Margaretta Clark of the Edward Martin Handcart Company
From Anson Call and the Rocky Mountain Prophecy
In English cities, LDS missionaries held meetings on the streets. They sang hymns and preached sermons and tried to engage passersby in gospel conversations. Hecklers taunted and ridiculed. But sometimes listeners stopped and wanted to hear more about the new religion which sounded so different from that taught in churches by professional ministers garbed in cleric black. Street meeting drew in the curious, and some believed what they heard. Anson Call had no inkling that this work would affect his life. It was at the same time that he and Mary arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. Call plowed and planted, oblivious to what was happening to two British girls an ocean and a continent to the east of him.
Margaretta Unwin Clark happened on a street meeting as she returned home at the end of a day’s work in a factory in bustling, prosperous Nottingham, a manufacturing city about 120 miles north and west of London, known principally for its production of exquisite lace and hosiery, cotton and wool yarn, boots and shoes, needles, as well as machines, coal, stone, lead, and iron. The missionaries proclaimed beliefs that were so natural to Margaretta, so plausible, that they seemed to fit her like a comforting garment. Her feeling told her these things were true. She determined to learn more. It would be interesting to know what John and Mark Clark thought of the unfamiliar religion that appealed to their twenty-year-old daughter. But if her parents spoke against the Church, they did not deter her fr4om investigating it. On 25 September, 1848, Charles Lees, a missionary, baptized Margaretta Clark.
Margaretta wanted her family to join the Church. Perhaps through her example and coaxing, the missionaries baptized her young sister Mary Ann on 10 October, 1848, and her older sister Ann in the fall of 1851. Father John, brother William, and sister Eliza, declined. Mother Mary may have been baptized. There is an incomplete record for a Mark Clark who was baptized in 1848 by Elder Lees. Two brothers both named John, and tow other brothers both named James, died as children or youth, and a little sister Matilda died at eighteen months.
As Margaretta met with the few members of the Church in Nottingham and was taught more fully by the missionaries, she yearned to go to Utah to meet the Prophet Brigham Young and to live with the Saints. But even as she dreamed of a new life, the pain of leaving her family and her native England, never to return, caught her in a tangle of conflicting emotions. Besides, she had no money for such an expensive venture. Nevertheless, the desire to emigrate began to rule.
To earn more, Margaretta changed her job from factory to hospital. There were several hospitals in Nottingham at that time, the main one being the Infirmary, or General Hospital, although it is not certain that this was the one in which she trained and worked for eight years as a nurse and midwife. Margaretta continuously disciplined herself to save a little money from her wages to emigrate. But she also allowed the purchase of items for her hope chest, perhaps linens for a future home, as well as new dressed and hats, clothing befitting a handsome young English woman going to a foreign country. Margaretta wanted to look fin in America. Over the tears she gad saved the substantial sum of eight pounds British. But it was not enough.
The Church had cut transportation costs by contracting for ships’ entire passage loads and for whole sections of trains. Instead of building or buying expensive wagons and ox teams, at Iowa City, Iowa, the western United States railhead, Church agents built luggage carts for the Saints to push and pull along a thousand-three-hundred-mile walk to the Salt Lake Valley. John Chislett stated that the cost of this amount was more than most saints could afford. This is where the Perpetual Emigration Fund became effective. Apostle Franklin D. Richards served as the Church PEF agent in Liverpool, England for Europe and Scandinavia. He arranged passage for shiploads of Mormons and allowed them to pay whatever amount they could obtain. The church lent what was lacking through the PEF, and expected each individually to repay his or her loan after arriving in Zion.
Margaretta hoped to participate in the PEF. She worked and saved and waited. Finally, James Tanner and William Terrace, probably missionaries, notified her that she had been accepted. The ship Horizon was setting sail from Liverpool. The cost fro her entire transportation across land and sea was nine British pounds. On 7 May, 1856, Margaretta paid eight pounds and the PEF paid one pound. Both excited and sorrowful, she left home and family. She went alone except for a few Mormon girls she knew. The hope that perhaps Ann and Mary Ann, even though they had married, would some day follow her, diminished the sorrow of leaving home and family.
