Born: 3 June 1837, Manchester, Lancashire, England
Martin Handcart Company
My father and mother, William Harrison and Hannah Louise were born in England and married in 1836. They had nine children before we began our journey to gather with the saints, three of the children died as infants and are buried there, in England. Our family secured passage aboard the ship 'Horizon'. Father, Mother, myself, George (14), Mary Ann (13), Alice (10), Joseph (6), Hannah 'Caddie' (almost 2) and Sarah Ellen (5 months). We boarded the ship in the Liverpool harbor late in May of 1856. After about five weeks at sea, we landed in Boston.
After all the things were ready, we started on our journey by rail. The seats of the train were two-inch plank with no back. Many of the younger boys in the company would often jump off the train to grab handfuls of fruit from the orchards that lined the track and then quickly overtake the train again and hop back on. We soon grew very tired of that way of traveling. We went from Boston to Chicago, then to Rock Island across the river on a steamboat, because the railroad bridge was burned down. After we all got over we took the train for Iowa City. When we got there and our baggage was unloaded, it was getting late in the day. Our camping ground was 3 miles from the city, as there was no place at the depot to accommodate so many people. My brother, George, and I stayed at the depot to help and so were separated from our family. Some of the people started for the camp on foot just about dark, and George and I were among them. We had not gone very far when it began to rain and it was so dark we could not see anything. We made out the road by the help of lightening. For Iowa can beat the world for lightening and thunder, but I never was afraid of lightening. After ascending a steep hill I could see a fire at the camp. They were keeping a big fire burning to let the people know where the camp was for there was a great many people waiting there to get their teams and wagons ready to start across the plains. When we saw the fire George and I started in a straight line for it and not knowing anything about the country we thought it would be the best way. The rain had quit after it had wet us through and after going through numerous pools of water from ankle deep to knee deep, and wallowing through grass as high as our heads, we managed to reach camp.
On Iowa Hill we began to outfit for the journey, building handcarts and sewing tents and making what preparations we could. Once all were ready, we departed Iowa Hill on 28 July 1856. There were 576 people, with 146 handcarts, 7 wagons, 30 oxen, and 50 cows and beef cattle in our company.
Born: 3 June 1837, Manchester, Lancashire, England
Martin Handcart Company
At first we traveled fifteen miles a day, although delays were caused by the breaking of wheels and axles, the heat and dryness making many of them rickety and unable to sustain their loads without frequent repairs. We had ox teams, which hauled the tents and what provisions we had. The company was in good spirits, and each night would join in meetings, singing hymns and dancing. Once we reached Florence, Nebraska our captains were concerned about the late date and the change of seasons. Some thought it might be best to winter there. A vote was called in the company and by a mostly unanimous count, we voted to continue on.
It became necessary to reduce our rations, and the re-supply stations we had hoped for lacked sufficient stores to supply us. Mother was still nursing, and so starved that she could provide no milk for baby Sarah. George also became very ill - he contracted Malaria. Burning with fever and starved for want of nourishment, George spied an Indian camp off the trail and turned aside to beg food from them. None of us had noticed when he left our company, but we had passed an Indian village, which, when father noticed George was gone, he searched back along the trail, and then inquired in the Indian camp. An old squaw had taken George into her care and fed him some stew she was boiling, father related. The old squaw begged father to let him stay with them, for she was sure he would die if forced to continue the journey at that time. Father felt that it was the right thing to do, though we all mourned and prayed and hoped that somehow, someday, we would see George alive and well again.
Mid-October the cold and snowstorms became our lot. On October 19th, our company crossed the N. Platte River for the last time... the water was very cold and there were great chunks of ice floating in it. Only twelve miles beyond this last crossing the deep snow stopped us. Fifty-six of our members died in those few days since we crossed the river that last time.
We knew that our food supplies were limited; only three days worth left. But the storms and wind continued to pound, and we could make no further journey. At this time, we prepared our minds and hearts. It was at this place that Joseph A. Young arrived as the leader of the express relief party sent from the valleys by President Brigham Young - he rode a white mule down a snow covered hill. Women and men surrounded him, weeping and crying aloud; on their knees, holding to the skirts of his coat, as though afraid he would escape from their grasp and flyaway. Joseph stood in their midst drawn up to his full height and gazed upon their upturned faces, his eyes full of tears. His coming gave us a pound of flour that night instead of the four ounces we’d had issued to us for several days past. The next morning we left this camp where we had been about four days and had buried about 14 of our number.
