Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Our 24th of July Celebration To Commemorate The Mormon Pioneers Entering The Salt Lake Valley On July 24th, 1847

I have ancestors who were Mormon Pioneers. These brave and stalwart pioneers went through many struggles on their trek across the plains. The first of the pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24th, 1847. Thousands would join them over the next decade and longer. Not only did they make this desert blossom; but other areas of Utah and other states. Their history is remarkable. 
Here is a short history found on 
The 19th-century Mormon migration beginning in 1846 in Illinois, then through Iowa and Nebraska and eventually to a place of refuge in the Rocky Mountains, was one of the most remarkable episodes in the history of the United States’ great western migration. Unlike the thousands of pioneers streaming west to California and Oregon looking for a better life, the Mormon pioneers migrated involuntary — the result of expulsion from Illinois and Missouri by hostile neighbors. Later, the Mormon pioneer trail would be filled with converts coming from Europe.
  • With the assassination of Joseph Smith in 1844 and increasing pressure on the Mormons to abandon their city of Nauvoo on the banks of the Mississippi, it soon became obvious to Church leaders that they would need to move yet again. At first they established a refuge in what was called Winter Quarters, near present-day Omaha, Nebraska. Then in 1847, under the leadership of Brigham Young, the first wagon train headed west for the Rocky Mountains, its precise destination unknown.
  • As the first group of Mormon pioneers reached the Salt Lake Valley in the summer of 1847, Brigham Young looked out over what was then a barren, dry desert and declared, "This is the right place."
  • In 1849, President Young established the Perpetual Emigration Fund to assist poor Latter-day Saint immigrants. The fund helped some 30,000 immigrants from the British Isles, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands reach America — more than one-third of the total Latter-day Saint immigrants from Europe during that period.
  • To cut down on expensive wagons and oxen, some 3,000 of the pioneers subsequently used low-cost wooden handcarts that were light enough to be pulled across the Great Plains. One family or five individuals were assigned to a handcart, with 18 to 20 people sharing a tent. A cart hauled no more than 200 pounds — about 17 pounds of baggage per person.  Each highly organized company was led by an experienced guide and was accompanied by at least four oxen-drawn supply wagons.
  • The first party of handcarts set out from Iowa City, Iowa, on 9 June 1856 with a company of 266 people from England, followed two days later by a second company of just over 200.  These early handcart brigades successfully arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, but the trips were not easy. Pioneer journals recorded harsh weather, the threat of hostile Indians, the death of fellow travelers and the ongoing hardships of hunger and fatigue.
  • Tragedy struck in the fall of 1856 after the Willie and Martin handcart companies left late in the season with 1,000 people between them. Both companies were plagued by a lack of supplies and hardships, including an early snowstorm that turned into one of the worst storms of the century. The exhausted companies set up camp in deep snow on the Wyoming plains, where more than 200 people died from starvation and cold. A massive rescue effort was launched immediately when word of their plight reached Salt Lake City.
  • In all, whether they came by wagon or handcart, thousands of Mormon pioneers died on the trail. Loved ones including children were often buried in shallow graves that would never be visited again.
  • Under Brigham Young’s direction, an estimated 70,000 Latter-day Saints made the difficult journey to Utah from 1847 until the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869. The collective experience of the pioneers has cut deep into Mormon self-identity. Pioneer ancestors who made the trek are honored and often spoken of not only in family gatherings of descendants but also in meetings of Church members, who see the pioneers’ example of courage and sacrifice as inspirational. (
Here is a short story of my Great Grandmother Sena Christensen Peterson -
Sena was born 13 November 1846 in Asby, Aslborg, Denmark. She was the daughter of Niels Christian and Mette Christendatter Christensen. 
When the missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints came to see them and told them of the gospel and the wonderful Zion in the mountains of America, they decided to go to the land of plenty. In 1861 they left their native land, their father, mother and six children. Sena was next to the youngest and was just 13 years old. 
They sailed from Liverpool, England Thursday 16 of May 1861. They were passengers on the ship "Monarch of the Sea." There were 955 Saints of various nationalities, under the direction of Jabez Woodard, Hans O. Hansen and Niels Wilhelmsen. The company arrived in New York June 19, 1861. 
In the long trip across the country, they endured many hardships common to pioneers. Fuel was scarce and they were compelled to gather anything that would burn, to cook their food. sena though only a girl walked a large part of the way across the plains, helping to carry her younger sister. She also gave up her turn to ride to a lady that was ill and needed to ride. 
Sena and her family settled in Spring City, Utah. While she was living in Spring City, she went to work in Mt. Pleasant which was six miles away. When she got lonesome to see her mother she would walk the six miles to Spring City to see her. On one of these trips home a band of Indians over took her and tried to take her away on one of their horses. But, by some good fortune she managed to escape, frightened nearly to death. She worked a whole year for cloth for a calico dress and when she tried to make it she lacked enough material for one sleeve. 
I love these brave pioneer ancestors. Here in Utah there will be a huge celebration. The 24th of July Parade in Salt Lake City is one of the largest parades in the country. 
Here is a link for all of the many celebrations.

Here is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing a well known pioneer hymn~


singing/granny said...

I loved the story of Sena. I am amazed at the courage and conviction of our pioneer ancestors. I am glad we have a day to remember and revere them. Happy Pioneer Day! Melody

Debbie said...

this must be so very exciting for you!! i just adore stories which credit our ancestors for their hard work, bravery and struggles!! i often wonder how i/we would have faired in those very difficult circumstances!!!

Christy Monson said...

Two of my great grandparents came from Denmark, sailing on Monarch of the Sea from Liverpool. Maybe they were on the same ship. I wish I had time to check it out. But I don't. Today it's party time for some of the kids that came to church, visiting new babies and investigators. Lots of love and hugs.

Just Ramblin' said...

Thanks for sharing the story of Sena. We are so blessed by our pioneers. They were an amazing group of people and I'm very thankful for my pioneer heritage. Nola

Barb said...

Hi LeAnn!

The 24th of July was always my favorite holiday when I was growing up! It was always so much fun - lots of picnics, round-the-block parades, and music.

I sometimes take for granted the sacrifices that my pioneer ancestors made for me. How grateful I am to them for all that they did, and for the comforts that I have today, because of them! What an interesting story about your great grandmother. Definitely one to share in DUP!

Loved all of your family reunion pictures, the the pictures of your new great-grand baby is adorable! We are so blessed! Thank you for being such a wonderful part of my life!

Hugs and Love,

Mom of 12 said...

Love that you take the time to honor our pioneer heritage!

Susan Anderson said...

What a great pioneer day post. Seemed like not as many people remembered it this year.

Glad you did!



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