8/6/2014 8:38:00 AM Windom father-daughter take part in Wyoming wilderness pioneer trek
When Eliza Ford, 15, of Windom, hears stories about her pioneer predecessors, she now has firsthand understanding of what they went through.
Last month, Eliza, and her father, Hannon, participated in a reenactment of a pioneer handcart trek sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Fords traveled with about 160 other teens and leaders from Sioux Falls to the Mormon Handcart Visitor's Center in Martin's Cove, Wyo.
What's significant about the Center?
In 1856, at this same location, blizzard conditions stranded the Martin handcart company - a group of Mormon travelers trying to cross the 1,300 miles from Iowa City, Iowa, to Salt Lake City, Utah. They were fleeing to a new life, having been mocked and persecuted for their religion in their former homes.
But not all of the Martin group made it to their destination. Many members of the company froze or starved to death.
To give church youth a sense of the sacrifices the pioneers made for their faith, the church now provides handcart treks to groups wanting to reenact a portion of the pioneer experience.
The experience certainly had an impact on the Fords.
"This is an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life because of the wonderful people I met and the feelings I felt there," Eliza says.
Her father agrees.
"Re-enacting what these families went through really made me appreciate my family more and strengthened my faith," Hannon says. "I can't tell you how thankful I was for a hot shower at home after those dusty trails."
The Sioux Falls group arrived at Martin's Cove wearing authentic pioneer clothing, which included long skirts and bonnets for the girls and long-sleeved, buttoned shirts and wide-brimmed hats for the boys.
Young people were divided into 14 "families," each with nine or 10 children and an adult married couple acting as "Ma" and "Pa." Each family camped together and was assigned a handcart to pull.
For much more on the Fords' trek, see the story on the Faith & Family page in the Aug. 6 issue of the Cottonwood County Citizen on newsstands today.