Pioneer Day

My G-g-g Grandpa

Happy Pioneer Day!

In Utah (and some parts of Arizona and Idaho and probably other places I don't know about) we celebrate July 24th as the day the main body of Mormon Pioneers came down into the Salt Lake Valley. This was the day, according to stories, when Brigham Young sat up from his sick bed in a wagon, looked out over the Valley, and said,

"This is the place. Drive on."

There's even a monument build up on the hill where he is said to have passed when that happened. I've been there, it's beautiful.

But today I want to take a moment to tell you about my pioneer ancestors. Some of you may not know, but my maiden name is Shumway. It's a big old Mormon family name, because my Great-great-great Grandfather practiced Plural Marriage. He had four wives, and sixteen children.

Charles Shumway was born in 1806 in Massachusetts. He married his wife Julia in 1832. In 1840/41, they met the Mormon missionaries, learned about the Gospel, and were baptized. (Funny note, one of the missionaries who taught them was named John Green. I laughed so hard.)

After their baptism, they moved to Nauvoo, Illinois where the main body of church members resided at the time. Some records say that while they lived there Charles was part of the police force, even acting as a personal bodyguard for the Prophet Joseph Smith.

But the story I'm told most often is of their departure from Nauvoo. On February 4th, 1846, Charles and his son Andrew, who was (I believe) 13 or 14 at the time, were first to cross the Mississippi River as the Saints first began their way west toward the Salt Lake Valley.

His wife, Julia, spent the morning cleaning her home, scrubbing her "beautiful birch floors." She got in the wagon with their daughters Mary and Harriet and, as they began to ride away a young couple they didn't know came into their home. The man stood on the front step and shouted, "We're taking possession of this house!"

Julia is said to have wiped away her tears and said, "Let's go. Don't look back... Mary. Never look back! Always keep your eyes on the present... and on what lies ahead."

I am always impressed and proud of my ancestors. My mom's side of the family has a history just as rich. Missionary work, riding wagons from Illinois to Utah, serving in the Mormon Battalion, settling cities and organizing congregations throughout the western U.S. As of 1979 the descendants of Charles Shumway numbered over twenty-thousand. Since then, they've likely doubled. We are a big family, and proud to have amazing stories to tell about those who paved the way for us.

Do you have pioneer heritage?


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