Mormons Re-enact Grueling Pioneer Journey
Eight hundred men, women, and children representing Mormon pioneers proved that they had pioneer resilience as their re-enactment of the Mormon Trail ended on July 22. On the same day 150 years before, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived in what would become Salt Lake City, Utah, after a hard journey from Nauvoo, Illinois, where they had fled persecution from neighbors. Ten thousand Latter-day Saints and non-Mormons took part at some point in the re-enacted journey, Brigham Young University's NewsLine reports, and 150 of them travelled the entire distance.
Margaret Clark, a 48-year-old Saint, joined the beginning of the re-enactment in April at the pioneers' Winter Quarters in Omaha, Nebraska. Four months later she reached her destination – Salt Lake City, over 1,000 miles away. Mrs. Clark's great-grandfather followed the trail when he was six years old, walking in bare feet so that he would not wear out his only pair of shoes.
Mrs. Clark learned the difficulties of the trail on the day that she and her husband Art and four of their children walked 30 miles through Wyoming, pulling a handcart like the ones used by some Mormon pioneers in place of wagons. "It was an awful day," she wrote in her journal. "The flat land of days gone by has turned into hills. Hills that grab you and hold you down and slow the wheels of the handcarts and make you want to just sit down and forget this whole miserable experience." Her 14-year-old son pulled the cart for the last four miles, commenting that even his scouting trips weren't this bad.
"This is not your fantasy pioneer life," Mrs. Clark concluded.
By the time Mrs. Clark arrived at Salt Lake on July 22, her feet were covered with blisters and she was limping. Supported by her husband, she reached the canyon which led into Salt Lake Valley, the final destination of the pioneers.
"Art and I walked out of the canyon and the sight before our eyes was that of thousands of people," she reported. "There was a small pathway before us and lining each side were cheering, waving throngs of joyous people. . . . The brass band played a cheery tune. Missionaries stood on the hillside holding flags from many countries." And in the distance, Mrs. Clark said, she saw "a large group of people, dressed in white, representing the 6000 people who had died along the Mormon Trail." She burst into tears.
Quotations are taken from Margaret Clark's journal at the site listed below.
Heritage Gateway (a large site devoted to documents about the Mormon Trail)
©1997 Heather Elizabeth Peterson