Work Title: Sweetwater Rescue: The Willie and Martin Handcart Story
Work Author(s): Heidi S. Swinton
150 photographs and illustrations, 136 pages, Hardcover $29.95
Reviewer: Robin Farrell Edmunds
"The way to have a warm sleeping place was this---sweep away the ashes of the campfire and lay your bed on the spot where the fire had been built," wrote Englishman John Jacques, traveling the Mormon Trail. "In the morning the same spot was found to be the easiest place in which to dig a grave to bury the night's dead."
150 years ago, Jacques was one of nearly 1,800 Mormon faithful from Europe who traveled on foot from Iowa to Salt Lake City; small handcarts carried any belongings. Of the five church-sanctioned groups that left in 1856, the last two---the Willie and Martin handcart companies, named for the two men in charge and consisting of nearly 1,000 persons---got a late start. Because of the delay, they encountered severe weather, losing more than 200 people along the trail.
Church leaders sent men out to rescue the stranded immigrants; they encountered the first company along Wyoming's Sweetwater River. The author has won awards for her writing and screenplays; she wrote the script for the PBS documentary American Prophet: The Story of Joseph Smith. This book is a companion piece for another film, to be shown on PBS in late October.
The book contains illustrations by Utah-area artists---some descended from the handcart pioneers themselves---depicting the landscapes and people in the story. The yellow treeless rolling plains and puffy white clouds hanging low from the brilliant blue sky provide the background for settlers traveling single file in David Meikle's painting...