Since I didn't get my Pioneer Day fix in Sacrament Meeting this year, you'll have to indulge me as I commemorate the violently beautiful journey taken by a misunderstood and tragic people in 1847 through the 1870's. I tend to internalize the lessons that Pioneer Day teaches in a way that is truly amazing. The Mormon Pioneers are deeply symbolic to me and their stories resonate with some longing deep inside my soul. Here's a new one for me, told by Lydia Ann Lake Nelson. She crossed the plains with her family in 1850, when she was 18 years old:
In the summer of 1850 we went forth again in the time to join a company of saints moving to the Valley. My father [James Lake] was chosen captain of fifty. Our company was well supplied with provisions of food and clothing. Father had one large wagon with three yoke of oxen and a smaller one with two. Our family then consisted of father and mother [Philomena Smith Lake], my two brothers, Bailey and George, and my sister, Samantha and myself. Along with our company were my three married sisters, Sabre Dixon, Clara Taylor, and Jane Ordway and my married brother, Barney [Barnabus], who had just returned from the Mexican War. While on our way Barney’s wife [Fanny Electra Snyder Lake] was buried on the plains.
The most vivid event of the journey occurred at Green River, Wyoming. In crossing the river the wagon box floated off a wagon box and began drifting downstream. In the box were a young woman named Snyder and a little girl about nine years old. All was excitement for a few minutes. The only man in the company who dared to swim the stream and effect a rescue was a youth named Price W. Nelson, a young man who at the time I had paid no attention to. He was of quiet nature and I knew nothing of him except that he drove his aunt’s team. After this we two became better acquainted which resulted in our marriage after arriving in Salt Lake City. We were married on the last day of the year of 1850 in the old fort at Ogden. The ceremony was performed by Elder Lorin Farr. Of the many things said at the time, the prophetic utterance of Father has proved most true. He said, "Price is a good man, but will never be contented anywhere." (Nelson, Lydia Ann Lake, [Trail excerpt], in Roberta Flake Clayton, comp., Pioneer Women of Arizona, 432)
Price and Lydia lived for a year in Ogden, where their first child was born. The next year they started by team to California and while enroute fell into company with an apostate named Chapman, and five other men who were driving stock. Price went into the sawmill business and they made their home in San Bernadino. In 1857 Brigham Young issued a call to the California Saints to return to Utah. Heeding the call, they came back.
In the following years the family helped to settle Payson; Franklin, Idaho; Logan; Glendale; Lee's Ferry; Pine Creek; Cave Valley, Mexico; and Oaxaca in Sonora, Mexico. After her husband's death, Lydia lived in Tombstone, Arizona; Hubbard, Arizona; Morales, Sonora, Mexico; and Colonia Juarez, Mexico.
Price and Lydia's story captures me because they were willing to push out into the unknown without guarantees of safety or prosperity. That kind of thing scares me. I've moved 12 times in my married life, and it's always a fearful endeavor, even in these days when I know there will be a comfortable place to live when I get there! The Nelsons made mistakes, they fell in with apostates, they wandered off the trail. But when they were called, they came back. I hope I'm willing to do that in the times when I go too far astray. This pioneer family was always on the edge of the frontier with the pioneering spirit to make something out of nothing.
I have a heart to push the boundaries, to make discoveries, and to make something of my life. I want the things I do during my few years on this earth to have meaning beyond my own selfish interests, and that is why every year I celebrate Mormon pioneers.