this monumental human atrocity you can go here, and download the Journal of Mormon History, with this article:
“One Long Funeral March”: A Revisionist’s View of the Mormon Handcart Disasters, by Will Bagley, 50
| "Handcart Trek" Recreations A Mockery Of The Suffering Of The Pioneers? |
Wednesday, Dec 5, 2012, at 01:09 PM
Original Author(s): Lazarusreborn
Topic: MORMON HANDCARTS -Link To MC Article-
| ↑ |
| I've been reading Wife No. 19 and came to the parts about the handcart fiasco. Her descriptions of the ordeal and the blame she placed do not surprise me, but prompted me to do some more research.
Growing up in the church I was subjected to two mock(and I do mean MOCK) handcart treks/recreations, where we walked maybe 3 miles per day and were rewarded at the end of the day with Dutch Oven feasts with as much food as we could eat and reasonably comfortable sleeping arrangements. Perhaps I tend too much towards cynicism, but even as a TBM youth in the church, the whole affair struck me as irreverent if not a complete sacrilege of the suffering that those poor people went through. Rather than being inspired by the faith and perseverance as I was supposed to be, I was left feeling empty and questioning how something so horrific had happened to the "Lord's chosen people".
At the time I was still brainwashed enough that I had difficulty considering that the fault could have been that of the church leaders. The other alternative to me was to question the wisdom of the pioneers themselves. I figured that they must have had SOME idea of the dangers and risks that they would face, especially the Willie and Martin companies. I couldn't help thinking how irresponsible those people must have been to bring their families and small children across the plains in such a manner. The more stories of suffering and hardship I heard in church and on the "treks" themselves the more disgusted I was by what I perceived to be the stupidity of the pioneers. I was horrified by the stories of starvation and death, but perhaps because of the graphic nature of the acts, I was especially struck by the stories where mothers amputated their little ones' fingers, toes or feet. How could I admire those people, let alone draw faith from their tales of suffering?
Being able to change my opinion of these poor people is just another wonderful benefit of waking up from my brainwashing. I can now see that these people really were victims. Victims of the early missionaries, of Brigham's lust for power and his greed and tight-fistedness. I can now truly pity the handcart pioneers, and I feel like doing so gives them some of the justice they deserved. As it is, I still think that the handcart treks that the church has propagated as "faith-building" exercises do a very large disservice to the memory of those tragedies.
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