Sunday, May 24, 2009

Martins Cove 5/24/09

Howdy Folks,

The prime message for the week is food, food, and more food. It has been a week of Pot-Lucks. Everytime we turn around someone was holding a Pot-Luck dinner, and can these senior citizens cook. Each lovely little Sister has her own favorite homemade recipe and is more than willing to share them with us, and they are definitely not diet food. I had the mistaken idea that because of all the exercise I was getting I would firm up and lose a little weight, NOT!

I am still working on the water and sprinkler system, (its grown to about 4 acres now) and I just placed a 500 gal. settling tank in position. I knew from experience we were going to need some sort of tank to catch the sand and silt from the creek, but could'nt find one big enough at the center. Sister Leavitt and I visited a place commonly referred to as the "Prairie Wal-Mart" which is a junk yard out in the middle of no where, and discovered this used propane tank which was in good condition. It was just the right size (according to my calculations), so I had some of the Elders load it up and bring it to the visitors center. Fortunately we have everything we need in the way of tools and equipment to build or repair anything. Everyone was afraid I would blow myself up by cutting and welding on an old propane tank, but I fooled them by filling it with water first and denied them the thrill.

I would like to thank our family and friends for the emails and letters, they really make us feel loved. I would personally like to thank my sister Myrn for her special letter. It meant a lot. Congratulations to Olivia and Parker on their school program, they really look cute. Congratulations to Conner on receiving the Presidents Education Award. Grandma and Grandpa are extremely proud of all our children and grandchildren. Thanks to Mark Fastow for forwarding our health products. Thanks to Kelor and Diane for being there for us. Thanks to Chris and Leanna for holding down the fort. And thanks to all of you for your prayers on our behalf.

On our P-Day (day off) Sister Leavitt and I drove up to Riverton and Lander. Riverton is just an average little Wyoming town, with a Wal-Mart, but Lander is a beautiful little western town set in beautiful green valley with the Wind River Mountains as a back drop. It kind of reminds me of a small scale Sheridan, Wyoming, which we visited last summer and loved. We'll have to go back to Lander when we can spend more time. We saw a cute poster in Lander titled "rush hour in Lander" showing about 200 head of cattle being driven up the main street. My kind of place!

We still continue to hear more stories of spiritual experiences had by those who visit this special site. There is no doubt that the pioneers who suffered and died along this trail are anxious to have people know of their sacrifice and suffering. Too many testimonials of people from all walks of life to be coincidental.

We love you all, and would like to thank Lanita (Pete) my cousin, and Rose Woodbury our good friend, and the many others who share our emails with family and friends. We're looking forward to visiting with Pete and some of her sisters this week. I love my companion and Sunday is always a good day!

Love Elder Leavitt

Monday, May 18, 2009

May 17th, 2009 Martins Cove

Hi everyone,

Well its been another great week here in Martins Cove. The weather is warming up and for the most part the wind is calming down and the whole countryside is turning green.

Big things have been happening at the Cove. The biggest in our lives is that Sister Leavitt has been called as Relief Society President. For those of you who are not
familiar with this calling in our Church, it is the highest position a woman can hold in a Ward or in our case a Branch. She was very emotional and honored to receive the calling. This will give her stewardship over all the women (about 60) at Martins Cove and the Willie Center (another historical site about 65 miles away). She will do a great job considering her administrative background and her
love of people.

Today is Sunday and it's our Branch Conference so our Stake Presidency came down from Casper to speak to us. It was a great meeting. After our service we had a pot luck lunch and can these ladies cook!! Then we had another meeting with some
experts on the pioneer trail. This same trail on which we're located includes the Mormon Trail, The Oregon and California Trail, and the Pony Express trail. They gave
us some interesting insights into the high points of this famous trail. Its interesting to know that between 1846, and 1869 between 350,000 and 500,000 pioneers passed by this point on their way to settling the west and with some trying out their luck in the gold fields of Nevada and California. Of that number 70,000 were Mormons heading to Utah. After that the Transcontinental Railroad took its place.

Its a special feeling to know that my great-great grandmother, who lost her husband to cholera in Iowa had passed this spot with her children, and maybe even camped
nearby on their way to Utah. Her family went on to help settle Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho and even parts of Canada and eventually from that one little woman's family (the Leavitt's) has grown to be the largest single family in the LDS

Tomorrow we are going to take a bus tour with the Trail Experts, and follow parts of the actual pioneer trail. In many places the wagon ruts can still be seen. We're
excited to have this close up experience. After that we have to get back to our regular jobs. I have to get the sprinkler system up and running before the onslaught of trekkers arrives. As it is we have been getting several bus loads of
school children nearly every day.

