John McCleve Family History

Published for the McCleve Family Orgainization

by Historical Publications

1905 South Laguna Vista Dr.

Orem, UT  84058


John McCleve

Nancy Jane McFerren


Chapter VI

A Sketch of the Lives of John McCleve, Jr. and Nancy Jane McFerren

John McCleve, Jr. was born Aug. 18, 1807 in Ballymoney, County Down, Ireland, son of John McCleve, Sr. and Catherine Lamb.  He was a shoemaker by trade; they were very important people in those days and not to be confused with the “cobblers of today”.  They were independent shoe merchants and manufacturers of their own goods.  Eliza Wakefield said she remembers her father, Alexander Gilmore McCleve, repairing shoes, using the hammer and awl that came from Ireland and had belonged to his father, John McCleve, Jr.

Nancy Jane McFerren was born May 1, 1815 at Crawfordsburn, on Skelly Hill, near Belfast, Ireland, the only child of William McFerren and Margaret NcHarry, a lassie from the “highlands”, raised in culture and refinement.  Her father died when she was two years old, and then she and her mother went back to Crawfordsburn where Nancy Jane grew up among her mother’s people, the McHarrys.  According to her cousin, James McHarry of Oakland, California, Nancy Jane was a general favorite, always pleasant, gracious and kind to all and she was greatly loved by all of her people.  Her people belonged to the Presbyterian Church. 

Nancy Jane was educated according to the times and was an expert in dressmaking and fine sewing and needlework, a skill that she taught her daughters, also.  She wrote a beautiful hand.  In spite of the hardships of pioneering, she instilled the desire for education and refinement in her children, besides the sterling qualities of character which are everlasting.  Many of her descendants have been and are still leaders in Church and Government and have a great love for humanity.

John and Nancy were married on June 27, 1833.  Nothing is known where the young couple made their home but their first child, a daughter, Sarah, was born at the old McHarry home in Crawfordsburn.

To this couple were born the following children:

Sarah, Oct. 29, 1834; married John Young, Jr.

Catherine, Sept. 17, 1836; married (1) Phineas Wolcott Cook; (2) David Dudley Russell.

Margaret, Sept. 17, 1838; married Mosiah Lyman Hancock, Sr.

Mary Jane, Aug. 21, 1840; married Dr. Priddy Meeks

Isabel Wilkins, Jan. 29, 1843; married (1) Danial Richmond Mott; (2) Jabez Erastus Durfee

John “T”, Mar. 29, 1845; died June 5, 1857

Joseph Smith, July 29, 1847; married (1) Susan Oler, (2) Betsy Crandell (Brewer)

Eliza Roxey, May 3, 1849; married James Henry Ellsworth

Daniel Bell, Aug. 22, 1851; died Mar. 25, 1852

Alexander Gilmore, Feb. 24, 1854; married Emma Cecelia Jennings

John and Nancy Jane heard the Gospel from Elders James Ferguson and John D. T. McAllister in June 1841.  They were the only members of their families to accept the Gospel.  His folks were very better and cast him off; but her people were tolerant and kind and it made no difference in their love for her.  It is interesting to notice the baptism dates of the children as recorded on the Family Group Record; the four oldest were all baptized the same day, Aug. 26, 1850, in County Down, in the Irish Sea after dark, nine years after their parents’ baptisms.  Five years later three more were baptized on the same date.  We find the reason that these baptisms were so far apart is that there were no missionaries in that area for a period of time because of the great persecution. 

The following excerpt from the diary of John D. T. McAllister, who converted John and Nancy Jane while on a mission to Ireland, was copied and sent to the McCleves for the McCleve history by his grandson of Los Angeles, California, who was the recorder and historian for the McAllister family: “Among those baptized Aug. 28, 1855, I baptized Isabel  Wilkins McCleve, John T. McCleve, and Joseph Smith McCleve.  The following Sunday I confirmed them members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Bangar Branch.”  Eliza Wakefield received this information and she then wrote to the President of the European Mission, who informed her that the Bangar Branch had been discontinued many years ago and that the records were in the Historian’s office in Salt Lake City.  She visited in Salt Lake and found that the records they had were so meager that they were of little value to the Church and were salvaged from the papers in an attic after a long and diligent search by the Church historian, Andrew Jensen.

In July, 1841, Nancy Jane’s mother, Margaret McHarry McFerren passed away.  About this time her grandmother wrote to her grandson, James McHarry of Richmond, California, grieving over the death of her daughter, Margaret, and the fact that so many of her loved ones had gone far off to America.  She said, “Nancy Jane has joined the Church and will be leaving with the saints for Utah and I am afraid there will be none of my loved ones left near me to close my eyes when I pass away.”  This was told to Jane McCleve Jackson and Eliza M. Wakefield by Mrs. Ada Richardson of Richmond, California, a granddaughter of James McHarry.  ‘She told us many interesting things of our grandmother’s people and of many quaint relics they have in their “string box” at home, among them the letter just mentioned from our great grandmother.’  It is interesting to learn from the records we have that Nancy Jane must have been with her at the last.

The McCleves were very anxious to get to Zion and although the father had a good job, it took a great deal for so large a family to make the trip.  For a few years before they left Ireland, he was overseer of a plantation for an Irish Lord by the name of Alexander Gilmore, a very fine man, who was kind and gracious to them and for and for whom they named their youngest son.  This pleased him greatly and he gave the baby many fine presents, one a little velvet suit that he sent to him after they were in Utah.

In March, 1852 they had been called to part with their baby, Daniel Bell.  This was a tragedy, especially as they were planning to leave for America as soon as possible.  The next year their two oldest daughters left for Zion, the remainder of the family to follow as soon as possible.  The following is from the sailing records in the Church Historian’s office in Salt Lake City: “Among the passengers sailing on the Ship Falcon, March 28, 1853 were Sarah McCleve, 20 and Catherine McCleve, 18.”  Soon after reaching Salt Lake City, Sarah was married to John Young, brother to Brigham Young, and Catherine married Phineas  W. Cook.

On Feb. 24, 1854 Nancy Jane gave birth to her tenth child, who was named Alexander Gilmore.

