Ann (Grimshaw) Jackson
Mormon Immigrant to Nephi, Utah from Manchester, Lancashire
Ann (Grimshaw) Jackson Jenkins
Ann Grimshaw was born in 1806 in Manchester, England to Martha Grimshaw and James Hedges (possible stepfather). It seems likely that she is descended from the Audenshaw Grimshaw line. A candidate great-grandfather, John Grimshaw, has been identified in the Audenshaw line, but the candidate is highly speculative.
Ann married Benjamin Jackson (born March 4, 1797) in Manchester on July 19, 1824, and the couple had 9 children, born from 1824 to 1847. The family converted to Mormonism and decided to emigrate to Utah. Benjamin left in 1849 with the plan that he would send funds for the transport of the family to follow him. However, the family did not hear from him again. So Ann and five of the children found other means and departed England some eight years later for Salt Lake City on the ship Horizon on May 25, 1856. They arrived in Florence, Nebraska on July 18, 1856 for the handcart journey to Salt Lake City.
Ann and her children were in the ill-fated Martin handcart party, which lost more than 145 (more than 25%) of the 576 members during the trip from Florence to Salt Lake City. Most of the deaths were due to exposure from early-season storms. The party arrived in Salt Lake City on November 30, 1856.
Ann did not find her husband upon arriving in Salt Lake City, so upon the encouragement of church authorities, married a second time, to James Jenkins, on December 27, 1861 in Salt Lake City. Ann and James settled in Nephi, Utah and lived out their lives there. Ann died there on March 27, 1873, and James died on November 17, 1892. Both are buried in the Nephi City Cemetery. Benjamin Jackson died on January 4, 1887 in Salt Lake City and is buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
None yet …
The following photos of Ann (Grimshaw) and Benjamin Jackson are from Ron Jackson’s webpage. The picture at the top of the webpage is apparently from a later date.
Donald L. Haynie prepared the following biography of Ann Grimshaw that appears on the Jackson Family website. It is not yet known who Mr. Haynie is in relation to the Ann Grimshaw and Benjamin Jackson.
ANN GRIMSHAW JACKSON
from Donald L. Haynie
ANN GRIMSHAW JACKSON, a daughter of James Hedge and Martha Grimshaw, was born in 1806 in Manchester, Lancashire, England. On July 19, 1824, she was married to Benjamin Jackson. To them were born nine children, all of them being born in Manchester, Lancashire, England:
December 24, 1824
January 24, 1827
November 1, 1829
June 21, 1832
April 20, 1835
September 5, 1837
December 12, 1839
July 13, 1844
May 8, 1847
Benjamin was a carpenter by trade. He and his family decided that he should go ahead to America and, there, he would work as a carpenter to earn money which he would send back to England to pay the way to America for the rest of the family. In 1849, he boarded a sailing vessel bound for America. He was not to be heard from again until the late 1860s.
Earning the money in other ways to pay their way to America, Ann Grimshaw Jackson and five of her children, Elizabeth, Martha, Joseph, Samuel, and Nephi, sailed from Liverpool, England, on May 25, 1856, on the old-time sailing ship, “Horizon,” with 856 souls aboard, led by Captain Edward Martin. The voyage across the Atlantic Ocean took about six weeks, and was relatively peaceful and uneventful. They landed safely at Boston about the first of July and “loaded-out” for Florence, near Omaha, Nebraska, the terminus of the railroad, arriving there on July 8, 1856. Some of the Jackson family had wanted to call on their brother, John Jackson, who was then living in Boston, but Samuel absolutely refused to hunt up John, for fear he would persuade the family to settle at Boston. The family went on and did not visit John.
At Florence, they were held up a few days to await the making of handcarts. After the journey to Utah had commenced, a count was made which showed that the company consisted of seven wagons and 146 hand carts.
The Jackson family had two handcarts, one manned by the two girls, Elizabeth and Martha, and one manned by Joseph and Samuel. The handcarts rolled along very nicely until the foothills and the mountains and the snow were encountered. Although we have not been told all the details, there was some trouble encountered while crossing the Indian territories.
