Sunday, July 18, 2010

Though hard to you this journey may appear...

So this past week my parents went on this trip...

A trip that we call a trek...to symbolize the pioneers.

Let me explain for those who aren't Mormon.

Once upon a time, a VERY long time ago (seriously...great-great-great-great...that long ago)

 Missionaries from the Mormon church were sent to Europe to teach the gospel.

A lot of the people that chose to join the Mormon church decided to move to the USA so they could be closer to those who shared their faith.

They formed little groups and traveled over here in these groups.

Because they were coming from Europe, most of them just brought over the bare essentials.

My great-great-great-great (I think that's all the greats...) grandparents were some of these people.

They traveled with a group led by a man with last name Martin. (who later ended up following the Willie group, who later would become known as the Martin-Willie Handcart Company)

And that's how they traveled once they got to the United States.

Handcarts and covered wagons.

By the time they were making their trek, most of the members of the church had already settled in Utah, or were already on their way to Utah.

(If I don't get all of the facts 100% right, I'm sorry...I'll do my best as my memory provides)

They left England late because they couldn't get a ship in time

And because of that the rest of their trip ended up being delayed.

Because of they poor communication abilities in that time, by the time they reached Iowa (where they were supposed to get the supplies to make the trek) no one knew that they were coming.

So they had to scramble to get the supplies and build the handcarts and wagons.

This delayed their trip even more.

From Iowa to Utah it's about 1,030 miles.

The earlier groups were able to make it to Utah without too many problems because they started out earlier and made it before Winter hit.

The Martin and Willie companies were not so lucky.

Because of the hastily built carts and wagons, when they stopped in Nebraska they had to fix them which also took away more precious time.

Many wondered if they shoudn't just stay and spend the Winter there since they weren't familiar with the environment.

But they decided to have faith and just keep going, not wanting to prolong the trek anymore.

By they time they reached Wyoming it was October. They arrived at the fort set up to resupply the pioneers only to find out that there were no supplies to restock them.

They decided that they would just have to cut their rations, lighten their loads, and carry on.

Along the way they met missionaries who were returning home and were able to travel faster because of the lightness of their loads.

They hurried to Utah to inform the Prophet (the leader of the whole church) of the dire circumstances in which the pioneers found themselves and that they needed to send help to them.

They reached Utah in October and a few days later the first relief parties left Utah in search of the companies and they kept sending more out throughout the month of October.

By the middle of October the companies were already experiencing snow storms and running out of food.

The Willie company, which was ahead of the Martin, was found by the relief company. After making sure the Willie company was taken care of, half of the company rode onward to find the Martin company.

At this point, the Willie company was about to encounter the most difficult part of the trek for them. It is called Rocky Ridge. Which is a mountain that they had to ascend in order to continue on their way.

They made the climb in a snowstorm through knee-deep snow. 13 members died in that endeavor.

(Obviously I'm looking up facts now)

The Martin company was about 100 or so miles behind the Willie company.

They crossed a frozen river and many suffered from hypothermia and frostbite.

By the time they reached the other side they stayed and camped, not being able to move any further.

By the time the relief scouts found the group, 56 members had already died.

They urged them to continue onward, helping them carry their loads. A few days later they were met by the main relief company, and they helped them continue on to a place called Devil's Gate.

There they transfered supplies so they were able to carry more people in the covered wagons.

They came to a river called Sweetwater. The river was freezing cold and had chunks of ice floating throughout the river. The company got to the river and refused to cross it. They decided that if they were going to die, they didn't want to do it in the river.

Three eighteen year old boys of the relief party that happened to be on the other side of the river saw this and ended up carrying almost every single member of the company over and helping with the carts.

These boys eventually died due to the exposure that gave them.

The exposure from the river and the weather was so severe they had to stop again at a place called Martin's Cove.

Another relief party was on their way to find them and after they got to a certain point, they decided that they had stayed the winter on the other side of the mountain range.

When the Prophet found out they were headed back, he sent someone to order the company to turn around and find the Martin company.

They finally found them in the middle of November and were able to feed them and give them other much needed supplies.

They also had enough covered wagons that all of the members of the Martin company were able to finish the trip to Utah in a covered wagon.

The Willie company arrived in Utah on November 8th. 68 members of the company had died.

The Martin company arrived on November 30. At least 145 members of their company had lost their lives. Many lost fingers, toes, or limbs because of the severe frostbite they endured.

The youth of our church are given the opportunity to go to Wyoming and participate in a mini-trek, pulling handcarts and visiting important places, like Rocky Ridge and Martin's Cove.

The youth of my ward (aka congregation) participated in this experience this last week. My mother is one of the teachers of the young women, and my father is the bishop (like the pastor of our congregation...he is over our ward) so they went with them.

Today in church they had members of the congregation who had gone on the trek stand up and share their thoughts and experiences and feelings about the time they spent there.

Everyone talked about how they felt so close to the spirit of the pioneers while they were there and how sacred the spots felt that they visited.

They went to Rocky Ridge, where they had to push and pull handcarts up the same trail that the pioneers had done.

They told the women that the men had to leave to go with the Mormon Batallion (an army group the Mormon's sent out to help during the Mexican-American war) and made the men leave and the women were left alone to push the carts alone up Rocky Ridge. When they reached the top, the men were their waiting for them, with their hats removed and tears in their eyes.

