Margaret Adeline Kewley Carlisle
Pioneer of 1856
Born 5 Mar 1840, Kirk German, Isle of Man
Died 11 Mar 1923, Logan, UT
Written by Arlene H. Eakle
Margaret Adeline Kewley was born 5 March 1840 in Kirk German, Isle of Man. She was the third child of eight who graced the home of James Kewley and Ann Karren [Karran?]. Just two months later her father and mother joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, being one of the first to embrace the Gospel in that Isle.
Little is known of her early childhood nor of that of her four brothers and three sisters:
Ann Kewley b. 2 November 1834
Elizabeth Kewley b. 11 September 1837
William Kewley b. 25 February 1843
Robert Kewley b. 15 April 1845
James Kewley b. 7 July 1848
Emily Kewley b. 23 March 1850
Thomas Kewley b. 20 May 1853
Margaret was a vivacious, happy girl and loved to pick the wild flowers growing profusely on the Isle. On one such excursion the sun was very bright and her eyes became very sore. The doctor blamed the brightness of the sun in giving her eyes a tendency to cross. She grew up with a deep sense of the religion that her parents had embraced when she was but an infant. She was taught the Gospel as her mind and intellect developed enough to grasp the truth. At the age of eight she was baptized. It is not known if her two older sisters were members of the Church, but when the family came to Utah to join the Saints, they remained behind in the place of their birth.
James and Ann Kewley took three of their eight children on board the ship "Horizon" and prepared to set sail for Zion under the direction of Edward Martin. They left two daughters whom we assume were married, Ann and Elizabeth, and three small children, William, James and Emily, who were buried in the Isle of Man.
They sailed from Liverpool on Sunday, 25 May 1856, with 856 souls. After five long weeks on the ocean, they landed at the dock in Boston. The 1st July they left Boston by train, they passed through Albany, Buffalo, and Cleveland, and on the 5th July passed Kirtland with its Temple in the night. They continued on to Iowa City where they were to be outfitted with provisions to make the trek to Salt Lake City.
Emigration records of the Church give the following information:
James Kewley 54 Labourer Isle of Man
Ann Kewley 41 "
Margaret Kewley 16 "
Robert Kewley 11 "
Thomas Kewley 3 "
Since it was costly for emigrants from Europe, mostly poor folk, to procure covered wagons and oxen, a plan was devised to use handcarts. These two-wheeled vehicles, to be pushed or pulled, were made of hickory or oak. The width was as wide as a wagon so that it could follow along the wagon tracks. Canvas or ticking made up the bottom. On this cart was loaded flour, food, bedding, clothing, cooking utensils, and a tent-up to 200 pounds. This mode of travel proved successful and faster than ox team and wagon. They averaged from twelve (12) to fifteen (15) miles per day.
Unfortunately for the Saints, the carts were not ready. For several weeks they had to wait and when finally they arrived, they were of unseasoned timber. Not to be daunted, the eager Mormons loaded the carts and started on the 1300 mile journey. Margaret swung her shoes over her shoulder and walked along the dusty trail barefoot, smiling happily that at last they were on the way. As each town was reached, she dusted her feet and replaced her shoes so she could walk through the town respectably. Then on the other side off would come the shoes and on she would go barefoot.
The Company consisted of 575 souls, 146 carts, 7 wagons, 30 oxen and 50 beef cattle. The first 200 miles all went well. The only hardships being the mid-summer heat and the dust. But soon the green timber in the handcarts began to tell. Under the burning heat, it dried and readily fell apart. Some were left by the roadside and the others were heavily loaded.
Almost from the very start the people were put on rations. Suffering became intensified because the emigrants were not able to replenish their food supplies at Fort Laramie as they had planned to do. Because of the weakened condition of the company and the added strength needed to pull the heavy carts through the mud caused by the rains, disease became rampant.
The Kewley family added another little one to their already large number of children in Heaven. They hurriedly buried Thomas by the wayside. How to mark the graves with any permanency was a difficult problem. An endgate of a wagon, or a whitened bone of a buffalo, or a hastily carved stone served as a temporary marker. More often, to keep the graves from being molested, measures were taken to obliterate all traces. For these reasons we cannot be sure just where Thomas' small body lies.
Hardships have a way of bringing out heroism in the darkest hours, and Christian virtues shone most resplendently. Even in the midst of trial and sorrow, the pioneer spirit of cheer and faith was constantly manifest.
