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. Before 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; little 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.
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.