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His faith is greater than his pain


Lynn “Doc” Cleland, Utah, pulls his handcart, as he nears the Monsanto plant east of Grinnell, on his trek to follow the route of his great-grandmother, Sarah Goode Marshall, a participant in the first company of Mormons who walked from Iowa City to Utah in the 1850s. Cleland is reliving the event by walking from Iowa City to Utah, and hopes to develop a video about the experience for the History Channel.

He was first spotted near the intersection of U.S. Highways 63 and 6 between Brooklyn and Grinnell. In fact, you couldn’t miss him.

Walking in era clothes—reproductions of items worn during the 1850s— he was pulling a handcart similar to that used by his great-grandmother, part of the first “company” of Mormon settlers making their trek across country to Utah.

Lynn “Doc” Cleland, a Utah native, is retracing the route his ancestor, Sarah Goode Marshall, took in 1856 to Utah. He started in early June in Iowa City, where the first “company” of more than 250 people started their journey—he averages about 15 miles a day and will ultimately walk 1,400 miles.

He plans on stopping in Utah at Immigration Canyon—where the companies completed their journey.

Cleland’s primary goal is to experience the trek as authentically as his ancestors did while walking on the same route that includes the Mormon, Oregon, and California trails.

For example, he is limiting himself to about 12 ounces of flour, some sugar, and about one ounce of hardtack per week, similar to what they would have eaten.

He also sleeps in a replica 1850s canvas tent, much like those used by the companies—sleeping outside Brooklyn last week, he was introduced to Iowa rain.

Except for his walking shoes, his clothes are very similar to what they would have worn.

And he is pulling a cart constructed from the original specifications—he figured out early that his cart weighs more than the original carts, so he stopped carrying everything, putting some items in the follow vehicles.

But that might change the closer he gets to Nebraska and Wyoming as his following vehicles will have to leave for a period. He will be able to walk the actual trail in Wyoming—he will turn 60 somewhere on the Wyoming plains, he said.

His route in Iowa basically follows Highway 6 and he currently has two follow vehicles following him. “The trail they took is fairly close to this highway,” he said while walking between Monsanto and Grinnell. He planned on walking the actual trail which is near the gravel road that goes to Krumm preserve, where there is a monument and grave of Job Welling Jr., who died on the trail on June 17, 1856, and was buried the following day—he wasn’t quite 2-years-old.

“The child who died was in the same company my ancestor was in,” he said, explaining how letters and diaries kept by his ancestor, Sarah Goode Marshall, who was born in 1821 and died in 1904, detailed the journey.

Following in his ancestors steps is just one of the reasons he is doing this. “I’m trying to gather national attention,” he said. “Nearly 90 percent say

we believe in God, but we don’t seem to have that much tolerance for other religions.

“I’m trying to find a lot of different people of all faiths to walk with me along the trail,” he said.

And when he isn’t walking on historical trails, he is a video producer.

“I am shooting and narrating as I walk for a video,” Cleland said. “Hopefully it will be a pilot for the History Channel.”

According to Cleland, he hopes to produce similar episodes traveling historical trails such as the Santa Fe and Oregon trails using era specific items and with well known guests such as Dan Haggerty, star of the movie “Grizzly Adams.”

But his primary reason is to honor his ancestor, Sarah Goode Marshall. “I’m doing it as they did in 1856,” he said. “I don’t think it have ever been done that way in its entirety.”

According to Cleland, about 13 people of the first company died on the trek. Overall, more than 250 died in the first year. You can follow his trek at


UPDATED June 16, 2009 1:08 PM

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