What an exciting and wonderful day it must have been, two years later, when they finally were able to leave their homeland by the aid of the Perpetual Emigration Fund that was made available to them by the Saints in America.  (This Fund will be discussed further in a succeeding article.)  They hoped for a new and secure life as they and their children, Margaret, 17; Mary Jane, 15; Isabel Wilkins, 13; John “T”, 11; Joseph Smith, 8; Eliza, 6; and Alexander Gilmore, 2 boarded the Samuel Curling on April 19, 1856 according to the records of the ship’s log.  (See reproduction at end of this sketch.) 

Chaptert II

The idea of handcart companies came from Brigham Young and his advisors.  They reasoned that a slow-moving, canvas covered Conestogas cost much more than flimsy handcarts built of strong, but light wood. Also, those who had come to Salt Lake had walked by the big wagons, so why couldn’t new converts throw their personal belongings on a handcart and push or pull it across the plains to Zion? (1)

In the Millennial Star, February 23, 1856, was published a lengthy circular about the emigration of 1856.  “The P. E. Fund emigrants,” said the circular, “Will use handcarts in crossing the plains in which they will convey their provisions, tents and necessary luggage... There will, of course, be means provided for the conveyance of the aged, infirm and those unable from any cause, to walk.  The saints may all rest satisfied that their interest and comfort will be consulted in the best possible manner by those men who will be charged with instructions directly from our beloved Prophet, Brother Brigham...”  (3)

On Oct. 6, 1849 the Perpetual Emigration Fund Company was organized.  The members of the Church in Utah raised money to pay the way of convert members from Europe to cross the ocean and as far as the railroad was completed, then they would buy horses and wagons to continue their journey to Winter Quarters then on to Utah.  Those whose fare was paid promised to pay it back to the emigration fund after arriving in Utah as soon as they were able to.  Of course, it took some time for them to get in a position to pay, keeping the fund perpetual.  This made it difficult at first as the returns were slow coming in.

In the Millennial Star of Feb. 16, 1856 James Ferguson writes that among those who had assisted the P. E. Fund Co., “Were no wealthy capitalists.  The poor husbandman, giving his only cow that had furnished his little ones their only luxury; the widow, presenting the rifle, or pet farm horse, or a relic she had cherished in memory of him who had fallen in defense of his comrades or had sunk exhausted and lay buried in the dry waves of the desert; the wife of the absent missionary, bringing in the jewels she had preserved as tokens of her early love--these were the capitalists, these were the first stockholders in that holy institution which already had redeemed thousands from pauperism and despair and given them a home and an independence on a free soil.”  Between 1850 and 1877 Mormon immigrants totaled 85,000.  In the Samuel S. Curling’s log it is recorded that the John McCleve family participated in the above--mentioned fund.

No more dramatic episode is the annals of western history can be found than the story of the men and women who responded to the epistle of the First Presidency and made their way to Utah pushing and pulling handcars.  Nothing but their sublime faith in God gave them the power to endure, day after day, the trials that came upon them.

The idea was sound; the trouble was the people.  They were not mountain men used to constant combat with the elements.  They were not stringy, lean soldiers used to long hours on the trail.  These people were European emigrants; they had no idea what would happen to them in a sudden Nebraska hailstorm.  They had never faced the ground winds in Wyoming carrying stinging bits of dust grinding into their eyes.  They were not ready to face an early fall blizzard ripping and searing its way across the flats, filling the draws with chest-high snow, crusting the ground with ice and stunning each person with varying bullet-like blasts of icy wind that takes your breath away. (4)

Then why, oh why, would people face these circumstances, hardships and sacrifices?  There were three reasons: First, they knew they were led by prophets. Second, they had faith in the old Scriptures and in the new Scriptures--the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon.  And finally, they had a sense of mission; they knew they were engaged in an inspired cause.

Before starting these crusaders on their long mach across the prairies and mountains, let us pause to examine the unique vehicle that is to be their friend or burden, as they push westward to Zion.

The handcarts used by the different companies varied in size and construction, but the general pattern was uniform.  They were constructed with little or no iron.  The axles of many consisted of a single pole of hickory.  Some of the wheels were hopped with thin iron tires, other were not.  Many of the carts, made in a hurry and of unseasoned wood, shrank, warped and cracked as they were drawn across the dry plains through the summer heat.

J. Rogerson, a veteran of the handcart emigration, gives the following description:  “The open handcart was made of Iowa hickory or oak, the shafts and side pieces of the same material, but the axles generally of hickory.  In length the side pieces and shafts were about six or seven feet, with three or four binding cross bars from the back part to the fore part of the body of the cart; then two or three feet spqce from the latter bar to the front bar or singletree for the lead hose or lead man, woman or boy of the team.”

“The carts were the usual width of the wide-track wagon.  Across the bars of the bed of the cart we generally sewed a strip of bed ticking or a counterpan.  On this wooden cart of a thimbleless axle, with about a 2 1/2 inch shoulder and 1 inch point, were often loaded 400-500 pounds of flour, bedding, extra clothing, cooking utensils and a tent.”

“The covered or family cart was similar in size and construction with the exception that it was made stronger, with an iron axle.  It was surmounted by a small wagon box 3-4 feet long with side and end pieces about 8 inches high.  Two persons were assigned to the pulling of each open cart, and where a father and son of age and strength were found in one family, with smaller children, they were allotted a covered cart, but in many instances the father had to pull the covered cart alone.” (5)

The first handcart company left the LDS Camp near Iowa City on June 9, 1856 with 274 souls under the direction of Captains Edmund Ellsworth accompanied by Elders Oakley and Butler as assistants. 

The second handcart company, with Captain Daniel D. McArthur, left on June 11 with 221 souls, accompanied by Elders S. W. Crandall and T. Leonard as assistants.  This is the company that the John McCleve family was in.  Since the first two caravans left only two days apart, they were closely associated through the journey and would arrive at Salt Lake City on the same day.

These two companies numbered in all 497 souls with 100 handcarts, 5 wagons, 24 oxen, 4 mules, 25 tents and provisions to Florence, Nebraska, called “Winter Quarters”, a distance of 275 miles.

