Today is Pioneer Day in Utah and some communities in surrounding states. It is, of course, the day in 1847 when the Mormon pioneers entered the valley of the Great Salt Lake, and Brigham Young, their leader, declared, “This is the right place, drive on.”
That story has been told in music, song, and written words for 172 years. There are also many histories of those who later migrated and settled other valleys in all parts of what is now Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, and colonies in other areas of Western USA — down into Mexico and up into Canada.
Brigham Young is known far and wide as one of America’s great colonizers. To millions across the world, he is also revered for his long service as a president and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (I am aware that current church leaders have asked that the name “Mormon” not be used when referring to the church and its members. Even the famed Mormon Tabernacle Choir is now officially called, “The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.” In my estimation, it will take years for that to fully come to pass. Lots of changes have occurred with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the past few years. It’s fine with me, of course, but in my mind and heart, I am a Mormon boy.)
Both Jane and I have pioneer ancestors. My ancestral line on my mother’s side of my family tree stems back to Ira Allen, founder of Hyrum and many other towns in Utah. My mother was born in Hyrum, and her parents are buried there along with many other pioneers. My father’s ancestral line goes back to Sweden and Denmark — the Monsons and the Petersons (with some in each line spelling both names Monsens and Petersens). Jens Monson, a Swedish immigrant, was an LDS convert and immigrated to Utah in 1875.
Have you traced your roots? It’s fascinating, very time consuming, and may include some “outlaws” with the “inlaws,” as Alex Haley discovered.
On Main Street in Logan, across from the Historic Cache County Courthouse, is a great museum, The Daughters of Utah Pioneers. It is open on weekdays and is totally free. Volunteers are there to help you around or you can just go in and see the great artifacts which abound.
When you live over 80 years as I have, you are a “pioneer” to the younger generation. As a boy, I had no TV, no internet, no individual computers, no iPhones, and no gas furnaces or hot water heaters. I’ve written before about when we got natural gas piped into our home and the first television receiver in our neighborhood. It had a 10-inch screen and a large antenna on our roof. We could pick from two television stations in Salt Lake City. My oh my, how things have changed.
According to the dictionary I have, “pioneer” is both a noun and a verb. It is a noun that is used to describe a colonist, explorer, settler of a new land or region, or a forerunner who goes first. It can also be used to describe an innovator or developer of something new, such as a vaccine to prevent a disease or even a television set! The latter being Philo Farnsworth, born in Utah, raised in Rigby, Idaho. His history said he liked to “tinker” with things! His pioneering tinkering resulted in a whole new era of “television.” Thank you, Philo. Parents, let you kids “tinker” some time. Do they even sell “tinker toys” any longer? Legos are probably more popular now.
I spent an interesting morning last week researching on my computer for individuals who are or were considered “pioneers.” There are countless numbers from all walks of life, nationalities, and backgrounds. At present I am reading a new book by one of my favorite authors, David McCullough, entitled, “The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West.” It does not include the whole far western part of today’s USA but focuses on the wilderness of the area around the Ohio River, which eventually became the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. He has opened a whole new list for me of men and women with ambition, courage, and a sense of high purpose that led them to remarkable accomplishments.
The pioneers I’ve been acquainted with all of my years are the Mormon pioneers like Brigham Young and all who made treks west or came by ships to the western shores of the continent and eventually ended up in Utah and the surrounding states.
As previously mentioned, Ira Allen, my 3rd-great grandfather, founded and settled Hyrum. His grandson, Alvin Allen, compiled the history in a book, “Ira Allen: Founder of Hyrum — The Story of a Mormon Pioneer.” Especially since making Logan my home many years ago, I have met hundreds, perhaps thousands of descendants from Ira Allen.
I like a statement once made by Thomas Carlyle, “History is the essence of innumerable biographies.” For my children, I have written my personal history. Jane has done the same, only hers is admittedly much more inclusive with photos and information I believe they will love to have. What our family really values are some Shutterfly books that Jane compiled. One has photos of my life from my first photo at age one or so on through my retirement years, with lots of family photos of special times in between. She’s made some others too — of trips, births, homes we lived in and landscaped, special events, as well as just “life” day-to-day. Each of the families treasure these more than a written history.
I hope you enjoyed a special day today. As we join this week in honoring our Utah pioneers, let’s pause for a moment and ponder the legacy they began in these valleys in the Rocky Mountains and the blessings we experience day by day and most often take for granted.
Jay Monson is a former educator, and also served on the Utah State Board of Education, Cache County Council, and Logan City Council. He may be reached at email@example.com