Immediately distributed, it was still not enough to stave off the effects of famine and cold. More rescuers came, but the dying continued. Wardle wrote, “At one time I became so weary and overcome with cold that I fell down and was forced to lay there for some time.” Friends pulled Wardle to his feet and encouraged him on.
In Wyoming, near Independence Rock and Devil’s Gate, rescuers took the party into a cove, later named Martin’s Cove, hoping to find shelter, and knowing there was wood for fires. When they made camp that night, the “Valley Boys,” as the rescuers were called, approached Wardle, who lay unmoving on the icy, frozen ground, and asked him to go up into the cove, cut wood and bring it down for fires. Wardle, sapped of his strength, wanted to refuse yet, as he explained, he had promised Heavenly Father that he would be obedient, so he took his hatchet, went up, chopped down three trees and dragged them back to the Valley Boys.
Wardle’s decision to obey most likely saved his life. In such frigid conditions, he easily would have succumbed to hypothermia and frozen to death. However, he got up, traipsed the canyon and engaged in physical activity that warmed his body. Obedience was, perhaps, the difference between life and death for him.
Shortly thereafter, teams of wagons arrived with provisions, although, “by this time our company was much smaller than when we left Council Bluffs, as so many had died along the way. We proceeded on to Salt Lake City with the teams leaving our handcarts behind. President Brigham Young along with many of the other Brethren and Women came to welcome us and took us into their homes, fed and warmed us and gave us warm clean beds to rest our weary bodies.”
Of 576 members of the company, it is estimated 150 died on the trail.
Wardle returned to England as a missionary in 1879 and served faithfully in the church throughout his life.
Before that mission, Mary Ann Ashton, also of the Martin Handcart Company, married Wardle in the Endowment House in Salt Lake City in 1867. She gave birth to a son, but died one week later. Her son, William, lived and was my great-great-great grandfather.
Willing obedience refines us and reshapes us, helping us become disciples of Christ. It allows us to become one with God and blesses us in ways we cannot possibly imagine.
Kristine Frederickson writes on issue-oriented topics that affect members of the LDS Church worldwide in her column “LDS World." She teaches part-time at BYU. Her views do not necessarily represent those of BYU.
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