The companies were organized with about five persons to a handcart and approximately twenty individuals to a tent.  The occupants of each tent were under a president, or tent captain; five tents were supervised by the captain of a “hundred.” (6)

“The duty of the company captain,” writes Joseph Argyle, Jr., who pulled a cart in the first company, and whose father was a tent captain, “was to look after everything in general to see that the company was provided with all provisions that they were able to carry and to assist in all that would aid for the betterment of the company.  The tent captain was expected to give all his time and attention to his company, to make sure that all allotments of one pint of flour for each person was given every twenty-four hours and to equalize, as nearly as possible,  all labor or to act as the father over his family”  Each person was allowed seventeen pounds of baggage, including clothing, bedding and utensils. 

“When the brethren came to weigh our things,” writes Mary Ann Jones, who was to become a wife of Captain Ellsworth after arrival in Utah, “some wanted to take more than the allotted portion and put on extra clothes; thus many who were real thin became suddenly stout and as soon as the weighing was over, they put their extra clothes back on the handcarts.  But that did not last long; in a few days we had to have all weighed again and many were found with much more eweight on the carts than allowed.  One old sister carried a teapot and colander on her apron string all the way to Salt Lake.  Another carried a hat box full of things, but she died on the way.” (7)

The second company left in good spirits, singing the handcart song:

     For you must cross the raging main before the promised land you gain

         And with the faithful make a start to cross the plains with your hadncart.

Chorus: Some must push and some must pull as we go marching up the hill;

              As merrily on the way we go until we reach the valley O.

    The land that boasts so much light we know it is as dark as night;

        Where poor men toil and want for bread and rich men’s dogs are better fed;

        The land that boasts of liberty we ne’er again desire to see,

        When we from it have made a start to cross the plains with our handcart.

     But some would say, “That is too bad, the Saints upon the foot to pad;

         And more than that to pull a load, as they go marching on the road;

         But this we know it is the plan to gather up the best of man,

         And women too, for none but they would ever gather in this way.

    On the road the cars were pulled, it very much surprised the world

        To see the old and feeble dame, lending a hand to pull the same.

        Young maidens. they did dance and sing; Young men were happier than a king,

        And children, they did laugh and play, their strength increasing day by day.

    And long before the alley gain, we shall be met upon the plain;

        With music sweet and friends so dear, and fresh supplies our hearts to cheer.

        And then with music and with song how cheerfully we march alaong;

        And thankfully we have made a start to cross the plains with our handcart.

    When we get there among the rest, obedient be and you’ll be blest.

        And in your chambers be shut in while judgments cleanse the earth from sin.

        For this we know it will be so, God’s servants spoke it long ago.

        And so be glad you made a start across the plains with your handcart. (8)

When it arrived in Salt Lake 64 days later on September 26 in pretty good shape, only seven souls had been lost, unfortunately one was our dear progenitor, John McCleve, Jr.

Often times our histories deal with broad generalities, but here is the exciting personal daily diary of Twiss  Burmingham, one of the members of the Second Handcart Company which gives us a clearer insight of the hardships and sacrifice made by these converts:

12th April 1856:  Left Dublin bound for Zion.  Kate and children all sick on the passage to Liverpool.   After ranging the streets for some time, found Brother Chapman who gave us lodgings and brought our luggage to his house for which we had to pay 5/6.  Went to meeting in the morning to the Center Branch.  Heard Brother Wheelock and others speak.  Went in the evening again and heard Brother Capt. Dan Jones and Brother Wheelock and others.  Brother Jones addressed the Saints in English and Welch, members from both countries being present.

13th April:  Passed avery unpleasant night in Chapman’s having been bit by bugs all night and found both my eyes fearfully swelled in the morning.  Went to the office, 36 Islington, but could not easily settle my passage in consequence of their being very busy.  Moved from Chapman’s to a fresh lodging.

14th April:  Settled my passage at the office, and bought some things for my journey.

15th April:  Walked through the most part of Liverpool and saw the principal buildings, St. George’s Hall and others.

17th April:  Left the lodgings and went on board the S. Curling, in the Wellington Dock.

18th April:  Ship still in dock taking in cargo and passenger’s luggage.

19th April:  The ship was towed out of dock into the Mersey and cast anchor until 12 o’clock.  Tug-boat came alongside and Brother Franklin D. Richards and others of the Valley Elders amongst whom were Brothers Scott and McGhee, bringing Sister Brannigan who went to Belfast a week previous to avoid being taken by her parents who wished to prevent her going with the Saints.

All hands had to come on deck to pass the Doctor and the Govt. Inspector.  After passing and going below, I was sent for by Brother Franklin, who gave me his parting blessing and expressed a wish to serve me when he came to Zion. Remained at anchor in the river until next morning when the Captain of the Ship and Brother Capt. Dan Jones, the President of the Ship, came on board.  We passed the doctor again in the general muster on deck.  The tug towed the ship out to sea and left about 2 o’clock p.m., carrying back letters for post.  Wrote to my uncle and Tom, and received a letter from my uncle and one from Brother Bond.  Very little wind.  Ship running about 2 miles an hour.  Held an organization council on deck, but afterwards went below to the hospital.

President Jones presiding, the following rules and regulations were adopted:  1st Presiding: Elder Dan Jones--President; Elder John Oakly--Counsellor, Elder David Grant--Counsellor.

The ship was then divided into 11 wards, and I was elected 1st clerk of the ship.  Elder Thos. Thomas to preside over the 1st Ward; John Edwards, 2nd Ward; John Parry, 3rd Ward; Job Welling, 4th Ward; John McDonald, 5th Ward; James Thomas, 6th Ward; Evans Evans, 7th Ward; Richard Williams, 8th Ward; William Butler, 9th Ward; John Lewis, 10th Ward; John Walters, 11th Ward; Brother Wilson to be 2nd or assisting Clerk.

The resolutions passed were, that the President of each ward have a sufficient number of men up every morning to wash and clean under and before each berth in his ward, and to have it finished and prayers over at 6 o’clock.  Any neglect of the rules passed by the council or presiding, the President of the ward will be held responsible and will be liable to be tried by the council of his brethren. 