As the Saints started up the steep slopes of the mountains west of Fort Laramie, they were forced to throw away much needed bedding and clothing because the carts were too heavily laden to pull up the inclines.
Perhaps the biggest factor in the inevitable tragedy was the fact that heavy snows and extreme cold weather set in much earlier than had been the case for many years previously. By the middle of September, heavy frosts made the nights uncomfortable. It was impossible for the members of the unfortunate group to keep warm with their scant supply of clothing and rationed food supply. To add to this, the people had eaten fresh meat from a few oxen that could go no farther and dysentery entered the camp to take its toll.
Snow storms came every few days, piling the snow a foot and a half on the level. Improperly clad and weakened by the rations, the more delicate ones were buried by the way. Fear that winter would exterminate the entire company if they did not hasten onward prevented even proper ceremonies for the departed. They were wrapped in sheets and hastily lowered into shallow graves which were covered with rocks to keep away the wolves which hovered constantly along the trail.
Late October found Margaret and her family along with the rest of the group at the North Platte River crossing.. It was the last ford that the company waded over. The water was not less than 2 inches [do they mean 2 feet?] deep and it was intensely cold. The ice was 3 to 4 inches thick and the stream was about 40 yards wide. When the handcarts arrived at the bank, one poor fellow who was greatly worn down with travel exclaimed: "Oh dear, I can't go through with that!"
James Kewley tried to help different members of the group and carried many on his back across the river. His shins and limbs came in contact with sharp cakes of ice, which inflicted wounds on them which did not heal until long after reaching the valley. These hardships depleted his strength so that he became very ill.
Clothing and bedding were soaked. That night as they were making camp on the open plain, a bitter wind arose. Morning found the ground blanketed with white. Several of the older and weaker ones had died. Others were ready to give up. Margaret's feet and legs were frozen and she was unable to walk. But with heroic courage, leading spirits in the band called for them to struggle on. It was going through the snow. The train was strung out three or four miles. There were old men pulling at their carts, many [of] which were loaded with sick wives and children. As night came on, the mud and snow froze to their clothing.
Food supplies rapidly vanished and there was no chance to replenish them. The destitute sufferers, unable to continue their journey farther because of sheer exhaustion, established camp about sixteen (16) miles above the North Platte crossing. They were still some 365 miles from theValley. They sought shelter in hollows and willow thickets and awaited whatever fate was theirs. Margaret's father said, "I cannot go any farther."
In the meantime, anticipating an early and a hard winter, Brigham Young organized a rescue party to meet the stranded company and bring them to Zion. At October Conference, he asked for volunteers.
"It is this day on the 5th of October, 1856, many of our brethren and sisters are on the plains with handcarts and probably many are now several hundred miles from this place and they must be brought here; we must send assistance to them. The text will be "to get them here." This is the salvation I am now seeking for, to save our brethren that would be apt to perish, or suffer extremely if we did not send them assistance.
I do not want oxen. I want good horses and mules. They are in the vicinity and we must have them; also 12 tons of flour and 40 good teamsters besides those that drive the teams."
Brigham Young's Latter-day Saint Journal
The Saints responded willingly to this call. One of the first to volunteer was John Carlisle. He had worked his way West in 1855 by driving an ox team for William S. Godbe, so he was well qualified for the undertaking. Shortly after the relief train had left Salt Lake on the way to meet the immigrants, a courier from a wagon train on the Oregon Trail arrived in the Valley to tell Brigham Young of the plight of the handcart companies.
Four ounces of flour per day were at first doled out to the famished people but finally food supplies were completely exhausted. Deaths were so frequent that [a] burial squad was appointed. Fifty-six saints died after crossing the river. They were in a deplorable condition. The survivors were so cold that they huddled together and sat on and around the bodies of the deceased until the heat had left them.
The group had consumed the last of their food supply a few days before help came. The children were eating bark of the trees to prevent starvation when an advance party sent ahead to encourage the people until the rescue party arrived appeared on a distant hill. When they were sighted, shouts of joy rent the air and strong men wept until tears ran freely down their furrowed and sunburnt cheeks. Margaret said they looked like "angels riding down to us upon white horses."
Little children partook of the joy which they hardly understood and fairly danced with gladness. Restraint was set aside in the general rejoicing and as the brethren entered the camp the sisters fell upon them and deluged them with kisses. John Carlisle like the others was downright overcome and could not utter a word for some time.
