Question: What special service did C. Allen Huntington give to the Saints in the Martin Handcart Company?
Answer: Clark Allen Huntington “Al” was born 6 December 1831, in Watertown, New York, the son of Dimick Baker Huntington and Fannie Marie Allen. When Hyrum Smith visited them and taught them the Gospel, his family joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, when he was still very young. He was baptized into the church in May 1841.
Most of his young life was spent in traveling and in hardships. In 1835 his family left their home and traveled by water to Kirtland, Ohio. They stayed in Kirtland about a year, then moved to Far West, Missouri, traveling about 1,000 miles by wagon. They lived in Missouri for a short period of time, then moved to Nauvoo, Illinois.
Dimick, Clark Allen’s father, helped in the construction of both the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples. He was constable of the settlements of Far West and Nauvoo. He was coroner of Nauvoo, and after Joseph Smith was murdered he helped prepare the body for burial. Clark Allen, at times, went with his father to assist him in his duties. When the “Mormons” were forced to leave Illinois, Al’s father, Dimick, joined the Mormon Battalion, taking his wife and children with him. Dimick B. Huntington was one of the few in
the battalion that took his family with him. At this time, Al was about 16 years old. The Huntingtons were detached from the main company and sent to Pueblo, Colorado. From here they made their way to Salt Lake City, arriving a few days after the first settlers arrived in July 1847.
In 1855 Al was called on the Elk Mountains Mission, a settlement mission to present-day Moab, near the La Sal Mountains. The mission failed due to Indian problems and there were no permanent Mormon settlers there until the late 1870’s. Al helped bring companies of immigrants across the prairie before the Union Pacific Railroad was built. Here is what happened on one of these trips.
“My name is C. Allen Huntington. When I was eighteen years old, President Brigham Young received word that the Martin Handcart Company was in terrible trouble. They were trying to cross the plains in ice and snow, and they did not have enough food or clothes. President Young immediately organized several groups of men in the Salt Lake Valley to go east at different times. They were to take supplies to the company and help them safely into the valley. I was in one of the groups sent to help my fellow Saints. Two of my friends, George W. Grant and David P. Kimball went with me as we joined the other brethren and headed for Wyoming. We finally met the handcart company when they reached the Sweetwater River on November 3, 1856. The people of the Martin Company were all very weak, and they had little strength to move. Large chunks of ice were floating on the river, and it seemed impossible to help these people across the river. It looked like sure death to step into the freezing stream. I saw men who had once been strong sit on the frozen ground and weep with their wives and children.
“George, David and I knew that the Lord wanted these Saints to get across this river. We plunged into the icy water, and we carried nearly every one of the members of this company across the frozen, ice-clogged stream. We know we were doing the work of the Lord, and the Lord gave us the strength to complete this task.
“When President Brigham Young heard of what we had done, he wept. He later said in public, ‘That act alone will ensure C. Allen Huntington, George W. Grant, and David P. Kimball an everlasting salvation in the Celestial Kingdom of God, worlds without end.’
“In later years, all three of us died from the effects of helping the Martin Company, but we all knew that we had a place with the Lord in the celestial kingdom. I am thankful that I could give my life in the service of the Lord. Your friend, C. Allen Huntington”
Clark Allen was a Pony Express Rider and for a short time, he was a body guard for Brigham Young. He was also a stock man in Utah. He was one of the first white men to master the Indian language in Utah. His father, Dimick, who served as an Indian interpreter for the LDS church, taught Clark Allen the language. Clark Allen was adopted into the Indian tribe and was made honorary chief. He traveled extensively in Southern Utah and Arizona. He lived in Lee’s Ferry and later Kanab, Utah, at the end of his life. He served for many years as an Indian interpreter for Brigham Young.
“On June 8, 1865 a treaty was signed called the ‘TREATY WITH THE UTAH, YAMPAH UTE, PAH-VANT, SANPETE UTE, TIM-P-NOGS AND CUM-NM-BAH BANDS OF THE UTAH INDIANS.’ Clark Allen Huntington along with his father, Dimick B. Huntington, served as interpreters, and were signers of the document.” (Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, Vol. 5)
His son, Alexander Wiley, was with his father much of the time during the last three years of his father’s life. He said that Clark Allen contracted a cough when he had helped the people at the Sweetwater and that it stayed with him all the rest of his life, eventually causing his death.