The cook house to be open to receive the 1st and 2nd wards at 6 o’clock for cooking breakfast.  Their and 5th ward to cook from 6 1/2 to 7, 4th and 6th, 7 to 7 1/2, 7th and 8th, 7 1/2 to 8, 9th and 10 and 11th, 8 to 9.

Dinner to follow the same rotation, commencing at 11 o’clock and ending at 3.  Supper or tea, same rotation commencing at 4 1/2 and ending at 7 1/2, when the galley fires are to be put out.

Prayers are to be over ion each ward at 8 o’clock p.m., and the President of each ward to have a teachers’ meeting within this time, say to commence at 1/4 8. 

In order to prevent disease, the Presidents are to have the Saints go on deck as much as possible.

There were many other resolutions passed with regard to the regulation of the Saints in the different wards, one of which was that the Hospital be allotted to Brother Jones and the Clerks for an Office, and that we keep all sickness out of the ship. 

20th April--Sunday:  Still a calm. Off the Welsh coast.  A general assembly on deck.  President Jones addressed the meeting and his counsellors also spoke. 

21 April:  During the night we had a nice breeze, which left us on the Wexford coast, Ireland, where we are perfectly becalmed.

23 April:  Wind a little fresher this morning.  Running at 5 miles an hour.  Called for night watch and appointed sergeant of the watch.  During my watch I found one of the sentries asleep.  Relieved by Brother Payne at one o’clock.


24 April:  A good and favorable wind.  Ship making 12 miles an hour.  Kate and children sick.  Self sick, and all on board unless the crew and Captain Jones.

25th April:  Wind still favorable.  Ship running 15 miles.  Passengers still all sick.  Between dicks in a horrid mess, and ship rolling perpetually.  Paid the Captain’s cook L1 to cook for me during the voyage, it being almost impossible to get anything cooked at the passenger’s galley fire, from the number of passengers and the smallness of the cooking stoves.

26th April:  Favorable wind all day.  Nearly all the Saints on deck.  paid Brother Jones for the Stars and books sold and returned those unsold, received fifty Stars more to sell. Week’s provisions given out.  9 o’clock p.m., all well on board.

27th April--Sunday:  A small bird, a swallow or martin, flew on deck and fell down panting, caught by the carpenter of the ship, who gave it to the Captain. The Captain said it flew from land which was 700 or 800 miles from Cape Clear.  Favorable wind and ship running well.  Addressed the Saints at the evening meeting, being called on by the President.  A general meeting held today on dick.  Volunteered to assist to wash and clean the ward in the morning.

28 April:  Passed a very sleepless night.  Water coming down on my berth all night.  A child died, 17 months old, this morning and was thrown overboard at 8 o’clock p.m.  Head wind, Ship running about 6 miles and hour.

29 April:  Very stormy.  Another child died this morning.

30 April:  Blowing a gale.  Very many of the passengers sick again, owing to the roughness of the sea.  Two births, a boy and a girl, which leaves the number of passengers the same as when we started.

1st May:  Getting passengers to sign the Bonds, required by the Permanent Emigration Fund Co.

2nd May:  Getting passengers to sign bonds but obliged to leave off in consequence of the roughness of the sea.  Sister Laurenson fainted but recovered immediately on being administered to.  Sea and storm rose so high that the boxes which were lashed broke from their fastenings and ran all over the ship.  A boy fell down one of the hatches and was much hurt. 

3rd May:  A fearful storm last night.  Two sails carried away.  The Captain of the ship said he never witnessed such a storm, although he was 20 years at sea.  Slept none all night.  Obliged to hold the children, one under each arm, to prevent their being thrown out of bed.  12 o’clock: Storm still raging, and a great many people sick from the pitching and rolling of the vessel.  A general prayer meeting at the middle hatch for calmer weather and a more prosperous voyage.

4th May--Sunday:  Passed a good night.  Slept well.  Vessel making very little progress.  Wind dead ahead. A sacrament meeting between decks and another meeting at 7 1/2 in the evening.

5th May:   Called last night, just as I was going to bed, to be captain of the watch for the night. Went on guard at one o’clock.  Came off at 6.  Nothing particular transpired during the night. 

6th May:  Head winds and stormy.  Many very sea sick.

7th May:  Head winds.  Vessel rocking very much.

8th May:  A child died this morning.

9th May:  Stormy for the whole day.  Another child did this morning.  A “gentile” passenger made a great deal of noise and was dragged from the young females’ part of the ship where he secreted himself and put into his own berth.  Brother Lucas and myself placed as a guard upon the single women’s quarters for the balance of the voyage to prevent any such recurrence.

Note: (The notes in this diary were made by Samuel Taylor Moore)  It is of record that the Curling made port at Boston.  That there are no further entries in the diary until the start of the handcart trek possibly is due to the press of duties which would fall to the lot of a clerk--Mormon records, the execution of immigration papers, etc.  It is probable that entries are lacking for the train journey to Iowa City  because immigrants were herded like cattle into cramped quarters and frequent changes of cars were necessary.  There is also evidence that the camp at Iowa City was not up to the usual Mormon standards in organization and discipline, which is understandable by reason of the fact that the handcart trains represented the new experiment. 

Iowa City, Iowa, 11th June:  Left town with the handcarts.  Travelled 8 miles.  Camped at 9 mile house.

12th June:  Travelled 12 miles.  Started at 9 1/2 o’clock and camped at 1 o’clock.  Very hot day and windy.  The dust flew so thick that we could not see each other 1 yard distant. Before we left, I was appointed President of a tent.  This day was so severe that Brother Laurenson and myself with our families thought we could not go on with safety to ourselves and families and drag handcarts with about 250 lbs. of luggage on them and so determined on returning to Iowa City to try to procure a team to go through with.

13th June:  Left the camp and paid 5 dollars to a teamster to take us back.  Arrived at Iowa City at 8 o’clock.  Found it very difficult to procure lodging.  Saw Brother Ferguson at the camp who encouraged me to follow the company.

14th June:  Overtook the company at Little Bear Creek, 36 miles from Iowa City.

16th June:   Started at 7 o’clock a.m.  Camped at 1/4 7 o’clock.  Travelled 15 miles.  Day very hot.  Bro. Laurenson fainted under his cart.

17th June:  Started at 7 1/2 o’clock.  Camped at 3 o’clock.  Travelled 15 miles.

