The Mormon handcart pioneers were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who migrated to
From 1849 to 1855, about 16,000 European Latter-day Saints took ship to
|Photo from Library of Congress|
However, when contributions and loan repayments dwindled after a poor harvest in 1855, LDS President Brigham Young decided to begin using handcarts to help the European Saints, who were mostly poor. Young also believed it would speed up their journey. Nearly 3,000 Mormon converts from the British Isles and Scandinavia trekked to
The pioneers were outfitted with handcarts and supplies in
Handcart companies (think wagon train) were organized in units. Five persons were assigned per handcart, with each individual limited to 17 pounds of clothing and bedding. Each round tent, supported by a center pole, housed 20 people and was supervised by a tent captain. Five tents were supervised by the “captain of a hundred” (sub-captain). Provisions for each group of one hundred emigrants were carried in an ox-drawn wagon, and were distributed by the tent captains.
One journal keeper wrote this: ”People made fun of us as we walked, pulling our handcarts, but the weather was fine and the roads were excellent and although I was sick and we were very tired at night, still we thought it was a glorious way to go to Zion.” This immigrant was among the lucky.
There were ten handcart companies in all. Most reached
On the contrary, the immigrants faced brutal cold and were almost buried by snow in central
. The few wagons accompanying them couldn't
handle the sick and feeble, so they were piled on top of their handcarts and pushed
by exhausted family members. Others crawled on their hands and knees through the snow
because their feet were frozen. On some nights, a dozen or more people died. A number of survivors lost limbs to frostbite. Wyoming
A heroic rescue effort was mounted by the Mormon settlers in
Less than 10 percent of the Latter-day Saints who migrated west from 1846 to 1868 made the journey west using handcarts, but those determined pioneers are revered by modern day LDS members. They symbolize the fervent faith and sacrifice of all who trudged west over plains and mountains to their promised land. They are honored in events such as Pioneer Day and Church pageants.
Mormon handcart pioneers, Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormon_handcart_pioneers
Denver Post article “Handcart Hypocrisy” - http://www.denverpost.com/ci_11198729
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