Margaret Ann Griffiths Clegg and The Handcart Rescue

Contributed by Almon Clegg

Margaret Ann Griffiths was born 15 April 1840, at Liverpool, Lancashire, England. Her parents were John Griffiths, born 7 July 1810 in Bangar, Wales and Margaret Griffiths (no other name known), born 25 August 1810, also Bangar, Wales. In 1856, the Griffiths family prepared to cross the plains with the Martin handcart company; Margaret had a younger sister and two younger brothers.

The following account was printed in the WASATCH WAVE, Heber City, Utah in 1906:

Mrs. Margaret Ann Griffiths, sixteen years of age, who came in the Martin Handcart company says: "We left Florence, Nebraska on the first day of September, 1856, as happy a lot of people as ever crossed the plains. Little did we realize on that bright September morning the hardships through which we were destined to pass or the suffering, sickness and death awaiting us ere we reached that long hoped for haven of rest among the saints in the valley of the mountains. It never occurred to my young mind, being but sixteen years of age, that we should experience ought but joy and happiness on our long pilgrimage to that promised land.

"I shall never forget the last time we crossed the Platte River. I was the only female that drew a hand cart through the ice waters of the river at the last crossing. Captain Jesse Haven's Company of wagons that traveled with us most of the way, brought their teams and took most of the women and children across and also the feeble men, my father among them; for he was so affected with rheumatism that he could not walk. The next morning when we awoke the mountains were clad almost to their base with a white mantle of snow and the storms of winter were gathering and very cold. It almost seemed that we would perish. In fact, many of our company froze to death, my twelve year old brother among them, and we buried him there in the desolate wilderness fifty miles the other side of Devils Gate. We camped there for two weeks, our rations being four ounces of flour a day to each person.

"Some teams from Salt Lake came to our rescue bringing with them flour, salt and other things; then we moved on from there to Devils Gate. After a few days of rest we came on to Independence Rock on the Sweetwater where we met more teams from Salt Lake. There we left our handcarts and all of the other things that were not actually needed and came on. All those that could walked, and those who could not walk rode in wagons.

"At Independence Rock my other brother, six years old, died from cold and exposure and my only sister had her feet so badly frozen that she lost the two first joints of her big toes.

"We reached the valley of Salt Lake on the 30th day of November, 1856, after two months of the most indescribable suffering and hardships, the worst we thought of any company of men, women and children was ever called upon to endure. My father, John Griffiths, was ill most of the way with rheumatism and died the next morning after reaching Salt Lake City, from the cold, exposure and privations of that terrible journey."

In a short period, Margaret Ann had lost both of her brothers and her father; but she continued faithful. She married Henry Clegg on 14 August 1857 at the age of 17. She bore 11 children, 7 of whom survived past childhood, and was an active member of the church and an enduring saint. She died on 29 July 1929 at the age of 89.

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