In about 1842, William and Hannah and their eligible children were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, hereafter abbreviated to CofJC. I do not know what reception they received; it was probably persecution. In any case they pulled up stakes in 1856 and boarded the ship Horizon. On board, George was fascinated by a cook who could make pancakes.

On arrival in the US, they made their way to Iowa and joined the Martin Handcart company. This story is familiar: the handcarts were not ready and those that were ready were made of green wood. But William and Hannah set out anyway.

Somewhere in Iowa, George and his older brother Aaron went swimming in a mosquito-infested pool. Afterwards George got sick; almost certainly he had malaria.

At Fort Laramie, Aaron joined the US Army with the idea that the money he earned would help his family.

As the company moved on, they ran out of food. William had picked up a pair of George’s pants; he put his hand in the pocket and pulled out a piece of rawhide that George had chewed on for sustenance. With tears, he said to George, “Has it come to this!?”

As the company moved through eastern Wyoming in October of1856, George lagged behind the group. It may be that he felt that they would be better off without him, or it may simply be that he was too tired to keep up. We don’t know. He would have died right there except that off to the side he saw a Sioux camp. He walked over and found a Sioux mother who was cooking buffalo stew. He motioned that he was hungry and she gave him a plate of stew, which he wolfed down. She gave him another and it likewise vanished. At that he collapsed on some buffalo robes and went to sleep.

In the meantime, William realized George was. missing and came looking for him. He found the Sioux camp and wanted to take George back. But the woman’s husband, Jeff Baker, who spoke English, said, “You can’t take him! He’s too sick to travel. Why not leave him with us?”

So William did. He went back to the company and told Hannah. The family went on, through the rigors of Martin’s Cove, and made it to Utah. Amazingly, none of the family died, although a daughter died later from the weakness of the travel. They settled in Springville.

George became part of the Sioux family. There wasn’t much to do, but he did spend time talking with Jeff Baker. The Sioux mother made him a little buffalo skin suit, and he became friends with the boy in the family. Eventually they learned to understand each other.

In spring of1857, George and his ISioux brother climbed a neighboring hill and saw the US flag flying over Fort Laramie. It was a US Army post. George realized that he could see his brother Aaron, ran down, and found him. What a joyous reunion!

The army was Johnston’s Army, on its way to Utah to deal with the Mormons. (Note: One account indicates that George spent more than a year with the Sioux. This is certainly wrong, since Johnston’s Army came through Wyoming in 1857. It also states that George got a job helping a family near Fort Laramie; this also is likely wrong.) In the army George was offered a job as a cook and he decided to accept and go on to Utah. So he bade his Sioux mother and brother and family a tearful goodbye and joined the army.

George earned money in the Army. He wisely asked a trusted officer to keep it for him so he wouldn’t be tempted to gamble it away, or so the men couldn’t take it from him.

Some time later, as the army moved through Wyoming, George saw an Indian camp off to the side. He went over and found that it was the tribe he had lived with. They were starving. He went back to the quartermaster and begged some food. The quartermaster said that they were on short rations and couldn’t spare any. But George broke down and cried and the quartermaster relented and gave George some flour, bacon, beans, and sugar to take back to the Indians. George took it back and they were grateful. That was the last George ever saw of them.

The army went on and settled in Camp Floyd, west of the mountains west of Utah Lake. (The year was 1858.) George’s father William heard they were there and walked the 40 miles to see him and Aaron. George asked for the money he had earned—$85—and gave it to his father. The army officer told William, “You can be proud of your son. Not many boys would work as hard as he did, and he was careful with his money.” William bought a horse and wagon—or a pair of oxen in some accounts—and returned to Springville. It is not clear whether Aaron stayed with the army or went with William.

George stayed with the army until 1861, when it was recalled to participate in the Civil War. He was discharged from the army and went to Springville, where he rejoined his family. In 1865 he married a cultured lady, Rosella Damon White. He learned of the need for cooks at the Fish Springs stagecoach station, so moved there for some years. After railroad routes were established in 1869, the stagecoach routes were discontinued and George returned to Springville.

In Springville he bought a piece of property in the middle of Main Street and built a café. In about 1880, he built a hotel on the east side of Main Street between 200 and 300 South. It was known as the Harrison Hotel. The hotel was a three-story building with a kitchen, dining room, and commons area on the main floor; eight (as I recall) accommodations on the second floor; and a few rooms for living quarters on the third floor. There was a barn in back. Coal stoves kept it warm in winter. The thick adobe-brick walls helped keep it cool in summer. I was born in 1934 and remember a few things about the hotel (it came down in 1940), like the rooms I just mentioned and the barn in back.

Breakfasts at the Harrison Hotel included fruit, bacon, ham, eggs, potatoes and so forth. Dinners—at the price of a dollar—consisted of beefsteak, black bass, or roast leg of pork, plus soup, coleslaw, and coffee. Dessert was delicious fruit pie plus cookies from a jar so guests could help themselves. And what beefsteaks they were! They were cut from carefully aged beef and weighed 14 to 16 ounces. Because of these wonderful beefsteaks George became known as Beefsteak Harrison! The hotel became known nationwide. CofJC general authorities came down to have a meal at Beefsteak’s, as did Utah governors. In the 20th century guests at BYU—like famed musicians Sergei Rachmaninoff, Fritz Kreisler, and Mischa Ellman—came to visit.

George was the perfect host. He would entertain his guests with stories of pioneers and Native Americans. He was a pillar of the community. Whenever he heard of someone who was sick, he would quietly send them a bucket of soup. Someone said that he had given away enough soup to float him to Heaven. (His son Winfred, my grandfather, who took over the hotel when George died, continued the practice.) No hungry persons—especially if they were Native Americans—were ever turned away from the hotel without food.

George had a lovely singing voice and with Joseph Tuckett, Dave and Walter Wheeler, formed a quartet which performed all over Springville, usually accompanied by George’s wife Rosella, who brought the first melodeonn organ into the valley. They played cribbage by the hour. When George died in 1921, the three remaining members of the quartet attempted to sing at the funeral—but, grief-stricken, they could not. (Incidentally, Walter Wheeler was the great-grandfather of Kaye Nelson, a member of my CofJC ward.)

As I noted above, the hotel came down in 1940. Running a hotel was hard work, as my grandmother Martha (Winfred’s wife) told us. There was cleaning, cooking, making soap—a host of things. For this and other reasons, she encouraged my father and his brother Keith to choose another profession. Sothey did:both became teachers of botany.

George’s story has been told in many places. had a book named Tell My Story, Too, by Jolene Spendlove, about the history of the Martin and other handcart companies of 1856. George’s story is in that book. I made several copies—I don’t have any left, unfortunately—and gave them out on occasion. Once I went to the East Bay Post Office in South Provo. The woman who waited on me was named Mary Walking Eagle. I asked her what tribe she was from, and she replied Sioux. I told her, “Then I have a story for you,” and I told her George’s story.

Later I took her a copy of that account. When I saw her again, she said that was their favorite story for family home evening.

The Harrison Hotel is now just a memory. But what a memory!

1. George, the Handcart Boy, by Howard R. Driggs. Aladdin Books, New York, 1952. 80 pages.
2. The History of the Harrison Hotel, by Bertrand F. Harrison, July 1984. There are only a few copies of this. Bertrand, my father, made copies just for the family.

Full Citation for this Article: Harrison, B. Kent (2022) "The Story of Beefsteak Harrison, Baptized 1842," SquareTwo, Vol. 15 No. 2 (Summer 2022),, accessed <give access date>.

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