Exploring: Walking to Zion
Violet Kimball, “Walking to Zion,”
, Jun 1989, 22
Many handcart companies were made up entirely of immigrant Saints who had onlyrecently arrived in the United States and were not prepared for the harsh, rugged plainsor the bitter weather that they were sometimes exposed to. Heat, rain, dust, wind,rattlesnakes, wild animals, thirst, hunger, sickness, cold, and death were ever present.But so was the excitement of journeying across a new land to a new home.Handcart children perhaps had the most adventures of any children crossing the plains.Some of the pioneer diaries from those days tell the touching and tragic tales of childrenon the trail: “When we started out on the trail each morning there was always somethingnew to see,” one diary states. “Birds running along the road … flowers and pretty rocksto pick.”In some companies the children started out earlier than the handcarts and walked aheadof the main camp so that they wouldn’t hold it up. One mother wrote that her boy of five“has walked eighteen miles without resting.”Some young boys and girls helped push and pull the handcarts that held the fewpossessions that they were allowed to take with them.Many were forced to abandon their belongings as they found that the burden of pulling acart itself took all their strength.In the Martin handcart company of 1856, Brother Martin insisted that the people throwaway all nonessentials so that they could reach the valley more quickly. Many childrenhad to part with toys that they had brought. One little girl had a small cast-iron toy lion.It, too, was dumped, but she so loved the lion that during the night she went back towhere they had left the discarded items, found her pet lion, put it on a string, and wore itunderneath her dress all the way to the Salt Lake Valley.Many of the handcart pioneers were without much food near the end of their journey.One older boy, driven by hunger, left the camp one night and went into an Indian camp,seeking food. There he found a Frenchman and his Indian wife who gave him food andshelter. His father found the boy the next morning, but the Frenchman and his wifebegged the father to permit the boy to stay with them until he was stronger. The fatheragreed, and the boy stayed with them for two years before coming to the valley withJohnston’s Army and being reunited with his family.