The Rescuers

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(This is an excerpt from Follow Me to Zion , by Andrew D. Olsen and Jolene S. Allphin.)

Only two days after Brigham Young’s first call for rescuers, about 50 men started east from Salt Lake City. This first rescue team had about 20 wagons “loaded to the bows” with supplies. Five of these men had been part of Franklin D. Richards’s group that had just returned to the city on October 4: George D. Grant, Joseph A. Young, Cyrus H. Wheelock, William H. Kimball, and Chauncey G. Webb. After years of missionary service abroad, they had been home for less than three days when they left again to help with the rescue.

Brigham Young appointed George D. Grant to lead this company. In the letter of appointment, he instructed Captain Grant to press forward until they “help[ed] in the last one, that none be left behind.” In at least three ways, fulfilling this instruction would be much more demanding than the rescuers anticipated when they left Salt Lake City.

First, they would have to travel farther and be gone weeks longer than expected. No one knew how far the late companies had advanced since Franklin D. Richards had passed them nearly a month earlier. “Our information as to their whereabouts was very meager,” said Robert T. Burton, one of Captain Grant’s assistants. On the day the rescuers departed, the Willie company was 420 miles away, and the Martin company was 520 miles away, one day east of Fort Laramie. The Hodgetts and Hunt wagon companies were also more than 500 miles away, near the Martin company. Daniel W. Jones thought he would be gone “for only a few days” in rescuing these Saints. Yet most of these men would be gone nearly two months, and Daniel Jones, Thomas Alexander, and Benjamin Hampton would be gone until the following spring.

Second, after the first 12 days of their journey, the rescuers would have to endure weeks of fierce winter storms, with temperatures plunging as low as 11 degrees below zero—and a wind chill that was far colder.

Third, before the 50 men in George Grant’s rescue team would receive any substantial help, they would be divided four ways in trying to save some 1,300 people—people who would be starving and freezing by the time they were found. “Our company is . . . only a drop to a bucket, as it were, in comparison to what is needed,” Captain Grant would write to Brigham Young.

But these men were up to the task. Daniel W. Jones said the company “had good teams and provisions in abundance. But best of all, those going were alive to the work.” (Andrew D. Olsen and Jolene S. Allphin, Follow Me to Zion [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2013], 222–23).

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