Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Handcarts & Ellsworth: Success before Disaster

Andrew Galloway's story of Edmund Ellsworth's divine inspiration for the handcart companies was recorded late in his life. It matches surprisingly well with Ellsworth's nearly contemporaneous remarks recorded in the Deseret News of October 8, 1856. There were only some brief few weeks between the success of the first two companies of handcarts and the disasters of Willie Martin. Some of that tragedy was even anticipated by Ellsworth. I encourage the reading of the full account which can also be found on the Mormon Overland Trail Database.

My particular interest was what he said about those in his company. Grandma Elinor was among them:
Concerning the prosperity of the first hand-cart expedition, I would like to have it understood what kind of people have been called for this season to embark in this great undertaking. A single explanation will show the difference between the people that this season came forth, and those that may emigrate another season in the same way.
Br. Franklin was instructed to call upon the old soldiers, the halt, maimed, weak, and infirm, and not upon those who were particularly young and strong, but upon the old soldiers. [Voice. "those of 19 years standing in the church."]
This counsel called forth all the old men and women, the cripples and infirm, those that had borne the burden of sustaining the church from the first, in the old country.
I can't explain how this worked so well when the last two companies that year were horrific disasters. Ellsworth, who recounts his remarkable dreams and visions, had significant faith and credits God for blessings. He wasn't perfect as he had significant conflicts with some of the Piedmontese Saints probably due to language and cultural differences.

Ellsworth also acknowledged his gratitude to the bulk of the company. I would hope that Elinor was among those he was referencing:
As to the company that came with me, since I can see many of them here to-day, I wished with all my heart a day or two before we reached here, I had time and oportunity offered, to express to them the gratefulness of my heart for their kindness to me is the old countries, and for the way they have sustained me and accomplished the journey over the plains, and the honor they have done to themselves and me by upholding and sustaining me. I feel that I have enjoyed a signal privilege and honor in being permitted to some with this present company to this place, and should I hereafter sink down in sin and folly and go down to hell, (I should feel even there, and it never could be erased from my mind, that God once raised me up to an honorable position in this life, in permitting me to lead a company of Saints with hand-carts to the valleys of the mountains. And I feel that my brethren and sisters who have come with me are honored, and they feel the honor conferred upon them by this people, who turned out in mass and welcomed us with cheers and tears of joy. We have been honored so greatly that I feel that words are inadequate to express the deep sense of gratitude that such kindness and attention have caused to flow in our bosoms. I can recommend the most of this company as being Saints of God, though some of them are not, and I fear never will be, but better saints never lived than are the majority of them, and I can recommend them to our President as being willing to take hold in any form he may suggest.
They will build up the kingdom of God, and they will prove faithful to the trust confered upon them. . . .

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