Handcart History
July 2007

“Handcart History,” New Era, July 2007, 22

Handcart History

From LeRoy R. Hafen and Ann W. Hafen, Handcarts to Zion (1960).

Here’s a little background on the handcart pioneers:

  • President Brigham Young directed the Latter-day Saints to travel to Zion by handcart because it was less expensive than covered wagons, and many more Saints could make the journey.

  • There were 10 handcart companies in all, from 1856 to 1860.

  • The Saints traveled by railroad to Iowa City, Iowa. After being outfitted, 7 of the 10 handcart companies left from Iowa City. The others left from Florence, Nebraska.

  • Most of the handcart pioneers were emigrants from Europe. They came from England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, and Italy.

  • Except for the Willie and Martin companies (who left late in the season and were caught in early snowstorms), the handcart companies experienced relatively few deaths along the trail.

  • Although handcart pioneers endured hardships, the faith of many remained firm. Priscilla M. Evans of the Bunker company said, “People made fun of us as we walked, pulling our carts, but the weather was fine and the roads were excellent and although I was sick and we were very tired at night, still we thought it was a glorious way to go to Zion.”

Photograph of handcart by Welden C. Andersen