All 856 passengers on the Horizon were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The greatest number, 635, participated in the PEF, while 212 paid full fare, and seven paid extra for cabins. All were from England except one person each from Scotland, Wales, Italy, and America. There was little privacy on an emigration ship. Wooden bunks about six by four-and-a-half feet to accommodate two people were nailed to the sides of the ship, and in the case of the Horizon, on two lower decks. Small spaces and no walls separated the bunks. Leader of the passengers Edward Martin and his assistants Jesse Haven and George P. Waugh dispensed rations of salt pork, salt beef, sea biscuit, flour, rice, oatmeal, peas, sugar, and tea from the galley, and the Saints cooked their meals.
The Horizon was late. It did not sail until 25 May, 1856. The next day on the Atlantic Ocean, Margaretta turned twenty-eight years old. But she didn’t feel like celebrating her birthday because tumultuous winds the night before had churned the water and pitched and rolled the ship to dizzying angles. Margaretta was seasick. Rather than retreating to her bunk in misery, she had herself tied to the rigging in the brow of the ship. Here, she now was closer to the rhythmic rise and collapse of the waves. She could feel a part of their motion, and therefore overcome her seasickness more quickly. Passengers later learned that Margaretta was a nurse. Many called on her to help them through various illnesses.
Life’s vital events continued aboard the ship much as they would have done on land. Several babies were born. A few people died. Couples married. Two children broke out with measles. Seasickness troubled many passengers. Some days were pleasant, though. When the water was calm, the Saints gathered on deck to sing and dance and socialize. The women worked together making tents for their future camps. The Saints held meetings. On Sundays there was a general service followed by separate meetings of the nine wards which had been organized the day before the Horizon sailed. Margaretta’s voyage ended on 28 June, after one month and three days at sea. She first saw her new country at Cape Cod where the Horizon sailed into Massachusetts Bay. She had successfully completely the first phase of this long journey.
Some of the emigrants, who were no immigrants, elected to remain in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Minersville. Nathaniel Felt recorded that the luggage, except what had been forwarded ahead, and nearly 700 of the original 856 members boarded a train which eventually took them to Iowa City, 8 July 1856. It was the end of the railroad. There would be no more ships, no more trains. From this point, the Saints would move on their own power, most of them placing their possessions in handcarts which they would push and pull over the next thirteen hundred miles.
Margaretta Clark in Edward Martin’s company followed two or three weeks behind James G. Willie’s company. Margaretta experienced an even longer delay at the Iowa City camp while waiting for wagons and handcarts to be built, but finally, all was ready. The Edward Martin Company split in two with Martin leading one group and Jesse Haven the other. Haven recorded in his journal that on the departure day, 22 July 1956, the thermometer in the tent reached 108 degrees. Assisting each handcart company was one mule-team wagon and two ox-team wagons leaded with food and tents. Sadly left behind, were items brought from home, that had fit into luggage on the ship and the train, but which exceeded that fateful seventeen pound limit for handcart packing. John Jacques wrote, “It was grievous to see the heaps of books and other articles thus left in the sun and rain and dust, representing a respectable amount of money spent therefore in England, but thenceforth a waste and a dead loss to the proper owners.” Margaretta later told her children and grandchildren that many of the prized purchases for her wardrobe and hope chests, for which she had worked and saves so hard in England, had to be discarded on the plains of Midwestern United States.
The two Martin groups continued until they reached Florence, Nebraska, on the 195h and 22nd of Augusts, just a few days after a portion of the Willie Company had departed. Five people quit the Haven Company on 1 august, and were followed by two men and their families. Many saints complained that food rations were not sufficient. Just as in the Willie company before them, several people decided to leave the journey or the Church or both or were disfellowshipped, or excommunicated. Even so, the general morale was loyal and optimistic.
