Tracking the Travels of the Willie Company
“Only once did my courage fail,” wrote Susannah Stone, age 25, of the Willie Handcart Company. “One cold dreary afternoon, my feet having been frosted, I felt I could go no further, and withdrew from the little company and sat down to wait the end, being somewhat in a stupor. After a time I was aroused by a voice, which seemed as audible as anything could be, and which spoke to my very soul of the promises and blessings I had received, and which should surely be fulfilled and that I had a mission to perform in Zion. I received strength and was filled with the Spirit of the Lord and arose and traveled on with a light heart” (Susanna Stone Lloyd, “The Sketch of Susanna Stone Lloyd,” typescript copy, Church Archives, 2).
Susannah Stone's experience is just one of several first-hand accounts and commentaries on the Willie Handcart Company produced by BYU Studies to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the almost 3,000 handcart pioneers who crossed the plains from 1856 to 1860. The Willie Company was the fourth handcart company to leave for the Salt Lake Valley in 1856. Early winter snowstorms met the company with tragic effects, causing many to lose limbs from frostbite or freeze to death. The Martin Handcart Company, which left after the Willie Company, met a similar fate. Rescue parties from Salt Lake prevented further disaster.
The BYU Studies' online day-by-day chronology of the Willie Handcart Company's journey from Liverpool to Salt Lake City, based on research by Paul D. Lyman, can be accessed at handcart.byu.edu.
“The company had a 4:00 a.m. wake-up call,” the company journal indicates for today's date (July 18) 150 years ago. This was one of the first days after the Willie Handcart Company's departure from Iowa City, Iowathe first few steps of their trek to the Salt Lake Valley.
When Web site visitors connect to the chronology, a company journal entry from a day on the trail in 1856 appears corresponding to today's date, exactly 150 years later. The Willie Handcart Company's journal chronology begins with the Saints departure on the ship Thornton from Liverpool in May 1856 and ends with rescue teams bringing the handcart Saints to the Salt Lake Valley in November. Visitors can browse the account of this company's exodus by day, month, or location. Users can also sign up to receive daily e-mail notices about the Willie Handcart Company's travels.
The chronology will be published in book form in fall 2006.