18th June:  Started at 6 o’clock.  Camped at 10 o’clock.  Travelled 10 miles

19th June:  Started at 7 o’clock.  Camped at 2 o’clock at Elk Creek. Travelled 12 miles.

20 June:  Left the camp at 7 o’clock.  Camped at 4 1/2 at Indian Creek, 14 miles.

21 June:  Started at 7 1/2 o’clock.  Camped at South Skunk Creek.  Travelled 14 miles.  A child died this morning and was buried under a tree.

22 June--Sunday:  Remained at South Skunk Creek.

23 June:  Started at 7 1/4.  Camped at 10 o’clock, at the 4 mile Creek.  10 miles.

24 June:  Started at 7 1/2.  Camped at 4 o’clock.  13 miles.

25 June:  Started at 7 1/4, camped on the North Coon River at 4 1/2.  19 miles.  A German sister fainted on the road today.

26 June:  Started at 7 1/4 o’clock.  Camped at 2 1/2 aat the Middle Coon River.  12 miles.

27 June:  Started at 7 1/2.  Camped at South Coon River.  9 miles.

28 June:  Started at 6 1/2 o’clock.   Camped at Middle Coon River at 3 1/2.  16 miles.  Sister Laurenson fainted on the road today.

29 June--Sunday:  Remained in camp.

30th June:  Started at 6 3/4 o’clock.  Camped at Turkey Grove.  10 1/2 miles. This day  Brother Arthur Stopped at a Town, himself and his family as he could not draw his handcart any further. 

1st July:  Started at 1/2 8.  Camped at the head of Turkey Creek.  14 miles.  Very tired.  A boy, 8 years old, lost on the road, son of Brother Parker.  Storm, thunder and lightning raged fearfully all night.  Blew up part of our tent and wet all our clothes through.  Lay all night in our wet clothes until morning with the water running under us in steams.

2nd July:  Three of the Brethren started in search of the boy.  Just returned but found no trace of him.  Remained all day encamped.  Went on the cattle guard at 10 o’clock.

3rd July:  Started at 5 o’clock and camped at 7 1/4, after a long and tedious journey of 25 miles.  Some of the Brethren fainted on the road and were carried into camp in the ox-team.  I nearly fainted myself from exhaustion, but plucked up courage and never let go the handcart.  Several of the Sisters and children belonging to Captain Elsworth’s company, having gone astray, there were some of the Brethren sent out in search of them.  Returned into camp at 4 o’clock in the morning with all those who were lost.

4th July:  Started at 6 o’clock and travelled 22 miles.  Camped on Silver Creek.  One of the brethren fainted under his handcart today.  One of the brethren shot a tame elk for which he had to pay 50 dollars--rather an expensive shot.

5th July:  Remained all day in camp.

6th July--Sunday:  All day in camp  Brother Parker retuned to the camp this morning having found his boy, who he brought with him.  The boy slept all night under a tree in the forest and felt not the dreadful thunderstorm which raged on that night.  The next morning he made his way to a farmer’s house, some 9 miles distant.  The farmer took care of him until his father found him.  Attended meeting today and heard several of the Elders speak.

7th July:  Left Silver Creek at 1/4 8, and had a very fatiguing journey of 20 miles.  After 10 miles, 2 families gave out, being frightened at getting nothing for 3 days but Indian corn stir-about.  They stopped at a farm house to work for 2 dollars per day and food.  I feel really sore in my inside from eating nothing else for the above time, without anything with it, either milk or anything else.

8th July:  Stared from Cruskato Creek at 6 1/2 o’clock and travelled 20 miles.  Camped at the Mormon camp at Florence City at 7 1/2 o’clock.  The company generally very fatigued.  Found some of Brother Elsworth’s company lying insensible on the road.  This day we traveled through a beautiful country and passed Council Bluffs, which put me in mind of the mountains of Killarney, Ireland.  We saw the place where a great number of the Saints were driven from in 1848, and the little graveyard with many of the crude tombstones, on which one could scarcely read the names of some of our brethren who had fallen, perhaps by the hand of some ruffians. The homes in which they had lived were nearly all dilapidated and the tabernacle was a perfect ruin.  When it was in good order it must have accommodated nearly 1000 people.  At about 5 o’clock we reached the River Missouri, over which we were ferried by a small steamer.

Note:  This camp originally was founded as the winter camp of the Mormons after the Saints were driven from Nauvoo.  Until the transcontinental railroad was pushed beyond, it served as the final forwarding station west of the Missouri River.  

9th July:  Camp all well.  Several of the Brethren gone to work during the time they remain here.

10th July:  Went to work myself to dig a well, but was only employed for one day for which I got $2.  I was not sorry that the job was finished as my hans were in one flake of blisters, I had to work so hard.  I found it somewhat worse than drawing the handcart. 

11th July:  Went to Omaha to get a glass in my watch and went afterwards about 2 miles further on to see Sister Brannigan who was sewing at a farmer’s house for $3 per week and her board.  On way I met with a camp of Indians, the Omahas.  Went into their camp but they speak but very little English.  They were very friendly.  There were about 60 of them. The men are fine looking fellows but the women and children were very plain looking and dirty and perfectly naked. Brother Brower who was with me gave them some money. 

12th July:  Went on camp guard from 9 o’clock p.m. till 12 1/2.

13th July:  Went again to Omaha to get another glass in my watch, having broke the last one, paid 50 cents. for glasses each time.

14th July:  Went to Bluffs City--10 miles--to try and sell my watch that I might buy a cow but did not succeed.

15th July:  The Sisters Lucas left the camp for good and went to Bluffs City to service, being  determined not to go any further with the handcarts.  Brother Lucas took a lot of ground in the City to build a house on, and got a farm of 350 acres of land 10 miles out of the prairie.  He got all for nothing, simply for settling down on it.  I was offered the same and a school with a yearly stipend if I would stop and take charge of it but of course I knew better than that.  This day a German sister died of fever, 6 days sickness.

16th July:  Brother Reid shot in the leg by a “Gentile.”

17th July:  Brother Elsworth’s company went out.

18th July:  The Welsh company is coming in tomorrow.

