The Price We Paid
The story of the Willie and Martin handcart pioneers is among the most compelling in the history of America's western migration. Though tragic, it is also a story of triumph that scarcely has an equal. It is one of history's great witnesses of the power of faith and sacrifice. Although this story is one of the most frequently told of all Mormon pioneer accounts, it is also among the least understood. This book provides the most comprehensive and accessible account of these pioneers' epic 1856 journey. In addition to painting a broad perspective of the trek, it includes dozens of personal stories from the pioneers themselves. Woven into the larger story of the journey west, these stories inspire, build faith, recount miracles, and reveal how these pioneers were able to endure such adversity. The book also includes chapters on the lives of many of these pioneers after the handcart trek. Immerse yourself in the challenges and miracles of this astounding odyssey as never before!

The Price We Paid Details

TitleThe Price We Paid
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 21st, 2006
PublisherDeseret Book Company
ISBN-139781590386248
Rating
GenreNonfiction, History, Christianity, Lds, Religion, Church, Historical

The Price We Paid Review

  • Julie Carpenter
    January 1, 1970
    I get to go visit several of the sites of the handcart pioneers next week and I decided I wanted to read up on the stories and histories again. It's been several years since I last studied and learned about the Willie and Martin companies. I remembered many of the details but many more had escaped my memory. Once I started I had a hard time putting this down. I really liked the way the author presented the information and combined the two together. He breaks the book into two sections, a section I get to go visit several of the sites of the handcart pioneers next week and I decided I wanted to read up on the stories and histories again. It's been several years since I last studied and learned about the Willie and Martin companies. I remembered many of the details but many more had escaped my memory. Once I started I had a hard time putting this down. I really liked the way the author presented the information and combined the two together. He breaks the book into two sections, a section for the Willie company and a section for the Martin company. There are a few little overlaps between the two as he talks about some of the different figures who helped before or after the onset of the pioneers heading out on their journey.There are so many stories he could have pulled from, so the author selected a handful from each company and shared snippets from their background, some of their journal entries as they set out from England on the ships, journal entries from time on the journey as well as concluding with their lives after the journey. Many died but surprisingly when looked at it as a whole, not as many as you would assume to begin with. There were terrible hardships, lack of supplies, early winter storms and many other factors that caused the sorrow and loss of lives.As I've been planning on this upcoming trip since last Oct/Nov. I've had plenty of time to contemplate and talk about these pioneers with others. A common thought and question was why did they leave so late in the season, why subject themselves to the weather. This was a great book that really looked at all sides to that question. I thought the author did a great job of being very subjective and not leaning more towards one person or another at fault for the decisions made, but he laid out lots of information for the readers to see all sides and perspectives. Of course in researching this, there is only information available that was written down and by bystanders sometimes instead of the source and I liked how Olsen pointed that out as to who his source was, but he gave multiple sources for multiple perspectives. Well done! I had moments in parts of the book(probably closer to the beginning before seeing all the information) that my opinion of certain key figures wasn't the best. But I tried to remain impartial as I wasn't there. I don't know all that happened. Sure I can read it and assume I know what happened but, I just wasn't and I can't. As I got closer to the end of the book the author includes more information on these figures that brought even more understanding and changed my thoughts and opinions again.I really liked how he quoted from many of the pioneers who were a part of these companies, as well as the Hunt and Hodgetts wagon companies who followed very closely behind the Martin company. The quotes he used and from all his research he pointed out that those pioneers never once laid blame on anyone for who was at fault. I thought that was amazing. They worked together, they had to have known their greatest strength was togetherness and unity. I'm sure I could go on and on with all my thoughts and feelings and opinions about this book. It's emotional, it's got humor and happiness and sorrow. My emotions were all over the place while reading this. I read quite a bit of it out loud to my hubby because he's coming on the trip too. I cried and could hardly speak to read aloud at several points. I've always been amazed by these pioneers.We are going as part of a group on Trek with the young men and young women from our church to visit and reenact some of the walks, Rocky Ridge and Martin's Cove. I don't know how I'm going to feel standing in those places next week after reading about the suffering and heartache and sacrifices of these pioneers. Life today is so much simpler in many respects that it's difficult to imagine having to walk over 1,000 miles and subsist on 1 lb. of flour a day or wonder if I'll even have food to live off of. As well as sleeping on frozen ground, crossing frozen waters and not knowing if I'll live, or my family members and friends will live to see the morning.I loved the couple of paragraphs about the bugle(or cornet). It was titled "The curse of the cornet". My hubby and I laughed about this one. Here's a couple quotes from that section: "Oh, that bugle, that awful bugle. How disgusting it was to the poor, weary souls who needed rest...Tired and weary as they were, some of the older people would lie down on their hard beds and almost instantly be in the land of dreams. Then that accursed bugle would blow the call for prayers. Which, I ask, did the poor souls need the most?" ~John Southwell "The undeviating regularity of all this for so long a time grew to be wearyingly...monotonous. How some of the emigrants did long for the time to come when they could be freed from the odious and relentless tyranny of those unfailing cornet calls, and be left to enjoy a little rest and quiet!...Each cornet call was some well-known air or tune. How hateful those tunes did become! I verily believe...that eventually they were abhorrent to every ear in camp. It was a shame to use good and innocent tunes in that way and render them forever after repulsive...There are different ways of murdering music. Those unfortunate tunes are hateful to this day." ~John JaquesI loved seeing even through all the hardships, humor still abounded. One mother, after losing several family members to death, trying to save her daughters from freezing while staying in Martin's Cove, got up and did a funny dance only to fall down. Her daughters jumped up quickly to help her. She only laughed and said she did it on purpose to make her daughters move and not freeze.Ok, I'll stop. I really could go on and on. All these thoughts and people and their stories are in my mind right now and I keep typing out more of those thoughts. I did thoroughly enjoy this book and the reminder that there have been many, oh so many sacrifices given by those who have come before us in every walk of life. I'm so grateful for those sacrifices! Now to continue on by being an example to our future generations. Here are two more quotes I liked(believe me I was highlighting and marking up my book like crazy, but I'll only share these two quotes). "I will not dwell upon the hardships we endured, nor the hunger and cold, but I like to tell of the goodness of God unto us." ~ Betsey Smith ~ Martin Company "We came through [that experience] with the absolute knowledge that God lives, for we became acquainted with Him in our extremities!... The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay." ~ Francis Webster ~Martin CompanyIf you enjoy history, I highly recommend reading this book.Content: Aside from death and dying, this book also talks about God as the pioneers are gathering together with others of their faith and believe that God is directing them.Happy Reading!!!