The mother, Ann Grimshaw Jackson, was a small woman, not much more than a hundred pounds and subject to heart trouble. She took it upon herself to take care of a son, Nephi, who was about nine years old. The mother and son would leave in the morning before the handcarts would start. She was lucky sometimes to have a rough, coarse biscuit for lunch for her and her son. After being on the trail for some time, the company would pass them. The boy would get hungry and fretful and the mother would get so sympathetic that she would give him her part of the biscuit and she would go on the rest of the day without anything at all to eat. Many times, her son would get so tired the mother would take him on her back and would carry him to rest him. About sundown, when the company would stop to camp for the night, the girls, Elizabeth and Martha, would walk and run back to meet their mother and brother, not sure of finding them alive, or possibly, finding them lying beside the trail exhausted.
However, they always had good luck in meeting Ann and her son, trudging along. While the girls were away to meet the mother, the boys were busy setting up the camp. As the snow was usually from one to two feet deep, and they had no shovels, the boys would dip the snow out of the way with pie plates, while preparing the camp. Their fires were often not very large because of the scarcity of fuel.
Many of the company fell behind and some died along the way. Later, because of early and heavy snows, some of the handcarts had to be abandoned. On November 13, 1856, Joseph Young and Abel Garr arrived in Salt Lake City and reported that the Martin Handcart Company was stranded in the mountains by the heavy snow. President Brigham Young dispatched teams, men and supplies, to help the beleaguered Saints.
Before being rescued from the snow and cold by the relief party from Salt Lake City, the family, along with all members of the company suffered many privations. Samuel often related how he would suck the marrow from the sun-parched bones of the animal carcasses he found along the trail. He said they also burned the hair off raw hides and roasted the hides before eating them.
When the rescue party arrived, Samuel would pick up the corn slobbered from the mouths of the oxen as they were being fed and would parch this corn to eat. The rescue party warned the company, who were so weak and hungry, to be very careful and not eat too much too quickly.
On Sunday, November 30, 1856, what was left of the company arrived in Salt Lake City. This was the Martin Handcart Company. Brigham Young and the Authorities of the Church were very careful to place the immigrants in settlements where their language was spoken. The Jackson family was sent to Nephi, Juab County, Utah.
Ann Grimshaw Jackson, after crossing the Plains, made her home in Nephi, Utah, where she lived for the rest of her life. As she had not heard from her husband, Benjamin, for over seven years, she took action to have him declared legally dead, thus making her a widow. In those days, widows and widowers were counseled by Church authorities to remarry. Believing she was a widow, she married a man by the name of Jenkins, with whom she lived happily the rest of her life.
Ann Grimshaw Jackson was a small woman who, throughout her adult life at least, suffered from heart trouble. One evening, an acquaintance was crossing a narrow bridge over a mill race. It was dark and he heard splashing in the water below. When he investigated, he found Ann Grimshaw Jackson, whom he rescued. While crossing the bridge, she had had a heart failure and had fallen in to the mill race. She continued to live in Nephi and died there on March 27, 1873. She is buried in Nephi.
From the Jackson Family website: http://www.jacksonfamilyhistory.com/Histories/H019_Ann%20Grimshaw%20Jackson.pdf
The Jackson Family Website includes a great deal of information on Ann Grimshaw’s roots in England. The information is summarized below.
