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Pioneer Parties

by Tamara Leatham Bailey

On March 1, 1846, Brigham Young instructed those pioneers with him at Sugar Creek, Iowa, to build a large campfire and clear away the snow. He then told them, “I want you to sing and dance and forget your troubles.” Everyone, old and young, danced to the music and calls of the fiddler (Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, Chronicles of Courage, 5:237).

Even during the long journey, the pioneers took time to rest and play. They took seriously the Book of Mormon teaching, “Men are that they might have joy,” and they celebrated life despite the hardships.

Imagine, no television, no videos, no CD players, and no fast-food restaurants, and they still celebrated! That kind of old-fashioned fun may be just what you want to try this year as you celebrate the arrival of the pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley. If you’d like to have a party similar to what the pioneers did, here are some ideas to try:

If you have a “wagon train” sized group:

  • Invite someone to teach square dancing.

  • Invite one or more fiddlers to play. Be sure to include some favorites from pioneer times such as “Turkey in the Straw.”

  • Organize a quilting bee.

  • Have a husking bee. Ears of corn are divided equally between groups, and the object is to see which group can husk their pile of corn first.

  • After settling in Salt Lake, the pioneers had some dances where any article of value could be paid as admission and was placed in the bishop’s storehouse. Try charging a can of food for the local food bank or another charitable organization in your area.

  • Learn to dance the Virginia Reel.

  • Have a pioneer-style fashion show. Everyone try to find an outfit, or even one article of clothing, that would be similar to pioneer clothing. The real hit of the show might be one with petticoats or button-up boots.

  • One party at Joseph Smith’s mansion house in Nauvoo included a band, a singing group, and two comic speakers. Let some of your group try their hand at tasteful humor.

If you have a smaller, “handcart company” sized group:

  • Many pioneers danced folk dances from their homeland. Learn a dance your own ancestors might have enjoyed.

  • Play horseshoes.

  • Pioneer sports were fairly simple. Have a field day including games such as foot races or distance jumping.

  • Have a jump-rope party.

  • Pull sticks (a favorite of the Prophet Joseph). Two opponents sit on the ground facing one another with their feet together. Each grasps the end of a straight stick and pulls. The winner pulls his opponent off the ground.

  • Build a campfire and tell stories. You may want to have people tell a story of their ancestors—some may even be pioneers.

  • Have handcart relay races. You can use a wheelbarrow, wagon, or another substitute for your handcart. Have a race where you push, a race where you pull, etc. Try a race where you break camp (roll up a sleeping bag, fill the cart with pots and dishes), move to the next designated point, and set up camp again, unloading everything.

  • Have a taffy pull or make another type of old-fashioned treat (see the next page for a recipe.)

With a few family or friends:

  • The Prophet Joseph loved to “ride out” in his carriage and “walk out” with his family. Take time to walk, ride, and just visit.

  • Get into your emergency kit and pull out some candles. Spend an evening visiting by candlelight. (Take care to place the candles upright in adequate containers away from flammable materials. And don’t forget to replace the candles!)

  • Have a picnic.

  • A one-day hike can be fun. It can also help you to appreciate the months it took pioneers to cross the frontier.

As you plan your Pioneer Day celebration, keep in mind that there was a great deal of work in building a new life in a desert land. The pioneers had a wonderful talent for turning any major labor into an enjoyable time. Chopping wood, building homes, preparing baskets of fruit to dry for winter—all became occasions for parties. You may want to look for your pioneer celebrations in less likely places: A neighbor who needs a fence built, a widow who needs a home painted, someone ill who needs help with the yard or housework. Add some singing, a few refreshments, and you’ve created a real pioneer party.

Pioneer Caramel Candy

1 cup butter

2 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)

1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla

Line a 9-inch pan with foil; butter lightly. In a heavy saucepan, melt butter and add brown sugar and mix well. Add corn syrup and stir. Cook over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove the mixture from the heat and add sweetened condensed milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches 245° F.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour candy into prepared pan. When candy is cool, cut with a sharp knife and wrap in wax paper. Store in a cool, dry place.

Yum!

Be a Trail Blazer

by William G. Hartley

To most families, a trip across the country will involve lots of time in the car, lots of meals at roadside restaurants, and sleeping at several campsites or hotels. But what about a time before cars, or even trains? A cross-country trip involved major planning and several weeks. It was a challenge, but the early Saints were equal to it. At one time, their trail was something of a highway, an interstate route for those who wanted to gather to Zion from the East.

