Stephen Wells Taylor, age 21, was among the first group of rescuers to answer Brigham Young’s first public call to bring the late 1856 immigrants in to the Salt Lake Valley. On October 14, after traveling and searching for one week and still not meeting them, Captain Grant of this first rescue party sent Stephen Taylor, Joseph A. Young, Cyrus Wheelock and Abel Garr ahead as an express team. They were to find the Willie and Martin Handcart Companies and the Hodgett and Hunt Wagon Companies, give them encouragement, and let them know that help was on the way.
When they finally found the Willie Company on the 19th of October, sub-captain William Woodward recorded: “[They] brought us the cheering intelligence that assistance was near at hand; that several wagons loaded with flour, onions, and clothing, including bedding, [were] within a day’s drive of us.” John Chislett, another sub-captain in the Willie Company wrote: “More welcome messengers never came from the courts of glory than these . . . young men were to us.”
Stephen W. Taylor and Joseph A. Young were remembered by George Cunningham of the Willie Company as “wearing blue soldier’s overcoats.” George had seen them coming in a dream the previous night and had encouraged the beleaguered members of his company by sharing the dream with them. He later wrote, “At [the] approach [of these rescuers] I roared out, ‘See! See them coming over that hill!’ They told me I was a true dreamer, and we all felt that we should thank God.”
The express team continued riding and nine days later the Martin, Hodgett and Hunt Companies were located near the last crossing of the N. Platte River where the immigrants had been stranded for over a week. These combined companies of about 1,000 people were brought to camp at Devil’s Gate where their crowded condition was met with deep snow and a frigid drop in temperature. It was determined to send a majority of the people about two miles off the trail and into a nearby cove where firewood was more plentiful and where they could find more shelter from the storms. It was necessary to cross the Sweetwater River to get there.
Many were the heroics of that terrible day in assisting the immigrants across the river and into what is now called Martin’s Cove. Of these heroes, John Jacques of the Martin Handcart Company identifies four rescue boys: David P. Kimball, George W. Grant, C. Allen Huntington and Stephen W. Taylor. Patience Loader of the Martin Company wrote: “Those poor brethren [were] in the water nearly all day. We wanted to thank them, but they would not listen to [us].”
At six years of age, Stephen had emigrated from England with his family to Nauvoo, Illinois, where he became orphaned a few years later. When the Saints were driven from Nauvoo, Squire Daniel H. Wells became a chief benefactor of the young lad. Stephen wrote: ” . . . we have been together ever since. Thank God, for a better man never lived.” Stephen later added Wells as his middle name out of honor and respect for this man.
Stephen W. Taylor summarized his own life by writing: “I was a mining prospector and a rancher, raising and selling cattle and horses. Brigham Young, Governor of the Territory of Utah, commissioned me color bearer general with the rank of Captain of Calvary of the Nauvoo Legion and of the militia of the Territory of Utah, to take office April 11, 1857. I served the people of Utah as sheriff of the territory, being elected August 3, 1874. I was also an Indian scout, often riding horseback to meet the incoming emigrants, giving them food and help. I served the Church as Deacon, Teacher, Priest, Elder, Seventy and High Priest.”
Malachi 3:1: Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts