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Author Topic: Willey Handcart Company  (Read 14055 times)
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Linda Trent
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« Reply #40 on: April 20, 2009, 04:31:53 PM »

I can also definitely see a place for those wanting to try the handcart event without having to know the LDS side of things (as that's a lot of learning, even for those who are modern LDS!)... while handcart travel is a pretty distinctly LDS situation, the trail experience is not, and could be wide open for those who don't really want to pretend to be 1850s LDS for the duration (my husband included).

Of course one doesn't have to know much about the LDS Church to be one of the people in the handcart companies -- we're supposed to be immigrants hot off the ships.  So we'd be immigrants who'd only know what they remember the missionaries telling them in Europe!  Wink  So one wouldn't have to remember too much about the church at this time.  And of course there were more than likely some who were getting rather disgruntled like Mrs. Stenhouse.  Who turned against the church and even published her memoirs of "A Lady's Life Among the Mormons."  Of course I think her big issue was she didn't like the idea of sharing her husband with another woman.  Roll Eyes  And she had plenty to say about the Perpetual Immigration Fund and the ill-fated handcart companies!

To me, the role isn't much different than having to portray someone from someplace I've never been.  We have to study up and learn about the people, culture, religion, etc.  That's half the fun of doing the event!  While it is true that I said that it's easier to maintain first-person when others around you are doing the same thing -- it's also easier when you have an understanding of the time and place and the people that you're portraying.  I'd be more than happy to provide tons of research for the trip, if we get enough people interested in doing it.

As new converts we don't have to be capable of quoting passages from the Book of Mormon, though a few passages from the Bible wouldn't hurt -- that's just plain period.

Now I'm not sure what everyone else is envisioning, but I'm just looking at maybe 5-10 people and one to two handcarts?  My experience is most events like I'm looking for don't get many more people than this.

Linda.
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Janet Wragge
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« Reply #41 on: April 22, 2009, 12:16:09 PM »

Hey Liz,

Go to their website at http://www.oregontrailcenter.org/ and the contact information is at the bottom of each page.  Becky Smith is the director.  They aren't really reenactors, but they know the trails in the area, etc.   They'd be great background support.
Janet
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Elizabeth
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« Reply #42 on: April 22, 2009, 02:44:53 PM »

Perfect.  Thankee!

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Elizabeth
michele harvey
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« Reply #43 on: May 17, 2009, 08:23:59 AM »

Linda Trent posted a link to an article about the handcarts and treks. The author of the article says this about the handcarts: "They were fast (you didn't have to graze animals for hours each day) and cheap. They also depended on carefully planned systems of supply en route."  So maybe that is an avenue for research-to learn about the "carefully planned systems of supply en route" which might explain how they expected to have enough food while using the handcarts.
 
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Linda Trent
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« Reply #44 on: May 17, 2009, 04:07:30 PM »

Hi Michele,

I agree, but to me, the food and water is probably one of the easiest parts of the preparation.  Unlike the modern Mormon expedition, we're not planning on doing the whole distance, just three or four days.  My gut tells me that we won't have a large group, I think we'd be lucky to have five at the most, so we could be a handcart that fell behind the rest of the group.  If we pack efficiently we could probably take water, food, bedding, and a canvas shelter in the handcart itself -- Hard times, we've thrown much along the wayside and are only carrying what we feel we need for survival, and filled up at the last watering-hole.

But studying all the different primary sources we should be able to come up with something that seems reasonable, and that can help us to understand what those who made the trek westward faced in the way of hardships, and honor those pioneers who settled the American west.

By eliminating the livestock, we can eliminate the need for large amounts of hay, water, and the like, and thus eliminate the need for modern vehicles to follow whether in sight or out.  Grin

Linda.
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Muriel Carbiener
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« Reply #45 on: May 17, 2009, 05:17:23 PM »

Perhaps "the carefully planned system of supply en route" would be the wagons traveling with the handcarts that carried the food supplies, which were not enough for the Willie & Martin groups that got caught in a very bad winter.  Supply wagons could also come from Salt Lake.  An interesting read is "The Gathering of Zion" by Wallace Stenger: Part Two, Chapter 8, "Ordeal by Handcart" and Chapter 9, "Victims, Heroes and Scapegoats".  Also "Recollections of a Handcart Pioneer, 1860" by Mary Ann Hafen. It's a small book, about 100 pages, and the first part is her journey with a handcart.

