Note: None of this is original writing by me, rather I compiled several different sources of material in hoping to create a consistent chronology. While I'm sure there are errors, I worked very hard to limit those. I apologize for all errors. I've compiled what you are about to read from mainly four different sources. 1) "Ancestors: Stories of Bendt and Sarah Jane Nielsen and their progenitors." 2) "Rescue of the 1856 Handcart Companies" written by Rebecca Bartholomew and Leonard J. Arrington (available at the Davis County library) 3) A PDF file titled "A Brief History of Martins Cove" 4) "Our Pioneer Heritage"- Kate B. Carter (also available at Davis County library) and other scattered sources.
Again a lot of this I've directly copied from the above mentioned sources. My main work has been the collating of all the information into hopefully a cohesive whole. I've done a lot of paraphrasing from mainly the first two listed sources. Direct quotes are in quotation marks. The chronology is as accurate as possible though some of the dates may be a bit off. Titles in quotation marks after the end of a paragraph is where I found that information.
My pioneer story starts in England on February 10th, 1808. That's when Elizabeth Simpson was born. The Simpsons were clock makers by trade and according to family legend were the inventors of the Grandfather clock. (I wasn't able to confirm this from an independent source. An ancestor inventing the Grandfather clock may be family legend.) The Simpsons were very rich. That didn't mean Elizabeth had an easy life, at the age of 9 she was left an orphan and was raised by an aunt. At age 26, in1834, she married William Haigh. William and Elizabeth had two children, Samuel and Sarah Ann. William died in about 1840, shortly afterwards Elizabeth converted to the Mormon Church.
Awhile later the missionaries presented the Gospel to Elizabeth. She was baptized in March, 1840 by Elder William Haslam. In 1844 Sarah Ann's mom, Elizabeth, met and married Paul Richard Bradshaw. Ten years after Elizabeth married her first husband, she married her second husband, Richard Bradshaw. To this marriage three children were born- Robert, Isabella Jane and Richard. Either that or they had 4 children with one dying as an infant. Paul Richard Bradshaw died of pneumonia on October 16th, 1849, three months before the third child was born. Richard died just 5 years into their marriage. (I realize there's contradictory information in this paragraph, two sources with different information.)
Elizabeth and William's only daughter, Sarah Ann Haigh, was born in Bolton, Lancanshire, England on March 14th, 1837. (Sarah is my great, great grandmother.) Three months after Sarah was born, William died. Sarah also had an older brother, Samuel, he was about two years older. Sarah had both her father and stepfather die while she was very young. In 1845, at the age of 8, Sarah was baptized into the Mormon church.
Moving to Zion had long been a family dream for the Bradshaw family. The Bradshaw family was made up of widow Elizabeth and 5 children. The children ranged in ages 21 to 10. The ability to realize their dream of leaving for Zion came in the summer of 1856, sixteen years after Elizabeth joined the church. As the Bradshaws were about to leave aboard the Horizon, Elizabeth was faced with a choice. Her two wealthy uncles, staying in England, boarded the boat. The uncles tried to convince them to stay in England and they would gladly educate and care for her Elizabeth's children. Elizabeth told her uncles, "I am going to Zion. The Gospel is true and Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God". ("Ancestors") Having full confidence in her Heavenly Father, the Bradshaws stayed firm in their decision to continue on to America. In her Patriarchial Blessing, Elizabeth was promised that her 5 living children would make it safely to Zion.
In May, 1856 they left Liverpool on the boat The Horizon bound for America. No word on whether it was hard for the Bradshaws to find a boat. But for some emigrants it was hard procuring boats to even get to America ("Rescue"). The largest company didn't even sail until the end of May.
"Even the swiftest of the sailing vessels required nearly a month to cross the Atlantic. The long journey in cramped quarters gave the emigrants a taste of hardship and difficulty even before the arduous trek across the plains. Most of the emigrants traveled in the steerage where the men were housed in one large compartment and the women in another. The berths were described as being 'about six feet by four feet six, and made of rough boards to hold two persons each.' There were 'two tiers in height, nailed up along the sides of the vessel' The monotony of the long voyage was relieved with dancing 'to the music of a violin and a tambourine.'" ("Ancestors" via Church News, may 31, 1958.)
This group of emigrants, including Elizabeth and her five children, landed in Boston, Massachusetts in June, 1856. From there they went by train and arrived in Iowa City, June 26th, 1856. There was no seasoned lumber left for the construction of additional carts, so handcarts were built out of green wood. However the hand carts dried out in the heat of the sun, later causing many handcarts to fall apart. ("Ancestors").
