Sweetwater Rescue: The Willie and Martin Handcart Story

by Lee Groberg, Heidi S. Swinton

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Product Description

It was a journey to a new promised land in the American West. One hundred and fifty years ago, thousands of immigrants found themselves walking thirteen hundred miles from Iowa to Salt Lake City. Carting their meager possessions in hastily built two-wheeled wagons that looked much like shallow oversized wheelbarrows, the travelers pulled and pushed their handcarts — what became a symbol of the early Mormon pioneers' dedication to God.

The handcart pioneers began the trek in high spirits, even though it meant fourteen or fifteen weeks of walking-regardless of age or health. But for the ill-fated Willie and Martin handcart companies, a late start would cause the pilgrimage to take weeks longer and the human costs would prove to be higher than could ever have been expected. Early harsh winter weather, hunger, fatigue, and illness dictated that many would not live through the journey. The survivors could only pray for a miracle.

And that miracle came — men with that same faith in the Almighty, who risked their lives to save almost 1,000 converts and bring them to Zion. Traveling with provisions hundreds of miles through freezing temperatures and fierce snowstorms, the rescuers' effort called for more than girt and tenacity; it demanded experience, sacrifice, compassion, faith, and ingenuity.

Dramatic and powerful with nearly seventy newly created paintings, Sweetwater Rescue is real-life history presented in absorbing prose and images. It is the saga of the rescued and their rescuers, the story of people who earned the title "Saints."

Published: September 2006

Pages: 144

Feature Film - 1 hour

Bonus Features - 90 mins.

  • Unusual Snowstorms of 1856

    Handcart Travel

  • Good Charles Good

  • Art of the Trail: 75 New Paintings and the Artists

  • Handcart Travel-Success or Failure?

  • The Emigrants-Where Did They Come From?

  • Sweetwater Crossing

  • Women on the Trail

  • Thomas Tennant and the Perpetual Emigrating Fund

  • Mary Gobel, as told by President Gordon B. Hinckley and Virginia Pearce

  • Epilogue

  • The Making of Sweetwater Rescue: The Willie and Martin Handcart Story

  • Come, Come Ye Saints: A Musical Tribute by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Feature film and bonus features Closed Captioned.

About the Authors

Lee Groberg

Lee Groberg has produced and directed a number of documentary films over the past twenty-five years, including American Gunmaker, Treasure House, Trail of Hope, American Prophet, Sacred Stone, America’s Choir, Sweetwater Rescue, Fires of Faith, and First Freedom, all produced for public television. Narrators for his films have included Gregory Peck, Hal Holbrook, Fess Parker, Walter Cronkite, Geoffrey Palmer, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Ed Ames.

First Freedom is one of the more rewarding film projects he has worked on. This companion book reflects many of the images from the film and includes comments from the academic scholars featured in the film.

Regarding his work on the film, Lee remarked, “It has been my pleasure to work on a story that has spiritual implications in all of our lives. These founding fathers did not share a single faith, but I feel that they were directed by a divine force that helped them establish a country where all could worship in freedom—or even feel free to not worship at all. That is the beauty of our guaranteed right of religious liberty.

“I thank my wife, Jeanine, for her unflagging support and devotion as together, we tackle these very meaningful film and book projects.”

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Heidi S. Swinton

Heidi S. Swinton is an award-winning author and screenwriter whose works include the PBS documentaries American Prophet; Sacred Stone; Sweetwater Rescue; Trail of Hope; and America’s Choir. She has served on the Relief Society general board and as a member of Church writing committees. She is the author of President Thomas S. Monson’s biography, To the Rescue. She served with her husband, Jeffrey C. Swinton, as he presided over the England London South Mission (2006–2009); they are the parents of five sons, four living, and have four daughters-in-law and six grandchildren.

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Average rating:

(based upon 3 reviews)

So Humbling
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

I am so happy to see that there is a movie. I had the book, however, I lent it to a friend and he would not return it. It has been a topic of conversation every time someone comes over as it sat on my table and seemed to draw people to it.
I am going to get the DVD, but if anyone has access to another copy of the book I would be so grateful to purchase a new one. Thank you very much.

Well Done
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

A job well done in documenting this history.

By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

We went to Martins Cove for youth conference and I brought this book. It was very inspiring and to read it while we were at Martins Cove. It has great pictures and great stories.

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