Under the direction of Brigham Young, the first permanent settlers arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake on July 24, 1847. In Utah, “The Twenty-Fourth of July” is a time for celebrating “Pioneer Day” with parades, marathons, fireworks and a myriad of other festive activities in commemoration of the brave men and women who trekked across a wilderness to find refuge in a desert place that nobody else wanted. The climate was so severe and the soil so poor that mountain man Jim Bridger offered Brigham $1,000 for the first bushel of corn they were able to grow there.
As thousands of converts made their way to the new gathering place for the Latter-day Saints, it became apparent that the cost of moving the most impoverished European immigrants from the east coast to Utah would be prohibitive. Brigham Young devised a plan to use handcarts with which they could cross the prairies.
“We are confident,” he said, “that such a train will out-travel any ox train that can be started. They should have a few good cows to furnish milk, and a few beef cattle to drive and butcher as they may need. In this way the expense, risk, loss and perplexity of teams will be avoided…”
Between 1856 and 1860 several thousand saints successfully made the 1,300 mile journey by handcart. The success of their travel was marred only by two fateful trips, the Willie and Martin handcart companies, which left too late in the year to avoid the early winter snows. Levi Savage who helped lead one of the fateful companies implored its members to wait for spring before heading out. There had been delays in obtaining the wood for building the handcarts. When he was outvoted by the zealous members of the party, he determined to continue to lead them even at the cost of his own life. His warning went unheeded.
When word arrived in Salt Lake City that two handcart companies had been caught 300 miles from the valley by severe snow storms, Brigham quickly organized rescue parties with food, blankets and other supplies, loaded into wagons drawn by four-horse teams, and sent them east through the mountain passes. Reddick Newton Allred was one of the rescuers sent out by Brigham Young to bring in the Willie and Martin companies.
At the Sweetwater River near South Pass, Captain George Grant asked Reddick Allred to remain there with a few men and wagons ready to help when the rescuers returned with the handcart pioneers. The Rescuers found the Willie company mired in the snow, freezing, starving, and dying. Some of the rescuers continued to search for the Martin company, while others helped the Willie company make the heartrending pull up and over Rocky Ridge. Soon after they made camp, Reddick Allred and his men came to deliver essential assistance and supplies.
Captain Willie had left his small band and had gone out with a single companion in search of the relief train. History records, “On the evening of the third day after Captain Willie’s departure, just as the sun was sinking beautifully behind the distant hills, on an eminence, immediately west of our camp, several covered wagons, each drawn by four horses were seen coming towards us… Shouts of joy rent the air; strong men wept until tears ran freely down their cheeks, and little children partook of the joy which some of them hardly understood, and fairly danced around in gladness. Such words of welcome, and such invocation to God’s blessing have seldom been witnessed!”
Allred then waited for Captain Grant to return with the Martin company. Week after week passed with no sign of them. As blizzards howled and the weather became life threatening, two of the men decided it was foolish to stay. They thought the Martin company had either wintered over somewhere or perished. They decided to return to the Salt Lake Valley and tried to persuade everyone else to do the same. Allred refused to budge. President Young had sent him out and Captain Grant had told him to wait there and that’s what he would do.
Those who returned took several wagons, filled with needed supplies, and started back to the Salt Lake Valley. Even more tragic, they turned back 77 wagons that were coming from the valley to help. Some of those wagons returned to within a few miles of the city before messengers from Brigham Young met them and turned them back around.
Finally, more than three weeks after Reddick Allred had assisted the Willie company, Captain Grant arrived with the Martin company. These pioneers were even more destitute and had suffered dozens of deaths. Captain Grant’s rescue team was small and low on provisions—and still more than 200 miles from the Salt Lake Valley. Once again, because Reddick Allred had stayed true to his assignment, even in the most trying circumstances, he was able to provide life-sustaining assistance and supplies.
Levi Savage had raised a warning voice to men and women who were reluctant to hear it. Reddick Allred stayed true to his assignment when others gave in to fear. Sometimes we receive counsel that we cannot understand at the time or that seems not to apply to us. Rather than discard the counsel, we should hold it close and examine it carefully and prayerfully.
The life of any nation since the beginning of history has been a record of how it confronted the great challenges that inevitably came its way. One of the pioneering U.S. astronauts said of their great accomplishments, “All we did was fly to the moon.” Perhaps, in our day and age, if all we do is raise good families in difficult times, we will have demonstrated that pioneering spirit today. Pioneer faith is needed as much in the world today as in any period of time.
(Sources: L. Tom Perry, “The Strength of Our Heritage” and Henry B. Eyring, “Safety in Counsel.” Liahona Magazine, June 2008 and July 2012). (Comments? mustardseeds101@ yahoo.com)