History of the Church Series

The Martin Handcart Company at the Sweetwater: Another Look

This daily feature is an introduction to a full article by Chad M. Orton. Each Wednesday we focus on an aspect of church history, beginning in New York in the early 19th century and progressing throughout the year to Utah in the 20th century. To read the full text of this article, follow the link below.

On November 4, 1856, members of the beleaguered Martin Handcart Company reached the Sweetwater River. More than two weeks earlier, on October 19, the day an early winter storm overtook the company, these same handcart pioneers had forded the Platte River. "Very trying in consequence of its width and the cold weather," James Bleak wrote of that experience. Now after sixteen days' exposure to snow and relentless cold, the company faced the challenge of another river crossing. The thought of fording the relatively shallow but freezing-cold river was more than many weak and frozen pioneers could bear.