Included among the most poignant and powerful stories from the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are those of the 1856 handcart companies led by James Willie and Edward Martin. These two returning missionaries were asked to lead hundreds of European Saints from Iowa City, Iowa, to the Salt Lake Valley.

The tragedy associated with these groups, which were caught in the snow and cold of early winter storms, may constitute the greatest disaster in the settling of the American West.

The sites where these events unfolded are now considered sacred to many, and countless thousands have gone to these sites. Much appreciation needs to be expressed to Robert Scott Lorimer and others who did much to acquire these special places and who now maintain them.

Seen here is the Mormon Handcart Historic Site where the handcart pioneers, along with several companies of wagons, camped under extreme conditions. Many suffered and died nearby in Martin’s Cove in Wyoming. Additional sites and historical information associated with the Mormon handcart pioneers will be featured in the weeks ahead.