My pioneer ancestors, Thomas P. Jack and his wife, Mary Ann D. Jack, walked with their 1-year old son, Henry, from Iowa to the Salt Lake Valley in the Israel Evans handcart company in 1857. The 150th anniversary of this company's encampment was held this year on Aug. 18 with 120 descendants attending near Martin's Cove at Devil's Gate Fort, Wyo., by their descendants. Nearly a decade of planning, organizing, and fervent prayers went into this logistically complicated event. The first evening, a marvelous spirit of peace, love and joy distilled upon the reunion as participants began to arrive at the campground from all across the United States.
My husband and I had arrived at the campground early to help prepare for the large gathering. While we were doing our chores, my cell phone rang inside the closed car. It was our son with his wife and two young sons. They were stranded 180 miles to the east near Lusk, Wyo., with a hopelessly broken-down car engine and a borrowed camping trailer in tow. They had driven from Minnesota to join us.
After explaining the situation to me, my husband said, "I will go and rescue our son's family. I will bring them safely to camp." We were astonished at this perfect metaphor of the Martin's Cove history with which to begin the reunion. It powerfully reminded us of the great sacrifices all pioneer ancestors made, and of the sacred memory of those who lost so much in the late fall of 1856 at Martin's Cove and on the pioneer trail across Wyoming.
Long after midnight, my husband returned to camp with our son's family and their small trailer. I was overcome with joy. Prayers were answered and anxieties were swept away with profound gratitude and peace. They were discouraged about their car and how they would return to their home in Minnesota, but my husband offered very comforting reassurance. He said, "Tomorrow morning, the sun will come up and everything will be fine. We will all be so happy we came."
And so it was. Our "family rescue" on the high plains of eastern Wyoming was no coincidence. It was a blessing to us all. — Mary Ann Van Alstyne, Sterling Heights Ward, Bountiful Utah Orchard Stake