HINCKLEY, Arza Erastus

HINCKLEY, Arza Erastus: Heroic Figure

Heroic Figure

This biography originally appeared in the May-June 1970 issue of Pioneer Magazine

By Earl S. Paul 
Arza E. Hinckley (1826-1901)

Arza E. Hinckley, one of the descendants of Samuel and Sarah, was born August 15, 1826 in Leeds County, Canada. His father was Nathaniel Hinckley, born December 5, 1794 in the United States of America. His mother was Lois Judd, born September 15, 1805 in upper Canada. 

The Latter-day Saints missionaries came to their home in the year 1836-37. Arza joined the church and was baptized August l, 1838. Shortly after his baptism he left with the John E. Payne’s Company for Far West, Missouri. He was at Far West when Joseph Smith and others were taken prisoners. He was one of the boys who was allowed by the guards of the mob, to go out of town to bring in the cows. 

He went from Far West to Nauvoo, Illinois, and while there working on the Temple Stone Quarry in the spring, President Brigham Young came at noon and told the workers to work away and finish the temple and prepare to go West. 

He left Nauvoo in May, 1846 in the Joel Ricks’ Company to Mt. Pisgah, where he joined the William Clayton’s Company to Council Bluff, Iowa, where he enlisted in the Mormon Battalion on July 16, 1846. He said that President Young told them:

“To be faithful saints and soldiers and we should not have to fire a gun at the enemy and we should return safely to the bosom of the Church.” 

He and several others became very ill at Santa Fe, where they were left by the other members of the battalion with instructions to return and winter at Pueblo, Colo. They were to leave in the spring for Utah. They left in May, 1847, and arrived in Utah on July 29, just five days after the arrival of the first company, led by Brigham Young. 

His stay in Utah was of short duration as he left to return to Winter Quarters about the first of September, 1847 with President Young and others. Besides a few meals he had with the emigrants he got two quarts of corn from his Aunt Shearward at Pacific Springs and he bought two pounds of flour at Laramie, which was his “outfit” of bread stuff from Salt Lake City to Missouri. He had to eat roots and rose buds to sustain life. 

President’s BodyGuard 

He came back to Utah with a freight company in the year 1850 and in the fall of 1851 he returned to Winter Quarters again. After returning to Utah he was a bodyguard for President Young. He also worked for Daniel H. Wells for several years. 

He went out to meet the first handcart company, meeting them about four hundred miles east of Salt Lake City. He was a great help to them on the rest of their long journey to Utah. 

He went out again with Dan Johnson, each had four mule team loads of provisions and medicine. When they got to Fort Bridger a blizzard detained them for a few days. The second day out from Fort Bridger they met two companies of relief units on their way home. They had been out to near the Pacific Springs and had not found the Martin Handcart Company. Thinking they had perished in the cold and snow they had decided to return to Salt Lake City. 

Arza persuaded them to camp and that he and Dan Johnson would go on to search for the company. He wrote:

‘‘After my making some persuasion they went on to camp one way and waited there until they heard of the carts then went after them. Dan and I went on to Green River where a team overtook us, who took A. J.’s load and he went back to For Bridger. The mules Dan had were President Young’s large mules. One of them had died with the cold.” 

“We met the Handcart Folks at Ice Springs on the Sweetwater River, from there into Salt Lake City. Eph. Hanks, one of my battalion chums, spent much of our time, while in camp administering to the sick. Ephraim was a man of great faith.”

Might Have Perished 

If Arza E. Hinckley and Dan Johnson had not met the relief party wagons returning and persuaded them to wait, there is no doubt that the Martin Handcart Company would have perished, but by the bravery of Arza E. Hinckley when he said to them:

“Brigham Young sent me out to help save the handcart folks and I will find them or give my life trying to find them.”

No doubt these words influenced the man with the team of horses to follow after them. 

From various accounts it is clear that Ephraim K. Hanks was the person who overtook Arza E. Hinckley and Dan Johnson. Ephraim tells how busy he was in administering to the sick but does not mention that Arza helped him, but Arza says they too “were busy administering to the sick.” 

And thus two courageous men went forward again as battalion brothers. The one who led and the one who followed, battling arm in arm the cold fierce winds, breaking roads through deep snow and drifts, not knowing where they would meet other courageous men, women and children of great faith who were perishing in the snow and praying that they would be led by the Lord to where the handcart folks were camped. 

As the two rescuers with their wagons of food, raiment, bedding and medicine approached the camp, great shouts of “Hosanna to God” rang through the crisp air in the little hollow where they had camped. 

Presidents Companion 

Arza traveled a great deal with President Young on his trips to the colonies. He had “charge of the guard” at his office one night a week for ten years. He was on the police force of Salt Lake City for seven years and a cavalryman in the Minute Men for 17 years in Company 3. He was not only a minute man for the cavalry but for the church, fulfilling many assignments which took him away from his large family many times. 

Once he met some government troops at the mouth of Parley’s Canyon who pounced upon him. In the book “Daniel H. Wells And Events Of His Life,” by Bryant S. Hinckley is written:

Brother Arza Hinckley, with whom you are very well acquainted, was coming out of the canyon with some sheep. He had a boy with him by the name of Arthur Smith, about 14 years of age, who was a little in advance, when they met a wagon load of troops who were going to the canyon for some wood. As they met, one of the soldiers jumped out, and, approaching the boy, said: You are the first wild man I have seen,” at the same time striking him and knocking him clear off the dugway. The boy had scarcely struck the ground before he was joined by the soldier as a result of a well-directed blow from Arza. 

“Ten of these military ‘braves’ then rushed upon him. Three of them he knocked down, but there were too many for him and they beat him in a most shocking manner. He is now at Brother Wells’, and there is no apprehension but what he will recover soon.” 

The soldiers left him for dead, one of them remarked: “We are a brave set to jump upon a mere boy and beat him to death.” 

He lived and became one of the stalwart pioneers, both in Utah and Idaho, devoted to his church, his government and his large family of three wives, who were: Amelia Woodhouse, Temperance Ricks and Mary Christina Heiner (the writer’s grandmother) and 23 children He was a patriarch at the time of his death at Rexburg, Idaho on February 18, 1901. 

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