There was no such thing as ready-made handcarts for the Saints to buy, so the church retained a group of members in Iowa City to outfit new arrivals. The carts were generally oak or hickory boxes or platforms about three feet wide and four feet long and several inches high. Each box was set on a wooden axle with a wooden handles so that the cart could be pulled by a person at the front end and pushed by another at the rear. Each cart weighed approximately sixty pounds. Axles would break after only a few days of travel over lumpy, uneven ground. This kept repairmen busy in camp when the company stopped at night.
But to the dismay of the immigrants, the handcarts had not been built and there was not enough seasoned wood readily available with which to build them. Neither had enough wagons been constructed to haul food and supplies to fee this large company. Luckily, the Martin company had tents to keep them dry that they had sewn while aboard the Horizon. In spite of the rains, the heat, the congestion, and the delay, there was very little discontent manifest.
Margaretta Clark and Edward Martin Company left Florence, Nebraska on 25 August, 1856 with 1,000 miles to go, and half of that over the continent’s backbone of mountains. This was nine days after the Willie company left Florence. Most of the carts now carried a hundred pounds of flour besides the tents and individual baggage. Flour was the main item in the sixty-day provision of food, and the ration was one pound for an adult, and a half pound for a child.
There was no wood on the prairies, except along creeks and rivers. When they came to a pong, the animals, parched with thirst charged into it and tromped around until the water was muddy. But because it was the only w3ater available, the people had to drink it and cook with it, which made all their food quite black.
Almon Babbit visited the camp and talked about reaching the Salt Lake Valley within fifteen days. He traveled in alight carriage. But later, on 11 September, they came upon the graves of the two men and the child of Almon Babbitt’s group who had been killed by Cheyenne Indians. Earlier, two or three hundred Omaha Indians had peacefully passed by Martin’s company. The immigrants stopped about six miles east of Bluff Creek and saw a harness, two wagon wheels, and springs of a burned buggy or carriage, and guessed that they were the Babbits. After passing Chimney Rock and Scott’s Bluff, the Saints reached Fort Laramie, Wyoming on 8 October. They continued as quickly as they could, spurred on by increasingly cold weather which was severe during the night and early morning before the sun gave a little warmth. ‘Provisions were running out. It began to snow. Many oxen were now froze to death, which rendered almost impossible for us to travel; we also being pretty nigh wrote out with fatigue and hunger. Rations fell to three-fourths of a pound of flour and then to one-half pound.” They suffered greatly. John Jacques said, “You feel as if you could eat a rusty nail or gnaw a file . . . Eating is the grand passion of a pedestrian on the plains, an insatiable passion, for he never gests enough to eat.”
By 17 October, everyone was so weak as were the animal which pulled the supply wagons, that the company had to lighten the load again by dropping the baggage limit from seventeen pounds per person to ten pounds, even five pound for children. Consequently, they burned some bedding and clothing, simply because the Saints did not have enough strength to carry it, although it was desperately needed for the next four hundred miles of winter weather.
On the twentieth of October, Margaretta and her fellow travelers crossed the Platte River. They would never have to do it again, but this time it was excruciating. “That was a bitter cold day,” wrote John Jacques. “Winter came on all at once . . . The river was wide, the current strong, the water exceedingly cold and up to the wagon beds in the deepest parts, and the bed of the river was covered with cobble stones. Some of the men carried some of the women over on their backs of in their arms, but others of the women tied up their skirts and waded through, like heroines that they were, and as they had done through many other rivers and creeks. The company barely reached the bank when snow, hail, and sleet began to fall, accompanied by a piercing north wind . . .”
