Pioneer History Day Honors Early California Saints

Contributed By Margaret Snider, Church News contributor

  • 1 June 2017

Descendants of the Mormon Battalion and Mormon pioneers march in Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park.   Photo by Patrick Twomey.

“There are many who have sacrificed greatly to build this state into a place of beauty and security for those who live here. It’s my great desire to honor those who went before our generation for their sacrifices, dedication, and foresight.” —Elder Carl B. Cook, General Authority Seventy

With the bright sunshine and the American River gorged and turbulent with runoff from this year’s heavy rains, the setting at Sutter’s Mill at Coloma was perfect for California Pioneer History Day on May 20. Elder Carl B. Cook, General Authority Seventy, and Area Seventies Elder Jay D. Pimentel, Elder J. Scott Dorius, and Elder Paul Watkins attended the event.

Remembering the pioneer spirit

Marshall Gold Discovery State Park was a natural location for the event, as it had an important part in both Californian and Mormon history. Six former Mormon Battalion men who were helping build a sawmill for Captain John Sutter were part of the discovery of gold there on January 24, 1848. That was the start of the California Gold Rush of 1849.

At the event, Elder Cook accepted a resolution from the California State Legislature, presented to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by California State Assemblyman Tom Lackey, declaring May 20, 2017, as California Pioneer History Day.

“My grandmother,” Elder Cook said, “who is the daughter of the [Mormon Battalion] pioneer Joseph Skeen, when I was a young boy would often say to me as we were doing a project, ‘Don’t worry about the mules going blind, just load the wagon.’ And I think that is a little bit of the pioneer spirit that they had and that we can have.”

Elder Pimentel, who oversees the California Living History Mission and public affairs in California and Hawaii, took active part in the events of the day with his wife, Colleen.

General Authority Seventy Elder Carl B. Cook addresses the crowd at California Pioneer History Day in Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

“It’s exciting to see what effort’s gone into this, all for a really wonderful purpose,” Elder Pimentel said, “to highlight the influence for good and growth that Church members have had on this state since its very beginning.”

Work and play

An estimated 4,500 to 5,500 people enjoyed the day, washing socks in a pioneer style laundry; making candles, ropes, dolls, and bricks; and baking biscuits on a stick over an open fire. They had the opportunity to take a hand to the two-man crosscut saw and see a log cabin that had been partially completed to show the building process. A family history booth invited guests to find an ancestor, and children played pioneer games such as hoops and walking with stilts.

Entertainment was continuous after 11 a.m., put together by a committee including Galena Street East youth dancing and singing troupe founders Richard and Jeri Clinger, who received recognition for their 45th anniversary and as featured participants.

“There are many who have sacrificed greatly to build this state into a place of beauty and security for those who live here,” said Elder Cook. “It’s my great desire to honor those who went before our generation for their sacrifices, dedication, and foresight. To be able to be here personally and feel the spirit of the California pioneers is a thrill. … They saw opportunity where others saw hardship, and I think they set a pattern for us today to do hard things and to do things that would bless our posterity.”

These marchers are the Buffalo Soldiers, an organization dating back more than 150 years. In 1866, Congress enacted legislation that allowed blacks to join the U.S. military and commissioned four regiments of cavalry. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

General Authority Seventy Elder Carl B. Cook, front row seventh from left, gathers for a photo in pioneer dress with other General Authorities, Church officials, and members of the California Sacramento and Roseville Missions. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

LDS missionaries represent the Mormon Battalion as the parade passes through the park grounds. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

General Authority Seventy Elder Carl B. Cook addresses the crowd on California Pioneer History Day at Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

General Authority Seventy Elder Carl B. Cook, center right, receives the California State Assembly Resolution recognizing May 20, 2017, as California Pioneer History Day. Others from left: Area Seventy Elder Jay D. Pimentel, California State Assemblyman Tom Lackey, Area Seventy Elder Paul Watkins, Area Seventy Elder J. Scott Dorius, and former congressman Wally Herger. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

Visitors on California Pioneer History Day had an opportunity to do laundry just as the pioneers did. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

Richard and Jeri Clinger’s Galena Street East song and dance troupe entertained throughout the day. The Clingers received a special recognition as featured participants and acknowledgement of the 45th anniversary of the troupe. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

Instituto Mazatlan Bellas Artes of Sacramento took the stage several times to perform Mexican folkloric dance at California Pioneer History Day. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

Missionaries from the California Sacramento Mission prepare for the California Pioneer History Day parade. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

Soldiers march in the California Pioneer History Day parade, reenacting the color guard of the Mormon Battalion. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

Participating in California Pioneer History Day are, front row from left: Area Seventy Elder J. Scott Dorius and his wife, Becky Dorius; Area Seventy Jay D. Pimentel and his wife, Colleen Allen Pimentel; Sister Diane Jardine, wife of California Sacramento Mission President Bruce Jardine; Northern California Zone Area Coordinator Dennis W. Amaral; and back row from left: Area Seventy Elder Paul Watkins and his wife, Dena Watkins; President Michael and Sister Annette Marston of the California Roseville Mission; President Jardine of the California Sacramento Mission; General Authority Seventy Elder Carl B. Cook; and School Living History Program Coordinator Antonia Amaral. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

Some of the dignitaries at California Pioneer History Day pose for photos before taking their place on the stand. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

Hannah Marie Harper, right, stands in pioneer dress with her nephew Jayden Russell Edwards, left, at California Pioneer History Day. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

A California Pioneer History Day participant helps a visitor with the process of making rope. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

Dan Wills shows the use of chemicals in his old-time pharmacy at California Pioneer History Day. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

A California Pioneer History Day visitor runs a sock through the wringer at the interactive pioneer laundry station. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

A California Pioneer History Day visitor tries washing clothes with a washboard, the washing machine of choice in pioneer days. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

Eliza Hodnett, 9, of Diamond Springs makes a candle as missionaries Carol Teague from South Jordan, Utah, and Geri Fisi’italia from Bakersfield, California, look on. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

Children play with pioneer toys at California Pioneer History Day. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

Visitors take a hand to the two-man crosscut saw near Sutter’s Mill on California Pioneer History Day. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

Baking biscuits can be done without an oven, as the pioneers did, as shown here with biscuits on a stick. Photo by Patrick Twomey.

Naomi White, 17, of Reno, Nevada, demonstrates the process of weaving near Sutter’s Mill, where gold was first discovered in California. Photo by Patrick Twomey.