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  • Jeanette
    January 1, 1970
    I think this has to be the most in depth and complete telling of the Willie and Martin handcart companies.The title of this book, The Price We Paid, comes from a quote by handcart pioneer Francis Webster. Years after his experience Webster was in a Sunday School class where there was a discussion criticizing the handcart tragedy and the church leaders for allowing it to happen. "When he could bear the criticism no longer, he stood and asked the people to stop. Speaking calmly but with emotion, h I think this has to be the most in depth and complete telling of the Willie and Martin handcart companies.The title of this book, The Price We Paid, comes from a quote by handcart pioneer Francis Webster. Years after his experience Webster was in a Sunday School class where there was a discussion criticizing the handcart tragedy and the church leaders for allowing it to happen. "When he could bear the criticism no longer, he stood and asked the people to stop. Speaking calmly but with emotion, he acknowledged that is was a mistake to send the handcart companies so late. He also acknowledged that he and others in these companies had suffered greatly. 'Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin handcart company.' " (2-3)Olson brought the experiences of these pioneers to life again by telling us the details of their life in their homeland, their conversion stories, their experiences on the trail and what happened to them after they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. While learning all the historical details of these handcart companies you are also learning about the people and what was happening to them during each phase of the migration to Utah. This is also where my only criticism of the book comes in. Because there are so many stories of the different pioneers, Olson got repetitive at times in telling the stories. At times it was welcomed, and helpful in remembering who all the different people were but at other times I just kept thinking I already read this story about 50 pages back. I did appreciate the thorough telling of the lives of so many of these pioneers, especially the histories of Captains Willie and Martin. I don't think I have ever read about these men and their lives before and after the trek.Unlike most of the books written about the Willie and Martin handcart companies, Olson separated the stories of these two companies, making the time line of events more clear. Most of the time the experiences of these handcart companies are lumped together as if they were one but they were in reality two completely separate groups that were only together for a few days in Iowa City. Each companies experiences were vastly different from the others in many respects.One of the stories that stood out the most for me was the difference between Franklin D. Richards and Brigham Young. Franklin D. Richards was the president of the Great Britain mission and was in charge of implementing the first season of handcart treks. He worked hard and tirelessly to get all the saints who wanted to immigrate ready and on the ships to America. But when the last two arrived so late in the season he did not encourage them to pass the winter in the Midwest instead of starting on the trail so late in the season. He believed that since they were so righteous in their desires to get to Zion that the Lord would make the way easy and hold back the bad weather. Even when he reached the Salt Lake Valley ahead of the handcart pioneers and made his report to Brigham Young, he did not seem overly concerned about the safety and well-being of those on the trail. Brigham Young, on the other hand, was very concerned. I think it is interesting that even though it was in the 70s and the first winter storms were still two weeks away, Brigham Young knew that rescue teams with provisions needed to be sent immediately. Following the handcart tragedy Brigham Young made it very clear that in no case was anyone to leave the Midwest for the Salt Lake Valley after August 1. Faith is important but faith needs to be practiced with a little common sense. Olson writes about a meeting held in the old tabernacle after the handcart tragedy during which Brigham Young gave an address saying that "emigration leaders could have made the right decision if only a bird had chirped it in their ears. He [Brigham Young] concluded by saying that a spirit of pride and arrogance is what had caused 'men and women to die on the Plains, by scores.' How were pride and arrogance manifested? By expecting God to mitigate the consequences of an unnecessarily risky decision."Olson did not hide or try to ignore the mistakes or human weaknesses that lead to this tragedy that left more than 1,300 people on the trail with low provisions, dealing with storms, starvation, frostbite, dysentery and death. Olson also gave us the beautiful and uplifting story of these handcart pioneers and their faith and the sacrifices they made, many with out criticism and complaint, to reach Zion.The first thing I did when I picked this book up was to check the index for my ancestors names. They were there, just a short paragraph but they were there. "The rescuers who met the Martin company on Rocky Ridge were led by Anson Call. He had returned from a colonizing mission about a week after Brigham Young issued the initial call to rescue. Soon after returning home, he was asked to leave again to to lead a group of rescuers from Bountiful. It is significant that this group did not turn back despite what could be considered good reasons to do so. Anson Call's rescue team met the Willie company at Fort Bridger on November 3. Some of them felt that they had fulfilled their duty when they met the Willie company, but Anson encouraged them to keep moving forward...Their timeliness in meeting the Martin company on Rocky Ridge is clear from Anson Call's own words:'We found them starving and freezing and dying, and the most suffering that I ever saw among human beings.' " (391-392)Below that is a little blurb that says "Anson Call later married Emma Summers of the Willie company and Margaretta Clark of the Martin Company."Anson Call and Emma Summers are my 3rd great grandparents. I am also actually related to Margaretta Clark who is a sister to another of my 3rd great grandmothers.
