Today we celebrate the entrance of the Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley. It’s a great day! Last year we ended our vacation to California on July 23rd and got to drive home to Utah on July 24th so we got to go to Cove Fort right on Pioneer Day. That was a real treat! So I have the pictures from that trip last year to put on today’s blog post. I am celebrating Pioneer Day and also the fact that my 11-year-old son got my cell phone that went swimming with me at the waterpark to work! So now I have two phones!
We don’t have traditions for celebrating Pioneer Day. Every year it changes. I would like to start having an established tradition of having an afternoon with my parents and sibs of eating potluck and telling pioneer stories, complete with the storytellers dressed up in pioneer duds. I suggested it for two years ago. We spent so much time eating and visiting that we never really got to the pioneer stories. Oh, well, I will keep working at it.Next week we are going to spend the week in Park City, so I am hoping we spend a day at This is the Place State Park, a state park that has replicas of pioneer buildings. I wouldn’t want to go there today, it’s probably a mob.
So to celebrate Pioneer Day quietly at home I thought I would spend some time today telling stories here on my blog. My husband’s great-great-grandfather, Charles Shumway, was in the first pioneer company, with his son, Andrew that came to Salt Lake in 1847. Andrew was one of the three children in that vanguard company. Charles was living in Galena, Illinois in 1841 with his wife Julia Ann, when he missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came to their home. They were baptized and moved to Nauvoo, where Charles was a bodyguard for the prophet Joseph Smith. One of his descendants has written a thick hardcover book about Charles called Don’t Look Back which our family did as a family read aloud over ten years ago. Now my oldest child has the book with him in his Provo apartment to read over the summer.
Here is an inspiring story about Charles on the pioneer trail. I copied this from my husband’s cousin’s wife’s blog, http://anunbrokenchain.blogspot.com/
When the Saints were forced to leave Nauvoo, Charles Shumway and his family followed. Charles worked hard to assist the saints in many ways. Often he would hunt for food and share his bounty with others.
On one occasion he received a call from Brigham Young to travel to Kansas in search of several Indian chiefs to get them to come to Council Bluffs, Iowa to meet with Brigham Young. This assignment required him to ride for more than nine days with little sleep and with very little food. When Charles returned, after having successfully completed the assignment, he was sick man.
Charles rejoined his family and traveled on to Winter Quarters. The Shumways and several other families continued west after arriving in Winter Quarters. They had camped in an area which was inhabited by Pawnee Indians and waited for the other saints to catch up with them.
Late one night in October of 1846, they were sitting by a fireplace in a cabin which they had occupied. A loud thumping knock rattled the door and a voice called, “Shumway!” Two tired men came in. They had come from Winter Quarters with a message from Brigham Young, stating, “For all companies camped at the Pawnee villages to move immediately back to Winter Quarters.”
The men said, “Reliable intelligence has been received from mountain men and from knowledgeable Indian sources that the Sioux are preparing to again attack the Pawnee tribes, striking first at the missions, the government station and the fort….There’s no time to spare. They may strike at day’s first light, tomorrow morning.”
Charles and his family quickly got the teams of oxen and all of their possessions loaded in the wagons and long before daylight, began moving away from the Indian camps. The company of pioneers traveled in fear that they would meet Indians along the trail, but they never saw any.
After they had traveled for nearly twelve miles and found their wagons on a low rise where they could see many miles to the west, they looked back to the west and above the horizon, they saw billows of smoke! The Sioux had attacked and the fort and all the rest of the buildings on both banks of the Lupe River were on fire. The entire Pawnee campsite where the Shumways had been was ablaze.
In later years, when remembering the close encounter with the warring Indian tribes, Charles would tell his family that this experience had taught them to listen to the words of the Prophet of God and follow without question.