20th July:  The Welsh company came in today, 300 in number.  Fifty stopped on the road.

21st July:  Some of Brother Elsworth’s company came back and said they would not go any farther.

22nd July:  Spoke to Brother Lucas and tried to get him to come on but no use.  He said he would not go any farther, this year.

23rd July:  Six of us carried in 800 bags of flour into the store.  Hard work rather.

24th July:  Left Florence.  Travelled 7 miles.

25th July:  Traveled 20 miles to Elkhorn River, where we found a camp of Indians, many of whom came to meet us and were very friendly.  The chief took my cart and drew it into camp about 1/4 mile and although a tall strong looking man, it made the perspiration run down his face until it dropped on the ground.  Many of the Indians got drunk in the night and commenced fighting among themselves, but not knowing what they were at we were all called out of our beds and ordered to load our guns.  After watching for some time, all became quiet and we returned again to the arms of Morpheus.  In the morning we heard that one of the Indians had been shot in the arm by one of his fellows, which we soon verified, their sending over to our camp to know if we had a doctor amongst us.  Brother Eatkin went and dressed it. 

26th July:  Crossed Elkhorn River by manes of a very roughly constructed ferry.  For the conveyance of us over, the company had to pay $6.  Travelled 15 miles without any water until we came to the Platte River, where the water was a joyful sight to many, being 6 or 7 hours under the burning sun without a drop to cool our tongues.

27th July:  Camped all day on the north bend of the Platte.  Took a dose of castor oil which sickened me very much and kept me cantering for a long time.

28th July:  Rather weak this morning and terribly annoyed by two boils, one on my jaw about as big as pigeon egg and another on the calf of my leg which torments me very much when drawing the handcart.

29th July:  Boils very sore this morning but must draw on the cart still.  With such sores at home I would lie upon two chairs and never stir until they were healed.  Started early this morning and traveled 20 miles.

30th July:  Started early this morning and travelled 12 miles to Loup-fork ferry, over which we had to ferry the carts and wagons and women and children.  It was really funny to see some 50 of the Brethren hauling a large ferry boat over this ferry and when they would come to a deep place in the stream, all make a rush to get on to the boat, some succeeding, some tumbling in and others obliged to swim for it.  It took 3 1/2 hours to ferry all over.  Camped on the other side.

31st July:  Left Loup-fork and travelled 20 miles without water.  I was so exhausted with my sores and the labour of pulling that I was obliged to lie down for a few hours after arriving in camp before I could do anything.  Kate was also so tired and fatigued out that she was glad to get lying down without any supper and I was not able to cook any for ourselves so we were obliged to do with a bit of bread and a pint of milk.  This is the quantity of milk we have been allowed morning and evening since we left Florence. Sometimes it is less.  Rather little for 5 persons.  While traveling this day, often was I near falling on the road for want of water, and with fatigue.  Many did fall right down and some had to put into the wagons but many were obliged to wait until they recovered a little and foot it again.  8 o’clock when we got into camp. 

1st August:  23 miles over a bad road.  No water, only what we carried.  Sister Hardy from Scotland fainted on the road today.

2nd August:  Started early this morning and travelled 28 miles over a very bad road, having to pull the carts through heavy sand, sometimes for miles.  We were obliged to carry water with us today.  Camped on the open prairie without either wood or water and consequently had to go to bed supperless.

3rd August--Sunday:  Started at 5 o’clock without any breakfast and had to pull the cats through 6 miles of heavy sand.  Some places the wheels were up to the boxes and I was so weak from thirst and hunger and being exhausted with the pain of the boils that I was obliged to lie down several times, and many others had to do the same.  Some fell down.  I was very much grieved today, so much so that I thought my heart would burst--sick--and poor Kate--at the same time--crawling on her hands and knees, and the children crying with hunger an fatigue.  I was obliged to take the children and put them on the hand cart and urge them along the road in oder to make them keep up.  About 12 o’clock a thunder storm came on, and the rain fell in torrents.  In our tent we were standing up to our knees in water and every stitch we had was the same as if we were dragged through the river.  Rain continued until 8 o’clock the following morning.

Note:  There are no entries from August 4th to 12th inclusive.

13th August:  Started out at 10 o’clock and Kate was obliged to travel all day without a shift and nothing on but a shawl and petticoat and those half wet.  Had to travel over a great many sand hills and camped on the wet ground in a wet blanket as well as to go to bed supperless.  No wood to make a fire and very bad water.  Went on the camp guard from 12 o’clock till 4.

14th August:  Started at 5 1/2 o’clock without any breakfast.  Travelled 8 miles and halted at the River Platte.  Got breakfast and dried all our wet clothes and then travelled 14 miles more.  A few days previous to this we met a man coming from California.  He was deserted on the plaines by his companions, who left him with nothing but a shirt and  trousers which he had on.  He was making his way as fast as he could to Council Bluffs.  He was then 200 miles from it.  We gav him some bread.

15 August:   Travelled 17 miles--5 miles sand.

16th August:  Started this morning before breakfast.  This morning an old woman belonging to our company was bitten by a rattlesnake in the leg and before half an hour her leg swelled to four times its thickness.  She was administered to by the Elders and we stared again, but unfortunately as we were starting another old woman was run over by one of the wagons. The front wheel went over her thighs and the back wheels over her shins, and singular to say, although the wagon was laden with 32 cwt. of flour, not one of her bones was broken.  This day we had the most severe day’s journey we had since we started and travelled over 20 miles of heavy sand hills or bluffs.  Besides having o ford many streams.  All seemed to be fully worn out when they got into camp.

17th August--Sunday:  In camp all day.  Spent the day mending my boots, and Kate was washing.  This day, a German Sister died.

18th August:  Buried the girl and started out of camp at 5 1/2 o’clock.  Travelled 20 miles.  10 miles of sand today and had to ford 6 steams.

19th--20th--21st--22nd--23rd August:  These five days we travelled at the rate of about 22 miles per day.  Some days starting as early as 5 o’clock and never after 7.  Most of those days we had heavy sandy roads.  Sometimes for ten miles at a time.

