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This sketch is going to be longer than most, but Uncle Charlie Decker was a big, big man. Most folks don’t know his story,1 and I’ll try to give him the space he deserves. For details, I’ll rely heavily on Jolene Allphin’s superb collection”2 of accounts about the Willey and Martin (and other) companies of handcart pioneers and about those, like Uncle Charlie, who rescued them.

Yes, Uncle Charlie was “…the lead scout with the advance rescue party sent out by [Uncle] Brigham Young in 1856.”3 A famous exploit, to be sure, but 45 years later, when they went to write his obituary (included here; be patient), they filled nearly a whole page of the newspaper with heroic frontier tales, without even mentioning this episode. A very big man — ‘way too big to capture here. But I’ll pass along a few illustrative stories and some pictures that have survived.

Charlie came to Ohio in 1836, at the age of 12, with his parents, one brother, and four sisters, and with the largest New York State branch of the “Mormon” Church. From there, the Deckers followed the Saints to Missouri and on to Illinois, where they shared in all their people’s trials and persecutions.

1In 2012, my cousins Landes and Donald Shepard published, privately, Charlie’s definitive biography, entitled: Fast Rider on a Wild Wind: the Life and Times of Charles F. Decker. If you’d like a copy, send e-mail to
2Allphin, Jolene Spendlove, Tell My Story, Too, Sixth Edition. Tell My Story Publishing, 2007. Available from the International Society Daughters of Utah Pioneers, Excerpts by permission.
3Ibid., p. 399.
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