Perhaps part of the trail is near your home, or maybe you’ll drive near an historic site on an upcoming family vacation. If so, here is a short list of Mormon Trail “must-see” sites:

Nauvoo, Illinois: The trail started at the west end of Nauvoo’s Parley Street at the Mississippi River. There, a large “Exodus to Greatness” monument marks the trail’s starting point.

Montrose, Iowa: Opposite Nauvoo, at the Mississippi’s edge, is River Front Park. Stand there, look across at Nauvoo, and visualize 1846 flatboats floating pioneer wagons and teams across the river. It was very near this site, at Potter’s Slough, where the Saints experienced the “Miracle of the Quail.” On October 9, 1846, exhausted quail fell from the sky into tents and wagons, providing needed food.

Seymour, Iowa: Three miles south of this town is the “Come, Come, Ye Saints” Historic Marker in front of the Tharp Cemetery. Here, the 1846 pioneers camped by Locust Creek and on April 15 William Clayton, hearing the good news about the birth of his son back in Nauvoo, wrote the words that have become our pioneer hymn.

Garden Grove, Iowa: Here the pioneers built a stopover settlement that lasted until 1852. In town you’ll see the Mormon Trail Junior-Senior High School.

Council Bluffs, Iowa: See the new replica of the Kanesville Log Tabernacle downtown. In December 1847, a conference of the Church was held there, and the First Presidency was reconstituted for the first time since Joseph Smith’s death, with Brigham Young being sustained as President of the Church.

Scottsbluff, Nebraska: About 20 miles northeast of town, you’ll find Chimney Rock. There is a visitors’ center and hiking trail, and as you head back toward town, be sure to stop and see Rebecca Winter’s Grave, one of the very few well-marked Mormon pioneer trailside graves.

Fort Laramie, Wyoming: Pioneers traded here, and you can visit and hike through a restored fort standing there. However, the fort dates from the 1860s, when it replaced the one the pioneers visited.

Guernsey, Wyoming: At Guernsey State Park, walk through the trail ruts, some shoulder high, and see tangible evidence of the pioneers’ travels.

Little Emigration Canyon, Utah: Not far from Salt Lake City, a four-mile hike up this canyon will take you to the pass over Big Mountain. At the top is Big Mountain Historic Marker, from which you can see the first view the 1847 pioneers had of the Salt Lake Valley.

This Is the Place State Park: On the eastern edge of Salt Lake City, this park is home to a 60-foot-high memorial and a pioneer village.

For more information on pioneer historic sites, read Historic Resource Study: Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail, available from the National Park Service Trails Office, Box 45155, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84145.

Follow the Prophet

“We want to be good neighbors; we want to be good friends. We feel we can differ theologically with people without being disagreeable in any sense. We hope they feel that same way toward us. We have many friends and many associations with people who are not of our faith, with whom we deal constantly, and we have a wonderful relationship. It disturbs me when I hear of any antagonisms. … I don’t think they are necessary. I hope that we can overcome them.”

—President Gordon B. Hinckley, during a television news interview

Mission Prep

It may not look like Joseph Ahuna is getting ready to go on a mission, but that’s exactly what he’s doing. Joseph earns money for his mission fund performing Polynesian and Native American dances for tourists at Waikiki on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, where he and his family live. This 17-year-old has saved nearly half of what he needs to pay for his mission.

But Joseph knows that money is just a small part of being prepared for a mission. “You have to live the standards of the Church,” he says. Joseph keeps a “For the Strength of Youth” card in his wallet to remind him of those standards.

High “Stakes” Transition

The gospel is about changing lives. Joining the Church is a big change for some people. Repentance and forgiveness require change. Crossing the plains was a huge change for the pioneers. Changes can also take other, more mundane forms—but that doesn’t mean that they’ll be any easier to make.

“The first time they announced they were splitting our stake, I was a little upset because I had good friends in our stake. I sort of felt like I would never see some of those people again,” says Debbie Byrd, a Laurel in the newly formed Ames Iowa Stake.

But Debbie soon changed her attitude, realizing that a new stake not only meant a shorter driving distance to activities and a smaller, more intimate group of people, but was also an opportunity to build fun new traditions and become better friends with people close to home.

“We’re not so spread out anymore,” says Jerad Hintz, a priest. “Before I didn’t always know who was in the stake. Now we know each other a lot better.”

[photos] Photography by John Luke