Hodgetts and Hunt Wagon Companies
The Hodgetts and Hunt wagon companies’ hardships intertwine with the more well-known Willie and Martin Handcart Companies. Some of the members of the Martin, Hodgetts, and Hunt companies had traveled to Boston together on the ship Horizon.
- In 1856 winter storms trapped the Willie and Martin companies, along with the Hunt and Hodgetts wagon companies, on the plains of present-day Wyoming. Close to 1,500 people were stranded along the trail, approximately 250 of whom died after suffering exposure, frostbite, and starvation. A rescue effort enlisted thousands of Church members in Utah to provide food and aid, and over 300 rescuers risked their own safety to meet the companies en route and help them reach the Salt Lake Valley, saving over 1,200 lives. Although some accounts of the rescue and its aftermath exaggerated details of the story, this rescue has inspired generations of Latter-day Saints for the Saints’ rapid response, the rescuers’ heroic willingness to take personal risks, and the community’s support and care for the survivors.
The Hodgetts company consisted of 160 individuals and about 33 wagons when they left from the outfitting post located at Iowa City, Iowa. William Benjamin Hodgetts was the captain of the company.
The Hunt company comprised 272 individuals and 56 wagons. Dan Jones originally led the company for two weeks. John Alexander Hunt became the captain of the company.
The Hodgetts and Hunt companies arrived at Devil’s Gate at about the same time. One account indicates that the people with the wagon companies were also “in bad shape and nearly out of food, though better off than the handcarters.”
The following timeline chronicles their journey west.
- The Hodgetts wagon company left Iowa City on July 30, 1856, and the Hunt wagon company left on August 4, 1856.
- The Hodgetts company reached Florence, Nebraska, on August 27, 1856, and departed on August 31.
- The Hunt company arrived at Florence, Nebraska, beginning on August 28, 1856, and departed on August 31.
- The Hodgetts company arrived at Fort Laramie at the same time as the Martin Handcart company on October 8.
- The Hunt company reached Fort Laramie on October 9.
- The Martin and Hodgetts companies crossed the Platte River on October 19 during the season’s first snow storm. The next day, the Hodgetts company traveled 10 miles to Red Buttes.
- The Hunt company reached the Platt River crossing on October 19 but did not cross. The following day, with snow on the ground, the Hunt company did not travel. On October 22, the company finally crossed the Platte River and made camp one mile beyond the crossing.
- On October 28, express riders reached the Martin and Hodgetts companies camped at Red Buttes as well as the Hunt company still near the last Platte crossing. They brought news that supplies and help had been sent. On the 29th, all three companies continued their journey west. On the 30th, the Martin and Hodgetts companies camped at Willow Springs and the Hunt company arrived at Red Buttes.
- On October 31, the Martin and Hodgetts companies met rescue wagons at Greasewood Creek. By November 2 they reached Fort Seminoe. The Hunt company arrived at Greasewood Creek on November 3.
- On November 4, the Hodgetts company, with the help of rescuers who had reached them, began to empty their wagons and store goods at Fort Seminoe to make room for people to ride in the wagons. The Hunt company did the same on November 6. By the 9th, the wagons arrived at the cove to pick up members of the Martin company. Most of the handcarts were left behind but many people still had to walk.
- Daniel W. Jones and 19 other men stayed at Fort Seminoe to guard the belongings of the people in the Hodgetts and Hunt companies until spring.
- By November 19, the Hodgetts company crossed South Pass and by the 22nd, oxen sent from Fort Bridger arrived to help pull their wagons.
- On November 21, the Hunt company met four rescue wagons that took in 10 company members per wagon.
- On December 2, the Hodgetts and Hunt companies began to arrive at Fort Bridger. The same day, 60 more wagons left Salt Lake City to go to the aid of these companies. The last of the companies reach the fort on December 4. The first of the aid wagons arrived at Fort Bridger on December 7.
- By the 10th, the last of the Hodgetts and Hunt companies began leaving Fort Bridger with the assistance of those rescuers who came from Salt Lake. They arrived in Salt Lake on December 15.
As with the Willie and Martin Handcart companies, rescuers were sent from Salt Lake City to aid the travelers. Both wagon companies arrived in Salt Lake City on December 15, 1856.
- Time Line: Rescues of the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies and the Hodgetts and Hunt Wagon Companies
- “Five Things You Might Not Know about the Handcart Rescue” by Chad Orton and Curtis Ashton