Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

More than handcarts

A Pioneer Day re-enactment of Mormon pioneers entering the Salt Lake Valley in July 1847, with covered wagons coming off Big Mountain into Mountain Dell, by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
For the past few years, most of the references we hear about the Mormon Pioneers have focused on two handcart companies. I am certainly not at all trying to minimize or depreciate the sacrifice of these two unfortunate pioneer companies, but I am afraid that the image of people pulling handcarts has markedly diminished the sacrifices and challenges of the approximately 70,000 people who made the trip between 1847 and 1868. Almost all of my Great-great grandparents and their families crossed the plains during these years.

My Great-great-grandfather, Sidney Tanner, was one of these pioneers. He did not push a handcart, but he lost his first wife, Louisa Conlee, to the cold and exposure of Winter Quarters in Nebraska Territory on the 29th of September, 1846. The death of his wife left him with eight children from infants to fifteen years of age. Within three months, he remarried my Great-great-grandmother, Julia Ann Shepherd on the Plains in Florence, Nebraska on the 1st of December 1846.

The Tanners were called to help outfit the waves of pioneer refugees coming from the East to the Salt Lake Valley so they stayed out on the Plains for more than a year. They came west in the Willard Richards Company in 1848.  Also in 1848, his six-year-old son, Sidney C. Tanner, was killed when he was run over by a wagon wheel while on the Plains in Iowa. He died on the 26th of July 1848.

Sidney also made two more trips back to the east and then back to the Salt Lake Valley. He traveled with the Amasa M. Lyman/Charles C. Rich Company in 1857 and again conducted the Sidney Tanner Company in 1861. So, he crossed the Plains six times. Perhaps it is time to start showing and talking about the dedication of those who rode in wagons or walked across the country.

One more example, my wife's Great-great-grandfather, Edwin Pettit, walked all the way across the country with the pioneers as an orphan with the Edward Hunter/Jacob Foutz Company at age 13.  Oh, and one more example, My Great-great grandfather, Jens Christensen, died of exposure crossing the Plains outside somewhere in Wyoming or Nebraska in 1866. His daughter, Christine Christensen also died the same year on the Plains.

I can certainly relate to the handcart pioneers and their suffering, but almost all my life I have remembered the ones who came on foot or in wagons. Let's remember them also.

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