This article looks at an oft-told story of Mormon pioneers who suffered on the trail in a severe early winter storm. Most Mormons have heard of three brave eighteen-year-old men who helped the stranded handcart pioneers across the icy Sweetwater River in the winter of 1856, carrying almost everyone in the company across and eventually dying from the effects of exposure. Chad M. Orton explores various accounts of the event to determine what is verifiable and what has evolved into Mormon folklore. For example, there is evidence that there were more than three rescuers; the three rescuers traditionally named lived long lives; and three men would not have had time to carry almost every member of the handcart company across the river that day. Records indicate that some pioneers crossed the river in rescue wagons and others waded through on their own feet.
Orton, Chad M.
"The Martin Handcart Company at the Sweetwater: Another Look,"
BYU Studies Quarterly: Vol. 45
, Article 1.
Available at: http://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/byusq/vol45/iss3/1