Happy Pioneer Day!

Happy 24th of July!  

In Utah today there is a state holiday – complete with parades

and fireworks!

 All in celebration of the early LDS pioneers arrival in the Salt Lake Valley after a long arduous trek across the plains and Rocky Mountains.  There were many wagon and handcart companies that made this journey.  I have many ancestors in my family tree – including my great, great, great grandfathers Jesse Turpin (from Tennessee) and Thomas S. Mackay (from Ireland) who left Nauvoo Ill when the Mormons were driven out by mobs – to make this journey.  They left their homes, fields and livelihoods with a hope to find to safety and peace – a place to start over yet again.

My amazing grandmother Sarah Franks made this trip as well.  She came from England with her sweetheart George.  They started at Winter Quarters (Iowa City area) and traveled with the Martin Handcart Company in 1856.  Their company left late in the season and were caught in the oncoming winter storms.  They were running out of food, clothing, blankets, and many had no shoes.  They moved on in faith, trusting the Lord to watch over them and bless them.  Sarah became ill, and George nursed her tenderly – giving up his daily 4 oz of rationed flour to help her get well.  The journey continued to the Platte River.  Many people were too ill to cross it on their own, and George spent the day in the icy river carrying those people across.  He became ill from the exposure of icy water and not enough food or clothing.

When they reached Martin’s Cove, George died from pnuemonia.  Sarah took her shawl, wrapped his body in it, and because it was too cold to dig a grave,  they hung him in a tree so the wolves wouldn’t ravage his body.  Sarah continued on, was rescued by the Rescue Party and taken to the Salt Lake Valley.  There she was nursed back to health for over a year.  Eventually she married Thomas S. Mackay and I am a direct descendant of  their line.

I am so grateful for them – for their sacrifice – for their testimonies – for the course they set our family’s path on.  For the foundation they laid for my personal family – so we can learn about and place our trust in our Savior Jesus Christ.  They gave their all so we could have our all.

Martin’s Cove today

“The Mormon Pioneer Trail is “a trail of tragedy, a trail of faith, a trail of devotion, a trail of consecration, even the consecration of life itself…” Terrrible was the suffering of those who came here [Martin’s Cove] to find some protection from the heavy storms of that early winter. With their people hungry, cold and dying from sheer exhaustion, they came up into this cove for shelter. And then they died here, some 56 people. They are buried somewhere in this earth. We stand here with bare heads and grateful hearts for their sacrifices, and the sacrifices of all who were with them along this tragic trail…[May this site be visited by] generations yet to come, who, like we, may bow their heads in reverent remembrance of our forebears who paid so costly a price for the faith which they carried in their hearts.” 

– President Gordon B. Hinckley, Church News, August 22, 1992

Here are some interesting links I discovered:

Sarah and George’s story is prominently featured in this amazing family movie:  http://www.17miracles.com/   Tissues are definitely required.  😉

http://sweetwaterrescue.com/artist_parson_dell.php – check out the artwork in this link.  Have some tissues handy.




One thought on “Happy Pioneer Day!

  1. Chantel thomas

    Thanks for putting this together I am also a direct descendant of Sarah and thomas. My great grandpa was Rex T. Mackay, and i had the pleasure of spending quote a bit of time with him. I have been very interested in our family history, and was pleased to see this 🙂


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