John Hawley 1839
One cold February day, Wandle Mace and others discovered a group of people stranded on the west bank of the Mississippi River. They were exiles running for their lives. They had to get out of the state as soon as possible, but large floes of ice coming down the River made any attempt at crossing too dangerous. [They] “could not cross, and we could not reach them,” Wandle said.
The weather was bitterly cold and the company was camped in the snow. They had stuck poles in the ground and put up a sheet to shield them from the wind, but it was “poor protection.” The wind howled around the children huddled around a small fire ripping away whatever warmth it provided. They were suffering terribly.
Wandle and friends climbed the bluffs behind them and alerted the townspeople. They in turn “called a meeting for the purpose of relieving their most pressing wants. [The refugees] were out of provisions and poorly clad, and some were barefoot. The citizens responded to the call and donated liberally, the merchant’s vying (sp) with each other as to [who] could be the most liberal. They soon had the contributions together, which filled a large canoe with flour, pork, coffee, sugar, boots, shoes and clothing, everything these poor outcasts so much needed.”
“Now a question arose, who would volunteer to take this loaded canoe across the river. The ice was running and made it a very dangerous undertaking. Some time was lost in trying to find someone who would dare venture and who could handle a canoe. Finally one man, and only one, volunteered. This was John Hawley, and he could not swim.”
The canoe was towed some distance upstream and Hawley launched into the River and began to battle the ice. “Sometimes it seemed he would be swamped and all would be lost. He was calm and determined as he fought his way amid the running ice. Many a word of cheer was shouted to him and many a silent, earnest prayer ascended to heaven in his behalf. The Lord heard the prayers and strengthened him and after much hard labor he landed the canoe safely near the camp.
Wandle Mace characterized the event thus, [it] “was a perilous undertaking and no other than a brave man would have volunteered his services.”
John Hawley and Wandle Mace were two of many in Quincy, Illinois in the winter of 1839, that served and sacrificed to save a hated people called Mormons driven from their homes by the Extermination Order of Missouri Governor Lilburn W. Boggs.
Source: The Autobiography of Wandle Mace, Chapter 6