About this website;
I began a journey with my husband that had as part of it's origins, his manuscript which at that time was an unpublished book. He gave the manuscript to me to read. It was then I learned something about a piece of American history I knew nothing about and was intrigued that such a history could happen and it was not in my history book studies alongside the other stories of the westward migration that grew the United States of America.
I learned of the tragedies that befell the Martin and Willie handcart companies, Mormon handcart treks that found the train pinned down in winter snows in the Rocky Mountains without adequate clothing, and exhausted food supplies. While the count is not exact and is the best of the information available, 213 people of the two handcart companies died along the way, never reaching the destination of Salt Lake City, in the Utah territories. Breaking it down, of the 576 Saints that began the journey with the Martin handcart company, 146 died along the way, and of the 404 Saints who began the journey with the Willie handcart company, 68 died along the way. The count may be higher, and some suggest lower, however, that is not what was as relevant to me as learning of the tremendous suffering these parties endured in their westward migration, which for many began in England and the Scandinavian countries. In the first learning of these migrations, and particularly the hardships of the Martin and Willie handcart migrations, my mind jumped to some American history I had learned, of the Donner Party and the hardships they encountered in winter snows causing them to make a decision to take most desperate actions among themselves.
In writing the manuscript which he hoped to have published as a book, my husband chose to write using the Martin and Willie handcarts as background material for the premise of his book. In doing the research, he learned his mother was a descendant of one of the survivors of the Martin handcart company, therefore he too, a descendant, having direct lineage to Mary Jarvis Crossley, who, along with three of her four children, did manage to survive the Martin handcart migration. One of her children died along the way, just before the handcart company reached Martin's Ravine (Martin's Cove). Already in severe and extenuating circumstances, without food, without clothing, without the means to endure the winter snows, the people took what refuge could be found against the weather at Martin's Cove.
I don't want to share the story in my words, rather to share using the words of others directly related to Mary Jarvis Crossley, as well as what history is known, as well as some academic study others have done in researching the Martin and Willie handcart companies. I am in no way an academic, and for the purposes of this website, gathering a collection of materials into one place in an effort to elevate the story of Mary Jarvis Crossley and her lineage from amongst the more popular pioneer handcart company stories that abound among Mormon story telling.
Along with my husband's heritage connection to Mary Jarvis Crossley, the maternal side of his family, he has some intriguing history on his paternal side, in which his father's ancestor, also an emigrant, came from Switzerland to take up become one of the settlers of the towns that were being settled north of Utah at Brigham Young's encouragement. This settlement and the ancestral abode are now enshrined in the historical preserve town of Chesterfield, Idaho which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. The settlement was in a difficult, unyielding and unfriendly part of Idaho, and as part of the early settlers, his paternal ancestor, Adrian Ruger, was also a pioneer of a different stripe. The town of Chesterfield was abandonded and became something of a ghost town, until interest in preserving the heritage and the town brought people together to restore the remains of homes and buildings in their original forms, bringing the history of this agricultural settlement town of the late 1800's to life.
When my husband took me to meet his family in Utah and Idaho, he showed me Chesterfield, Idaho and I was entirely taken by the amazing history and story this town had tell. I could only describe my utter awe to my husband that while I knew so little of my own ancestry, background and roots, he had, in humility, had shared with me glimpses of his own family history, a heritage in which he was firmly rooted. Coming as I do from a non-Mormon background, I was so entirely struck by what has to be a deep sense of connection to ancestors, knowing the participation they have had in history, knowing you are part of their heritage. While not knowing much about my own likely doesn't make my heritage and ancestors less interesting, nonetheless, I was entirely absorbed learning about his heritage.
In that regard, I already had a great respect for this Mormon culture to which I was being exposed for the first time. It took a good number of years, (almost eighteen years) and over those years I continued to look at the religion and the culture from different angles. Before we met, before we married, he had become disenchanted with some of the doctrines of the church, and had 'left the church' in his vernacular. I queried him often over our years together and he was patient with my inquisitiveness about his church, his people, his culture, the practices, the belief set.
In time, and while it took a lot of sorting, it became apparent that while he might have issues with his church, he could no more leave behind his culture, his heritage, his ancestors, even many of his beliefs. It is a great part of what made him who he is and what I find so attractive about his character, his integrity, his compassion, his earnest and unwavering spiritual connection. And in deep respect for his heritage, for Mary Jarvis Crossley and the severity of the trials she faced, in respect for Adrian Ruger's pioneer settlement efforts, in respect for my sense of what should be my husband's right to claim his own heritage as rightfully his, we are both now participating members of his church and his culture.
My husband has since published his book, 'And Should We Die'. At his original writing of the manuscript, he did submit it to a recognized publishing house and while the book was not published at that time, he did receive a supportive critique advising the content was likely to be of interest to a smaller, specifically focused reading audience. I read the critique he had received and perhaps at that time that was advice to take into consideration, however, I felt at that time and still do feel that the content of his book speaks to a slice of America's westward migration history that few outside of the Mormon culture know about. As the years passed and technology grew, self publishing came into vogue and my husband was able to publish his book using that new publishing avenue. It is also available in the latest of technology, in e-book format for Kindle. His book could be considered historical fiction and because his book pertains specifically to the Martin and Willie handcart treks, there will be mention of it on this website, but that is not the intent or focus of this website. He has other venues for marketing his book.
note; Navigating this website. Headings at the top will guide you in looking at this website, permitting you to pick and choose what material you want to read. Building this website remains a work in progress (wip). Appreciation for contributions, thoughts, and comments.
........ Lietta D. Ruger, July 25, 2011