More than 2,000 Mormon immigrants from England, Wales, and Scotland made the arduous trek from Iowa City, Iowa, to Salt Lake City, Utah, between 1856 and 1860. Instead of riding in oxen-driven wagons, these immigrants pushed or pulled specially designed two-wheeled carts. These "handcart pioneers" have been a symbol of Mormon identity ever since.

Illustration by Benjamin F. Gue, courtesy Wikisource

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    On June 9, 1856, the first wave of Mormon “handcart pioneers” began their journey west. More than 200 men, women, and children departed from Iowa City, Iowa, on a trek of more than 2,000 kilometers (1,300 miles) to Salt Lake City, Utah. 
    The pioneers were immigrants from England, Wales, and Scotland, seeking a better life in the established Mormon community in Salt Lake City. Many were poverty-stricken and could not afford the wagons and pack animals many western pioneers had. 
    To accommodate them, church leaders in Utah designed two-wheeled, wheelbarrow-like carts that could be pushed or pulled. Each cart could carry about 200 kilograms (450 pounds). Eventually, more than 2,000 handcart pioneers journeyed west.
    The handcart pioneers have become a symbol of Mormon identity. One folk song based on the handcart exodus contains the lines:
    Ye saints who dwell on Europe's shore
    Prepare yourselves for many more,
    To leave behind your native land,
    For sure God's judgments are at hand.
    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 handcart
    For some must push and some must pull,
    As we go marching up the hill;
    So merrily on the way we go
    Until we reach the Valley-o.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    accommodate Verb

    to provide or satisfy.

    community Noun

    group of organisms or a social group interacting in a specific region under similar environmental conditions.

    depart Verb

    to leave.

    establish Verb

    to form or officially organize.

    exodus Noun

    the movement of a large number of people, often from their home country.

    identity Noun

    how a person defines themselves, or how others define them.

    immigrant Noun

    person who moves to a new country or region.

    journey Noun

    voyage or trip.

    Mormon Noun

    member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Christian church founded in the U.S. in the 19th century.

    pack animal Noun

    domesticated animal used by humans for transporting goods.

    pioneer Noun

    person who is among the first to do something.

    poverty Noun

    status of having very little money or material goods.

    railroad Noun

    road constructed with metal tracks on which trains travel.

    route Noun

    path or way.

    symbol Noun

    something used to represent something else.

    trek Noun

    journey, especially across difficult terrain.

    wagon Noun

    wheeled vehicle pulled by horses or other beasts of burden.