Ellsworth Handcart Company

On June 9, 1856, the first handcart company of Saints, the Ellsworth company, left Iowa City, Iowa, for the Salt Lake Valley. (During the next four months, you can follow their daily progress by reading on the Friend Calendars what happened each day.) Two hundred seventy-five people were in the company, and most of them had arrived in the United States from the British Isles only a few months earlier. After traveling five weeks by ship to the United States, they made their way to Iowa City, where they stayed just long enough to build handcarts and complete other preparations for the rest of their journey. When they left Iowa City, they had fifty-two handcarts, three ox-drawn wagons, and one horse-drawn wagon. One tent was provided for each twenty people, with one person called to be the tent president, or captain. The captain’s job was to watch over the members of his tent, to see that they participated in singing and praying, and to ensure that peace prevailed. Enough food was provided to allow each person 12 ounces (340 g) of flour per day, and 3 ounces (86 g) of sugar and 4 ounces (113 g) of bacon per week. Families had to provide whatever additional food they could get. Each person was allowed to take seventeen pounds (7.7 kg) of baggage with them, which included bedding, clothing, cooking utensils, and other personal items.

Map of Iowa(click to view larger)

Illustrated by Shauna Mooney



Left Iowa City and started Zionward at 5 P.M. (4 miles)


Camped all day to search for three yoke of oxen that had strayed (no miles)


Strayed animals found; started out; two handcarts broke down (5 miles)


Resumed journey at 6 A.M. along dusty roads; pitched tents at 2 P.M. (12 miles)


Pleasant road; several strangers visited Saints (7 miles)


Started out at 6 A.M.; halted and pitched tents at 9 A.M.; William Lee, 12, died of consumption (7 miles)


Sunday—held two meetings; Lora Praeter, 3, died of whooping cough; buried William and Lora by moonlight at Little Bear Creek (no miles)


Handcarts mended during rest stop; camp drenched by rainstorm (15 miles)


Morning bugle blown at 4 A.M.; moved out at 6:45 A.M. (10 miles)


Started at 5:20 A.M.; pitched tents at 8:35 A.M. to wash clothes (10 miles)


Camped where water and wood were plentiful (15 miles)


Difficult travel through rough, hilly country; one family left company (16 miles)


Rested at side of stream; later, on hilltop; camped at Indian Creek (13 miles)


Sunday—held meetings (no miles)


Pitched tents at 10:00 A.M.; repaired handcarts (10 miles)


Very hot day made handcarts hard to pull; old mobocrat came into camp and tried to make trouble (11 miles)


Nice breeze all day; plenty of water and wood (19 miles)


Good road; some Saints weak from lack of food (10 miles)


Wooden tombstone cut for grave of Emma Sheen, only two years old, who died yesterday (10 miles)


Tents ripped, and one blew down in heavy thunderstorm (16 miles)


Sunday—rested and had meetings; short of provisions—children cried from hunger (no miles)


No water on trail, but plenty at campsite; good spirit prevailed in camp (16 miles)