Hundreds of recently-baptized European emigrants boarded the ship Horizon in Liverpool in 1856 and “the captain ordered to weigh anchor. All hands were alert and the order obeyed. Soon the rattling of the huge anchor chains were heard and the beautiful Horizon floated away from its mooring place. The Saints were mostly on deck and above the voices of the sailors the familiar sound of, ‘My Native Land Farewell’ was heard.” In his account of the sailing of the Horizon, one of the emigrants noted that Elder Cyrus Wheelock wrote the hymn “My Native Land Farewell” which is better known as “The Gallant Ship is Under Way.”
Cyrus Hubbard Wheelock, a native New Yorker, had finished his mission so he sailed for home with the emigrants.
After helping the pioneers get organized at Florence, Nebraska, Cyrus and about a dozen others traveled to Utah in an advance party. The men arrived in Salt Lake City on October 4 and immediately notified Brigham Young that the companies of emigrants were still on the plains and were in desperate need of help. Winter had come early that year. Brigham Young stood up in General Conference and organized a massive relief effort to aid the Martin and Willie Handcart Companies and the wagon trains stranded on the plains.
Cyrus H. Wheelock turned right around and set back across the plains to rescue his beloved British converts.
The story of the 1856 handcart pioneers is too long and too tragic to tell here, but Wheelock was among the first to reach the Willie Handcart Company and was one of a heroic handful of men who helped the Martin Handcart Company cross the Sweetwater River.
While researching the details of the story, which turns out to be a little more complicated than what I related here, particularly regarding the authorship of “My Native Land, Farewell,” I found, to my surprise, that little has been written about Cyrus H. Wheelock, a man who played an important role in early Church history. So, it’s going to be Cyrus Hubbard Wheelock Week at Keepapitchinin. (Thanks, Ardis!) Along with these posts we’ll get to read some poetry by Hannah Last Cornaby, a member of Cyrus’s 1853 pioneer company.
Wednesday: “Ye Elders of Israel”
Thursday: The Many Marriages of Cyrus Wheelock