Missionaries Help Raise Funds for Nauvoo Hay

Contributed By By Whitney Evans, Church News staff writer

  • 15 January 2013

Elder Mike Cranney, Stacey Banner, and Chris Banner pose by Rocky, a horse used to pull a wagon in Nauvoo, Illinois.  Photo by Casey Cluff.

Article Highlights

  • Hay crop shortages in the Midwest caused a feed shortage for Nauvoo horses, the stars of Nauvoo’s wagon and carriage rides.
  • Missionaries reached out to former Nauvoo missionaries to raise funds for the needed hay.
  • Current and former missionaries raised $10,000, enough to buy feed until spring.

“Those teamsters, they love those horses and they wanted to be able to sustain the program.” —Mike Cranney, former Nauvoo teamster missionary

Casey Cluff, facilities manager at Nauvoo Facilities Management, faced a dilemma when severe drought conditions spread across the Midwest this past summer. 

The horse-drawn carriage and wagon rides, a long-treasured tradition in Nauvoo, Illinois, offer an ideal way for missionaries to strike up conversations with people who are not familiar with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Mike Cranney, former head teamster missionary in Nauvoo. He said the casual environment allows people to relax a bit and be more receptive to the story of the Church in Nauvoo.

However, the dry conditions in 2012 threatened the horses that are the center of the program. The hay crop was far smaller than usual. A normal crop will yield 26 to 28 inches of grain, according to Brother Cranney, and each year generally yields three crops. The cattle generally feed off the pasture through the summer, and the surplus hay would feed the horses from October or November through the winter. However, there was no more hay production after the first crop this year, and because of the dry weather, the horses were not able to feed off the pasture. The supply was used up by July.

The most obvious alternative for Brother Cluff would be to purchase hay from somewhere nearby, which would cost several thousand dollars and create a severe budgetary issue and the possibility of having to request more funds from Church headquarters for this emergency situation. 

So, Brother Cluff reached out to former teamster missionaries, including Brother Cranney, who finished his mission in October 2011 and now lives in Oakley, Idaho.

As a teamster missionary, Brother Cranney and other missionaries fed, harnessed, and worked with about 20 horses. Brother Cranney resumed his leadership role as teamster head when he found out about the need for hay and sent letters out to other former teamster and Nauvoo missionaries.

They were able to round up $10,000 from more than 30 people, donations ranging from $50 to $1,000.

“I was very impressed with the spirit of the thing. … I was just real tickled,” Brother Cranney said.

The donations allowed them to purchase around 41 tons of high-quality grass/alfalfa mixture hay that could last through spring, when a fresh crop of hay will be ready to harvest.

Brother Cluff was overcome with emotion when he found out about the donation.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said.

During Brother Cluff’s tenure as facilities manager, he has created a nice management plan with the horses, Brother Cranney said. The shortage of hay would have created a budgetary issue, so the former missionaries decided to help him out with a one-time jump start. At the root of the donation are the fond feelings each missionary feels once they leave their work.

He said the Church probably could have provided the hay, “but those teamsters, they love those horses and they wanted to be able to sustain the program.”