Remembering the Pioneers: 5 insights from new pioneer database

Here’s a great article with some helpful information about the Mormon Trail by Keith A. Erekson, Church History Library Director, for LDS Church News, published: Thursday, July 23 2015 10:50 a.m. MDT:

Pioneer Art

The first Mormon settlers of Salt Lake City came to the area in 1847, and over the next 20 years they were followed by an estimated 70,000 emigrants. Now, nearly two centuries later, a new database provides fresh new insights about these overland pioneers.

The Church History Library’s Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel database, online at, attempts to document every overland pioneer and is the product of more than two decades of work. The database currently lists more than 57,000 individuals with links to thousands of original and authoritative records of pioneer experience. The database can be searched by name or browsed to find stories and photos of the city’s first residents. Mormon Trail MapMormon Trail Map 2Here are five things we learn from this powerful new resource:

1. Most of the pioneers did not die.

Despite the fact that tens of thousands of pioneers survived to settle in the Salt Lake Valley, the idea of pioneer death has been perpetuated in popular culture. But, if a person compares rosters of pioneers who started the journey against later censuses of residents in the city, the result is quite surprising.

Using the database, a team of statisticians and a historian calculated the pioneer mortality rate at 3.4 percent, which was only slightly higher than national averages at the time (between 2.5 and 2.9 percent). Of the 1,900 pioneers who died on the trail or within the calendar year of their arrival, many died from illnesses common to the time, such as cholera or dysentery. The year of travel, month of departure, and mode of travel all influenced the likelihood of death (Source: BYU Studies).

2. Very few pioneers pulled handcarts

Monuments, murals, movies and music have also enshrined the image of a struggling pioneer family pulling a handcart across the plains. But, scan the list of more than 370 companies in the database and you’ll find only 10 handcart companies. This mode of transportation was used in 1856-57 and 1859-60 by roughly 3,000 of the overland pioneers.

The trip by handcart was, however, quite rough. For eight of the companies, the mortality rate was 4.7 percent. Two of the companies, the ill-fated Willie and Martin companies, left late in the travel season, became trapped in early winter snows, and required the aid of rescue wagons sent from Salt Lake City. These two companies suffered a 16.5 percent mortality rate (Source: BYU Studies).

3. Pioneers actually had fun.

If most of the pioneers weren’t dying or pulling handcarts, what did they actually do? Their diaries, letters and other records show that in addition to completing the tasks and chores of traveling, most of them had fun. They formed friendships, helped one another, sang and danced, hunted game, gathered wild fruit, picked flowers and climbed hills.

“We enjoyed the journey much,” wrote Ellen Hallett to her parents in England in 1862. “When night came we were generally tired,” she added, “but not too much to enjoy the dance and song.” William Fuller wrote to his wife’s parents that she “walked almost the entire way. The truth is, you somehow get the spirit of walking, and the travelling is not half so bad as it is to sit and think of it.”

This year, the Overland Travel website begins a new feature sharing “Humor on the Plains,” such as an embarrassing encounter with a skunk, a squishy discovery of soft buffalo chips, and the hijinks of teenage boys with wagon grease.

4. Many of the pioneers traveled east.

One of the striking features of pioneer diaries and letters is how often they met other pioneers going theopposite direction on the trail. Many who completed the journey returned to the east to lead others along the route. Freighters moved goods back and forth. Mormon missionaries left Salt Lake City and followed the trail to the cities and states of the east. At least three pioneers in the database made the westward trip seven times! In this, even Brigham Young provides an example. After leading the vanguard pioneer company that arrived on July 24, 1847, he returned east to Winter Quarters, Nebraska, by December 1847. He led a second company to Salt Lake the following year.

5. Pioneers were not alone on the trail.

Even as Mormon pioneers traveled both west and east, they were far from the only travelers on a very busy trail. Throughout the nineteenth century, hunters and trappers traversed the trails and rivers. The first portion of the overland trail led to Utah as well as Oregon and Montana. Beginning in 1849 westbound gold seekers used the trail to get to California. Express riders and stage coaches carried mail and passengers back and forth. Historians estimate that more than 500,000 Americans traveled west during the 1840s through 1860s. Salt Lake City’s pioneers formed a unique part of the nation’s wider history.

