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In early 1856, Mormon converts began their long trek from England to Zion. They made their WHJ, An Imaginary Conception of the Mormon handcart immigration of 1856.journey by ship, train, wagon and, finally, pushed handcarts west across the plains. The Martin and Willie Companies left Iowa City late in the season, too late to safely make the crossing.

The Martin Company, unable to afford the toll at Reshaw’s Bridge, chose to ford the North Platte in bitterly cold weather. The next day, October 19th, a blizzard dropped between 12 and 18 inches of snow. The temperatures dropped well below zero. Fall snowstorm in WyomingBefore the Martin Company had traveled eight miles beyond the Platte, 56 of their members had died. The Willie Company, farther west, had also become trapped by the storm.

When Brigham Young learned, in early October, that the parties were still out on the trail, he sent rescue parties east from Salt Lake City to assist them. By the time these rescuers reached the Martin Party, they were spread out over 60 miles of trail from Red Buttes to Martin’s Cove.

Rescuer Daniel W. Jones described the scene: "There were old men pulling and tugging their carts, sometimes loaded with a sick wife or children, women pulling along sick husbands; littleReplica of a Mormon Handcart near Martin's Cove children six to eight years old struggling through the mud and snow… The provisions we [had] amounted to almost nothing among so many people, many of them now on very short rations, some almost starving… The company was composed of average emigrants; old, middle-aged and young women and children. The men seemed to be failing and dying faster than the women and children…" [Tour Guide]

With the assistance of the rescuers, the Martin Company took refuge in a sheltered pocket on the south side of the Sweetwater Mountains, now known as Martin’s Cove. Nearly one-fourth of the 576 members of the Martin Company died before the company finally arrived in Salt Lake City on November 30, 1856.

Ownership
Public (BLM). The actual site of Martin’s Cove is still owned by the BLM. However, the Mormon Handcart Visitors Centersurrounding area is now owned and managed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The on-site Mormon Handcart Visitors’ Center houses displays relating the tragic circumstances of this event, as well as the history of the Tom Sun Ranch on this site. The visitors’ center is open daily from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Overnight group tours can be scheduled and handcarts are available to use in trekking. Hiking is required to reach the actual Martin’s Cove site. Assistance is available for people with disabilities. Telephone: 307.328.2953.Outside the Mormon Handcart Ranch participants pull handcarts

Directions
Natrona County, Wyoming. T29N/R87W

The entrance to the Mormon Handcart Visitors’ Center is located on the north side of State Route 220, slightly west of the BLM Devil’s Gate overlook.

 

 

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