The Bradshaw family was only in Iowa City for roughly two days before they were on the move again. When the first company of immigrants arrived in Iowa, little was ready for them. The Martin Handcart Co. had a heavier share of infants, widows with large families, the sick and aged. ("Rescue") On June 28th, 1856 the Martin Handcart Company left for Zion (Utah). Most of the Martin Handcart Company had a longer wait in Iowa City than the Bradshaw family. Included in The Martin Handcart Company was Elizabeth, 21 year old Samuel, 19 year old Sarah and 3 smaller children. At this point the pioneers had 2 choices. They could leave for Utah late or "winter in a territory (Nebraska) hostile to Mormons, where jobs were scarce and survival depended on homesteading skills they had not learned in factories." ("Rescue")
The company chose to press on and began their 1300 mile journey, they consisted of 576 people, 146 hand carts, 7 wagons, 30 oxen and 850 head of cattle. (This was a tragic Handcart company as about 25% of them died before reaching SLC.) They had a long wait as they arrived in Florence, Nebraska. The Martin Company left Florence, Nebraska on August 27th, 1856. (Previously Florence had been known as Winter Quarters.)
Travel by hand cart was a risk even in the best circumstances. LDS Church historian B.H. Roberts later described the whole idea as "possible but not feasible". Carts broke down, cattle stampeded, provisions ran out and the most violent winter to hit the region in many years descended before they were out of the Black Hils. Also many pioneers had disposed of bedding to lighten cart loads and to make room for food. ("Rescue", Page 3)
The first 200 miles of the journey were delightful and the country was beautiful. The grass and game were plentiful. Also everyone was happy they were on their way to Zion. One of the first signs of the struggle to come was crossing the North Branch of The Platte River. To get to Zion, everyone must cross. But many were too old and weak, while others were too young and small to do so. Sarah Ann, one to never back down from a challenge, carried 16 people across the river herself. The five foot tall powerhouse made 32 trips across the swiftly moving water. Even after her and other's sacrifices 13 to 18 people died the next day.
September came and with it cold nights, stormy nights and fierce winds. They had to search for water and wood nightly for fire and the camp. By October winter had set in. Streams they waded in were now filled with ice. The ice froze long skirts and formed icicles which jingled as they walked. While crossing such a river Elizabeth was swept downstream. Sarah Ann grabbed her and held on, thus saving her life.
Also in October it snowed 3 days and 3 nights. The provisions were gone, clothing was worn and thin and bodies were weakened from exposure and lack of food. 576 people left with the Martin Handcart Company, 150 had been left by the wayside in hastily made graves. Some people were buried in snow drifts because the ground was so cold. Sometimes as many as 15 people died in one night.
"Now they sought refuge in hollows and in willow thickets where they waited the fate that seemed inevitable." Sarah Ann said she thought it over and over in her mind. She thought: "Could this be the end? Would the Lord lead us over that long hard road, just to let the whole company perish in the storm and cold?" ("Ancestors")
Clearly these were desperate times, it was in this desperate condition that Willard Richards coming from missionary service in England, found them. After seeing their condition he hurried to Salt Lake to report their circumstances to President Brigham Young.
In the October 5th, 1856 General Conference President Brigham Young spoke. He said "On the 5th day of October, 1856, many of our brethren and sisters are on the plains with hand carts, and probably are now 700 miles from this place (Salt Lake City), and they must be brought here, we must send assistance to them."
President Young urged the Martin, Hodgett and Hunt Camps to pack up and move forward. Somehow these worn down survivors of Martin's and other companies were able to go up to 30 miles a day.
Coming from Salt Lake, a rescue company voted George D. Grant and Robert T. Burton their leaders. This party of 27 started east on October 8th. Burton who had been on many hard journeys in his life said this was "the hardest trip of his life". "They found the roads hard and dry, this enabled them to travel hard, not stopping until late evening to camp and pasture the animals. If they, 'strong men with good outfits' found the nights severe, what, they wondered, must be the plight of old men, toddlers, and women trying to pull handcarts?" ("Rescue") Grant's party reached Fort Bridger on October 12th.
19 October the Martin Handcart Company crossed the North Platte River, perhaps at Bessemer Bend. "On 21 October, after leaving William Kimball and six teams to assist the Willie company, George Grants' rescue squad numbered eight wagons and about twice that many teamsters and horsemen. The party proceeded east along the Sweetwater, still traveling blindly with no knowledge about the location or condition of the remaining handcart and oxen companies." The Martin Handcart company was about 3 weeks behind the Willie Company. Grant had expected Martin's Company to be at least to Devil's Gate. ("Rescue")
Martin's Handcart Company had only got to Greasewood Creek. Very roughly they were still 60 miles east of Devil's Gate. Grant's men came to their rescue and helped them get to Devil's Gate. November 3rd, unknown to the pioneers they only had 3.5 more weeks and they would be in SLC, a council was held to discuss whether to winter at Devil's Gate. However with many people needing medical care, it was decided to move on as soon as the weather broke. Unfortunately 12 to 18 inches of snow fell and temperatures dropped to as low as 11 below 0. There was a stockade that was able to provide them some relief as they were able to spend time there. After several nights there, they were told to cross the river. It wasn't more than two feet deep at Devils Gate, but it was 90 to 120 feet across. They were discouraged after earlier crossing the North Platte River. Once they crossed they stayed at Martin's Cove, also called a ravine, for "five hungry days". ("Rescue")
As the rescue party hastened to aid the disparing survivors, their plight became more and more serious. Many of the company had died, those who remained were too weak and sick to press forward. One of a rescue company, there seems to be more than one, was Franklin Stanley. He later married Sarah Ann.