This year, the Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel database has been integrated with FamilySearch, linking the trees of FamilySearch users with the pioneers in the database. The database is also featured in FamilySearch’s international “I Am a Pioneer” social media campaign (#IAmAPioneer), which will encourage individuals today to recognize themselves as modern-day pioneers and emphasize the need to record their own stories of triumph for future generations.

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Happy Pioneer Day! 24 July 2015

Pioneer trailToday we honor our Pioneer Ancestors.  If you have family members who crossed the plains here is a fabulous website you will want to visit and explore:

Below is a screen shot of some of my Pioneer Ancestors.  It tells what company they joined to cross the plains and who traveled with them.  It’s fascinating to read the journals and autobiographies that have been collected of my family’s traveling companions.  There is always a chance that someone else mentioned my people.  Even if they didn’t, they were in the same places on the same days, walking and working side by side.

Pioneer Ancestors on FS

My Bushman family joined the Easton Kelsey Company.  Here is the description of their company:
100 wagons were in the company when it began its journey from the outfitting post at Kanesville, Iowa (present day Council Bluffs). They originally departed about June 10, but turned back due to Indian trouble. They left again June 29. Luman A. Shurtliff was captain of the 1st Fifty and Isaac Allred was captain of the 2nd Fifty.
The company arrived in Salt Lake City between September 22 and October 7, 1851.

Here are some interesting excerpts from one of the accounts listed–it’s the Autiobiography of Augusta Dorius Stevens, a 15 year-old who traveled in that with my Bushman Family ancestors:

There were representatives of several nationalities including Americans but in our particular division of the emigrant tra[in] in which included fifty wagons, there were twenty-eight from Copenhagen and in our company of ten wagons there were included quite a number of Americans. Our Company was presided over by John Butler who was the Captain over our Company which occupied ten wagons. The entire fifty wagons with occupants was presided over by a head captain in the person of E. Kelsey, and the whole emigrant train is known as Kelsey’s Company. There were then five companies with ten wagons to each company. Each presided over by a captain; a chief captain to preside over the entire train of fifty wagons. The women generally rode in the wagons and always slept in the wagons. Personally I thought the emigra[ts]wagons most remarkable vehicles as I had never seen anything of the kind before starting on this journey. Upon nearing the Rocky Mountains, the oxen became somewhat worn out and then it was necessary for many women to walk while traveling. Upon camping at night the wagons were driven in a circle and the camp fires were made inside the circle. Being young and in my fifteenth year, this being the year 1852, it became a part of my regular duty to gather buffalo chips [w]hich served as part of the fuel for the camp fires. During the first part of the journey across the plains, the novelty of travel was new and the evenings across this trip we felt to enjoy the company of the members and the friends we had made. One member had a fiddle as we then knew it and all joined in the evening dances around the camp fires within the big circle. Prayers a[n]d hymns were part of the daily morning and evening program. After walking a good deal during the days, I felt so tired I could often have been glad to have gone to bed without supper but I always had to help with the dishes and help with camp duties including the preparing of the beds.

Occasionally I walked with some of the other girls in head of the train; as far as we dared to go on account of the Indians and then wait for the wagons. My thought would go back to my parents in Denmark feeling sure that I should never see them again because the journey into the wild west seemed so long and hard and uninviting that it seemed I could never hope to have them join me in the distant place somewhere far in the west known as Zion. Surely my elderly parents at least when I had left in the Old Country could not endure the hardships of such a journey. I had my sobs and cries and pangs of sorrow. What comfort it would have been to me if I could even have been able to speak or understand the American language in this to me the New Land of America.

