The Mormon Handcart Migration

A review of <i>The Mormon Handcart Migration</i> by Candy Moulton

March 21, 2019

From the author of the best-selling book Steamboat, Legendary Bucking Horse: His Life and Times and the Cowboy Who Tried to Tame Him comes a new work entitled The Mormon Handcart Migration. Historians will applaud Moulton’s research and courage in writing about one of the deadliest chapters in the history of westward migration in the United States.

During the 19th century, Latter-day Saint pioneers gathered from around the world to reach Zion in the Great Salt Lake Valley. Lacking funds for full ox and horse teams, nearly 3,000 Mormon pioneers made the journey from Iowa and Nebraska to Utah in ten handcart companies. In the fall of 1856, the Martin and Willie handcart companies, on their way west, were caught in brutal blizzards in the Wyoming and Utah mountains where 250 of the 900 members died, from cold and starvation.

The Mormon Handcart Migration is a fascinating tale of one of the most unusual expeditions in Western history. Sanctioned by LDS President Brigham Young, the result was a journey of such horror that many who lived through it could never talk about it.

Not only did Moulton write the book about the trek, but in an effort to fully understand her subject, she traveled with the Mormon Trail Sesquicentennial Wagon Train, pushing and pulling a handcart for part of the journey. Readers will not only appreciate Moulton’s attention to the details of the much-overlooked adventure, but they will be moved by the letters written by one of her relatives who participated in the march in 1856 and witnessed the demise of her fellow travelers.

Reviewed by Chris Enss, COWGIRL Book Editor, and a New York Times best-selling author who writes about women of the Old West.

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