Born: ABT 1692 – Wilmslow, Chesh, England
Marr: <1717> – Wilmslow, Chesh, England
Father: Mr. Grimshaw
Mrs. Sarah Grimshaw
Born: ABT 1696 – Wilmslow, Chesh, England
1. James Grimshaw
Born: 22 JAN 1718 – Wilmslow, Chesh, England
Marr: 1757 – Martha
2. Joseph Grimshaw
Chr.: 11 AUG 1723 – Wilmslow, Cheshire, England
3. Alice Grimshaw
Chr.: 18 JUN 1726 – Wilmslow, Chesh, England
Born: 22 JAN 1718 – Wilmslow, Chesh, England
Marr: 26 JAN 1757 – Manchester, Lancashire, England
Father: John Grimshaw
Mother: Mrs. Sarah Grimshaw
Born: 1753 – England
Born: BEF 1775 – Gorton Lane, Wilmslow, Chesh, England
Marr: 1796 –
Died: 27 MAR 1873 –
2. Martha Grimshaw
Born: 1784 – Manchester, Lancashire, England
Note for: Martha , BEF 1775 – 27 MAR 1873
Date: 10 AUG 1775
Place: Gorton Lane,Wilmslow,Chesh,England
Born: 4 MAR 1797 – Wilmslow, Cheshire, England
Marr: 19 JUL 1824 – Manchester, Lancashire, England
Died: 4 JAN 1887 – Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah
Father: James Jackson
Mother: Elizabeth Betty Cash
Born: 1806 – Manchester, England
Died: 27 MAR 1873 – Nephi, Juab, Utah
1. Samuel Jackson, Sr.
Born: 13 JUL 1844 – Manchester, Lancashire, England
Marr: 1867 – Hannah Maria Jaques
Died: 3 MAY 1919 – St. George, Washington, UT
2. Martha Ann Jackson
Born: 20 APR 1835 – Manchester, Lancashire, England
Marr: 1856 – Edward Jones
Died: 9 FEB 1897 – Nephi, Juab, Ut
3. John Jackson
Born: 5 SEP 1837 – Manchester, Lancashire, England
Marr: 1859 – Elizabeth Cort
Died: 19 AUG 1900 –
4. William Jackson
Born: 1 NOV 1829 – Manchester, Lancashire, England
Marr: 1852 – Ann
Died: 4 JUN 1886 – Salford, Lancashire, England, United
5. Joseph Jackson
Born: 12 DEC 1839 – Manchester, Lancashire, England
Died: 6 DEC 1856 –
6. Elizabeth Jackson
Born: 21 JUN 1832 – Manchester, Lancs, England
Marr: 1856 – John Kirkman
Died: 17 MAR 1908 – Salt Lake City, S.L., UT
7. James Jackson
Born: 24 DEC 1824 – Manchester, Lancas., Eng.
8. Nephi Jackson
Born: 8 MAY 1847 – Manchester, Lancas., Eng.
Marr: 1880 – Mary Ann Cole Ockey
Died: 13 AUG 1928 –
A partial ancestry and descendant chart for Ann Grimshaw is constructed below based on information from the Jackson Family History website.
John Grimshaw (abt 1692, Wilmslow – ?) & Sarah (unknown) Grimshaw (ca 1696, Wilmslow – ?). Married ca 1717.
|—1 James Grimshaw (22 Jan 1718, Wilmslow – ?) & Martha (1753, England – ?) Married 26 Jan 1757, Manchester
|—|—2 Martha (bef 1775, Gorton Lane, Wilmslow – ?)
|—|—2 Martha Grimshaw (1784, Manchester; chr 10 Aug 1775, Gorton – 27 Mar 1873) & James Hedges
|—|—|—3 Ann Grimshaw* (1806, Manchester – March 27, 1873, Nephi, Utah) & Benjamin Jackson (Mar 4, 1797 – Nov 17, 1892, Salt Lake City, Utah). Married July 19, 1824, Manchester.
|—|—|—|—4 James Jackson (24 Dec 1824, Manchester – ?)
|—|—|—|—4 Ann Jackson (24 Jan 1827 – ?)
|—|—|—|—4 William Jackson (1 Nov 1829, Manchester – 4 Jun 1886, Salford, Lancashire) & Ann ? Married 1852.
|—|—|—|—4 Elizabeth Jackson (21 Jun 1832, Manchester – 17 Mar 1908, Salt Lake City) & John Kirkman. Married 1856.
|—|—|—|—4 Martha Ann Jackson (20 Apr 1835, Manchester – 9 Feb 1897, Nephi, Utah) & Edward Jones. Married 1856.
|—|—|—|—4 John Jackson (5 Sep 1837, Manchester – 19 Aug 1900) & Elizabeth Cort. Married 1859.