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  • Lili
    January 1, 1970
    I'm torn between 2 and 3 stars on this one. Seems to be well researched and I learned a lot about the Willie and Martin Handcart companies as well as the Hunt and Hodgett wagon companies that accompanied the Martin company. I'm glad to have learned more about these groups, particularly as Grandmother has ancestors who crossed in the Martin company. And I--like so many others--will always be moved and instructed by Francis Webster's (Martin company) oft-quoted defense "...the price we paid to bec I'm torn between 2 and 3 stars on this one. Seems to be well researched and I learned a lot about the Willie and Martin Handcart companies as well as the Hunt and Hodgett wagon companies that accompanied the Martin company. I'm glad to have learned more about these groups, particularly as Grandmother has ancestors who crossed in the Martin company. And I--like so many others--will always be moved and instructed by Francis Webster's (Martin company) oft-quoted defense "...the price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay...." However, the really tragic tale to me is not directly addressed--although Olsen, for the most part, doesn't try to sugar-coat too much. I'm referring to the fact that Franklin D. Richards, and others responsible for encouraging the emigrants to leave so late in the season, probably did so in an effort to show enthusiasm and support for BY's handcart plan, rather than through good sense. Nibley called this "zeal without knowledge." I think Olsen could have done more good by addressing this a bit more. Some of the more reasonable voices (urging the companies to wait until Spring) were rebuked as showing a lack of faith. I think this still happens today. Anyway, it was worth reading.
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  • Maren
    January 1, 1970
    My great-great grandmother was a member of the Martin handcart company, so I have a special interest in this subject. I have read many books on the pioneers, but this has to be the gold standard of all historical accounts of these pioneers. The documentation is exhaustive and there was so much here that I have never heard or read. I came away with a new respect for Captain Martin, and a deeper respect for Brigham Young. I personally owe so much to my great-great grandmother and I was thrilled to My great-great grandmother was a member of the Martin handcart company, so I have a special interest in this subject. I have read many books on the pioneers, but this has to be the gold standard of all historical accounts of these pioneers. The documentation is exhaustive and there was so much here that I have never heard or read. I came away with a new respect for Captain Martin, and a deeper respect for Brigham Young. I personally owe so much to my great-great grandmother and I was thrilled to read such a detailed record of these faithful and brave saints.
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  • John
    January 1, 1970
    I read most of this book before trek, but just finally finished it. I've heard some of these stories and quotes and anecdotes for many years, but this book really helped sow all the little pieces into a comprehensive story. I now have a much better understanding of the situations that led to the 1856 struggles of these two famous handcart companies, the journeys each company undertook both before and after the storms and rescues, the different situations and experiences separating the two compan I read most of this book before trek, but just finally finished it. I've heard some of these stories and quotes and anecdotes for many years, but this book really helped sow all the little pieces into a comprehensive story. I now have a much better understanding of the situations that led to the 1856 struggles of these two famous handcart companies, the journeys each company undertook both before and after the storms and rescues, the different situations and experiences separating the two companies, and the end results of the rescue efforts. The faith and examples we learn from the pioneers is inspiring to me, even though some of the stories are quite tragic. I'm very glad I read it!! I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to better understand this piece of history or desiring to read great stories of faith thru trial.
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  • Amy
    January 1, 1970
    The story itself was interesting and there was a lot of good facts but the author repeated himself too much. Mentioning the same people and their background or, in some cases, quotes, multiple times. It just did't flow very well.
  • Timotgw
    January 1, 1970
    I read this book as an assignment. It was, at the time, a good source of anger, misunderstanding, frustration, questions, and inspiring stories of faith. Unlike many who have read the book, I would not call this the most faith inspiring book. Reading this book did cause me to reflect on many things, included was the true nature of revelation, and how communication of these revelations may not be as easy for some as it was for Joseph. It also called into question the nature of success and failure I read this book as an assignment. It was, at the time, a good source of anger, misunderstanding, frustration, questions, and inspiring stories of faith. Unlike many who have read the book, I would not call this the most faith inspiring book. Reading this book did cause me to reflect on many things, included was the true nature of revelation, and how communication of these revelations may not be as easy for some as it was for Joseph. It also called into question the nature of success and failure all together. I suppose my opulent, and idol life has tainted my view of what is really important, what the Lord sees as success. It was and is difficult to see some of these trials as triumphs of spirit. Overall the Book is a good history, in view that it only follows two of the many companies of pioneers. Many of the stories told are heartbreaking and solemn, many were inspiring and amazing. there are many stories not told about the company, but the ones that were gave me an arsenal of examples of faith, power, perseverance, understanding, and amazing grace. Although there were visible miracles that were amazing and inspiring, as I read, I felt that there were many miracles unseen. In short, I feel that if the Lord had not been with this people they would not have survived at all. I would recommend this book, but with warning, it is not for the faint of heart.
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  • Shannon
    January 1, 1970
    Oh good gravy!!! Grab like 5 boxes of tissue before you read this!!!!But you cannot go through life as LDS and NOT read this book! It is a must! You absolutely have to know what the Utah Pioneers went through to make our life as members of the church easy today. In comparison to thier struggles, I just can't complain about the things I endure.This is the story of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies. As a convert to the church, I don't think, I ever really knew what that meant, until I read Oh good gravy!!! Grab like 5 boxes of tissue before you read this!!!!But you cannot go through life as LDS and NOT read this book! It is a must! You absolutely have to know what the Utah Pioneers went through to make our life as members of the church easy today. In comparison to thier struggles, I just can't complain about the things I endure.This is the story of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies. As a convert to the church, I don't think, I ever really knew what that meant, until I read this book. Their faith and testimonies to the truthfulness of the Church is AMAZING! I cannot imagine having that much faith and that much will to be in Zion! They are truly remarkable people. The ones who died and the ones who lived...I get choked up just thinking about this book.If we are friends, and you read this book, ask me what happens to the young beautiful couple who wouldn't get married until they reached Salt Lake to be sealed in the Temple, when you are done with the book. I don't want to spoil it here! But it's an amazing ending! The book doesn't have the ending to thier journey, but some people know the story. I do! I cry with joy every time I think about them!If you aren't a member of the Church, read it anyways. It is historical and these people are real. Their descendents live on today enjoying the blessings of thier fruit!
