Three years ago, Claude Pomeroy overheard a conversation while walking in Pioneer Park in Mesa, Arizona. He was concerned about what he heard—“They ought to change the park’s name to Rose Garden Park”—and decided to make sure Mesa’s residents didn’t forget their colorful pioneer heritage.
On 13 February 1988 more than two thousand attended ceremonies in the park to dedicate the bronze statue Brother Pomeroy had created to commemorate the Arizona pioneers. President Gordon B. Hinckley, First Counselor in the First Presidency, was the keynote speaker.
“Enough praise cannot be said for those four men who stood here and began the work that led to the establishment of this community,” President Hinckley said, referring to the four leaders of the First Mesa Company of 1878 depicted by the statue.
Charles I. Robson, George W. Sirrine, Charles Crismon, and the sculptor’s grandfather, Francis Martin Pomeroy, were portrayed holding the tools they labored with: a shovel, a gun, a spirit level, and a map of the townsite. A mother and her child also appear in the statue.
“I suppose that none of us today can really appreciate the labors of those who came here 110 years ago,” President Hinckley said. “This was the mesa, the high tableland above the river, shunned by early pioneers. It was dry and parched. The soil looked promising, but water was the key to survival. How to get it to the land was a problem.”
President Hinckley felt it was inspiration that led those who came here in 1878 to turn to the long-deteriorated canal system of the Hohokam Indians.
After nine months of backbreaking toil through summer’s blistering heat, this small band of eighty-three men, women, and children carved out a twelve-mile canal to bring river water to the parched soil of the mesa.
As President Hinckley looked over the spacious park and the Arizona Temple across the street, he said he was “almost overwhelmed” by the history of the pioneers and the “length of their vision.”
The pioneer sculpture is Brother Pomeroy’s first life-size bronze. “I didn’t want to just create a statue,” he said. “I wanted to tell the unique story of the courage and determination of this hardy group of pioneers.”
Correspondent: Mary Pomeroy, daughter of the artist, is a fashion designer. She teaches the Star A Primary class in the Edgemont Ninth Ward, Provo, Utah.