One of the singular incidents that happened enrout[e] was the occasion of a stampede of a herd of buffalo which came direct to ward our wagon train. The stampede ran providentially just in head of the train with the fierceness of the rush and tramp and as it appeared almost a cyclone of dust. This caused a great commotion and almost stampeded among the oxen and horses of the train. The few rifles available were used and fortunately enough for the emigrants, a few buffalo fell which were prepared and this gave us extra provisions on the long journey in head of us. Upon another occasion nearly a dozen Indians came on their horses and approached the emigrant train. A great deal of apprehension was caused among the emigrants as they felt sure an impending disaster was before them. They thought this was the first contingent of hordes of Indians that lurked in the ravines near the trail. The daily prayers were answered and we were assured the Heavenly Father was mindful of the needs and protection of his Saints. The Indians spread their blankets by the side of the trail and each wagon was required to give its toll of food to the Indians as it passed.

When we had advanced to the Green River Station, now Green River Wyoming, the supply of flour had been exhausted. The fall snows commenced bringing the cold blizzard and wintery blast all of which added to the perils of the journey. It became necessary[y] to send a man with the best and fastest equipment on to Salt Lake City to get flour and rush back to Green River which was only sufficient to sustain the party in the train for the balance[e] of the trip.

On into the mountains we went along the already broken trail which had now been traveled over by the emigrant trains for five years. We arrived in Salt Lake City October 16, 1852 after eight months and twelve days of journeying since I had waved my last farewell to my parents and friends from the deck of the ship that sailed away from the port of Copenhagen.

And here is what my 2nd Great Grandpa, Jacob wrote to his brother John looking back from several years later:

Spring of 1851
Jacob Bushman, autobiography, typescript, BYU, Pg. 3

In April 1851, I was baptized by E. H. Davis and confirmed by the same. We then started for Utah. Father had one yoke of oxen and a yoke of cows and one wagon. I drove 3 yoke of oxen and a yoke of cows for Henry Kerns. We crossed the Missouri River at Winter Quarters and went out to a grove a few miles to organize in Mr. Kelsey’s Hundred and Alma Allred’s Fifty. Laid there about two weeks on the account of high water. Then started out to head the Horn and made a complete elbo to get back to the Platt. Got along without much loss. Had two or three stampede, but very little sickness in the camp.

Traveled up the Platt and crossed over the Divide to the Sweet Water. Crossed Green River and over the Mountain and down Emigration to Salt Lake City and from there we went south about 30 miles to Lehi, where they settled down, father and mother and the rest of the family. I went back to Salt Lake City. Now Brother John you know more what was done for the next 6 years than I do.

Your Brother in the Flesh,
Jacob Bushman

I’ll be humming this song all day today, it’s one of my favorites.  You can listen along here:

They, The Builders of the Nation

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Cookie Count July 2015


Three weeks in Yakima.  Forty dozen chocolate chip cookies baked and consumed!  We are having fun with these fabulous missionaries!

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My Mission Presidents and their Wives

I’ve been thinking today about my wonderful Mission Presidents and their wives.  I’m missing them.  I served under four wonderful men during my mission in South Africa, and then the 3 years I lived in Nigeria.  When I lived in Nigeria 1983-1987, no Stakes had been organized yet, so Mission Presidents were our ecclesiastical leaders.  Mission Presidents serve for 3 years and are loved by the missionaries who know them.

Sadly, each of my Mission Presidents died quite young, leaving huge vacant spots in this world.  I wish I could give each a hug right now.  I suspect they are checking in on me now, as we start this adventure.  I hope John and I can love and be loved as these wonderful men and their wives were.

Lowell and Lorna Wood, Johannesburg South Africa Mission
President Wood

Elder Lowell D. Wood, a member of the LDS Church’s Second Quorum of the Seventy, died in Apia, Samoa, on Friday, March 7, 1997. He was 64.

Elder Wood was president of the church’s Pacific Area and had an office in Sydney, Australia.He was in Samoa on business for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Friday when he was stricken with chest pains. He died soon afterward at a hospital in Apia.

Elder Wood was named a general authority in June 1992. At the time of his call, he was employed by the church as the director of temporal affairs for the Philippines/Micronesia Area.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University, a master’s degree from Montana State University and a doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley, all in agricultural economics.