|—|—|—|—4 Joseph Jackson (12 Dec 1839, Manchester – 6 Dec 1856)
|—|—|—|—4 Samuel Jackson (13 Jul 1844, Manchester – 3 May 1919, St George, Utah) & Hannah Maria Jaques. Married 1867.
|—|—|—|—4 Nephi Jackson (8 May 1847, Manchester – 13 Aug 1928). & Mary Ann Cole Ockey. Married 1880.
|—|—|—3 Ann Grimshaw* (1806, Manchester – March 27, 1873, Nephi, Utah) & James Jenkins (20 Dec 1803 – 17 Nov 1892). Married Dec 27, 1861, Salt Lake City
|—1 Joseph Grimshaw (chr 11 Aug 1723, Wilmslow – ?)
|—1 Alice Grimshaw (chr 18 Jun 1726, Wilmslow – ?)
It may be that John Grimshaw, who was born in about 1692 and married Sarah ?, is descended from the Audenshaw Grimshaw line. A candidate is shown below (in bold and italics) in the Audenshaw Grimshaw descendant chart. However, this candidate is highly speculative — he only as the same name and approximate birthdate. This John Grimshaw is a great-grandson of the earliest known Grimshaw family — George and Emme (Taylor) Grimshaw — in the Audenshaw family line.
George Grimshaw (1600, Lancashire – 14 Apr 1675) & Emme Taylor or Telier (abt 1696, Wilmslow – ?). Married abt 1717.
|—1 George Grimshaw (22 Jul 1627, Droylsden – 24 Jun 1696, Droylsden) & Ann Wilde (ca 1631 – ?). Married ca 1653.
|—|—2 George Grimshaw (1654, Gorton – ?)
|—|—2 James Grimshaw (10 Feb 1661, Gorton – 27 Jun or 25 Oct 1718, Droylsden) & Mary (1665, Lancashire – ?). Married ca 1697.
|—|—|—3 James Grimshaw (16 Oct 1694 – 11 Feb 1772) & Jane Stanfield. Married 1 Feb 1721.
|—|—|—3 John Grimshaw (possible candidate)
|—|—|—3 Mary Grimshaw (29 Jun 1696 – )
|—|—|—3 Elizabeth Grimshaw (13 Jan 1703 – 1723) & Pilkington
|—|—|—3 Ann Grimshaw (Aug 1707 – 3 Oct 1729) & Knight
|—|—2 Joseph Grimshaw
|—|—2 Thomas Grimshaw
|—|—2 Mary Grimshaw (1672 – )
Wilmslow, where Ann Grimshaw’s great-grandfather was born, is relatively close Audenshaw and so could be a candidate from a geographic standpoint.
When Ann couldn’t locate her husband upon arriving in Salt Lake City in 1856, she subsequently she married James Jenkins in 1861.
Ann Grimshaw is buried in the city cemetery of Nephi, Utah as is her second husband, James Jenkins. The following information is from Find-A-Grave.
Description on Find-A-Grave…
Ann Grimshaw Jackson
Birth: 1806, Lancashire, England
Death: Mar. 27, 1873
Nephi, Juab County, Utah, USA
Benjamin Jackson (1797 – 1887)*
Nephi Jackson (1847 – 1928)*
Burial: Nephi City Cemetery, Nephi, Juab County, Utah, USA
Created by: Jerry Shepherd
Record added: Feb 21, 2007
Find A Grave Memorial# 18014151
James Jenkins is also buried in the Nephi City Cemetery…
Birth: Dec. 20, 1803, Presteigne, Wales
Death: Nov. 17, 1892, Nephi, Juab County, Utah, USA
Ann Jenkins Jarrett (1830 – 1911)*
Richard Jenkins (1836 – 1906)*
Elizabeth Sarah Jenkins Henriod (1838 – 1875)*
Emma Jenkins Cole (1841 – 1920)*
James Jenkins (1843 – 1904)*
Note: Burial Info:
Burial: Nephi City Cemetery, Nephi, Juab County, Utah, USA
Created by: Andrea
Record added: Aug 17, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 57206336
The following information on the ill-fated Willie and Martin Handcart Companies is from Wikipedia (downloaded March 2012).
