I was asked to give a talk about my ancestors in Sacrament Meeting on the 20th of July 2008. I wasn’t too thrilled – but I decided to read about some of my ancestors. I checked out the book Sweetwater Rescue, the Willie and Martin Handcart Story by Heidi Swinton and Lee Groberg. I looked through it, being thoroughly touched by the beautiful art work and the quotes from various people. Then I flipped to the back and saw the names of the Handcart Companies and their participants. My eyes were drawn to the name Ann Elizabeth Higgs (2). It caught my attention! Ann Elizabeth was my progenitor on my Father’s side. She was only two years old when she and her family came across the plains. I had heard about her from my Mom and Dad. I remember her 90th birthday. My Mother had purchased a beautiful birthday cake, we had driven to Mayfield where Ann Elizabeth lived (we lived in Salt Lake at the time), and then Mom let me go with her up to Cobble Heaven to give the cake. I do not remember who she was living with at the time. I just remember walking into the home and being able to greet her, even kiss her on the cheek and stand in awe that someone could live that long. She wasn’t terribly well at the time and was in bed so we didn’t stay too long. When I saw her name on the list my heart was grabbed and I wanted to know more.
She and her family (Thomas, father; Elizabeth, mother; and Mary Suzanne, her seven year old sister were part of the Hodgett Wagon Company. The Hodgett Company came right behind the Willie and Martin Companies and so suffered much deprivation and many trials as they made their way across the plains. However, because they were well supplied they were better off than the Martin and Willie handcart companies. This is the reason they had more supplies:
“A well-to-do land owner Thomas Tennant, Esquire, sold his Midlands estate for 27,000 pounds, millions by today’s measure, to bolster the empty coffers of the emigrating fund. He, age forty-six, his wife Jane, age twenty-six and their one-year-old son Thomas made the journey in the Hodgett Wagon Train. His caravan included four wagons and a carriage.
“He was one of those whom Elder Daniel Spencer described as starting “with plenty of means to come through.” Tennant “divided [his] means to help those that had none and [had] enrolled themselves as pullers of carts.”
When President Heber C. Kimball, counselor to Brigham Young, praised the rescuers in an address on November 2 in the Tabernacle, his words were a fitting tribute to those who, like Thomas Tennant, had sacrificed to help others reach the valley. Said President Kimball, “Who has greater love than he that lays down his life for his friends?”
Tennant died a month before reaching the Valley. Tennant was buried in ground far different from that of his native England-first in Wyoming, and later in Utah where his body was moved to finally rest with the Saints.”
Quoted from Sweetwater Rescue
My interest was now piqued so I bought two books and went home to read. The books were The Journal of the Trail by Stewart A. Glazier and Robert S. Clark and Handcarts to Zion by LeRoy and Ann Hafen. They were so informative. Then, I was talking to Wendy (my daughter) and she mentioned that my Dorius progenitors were also among the Handcart Pioneers but came the next year and in a better weather situation. OK, then I had to find the copy of The Dorius Heritage book by Earl Dorius to read. It was better than a novel!
I loved reading it – and I felt such a kinship to the Dorius boys as I read. They were super missionaries and I just enjoyed the experience of reading about them and their families. I will quote from that book as I go, as well as some of the other books I referred to.
What I want to say here is that we are all pioneers in our own time. There are still pioneers all over the world learning about the gospel and sharing it with their families and other people they meet. In a way they are the heroes and heroines of today.