Muriel
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Linda Trent
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« Reply #46 on: May 17, 2009, 11:17:44 PM »

Thanks Muriel!

I just found out that there were only 8 hand cart companies, if we exclude the Willie and Martin groups, that left Florence for Salt Lake.  I taught Church History in institute and Sunday School, and I never noticed there were only 10 total hand cart companies.  Shocked  The first three had a total of 815 souls, the ill-fated Willie and Martin companies had 980, and then the final five had 1071 souls.  All told 2,866 people left their homes in Europe and traveled across the plains for their faith between 1856 and 1860.  The last hand cart company in 1860 had a mere 124 people.

I'm just starting to gather some info as this is interesting to me whether we do the event or not. The biggest problem that I see that we need to deal with is the immense numbers of people who *should* be with us.  We're running into the same problem that the armies do at events, we should have anywhere from 300 to 500 people accompanying us on this journey, as well as a few supply wagons, etc.

The Deseret News in 1856 gave the following numbers (I've used my own words) We should have approximately "500 souls, with 100 hand carts, 5 wagons with 12 oxen, 4 mules, and 25 tents."  These were large canvas tents that could sleep about 20 persons sleeping on the ground. (the latter from a period diary)   From the Deseret News again "They were fitted out with provisions to Florence.  There, in anticipation of assistance from the valley, they will be provided with scanty supplies for 60 days." 

Florence is about 6 miles north of Omaha, Nebraska, so they needed provisions enough to travel 270 miles from Iowa City.  It seems to have taken close to four weeks to make the journey.  There were also apparently four outposts west of Florence where the Saints were to obtain provisions, one was Fort Laramie, and I have not found the others yet, I just started researching.  Grin

What I find interesting is that a large number of the immigrants were female.  The Deseret News continued by saying,  "These companies are composed of our European emigration generally and are interspersed with very old and very young.  They are not more than ordinarily strong, and the lists will show that they have not an extra supply of men.  But they are all strong in God, and have faith in the fulfillment of the words of his Prophets."

Confirmation of the vast number of ladies is found in the Huron Reflector in 1857 (Huron, Ohio).  "It was certainly the most novel and interesting sight I have seen for many a day.  We met two trains, one of thirty and the other of fifty carts, averaging about six to the cart.  The carts were generally drawn by one man and three women each, though some carts were drawn by women alone.  There were about three women to one man, and two-thirds of the women single.  It was the most motley crew I ever beheld.  Most of them were Danes, with a sprinkling of Welsh, Swedes, and English, and were generally from the lower classes of their countries.  Most could not understand what we said to them.  The road was lined for a mile behind the train with the lame, halt, sick, and needy.  Many were quite aged, and would be going slowly along, supported by a son or daughter.  Some were on crutches; now and then a mother with a child in her arms and two or three hanging hold of her, with a forlorn appearance, would pass slowly along; others, whose condition entitled them to a seat in a carriage, were wending their way through the sand.  A few seemed in good spirits."

It looks as though most hand cart companies tarried in Florence in order to repair their hand carts.  The biggest problem that they faced was the sand getting caught in the wooden mechanisms of the cart and wearing away the wood.

Just some rough thoughts.  Now off to bed.

Linda.
edited to change "sane" to "sand."  Something spell-check didn't catch.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2009, 11:22:46 PM by Linda Trent » Logged

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Janet Wragge
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« Reply #47 on: October 29, 2009, 05:28:27 PM »

This is probably very random, but I was thinking about the Willie/Martin Handcart Companies today as we got blasted with yet another huge snowstorm.  It's been a long time since October was such a snowy month - and we're talking road closing blizzards that we're having.  It seems to me that this would be the kind of weather that would put a bit of a hitch in the get-along of those poor folks who were trying to make their way through.  When I'm volunteering at our trails center, where we have a cool galley about the Mormon Trail, people are always stunned to hear that the weather can be so deadly this time of year - and here it is.  I can see it and imagine it, and I absolutely do not want to be out in it!! 

Just some rambling thoughts,
Janet Wragge, already tired of winter  Tongue
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« Reply #48 on: October 30, 2009, 01:49:58 PM »

Janet Wragge, already tired of winter  Tongue
Yeah, I am  to...  Angry
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