Mormon Handcart Pioneers
The Mormon handcart pioneers were participants in the migration of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the LDS Church) to Salt Lake City, Utah, who used handcarts to transport their belongings. The Mormon handcart movement began in 1856 and continued until 1860.
A statue commemorating Mormon handcart pioneers on Temple Square in Salt Lake City, Utah
Motivated to join their fellow Church members in Utah but lacking funds for full ox or horse teams, nearly 3,000 Mormon pioneers from England, Wales, Scotland and Scandinavia made the journey from Iowa or Nebraska to Utah in ten handcart companies. The trek was disastrous for two of the companies, which started their journey dangerously late and were caught by heavy snow and severe temperatures in central Wyoming. Despite a dramatic rescue effort, more than 210 of the 980 pioneers in these two companies died along the way. John Chislett, a survivor, wrote, “Many a father pulled his cart, with his little children on it, until the day preceding his death.”
Although fewer than 10 percent of the 1847-68 Latter-day Saint emigrants made the journey west using handcarts, the handcart pioneers have become an important symbol in LDS culture, representing the faithfulness and sacrifice of the pioneer generation. They continue to be recognized and honored in events such as Pioneer Day, Church pageants, and similar commemorations
[Skip to relevant section…]
1856: Willie and Martin Handcart Companies
The last two handcart companies of 1856 departed late from England. The ship Thornton, carrying the emigrants who became the Willie Company, did not leave England until May 4. The leader of the Latter-day Saints on the Thornton was James G. Willie. Another three weeks passed before the Horizon, carrying the emigrants who formed the Martin Company, departed. The late departures may have been the result of difficulties in procuring ships in response to the unexpected demand, but the results would be tragic.
With slow communications in the era before the transatlantic telegraph, the Church agents in Iowa City were not expecting the additional emigrants and had to make frantic preparations for their arrival. Critical weeks were spent hastily assembling the carts and outfitting the companies. When the companies reached Florence, additional time was lost making repairs to the poorly built carts. Emigrant John Chislett describes the problems with the carts:
“The axles and boxes being of wood, and being ground out by the dust that found its way there in spite of our efforts to keep it out, together with the extra weight put on the carts, had the effect of breaking the axles at the shoulder. All kinds of expedients were resorted to as remedies for the growing evil, but with variable success. Some wrapped their axles with leather obtained from bootlegs; others with tin, obtained by sacrificing tin-plates, kettles, or buckets from their mess outfit. Besides these inconveniences, there was felt a great lack of a proper lubricator. Of anything suitable for this purpose we had none at all. “
Prior to the Willie Company departing Florence, the company met to debate the wisdom of such a late departure. 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. The Willie Company left Florence on August 17 and the Martin Company on August 27. Two ox-wagon trains, led by captains W.B. Hodgett and John A. Hunt, followed the Martin Company.
Near Wood River, Nebraska, a herd of bison caused the Willie Company’s cattle to stampede, and nearly 30 cattle were lost. Left without enough cattle to pull all of the wagons, each handcart was required to take on an additional 100 pounds (45 kg) of flour.
In early September, Franklin D. Richards, returning from Europe where he had served as the Church’s mission president, passed the emigrant companies. Richards and the 12 returning missionaries who accompanied him, traveling in carriages and light wagons pulled by horses and mules, pressed on to Utah to obtain assistance for the emigrants.
Disaster and Rescue
In early October the two companies reached Fort Laramie, Wyoming, where they expected to be restocked with provisions, but no provisions were there for them. The companies had to cut back food rations, hoping that their supplies would last until help could be sent from Utah. To lighten their loads, the Martin Company cut the luggage allowance to 10 pounds (4.5 kg) per person, discarding clothing and blankets that soon would be desperately needed.