Hi Everyone -- As usual, I don't have alot to add because Charlie does such a good job of covering all the highlights of our week. One thing he didn't talk about was
another great speaker who was here last week -- his name is Andrew Olsen and he wrote "The Price We Paid". It's an exhaustive account of the Willie and Martin Handcart companies who got stranded in October of 1856 in an early blizzard in the Wyoming Plains. Our work at Martin's Cove is to honor those pionners. But one thing
we are learning about is that there were many handcart companies who made that long journey of 1300 miles on foot w/ few causulties. In fact, one handcart company
didn't have a single death -- which was better than any wagon train.

I also have to comment on the weather -- today was 77 -- the highest temp since we've been here and no wind. Gorgeous day! One of the downsides of this is that the
rattle snakes have come out of hibernation. There have been many sightings in the last week. It is one of the dangers of living in this area, but we understand if we
leave them alone, they will leave us alone. Pretty much if you stay on the trails (and believe me, I'llbe on the trails!) you don't have any problems.

In addition to being called to be the Relief Society President, I was also asked to work in the Mission Office 2 days a week. I did some training this past week and really had alot of fun. Although I'm not great on the computer, there were lots of things I could do and I certainly and more suited to that than making a quilt :). However, one sweet woman has taken me under her wing and she is going to try and teach me how to sew. We have a date Tuesday night to start making an apron to go with my pioneer dress.

Well, we have another busy week ahead -- as Elder Leaviitt said we will have a fabulous opportuinty to travel as near as we can on the Oregon Trail w/ experts -- I know it will be a wonderful experience.

We love hearing from all of you -- thank you for your responses and encouragement. In some cases we haven't responded because when we might have the time our computer is not working. It is very tempermental and seems like we can get on it only a few minutes each day.

We send our love and prayers to you,

The Leavitts

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Missionary letter 5/12/09

Hi Family and friends,
Well its been another great week here at Martins Cove. Although we miss our children, grandchildren and friends at home, we have been very busy taking care of our assigned responsibilities. Peggy has been busy doing gardening, planting, weeding, and everything else that is out of her comfort zone. She did get to assist with guiding a few school groups. There seem to be several bus loads everyday. Everyone who visits this special place is touched by the spirit of it. It is so much fun watching them pull handcarts and try to get the feel of what the pioneers went through. I have been kept extremely busy supervising the installation of a sprinkler system for about 3 acres of lawn, all which had to be watered by hand previously. It is a little more complicated than a normal system, due to the fact that the water source is an irrigation ditch which is fed by a stream running out of the mountains. I have to design an intake structure for the ditch so as to take the water to a pump, filter it, then feed it to the thousands of feet of lines feeding the 100+ rainbirds with a 46' radius. This area along the Sweet Water River is a nature wonderland. Every day we see all kinds of wildlife. Since we've been here I've seen lots of deer, Canadian geese, snow geese, a huge sandcrane, cottontail rabbits so tame they don't even pay attention when you walk by, hawks and eagles circling in the sky, buzzards(circling me), and antelope by the hundreds. But by far the best experience has been the people. We have made so many wonderful friends. Its hard to imagine so many friendly, honorable, dedicated, hard working people assembled in one location at the same time. Everyone goes out of their way to try to help you in any way they can. If it sounds like a Utopia, and I guess it sort of is. It's unbelievable to see so many accomplished individuals donating their time, talents, and energy to serve the Lord. There are Doctors, Accountants, Farmers, Contractors, poor folks, rich folks, even a hospital administrator, all working together to improve this special place and tell the pioneers stories. Today I was given the titles of Heavy Equipment Manager, and Trail Maintenance Supervisor. Sounds important, but basically its just more of what I have been doing for years, with the exception that I don't have to pay my help, no workmen's comp., no insurance, no unemployment, no payroll taxes, and everybody is happy to come towork.