They visited Martin's Cove, where it is said the spirit is so strong that the second you enter the cove you can feel it is so sacred that no one makes a noise.

Today as I was listening to their experiences I couldn't help but think of the pioneers and all the sacrifices they made so that we could practice our religion freely today.

I couldn't help but cry as I thought of the hardships they went through, the many loved ones that were lost, the pain and anguish that they endured.

And yet as I've read accounts from members on that trip, not one of them complained or said that they regreted the trip.

There were even accounts where people said they felt angels during moments of the trek that helped them carry their burdens for a time.

I can't help but be grateful that my ancestors chose to make this trek, and that they were among the blessed to survive so that I could be here today. That they sacrificed their home and everything they had so that their posterity could have a better life.

I couldn't help but think of the 3 young boys who carried the members of the company over the frozen river. Who were so selfless they didn't even think of the effects it would have on them. I'm sure they never regretted that decision, even as they lay dying.

I can't help but be grateful for the forsight of the Prophet who sent out relief teams to help the companies. I'm sure if those companies had not been sent out, the Martin and Willie handcart companies would not have survived the trip.

I couldn't help but think of the women as they made the trek, having babies, losing babies, family members, and sometimes even fathers. Everything that they went through, and yet still having faith in God and moving onward.
 
I couldn't help but cry as I thought of all these things.

And then to close off the meeting, we sang a song that I could barely even sing I was crying so much.

I would like to share the lyrics of to end my blog. It was written by a member of one of the handcart companies.

Come, come ye saints, no toil nor labor fear;
But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear,
Grace shall be as your day.
Tis better far for us to strive our useless cares from us to drive;
Do this and joy your hearts will swell-
All is well! All is well!

Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard?
'Tis not so; all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward if we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take.
Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we'll have this tale to tell-
All is well! All is well!

We'll find the place which God for us prepared,
Far away, in the West,
Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid;
There the saints, will be blessed.
We'll make the air, with music ring, shout praises to our God and King;
Above the rest these word we'll tell -
All is well! All is well!

And should we die before our journey's through,
Happy day! All is well!
We then are free from toil and sorrow, too;
With the just we shall dwell!
But if our lives are spared again to see the Saints their rest obtain,
Oh, how we'll make this chorus swell-
All is well! All is well!

Yes. All is well.

12 comments:

Kaleena J. said...

Fun! I have never gone on the trek but a lot of kids I went to school with did... let's just say they have A LOT of stories from it. :)

Hope you enjoyed your weekend!

Feeling Just Right said...

Oh my, this trek sounds very arduous. They actually make the women pull the carts by themselves?

I had goose-flesh reading this post.

I am sooooo very glad your ancestors survived.

Those 3 boys were surely something else. Wow.

How did they travel so far without enough water and food?? and everything else? Courageous stuff, this.

Thanks so much for that story.

Jessica said...

Awesome post. Perfect time for it with Pioneer Day coming up too. I had no idea your ancestors were part of the Martin company! Crazy.

Dazee Dreamer said...

I am so glad to have been born now. I can't imagine doing all that, plus, not having tampons or inside plumbing. just sayin.

jayayceeblog said...

I can't even imagine the fortitude it took for them to get through that long haul. You told the story very well. Thanks for sharing!

Bossy Betty said...

What an experience for you! Thanks for sharing all of this!

Noelle said...

You did tell the story well...great post baby sister!

Feeling Just Right said...

You know what? I have to say, I was thinking about the tampons, too. I so agree with Dazee!

Cheeseboy said...

I love and appreciate the pioneers, but I am NOT a trekkie!

My wife is YW President and went on one and she HATED it.

If you are curious, you can read how I feel about them here:

http://theblogocheese.blogspot.com/2008/04/mormon-youth-treks-are-lame.html

And don't be too judgmental. My stance towards treks has softened a lot since then. I do admire those that go on Treks, I think it's very admirable.

Btw, I am still an active member and have not been exed yet, even though I am anti-trek.

Baby Sister said...

Lol. I wouldn't judge you for that. It would be a hard experience. Although I am going to have to talk to your bishop now Cheeseboy... ;)

Baby Sister said...

Yes, Kaleena, I can only imagine the stories. :)
FJR - Yes they do, only to help them realize that women had to do it in the past. :) And they just rationed the food and stuff and only ate essentials.
@ Stewie - Yeah I thought it was appropriate. :) I didn't know they were either till I did a report on them in 4th grade. Ever since then it's always been like "look! I have these cool people!" :)

@ Dazee - Ditto Dazee. I couldn't agree more.

@ Jayaycee - I know! It'd hard!

@ Betty - Glad I could share. :)

@ Peach - Why thank you.

@ FJR again - Mhm! Ditto!

Julie said...

WOW, it is just amazing what all our ancestors did to make it to where we are now in life. I work hard each day but I can't imagine working like they did. I've never done a trek kind of thing but have camped for 3 weeks out in the woods, hiking 150 miles and I can tell you that time out did give you time to think just how it was years ago.
Thank you so much for sharing. It is just so amazing.
Take care and have a blessed day.!!!.