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Kanab, Utah's Weekly Newspaper, Serving Kane County, Utah & the Arizona Strip

Southern Utah News Front Page: July 21, 2016

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Re-enactment of Mormon trek to Martin''s Cove

Hundreds of youth from the Kanab and Kaibab Stakes took part in a re-enactment of the Mormon trek to Martin’s Cove. More on back page. Photo by Myrna Cox.


By Myrna Cox

The Kanab and Kaibab Stakes hosted a trek to Martin’s Cove, as hundreds of youth and leaders traveled to Wyoming to re-enact a monumental part of the pioneer history. The trail from Nauvoo, Illinois, to the great Salt Lake Valley was approximately 1,300 miles long. This trail would lead 70,000 Mormon pioneers to the west. Unfortunately, some of the pioneers were ill prepared and ran into severe weather, as an early winter fell upon some of the groups heading west. 

On the fifth of October, 1856, LDS President Brigham Young called a conference. He spoke concerning the Saints, who were stranded on the plains, about 700 miles from the valley. He proclaimed they must be helped home. So he organized men and supplies and ordered horses, wagons and provisions to be sent out on a rescue mission for the many pioneers who were suffering from starvation and exposure, stuck in the ravaging forces of nature, as snowstorms kept them from traveling.

One such man, Ephraim Hanks, was a stalwart and amazing pioneer who ventured on his own with a horse and a pack animal, trying to reach the body of Saints who were a part of the Martin Handcart Company.

Hanks observed: “The terrific storm which caused the immigrants so much suffering and loss overtook me near South Pass.” He spoke of the following three days as: “The worst storm I have ever seen in the Rockies.”

He was still determined to pursue his course, and with pack animal and horse, he trudged through the heavy snow and was met by a relief company who reported the awful condition of the saints. Many were dead and others starving, as their provisions had run out.

Hanks, a dedicated and faithful man, who was a staunch believer in prayer, offered up a prayer unto the Lord, asking for buffalo meat. He was surprised when he opened his eyes and there stood before him a large buffalo. He skinned it, used the hide for a bed, and packed the meat on his horses and continued on. He later found the Martin Handcart Company and was forever changed by what he beheld.

“The sight that met my gaze can never be erased from my memory. The starving forms and the haggard countenances of the poor sufferers would touch even the most stalwart heart.”

The starving people rallied and enthusiastically welcomed Hanks and his gift of buffalo meat. They ate with thankful hearts.

They were rescued, but a trail of death and suffering would forever be written in history. Martin’s Cove was one of the greatest tragedies in overland trail history. Hundreds died of exposure and starvation before they could be rescued and brought home to the body of Saints residing in the Salt Lake Valley. 

As I spoke with leaders and youth, I was impressed that everyone was so excited about their experience. They also expressed a deeper love and appreciation for the pioneers who settled the west and led the way for a people to find a home land. I guess they would do it again, if the opportunity came along in the future. 

Betty Chamberlain, one of the trek leaders, had this to say about her experience. “My heart is overflowing for this trek experience. We witnessed a richness of the spirit, an outpouring of miracles, tender mercies in abundance, and shoulder to shoulder and heart to heart family togetherness. The fire of the covenant is tangible in the eyes of these extraordinary youth. Eyes were wet, and volumes were spoken, during this walk of reverence. I will always remember.”

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