Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Family Pioneer Trek at Martin's Cove

We're at Bear Lake now, enjoying a few days with most of my family members before the official Eyre reunion starts on Friday. So great to be with everyone, to see the kids having so much fun together, to meet a new niece, to have that uniquely wonderful feeling of relaxing togetherness that Bear Lake brings.

For a few days before we got here, we were at Martin's Cove in Wyoming doing a pioneer trek. Jared and I did one with the youth from our area in St George three years ago and had a great experience but thought it would be all the more meaningful if we could go with our own kids. So when our stake in Ogden announced that they were going to do a family pioneer trek this summer, we signed up for three days of wearing pioneer clothes while camping and pulling a handcart through the Wyoming wilderness while hearing faith-promoting pioneer stories and having some good old fashioned fun. And it turned out to be a truly wonderful family bonding and learning experience. 

Here we are near Devil's Gate (that break in the rocks in the background)
The kids thought this would have been a much more comfortable way to travel than pulling handcarts.
But only the richest could afford wagons so mostly wagons like these were used to haul provisions and
families hauled their personal possessions in handcarts.

The kids really loved the adventure of it all and the things we learned about pioneers really seemed to sink in and affect them. I looked over at Silas during a film about a little pioneer boy who lost his father in a terrible snow storm during the little orientation meeting when we first got there, and his eyes were glistening with tears. I asked Oliver at the end what he learned. He said "That it would be really hard to be a pioneer for three reasons. You get hardly any food and it's bad food. You walk a LOT. And you might die." Isaac insisted on pulling the handcart by himself for about a 1/2 a mile so he could see what it was like for the pioneer boys his age who had to do stuff like that. Ashton and Isaac both took great care of several very little kids to help out the kids' parents and it was great to see all the families really help each other in every way throughout the experience. Eliza delighted all the pioneer stories and games and was so helpful and cute about everything.

One of the really cool things about going on this trek to Martin's Cove was that Jared's great great great grandmother, Amy Orme, and great great grandfather, Samuel Washington Orme, along with his two sisters, Sarah Ann and Rebecca, were in the Martin handcart company that got caught in the early snows and endured unthinkable hunger and cold while waiting in Martin's Cove for rescue parties to save them. They walked about a hundred miles through 2-foot-deep snow with their handcarts, subsisting on rations of 4 oz of flour a day until they were finally rescued. There are so many heartbreaking but faith promoting stories and we felt proud that some of those stories belonged to one of our ancestors.

Here's a little story we know about the Ormes: As the storms got worse and the rations got smaller, men were dying right and left. As men were primarily responsible for pulling the handcarts and as men typically have a higher need for calories than women anyway, the 4 oz of flour for all adults that they whittled their way down to after weeks of semi-starvation was just not working out for the men. Samuel's mom and sisters saw the men dying and decided to do a very brave and very hard thing. They decided to insist that Samuel take part of their rations to supplement his own so he could keep his strength up and help them all make it through this ordeal. Likely due to their sacrifice, all four family members lived. Samuel went on to support his mother and sisters as a blacksmith all his life (their dad had died before the trek began). We found a great tribute written about Samuel by his son at the visitor's center. Samuel was as honest and faithful and hardworking as they come.

Here are the kids looking for their ancestors on the list of members of the Martin Handcart Company of 1856:

And here's what they found (the names in red are those that died - and there's sadly a whole lot of red on that board). Great great great grandmother Amy, great great aunts Sarah Ann and Rebecca, and great great grandfather Samuel (Washtington was his middle name because he was born on the 4th of July). Samuel's son was Silas who our Silas is named for.

When we first got there, we set up camp (feeling pretty darn grateful for the tents we've got instead of the canvas and sticks the pioneers had for tents - in the snow...)

Then we had had the beautiful experience of watching a couple little girls from our stake be baptized in the Sweetwater River.

We picked up our handcarts from here (and the twins made fast friends with this big dog who looks like a sheep and who has appointed himself the guardian of all pioneer treks according to the missionaries who help manage the treks- they wanted me to be sure to include a photo of Oscar the dog and this is the best I could get -he wasn't much for posing for photos).

Then we packed up our handcarts and headed out. The kids were really proud of the family flag they designed and made all by themselves. I was proud of myself for backing off and letting them do whatever they wanted. And it turned out great!

