This next week we celebrate the 24th of July, the commemoration of the entrance of first Mormon Pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. All of the Mormon immigrants to the West are considered to be pioneers if they traveled between the years of 1847 and 1868 when the railroad was built to Utah. I write about this for a number of reasons. First and foremost, because 14 of my 16 Great-great-grandparents were pioneers. Some died in the attempt to cross the Plains, other suffered incredible hardships, such as my Great-great-grandfather Sidney Tanner who lost his infant son and namesake, when a wagon rolled over his head.
As I write this, we have just begun celebrating the 24th here in Utah with a pancake breakfast and a symbolic pioneer trek by the neighborhood children in a parade. Shortly, my wife and I will drive the Mormon Trail from west to east, on a trip to Springfield, Illinois, that will also involve a stop in Nauvoo, Illinois, the start of the Mormon exodus across the continent. My ancestors were driven out of Nauvoo in the dead of winter, to face a 1300 mile trek across the wilderness.
The Mormons were mobbed and persecuted across the country, starting in New York state, until they finally made their stand in the barren desert valley of the Great Salt Lake. My own ancestors either settled in parts of the Utah Territory, or moved on south as settlement missionaries to Arizona. Only two of my Great-grandparents were born outside of the West, one great-grandfather was born in Indiana and another was born in Denmark and came to West as a small child.
The 24th of July is a state holiday in Utah and involves parades and fireworks. I kind of understand the parades, but I am at a loss to understand the connection with fireworks other than as a general celebration. My relatives, along with all of the other pioneers, were a persecuted minority that was literally driven out of the country. In 1847, the part of the continent that became Utah was still part of Mexico.
I think the words to the hymn by Ida R. Aldredge in the video say it well.