As evening descended, James Willie and Joseph Elder reached a creek and saw a signboard that pointed to the rescuers’ camp, which was off the trail. Rescuer Harvey Cluff had placed the sign just a short time earlier, making a heroic effort that was providential in its timing. “The signboard had done the work of salvation,” he later wrote. “Had Captain Willie and his fellow traveler…continued on the road, they certainly would have perished.”
Not knowing how utterly destitute the Willie company was, and that they were just a day’s journey away, the rescuers had stopped at this camp the previous day to seek protection from the storm. Early the next morning they hitched up their wagons, and James Willie and Joseph Elder let them to the Willie camp, retracing the same grueling miles over Rocky Ridge that they had traveled the previous day. “The depth of the snow made traveling extremely difficult,” Harvey Cluff said.