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  • Becky
    January 1, 1970
    I decided to read this after attending a YW/YM activity to introduce them to going on the "handcart trek" in Wyoming this summer. The teacher said it was the best book on the subject of the Willie and Martin company she has read in quite awhile.I loved this book about the Willie/Martin Handcart pioneers! The author really did his research. He set the stage for the handcarts with all the planning and 19th century logistics in getting the thousands of British Saints and Scandinavian saints to Zion I decided to read this after attending a YW/YM activity to introduce them to going on the "handcart trek" in Wyoming this summer. The teacher said it was the best book on the subject of the Willie and Martin company she has read in quite awhile.I loved this book about the Willie/Martin Handcart pioneers! The author really did his research. He set the stage for the handcarts with all the planning and 19th century logistics in getting the thousands of British Saints and Scandinavian saints to Zion. He gives a little background in some of these Saints lives in Britain and then he gives information about their lives after their harrowing experiences. "Zion" didn't mean everyone lived happily ever after. Many still struggled making ends meet and they had lasting effects, both physically and emotionally from the frozen limbs and near starvation. He also includes some of these pioneers who later left the Church, usually one doesn't hear about that. It was real-- not a bunch of idealized stories that are so a part of Mormon culture.
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  • Tammy
    January 1, 1970
    Before reading this book and visiting Martin's Cove a couple of months ago I didn't realize how little I actually knew about the Handcart Pioneers. I enjoyed how the book was set up with the first part about the Willie Company and the second part of the book was about the Martin Company. This helped me to keep track of the time frame and experiences unique to each company. That being said both companies experienced many of the same trials. So at times the second part felt to be repetitive, becau Before reading this book and visiting Martin's Cove a couple of months ago I didn't realize how little I actually knew about the Handcart Pioneers. I enjoyed how the book was set up with the first part about the Willie Company and the second part of the book was about the Martin Company. This helped me to keep track of the time frame and experiences unique to each company. That being said both companies experienced many of the same trials. So at times the second part felt to be repetitive, because I felt like I had just read about it, but it was actually the other company I had read about. I enjoyed how the author also tried to show multiple viewpoints, but never placed blame on anyone in particular. I would recommend this for anyone who enjoys reading about the LDS Church History. It definitely gives you a greater respect for the pioneers who paved the path.
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  • Kim Rasband
    January 1, 1970
    I read this after going on a handcart trek with our stake youth to Martins Cove and Rocky Ridge this summer. It was such a fantastic companion to that experience! I can't recommend the book highly enough. It was well-documented and researched and extremely engaging to read. One of my favorite things about it is the accounts of the lives of the handcart pioneers after their arrival in the Salt Lake valley. I loved learning about how these incredible men and women lived out their mortal lives afte I read this after going on a handcart trek with our stake youth to Martins Cove and Rocky Ridge this summer. It was such a fantastic companion to that experience! I can't recommend the book highly enough. It was well-documented and researched and extremely engaging to read. One of my favorite things about it is the accounts of the lives of the handcart pioneers after their arrival in the Salt Lake valley. I loved learning about how these incredible men and women lived out their mortal lives after such an difficult and defining experience. You will need tissues close by but I enjoyed every minute spent reading this book.
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  • Annalise
    January 1, 1970
    I am preparing to go on a Pioneer handcart trek with the youth in our stake, and this book has been absolutely amazing at helping me understand what the Saints of the Willie and Martin handcart companies went through. It clearly gives the history of what happened, and how the tragedy all unfolded. It also tells many personal stories of faith and conviction. Highly recommended for anyone preparing to go on Trek, or just wanting to learn more about the pioneers.
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  • Paul
    January 1, 1970
    Inspiring and uplifting. I love to see the reality of how people react to trials, how people are allowed to serve them, and how it affects all of them. People can do more than they think they can.I have never read a better account of this history, even handed, detailed, and showing each perspective. It dispelled many of the misconceptions I had from years of glossed over talks and such.I wonder how I would handle this?
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  • Amyjo Tucker
    January 1, 1970
    I've read a few books about the Willie/Martin Handcart companies and this is by far my favorite! I especially love the 2nd half of the book tells you about the pioneers after they got to Utah. Who they married, what they did with their life and how the trek affected them! So amazing, love it!
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  • Nic
    January 1, 1970
    Heartbreaking story sharing the details of the handcarts. Depressing to read but powerful.
  • E
    January 1, 1970
    Wonderful! A must-read for anyone going on a Trek activity reenactment or just wanting to know more about these handcart companies and their ordeals. It seems carefully researched, factually correct, and retold in an organized and interesting way. I learned the answer to MANY questions. Some of which were:Why did they leave so late in the season? #lifewithhumansonearth#peoplemakemistakes#rockandahardplaceWhy didn’t the Lord stop the storms? #prayersareansweredinmanydifferentwaysWhy are Mormons f Wonderful! A must-read for anyone going on a Trek activity reenactment or just wanting to know more about these handcart companies and their ordeals. It seems carefully researched, factually correct, and retold in an organized and interesting way. I learned the answer to MANY questions. Some of which were:Why did they leave so late in the season? #lifewithhumansonearth#peoplemakemistakes#rockandahardplaceWhy didn’t the Lord stop the storms? #prayersareansweredinmanydifferentwaysWhy are Mormons from Utah obsessed with pioneers? #theyaretheirgrandmasandgrandpasDid ALL of the pioneers that made it to UT stay in the church?#nolifewasstillhardandpeoplestillhumanThe author uses many quotes and first hand accounts. They did not shy away from hard questions or water-down their suffering. I found it extremely informative, interesting, and it filled in many gaps in my understanding from disjointed stories in childhood lessons and partial re-tellings throughout the years. The book chronicles the history and contrasts the experiences nicely. What the book did not have was infographics. I would have loved maps and timelines and other charts. So I found a great companion to this book in Tragedy and Triumph By Howard K and Cory W Bangerter. It has great maps and a side by side timeline of the parties involved. All in all, a great book! A riveting tale of everyday people called to withstand severe situations and in the process, become inspiring tales of persistent faith. Indecently, my husband picked up my copy before I could finish it and we had to share it for a while. That was interesting too...