He joined the faculty at Brigham Young University in 1969 as a professor and administrator in the College of Biological and Agricultural Sciences.

During that time, he was instrumental in organizing the Ezra Taft Benson Agriculture and Food Institute and was made its first director.

He left BYU in 1975 to join the staff of the church’s Welfare Service Department, working there until he was called as president of the South Africa Johannesburg Mission in 1979.

Following his mission, he resumed work with Welfare Services until 1987, when he went to work for the Presiding Bishopric’s office, where he served in various assignments until he was called as a general authority.

He was born in Cardston, Alberta, Canada, on Jan. 23, 1933. He is survived by his wife, Lorna Cox Wood, and five children.

Lorna C. Wood
Here is my dear Mission Mom, Sister Lorna Wood.

Phil and Janice Margetts, Johannesburg, South Africa MissionG. Phillip Margetts and JanicePhillip Margetts 1928 -1989: The best husband, father, provider, dedicated church worker, speaker, athelete, organizer, decision-maker, leader, counselor, teacher, friend, son, brother, uncle, fixer-upper, mechanical genius and talents for so many other things. A man who genuinely cared about others and showed it through his righteous actions. He is very much missed, but I’m sure he is doing missionary work where he is now. All that he taught me and many others lives on with his memory.
Sister Margetts

June Duffy and Josie Palmer, Lagos, Nigeria Mission

J. Duffy Palmer Sister Palmer

J. Duffy Palmer passed away April 29, 1996 in Mount Pleasant.

He was born March 23, 1921 in Taylor, Arizona, a son of Arthur and Evaline Gibbons Palmer. He practiced law in Clearfield, Utah and served as a Second District Court Judge. Duffy was raised in Arizona, but lived his adult life in Syracuse, Clearfield and Mount Pleasant.He married Jocelyn Jensen September 25, 1940 in the Mesa, Arizona LDS Temple. He graduated from Utah State University with a bachelor’s degree and attended the University of Utah where he earned a Law degree.

Duffy joined the U.S. Marines in 1942 and was wounded in Iwo Jima; he received the Purple Heart.

Duffy was an active and devoted member of th LDS Church. He served as bishop in Clearfield and Syracuse and was stake president in the Syracuse, Utah Stake. He served an LDS mission in the London LDS Temple and served as mission president in Nigeria, West Africa. He and his wife served as the first missionaries to the West African Country of Liberia and was called as the first mission president to that country. He served as a sealer in the London, England, Ogden, Utah, Manti, Utah and Mesa, Arizona temples.

He is survived by his wife; five sons, James Duffy (Susan) Palmer, Brunswick, Georgia; Kenneth D. (Charlene) Palmer, Mt. Pleasant; Farrell D. (Marianne) Palmer, Henderson, No. Carolina; Mark D. (Joan) Palmer, Syracuse, Utah; Ronald D. (Cathi) Palmer, Townsend, Georgia; two daughters, Jocelyn P. (Don) Stoker, Slidell, LA.; Karen P. (Robert) Young, Beavercreek, Ohio; also, 38 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren; his four brothers, Roy, Harvey, Gus, Van, all of Arizona; and two sisters, Ila Butler, Arizona; and Ima Rose of Salt Lake City. Duffy was preceded in death by three brothers, Dean, Val, Belton; and two grandchildren.

Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Saturday, May 4, at the Syracuse LDS Stake Center, 1700 So. 2000 West. Friends may call Friday 6 to 8 p.m. at the Lindquist’s Kaysville Mortuary, 400 North Main, and Saturday, 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. at the Syracuse Church. Military honors will be accorded by D.A.V. Interment, Syracuse City Cemetery.

Robert and Marjorie Sackley, Lagos, Nigeria Mission

Aba Stake Creation 1988   Robert Sackley

Some years ago, Robert and Marjorie Sackley set a goal to do full-time missionary work together after he retired.

The opportunity came sooner than expected. In 1979, he was called as a mission president, and they have been involved in full-time Church service of one kind or another ever since.