Hi Everyone --it's now my turn. My word for this week is "work". As Charlie says, I've gotten out of my comfort zone. I"ve done lots of yard work and today I even did a little -very little- quilting. With 5 other ladies, we started, a little garden. It was an existing garden that we just kind of brought back to life. We planted some vegetables that will do well in the cool weather and when it warms up,we'll plant some more. I have to say the day working in the garden was wonderful -- we had so much fun and the weather was glorious. One thing the wind does, is make you appreciate a "normal" day when it's not blowing 90 mph (slight exaggeration !) As much as I talk about work, I have to emphasize that the benefit of all this work is that once you have contributed your labors, it makes you feel a sort of ownership of the place. I walk around and look at the grass I have edged, or get concerned that the grass might be brown, and it makes me think that I have become apart of this place. I notice and love everything about it. Another highlight of the week was hearing from the man (a former Stake President of the Riverton Stake) who was instrumental in the Church buying the ranch on which Martin's Cove sits. This man has a passion for the Mormon pioneers and played a key role in developing the idea of making this a visitors center. Believe if or not, we listened to him for 3 hours tell stories about pioneers and the role he played in making all of this happen and we could've listened to him longer. It's something I"ll never forget. Elder Leavitt has mentioned the great people with whom we get to work and play and I have to concur with all he says. In a short period of time we gotten to know almost every couple here and they are all special in their own way. One thing that amazes me is how willing every one is to pitch in and help do anything. They set a high bar for us. One example is our camp group where we are parked. People are already fixing up the little patch of ground next to their motor homes or trailers with plants, very nice signs with their names of them, placing nice-looking rocks around the edge of their little piece of grass. Our neighbor waters our grass before we can get home at night. It really is something. I've decided it's very difficult to put into words the experience we are having, but I can tell you I wouldn't trade it for anything. We are growing in the Gospel, we're making new friends, and loving life. Again, thanks for all your love and support.

Love, Elder and Sister Leavitt

Monday, May 11, 2009


Louise called to say that Aunt Edna passed away this morning. I told her I would let everyone know. The funeral will be Saturday in St George to accommodate the family. I don't know where or when yet but will let you know when I hear. I hope a lot of us can make it to the funeral to honor our beloved aunt. She was such a jewel!!! Hugs, Pete

Monday, May 4, 2009


Hi Family and Friends,

Thursday 4-30-09

Well we have just completed our second day of training at the Mormon Historical Handcart site in Wyoming, and it has been inspiring to say the least. The people here are the sweetest, most loving group of Saints anywhere. They have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome and to help us appreciate the sacred nature of this place. When you hear the stories about the pioneers who passed this spot and the trials they endured, you can't help but have love and compassion for them. One of my favorite experiences was at the end of a handcart trek to the cove and back (about 5 miles pulling a handcart). As we started back toward the visiters center we came to a big hill where they had all the men leave the handcarts and walk to the top of the hill and wait for the wives to pull the handcarts up the hill. We were to wait in silence and remove our hats in honor of the challenge these women were going through. The women represented the pioneer women who had lost their husbands and had to continue on the trail on their own. It was an emotional experience for me to see my sweet wife struggling up the hill pushing on a cart. As we reunited both of us had tears in our eyes. We truly felt the spirit of those great ancestors and I felt a greater love for my wife as I imagined her in that same role.

Saturday 5-2-09

Today we recieved our first work assignments. Sister Leavitt's (Peggy) was voluntary, and she elected to serve in the kitchen. Mine was assigned, I was assigned to lay-out and install a new water system for watering the several acres of lawn surrounding the visitors center, (suprise) But really its kind of fun to get back into game. Tomorrow is Sunday, and the Cove has its own Chapel right here on the grounds. After Church we will have a great meal that Sister Leavitt helped to prepare. Breaded chicken breasts, au-gratin potatoes, homemade rolls, great salad, and candied carrots.

Sunday 5-3-09

We had a great Sunday service today. We had the opportunity listen to a couple of General Authorities from Salt Lake, Elder Genho, head of the Farmland Reserve witch governs this Mission and Elder McMullin of the Presiding Bishopric. After our meeting we gathered in the barn (cafeteria) for lunch, after which we were entertained by our own Bluegrass band made up of missionaries. It was great as they played all the old favorites,ie; You Are My Sunshine etc.

I would like to tell all our family and friends how much we love and appreciate them and all their support. I would like to tell my children and grandchildren how much we love them and miss them. And let them know that first and foremost we are serving a mission because of our love for our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ.