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  • Greg
    January 1, 1970
    Totally engrossing! The Price We Paid is an in-depth historical account of the travels and travails of the Willie and Martin handcart companies, and to a much lesser extent, of the Hodgetts and Hunt wagon companies that traveled more or less along with them. Being of pioneer ancestry, I have long heard the stories of the handcart pioneers, some from my own ancestors who crossed the plains headed west. Like most LDS, stories of the Willie and Martin handcart companies are commonly told and re-tol Totally engrossing! The Price We Paid is an in-depth historical account of the travels and travails of the Willie and Martin handcart companies, and to a much lesser extent, of the Hodgetts and Hunt wagon companies that traveled more or less along with them. Being of pioneer ancestry, I have long heard the stories of the handcart pioneers, some from my own ancestors who crossed the plains headed west. Like most LDS, stories of the Willie and Martin handcart companies are commonly told and re-told, and their memories are preserved in hymns sung by adults and children alike. I grew up with them, but never have I been exposed to such an in-depth examination as this. It was truly awe-inspiring, often heartbreaking, and frequently thought-provoking. I found myself reading a bit and then pondering what I had read for days, which is why it took me many months to finish. Olsen could have taken many different approaches to telling their story, and in the end, though it sometimes required returning to re-read earlier portions, I liked how he handled it. His was a chronological treatment, generally, which required that he move back and forth among the different people, groups, and families that he explored in depth. The first half of the book deals primarily with the Willie company, and the second half with the Martin company. He concludes with sort of a “what happened to them” section which allows us a brief glimpse into what happened with most of the people and families after they reached Salt Lake. It is also an honest and even-handed account, which I appreciated. Olsen doesn’t shy from exploring the failures of leadership (and their consequences) while at the same time heralding the faith of the pioneers in following through despite the shortcomings of some of their leaders. Neither does he shy from the few pioneers who were not as steadfast and whose faith and commitment flagged from time to time. Among the most inspiring aspects to me was how the wives and children stepped up in support of their husbands and fathers, not alone in spiritual and emotional supports, but in many cases, ultimately in physically hauling the handcarts when the men died or simply couldn’t carry on any more. As the song says, “for some must push and some must pull…” and sometimes who does which changes with the circumstances. There are obvious corollaries with our time – women (and sometimes children) who must support their families when their husbands can’t or won’t, for example. Truly their testimonies are written in the blood, sweat, and tears left behind on the plains and mountains they trod.There is so much of worth, so much which was inspiring, so much that lingers in my head and heart from reading this account that it is impossible to highlight it all. Two examples, one of a traveler and one of a rescuer, will have to suffice. The singular account of Levi Savage’s love and commitment to helping the saints despite his serious misgivings about leaving so late in the year stands out in my mind as an example of faith, commitment, and love.. After expressing his very realistic concerns to people who knew far less of the threats of that country in that season of the year than he Levi was “rebuked by the other elders for want of faith.” His very commitment to the gospel was questioned, and he was publicly identified as a malcontent, and one with a spirit of dissension. Despite these accusations, which must have been terribly painful to hear from those he considered his brethren, when the company determined to move on anyway, Levi Savage made the following statement: “Brothers and sisters, what I have said I know to be true; but seeing you are to go forward, I will go with you, will help you all I can, will work with you, will rest with you, will suffer with you, and, if necessary, I will die with you. May God in his mercy bless and preserve us.” What an amazing example of loyalty, forgiveness, and love!Ephraim Hanks was one of the first to go looking for the woe begotten handcart pioneers, and left immediately upon hearing he was needed. Living away from Salt Lake City at the time, Ephraim heard a voice in the night telling him he was needed. He went the next day to SLC, and while others were saying they would go just as soon as they had put their affairs in order, Ephraim “spoke at once, saying ‘I am ready now!’” En route, he was stopped in his tracks for three days by a blinding snowstorm. Referring to those storms, this experienced frontiersman said, “In all my travels in the Rocky Mountains both before and afterwards, I have seen no worse.” Nevertheless, being deeply worried about the Martin handcart company, he moved on despite the conditions, this time on horseback, leaving his wagon behind. Shortly afterwards, while camped, he prayed for a buffalo to be sent to him and then looked around (another model for us!) and saw a buffalo within 50 yards of his camp, which he killed and butchered. The next morning he did the same with another. Those buffalo provided meat for his supper, and for the many in the Martin company he found starving. Incredibly rare to find game under those conditions! Upon finding the handcart company, he distributed the meat he had brought, and then set about ministering to the need of the people in other ways. His accounts, and those of members of the company, describe his priesthood blessings to some who were near death and in one case perhaps already dead. He performed rough frontier surgery, for which no anesthetic was available, amputating limbs, during which many said they felt no pain whatsoever after his prayers that they would be so blessed. Of those experiences Ephraim wrote, “The greater portion of my time was devoted to waiting on the sick. ‘Come to me,’ ‘help me,’ ‘please administer to my sick wife,’ or ‘my dying child,’ were some of the requests that were being made of me almost hourly….I spent days going from tent to tent administering to the sick. Truly the Lord was with me and others of His servants who labored faithfully together with me in that day of trial and suffering.” This review can only touch lightly on the learning and inspiration to be obtained from reading about, and studying, the experiences of the handcart pioneers. This book is one to which I will return again and again. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I would give it ten stars if I could!