On November 9th the Martin's Handcart Company left Martin's Cove. On November 11th they camped where Bitter Cottonwood Creek met the Sweetwater. The Willie Handcart Company got into SLC on November 9th, 1856, three weeks before Martin's Company. In mid-November relief teams were on the way to the MHC. By November 28th the first of MHC were crossing Big Mountain and facing 4 feet of fresh snow. One person said about the Martin and Willie Handcart companies: it "was the worst disaster in the history of Western Migration".
The Martin's Handcart Company arrived in Salt Lake on Sunday, November 30th about noon. "The faithful saints were assembled in the Tabernacle, with President Young presiding. Having been apprised of the imminent arrival of the belated emigrants, he spoke to the congregation. Among the things he said: "When those persons arrive, I do not want to see them put into houses by themselves: I want to have them distributed in the city among the families that have good and comfortable houses, and I wish all the sisters now before me, and all who know how and can, to nurse and wait upon the newcomers and prudently administer medicine and food to them." ("Ancestors")
104 wagons carrying the MHC rolled past the old Tabernacle and halted before the tithing offices where the former Hotel Utah now stands. "Even after the relief wagons descended into the Salt Lake Valley with their pitiable loads, the suffering was not over. Indeed, for many, it was continued through life." ("Ancestors")
The Bradshaws "were sent to Bountiful and their first meal was eaten at the home of Bishop Stoker". ("Rescue") On April 5th, 1857 Sarah Ann and Franklin Stanley were married for time and eternity by President Brigham Young in his office. Just about two years later Sarah Ann Stanley was born on October 31st, 1858. (Connecting generations: 145 years later my son Dylan was born on the exact same day.) Although the Bradshaws had arrived in SLC, that didn't mean the hardships had ended. Franklin Stanley died on February 7th, 1859. Leaving their new born daughter fatherless at 3 months, the same age that Sarah Ann was left fatherless. ("Ancestors")
As her Patriarchial Blessing promised, all 5 living children of Elizabeth lived until reaching Salt Lake. They lived in Bountiful for 6 years before moving to Hyrum. Elizabeth Simpson Haigh Bradshaw died on October 24th, 1872 at the age of 64. She's buried in a cemetery in Hyrum.
Awhile later Sarah Ann had a dream in which she was walking down the street and on the opposite side of the fence she met her husband Franklin Stanley. She told him how difficult life was for her and expressed her desire to come home to him. Franklin said, "You can't come yet, your mission isn't completed. Things will work out better for you than you think. He told her how many months it had been since his death and said "Things have been better for you than you thought they'd be and they'll be better still". In the same dream another man, Louis Miller, a man came walking down her side of the fence and took her arm and they walked away together. ("Ancestors")
A short time later she met Louis Miller. Many people said of him, "Oh, he's a summer Mormon, he'll leave when the snow begins to fly and things get rough". Times were much different then. Sarah married Louis, who she called Miller, 8 months after Franklin died. They were married in October of 1859. They "spent over for 50 wonderful years together". ("Ancestors")
"Sarah Ann had been sealed to Franklin Stanley, but had never received her own endowments. Later after she and Louis Miller were married, they moved to Hyrum to live. But they desired to be sealed together. On the two day journey to Salt Lake, during the night Miller felt that Franklin was standing between them. This feeling was so strongly impressed on his mind that the next day at the Endowment House he acted in behalf of Franklin Stanley. In proxy Miller stood in for and Sarah Ann was sealed to her first husband. "In spite of this twist of circumstances, Sarah Ann and Louis enjoyed a long and happy marriage. To them were born Louis five sons, Louis, Fredrick Albert Samuel, and James: and one daughter Elizabeth Ann who died young". ("Ancestors")
Louis Miller, who proved he was no summer Mormon, died on December 5th, 1909. The very tough Sarah Ann Haige Miller died at the age of 73 in Hyrum on November 13th, 1910.
One thing I share with my great, great grandmother Sarah is that we are both pleasantly plump. Even when they were on the trail and their rations were cut, people started losing weight. She never did even though she was starving too. I'm so very grateful to my ancestors for all their sacrifices so that I can have the life I have now. They've passed down the blessings of the Gospel and to live in the greatest state in the nation.