Before I sign off I wanted to explain why Sister Leavitt and I chose to serve a Mission at this location. It started back when we were on vacation last summer. We stopped by Martin's Cove on our way from Sheridan, Wyo. on our way back to Las Vegas so we could attend a good friends funeral in California. After visiting the Cove and the visitors center we felt such a strong spirit here that we decided we wanted to serve here. In order to better understand the history of Martins Cove and what happened here, we need to take a moment and go back to Oct. 19, 1856. On that day the Martin Handcart Company, (named after their leader Edward Martin their leader) on foot, were pushing and pulling handcarts the 1300 miles from Iowa City, Iowa to Salt Lake City and crossed the North Platte River near where Casper Wyo. is now located. This was the day a big early snow storm hit. They pulled up the bluff, a little less than a mile above the river, and camped for the night. There was no fuel for a fire, they were cold , their clothes were wet and frozen, most of their tents were frozen, the ground was frozen, so they just crawled into their tents on the ground to try to get some protection for the night. As many as thirteen out of the 500 pioneers died from exposure before morning. The next day they traveled 5 miles up to the foothills, but they still had to go 1/2 mile for fuel for fires.

On Oct. 28, three men from the rescue party who traveled some 300 miles out from Salt Lake arrived in camp. These men had been sent ahead from the main rescue party to find the Martin Company and assess their condition. It was reported to these men that 56 people had died since they had crossed the North Platte River. The people had been down to a ration of 4 oz. of flour per day to keep from running out, and were starving. The pioneers were immediatley given a ration of 1 lb of flour per person, and told to kill any beef they still had and if they had any meat left on them to give each person a pound. They were them told they had to keep moving to reach the rescue wagons. The next day they traveled 8 miles to the Avenue of the Rocks. The rescuers reported , "The train was strung out for three or four miles. There were old men pulling and tugging their carts, sometimes loaded with a sick wife or children, women pulling along sick husbands, little children struggling though the mud and the snow. There were only 3 rescuers in the lead scouting party and hundreds needing help. This was a very cold night and several more died. During the next 2 days they pulled the handcarts 17 miles. They met the rescue wagons near Horse Creek. The boys from Salt Lake (The Valley Boys) had large fires going, helped pitch tents, and provided them a meal.

The next day Nov. 1, they traveled to Independence Rock. On Nov. 2, they arrived at the abandoned stockade at Devil's Gate. One of the rescuers knocked down one of the cabins to provide firewood, it was 13 below zero, thirteen died that night. A council was held to decide whether to try to winter here or get to Salt Lake. More storms were coming and the stockade could only hold 20 or 30 people. On Nov. 4 the Martin Company was to be taken about 2 miles to a natural cove in the rocks to get them out of the bitter winds and where there was wood for fires. This meant crossing the Sweetwater River. Many remembering the terrible experience of crossing the North Platte, fell to the ground and sobbed, saying, "We cannot do that". Four young Valley Boys along with others jumped into the water and began carrying the Martin Company across the river. Many times they were told to get out of the river or they would die, but they continued for the best part of the day. Following the river crossing they moved the people up into the Cove. Although the Cove help protect some of the company during the four days and five nights while waiting out the storm, it was still very cold and many more lost their lives. The Great Miracle of the Martin Company was that any of them survived from the last crossing of the North Platte River through Martins Cove. Most of the pioneers made it to Salt Lake but there were more deaths on the trip.

My family, the Leavitts, traveled this same trail about 9 years earlier than those who got stranded in Martin's Cove and although they didn't face the bitter winter storms the Martin Company did, they suffered a number of deaths from exposure and disease! That's why I feel such an affinity for Martin's Cove and for the great sacrifice these early pioneers paid for us. Sister Leavitt and I will be telling the stories of these valient pioneers and will be assisting the 60,000 or so youth who come here in the summer to re-enact the hand cart treks.

Hi everyone -- Well, Elder Leavitt has done a great job of summarizing our few days here -- although it seems like we have been here alot longer. It hasn't been too much of an adjustment living in the motor home. We live in Missonary Village which is about 10 miles from Martin's Cove. As I have already told several of you, we are surrounded by hundreds of antelope and sagebrush. Today felt like a heat wave when the temperature hit 59 degrees :) It is almost always windy.

For the women out there -- I haven't rec'd my first hair cut yet -- hopefully this week. I'll have to let you know how Charlie does at cutting it.

Our cell phones do work here although they sometimes cut out. We feel very fortunate as some people don't get reception al all.

If you need to mail something to us our address is :

Elder Charles and Sister Peggy Leavitt
Martin's Cove Site
47600 West Highway 220
Alcova, WY 82620

We love you all and thank you for your support and love,

Elder and Sister Leavitt