Trying to find a little shelter from the blizzard, Margarett trudged with Martin’s company some two and a half miles around and behind the mountains west of Devil’s Gate to where the rocks rose up on both sides and slightly broke the force of the wind. The place became known as Martin’s Cover. The storm lasted for three days and so exhausted the immigrants that they decided to remain in camp and hope to rest and regain strength. Flour rations fell to four ounces. Still, the people sang hymns. Many remained hopeful and cheerful. “. . . they had become so accustomed to looking death in the face, that they seemed to have no fear of it, nor of corpses either, the bodies of the dead having become such familiar sights as to lose their ordinary. . . influence on beholders.”
Suddenly, several men galloped into the camp. They were an advance group from a rescue team sent by Brigham Young, a part of the same team that had met the Willie party earlier. The prophet had already welcomed three handcart trains into the Salt Lake Valley. He was aware of the starting of the Willie and Martin companies, but he assumed that they would have wintered along the way instead of continuing in a season of unusually early storms. Apostle Richards and his small, quickly moving party had arrived in Salt Lake on 4 October with new that many European converts were floundering, freezing starving, and dying along the trail. Brigham Young, stricken with concern, acted immediately.
General Conference was about to commence. President Young cancelled the planned themes for the meetings, and bore down heavily on the congregation to rally to help the faltering immigrants. He asked for sixty good mule teams, twelve to fifteen wagons, forty teamsters, and two tones of flour. “I wish you to start to-morrow morning. I want the sisters to have the privilege of fetching in blankets, skirts, stockings, shoes, etc. for the men, women, and children that are in those handcart companies . . . hoods, winter bonnets . . . garments and almost any description of clothing . . . Now sisters, when you go home, prepare forthwith and bring in your offerings, and we will make this Tabernacle a place of deposit for them. . . . I now want brethren to come forward, for we need 40 good teamsters to help the brethren on the plains. You may rise up now and give your names.”
General Conference of the Church was turned into a massive welfare project. Blacksmiths were excused from the meeting to go home to shoe horses for departure. The people scurried to gather what clothing and food they could spare, a little her, a little there. On 7 October, two days after Brigham Young made is bold appeal, sixteen wagons heaped with food and clothing manned by twenty-seven men, lumbered out of the Salt Lake Valley. Before the month was over, the number of rescuers would increase to two hundred and fifty.
Anson Call was between Carson Valley and Salt Lake Valley when Brigham’s announcement was made. Anson reached home on 13 October. October 28 he started to meet the handcart company. He was in charge of 13 teams from Bountiful North Canyon Ward. The weather was cold. He met the Willie company at Fort Bridger. It was stormy and the Company was in a suffering situation. As weak as the Willie Company were, those of the Martin Company were in even more dangerous circumstances many miles down the trail and trapped in snow. Some of the rescue teams turned back to Salt Lake carrying in their wagons those in the poorest condition. With food, warm clothing, and bedding they would be able to finish their journey safely. Anson stated emphatically, “This company with a little help and encouragement would reach the Valley, those following never can. We must push on. My teams start now.” At the Green River, they were bogged down by weather and could not travel for a week. He said that when they finally arrived at Rocky Ridge, “we found the people starving and freezing and dying and the most suffering that I ever saw among human beings.”
Dan Jones and Abel Garr, the first rescuers to meet those of the Martin Company found them in deep snow, without hope, without food, almost without fires. Careless as to their sick and too weary to bury their dead, they knew they had reached their limit of endurance. They had almost ceased to struggle when Dan Jones an Able Garr rode into their camp and lifted their hope out of its snowy grave, with the glad shout that help was at hand, that strong men of courage with food and good teams were only thirty miles away, and that they should be fed and taken on in safety. Oh, how they fell on each others’ necks and wept; oh, what prayers of thanksgiving to the God of their deliverance.
