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One of the most dramatic events in American pioneering history is undoubtedly the Mormons' migration through the Great Plains and across the Rocky Mountains to the Great Salt Lake. Following fierce religious persecutions culminating in the murder of their first prophet, Joseph Smith, Latter-day Saints sought the "new Zion" and found it in the salt-desert of today's Utah. Their train was the first mass migration on the Oregon Trail, which is sometimes referred to as "Mormon Trail". To save costs and speed up the trek to Utah, the plan was to use wagons pulled by oxen or mules and simple, light handcarts pulled by the humans themselves and contained only the most necessary belongings. These handcart companies, often made up of immigrant Mormons from Europe, had unimaginable hardships. On foot, pulling the handcart behind them, they crossed the glowing plains, rushing rivers, rugged valleys, repellent mountains, braving the climatic extremes. Their train became a myth of the pioneer era. However, the flawless saga of the well-organized, Heroic Exodus into the Promised Land requires some corrections. In the autumn of 1856, one of the greatest catastrophes in the history of the Western migration occurred. An early, violent onset of winter in the rugged expanse of Wyoming revealed massive weaknesses in the organization and leadership of the handcart companies. Two-hundred and fifty people from the Willie and Martin handcart companies, who set off late contrary to the advice of national experts, lost their lives: They starved to death, died of frost, and died of exhaustion. Their fate is exemplarily and emphatically documented in this book.

Table of Contents


Hintergrund des Desasters

Der Handkarrenplan nimmt Gestalt an

Von England nach Iowa

Vorgeritungen für die Handkarrenpioniere

Die Willie-Handkarrenkompanie bricht auf

Die Martin-Handkarrenkompanie verläßt Iowa City

Die Willie-Handkarrenkompanie auf ihrem Weg von

Florence nach Fort Laramie

Die Martin-Handkarrenkompanie durchquert Nebraska

Die Rettungsaktion wird organisiert

Die Willie-Handkarrenkompanie in Wyoming

Die tragische Rettung der Willie-Kompanie

Die Martin-Handkarrenkompanie in Wyoming

Die Errettung der Martin-Handkarrenkompanie




Mormon Trail, western migration, Mormon migration, Oregon Trail, Mormons, Willie and Martin handcart company, Utah





Publication Date




Harold B. Lee Library