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  • Oliver
    January 1, 1970
    Thinking this book was only for those wanting to visit Wyoming, I was not looking forward to start. But in only the first few chapters, I was already engrossed in these people's lives. I felt their hardship and pain, was inspired by their unbending faith. Half was through I slowed my reading pace, preferring to savor the moments I had with the people of the handcart companies.Well written, well researched and documented. Inspring.
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  • Peggy
    January 1, 1970
    "We suffered beyond anything you can imagine, and many died of exposure and starvation. But we came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives, for we became acquainted with Him in our extremities.Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay, and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin handcart company."--Francis Webster
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  • Dayva
    January 1, 1970
    I was expecting this to be an overly dogma driven account, but, was pleasantly surprised that the facts were laid out, and, to a great degree, the reader was able to draw their own conclusions. While I would have rather read more accounts from each handcart company members, I realize that combining the stories of separate companies limited the author to choose only a few families.
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  • Rachael
    January 1, 1970
    I didn’t end up finishing this, but it was excellent. I tried to finish it before our pioneer trek experience last summer, but even reading most of it was a great way to prepare. I would highly recommend it.
  • Kellie Mecham
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this book!!! So interesting and so many inspiring stories!
  • Colette
    January 1, 1970
    Toward the end of reading this I thought I was probably going to rate this a scant four stars until I got to the very last chapter when I knew for sure I would rate this a good solid four stars. This book is a synthesis of writings from and about the Willie and Martin handcart pioneers, as well as those in the Hodgetts and Hunt wagon companies. The subtitle says it is the story of these handcart pioneers, but it isn't really written in that way. The two companies are split, which is a refreshing Toward the end of reading this I thought I was probably going to rate this a scant four stars until I got to the very last chapter when I knew for sure I would rate this a good solid four stars. This book is a synthesis of writings from and about the Willie and Martin handcart pioneers, as well as those in the Hodgetts and Hunt wagon companies. The subtitle says it is the story of these handcart pioneers, but it isn't really written in that way. The two companies are split, which is a refreshing treatment of the subject. Olsen stitches journal entries and reminiscences together to form a choppy narrative of the journeys and rescues. I bristled at his style of using questions and frequently interjecting to tell us we would learn more about these people and their fate in later chapters. I also question Olsen's frequent quoting of Wallace Stegner. It seemed to me he relied too much on secondary sources for quotations and interpretation. Where Olsen really shines, though, is in the final chapter of each Part. After reading about these pioneers, Olsen's own vivid images of life in the handcart companies were especially touching and poignant. I wish he had used his writing talents to do more of that. Although in previous chapters I was reading the actual words of the pioneers, Olsen's vignettes made it all seem so real and tragic and full of hope and faith. These were the two times I cried while reading. If he could have artfully woven the quotations and the narrative in with the imagery he employs in these two chapters, this book would have been amazing. As it is, it falls into the rut of many LDS histories. It sounds like way too much DUP research from the 1960s and 1970s. Bland biographies that could have been fleshed out. I would have liked more historiography in the introduction. It also got annoying that there were so many repetitions of events. I think this was mainly a consequence of having to reintroduce characters in several chapters throughout. It is clunky, and there was probably a better way it could have been done. In some instances I felt this was written as two stand-alone books because of the repetition about different events (most notably the rescue efforts in Salt Lake). And although I wanted to know about what happened to the pioneers later on, the biographical sections felt rushed and superficial. Not being the main part of the work, I understand, but too often these biographies felt lacking. Lastly, this work was obviously written with the intent that anyone reading it would be LDS and would be reading it from a perspective of a faith-promoting story, not scholarly history. I found myself frequently wondering why the author felt the need to draw conclusions about the purpose of the handcart experience in the lives of these people. In one case, there was little information about the later life of a family, yet Olsen conjectures that their hopes are being realized through their posterity. That is a nice thought, and quite possibly true, but it seems sloppy for a writer to interject this kind of sentiment without some hint in the records. There seems to be a lot of emphasis on numbers of descendants in the final chapters. Maybe this was because it is a somewhat easy bit of information to come by. Overall, I enjoyed the book, learned, felt inspired, and found some things I want to study more. Olsen fell short in the scholarly history realm, but maybe that wasn't his audience. If you are someone going on a trek and want to know more, this is a good start. Olsen excels in his chapters of personal reflection.
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  • Carrie
    January 1, 1970
    I like the book because it is filled with actual journal entries of the handcart pioneers. (And their rescuers) It also tells details of their lives after the unforgettable journey and their unwavering faith. I know it is so cliche to talk about how the tough experiences in your life just making you stronger. But, this is like the ultimate perfect example. The title of the book comes from a quote by Francis Webster of the Martin company. Decades after the journey, when Francis was an old man, he I like the book because it is filled with actual journal entries of the handcart pioneers. (And their rescuers) It also tells details of their lives after the unforgettable journey and their unwavering faith. I know it is so cliche to talk about how the tough experiences in your life just making you stronger. But, this is like the ultimate perfect example. The title of the book comes from a quote by Francis Webster of the Martin company. Decades after the journey, when Francis was an old man, he was sitting in a Sunday school meeting where the attendees were talking about the handcart tragedy. They were criticizing church leaders. When brother Webster could take it no longer, he stood up and spoke calmly, but with emotion. He acknowledged that it was a mistake to send the handcart companies so late. Nevertheless, he bore this testimony: "We suffered beyond anything you can imagine, and many died of exposure and starvation... But we came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives, for we became acquainted with Him in our extremities!...Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor any minute of my life since. THE PRICE WE PAID was our privilege to pay." That quote leaves me with chills about every time I read it. I must say that this book must have been a true labour of love for this author. I can not imagine the countless hours of research to put it all together. It's not going to be the most beautifully written book you've ever read. But the message shines and it is beautiful none-the-less. I loved it and learned a lot."I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up, for I cannot pull the load through it. I have gone to that sand, and when I reached in, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angles of God were there."~Francis Webster Mosiah 24:14 "And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while you are in bondage; and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions."Surprisingly, many, many of the members of the Willie and Martin handcart companies who made it to Utah lived into their 80's and few into their 90's. That's a pretty ripe ole age. :) I pray I can be as strong in my troubles as these pioneers were. Amazing. My favorite story may be that of Amy Loader as told by her daughter Patience. It involves dancing...I don't want to give it away. (ok, it's on my blog if you must know the story w/ out reading the book LOL!)I think if you read the book, you'll love it too!
