Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Hello again dear family and friends,

Sorry we're late again, but it has been another busy and schizophrenic weather week. The first of the week we had several snow storms, then the weather warmed up to about 70 degrees by the end of the week. In spite of the weather changes we have the floor for the Pavilion expansion ready to pour and we have had a great fireside with Andrew Olson, the author of the "very best book" detailing the Martin and Willie Handcart Pioneers entitled the "The Price we Paid".

Yesterday we took a bus tour along the immigration trail from Casper to Martin's Cove with members of CES (Church Educational System) who gave us some great insight into the pioneers. While on this tour I also discovered that I am never too old to learn something new! One of our stops on the CES tour was Bessemer Bend, the location where the first rescue team found the Martin Company on October 28th,1856 -- starving and freezing in 12" snow. Bessemer Bend is next to the North Platte River about 8 miles from where Casper is now located. While at Bessemer Bend, we were told the story of Elizabeth Horrocks Jackson, a well-known pioneer lady (there is a painting of her in the Trek Center) who lost her husband at that location and was left with 3 small children to fend for. While Elizabeth's story (which I have heard many times) was being read, they mentioned a sister, Mary Horrocks Leavitt as also being a member of the Martin Company. Well, when my wife brought this to my attention, naturally, my ears quickly perked up as I was sure that none of our ancestors were with any of the Handcart Companies. As soon as I got the chance, I asked the CES people about her and was told they didn't know where the name came from, but advised me of where I could go on the church web-site to find out about any immigrant in any company. I could hardly wait to get home and check it out. By going to LDS.org, and clicking on "church history" and then looking at the very bottom of the page I could see the small word "pioneers", and then by clicking on that word a page about immigration companies came up and all I had to do is type in a persons name and it would let you know if that person was in any of the handcart or wagon train companies between 1846 and 1868, and any additional information. To make a long story shorter, I discovered that Mary Horrocks, sister to Elizabeth Horrocks Jackson, married a man named Nathaniel Leavitt after she arrived in Salt Lake. Who was Nathaniel Leavitt? With some research I discovered that Nathaniel Leavitt came west on the same wagon train as our great-great grandmother Sarah Sturtevant Leavitt, and turned out to be her nephew. His father, also named Nathaniel and was the brother of Jeremiah Leavitt our great-great grandfather, who died on the plains. Nathaniel Sr died in Michigan in 1830, when Nathaniel was about 6 years old, so Nathaniel Jr, who about 26 during his immigration west, must have been closely attached to our family. After their marriage,in the Endowment House in the spring of 1857, Nathaniel and Mary spent their most lives living in Ogden, Utah and raised a large family. So what I learned, in my old age is that by marriage, we have a connection with one of the handcart pioneers, which to me is exciting. I also learned that there are more Leavitt's in this country than there are NORMAL PEOPLE. And I love them all!

May the Lord bless all of our family and friends that you may all be healthy and prosperous.

Love Elder Leavitt

Hi everyone !

We were excited to find the connection to Mary Horrocks Leavitt -- I would ask my Boulder City friends to let Jill Stewart know as Jill is a direct descendant of Elizabeth Horrocks Jackson. Jill and I have talked several times about Elizabeth, so I think she'll be excited as well to find that we have a connection to her.

Two of our favorite experiences last year, and again this year have been the bus tour which follows the Immigration Trail from Casper to Martin's Cove and the fireside with Andrew Olsen -- to have them both in one week has been incredible. Andrew Olsen gave an entirely different talk than he did last year -- this time he focused on the rescuers who risked their lives to save the Willie & Martin Handcart Companies. It was very informative and helped us understand the great sacrifice these men made to save the handcart pioneers. Many of the rescuers were Missionaries who had just returned from their Missions and left again, after having been home just a few weeks, to rescue the pioneers.

Today, we went over to the Willie Center to tour their Visitor's Center and to do the Woman's Pull on the National Historic Trail. The weather again was a factor. It was raining like crazy today, and so I wondered how we cope on the Woman's Pull with the roads so wet and muddy. However, we were able to pull our handcarts without too much trouble despite the conditions. One of our new sister missionaries has a glorious voice -- she sings like an angel-- and she sang "Come, Come Ye Saints" before our pull. It was a memorable and emotional experience for me as I thought of the handcart pioneers on the exact same trail I was on, pulling their handcarts in ice and snow, while starving and freezing, but having the grit, determination, faith and courage to make that perilous journey.

After having been out on the trail, the Willie Missionaries put on an outstanding program for us -- it was wonderful and funny. We heard cowboy poetry, beautiful music and a very funny comedic routine. Their version of their blue grass band played and we had so much fun singing along w/ all our favorite songs.

It's been very busy in the office -- we have a new secretary that helps out a couple of days a week. Yesterday was so hectic I came home with my stomach in knots. I had so much work piled up from having been out of the office for the CES tour and then my computer wouldn't work. I had to call Salt Lake to get it fixed and it was late afternoon before they had the problems figured out. I ended up going back to the office for the evening to get some of my work done. I will still have a huge pile tomorrow after having been gone today. Trek season starts this weekend, as we have 3 treks coming in from Canada, but it begins in earnest the weekend of June 10, 11 & 12 so the trek leaders are calling in to "tweak" their treks. But, we're also booking treks into 2011 & 2012. Busy, busy.

A new Relief Society President has been called and a new pianist for Sacrament meeting -- thank heavens ! I will be getting a new assignment, I'm sure, so I'll let you know about that next week.

I'm attaching a picture that was taken of us at Bessemer Bend.

Our love to all of you,

Sister Leavitt

1 comment:

Toni said...

Dear Brother and Sister Leavitt,

I'm a descendant of Mary Horrocks Leavitt! How delighted I was to find reference to her on your blog after a brief Google search. I've been sharing her and Elizabeth's stories with youth groups at church, youth conference treks, school (Utah History in 4th and 7th grades), and at This is the Place. They are both a great inspiration to me and at one point, while working at This is the Place, I realized I was the same age as Elizabeth and had three sons, her sons' ages, as she "sat down upon a rock with nothing but the vault of heaven to protect them from the elements." during her handcart journey.

My grandmother's oldest brother remembers Grandmother Mary, lifting her skirts to show them the scars on her legs from crossing the Sweetwater. She told them, "the river ran red with the blood of their sacrifice as the women, fierce in the gospel, lifted their skirts above their shoulders and fought through the sheets of ice to the other side."

18yo Mary crossed, only to turn and see her brother-in-law, Aaron Jackson, weak with fatigue and starvation, stumble into the water, unable to get back up. Once again, she lifted her skirts and ran to assist. She spent the next several nights in delirium due to the toll of the experience.

She cautioned her grandchildren, that despite the loss of lives and hardships, no sacrifice was too great for the light of the gospel. Even in her advanced years, she would gladly go again if it meant preserving the gospel for her family and she told them to never forget! Her spirit and testimony continue to burn bright!

She is a light and a beacon in my life and I feel so privileged and blessed to have her as a matriarch in our family. What an incredible gift she gave to us! And Nathaniel, as I'm sure you know, was amazing in his own right! He was given a blessing that as long as his children remained faithful in the gospel, they would live long, productive lives. It is a promise we have watched continue several generations later!

Thank you again for posting about Mary on your blog. I'm sorry it has been nearly two years since it was recorded and this message may seem random, but it helped rekindle my love for her. Thinking of her always seems to refuel my own testimony and ignites a renewed sense of duty and passion with my own family. Thank you, Thank you!

With warmest regard,
Toni Cook