August 24th--Sunday:  Camped all day at Chimney Rock.  Spent the day mending my clothes and baking and cooking while Kate was washing and mending the children’s clothes.  On the 22nd while we were on the road traveling, we were overtaken by a very heavy thunderstorm which wet all to the skin, but as soon as it was over we went at it again and made a journey of 7 or 8 miles before we camped and then we had to lie on the wet grass all night, and go to bed supperless, there being no firewood to cook, the Buffalo chips being all wet.  We had to ford 20 streams this week.

25th--26th--27th August:  Very heavy travelling through sand all the time at about 19 miles per day.

28th August:  After travelling 12 miles through sand, came to Fort Laramie where after crossing the river and getting some wet trousers and petticoats we remained all night.  Passed many camps of Indians, all peaceable. 

29th--30th August:  These two days we travelled 50 miles.  The 30th we crossed the Platte again to the north side.  Remained in camp all day.

31st August:  Travelled 29 miles and crossed the Platte over to the south side.

1st--2nd-3rd September:  Travelled at about 25 miles a day.  On the 2nd lost a German boy.

4th Sept.:  Crossed Muddy Creek and travelled 20 miles and late in the evening forded the Platte again for the last time.  For five days we were not in camp for an hour after night and we were always up at daybreak preparing to start at 5.  We met the wagons at Deer Creek which were sent with flour from the Valley to meet us.  There were 5 wagons, one for each Company and each wagon had 1000 lbs. of flour in them.  Two started for the Valley with our Company.  German boy’s father died. 

Sept. 5th:  Very wet today.  Could not start it rained so much.  Snow four feet deep on the mountains all around us.

Sept. 21st:  From the 5th to the 21st, nothing particular occurred save the meeting of some wagons of flour from the valley for which we will have to pay at the rate of 18 cents per lb. when we get to the city.

Passed Independence Rock.  Crossed Green River which we had to ford with many smaller ones.  Met some other wagons and people coming to meet their friends in the Company.  Travelled at the rate of about 25 miles per day.  Two days we travelled 32 miles each.  Camped last night at Fort Bridger where we remained until 10 o’clock today.  We are now 113 miles from the city.  Henry Bouning fell down and fainted yesterday under the hand cart from fatigue.  Had to be carried into camp which we did not reach until 10 o’clock at night. 


{Note from Lionel Nebeker:  It is sad that the diary ends at this point.  It was not long after this date that this handcart company trudged through Echo Canyon.  It has been handed down through our family, that our ancestor, John McCleve, died and was buried along the Weber River.  The trail follows the Weber River only for about four miles as it exits from Echo Canyon.  His death seemed to be primarily due to general deprivation caused by insufficient food to maintain his strength while he pulled his handcart across the plains and mountains.  His wife cared for the children along the way, carrying the littlest one most of the time.  The oldest child to make this journey with him was a daughter, Margaret McCleve, our ancestor.  She assisted her father by pushing the handcart most of the way, but after his death, she was the one who had to take over his duties and pull the handcart the remaining distance up and over the last mountains and then down into the Valley.  It is a sad note in our family history that John came so close to completing this trek but died just shortly before their arrival.  Still, he has a large posterity who are active in his chosen religion, for which he sacrificed so much for their benefit.  Each of us owes a debt of gratitude to this wonderful man who gave up a life of relative ease in Belfast, in order that we might have the blessing of the gospel among the other Saints. 


We continue now with the story...}

Thus ends the diary.  Salt Lake City was a disappointment to Twiss Bermingham and his family.  The following year he apostatized and returned to Florence, Nebraska, where he welcomed the post as school teacher which the previous summer he “of course knew better” than to take.  In seven years’ residence at Florence one of the three children who had made the long journey died of scarlet fever.  But five other children subsequently were born to the Berminghams, seven living to maturity.  he average.  Fro many years before his death at the turn of the century Twiss Bermingham held the title of Tax Commissioner of New York City.

Four of his grandsons served in World War I.  One of them Ruteldge B. Barry, who supplied the diary, was a first lieutenant in the 93 rd Aero Squadron of the Third Pursuit Group and is a former vice-commander of Westport (Connecticut) Post of the American Legion.

Note:  The wording, punctuation, spelling, etc. are reproduced here exactly as the original.  The Historical Department of the LDS Church has photocopies of the original printing. 

References:  Holograph.  Chicago Historical Society (MS 62-1380)

                    Typescript. 21 pp.  Denver Public Library (M 34-38)

The first two handcart companies reached Salt Lake Valley together on September 26.  Despite the hard labor and the difficulties experienced by these travelers, the completion of their journey was hailed in Utah as the successful culmination of a cherished project and experiment, and so was celebrated with enthusiasm in Salt Lake City.

Wilford Woodruff, one of the Counsellors of President Young, describes the reception:  “On of the most interesting scenes that was ever witnessed in our Territory, was the arrival of two of the handcart companies on the 26th of Sept.  Having heard the night previous that they were camped between the two mountains, President Young and Kimball, and many citizens, with a detachment of the Lancers, and the brass bands, went out to meet and escort them into the city.  They met the companies at the foot of the Little Mountain.  Elder E. Ellsworth led the first company, and Elder Daniel D. McArthur the second. 

“After the meeting and salutations were over, amid feelings which no one can describe, the escort was formed, a party of Lancers leading the advance, followed by the bands, the Presidency, the Marshal, and citizens; then came the companies of handcarts, another party of Lancers bringing u the rear... I must say my feelings were inexpressible to behold a company of men, women and children, many of them aged and infirm, enter the city of the Grate Salt Lake, drawing 100 handcarts, (led by Brother Ellsworth, who assisted in drawing the first handcart) with which they had travelled some 1,400 miles in nine weeks, and to see them dance with joy as they travelled through the streets... This sight filled our hearts with joy and thanksgiving to God... As I gazed upon the scene, meditating upon the future result, it looked to me like the first hoisting of the flood gate of deliverance to the oppressed millions.  We can now say to the poor and honest in heart, come home to Zion, for the way is prepared...” (9)

The Deseret News, Sept. 26, 1856, reported that reception of the honored companies by the welcoming party: “Ere long the anxiously expected train came in sight, led by Captain Ellsworth on foot, and with two aged veterans pulling the front cart, followed by a long line of carts attended by the old, middle-aged and young of both sexes.