Dramatization of Man Pulling Handcart through Snow
On October 4 the Richards party reached Salt Lake City and conferred with president Brigham Young and other Church leaders. The next morning the Church was meeting in a general conference, where Young and the other speakers called on the Church members to provide wagons, mules, supplies, and teamsters for a rescue mission. On the morning of October 7 the first rescue party left Salt Lake City with 16 wagonloads of food and supplies, pulled by four-mule teams with 27 young men serving as teamsters and rescuers. The party elected George D. Grant as their captain. Throughout October more wagon trains were assembled, and by the end of the month 250 relief wagons were on the road.
Meanwhile, the Willie and Martin companies were running out of food and encountering bitterly cold temperatures. On October 19 a blizzard struck the region, halting the two companies and the relief party. The Willie Company was along the Sweetwater River approaching the Continental Divide. A scouting party sent ahead by the main rescue party found and greeted the emigrants, gave them a small amount of flour, encouraged them that rescue was near, and then rushed onward to try to locate the Martin Company. The members of the Willie Company had just reached the end of their flour supplies. They began slaughtering the handful of broken-down cattle that still remained while their death toll mounted. On October 20 Captain Willie and Joseph Elder went ahead by mule through the snow to locate the supply train and inform them of the company’s desperate situation. They arrived at the rescue party’s campsite near South Pass that evening, and by the next evening the rescue party reached the Willie Company and provided them with food and assistance. Half of the rescue party remained to assist the Willie Company while the other half pressed forward to assist the Martin Company. The difficulties of the Willie Company were not yet over. On October 23, the second day after the main rescue party had arrived, the Willie Company faced the most difficult section of the trail—the ascent up Rocky Ridge. The climb took place during a howling snowstorm through knee-deep snow. That night 13 emigrants died.
On October 19, the Martin Company was about 110 miles (177 km) further east, making its last crossing of the North Platte River near present-day Casper, Wyoming. Shortly after completing the crossing, the blizzard struck. Many members of the company suffered from hypothermia or frostbite after wading through the frigid river. They set up camp at Red Bluffs, unable to continue forward through the snow. Meanwhile the original scouting party continued eastward until it reached a small vacant fort at Devil’s Gate, where they had been instructed to wait for the rest of the rescue party if they had not found the Martin Company. When the main rescue party rejoined them, another scouting party consisting of Joseph Young, Abel Garr, and Daniel Webster Jones was sent forward. The Mormon handcart pioneers 6 Martin company remained in their camp at Red Bluffs for nine days until the three scouts finally arrived on October 28. By the time the scouts arrived, 56 members of the company had died. The scouts urged the emigrants to begin moving again. Three days later the main rescue party met the Martin Company and the Hodgett and Hunt wagon companies and helped them on to Devil’s Gate.
Martin’s Cove, Wyoming
George D. Grant, who headed the rescue party, reported to President Young:
“It is not of much use for me to attempt to give a description of the situation of these people, for this you will learn from [others]; but you can imagine between five and six hundred men, women and children, worn down by drawing hand carts through snow and mud; fainting by the wayside; falling, chilled by the cold; children crying, their limbs stiffened by cold, their feet bleeding and some of them bare to snow and frost. The sight is almost too much for the stoutest of us; but we go on doing all we can, not doubting nor despairing. “
At Devil’s Gate the rescue party unloaded the baggage carried in the wagons of the Hodgett and Hunt wagon companies that had been following the Martin Company so the wagons could be used to transport the weakest emigrants. A small group remained at Devil’s Gate over the winter to protect the property. On November 4 the company had to cross the Sweetwater River, which was about 2 feet (0.6 m) deep and 90 to 120 feet (27 to 37 m) wide. The stream was clogged with floating ice. Some of the men of the rescue party spent hours pulling the carts and carrying many of the emigrants across the river. However, many members of the company crossed the river themselves, some even pulling their own handcarts across. The severe weather forced the
The rescue parties escorted the emigrants from both companies to Utah through more snow and severe weather while their members continued to suffer death from disease and exposure. The Willie Company arrived in Salt Lake City on November 9; 68 members of the company had lost their lives.