Both my husband and I also have ancestors who were handcart pioneers. I have heard these stories of his ancestors through my mother-in-law many times. She missed her calling in life to be a professional storyteller, LOL! Anyone who knows my mother-in-law is probably grinning while reading that. She really gets into her element when she tells stories. One of the stories she has told involves Mariah Jackson Normington Parker, whose feet got so sore while walking she went to her hands and knees to crawl to Zion. Then her hands got so sore she pushed the handcart with her chin while crawling on her elbows. She eventually was so overcome with hardship, starvation, and grief that she slipped into unconsciousness. The rescue party sent by Brigham Young brought her to Utah and she eventually recovered. She married John Parker and was called by Brigham Young to start a cotton mission in souther Utah. They settled the town of Virgin Utah. I found this quote about her:
Maria gave much service to the people of her community. Her family reports that she was
never heard to censure anyone for her trials nor complain because her lot was hard. She was cheerful
and faithful throughout her life and felt that the gospel of Jesus Christ, for which she had endured so
much, was the most glorious of all blessings. Her family loved to hear her pray. She seemed to
actually see and talk with her Father in Heaven as she expressed her gratitude and asked for the
blessings they needed. She died in Virgin City, Utah, on March 19, 1881, at the age of 61.
On the other hand my parents are not natural storytellers so I did not grow up hearing the pioneer stories of my ancestors. I didn’t even know I had pioneer ancestors until I was grown! I have had to scout out the stories. One of my favorite stories is about Mica Martine Peterson, my ancestor on my dad’s side. She joined the Church in Denmark when she heard the missionaries tell the story of Joseph Smith. She believed it with all her heart. She was baptized. People heard she had joined the church and would throw rocks and eggs at her, as she walked down the street, but she paid no heed. She knew the gospel of Jesus Christ as restored by Joseph Smith was true. When she heard the call to Zion, she talked to her husband about it. He didn’t have the faith to leave their homeland so she left him and came across the ocean to America with her baby girl. Then she crossed the plains. I am amazed at her faith and courage. Many times when I face trials I think of her pluck and determination. She settled in Grantsville and then southern Utah. One of her husbands left her but she kept the faith and lived a long time, true to the gospel.
Two of my children went on a simulation of the handcart trek last week with our LDS stake. I am so pleased with them. They walked 30 miles in three days! At the stake fireside on Sunday to debrief about the trek they both bore their testimonies about the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Then there’s my husband’s other gg-father, Levi Savage. He is the star of 17 Miracles. I admire his willingness to support the handcart pioneer company he was with, even when everyone disagreed with him and decided to travel late in the season when he suggested not to. Never did he say, “I told you so!” when they faced the snow and hardships in October that came before they got to the valley. I could learn a lesson of humility from him, as I probably would have grumbled a lot about people not listening to me and rubbed people’s face in me being right as I trudged in the snow.
I could go on with more stories…like Anson Perry Winsor Sr. He is my ancestor on my mom’s side. He joined the church in New York and came west. Brigham Young called him to settle the Pipe Springs, Arizona area. The Winsor castle is still there today, as a national park, from when he lived there. He was called by Brigham Young to establish a tithing cattle ranch and protect the cattle from Indians.
On Sunday morning I felt an urge to look at Anson Perry’s family branches to see what family history research I could do. I found that his brother Samuel did not join the church and stayed in New York. He had many children, one of them was Mary Winsor, who did not have a husband identified yet. I was able to find her husband and five sons! That opened up a whole floodgate of information, as I found three more family groups connected to her on findagrave.com and there are more to come, I can tell! I am excited to get these names ready for our extended family reunion next week. Our youth will go to the temple with some of the adults and do proxy baptisms for these names.
Each one of us has a pioneer heritage. Each one of us has an ancestor who broke with tradition to do something different that hadn’t been done before, whether it was to leave for America, join the Church, or replace a bad family tradition or bad personal habit with a more wholesome one. May we continue to be pioneers in doing what is right and good and true, even when no one around us is doing it!
I would love to hear your stories of pioneers you know, maybe even yourself, who have broken with the status quo and moved forward to a better life. Please comment below.