October is filled with a lot of history that affects our lives every day. I have listed just a few for us to look at in this edition of the Trail Marker:
- October 12, 1492 – After a 33-day voyage, Christopher columbus made his first landfall in the New World in the Bahamas.
- October 26, 1825 – The erie canal opened as the first major man-made waterway in America, linking Lake Erie with the Hudson River, bypassing the British-controlled lower St. Lawrence. The canal cost over $7 million and took eight years to complete.
- October 24, 1861 – The first transcontinental telegram in America was sent from San Francisco to Washington, addressed to President abraham lincoln from the Chief Justice of California.
- October 3, 1863 – President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation designating the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
- October 28, 1846 – The Donner-Reed parties had earlier departed Illinois heading for California. The group totaled 90 persons, including immigrants, families and businessmen. Tragedy later struck as they became stranded in snow in the Sierras where famine and cannibalism took its toll. There were 48 survivors by the end of their journey in April of 1847.
- October 19, 1856 – The Martin and Willie handcart companies are stranded in what is present day Wyoming. A strong early winter storm with arctic temperatures, strong winds and heavy snow halted their progress.
The last two events are of particular importance to Latter Day Saints. The Donner-Reed parties had, in 1846, blazed the trail followed by Brigham Young into the Salt Lake Valley. The Vanguard Company of Latter Day Saints had to make improvements, but the route had been scouted and traveled.
The Donner-Reed parties lost time resting animals in the Grantsville area, then called Twenty Wells. Then, when crossing the salt flats, tragedy struck with the loss of many oxen and the abandonment of many wagons and provisions. They were later stranded in the Sierra Mountains, and with no provisions and with little or no hope, many turned to cannibalism to save their lives.
Maybe it was the desire to live or the fear of death that caused this behavior. I don’t know and don’t expect to know what went on in their minds.
The Martin and Willie companies left for Salt Lake City late in the year. They were ill prepared. Supply stations that they were planning on were gone. Traveling west with minimal provisions, an early winter storm stopped their progress, in what is now central Wyoming. Little or no food, minimal clothing for warmth, and travelers passing away daily, left them with little or no hope.
One thing was different, the saints did not turn to cannibalism, they chose hunger and possible death. Some were heard telling others to tell their families that they died with their faces pointed towards Zion. Year’s later one brother was heard to say that being part of the stranded hand cart companies was the price they paid to know God.
I would suggest that the reason the saints chose the way they did was because of their belief in Temples and eternal families. They learned and knew that God lived and loved them and they were at peace with the outcome. Journals were kept and testimonies were written for each of us to gather strength from.
This year has been strange and hard on us all. COVID had forced us to cancel many activities that would have given us an opportunity for me to get to know you better and for you to get to know me better. Some of these include:
- Headquarters cleanup day,
- the national symposium, the
- national trek,
- the SUPER/DUPER day at This is the Place State
- the sunrise service on July 24th,
- the 24th of July parade and
- the annual Encampment.
I have also missed meeting with your chapters at chapter meetings and treks. We have no doubt been seriously affected by COVID. I have included a link above to a YouTube video that my son in law, Trevor, helped me make that gives you a quick overview of who I am and what makes me who I am. I hope you enjoy getting to know me a little better, and hopefully we can meet face to face very soon. I look forward to getting to know you all a little better as well. Have a great month and be “Pioneer Strong”.