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'Second Rescue' of the 1856 handcart pioneers

Foundation award recognizes role in history preservation

Martin’s Cove. Rock Creek. Rocky Ridge. Sweetwater River. These sites hold special places in Church history, especially when speaking of the James G. Willie and the Edward Martin handcart companies that, in October 1856, were caught by winter storms on the plains of Wyoming. Members of these handcart companies, en route to Utah, became the subject of rescue efforts by Church members who left Salt Lake City for Wyoming with wagons and relief supplies at the behest of President Brigham Young.

In 1991, Robert Scott Lorimer, then president of the Riverton Wyoming Stake, felt inspired to lead his stake to accomplish what today is referred to as the “Second Rescue.” With the approval of the First Presidency the Second Rescue was to complete the temple work for these 1856 pioneers and their rescuers.

President Lorimer also negotiated the Church’s purchase of property in Wyoming at Rock Creek and the Sun Ranch, adjacent to Martin’s Cove. For his efforts, President Lorimer was honored by the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation with its Junius F. Wells Award at a dinner held in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building on Nov. 14.

Previous award recipients include President Gordon B. Hinckley (2005), Elder M. Russell Ballard (2007) and, most recently, Elder Marlin K. Jensen in 2012. The award honors individuals who have given extraordinary service in the preservation of Mormon history.

Pres. Robert Scott Lorimer, recipient of the 2013 Junius F. Wells Award from the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation.
Pres. Robert Scott Lorimer, recipient of the 2013 Junius F. Wells Award from the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation. Photo: Photo by Kenneth Mays

Glenn Rawson, a noted filmmaker, writer and television producer, served as master of ceremonies at the event. The award was presented to President Lorimer by Richard N. W. Lambert, the foundation’s vice chairman. President Lorimer’s wife, Desiree Lorimer, and their seven children and spouses were also in attendance. Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, also attended along with several current and emeritus members of the Seventy.

In a video presentation detailing events of the Riverton stake members’ efforts, President Lorimer related inspiration he received when he unexpectedly announced “the Willie project” at the end of a stake conference in 1988. Following that announcement, Kim W. McKinnon, then second counselor in the stake presidency, felt the need for the stake to acquire computer equipment — not understanding then a purpose for the equipment.

Pres. Robert Scott Lorimer, right, former president of the Riverton Wyoming Stake, is presented the 2013 Junius F. Wells Award by Richard Lambert of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation.
Pres. Robert Scott Lorimer, right, former president of the Riverton Wyoming Stake, is presented the 2013 Junius F. Wells Award by Richard Lambert of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation. Photo: Photo by Kenneth Mays
From left, Elder Neil L. Andersen, Sister Kathy Andersen, Sister Desiree Lorimer, Robert Scott Lorimer.  Junius F. Wells award dinner, Nov. 14, 2013, Joseph Smith Memorial Building, the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation.
From left, Elder Neil L. Andersen, Sister Kathy Andersen, Sister Desiree Lorimer, Robert Scott Lorimer. Junius F. Wells award dinner, Nov. 14, 2013, Joseph Smith Memorial Building, the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation. Photo: Photo by Kenneth Mays

During a subsequent visit to a small branch within the stake, President McKinnon reviewed with President Lorimer the need for the equipment and, in a moment of inspiration, President Lorimer said, “I know why. It is the Willie people. … Their temple work is not done.” Upon their return to Riverton, they checked some of the names from the these handcart companies and confirmed that the temple work had not been done.

Martin's Cove area as seen from the Veil Crossing Bridge over the Sweetwater River.
Martin's Cove area as seen from the Veil Crossing Bridge over the Sweetwater River. Photo: Photo by Jerry Wellman
Area around the Martin's Cove Visitors' Center (Wyoming) is a popular historic site.
Area around the Martin's Cove Visitors' Center (Wyoming) is a popular historic site. Photo: Photo by Jerry Wellman

As detailed in the video, the stake was energized by President Lorimer to complete the temple work beginning with a special stake meeting on July 21, 1991. John L. Kitchen, then first counselor in the stake presidency, described the excitement felt in the stake as more than 4,000 temple ordinances were completed for members of the Willie and Martin handcart companies.

Monument at the Veil Crossing Bridge noting the Second Rescue.
Monument at the Veil Crossing Bridge noting the Second Rescue. Photo: Photo by Jerry Wellman

In 1992 President Lorimer was instrumental in the Church purchase of property at Rock Creek and in 1995-96, the purchase of the Sun Ranch, adjacent to Martin’s Cove, where the Martin’s Cove Visitors’ Center is now located. Members of the stake also assisted with development and construction of bridges, trails, handcarts and improvements at both locations. One such structure the stake built is located near Martin’s Cove. Constructed at the request of President Hinckley, the bridge over the Sweetwater River is known today as the Veil Crossing Bridge.

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Rock Creek Hollow.
Rock Creek Hollow. Photo: Photo by Jerry Wellman
Rock Creek Hollow.
Rock Creek Hollow. Photo: Photo by Jerry Wellman
Remember Monument in Rock Creek Hollow (Wyoming) honors the members of the Riverton Wyoming Stake and the "Second Rescue" -- the temple work done for members of the Willie and Martin Handcart Company.
Remember Monument in Rock Creek Hollow (Wyoming) honors the members of the Riverton Wyoming Stake and the "Second Rescue" -- the temple work done for members of the Willie and Martin Handcart Company. Photo: Photo by Jerry Wellman
Rocky Ridge
Rocky Ridge Photo: Photo by Jerry Wellman
Martin's Cove Visitors' Center (Wyoming)
Martin's Cove Visitors' Center (Wyoming) Photo: Photo by Jerry Wellman
Martin's Cove area
Martin's Cove area Photo: Photo by Jerry Wellman

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