Clark Allen Huntington passed away November 16, 1896 at the home of Warren Johnson and was interred in the Kanab City Cemetery in Kanab, Utah.
Improvement Era, February 1914, p 288; “Clark Allen Huntington - Life Story”, FamilySearch.org; Huntingtonfamily.org; findagrave.com
Additional Family Information
The following is the conversion story of Clark Allen Huntington’s Grandparents, William Huntington Jr. and Zina Baker Huntington and how the family learned about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“It was a cold night in the latter part of November, and in the home of William Huntington. The family gathered around the big fire place in the spacious kitchen. After the evening meal, when all the evening work was done, it was the habit of this family to get their instruments of music and sit around the blazing logs and play the old fashioned tunes and hymns, also tunes of more cheerful air, although they did not dance. Grandfather Huntington played the bass viol, his daughter Zina the cello, William, the cornet, and Dimick, the drum. There were five sons and two daughters, the oldest daughter, Presenda, being married, lived some distance from them. It was a happy New England family and they lived the clean, pure life of the Puritan stock. After the music ceased, a hush fell on the group and a knock was heard on the door and as it opened a strange old gentleman of medium weight, dressed in old fashioned clothes and carrying a bundle on his arm appeared and stepped into the room and said: ‘I usually bend my steps to some sequestered vale. May I find lodging here tonight?’
“With cordial welcome he was invited in and given a place by the fire, in an old easy farm chair, and mother Huntington asked if he would like some supper and modestly he said he would. Then a good New England meal was spread before him, with milk, honey, maple syrup, cold meat, delicious home-made bread and butter. He partook of a light supper while the family spoke in soft tones. It was the custom to read a portion of the scriptures before going to bed. He again joined the circle, and father Huntington began to read from the Holy Bible, a portion of the New Testament, to which they all listened attentively. Grandmother Huntington made some comment on the fact that they would like to hear the Gospel in its fullness as explained and taught by the Saviour. The stranger immediately took up the subject and began explaining the scriptures and quoting the sayings of the Saviour in what seemed to them a new light and greater beauty than they had ever thought of before.
“They sat in rapt attention listening to every word. Both father and mother Huntington agreed with his explanations while the boys exchanged glances of admiration and the daughter, Zina was spellbound and sat and gazed upon the stranger with admiration and reverence. After one hour spent in conversation upon this sacred subject, father Huntington had prayers, mother Huntington prepared a comfortable resting place for the stranger and he bid them good night, the boys going upstairs, father and mother Huntington to their bedroom which led from the kitchen, and Zina in her little bed heard her parents talking in low tones about the wonderful stranger and discussing the things he said. The stranger had filled them with awe and reverence, such as they had never felt before. In the morning everyone was astir bright and early as is usual on a farm when so much work has to be done, both outside and in.
“The stranger sat placidly watching the remarkable family with whom he took breakfast. The family invited him to stay but he said he had other places to visit and he left them standing in a group as he closed the door softly. When father Huntington saw the stranger depart, he sent Dimick after him to tell him to come again. He immediately opened the door and they all looked out to see and call the stranger back but he was nowhere to be seen. When looking on the door step where the snow had fallen the night before, no trace of a footstep could be seen and the boys running from all directions said that he had vanished and could not be found. Father Huntington remarked that he was the strangest person that ever was and he could not understand where he went, but he had shown them the Gospel in a new light.
“Mother Huntington felt that this stranger was some messenger from heaven and all the family were deeply impressed with his wonderful influence and beautiful way of explaining the scriptures.
“When the Gospel to life and salvation was brought to them by Hyrum Smith and other Elders, they seemed to coincide with what the stranger had told them concerning the Bible and the restoration of the Gospel. All the family but one accepted the Gospel and prepared to emigrate in a few years to Kirtland; here they met the Prophet of God, Joseph Smith, and became his faithful and loyal followers and friends.
“On an occasion when the Prophet Joseph was speaking of the three Nephites, Brother Huntington related this little incident to him. He laid his hand on his head and said: ‘My dear brother, that man was one of the three Nephites who came to prepare you for the restoration of the Gospel and its acceptance’.” (“The Prophet Joseph Identifies The Stranger,” Assorted Gems of Priceless Value, by Nels Benjamin Lundwall)