Meanwhile, a backup relief party of 77 teams and wagons was making its way east to provide additional assistance to the Martin Company. After passing Fort Bridger the leaders of the backup party concluded that the Martin Company must have wintered east of the Rockies, so they turned back. When word of the returning backup relief party was communicated to Young, he ordered the courier to return and tell them to turn back east and continue until they found the handcart company, but several days had been lost. On November 18 the backup party met the Martin Company with the greatly needed supplies. At last all the members of the handcart party were now able to ride in wagons. The 104 wagons carrying the Martin Company arrived in Salt Lake City on November 30; at least 145 members of the company had lost their lives. Many of the survivors had to have fingers, toes, or limbs amputated due to severe frostbite.
After the companies arrived in Utah, the residents generously opened their homes to the arriving emigrants, feeding and caring for them over the winter. The emigrants would eventually go on to Latter-day Saint settlements throughout Utah and the West.
Responsibility for the Tragedy
American West historian, Wallace Stegner, described the inadequate planning and improvident decisions leading to the tragedy when he wrote,
In urging the method upon Europe’s poor, Brigham and the priesthood would over-reach themselves; in shepherding them from Liverpool to the valley, the ordinarily reliable missionary and emigration organization would break down at several critical points; in accepting the assurances of their leaders and the wishful importunities of their own hope, the emigrants would commit themselves to greater sacrifices than even the Nauvoo refugees; and in rallying from compound fatal error to bring the survivors in, the priesthood and the people of Mormondom would show themselves at their compassionate and efficient best.
As early as November 2, 1856, while the Willie and Martin companies were still making their way to safety, Brigham Young responded to criticism of his own leadership by rebuking Franklin Richards and Daniel Spencer for allowing the companies to leave so late. However, many authors argued that Young, as author of the plan, was responsible. 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.” Stegner described Richards as a scapegoat for Young’s fundamental errors in planning, though Howard Christy, professor emeritus at Brigham Young University, noted that Richards, as the highest ranking official in Florence, Nebraska area, was, in fact, the official who would have had the authority and capability to have averted the tragedy by halting their late departure.
Many survivors of the tragedy refused to blame anyone. Survivor John Jacques wrote, “I blame nobody. I am not anxious to blame anybody … I have no doubt that those who had to do with its management meant well and tried to do the best they could under the circumstances.” Another survivor, Francis Webster, was quoted as having said, “Was I sorry that I chose to come by hand cart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Hand Cart Company.” On the other hand, survivor John Chislett, who later left the Church, wrote bitterly of Richards promising them that “we should get to Zion in safety.”
In May 2006, a panel of researchers at the annual conference of the Mormon History Association blamed the tragedy on a failure of leadership. Lyndia Carter, a trails historian, said Franklin D. Richards “was responsible, in my mind, for the late departure” because “he started the snowball down the slope” that eventually “added up to disaster.” Christy agreed that “leadership from the top, from the outset, was seriously short of the mark.” Robert Briggs, an attorney, said “It’s almost a foregone conclusion … there is evidence of negligence. With leaders all the way up to Brigham Young, there was mismanagement.” On the other hand, Rebecca Bartholomew and Leonard J. Arrington wrote, “Memories of what was perhaps the worst disaster in the history of western migration have been palliated by what could also be regarded as the most heroic rescue of the Mormon frontier.”
Basic statistics for the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies are shown below.
|Handcart company||Captain||Ship||Arrived Iowa City||Departed Iowa City||Departed Florence||Number of individuals||Number died en route||Arrived Salt Lake City|
|Fourth or Willie Company||James G. Willie||Thornton, sailed May 4, 1856 to New York||6/26/1856||7/15/1856||8/17/1856||~500 left Iowa City; 404 left Florence||68 (16.8%)||11/9/1856|
|Fifth or Martin Company||Edward Martin||Horizon, sailed May 25, 1856 to Boston||7/8/1856||7/28/1856||8/27/1856||576||>145|
Webpage posted July 2002. Updated with introductory text, biography, gravestones, and English origins in February 2012. Draft of webpage completed March 2012.