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  • Lucy
    January 1, 1970
    I've been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints my entire life. I've grown up listening and singing pioneer songs, celebrating the 24th of July and being taught that had it not been for the courage and endurance of those early saints to get to Zion, the church would not be what it is today. In spite of that lifetime of exposure, I can honestly say that I did not know the story of the Willie and Martin Handcart companies. I knew that they got caught in an early snow storm an I've been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints my entire life. I've grown up listening and singing pioneer songs, celebrating the 24th of July and being taught that had it not been for the courage and endurance of those early saints to get to Zion, the church would not be what it is today. In spite of that lifetime of exposure, I can honestly say that I did not know the story of the Willie and Martin Handcart companies. I knew that they got caught in an early snow storm and I knew that a lot of people died, but I didn't get it. I didn't get the why and, most importantly, the who. Andrew Olson explains upfront that it is a misconception most people have that the Willie and Martin Handcart companies are one in the same. They are not. Their tragedies were the result of the same early storm and much of the same mistakes in decision making, but they were in two separate places along the trail and had two different experiences and rescues. For that reason, he tells the stories individually, the Willie being the first half of the book and the Martin finishing the second half. They are similar in that most of the members of the companies had similar backgrounds. Poor European converts and returning missionaries all eager to reach Utah and convinced that their faith will see them there. It was hard for me, emotionally, to finish the Willie story and begin again with the Martin. Instead of interweaving the timeline, he starts and finishes each one to completion. So many names and wretched history after another made it difficult for individual names and experiences to stick. Still, some did. I read this in preparation for a Youth Pioneer Trek and was so much better prepared from doing so. It opened my eyes to why their stories have needed to stay relevant for the past hundred and fifty years. It opened my eyes to be able to understand the current day parallels that motivate wards and stakes to put on these elaborate and painstaking Treks. There are few books I would classify as life-changing, but, for me, this is one of them. I am humbled and grateful to better know my own history.
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  • Melinda
    January 1, 1970
    I was encouraged to read this after finishing "Fire of the Covenant" in order to gain first-hand accounts of the trials, blessings and miracles experienced by several members of the Martin & Willie Handcart Companies. I continued to marvel at the unshakeable faith of so many of these early Saints, willing to leave all that was familiar, not to mention beloved family members, to embark to a completely foreign land. It is too easy to assume that life in England & Scandinavia was similar to I was encouraged to read this after finishing "Fire of the Covenant" in order to gain first-hand accounts of the trials, blessings and miracles experienced by several members of the Martin & Willie Handcart Companies. I continued to marvel at the unshakeable faith of so many of these early Saints, willing to leave all that was familiar, not to mention beloved family members, to embark to a completely foreign land. It is too easy to assume that life in England & Scandinavia was similar to what these pioneers would face while crossing the plains; but after discovering that the majority of English emigrants worked in factories, not on farms, were not skilled in living the frontier life, nor accustomed to the harsh temperatures and rugged terrain, their desire to continue becomes that much more critical. I also appreciated reading the accounts of what happened to many of these people after arriving in the Salt Lake Valley. Reading this book, then walking along the trail that these companies did resulted in a most memorable experience for me.***July 2015***I read this book again in preparation for participating in another youth pioneer trek. I was equally touched as before when reading about the horrendous experiences faced by these devoted, faithful, unwavering Saints, their refusal to blame or complain, their constant willingness to share what they had, often giving their meager rations to someone in more dire need, their ability to focus on the blessings received during this ordeal rather than the negative outcomes. I was also moved by the heroic attempts of those sent to rescue, leaving without time to settle their own affairs, foregoing the harvest, donating their wagons and animals to accompany, enduring brutal storms and frigid temperatures, wandering aimlessly at times, searching for the lost handcart pioneers. These are stories that deserve repeated readings!
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  • Jillaire
    January 1, 1970
    Damon gave this to me for my birthday. My great-great-grandfather was in the Martin Handcart Company, so this story is very personal. The book separates the stories of the two handcart companies (Willie & Martin), which are often combined as though they were one. They were two distinct groups who both left late in the season, got caught in early snowstorms, suffered many deaths, and were rescued by the efforts of those in Salt Lake City.Olsen follows many of the families through their pre-tr Damon gave this to me for my birthday. My great-great-grandfather was in the Martin Handcart Company, so this story is very personal. The book separates the stories of the two handcart companies (Willie & Martin), which are often combined as though they were one. They were two distinct groups who both left late in the season, got caught in early snowstorms, suffered many deaths, and were rescued by the efforts of those in Salt Lake City.Olsen follows many of the families through their pre-trek and post-trek lives, giving a complete picture of the sacrifice that some gave to make the journey and how faithful they were in their lives afterwards. He also examines issues of blame and responsibility of the Church's immigration leaders--basically, what went wrong and why. While I do recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about these groups, I would probably give this book 3.5 stars just because it is not the best-written book. The chapters follow the stories chronologically (part 1 being the complete Willie story and part 2 being the Martin), but the information within each chapter can seem a bit fragmented and even repetitive. He does use the same quotes in multiple places in the book. Rather than this being for well-placed dramatic or literary effect it gives the reader more of a sense that author just forgot he already said that.I would say that this is definitely a faith-promoting read and does not remain strictly non-fiction historical. I was not bothered by this, but someone looking for a straight historical accounting of facts might be put off. I appreciated it, as that is the way I view this most extraordinary event in American history and in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I am proud to say that is my heritage, and for that reason I did really like reading this book (and why I went for 4 stars rather than 3, despite my misgivings on writing quality).