The kids loved puling the handcart and letting the adults act as the brakes in the back (they got going a little fast here and there...). They insisted on having the adults ride from time to time to make it harder and to imagine what it would have been like if they had to pull sick parents as so many pioneer children did.
We pushed and pulled our handcart all day and the kids were tough. After learning about their ancestors walking through snow and freezing and starving, there wasn't much room for complaints, I guess.

We all sat down in Martin's Cove to hear about the plight and strength of the brave pioneers in the Martin Company. If you want to read all about it, there's some good info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mormon_handcart_pioneers

We rolled up our pants and hitched up our skirts to pull our handcart through the Sweetwater River that the pioneers had had to cross repeatedly in the ice and snow.

It was great to see all the kids on the trek loving the simple passtimes of long ago - climbing trees, playing tag, whittling, playing pioneer games, chewing on grass stalks, climbing rocks. It was very nice to put away all electronics and see how quickly the kids came up with great activities.
Silas and Oliver were a pretty good match for each other with the stick pull.

All the kids were enamored with these little string and wooden circle things you could get going - much better than a yo-yo...

Eliza and her friend Savannah had SO much fun together.
By the end, we were all pretty darn worn out from all the walking, the hot sun, and the late and not-so-comfy nights. Here's Silas during an evening of pioneer stories. Love how he's got a piece of grass in his mouth. Ashton got all the kids in camp going on sucking on the ends of grass...

On the final day of the trek, we had the chance to drive a few minutes up the road (a day's journey for pioneers) and see Independence Rock, a major landmark on the Oregon, Mormon, and California Trails. It's called the "registry of the desert" since pioneers all the way back to 1824 inscribed their names on this rock. It was fun to climb up on top for great views of the old trail and see 100's of names all over the rock. The goal of the pioneers was to make it to this rock by independence day - if they could do that, they'd most likely beat the storms and make it to their destinations safely. The Martin Handcart Company didn't make it to Independence rock until October. Combine their lateness with the very early onset of winter and things just weren't good.

This one says A.E. Moody, July 8th, 1853. Love the neat handwriting.

J.L. Holland 1862.

 On the left, hehind Isaac and his little friend Amelia you can see a bridge and traces of the old trail.
It was a landmark experience for our family. Experiencing a small token piece of what our ancestors experienced was so good for us all. We felt things we couldn't have felt any other way. We loved sharing this experience as a family. And we're all feeling so extra grateful now for the gospel our ancestors sacrificed so much for, for the good food we have, for our van, for air conditioning, for clean clothes and washing machines, for water bottles and sunscreen, for modern clothing, for comfortable beds, for health and strength.

We felt a lot of love for each other - and our van - as we pulled out of camp and headed to Bear Lake in a vastly speedier and more comfortable fashion than our ancestors traveled.


Sarah said...

Oh how fun! You all look so cute!

Rosie said...

Wow! I have never heard of a Stake taking entire families on Trek! That is fabulous! We took a Young Single Adult group a few years ago and it was one of the most sacred experiences of our lives! Looking at your pictures brought many memories flooding back! Funny that old dog Oscar!!

ps. I was at Bear Lake early Monday morning with friends. Went for a walk and saw your dad and brother(?)playing tennis!

Rebecca said...

Cutest Pioneer family ever!

emily ballard said...

Looks like a great experience! I hope the stake goes again in three or four years. You and Jared look so young in that top picture!

Eyrealm said...

What a terrific experience for everyone! This will be SO fun for the kids to show their kids someday!

Cheryl said...

Sounds like a fabulous experience! I so want to do it with my family as we have ancestors from the Willie company. But we'd better wait a couple of years till my littlest is a bit older!

Andrea said...

I love that you got to go as a family. So awesome.

Laura said...

What a fantastic experience for your family! I wish our Stake did something similar. You're fortunate that you were able to experience that.

Linda said...

We are planning a family reunion at martins cove next year. Your experience with the kids sounds like what we would like. Would u mind breaking down what you did on each of the three days? Did you trek two days?

Jana said...

I have the very same ancestors, so when I saw their names in your photograph, I was shocked. I love the story of Samuel's family sharing their rations with him so he could keep up his strength. We have shared that with our own children. Another very favorite is the conversion of Samuel's mother, Amy, to the gospel. If you do not have it, email me. It will be a powerful testimony to your children.

Rachelle said...

wow!!! I am trying not to be jealous!! Really the trek we did with our youth was life changing...and to have that as a family...awesome!! So great!


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