Margaretta Clark rode in Anson Call’s wagon. While drivers were arranging for their lads of equipment a few person items, Anson happened to look through he back of his wagon and saw Margaretta gnawing on a piece of frozen squash which he intended to feed his horse. He realized as he watched her sitting there in very thin clothing in the frigid temperature, that she was freezing, and he told her so. “Oh, no sir,” she replied. “I have been quite cold but am comfortable now.” Anson recognized this last stage of freezing in which the victim does not feel the cold anymore and if left alone would soon lie down and die. He knew that she must get out of the wagon and start moving around to circulate her blood. He reached up and took hold of her hand to help her down. “‘Old on, sire, my hand is a bit sore and you ‘urt it.” She tried to pull away from his grasp. “I calculate to hold on,” he exclaimed, and the English lady landed on the ground. Anson recruited another man to help him run her through the snow until her blood circulated and she was safe. Margaretta complained that an English gentleman would have been “. . . much more gentle and not so persistent.” “Their soon overtook us about 100 teams,” wrote Anson. “We was able to carry nearly all [the Saints] yet some died every day.”
Elizabeth Robinson, a twenty-year-old girl, did not ride in a wagon, perhaps because she was too shy or too proud to ask anyone for a ride. Elizabeth’s feet were black from frostbite. She could not walk fast enough to keep up with the wagons. Even when she started ahead of the company, wagons soon passed her and she feel behind. As the last wagon approached her, Elizabeth must have known that this was her only chance to live. She asked the driver if she could ride with him. That driver was Anson Call. He was surprised that she had not received a ride before. Anson said that his team was too weary to pull the weight of another person up the hill they were ascending, but that when they reached the summit, she could ride with him. At the summit, Anson had to carry the poor girl to the wagon. From that time on, Jesse Perkins carried her to and from the wagon each morning and night. Her feet were so damaged that her boots had to be cut off and her feet wrapped in burlap. There was talk of amputation them to the knees, but Elizabeth would not allow it.
One has to wonder about the thoughts of middle aged man and his young passengers during the long days of driving through the hills of Wyoming. Anson recorded nothing. They camped for the final time in Killian Canyon above the Salt Lake Valley near the mouth of Emigration Canyon. The next day, Margaretta and Elizabeth, the Martin Company, Anson, and the other rescuers drove down Emigration Canyon into the Salt Lake Valley on 30 November, 1856, twenty-one days after the Willie Company. They headed up East Temple Street, which is now Main Street, at around noon, just as meeting closed in the old adobe tabernacle on Temple Square. As the valley Saints walked out of the tabernacle and met the gaze of the tattered, haggard, handcart Saints, scarcely anyone could speak. They “. . . would look at each other until the sympathetic tears would force their unbidden way.”
Margaretta went to live with earlier immigrants from Nottingham in the home of a man named Taylor for whom she sewed two men’s shirts every day to pay for her board. Anson and Mary took Elizabeth Robinson into their home.
Days and weeks went by. The immigrants responded to the cozy warmth of living in house with walls and roofs, fireplaces and stoves; to hot, nourishing food, to rest under warming covers in bed; and to the magnanimous nurturing of the Saints who cared for them and nursed them from near death to health. John Telford of Bountiful courted Elizabeth Robinson. As Margaretta Clark recovered from her ordeal, and bloomed from emaciation to beauty and vitality. Anson could waste no more time fulfilling Brigham Young’s injunction to marry a couple of the English women. Brother Taylor was already courting Margaretta, but Anson won. Margaretta wanted to marry her hero. And Mary Flint Call, in the nobility of her soul, agreed to divide her home and her heart again. In far away Carson county, Mariah looked after her babies and Anson’s cattle. Had her husband written to tell her of his decision to marry again? If he had, the new probably would not have arrived before the marriage date.
On 7 February, 1857, Anson Call and Margaretta Unwin Clark and drove to Salt Lake to the office of Brigham Young where he sealed them as man and wife. All the hired help were invited to the Call home for a wedding upper of cornmeal and much. Anson had to pay a board bill to Brother Taylor who expected Margaretta to make more shirts. Because Anson rushed her away from Taylor, and because he didn’t want any man to hold a mortgage against his wife. Anson willingly paid Taylor’s bill.