Thursday, August 11, 2016
Daniel Wood - Rescuer of Immigrants
Way to go, Grandpa Wood!
I did not not know this until today. It pays to keep checking back on the LDS Church History Library website, Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, because they keep updating with additional information and sources. Daniel Wood 1800-1892), my 3rd-Great-Grandfather and Davis County Pioneer, is now listed as a "Rescuer" of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies in the early winter of 1856! He appears on a list of teamsters for the rescue in the records of the Perpetual Emigrating Fund Co.
My wife and children (well, because of her) have an ancestor long known as a Rescuer, Robert Taylor Burton (1821-1907). This is great that my children and ongoing posterity have it on both sides of the family!
There is also new information on the Handcart Companies on the CHL webpage, such as "Five Things You Might Not Know about the Handcart Rescue." And I'll leave that link for you to check out. I was glad to learn a few of those things and especially about Grandpa Wood! There's another thing you might not know which is an unproven theory of my Mormon History Blogger friend at Keepapitchinin.org. And it's a darn good theory based on strong circumstantial evidence about why Brigham Young didn't know until October 4, 1856, that there were still companies out on the plains of Wyoming and likely in trouble.*
And it must be remembered that these were, for the most part, companies of Immigrants. Most were from the British Isles, and many of them from Wales. My 4th-Great-Grandmother, Eleanor Jenkins Vaughan, from Wales was in the first company of handcarts that year with Captain Edmund Ellsworth.
There is also a geographical and meteorological connection that I share with the immigrants and their rescuers in that harsh Wyoming cold. I spent a whole winter of my life on the high Wyoming plains in Rock Springs. It was miserable! And that was in the modern era of 1974-75! I even camped out with a friend in early Spring of '75 when we thought the snow was over and it wasn't. We had a car that took us home quickly to a warm home and hot food. Yet I have felt the misery of Wyoming in Winter and I respect Grandpa Wood all the more for that.
*Ardis Parshall has shared the theory summary, and a challenge open to all:
". . . . the basic idea is that Mormon emigration agents on the frontier always sent B[righam] Y[oung] a letter telling him that a company had been dispatched on such-and-such a day, with so many wagons/handcarts and people, and an estimate of whether they would need supplies delivered to them at some point. Those letters were sent with somebody who would be crossing the plains much faster than the pioneer companies -- the plains were a very busy place, and lots of people traveled fast in small companies, perhaps with buggies, without children and old people who could slow them down. All those letters are in the BY papers.
There are no letters in the BY papers for those last companies of 1856. That's an anomaly -- the agents ALWAYS notified Salt Lake that somebody was on the way.
I have found cases of three other letters, not related to emigration, that *should* be in the BY papers but are not. These are letters written by Mormons in the east, including George A. Smith in Washington D.C. who, the next time they wrote, began their letters with remarks like: I wrote to you on such-and-such a date, and again on such-and-such a date. That was a common thing to find in 19th century letters -- it let correspondents know whether all letters had arrived or gone astray. The three letters I know of that *should* be in the BY papers were all sent courtesy of the same man -- Almon Babbitt, a territorial official representing Utah in the East. Almon Babbitt was travelling quickly across in the plains in a buggy with horses, and his position made it very understandable that people would trust him with their letters.
I posit that Babbit was carrying those three letters and probably others -- including a letter from the Mormon agent on the frontier, reporting the departure of the last handcart and wagon companies.
Babbitt was killed by Indians before he reached Utah. Those who came across the massacre site reported a lot of torn papers scattered on the ground by the Indians.
I think there *was* a letter notifying BY of the departure of those handcart companies, because that was the established pattern. But I think BY was telling the truth when he said he was unaware those companies were out on the plains until Franklin D. Richards -- also traveling quickly across the plains with a small mounted party -- arrived in Salt Lake with the news at Conference time, and BY responded as soon as he heard.
It would be tedious but very possible to lay out all the evidence by matching letters in the BY papers for 1856, and maybe 1855, to the emigration during that time, to demonstrate that those letters were always sent. Then with my identification of those three other, non-emigration-related letters, known to have been carried by Babbitt but lost before delivery, the argument that BY did NOT know of those late companies, would be established. I'm just not apt to get around to that myself anytime soon, or ever, so if someone wants to go to the trouble of proving their interest, by lining up the evidence that agents always alerted BY to the departure of pioneer companies, then I would share my evidence of those three letters with such a researcher (student, historian, or anybody else who was able to do the tedious work accurately). I won't give my evidence to somebody, though, until he has demonstrated his commitment by doing that preliminary work."