James Kirkwood from Scotland emigrated with the Willie Handcart Company at the age of 11. He came with his widowed mother Margaret age 47, Robert age 22, handicapped Brother Thomas 19, younger brother Joseph 4. “Eleven year-old James Kirkwood was responsible for getting his four-year-old brother Joseph to Rock Creek that night, carrying the boy on his back as he slogged through the snow on frozen feet. His widowed mother could not help, for she, with is brother Robert, were pulling their crippled, nineteen-year-old brother Thomas and their meager belongings on a cart that barely budged. Faithful to his charge and dutiful to the end, James staggered into camp with his precious load, put Joseph down by the fire, and then died of exposure and overexertion.” (Source – The Gathering, Maurine Jensen Proctor & Scot Facer Proctor pg. 187-188)
“James and his family came from Scotland. They had to save for along time to be able to come to America. His father died after they got there, but his mother was determined to go on to the Salt Lake Valley to be with the Saints. James had three brothers. Thomas, who was 19, was crippled and had to ride in the handcart. Robert was 21 and helped their mother pull the cart. James was responsible for his younger brother, Josesph, who was four years old. On October 20, the Willie Company was camping by the Sweetwater River, not far from the base of Rocky Ridge. They had hardly had anything to eat for several days. Everyone was very weak. Ahead of them lay a long, steep climb in the snow. It was very cold. The wind was blowing the snow in their faces and through their clothes. It was hard to see where they were going. They hiked all day and all night.
Young Joseph’s shoes had worn out and his feet were numb. He fell down and started to cry. James tried to encourage him and tried to get him to climb some more, but Joseph couldn’t take another step. James picked him up and began to climb the ridge. James had to move very slowly, carrying Joseph first over his shoulders, then in his arms, then over his shoulders again. They fell behind the main group, but James never gave up. Sometimes, Joseph would start to slip because James’ fingers were frozen and he couldn’t hold on very well. But he would just set Joseph down and then pick him up again.
After more than 27 hours, they finally saw a fire burning up ahead. They had made it to camp! James had been quite for a long time and Joseph couldn’t get him to talk. James dragged his little brother to the camp and set him down gently. James then collapsed, never to get up again. He never said anything. Having given all he could, he just laid down and died. It was written of James by an unknown author, “Having so faithfully carried out his task, he collapsed and died from exposure and over-exertion.” (Source – Tell My Story Too, Jolene Allphin James Kirkwood Willie Company)