Margaret and her family, along with the rest of the party, were loaded into the wagons and carried speedily to the Valley, arriving there in late November. They were taken into the homes of the established Saints, where they were fed and nursed until their strength and health returned and until homes could be made ready for them.
John Carlisle was a very handsome man, 30 years of age, with sparkling black eyes under bushy brown brows. He was lean and tall, giving the appearance of strength. This was aparent even through the newspaper-lined coat he wore to keep out the bitter cold. John had noticed the comely young Margaret, thin and gaunt from sickness and lack of food, as she bravely attempted to walk on her frozen painful feet. Now a few weeks later he was here to call upon her and begin his courtship. She evidently returned his affection because on 18 April 1857, just five months later, they were married by Elder James G. Willie (The family has often speculated why they were not married in the Endowment House at that time instead of three years later. Her parents were sealed in 1857).
They set up housekeeping in the Valley and started to raise their family. Five children were born to them while they lived there:
John Edward Carlisle b. 4 March 1858
Annie Elizabeth Carlisle b. 18 January 1860
Lillian Carlisle b. 10 March 1862
Margaret Agnes Carlisle b. 29 March 1864
Heber James Carlisle b. 10 October 1867
Work-plenty of it-kept them going. Problems of daily food and clothing, of shelter and of sharing with neighbors in need, challenged all their strength. Yet time was taken for worship and pioneer pastimes. There was music and singing to cheer away the gloom.
Sometime between 1867 and 1876 the Carlisle family moved to Nebraska City, Nebraska. One family source gave the reason that John went there in search of work. While there, however, Robert Bruce Carlisle was born 12 March 1876. He died while still a baby.
A short while later they returned to Utah and settled in Cache Valley, where Margaret remained the rest of her life. There two more children came to their home:
Benjamin Carlisle b. 13 August 1879
Beatrice Carlisle b. 13 April 1882
Margaret loved bread and when she became older she would always ask if there was bread-if there was, she was satisfied. She ate toast and hot water tea every day.
Her childhood love of flowers she kept all her life. She grew many varieties and tended her garden with loving care. She sold bouquets to supplement the budget. She also grew fruits and vegetables which found their way onto the family table. She owned a small greenhouse and there she nurtured many potted plants and seedlings.
As a severe bout of measles was unfortunately experienced by Margaret while crossing the plains in her youth, she had trouble with her eyes all her life. In spite of this she loved books and was well read. Often she was found sitting by the fire with a reading glass and a favorite volume of Sir Walter Scott.
Like her Manx ancestors before her, Margaret adored her home and family life. She was a homebody-content to remain in the atmosphere she loved; sitting by the fire reading or knitting, which she did rapidly and well, or just enjoying the companionship of those she loved.
The experiences lived through at the time Margaret was a member of the Martin Handcart Company never left her body and soul. The hardships she had suffered were engraved upon her very being and try as she would to erase them, they remained. She was always reluctant to repeat them, saying that they were too horrible to recall and better forgotten. She suffered through life with flat feet that never stopped aching and her eyes were never very good. Yet her natural cheerfulness and good humor made all who knew her revere her.
Her general health remained good throughout her life with only a few minor ailments that all women seem prone to contract. Then one wintry day Margaret Adeline Kewley Carlisle, going to look for her daughter, Lillian, started across a slippery plank, slipped and fell, breaking her pelvis. Because of advanced age she contracted pneumonia readily and she passed away four days later on 11 March 1923 in Logan at the age of eighty-three years.
Information in this history came from the following sources:
Beatrice Carlisle Mitchell, daughter of Margaret Kewley
Beatrice Mitchell White, granddaughter
Margaret Mitchell Haslam, granddaughter
Lillian Carlisle, daughter
Mormon Trail, by Howard Driggs
Utah, a Centennial History
Utah in Her Western Setting, by Milton R. Hunter
Utah, Her Land and Her People, by Milton R. Hunter
Heart Throbs of the West, Vol. 6
Church Emigration Records
Old letters and family records
Handcart Company Pioneer of 1856 Dies
LOGAN, March 12-Mrs. Margaret Kewley Carlisle, 83, widow of John G. Carlisle, died early Sunday morning at her home, 155 East Second South Street. Immediate cause of death were complications arising from an attack of grippe.
Mrs. Carlisle was a native of Peel, Isle of Man, and arrived in Salt Lake with the handcart company of 1856. She had lived in Logan since 1876, having resided in Salt Lake before that. Surviving are three sons and two daughters.
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