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  • Christina
    January 1, 1970
    Wow. This is a well-researched and very fascinating look at what happened in the winter of 1856, when two companies of handcart pioneers got a late start, hit heavy storms and suffered much loss. The first-hand accounts of the strength, endurance and faith of these men and women was sobering and reminded me of how much of my life I take for granted. One-fourth of the Martin company died that year. One family highlighted in the book is an ancestor of my family's. The James and Mary Ann Mellor fam Wow. This is a well-researched and very fascinating look at what happened in the winter of 1856, when two companies of handcart pioneers got a late start, hit heavy storms and suffered much loss. The first-hand accounts of the strength, endurance and faith of these men and women was sobering and reminded me of how much of my life I take for granted. One-fourth of the Martin company died that year. One family highlighted in the book is an ancestor of my family's. The James and Mary Ann Mellor family brought seven children across (including two-year-old twins!) and remarkably, all of them survived despite suffering terribly. Mary Ann gave birth to conjoined twins in England just before they boarded the ship to America. They lived only a few hours. The doctor who delivered them told the family he buried them at sea, but they found out later he secretly preserved the babies and then took them on the road and made money showing them as a curiosity! (That part wasn't in the book, but I just had to share!). Mary Ann was so sick they thought she wouldn't be able to make the voyage and one of the older daughters chose to stay behind with her. At the last minute, she decided to come anyway and was carried on the boat in a stretcher. The captain told them not to bring a dead woman on board and predicted she wouldn't last the journey. Thanks in part to her two oldest daughters, Louisa and Charlotte, she made it not only across the sea, but across the plains.I appreciated the book went into detail about what happened to many of the individual pioneers and families before, during, and after the journey and I was impressed that very few had easy lives even after their journey. Frontier life colonizing new areas was tough. Edward Martin had most of his children die, including three different baby boys he named Edward.
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  • Celeste Batchelor
    January 1, 1970
    I should preface this review by saying I am not a big fan of non-fiction. Yes, it is a fault of mine. I know I need to read and enjoy non-fiction more. My husband gave this book to me as a gift and I put of reading it for so long simply because I had a long list of novels to read first. However, I'm very glad that he gave me this gem.What interested me the most about this book was the history of the handcart immigration policy itself. Some of my ancestors came across in the first handcart compan I should preface this review by saying I am not a big fan of non-fiction. Yes, it is a fault of mine. I know I need to read and enjoy non-fiction more. My husband gave this book to me as a gift and I put of reading it for so long simply because I had a long list of novels to read first. However, I'm very glad that he gave me this gem.What interested me the most about this book was the history of the handcart immigration policy itself. Some of my ancestors came across in the first handcart company led by my ancestor, Edmund Lowell Ellsworth (the Ellsworth Handcart Company). They came across before the Willie and Martin companies earlier in the season with relatively few deaths and great success. This book contrasts some of the elements of why the first companies had such great success and why the Willie and Martin companies met with somewhere around 25% fatality rate, most of them being strong, able bodied men at the beginning of the trek whose sacrifice and diligence ultimately led them to the grave at the prime of their lives. Their stories are just simply too touching.I highly recommend anyone who questions the church about this immigration policy to read this book. I know it answers many question, and may pose a few more for consideration. It is interesting to note that the majority of the saints affected by this policy stayed true to the church and to their testimony of the validity of the leadership at the time. It also gives credence to their great suffering, but also the great many blessings they received from crossing the plains in the manner that they did. I felt an overwhelming spirit of fortitude and strength from reading these personal accounts of what they went through. It has strengthened me personally.
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  • Grace
    January 1, 1970
    Imagine for a few minutes that your ward was asked to pack up 17 pounds per person, put it in a cart and walk 1300 miles across terrain and land you have never experienced. Imagine the newlyweds, the young parents, the old, the infirm, the teenagers, the primary children, with little more than what is on their backs leaving everything familiar and loved behind. Imagine the strong, the weak, the ones who always lead, the ones who are always led, you, me, being together constantly for the next six Imagine for a few minutes that your ward was asked to pack up 17 pounds per person, put it in a cart and walk 1300 miles across terrain and land you have never experienced. Imagine the newlyweds, the young parents, the old, the infirm, the teenagers, the primary children, with little more than what is on their backs leaving everything familiar and loved behind. Imagine the strong, the weak, the ones who always lead, the ones who are always led, you, me, being together constantly for the next six months in hazardous and difficult physical conditions. Think of those in your ward you love and those you tolerate. Consider the hard choices you will have to make and how you will make them. Think of how you will care for your children and the children of others. Think ofr those who may die along the way. This is what was asked of the handcart pioneers. We tend to idealize and idolize them nowadays. But they were like you and me. They cried; sometimes they complained. They thought of giving up. And some did give up and lay down to die. But most got up each day and kept going. This book does not cover up or avoid the weaknesses and mistakes that led to the Willie and Martin Handcart companies problems, and for that, I am thankful. Because I also have weaknesses and make mistakes. And sometimes I want to give up. But now I think of them and their faith in God and I get up and keep going.My great-great-great-great grandparents were in the Martin company. They left England to come to Zion so their children could be raised in righteousness. As one of their 100s of descendents living in the gospel, I am truly eternally grateful for the incredible sacrifice they made. And because I've read this book, I am humbled beyond words by what they did.
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