We traveled on to meet with the wagons of the relief party and many sick and ill left behind their carts and continued in the wagons. We took very few carts with us, and as more wagons reached us all carts were abandoned and we were conveyed into the Salt Lake Valley November 30, 1856.
Fourteen months later, George found our family in Springville, Utah; he had joined with Johnston's Army Group to travel on to Utah. George told us the Indians had named him 'White Skeleton' and nursed him back to health kindly. All of my family made the journey to Utah alive.
Aaron married Ursula Carson and was living in California at the time of the 1880 census.
Born: February 22, 1847 in Glasgow, Scotland
Willie Handcart Company
I came with my mother, Margaret Ann (40), and siblings, Robert (17), Thomas (14) and Elizabeth (12) and Christina McNeil (24) who had worked for our faimly in Scotland. My oldest sister, Mary, had died when she was only one year old. My oldest brother, William (Jr.) did not emigrate with the family because he had enlisted in the Scottish army, and though he and my mother both tried, he could not get out of it. It was a very sorrowful and grief filled day when we left my brother behind.
"I have no memory of my father, as before my birth he set sail for the Candadian borders. He had visited with his parents [in Canada] and was on his way to the United States to investigate the feasibility of bringing his family to America or Canada. His parents notified mother about the news that he was lost at sea. His name was neither on the list of those saved or those lost." My parents had joined the church just before father left. My mother continued with her plans to save and join the saints who were at that time fleeing Nauvoo. "You can well imagine it was no easy thing for mother to make a living for a family of five, three boys and two girls. Necessarily, I was brought up in the strictest economy." Mother scrimped and saved for almost nine years before we finally boarded the ship "Thornton" in May of 1856 "for the promised land. We joined the Willie Handcart company and began the noted tramp across the desert waste. Many times on the trek I would become so tired and, childlike, would hang on the cart, only to be gently pushed away. Then I would throw myself by the side of the road and cry. Then realizing they were all passing me by, I would jump to my feet and make an extra run to catch up."
My mother was very wise and helped us to avoid feeling overly hungry. In Iowa City she sold a bedspread for twenty-four cents to save for buying food. She also traded trinkets with Indians for dried meat.
Even though it is Ocober now, we do not suffer as much as others from hunger--mother planned well. Nearly day-by-day I could relate the sad story of our frozen handcart company. I remember well the day the rescue wagons arrived. All of us cried, even the grown men. One day, the other children and I "decided to see how long we could keep up with the wagons, in hopes of being asked to ride... One by one they all fell out until I was the last one remaining. After what seemed the longest run I ever made... the driver, who was [Brother] Kimball, called to me, 'Say sissy, would you like a ride?' I answered in my very best manner, 'Yes, sir.' At this he reached over, taking my hand, cluckinig to his horses to make me run, with legs that seemed to me could run no farther. On we went, to what to me seemed miles. What went through my head at that time was that he was the meanest man that ever lived or that I had ever heard of, and other things that would not be a credit nor would it look well coming from one so young. Just at what seemed the breaking point, he stopped. Taking a blanket, he wrapped me up and lay me in the bottom of the wagon, warm and comfortable. Here I had time to change my mind, as I surely did, knowing full well by doing this he saved me from freezing when taken into the wagon."
My family and I arrived in the Valley on November 30, 1856! My sister Elizabeth needed only two toes amputated. We settled togther in Brigham City where I met and married Chester Southworth. I weighed only 96 pounds when I was married at age 18 and I could easily stand under my husbands outreached arm. My children would come to say that whenever I had lectured or reprimanded them they had received my 'Scotish Blessing.'
Chester and I had 13 children. We lived in Brigham City Utah, Idaho, Canada and California, always accepting the call to go and colonize other places. My Chester died in California in 1910. After this I returned to my home of Brigham City. "At a Relief Society Conference in the Tabernacle I was called the the stand. Here in my meekness and humility, I bore my testimony as to the truthfulness of God's great work." I leave my testimony with you now. "We can go to our Heavenly Father in all confidence knowing that he answers prayers. When we go to Him humbly and sincerely, believing that we will get that which we desire, if it is for our good, then is the time we will get that which we ask for. We can be cheerful and thankful if we keep his spirit with us at all times. Did you ever know how many of us complain unthinkingly? We complain about the weather. We complain about the seasons. It is either too hot or too cold. Did it ever occur to you that our Father in Heaven rules over all and does all things well? I always [try] to be more conscious of the Lord's blessings by trying to be more grateful, cheerful and uncomplaining. May the Lord bless you as you do this in your own life."