With his call to the First Quorum of the Seventy—he was sustained April 2—Elder Robert E. Sackley will undoubtedly find new dimensions to the missionary work he loves.

Elder Sackley has found a way to be involved in missionary work almost constantly since his conversion more than forty years ago. He is motivated by a “thorough conviction that every human soul” will have an opportunity to accept or reject the gospel. It is “my responsibility,” he believes, to bring that opportunity to as many as he can. One friend estimates that Elder Sackley has fellowshipped more than 125 people into the Church.

A native of Australia, he was a soldier recuperating from wounds of war when he met Marjorie Ethel Orth of Brisbane in 1946. Her parents, some of the stalwart Latter-day Saints who had been the strength of the Church in Australia before and during World War II, were instrumental in converting him. Her mother provided Church literature, and her father taught him. The two men shared a love of history and Robert Sackley studied LDS history intently.

But it was the Book of Mormon that led the way to spiritual assurance of the truth. It touched his heart deeply as he read it in the hospital. “I committed to memory Mosiah 3:19 [‘For the natural man is an enemy to God … unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit …’] on that first reading. It struck me that no ordinary man wrote that, and that the message obviously came from a divine source.”

Sure of the divinity of the book, he had no difficulty believing that its translator, Joseph Smith, had been instructed by God and had been a prophet and seer.

The Sackleys were married 29 March 1947, not long after his baptism. Shortly after that, he was called to be a district missionary. Though he has had many other callings, he has always felt impelled to continue sharing the gospel.

In 1954, the Sackleys traveled to Canada to be sealed in the temple. They intended to stay for one year. But they became deeply involved in Church work and never left Alberta. They reared five children, all now married. They have fifteen grandchildren.

Elder Sackley served as a stake missionary, elders quorum president, bishop, high councilor, stake clerk, and counselor in a stake presidency. Sister Sackley’s many administrative and teaching callings have included Primary president and Relief Society president.

Elder Sackley earned a bachelor’s degree from Utah State University and a certificate of municipal administration from the University of Alberta in Edmonton. He also has done graduate work toward a doctoral degree in history.

When the Sackleys lived in Australia, Elder Sackley worked as a tax administrator in the civil government. In Alberta, he was a school business administrator in Cardston and a senior administrator for the city of Edmonton. From 1973 to 1979, he served as vice president, then president, of a growing community college in Medicine Hat, Alberta.

When he was called as first president of the Philippines Quezon City Mission (later the Philippines Baguio Mission) in 1979, the Sackleys listed their daughter’s Bow Island, Alberta address as home, thinking the change would be temporary. But in 1982, he was called as administrative assistant to the president of the Salt Lake Temple, with Sister Sackley as an assistant temple matron. In 1983, they were called as directors of the Washington Temple Visitors’ Center, and in 1985 as missionaries in the Sydney Australia Temple. In 1986 he was called to serve as president of the Nigeria Lagos Mission; he will be released from that position shortly.

It will probably be some time before the Sackleys are settled in Alberta again. But they don’t mind. They are still living their dream of full-time service to the Lord.

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Quilts in the Mission Home

Originally posted on Our Washington Yakima Mission:

2015-7-18 Mission Home Quilts (7)I’m slowly finding homes for some of my quilts.  This week we had help hanging a few.  It feels more and more like home with these comforting quilts around me.  I’m also meeting many quilters among my new friends here.  That makes me happy!2015-7-11 Mission Home (34)2015-7-11 Mission Home (58)2015-7-18 Mission Home Quilts (3)2015-7-18 Mission Home Quilts (5)2015-7-18 Mission Home Quilts (1)2015-7-18 Mission Home Quilts (2)2015-7-18 Mission Home Quilts (8)2015-7-18 Mission Home Quilts (12)2015-7-18 Mission Home Quilts (13)2015-7-18 Mission Home Quilts (14)2015-7-18 Mission Home Quilts (15)2015-7-11 Mission Home (30)2015-7-11 Mission Home (32)2015-7-11 Mission Home (21)2015-7-11 Mission Home (15)2015-7-11 Mission Home (16)2015-7-11 Mission Home (25)These are a few.  I’m sure they’ll be moved around with the seasons.  Please drop by if you’re a quilter and we can visit!