“When opposite the escorting party, a halt was called, and their Captain introduced the new comers to President Young and Kimball, which was followed by the joyous greeting of relatives and friends, and a n unexpected treat of melons.  While thus regaling, Captain D. D. McArthur came up with his handcart company, they having traveled from the east base of the Big Mountain.”

“The procession reached the Public Square about sunset, where the Lancers, Bands and carriages were formed in a line facing the line of handcarts; and after a few remarks by President Young, accompanied by his blessing, the spectators and escort retired and the companies pitched their tents, at the end of a walk, and pull upwards of 1300 miles.  This journey had been performed with less than the average amount of mortality usually attending ox trains; and all, though somewhat fatigued, stepped out with alacrity to the last, and appeared buoyant and cheerful.”

“And thus has been successfully accomplished a plan, devised by the wisdom and forethought of our President, for rapidly gathering the poor, almost entirely independent of the wealth so closely hoarded beyond their reach.”

Altogether, 10 organized companies crossed the mountains with handcarts during the years 1856, 1857, 1859 and 1860, aggregating nearly 4000 souls.  Five of these companies crossed the plains in 1856 under Captains Edmund D. Ellsworth, Daniel D. McArthur, Edward Bunker, James G. Willie and Edward Martin. Between two and three thousand people crossed the plains in these first five caravans.  The first three companies in 1856 made good records but the last two encountered all kinds of difficulties and deaths because of teh late departures in the year. 

At a meeting held in the Tabernacle on Oct. 6, 1860, President Brigham Young said:  “The handcart system has been pretty well tried and if a handcart company starts in the proper season and is managed properly, I will venture to say that most of them will come in that way more pleasantly than they generally come in wagons.  But drawing their provisions is a hard task, and it would be more satisfactory if we could manage it to bring in wagons all freight and those who are unable to walk.

“I wish to say to the people who have come across the plains in handcarts, that I feel to bless you and you may be sure you have my best feelings all the time.  The Lord prompted the handcart companies and in the midst of their affliction to prepare for and start upon their journey, they have had faith and power for the day, and on the morrow it seemed they certainly would have to stop, but when tomorrow came they had faith and power to perform the journey of that day, and so they have been prompted day by day.  God is at the helm.” (10)


(1)  Handcarts to Heaven by Bill Bragg, Jr.

(2)  Stories of the Handcart Pioneers

(3)  The Handcart Companies of 1856

(4)  Annals of Wyoming, Vol. 44, 1972, Katherine Halverson, Editor.

(5)  Handcarts to Zion, by LeRoy R. Hafen & Ann W. Hafen, p 53

(6)  Ibid.  p 58

(7)  Heart Throbs of the West, Kate B. Carter (Compiler)

(8)  Handcarts West in ’56 by John Bond, Dec. 1970

(9)  Handcarts to Zion by LeRoy R. Hafen & Ann W. Hafen

(10) Heart Throbs of the West by Kate B. Carter, Vol 1.

Patriarchal Blessing of Nancy Jane McFerren McCleve

Payson, Utah

March 4, 1859

A Patriarchal Blessing by Isaac Morley, Patriarch, upon the head of Nancy Jane McFerren McCleve, daughter of William McFerren and Margaret McHarry McFerren.  Born May 1, 1815 in Crawfordsburn, County Down, Ireland.

Sister Nancy, I place my hands upon thy head and seal a father’s blessing, that it may be a seal of God to continue with thee.

Thou hast come from afar to dwell with the people of God which will be salvation to thee, both temporally and spiritually.  Thou hast passed through trials for the Gospel sake, be comforted, my daughter, for the seal of God will illuminate thy mind and thou shall be blessed in the midst of the daughters of Zion and live to see many of thy kindred and friends thou hast left behind.  Many will see their folly and come inquiring after thee, which will greatly relieve thy sorrow and they trials.

Thou hast taught many by thy faith, thy troubles and thy perseverance.

Thou shall be blessed with the blessings of the earth.  It is necessary that the saints should pass through trials to test their fidelity and their love for righteousness.  Be patient in all thy trials and they will become thy blessings.  Thou art laying the foundation whereby thy heart will be sanctified. 

Thou shall be blessed and have thy name preserved from generation to generation.  Thy native countrymen will honor thee for the integrity of thy heart.

Let thy life be devoted to prayer and meditation.  Thou art a descendent of Jacob through the loins of Benjamin.

And I seal this upon thee to enjoy the blessings of endless life.

In the name of Jesus, even so, Amen and Amen.

Top left: John Young, Jr (brother of President Brigham Young) and his wife: Sarah McCleve (oldest daughter of John & Nancy McCleve); Catherine NcCleve & husband Phineas W. Cook.

2nd row, left: Mosiah L. Hancock & Margaret McCleve; Right: Mary Jane McCleve & Priddy Meeks

3rd row: left: Daniel R. Mott & Isabelle Wilkins McCleve; right: Joseph Smith McCleve & (1) Susan Older & (2) Betsy Crandell (Brewer)

4th row; left: James H. Ellsworth & Eliza R. McCleve; right Alexander G. McCleve & Emma C. Jennings

5th row: two children of Nancy Jance McFerren McCleve, by her second husband: David Ellsworth

Left to right: Orville Morgan Allen, Jr. & Diana Jane Ellsworth;  Devisel Ellsworth & Emma Ann Halladay

Margaret McCleve Hancock, daughter of John & Nancy Jane McFerren McCleve.

Born in Belfast, Ireland she crossed the plains pushing a handcart. 

Married Mosiah Lyman Hancock.  They were the parents of Eliza Jane Hancock Perkins.

Margaret McCleve Hancock on her 64th birthday surrounded by some of her family. 

She is the tiny lady in the dark dress sitting in the center of the second row of the photo. 

One of her daughters, Eliza Jane Hancock Perkins is to our right of her in an even darker dress, and she is sitting next to her husband, Reuben Josiah Perkins (bald-headed man with beard);

Two rows behind him, the young woman in a white blouse and flower in her hair, is their oldest daughter, Rhoda Jane Perkins (Wakefield). 

17 September 1902

Taylor, Arizona