Public invited to handcart presentation by historian
Handcart travel the way it was done in 1856 to 1860 is the theme of an upcoming lecture sponsored by the Springville Senior Citizens.
It will be held Wednesday Aug. 3, at 6 p.m. at the Senior Center, 65 E. 200 South, Springville. This event is free and the public is invited.
The handcart experience catches the hearts and imaginations of many who have ancestors who came west by that unique mode of travel. Even for those with no family or religious ties to those pioneers, the idea of immigrants taking scant provisions so they could push and pull handcarts across the plains to begin a new life in what they believed was Zion is intriguing.
Lyndia Carter, an avid historical researcher, writer and lecturer, will take her audience along that long and difficult trip to Utah using the participants’ own words to piece together the day-to-day drama and drudgery of the handcart era.
Traveling on foot was not unique to the Mormon handcart immigrant experience. Nearly everyone heading westward except for the young, elderly and ill walked most if not all the distance to Oregon, California, Utah and other areas. The exertion of pulling and pushing a handcart was exhausting labor compounded by a lack of supplies, inadequate clothing, extreme heat, storms and horrendous cold. Certainly, in Carter’s opinion, they went the hard way. It was inexpensive, but it was the only way they could afford to “gather to Zion.” They paid the price with effort and perseverance.
This method of transportation, lasting three years, involved only about 3,000, or 5 percent, of the 60,000 Mormons who migrated to Utah between 1847 and 1869 before the building of the transcontinental railroad. About 2,000 came in 1856, the first year this transportation method was used. The remainder coming in 1857, 1859 and 1860 (none in 1858). Carter is a stickler for historical accuracy, and the handcart pioneers’ real, factual stories in their own words and without embellishment are captivating.
Lyndia McDowell Carter is a former Utah history and English teacher. She is deeply involved in several historical organizations and keeps active studying history and doing research and writing as well as speaking basically on a full- time basis. She has written a number of articles for various publications and is currently working on manuscripts for a few books on the handcart pioneers. She has been a consultant for and has appeared in several TV documentaries on overland migration, Utah history and the handcart story.