In early October of 1856, Ephraim K. Hanks received a message from heaven. After a fishing trip to Utah Lake, he spent the night in Draper at the home of Gurney Brown. Soon after retiring to bed, but while still awake, a voice called him by name and said, "The handcart people are in trouble and you are wanted. Will you go and help them?" He answered, "Yes I will go."
Hastening to Salt Lake City the next day, he was seen on his way over the east mountains with a wagon and supplies. Many other men were also called by Brigham Young to join in this rescue attempt. Many wagons "loaded to the bows" with food, blankets and clothes traveled several hundred miles east through severe storms and deep snow. Many eventually turned back, believing it to be an impossible mission.
Ephraim was among those who chose to push on, trusting that if God calls, he will provide a way to those with faith. Near South Pass, Wyoming, he encountered a freezing blizzard. He and Reddick Allred waited out the storm for three days. The wagons were snowbound. Ephraim left Reddick to watch after the teams and wagons, while he saddled up and leading a pack horse continued forward, encountering snow three to four feet deep in places.
One night he prayed for a buffalo, needing the meat and warm hide. Looking up from his prayer, he saw a buffalo bull fifty yards away, and downed it with one well placed shot from his rifle. God was near to his faithful servant.
Ephraim cut the meat into long strips and loaded the horses with it. When he finally discovered the Martin handcart company, not far from Devil's Gate. The meat provided nourishment to the starved and freezing immigrants. Ephraim provided hope and help, promising them that wagons loaded with supplies were near at hand. He blessed them, anointing them with oil in the name of Jesus Christ. Many were healed instantly. With his hunting knife he amputated many toes, fingers, even hands, feet, and legs to save them from gangrene. They looked on him as an angel of mercy.
Along with the other rescuers, Ephraim K. Hanks brought the survivors into Salt Lake, arriving the last day of November. More than 600 of these people owed their lives to these courageous men. The names of these men, including Ephraim Knowlton Hanks are still spoken of with reverence and deep respect.