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Elder Aaron Lewis in Santiago–An Exciting Transfer!

2015-7 Aaron Transfer 1Here is our son, Elder Lewis, who is serving in the Santiago South Mission.  We received some exciting news from him this week in his letter home–he’s been transferred–and not just anywhere.  I know now, first hand, how Mission Presidents pray and seek inspiration about where each missionary serves.  Here is Aaron’s report:

President called me into an interview on Sunday and called me to be a Zone Leader.  So I kinda had to go to a new area, and I now know that the Lord works through inspiration, because I´m in Adam´s very same sector, where he  finished his mission.  It just feels right.  I don´t think that it was ever a coincidence that Adam and I got called so close [in time] to each other.  And now I am exactly where he is.  I looked though the Area Book last  night and found multiple papers with Elder Lewis on them. I´m going to go looking for every one of them! Adam, go though your planners and send me lists of your investigators and Less actives! I´m ready to help finish the work that you started!!

My comp is named Elder Ware.  He´s from Logan, Utah and has 1 change more than me in the mission.  We´ve been friends throughout the mission and I´m really excited to be his comp and learn from him! He´s a great Elder.

. . . It was kinda hard to say goodbye to the ward.  Even after only 3 months there, I felt like I gained a lot of new friendships and I will always remember them.  Bitter sweet experience.  I´m having a couple camera difficulties, so the pictures are on hold, but hopefully next week I can send you some snap-shots.

Alright, love you all.  Trust in the Lord.  He answers prayers.  I´m so excited to be here in this sector, to finish my mission exactly where my brother did.  Thanks for the amazing example, Adam.  I have and awesome family.

Elder Lewis 2015-7 Aaron Transfer

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God wants dedicates, not volunteers


Here’s an interesting piece a missionary shared with me this week.  It was written by Fred Smith, who has a website called Breakfast With Fred Leadership Institute.  I like what he writes:

Service on HIS Schedule

Years ago, Dick Halverson, former Chaplain of the Senate, and I conducted a retreat for lay people. He gave me great freedom when he said, “Do you realize Christ did not have a daily planner? He simply when about doing good. When the woman with the lingering sickness stopped Him as He was on the way to raise Lazarus, He stopped and took care of her needs. He didn’t say, ‘Wait a minute, I am on my way to raise the dead and that is more important than your ongoing issue of blood.’ He stopped to touch her.”

Jesus used each opportunity to do good. When we believe God engineers our circumstances, He sets our priorities.

That phrase “Jesus went about doing good” has been a game changer for me. Our Christian service isn’t about setting lofty goals and striving for “maximum Kingdom impact.” Years ago there was a management theory called “Management While Walking Around.” I found the style helpful when I was assessing operations. You can pick up more in the midst rather than ensconced in the corner office. Our spiritual life is the same. We can see God’s hand in our day to day as we “go about.”

As I get older, my perspective on God’s involvement in my circumstances becomes clearer and clearer. I see His engineering in my daily life. When I was young, I was a great planner. I still believe in planning organizational activities. However, I’ve learned to leave great flexibility in my spirituality service. I see instances that seemed insignificant at the time were actually not so unimportant. Conversations that appeared to be casual might have great impact.

I had breakfast with a young professional man and gave him one thought which he wrote down. He later told me “That re-vectored my life.” I certainly wasn’t talking with him with the intent of making that long term impact. But, I was sitting down with him to listen and to respond appropriately.

God wants dedicates, not volunteers. The dedicated person gives us control, saying “I’m available to you. You do what you want with me.” The volunteer signs up for special service. The volunteer makes himself available on his own terms.

Joy in the Christian life comes when we open our hands and start seeing our daily walk as the means of active Christian service. Measuring impact is not our job – faithfulness is.

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