Edward Martin

485-222x300Edward Martin was tried and tested to prepare him for the seemingly insurmountable task of leading the Martin Company across the plains through perhaps the most difficult circumstances of any handcart company.  He was baptized with some of the earliest converts to the Church in England in 1837.  He married Alice Clayton in 1840 and, in 1841, they were greeted by the Prophet Joseph Smith after steaming up the Mississippi River to Nauvoo, Illinois.  Edward and Alice Martin became acquainted with grief and tragedy in Nauvoo.  After the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred in 1844, their daughter passed away in 1845, and they were among the saints that were forced from Nauvoo in February 1846.[1]

After struggling with the rest of the saints for five months to cross the plains, the Martins were in Council Bluffs when their youngest child passed away.  Six days later, Edward Martin left Alice to join the Mormon Battalion, based on orders from the United States government which requisitioned 500 men to go to California.

Edward was gone from his family nearly 18 months.   After completing his service in the Mormon Battalion in July 1847, he returned to Salt Lake City, arriving in October, having traveled more than 5000 miles.  There, he learned that his wife was still in Winter Quarters.  Although it was late in the season, he immediately began the 1,000 mile journey, arriving in December, 1847.  Through these two years of difficult journeys, Edward wrote, “The suffering and privations we had to pass through I say nothing about . . .  .”  [B]ut, suffice it to say we did it for Christ and the Gospel’s sake.”[2]  The Martin’s fifth child was born on the plains, but died a few days after they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley.

The Martins arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1848 and settled down.  A few short years later, in 1852, Edward was called to again leave his family and serve a mission in England.  During his service in England, another child died, making a total of six of their seven that had passed away.  Edward served for two years in Scotland, enjoying his mission deeply.  He wrote, “I never enjoyed myself better in my life than I do preaching the Gospel.  Although I have a great many trying scenes to pass through, yet I find the grace of God sufficient for them all.”[3]

In 1855, President Franklin D. Richards asked Edward to serve in the emigration office.  He served there only one month, then returned to Scotland.  However, the next season he was once again asked to serve in the emigration office, overseeing the emigration of 4,400 converts during the emigration season of 1856.[4]  When the season’s emigration work was done and Edward was approaching four years away from his family, he boarded the Horizon for home.

Appointed head of the company of saints on the Horizon for the entire journey to Salt Lake City, Edward Martin demonstrated faithful, diligent service, overseeing the welfare of 850 on board the ship.  Looking after their welfare, Brother Martin visited every one of the passengers under his charge six or seven times a day.  During the trek across the plains, Josiah Rogerson described Edward Martin, “If he ever gave any thought as to his health or fatigue, we fail to remember it.  . . . To the end of  our fearful journey . . . he was everywhere [that] he was needed and responded to every call of sickness and death.  When our company was traveling, he was in the front, in the center, and in the rear, aiding, assisting and cheering in every instance needed.”

Young Peter McBride also praised Edward Martin’s leadership, talking about some of the challenges he faced:

“We had to burn buffalo chips for wood, not a tree in sight, no wood to be found anywhere.  . . .   A great many handcarts broke down [and] oxen strayed away, which made traveling rather slow.  [It was] quite an undertaking to get nearly [600] persons who never had any camping experience to travel, eat, and cook over campfires.  It took much patience from the captain to get them used to settling down at night and to get started in the morning.”[5]

During one of the most bleak, bitter days in Wyoming, Elizabeth Sermon shivered out a question about whether help was coming.  Captain Martin replied, with love and empathy:

“It makes me very sorrowful to see such sickness and distress that the Saints are enduring.  There are a great many frosted feet from lack of shoes, and from six to ten are dying daily.  I almost wish God would close my eyes to the enormity of the sickness, hunger and death among the Saints.”   Then, he continued, “I am as confident as I live that [President Young] has dispatched the relief valley boys to us, and I believe they are making all the haste they can.  . . .   God Bless you, sister for the dutiful kindness to your husband and sons in this dark hour of trial.”[6]

Edward Martin arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on November 30, 1856 and was greeted by his wife, Alice and only living daughter, Mary Ellen, age 12.  He continued to experience heart ache throughout his life.  After arriving in the Salt Lake Valley, he lost two wives and eight more children.


[1] The Price We Paid at 231.

[2] Id at 232.

[3] Id. at 234.

[4] Id. at 235.

[5] Id. at 404-05.

[6] Id. at 405.