Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Death in Echo Canyon

A Mormon Pioneer Wagon Train in Echo Canyon on a day without the rain but otherwise still seemingly miserable.
Likely after 1861 because of the telegraph poles.
No wonder Echo Canyon has always haunted me!

Early in my blogging life, I became friends with a great, Mormon historian, Ardis Parshall. You can find her work at She kindly corrected me when I told her that my family had a story that my 2nd Great Grandfather, Daniel Bartholemew Roman, had come across the plains in 1855 with a handcart at the age of four. You see, the handcart companies didn't start until 1856.

And I just discovered where that handcart story might have come from.

Daniel came from Piedmont, Italy with his widower father, David Charles Roman. Daniel's deceased mother was Jeanne Malan, of one of the first families to join the LDS Church in Italy. Daniel's father David, remarried in Utah to a widow who came with the Ellsworth Handcart Company in 1856, Suzanne Robert Rochon. She became widowed when her husband, Jean Michel Rochon, died in Echo Canyon on the 22nd of September, 1856, four days short of the Salt Lake Valley. An account of his tragic, though nameless, death is in the journal of William Butler, an Irishman, and Captain of the Second Hundred in the Ellsworth Company:
Upon arriving at Echo, Utah I became very sick and was forced to lie on the ground due to the pain in my stomach. After praying and resting a short time, I was able to continue on. As the company had gone on down the canyon, I was forced to travel alone, there being a terrible rainstorm raging and I was unable to see except when the lighting would flash. While traveling alone, I overtook an Italian and his little girl with their handcart. They also had been left behind to die. This man died before morning. I buried him the best I could, not having a shovel. I then traveled on, taking the little girl and her cart with me. During that day we overtook another man and his daughter by the name of Clark. They also had been left by the main company. I said to myself later, “Had it not been for Mr. Clark and his assistance I could not have continued on.” We overtook the main company the following day. Here we camped to bury our dead. Our provisions almost exhausted, we all cut down to one cup of flour a day.
John Oakley, a returning missionary with the Ellsworth Co., who had the job of following at the end of the train to gather up the sick and dead, described Bro. Rochon's death this way:
at eve[nin]g a heavy rain came on as we were ascending a high hill[.] many of some 60 persons men women & children hugging the waggons to keep out of the rain[.] stoped a little to see if the rain would stop[.] the cattle refused to pull[.] it seemed as though the Elements combined with evil spirits had conspired against us—cloudy & dark so we could not see the road[.] the Hand Carts headed by Bro. El[l]sworth had gone on 5 mi.—by doubling teams I got the waggons to the top of the hill but dare not go down again—for it seemed to me extremely dangerous in the dark—waited some 2½ hours for some one to come from the Hand Cart Co. Bro. A. Hinkley came first & then Bro. El[l]sworth—Bro. E[llsworth] scolded much but it took some of it to rouse the wet cold <(for there was no wood nor sage brush)> sleepy company. Bro. E[llsworth] went ahead & we all followed in drear silence. found the Hand Cart Co. not much better condition—found an ox in the camp ground fat & seemed at home in the mountains—one man of the Italian brethren died.
Jean Michel Rochon's death in Family Search is listed as "Echo Canyon, Summit, Utah, 1856."

I now have some additional sources to add to Family Search and some connecting information to supply to the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel database for another lost pioneer.

And I think I know how some stories of handcart pioneers just might have filtered down from Daniel Roman's step-mother.

This blogger and a trail marker in Echo Canyon, 2003.

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